Wouldn't It Be Something If We Had A President Who Believed In Liberty?

from the to-dream-a-little-dream dept

Dan Gillmor has an absolutely fantastic “wishful thinking” speech he’d love to see from a future Presidential candidate, one in which liberty takes a front seat, rather than is seen as something that needs to be chipped away. Go read the whole thing, but here’s a snippet to suck you in:

When people say, “You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide,” ask them if it’s fine to install cameras in their homes, not just in the living room but the bedroom and bathroom. Ask them if they’d mind wearing a microphone and video camera every day, so others can check on what they’ve said and done.

You are guilty of something. I guarantee it. Lawmakers have created countless new crimes and punishments, and allowed law enforcement to extend old laws in dangerous ways. Have you ever told anything short of the absolute truth when filling out an online form to use some service? We can charge you with a felony for that. And, by the way, we don’t need to convict you at trial. If you are a target, we can ruin you financially if you try to defend yourself. This is what we expect in banana republics and police states, not here. And as the surveillance state expands, it will create more targets among people like you.

Our political leaders have made a calculation in recent years. They believe you are too frightened, too cowardly, to face the truth – and that you think liberty is much less important than temporary safety.

We are human. Terrorism unleashes our deepest fears, and our most lethal fury, even though the risk for any one of us is vanishingly low. We must challenge the fear mongers, and ourselves.

Part of the problem we have today is that very few elected officials care about liberty. They care about power, and they believe, incorrectly, that their job involves ditching liberty in an attempt to retain power (which they falsely argue is about “protecting Americans” despite little evidence that the power grab protects anyone but their own interests). It would be an amazing step forward if there were a President who remembered why liberty was such an important issue to our founding fathers.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Wouldn't It Be Something If We Had A President Who Believed In Liberty?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
silverscarcat (profile) says:


Didn’t we have a candidate who ran on liberty over security and the removal of the U.S. from the wars in the Middle East that we were unconstitutionally involved in?

Oh yeah, he didn’t make it out of the primary and was treated horridly by the establishment because they wanted Mitt Romney.

Sure worked out well, huh?

Dr. Claw (profile) says:

Re: Hmm...

you mean that guy who loves “state’s rights” (euphemism for anarcho-capitalism and those people down South who fly the North American version of the Nazi flag and erstwhile people who want the “right” in their states to be oppressive and authoritarian)? a right-winger which means we’d never rid ourselves of the real issue: the wealthy elite and multinational corps hoarding all they can, and resorting to the big-war, “terrorism” schemes (including this liberty-eroding scheme for the sake of so-called “national security”) to keep their generational wealth going while the rest of us snowball into a mass of poverty?

Mr. Broke Clock would not have been much of a difference in changing any of that, I tell you what.

CommonSense (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hmm...

Perhaps you’re right…I know I didn’t end up voting for that guy.. But there is something to be said of the ‘divide and conquer’ approach. And a step to put all the corruption on the states and out of the federal government could, and likely would, make it easier for those states filled with reasonable citizens to handle and clean up. It would also make it easier for the world to laugh at any states still so caught up in themselves to allow this corruption.

also, the left-winger we elected hasn’t done anything to rid ourselves of the real issue, so stop looking at the problem like it’s an “us vs. them” thing. Someone, somewhere is going to have to fix this problem, and the chances are that he’s going to come from either the left or the right wing to some extent.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Right and Left and Right

Well, if Obama is center-right, then based on what the self-proclaimed right-wingers say, they must be so far right that they’re all the way back to the left…and they just don’t realize it yet…

There are some models that kinda suggest that. In the 20th century, the thought was that the ultra-right was fascism and the ultra-left was communism (think European politics in the early 1900s), and as things moved towards the center the graph bowed along a second axis from despotism to libertarianism (not contemporary US libertarianism, mind you) or even anarchism.

But if you try to apply that model to the current US regime, it will get bent out of shape.

Instead, what I see is a juxtaposition of the parties’ platforms as they are now compared to what they were before.

In the 90s I was a moderate liberal or left-centrist. Then the Democratic party swung far to the right of me. In the 70s, the GOP has gone to some-place not even on the map, given the religion-centric end results of the Southern Strategy, and their total failure to adhere to the small government ideal in favor of an outsourced government model. Given the GOP primaries in 2012 and watching the candidates contort themselves to toe the GOP lines, I’m not sure that the GOP positions are even compatible with themselves, let alone reality.

Regardless, campaigning tends to be about wedge issues, and demos and ‘pubs both otherwise follow this pro-corporate Bush-era plan. We vote based on abortions and gun control our representatives take away free speech, privacy and habeas corpus.

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Re: the real issue: the wealthy elite and multinational corps hoarding all they can

Maybe you’re right, Dr. Claw.

But how is the status quo working out for you? Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over, while expecting a different result.

Maybe it’s time to take a risk and try something new.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: enough already

” Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over, while expecting a different result.”

Einstein probably never said that, and if he did he was wrong. Even in the context of physics this is either wrong or meaningless (according to our current theories), and that’s given perfect information. Part of life is figuring out which patterns are strong and which can be broken.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hmm...

If you believe government is going to save you from the “wealthy elite and multinational corporations”, you haven’t been paying much attention to what organization is creating them (hint: it’s the government).

“But if we don’t give bigger and bigger weapons to the mafia thugs, who’s going to save us from the mafia don??”

Yeah, good luck with that.

(Also, as an an-cap myself, let me say that “state rights” is not a euphemism for anarcho-capitalism. Ron Paul is a minarchistconstitutionalist. AnCaps do not believe in states or constitutions.)

Todd Knarr (profile) says:

It isn’t even a matter of being guilty. You don’t want your wife or kids to know what you’re getting them for birthdays or Christmas before you give them the gift. You don’t want your boss knowing just how you described him to your wife after he did something particularly bone-headed and you had to scramble to make it good with the customer he angered. You don’t necessarily want that creepy neighbor knowing when you and your wife will be away for the weekend and your teenage kids will have the house to themselves. You don’t want your month’s shopping receipts printed in the newspaper so everybody can see what you spent money on.

The people who say “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” are implying, without saying, that you only have something to hide if you’re doing something illegal. That’s false. We all have a lot of things that’re perfectly legal, completely innocuous, and we still want them hidden from the public because they’re nobody’s business but ours.

Anonymous Coward says:

Washington is so corrupt, even if a newly elected president enters office with Libertarian views, he/she will be totally corrupted before they leave office.

Look at Obama. He campaigned on reigning in the Unconstitutional spy programs being run under Bush. Plus a bunch of other feel good mottoes. Such as “hope, change and yes we can”.

Now look at him. He’s got the whole world on spy lockdown and not a damn things changed. In fact we’re having re-runs in the Middle East now.

Washington corrupts almost all who enter it. Wyden seems to be a rare exception. It would be interesting to see how much someone like Wyden might change, if he were to become president.

Dr. Claw (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Bingo. Candidate Obama was on many subjects, a progressive. President Obama is as neoliberal (i.e. somewhat innovatively regressive) and center-right crapola as it gets. I wouldn’t call him Bush (because of some of his meager strides toward social justice and giving lip service to the idea that the country, not the corporations need to invest in infrastructure) but this whole crap with Syria and the “national security” state is certainly a rerun.

I don’t think one single person can make any of this better. that should be the lesson learned from the Obama Presidency but I don’t think it ever will.

JohnnyRotten says:

Re: Re:

I think it is an incredibly simplistic viewpoint to say that “Washington corrupts everyone who enters.”

Corruption isn’t something that happens without consent – it’s not iron + oxygen = rust. You need two parties to tango for it to happen.

Maybe a better way of putting it would be “Washington enables the already corrupted and the easily corruptible.” I think that speaks more to the character of politicians that hold office and power in America. It also puts the blame squarely where it belongs instead of moving it off to an anthropomorphized object called “corruption”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Nope, the president is one of many, many cogs in that system and it is not even the one that knows about what happens, those are non elected people who are appointed to those positions and have to align their views with the culture inside that building or else, those are the type of people who will go to the president and tell him the sky is falling and we need to do something, those are the people who have the real power, most politicians wouldn’t know if something was good or bad even if bite them in the ass, because they just don’t care.

Eponymous Coward says:

The Bargain and the Con

Whenever a politician says they want to enact legislation to “protect” a class of people beware! What they propose is a bad bargain for us and a good deal for themselves. This is their con -that we give up our power (of self-protection, actualization, and agency) and hand it over to them all for the promise of safety. Many of us know that this is a lie, that there is no safety in return, but not enough to really turn back the tide. I really don’t know why this us the state of things; if people are scared of their true power, if they’re so indoctrinated to believe they have no power, or if it’s a combination of these and other reasons. Power is a funny thing though, once you realize you have it and gave it up you don’t have to ask for it back. Being aware that it resides within you is enough, just make the choice to not give it up, to not be conned.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: The Bargain and the Con

Being aware that it resides within you is enough, just make the choice to not give it up, to not be conned.

In Britain it all started with Maggie Thatcher saying “there is no alternative”. Too many people believed her and now all the politicians have to do is to subliminally echo that phrase – and they can get away with anything!

Binko Barnes (profile) says:

Re: The Bargain and the Con

Part of the corrupt con is making people believe that they CAN choose to give up their power. In reality the People are Sovereign and the Government serves at the whim of the People. But the People, in general, are too scared, stupid and conned to know this any longer.

Also our rights are inherent and can’t be abridged. Should a corrupt government attempt to abridge our rights it is, by definition, invalid and illegitimate. It doesn’t take a court to affirm our inherent rights. So, a government program that scoops up my email without a warrent that names me as an individual and shows probable cause of criminality is, by definition, illegal and those who are running such a program are criminal.

The Constitution can be read and interpreted using commonsense and simple humanity. The trouble is that we have 200 years of warped legalese layered over the top of it upon which the existing power structure rests.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, it’s called human nature. Don’t try to avoid it, you’re already infected.

Most people can’t handle having power over others for very long, a few can’t handle having any power at all for even a moment. This is why we vote people out of office on a regular basis.

The problem is, that power is irresistible to the easily corrupted, to the extent that wanting to be elected to a public office really ought to disqualify you from the job.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Most people can’t handle having power over others for very long, a few can’t handle having any power at all for even a moment. This is why we vote people out of office on a regular basis.

The problem is, that power is irresistible to the easily corrupted, to the extent that wanting to be elected to a public office really ought to disqualify you from the job.

See Masnick !!! It’s in your nature to be corrupted by power, and you’re inability to handle even a little power has corrupted you as well..

After what use is it having the power to stifle free speech and censor speech you don’t agree with, if you don’t abuse it ?

You’ll never be anything better than what you do, and you have shown over and over your willingness to abuse ANY power you have for your own gains..

Don’t expect anyone to think you are any better that any Government or NSA, because are exactly THE SAME !!!!..

The fact you don’t see that in yourself is a worry!

What is your moral and ethical position on this Masnick ??

How many days (if at all) will it take for this comment to be posted ?

horse with no name says:

More wishful crap

My comments are censored here, but I will make this anyway. It’s Saturday morning, you will probably get to read this a week from next Tuesday, but that’s okay.

Mike, you have a basic problem. You define liberty basically in the most selfish way, that is to say unlimited liberty for you, and everyone else can adjust themselves accordingly.

Your liberties are not infringed when you send a digital version of an uncovered postcard to someone – you have to expect that one or more of the people handling the email might read it.

When you are in public, or broadcast on the public airwaves (with your cellular phone), or when you post in public places on the internet, your liberty is not cut when someone else notices (and even records) your actions.

The sort of liberty you seek is the liberty to hide all of your public activities, to force others and the legal system to turn a blind eye. You want to be able to share your communications through third parties services, and you want them to give you absolute, utter, and total security and privacy while doing it – while under no legal obligation to do so.

Oh, and you want the government to be completely transparent, in a manner that would make it impossible to do anything to secure the country or to work to prevent crime ahead of time – and you would want all of their work in prosecution to be entirely public as well. After all, transparency should go to all levels, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Ron Paul would’ve been perfect for this. He was the only one who could’ve turned this thing around. Now I’m not sure even someone like Ron Wyden can do it in the future, if he becomes presidents, at least there’s extreme support from the public which will hammer Congress every day to fight against it, too.

But really – Ron Paul would’ve been the solution. Good job Americans in not picking him! You idiots.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Ron Paul has some interesting ideas.

Ron Paul is also clinically insane.

So as much as Obama has disappointed me, he was clearly a superior choice over insane Paul and senile McCain. We already had 8 years of the Shrub, a man with the intellectual agility of a soap dish: it’s actually refreshing to have someone with a functional mind.

(I can respect evil. I despise stupid.)

Dreddsnik says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Ron Paul has some interesting ideas.

Ron Paul is also clinically insane.”

THIS … Soooo much THIS !!
A misogynistic fundie or a lunatic or someone who at least appears reasonable and stable ? Easy choice. I shudder to think how much worse things could be with either of the other two.The thing about Paul is not just the insanity, but how he likes to imply that he can just make things happen once he’s ‘in control’. Anyone with even a basic knowledge of ‘how shit works’ realizes that this isn’t how our government worked .. ever. If one man would just walk in and just change stuff because he wanted it that way he’d be .. a DICTATOR .. derp.

Dr. Claw (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’d rather have a guy out there who doesn’t hang out with the “state’s rights” neo-Confederate crowd. or is actually something other than the right-side of the spectrum, which is what we’ve had in office for… ever, it seems.

Ron Paul would have been, at best, a different way of showing that the President is powerless (from Obama, who has exposed it greatly. Bush might have been the last president to hold up the illusion).

alternatives() says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

just by getting elected he could immediately make massive sweeping changes.

Anyone in that office can.

1) The way the military is deployed/used
2) Use of the presidential pardon. “On this day all you have to do to be absolved of your past crimes is write them down along with who was involved and submit them in the next 14 days to the President’s Commission on Truth. The pardon for those crimes are automatic. These confessions asking for absolution will be made public at http://www.igotminehowaboutyou.gov. Anyone who decides to not ask for a pardon and is implicated in a crime by another’s pardon request is subject to the punishment under the law for that crime.”

You want change? The above would be change.

dopamine5ht (profile) says:

Re: Ron Paul and other ding bats

Balony. Mr. Racist anti-everything would not been the solution. Just part of the problem too. Instead of government we would be even more tightly controled by corporations.

If it was just the privacy issues he would be great to vote for, but too much bat-crap crazy stuff along with it

I am so blessed that we have obama. Sure I may disagree with the NSA true. However, what do we get with no regulations on corporations? similar issues. Equifax is watching and don’t forget it. Least NSA has some rules on what can be done with the mined data.

How about being declined for a loan because you facebook said you listened to rap music?

Mr. Paul is against americans with disabilities act. People at any time can become a member of this class. Rich or poor.

?There once was a time in history when the limitation of governmental power meant increasing liberty for the people. In the present day the limitation of governmental power, of governmental action, means the enslavement of the people by the great corporations who can only be held in check through the extension of governmental power.?—President Rosevelt.

Tom says:

It goes beyond you

Do you have a mother? Father? Husband? Wife? Son? Daughter? Grandson? Granddaughter? Friend? Friends of friends? Business partner? Are they all godlike in their perfection, so they make no mistakes, do no wrongs, meet perfectly the ideals of every politician and political party, every government agency, every religion both present and future? If not then you have something to hide even if you yourself don’t currently fear the government. These people talk, gossip, text, email, take and post pictures, bank, buy, and blog. If everything they do and say is monitored, scanned, cataloged, cross-referenced, and stored then every fault they have, every mistake, poor choice or misjudgment, every misdeed, every intimate act, any one of them makes or does will eventually be stored and available to be used against them and all who know of if it. Think of any overreach of government (any government), any agency, any business or company, that you’ve ever heard of and recognize that every private, intimate, moment of your life or anyone in it, could eventually be available to be used against you and yours in those same ways or worse. Think of the things that you and those close to you share in private conversations and how someone, somewhere, could in some way use them against you or those you love. Stop for a minute and consider the potential for harm if the people, the party, the government that you don’t trust is the next one in power.

Rapnel (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The tragedy of it all is that we need to keep this farcical situation until we find a better alternative.

I think the tragedy might be that you think there’s something to find. We have to make another alternative. It’s becoming apparent that that hammer can only be forged with iron and blood and a lot of heat.

Carter says:

Guardian Author: The Naive Idiot

If you think you can change the government through politics, you might as well believe you can infiltrate the mafia and turn it into a charity. Why not turn a women’s organization into a gentleman’s club?

The state is an institution that initiates violence against peaceful people. It is immoral and nothing you do will change that. It cannot be abolished until children are raised to understand its moral nature and learn to abhor it and not assume its necessity.

Politics is a government program and anyone participating should be aware of the opportunity costs.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Constitutional Checks and Balances.

Mike Masnick’s question misses the point. In the United States, under our constitution, we are supposed to have a system of checks and balances, in which it does not matter too much what the President does or does not believe. As it happens, we are new to cyberspace, and we have not, as yet translated checks and balances into cyberspace terms. That needs to be done. Specifically that means things like strong cryptography and open source software. In the case of cryptography, it means successively using different ciphers, developed by different people, so that they each guard against each other’s possible “back doors.”

There is something called Bremerman’s Conjecture, reasoning from the theory of quantum physics, that no computer can process more than 2 X 10^ 47 bits per second per gram. And that is for a computer in more or less Big-Bang state, infinitely hot and infinitely dense. If you make some reasonable assumptions (no galactic civilizations turning whole planets into computers, etc., vide Arthur Clarke and Robert Heinlein), 256 bits of complexity is for practical purposes infinite. If you want to be absolutely safe against science fiction, you might go to 512 bits. The leading private-key ciphers are at 256 bits, barring bugs and “back doors.” Of course, the bugs and “back doors”are the interesting question.

Much the same comments would apply to certificates, or Kerberos-type keyservers. This may be a bit more expensive, but in practice, the limiting factor is the cost of telecommunications bandwidth (particularly subscriber loops), and additional encryption is a small matter.


A related point is that we have to get out of the habit of solving problems by military means, notably problems relating to energy.

see: Randolph Bourne, “War Is the Health of the State,” 1918


Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Re: Constitutional Checks and Balances.

Well, H. J. Bremermann (sic) published his conjecture back in 1962, when it was purely academic, obviously, and I read about it in John P. Hayes, Computer Architecture and Organization, 1978, 1988, which I bought at porch sale near the University of Pennsylvania for about two dollars (about ten computer science books for twenty dollars), in, I think, about 1993. This may be a bit before Masnick’s time. Other people have since rediscovered Bremermann’s Conjecture, without giving him credit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I used to love Techdirt. Now every time I visit this site is just tries to force feed me opinions about the US government. Give it a rest already Techdirt.

We’ll said, I guess it is not lost on Masnick that his CENSORSHIP and stifling of free speech that he constantly engages in makes him (and Techdirt) NO BETTER than the worst of those who want to supress liberty…

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Ha, absurd

I’m arguing that any time a president does anything someone doesn’t like, it’s “anti-freedom” and “anti-liberty.”

I think you’re mistaken; that’s just one of the things a president gets criticized for. Sometimes it’s something dishonest, other times it’s being soft on terrorism, or any number of things. For example, Bush’s failures after hurricane Katrina were not called anti-liberty (that I recall), just stupid, slow, insensitive, and incompetent. I think what you’re seeing is that so many of Obama’s failures actually are anti-liberty that it’s become a common refrain – but not incorrectly.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Speeches are great...

But candidates are useless. Even if we heard this speech. Even if we went as far as to believe (with certainty) that this candidate was sincere, his or her sentiments wouldn’t survive the first year in the White House.

Power corrupts, and the illusion here is that any one person can somehow be immune long enough to do something useful. Ultimately by the time they are effective, they are…

…Same as the old boss.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

The Constitution vs. Starship Troopers

Also our rights are inherent and can’t be abridged. Should a corrupt government attempt to abridge our rights it is, by definition, invalid and illegitimate

Ultimately, it the power of force that determines the legitimacy of a regime. A government is usually entrusted with a monopoly on the use of force (at least force, as made legitimate by the justice system).

But when the state (by way of the courts) interprets the constitution contrary to the plain language there is no recourse except to act outside the system, or to tolerate their misjudgement.

We can call the state criminal or illegitimate, but it is their guns that say otherwise, until an alternative regime emerges, or the international courts are empowered to intervene.

Allaun Silverfox (profile) says:

As I have stated before.....

If you feel strongly about a issue, don’t protest. It’s become a ineffectual way to do things. Even if someone notices you, you’ll be forgotten in a few weeks. Our country is mostly based on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plutocracy now. If you feel that this issue is important enough, you have 2 options, neither are very nice. You can create a lobby and slowly attempt to effect the changes you want. Or you can find a path that leads you to those that are causing the changes and try to convince them it’s not in their financial interests.

Ed the Engineer says:

Changing the Leader, doesn't really change the government.

The problem I have seen for a few years now, is that changing the president, changes the government very little.
A new president takes office. He changes the cabinet. Maybe the cabinet changes out the people how report to them.
Below that, nothing much changes. FBI agents,CIA, NSA, these people still work there. Doing the same job the always did, pretty much the same way the did.
And doing so, they influence things up the chain, in the end, influencing the presidents policies. I am reminded of an a silly poem about corporate structure. Something like:
Chairman – Stronger than a locomotive… Talks to god.
CEO – as strong as locomotive…. Gets policy from god.
Secretary – kicks locomotive out of her way…. SHE IS GOD.
Same principle.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...