The Patriot Act Pros And Cons Essays - …

Now let us see the mischief that arises when you make the existence of indirect compulsion a ground for employing direct compulsion. First, when you do so you at once destroy the immense safeguard that exists so long as one man cannot be compelled to accept another man's view as regards his own life or happiness–that is to say, that the person who knows most about his interest and cares most about it–I mean the man's own self–must give his consent to every action that he does; and you establish a system, founded on very puzzle-headed ideas, under which each man is not to be his own special guardian, but is to be put instead under the guardianship of (say) 10,000,000 of his countrymen and countrywomen. Second, observe, that in opposing such indirect force, as is tyrannously used, by the weapon of direct force, you fall into the same mistake as those do, who try to repress a crime by methods more brutal than the crime itself; or as those do who would forcibly repress teaching, such as that of the Roman Catholic religion, because they believe that the claim to possess infallibility tends to an intolerant use of power, whenever power and this claim happen to be joined in the same persons. But could such people have their way, they would immensely increase the intolerance that exists in the world by inducing all the tolerant–as well as the intolerant–persons to fight for their opinions by intolerant means. In exactly the same way he who uses direct force to combat indirect force only restrains one injury by inflicting another of a graver kind, places the fair-minded people as well as the unfair-minded people on the side of oppression, and, by thus equalizing the actions of the good and bad, indefinitely delays the development of those moral influences to which we can alone look as the solvent of that temper that makes men use harshly the indirect power resting in their hands. Do we wish to make men juster in their daily intercourse with each other? We shall certainly not succeed by acting more unjustly in return, for however unjustly a man may use the indirect power that he possesses, his injustice will always be surpassed by those who violate the universal rights of men by applying force directly.

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Only so can the far-reaching powers which lie in human nature, but which, like the talent, are so often wrapped in the napkin, hidden and unused, find their full scope and development; only so can our aims and ambitions be ennobled and purified; only so can the true respect for the individuality of others soften the strife of opinions, and the intolerant spirit in which we so often look upon all that is opposed to and different from ourselves. As we recognize and respect the individuality both of ourselves and others; as we realize that the bettering of the world depends upon our individual actions and perceptions; that this bettering can only be done by ourselves, acting together in free combination; that it depends upon the efforts of countless individuals, as the raindrops make the streams, and the streams make the rivers, that it cannot be done for us by proxy, cannot be relegated, in our present indolent fashion, to systems of machinery, or handed over to an army of autocratic officials to do for us; and as we realize that we shall have failed in our part, have lived almost in vain, if in some direction, in some department of thought or action, whatever it may be, we have not individually striven to make the better take the place of the good; life will become for all of us a better and nobler thing, with more definite aims, and greater incentives to useful action. The work that we do will react on ourselves; and we shall react on the work. Each victory gained, each new thing well done will make the men, the fighters for progress; and as the fighters are raised to a higher capacity, the progress made will advance with bolder, swifter strides, invading in turn every highway and byway of life. But this healthy reaction cannot be as long as we live under the depressing and dispiriting influence of the great machines, that take the work out of our hands, and encourage in us all a sense of personal uselessness. The appeal must be straight and direct to the individuals, to their own self-direction, their own self-sacrifice, to their own efforts in free unregulated combinations, their own willing gifts and services.

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Let us never forget the power of the accumulated pence. If we could persuade a million men and women to lay aside one halfpenny a week, at the end of a year they would have over £100,000 to invest in farms, houses, recreation grounds, in all that they felt they most needed. With the acquisition of property would come many of the helpful and useful qualities—the self-confidence, the faculty of working together, and of managing property, and the proud inspiring ambition to remake in peaceful ways, unstained by any kind of violence, and therefore challenging and encountering no opposing forces, the whole condition of society, as it exists today. Such is the goal to which we, who disbelieve in force, must ever point the way. It is for us to show that everything can be gained by voluntary effort and combination, and nothing can be permanently and securely gained by force. In every form, where men hold men in subjection to themselves, force is always organized against itself, is always tending sooner or later to destroy itself. Autocrat, restless politician, or socialist, they are all only laborers in vain. There is a moral gravitation that in its own time drags all their work remorsely to the ground. Everywhere, across that work, failure is written large. There are many reasons. In the first place, force begets force, and dies by the hand of its own offspring; then those who use force never act long together, for the force temper leads them to turn their hand against each other; then the continued use of force, as is natural, develops a superhuman stupidity, a failure to see the real meaning and drift of things, in those who use it; but greatest of all reasons, the soul of man is made for freedom, and only in freedom finds its true life and development. So long as we suppress that true life of the soul, so long as we deny to it the full measure of its freedom, we shall continue to strive and to quarrel and to hate, and to waste our efforts, as we have done through so many countless years, and shall never enter the fruitful path of peace and friendship that waits for us. Once show the people, make it clear to their heart and understanding, that it is liberty alone that can lead us into this blessed path of peace and friendship; that it alone can still the strife and the hatreds; that it alone is the instrument of progress of every kind; that it alone in any true sense can make and hold together and preserve a nation—which, if it rejects liberty, must in the end tear itself to pieces in the great hopeless aimless strife—once show them this supreme truth, feeling it yourself in the very depths of your heart, and so speak to them—and then you will find, as you touch the nobler, more generous part of their nature, that gradually, under the influence of the truer teaching, they will learn to throw aside the false bribes and mischievous attractions of powers, and to turn away in disgust from that mad destructive game in which they and we alike have allowed ourselves for a time to be entangled.

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Let the voluntaryist boldly preach the doctrine of self-ownership everywhere. Let him seek to persuade the socialist that he has no right to offer comfort and advantage at the price of the sacrifice of personal liberty; that it is quite vain to try to destroy one kind of bondage by building up another in its place; let him persuade the capitalist that all wealth, founded on any kind of state favor or privilege and opposed to free trade, is wealth taken by force from others, and rests on wrong and unjust foundations; let him persuade the members of all churches that it is a travesty and a mockery of their own creed—rightly and simply understood—to attack any kind of moral evil with state punishments; that all such persecutions are in direct conflict with the principles of the Sermon on the Mount, and that Christians, above all men, are bound to fight with the weapons of reason, discussion and persuasion; let him seek to persuade all men, whether rich or poor, employers or employed, men of this country or other countries, that the organization of any kind of material force against each other is a barren and pitiful waste of life—that a victory gained over unwilling bodies and minds is a defeat, and not a victory, that in peace, friendly cooperation, unrestricted experiment, constant difference, almost unlimited toleration as regards the actions of others, free trade in every direction, the increased mobility, life experience and self-protection of the individual, the removal of all compulsory burdens and services, the abandonment of the evil power of mortgaging the faculties of future generations by the present generation, the abandonment of great political inducements for men to struggle with each other, which inducements to war must exist so long as each man desires the possession of power for himself and dreads to see it in the hands of his neighbor, and lastly in the perfect security of person and property, so that the conditions of successful effort may be recognized as constant and persisting—that in these things are the true watchwords of progress, to which it is our duty under every temptation to be faithful. Let us sum up what voluntaryism is—in a few words:

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This is, fundamentally, why this issue crossed political lines in Congress. If the president can ignore laws regulating surveillance and wiretapping, why is Congress bothering to debate reauthorizing certain provisions of the Patriot Act? Any debate over laws is predicated on the belief that the executive branch will follow the law.

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Last, let me glance at another class of actions, which are a matter of local rather than central government. You may ask me, “Ought not such a thing as riotous or indecent behavior in the streets to be punishable; and if so, on what grounds?” To which I can only reply that we must not confuse those offenses which are rightly punishable by the law of self-preservation, because they are aggressions by one man upon the faculties and actions of another man, with offenses which are committed in disregard of regulations laid down by those who are holders of property. Those who own the streets, whoever they may be–private owners, companies, or municipalities–may in virtue of such owning lay down such regulations as they think right, just as the directors of a railway company issue directions as to where men may smoke or not smoke. These regulations may be unwise and vexatious, but there is no element of wrong contained in them, because they are the conditions under which a certain thing is allowed by its owners to be used. But let us be careful neither to assume ownership, where it does not rightly exist, as the result of acquisition under a free system, nor to create it by any act of force. No municipality should have the right to seize property, and then for such property make such public regulations as it chooses. The moment that it takes property by force, and sets itself above the rights of individuals, its action assumes the character of a very dangerous and unjust monopoly. In the case where it acquires property, either by purchase or by free concession, it may, like any other private owner, make such regulations as it chooses; and so long, as it is not clothed with greater powers than the individual, a guarantee of a certain kind exists that these regulations will not be oppressive on account of the opposition and competition that could be and would be called out in consequence. Given a free people accustomed to voluntary combinations, and I doubt if there is much cause for fearing the oppression of any associated body, if only no extraordinary powers have been given to it. The resources which created it, can generally call its rival or its superior into existence.