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September 13, 2007


William Lewis


I think police state is a strong phrase. Forgive me for commenting on two blogs in one day and invoking Hayek in both, but a police state seems to be something that can really only exist under an authoritarian regime where the Rule of Law has dissipated, not to meaninglessness because some people breaking the Rule of Law are still being punished, but dissipated nonetheless. Police states are those places where you can be arrested at any moment for any infraction because just about any action can be construed as illegal. We are not to that point in the US, yet. There is still a high level of legal certainty and knowledge of when you are breaking the law in the US.

Ambiguous authorizations of Executive power such as military tribunals and wiretapping push us toward this police state, but we are not there yet. Your reader said that we have greater security, but that is completely false. I too felt much safer walking the streets of a Chinese city than an American one. The price that must be paid for freedom is security. Americans must realize that security is not worth the sacrifice of freedom. Sorry for the cliche, but this cliche holds great truth.

Fancy lawyer speak about the individual rights amendments of the US Constitution is silly because just about every country in the world, exempting England and her former colonies, Australia and New Zealand, have real nice sounding individual rights portions of their constitutions. What does separate the US Constitution from places like China is the separation of powers. Madison and Hamilton were actually confused as to why the US needed individual rights amendments because they thought separation of powers would guarantee individual rights. China cannot claim to have a true separation of powers because all branches fall squarely under Party control.

The freedom from a police state by separation of powers will hold true in the US, but only as long as the Legislature and Judiciary serve their function and push back against the Executive. Fortunately, we have seen push back against the Executive by Scalia in the Hamdi and Hamdan decisions. We shall see if Congress will have the balls to weaken the Executive, and if the next Executive will have the fortitude to reduce his/her power. Hopefully this trend towards the dissipation of the Rule of Law in the US will reverse.


William Lewis,

After re-reading your comment, which I truly appreciate, I can't help but think of Thomas Hobbes and his book Leviathan. Perhaps our streets would be safer and we would have all of the security if we lived under a monarchy similar to China's system of government. However, I don't really mind the chaos of the American streets. I think it's a symbol of our freedom. Plus, my blog is blocked in China, and the free exchange of information is something that I obviously support.

Does our freedom depend on the separation of powers and the checks and balances that each branch is supposed to impose upon the other? I agree with you in theory that it does. On the other hand, this idea makes me think of Kurt Vonnegut's book Slapstick, which views each profession (and everything in between) as forming little cliques that can be analogized to families. He argues what is more natural than working for the benefit of your family before anyone else. In this idea, those that are in representative government will do what is best for their family before they act in the interest of those people they're supposed to be representing. It's food for thought. I acknowledge that every form of government is going to be inherently flawed, and I'm quite taken with the US's form of government, but that doesn't mean there isn't a new evolution waiting in the wings. Some people have been arguing for the introduction of a fourth branch of government, viz. a popular branch of government that is made up of random people from the citizenry. That would certainly expand the family of the current government.

Thanks for participating in our forum, Mr. Lewis. I certainly enjoy your comments. Even if it does take me a month to respond to your comment.

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