I just got an email informing me that one particularly thick person has commented on my disparaging comments on the Bush Administration’s issuance of a meaningless non-order non-protecting property rights and has complained that
One such wag complained that Bush issued his decree “merely because he says so“. And he also whined that a mere “Executive Order isn’t much protection from arbitrary exercises of power. Hunh? What is wrong with the decree being because “Bush says so”? How could it be otherwise. And the complaint reeks of the libertarian centralist notion that only protection from the Supreme Federal Courts is good enough; that judges are somehow exalted and different from other federal employees. I guess Bush should have made the Order applicable to the States, contrary to the Constitution and federalism (which is a code word for racism for libertarian centralists).
Hmmmm….”how could it be otherwise?” Is our liberty dependent merely on the arbitrary will of the holders of power? Here are two options that a a serious advocate of liberty might recognize as authentically representing liberty:
1 Restrictions on power could be a requirement of the Constitution.
2. Restrictions on power could be a result of the division of powers. (See above.)
The option that “the ruler decided for today not to take our land” is not consistent with authentic liberty.
What is it to be without liberty? It is to be subject to the arbitrary power of another person. As John Locke noted,
“[T]he end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge Freedom: For in all the states of created beings capable of Laws, where there is no Law, there is no Freedom. For Liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others which cannot be, where there is no Law: But Freedom is not, as we are told, A Liberty for every Man to do what he lists: (For who could be free, when every other Man’s Humour might domineer over him?) But a Liberty to dispose, and order, as he lists, his Persons, Actions, Possessions, and his whole Property, within the Allowance of those Laws under which he is; and therein not to be subject to the arbitrary Will of another, but freely follow his own.” (John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, Chap. VI, Ã?Â??Ã?Â?Ã?Â§57)
Sidney, Hayek, and many other deep thinkers concurred.
Being “protected” by someone who can withdraw that protection on a whim is no protection at all. It certainly isn’t liberty.
“What is wrong with the decree being because ‘Bush says so’?” What is wrong with the decree “merely because he said so” is that we are dependent on his changeable will. That is a defining characteristic of unfreedom. At least, for people who care about individual liberty. For those for whom it is all an “intellectual game” and for their equally uncommitted parlour-game friends, it’s not a problem at all.