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To be left alone

May 10, 2019

There is, in California, a Vietnam war veteran (let’s call him “Frank”) who runs the business side of a major marijuana production and distribution network. Frank has set things up such that they sell only to distribution centers. He has taken steps to avoid any involvement with organized crime and “drug rings.” When asked what he thinks about further legalization of marijuana, Frank said he is opposed to it because the “the Man” would get involved and tax his income. He usually carries multiple concealed firearms. Frank has no concealed carry permit because, in his words, “then the Man would know I own guns.”*

What does Frank have in common with Bugs Bunny, Benjamin Martin, Josey Wales and Leon McDuff, all of whom are fictional characters? What does he have in common with people I have met from all over the United States who are ranchers, farmers, homesteaders, LEOs, veterans, teachers, attorneys (a surprisingly large number of these), authors, preachers and mechanics?

They all want to be left alone.

Justice Louis D. Brandeis, in Olmstead v. United States, noted that one of the purposes of the Constitution was to protect what he called “the right to be left alone.” This right, and the desire for it, are, I submit, very much at the heart of the American ethos. My experience is that most people simply wish to be left alone to live their own lives the way they see fit. Likewise, most people understand that living their own lives the way they see fit does not confer upon them the right to violate the rights of others to do the same thing.

Enter the busybody and his large, club-carrying friend, the authoritarian, stage left.

These folks, too, simply want to live their lives as they see fit. However, they have this one little thing, this slight twist on the issue. You see, they also want you to live your life the same way – as they see fit.

By himself, the busybody is usually no more than an annoyance. Though far more interested in the lives of others than is healthy, he can’t really do all that much. Tell him to go away, to piss off, to pound sand and he’ll leave, though he’ll make sure to do so in a way that expresses his displeasure and disapproval of you and your barbarian ways. So what? He has been successfully chased back into his own yard. It’s his friend who is the real problem.

The authoritarian believes, truly believes, a few things. Among those, we find that he believes there is a need for someone (or several someones) to tell other people what to do. It turns out that he also believes that he, and those who agree with him (like his good friend the busybody), are the ones who happen to be most qualified to do so.

The busybody focuses on the lives of others and what he thinks they should be doing. The authoritarian seeks to obtain and use the power to make them do it. Together, they are arrayed against your right to be left alone, and against the document written, in part, to protect that right. While Patrick Henry’s concerns regarding the proposed Constitution may have been well-placed, I still think it’s a pretty darn good document which, if followed, would achieve the goal of protecting liberty very well.

Some people, as it happens, are not that fond of liberty. They find it inconvenient. In 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the new constitution. It was agreed that government under the US Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. And in 1798, with the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts, the attacks on liberty began. In the intervening years since then, those attacks have never stopped. The busybody and the authoritarian, appealing always to necessity,** seek to tell you how to live, what to do and what to think. In spite of what those in each of our two major political parties often suggest, we find them, the busybody and the authoritarian, on both the American right and the American left.

Liberty will always be under attack. The radical document called the the Constitution of the United States of America has been opposed by Adams, Wilson, both Roosevelts, Nixon, neocons (including Hillary, aka “Dick Cheney in a pantsuit“) and our current crop of self-proclaimed progressives and socialists, to name but a few. Individual liberty, in spite of what they say, strikes some people as so bizarre and unworkable, and seems to fill them with such an inexpressible dread, that they oppose it in any way they can.

The defense of liberty is a lifelong struggle for every generation. We best get busy.

*If your response is that Frank is, by definition, a prohibited person, please be assured I’m already aware of that. Be further assured that Frank has apparently been armed since long before he achieved that august state. You can be even further assured, by reading again what I’ve written, that I nowhere addressed whether I think Frank should be armed. Please try, really hard, to not read your own meaning into anything I’ve written.

** “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.” ~ William Pitt the Younger

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  1. Excellent points!`

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