Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Liberty: Upon Further Review

 I recommend for you the comments section under "Liberty." I wrote there "Also, WRT surveillance and record-keeping. The comments clarify for me that if we have 30% more freedom because of our technology and even more permissive laws but only 20% more restriction, it still might be a net loss of liberty because of your increased vulnerability to pressure from a variety of corporations and departments."

In terms of that 30%, I have things to add.  The disabled of all types have much more liberty. We are better protected against abuse from employers, abuse from family members, abuse from police. Protection from fellow citizens - is it about the same?  We have improved protections against fraud, better protection (some would say too much) against being brought involuntarily to psychiatric institutions. In NH, it used to be that any doctor plus your local state rep could have you sent away.

I got to thinking what that 20% loss of liberty via restriction might be, in order to weigh the two sides clearly.  As I was walking I concluded there are none, or perhaps few in case I haven't thought of something. Wait.  It is much harder to father a child and bear no responsibility now. That's a restriction. I suppose, but not one we usually put under the category of "liberty." Undue liberty, perhaps, not a legitimate one. The added surveillance is not just for fun, after all, it is put in place to curtail bad behavior.  The problems come later, as the definitions of bad behavior always expand, never contract.

It still might be a net loss because of the various types of surveillance, by governments, places we do business, and even (especially?) our fellow citizens: Financial observation, social observation, visual observation by device. Those are wide-ranging and insidious, and a few commenters provided good lists of what exactly is surveilled. So that's the whole trade. It's all increased freedom, all the way, with no added restrictions...

...except for the eyes watching, and the potential for abuse there.  Most of us are unaffected, but we can look around and see how we might be affected, and in some bad places, people already are.  The threat is quite real. As one commenter mentioned, we were always at the mercy of others social in neighborhoods and small towns, and memories could be long. Yet you could, in a pinch, move elsewhere, even taking on a new identity, as my great-grandfather did.


Thos. said...

"It's all increased freedom, all the way, with no added restrictions..."

Not at all.

Most states have expanded (sometimes greatly) the number of jobs that require some form of professional license.
The number and miles of roads open to vehicle travel on federal lands - and, consequently, the average person's freedom to get places - is constantly shrinking.

Anyone who runs a business will tell you that the rules - and the cost of compliance - are always growing.

If you want to build a house, the rules you have to follow grow almost by the day. The size, the materials you can use, the amount of insulation, the type of heating (some cities are starting to ban any gas furnace or appliance, for example), even the color of paint, are all subject to growing rulesets.

Ask someone who prefers to pay with cash if they are more or less restricted today than they were 20 years ago.

There are no doubt good reasons for many of these restrictions (it seems there's never a shortage of reasons to limit people's choices), but it would be a pretty crabbed bit of analysis that decided these (and multitudes of similar) rules weren't more restrictive. After all, not following any of the above rules comes with civil and/or criminal peanalties.

james said...

"even taking on a new identity, as my great-grandfather did"
I guess that was something great-grandfathers did--the the annoyance of cousins interested in genealogy.

WRT Thos. observation: "I heard the other day that in that country a man could not, without a permit, cut down his own tree with his own axe, make it into planks with his own saw, and use the planks to build a toolshed in his own garden."

Thos. said...

Also (and off-topic): most of the time I love that technological progress has given me a device that can access almost any piece of information almost anywhere I happen to be; but when I type a comment on my phone, I nearly always make errors that I wouldn't if I were sitting a my desk.

I both have more info and seem less educated at the same time. A miraculous device, indeed.

Grim said...

Yes, those extra 67,000 pages of Federal regulations from 1970 to 2020 include very many curtailments and restrictions -- and as James and Thos. note, these are replicated at the state and local level (and even privately, as by HOAs or "end user license agreements").

But the unevenness of enforcement is also threatening to liberty, as you note. Somewhere in those 67,000 pages of Federal regulations are probably criminal penalties -- even felonies -- for things that you or I or any of us might do, and we don't even know they exist. No one in power may wish us harm, but if they do they can certainly cause harm.

Nor is it only criminal matters. I got a letter from a state agency I'd not heard of just the other day, informing me that I needed to fill out an application I didn't know existed in order to pay a tax I didn't know of even though I have an accountant. Of course I paid it -- we pay endless taxes, so what's one more? -- but I'm not actually convinced that I owe it. I just have no way of knowing, without hiring a lawyer who would be more expensive than the tax, and going to court (also expensive) to prove the case; and if I won, naturally they'd just alter the regulation to capture me for the next time around. They seem to have endless authority to make whatever rules and charge whatever taxes they like.

So I paid it, and hopefully they will be content with that. If not, they could cause me all kinds of trouble. Consider the IRS assault by the Obama administration on any sort of disapproved political organizing by would-be Tea Partiers; a fundamental right, to organize and petition the government for redress of grievances, but effectively destroyed by harassing audits and fines and inquiries and examinations.

Which is not to say that we are not in some ways freer than our ancestors. We are certainly freer to take a gay spouse, or to serve in the military as a gay man or woman, etc. I read yesterday that the VA is going back and extending veteran benefits and disability payments to those who were other-than-honorably discharged for homosexuality. I can see how, from the perspective of a gay man who wished to live openly and have his sexuality embraced rather than being a dark source of hidden shame, things could really be said to be freer than even a few decades ago.

But it is our duty to pass such liberties as we inherited as intact as we may to our children and grandchildren's generations. If we can reclaim some lost ones, better still. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty (as is commonly said).

Cranberry said...

My kids have friends who (back when Facebook was popular) created alternate accounts under pseudonyms. One account for the parents, one for the insiders. Of course nothing you post online is truly anonymous.

If someone wanted to "get you," it would be far easier, I would think, to create fake evidence through electronic tools. A mother has been accused of creating "deepfakes" to discredit her daughter's cheerleading rivals.

We have improved protections against fraud.

Really? I would have said that we have much greater fraud, as we have connected every senior citizen, lonely single and business in the US with the true, international experts in fraud.

Romance scams have cost over $133 million this year, according to the FBI (via Cnet.)

Ransomware is estimated to cost the US some $19 billion.

Business email compromise is frequent, costing billions.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Excellent points about the restrictions via regulation, those slow strangulations.

Zachriel said...

Thos: If you want to build a house, the rules you have to follow grow almost by the day.

As you note, there are often good reasons for many of these restrictions. Much of that has to do with the complexity of modern living. Abraham Lincoln didn't have to worry about the quality of electrical wires hidden in the walls of his log cabin, or fumes coming from the dry wall.

Grim: I got a letter from a state agency I'd not heard of just the other day, informing me that I needed to fill out an application I didn't know existed in order to pay a tax I didn't know of even though I have an accountant.

What tax was that?

james: WRT Thos. observation: "I heard the other day that in that country a man could not, without a permit, cut down his own tree with his own axe, make it into planks with his own saw, and use the planks to build a toolshed in his own garden."

There may be a reason why Chesterton's fence was put up.

Mike Guenther said...

As a carpenter/builder for over 40 years, yes some of the regulations are for the protection of the home owner. But that being said, there are an awful lot of them that are a sop to friends with construction related products to sell.

Case in point, Cedar Shake roof shingles. Originally they were installed on battens nails across the roof. That allowed air circulation and the shakes could conceivably last 50 years. That became labor and cost intensive, so builders started laying the shingles straight on the tar paper underlayment. The effective life of the shingles went down to maybe 20 years if your roof wasn't shaded by overhanging trees, which allowed moss to grow because damp shingles, which made them deteriorate much faster.

Then some guy came up with the invention of a product that looked like a 3' wide roll of "scouring pad" made of plastic that was supposed to emulate the battens and allow air circulation. It became a part of the building code for a while until they figured out that it didn't help as expected and actually made the shingles deteriorate even faster.

Whether that was a sop to the shingle making industry or the inventor is the question. Cedar Shakes/shingles are very expensive as opposed to other roof coverings. 10 years ago, they were about $350 a square and most homes will take anywhere from 25 to 45 or more squares of shingles. That doesn't include labor for tear off and re-shingling the roof.

That's just one example. There are many more that are BS rules to line someone else's pocket.