Saturday, December 17, 2011
Lidia, one of the commenters here, wrote about the decline in US civil liberties that has been accelerating more rapidly since 2001. Some people are surprised, I admit that I had been one, to see this acceleration in the withdrawal of the US commitment to civil liberties continue under President Barack Obama. From the Patriot Act to US torture facilities to the most recent law that arguably purports to nullify the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution for people accused by the government of aiding terrorism.
That is a topic that I have not written enough about but that is ripe for much more discussion.
I've for a long time believed that the US' pretensions of civil liberties are during the modern era more an artifact of the US' position as a nearly unchallenged power than of any US ideological position, and much less any reflection of US virtue.
As the US becomes less relatively powerful in a global sense, it certainly will give up the rights and protections it could offer when it was more dominant.
That, for most of the seven billion people in the world is probably more a good thing than a bad thing.
The US long ago stopped being the revolutionary country it was when it was founded. The US of 1780, keeping in mind that it was institutionally racist, was a radical nation. Before the formal invention of communism - which is an extension of liberal ideas - the US was one of the most radically liberal nations in the world.
The US of 1780 was a country that could sacrifice the secure execution of power by its government itself to an ideal such as freedom of speech. The US of 1780 was, for its time, a revolutionary country.
Today's US does not believe in sacrifice for ideals. Sacrifice for ideals is close to what it means for a government, an organization or even a person to be revolutionary. The 1780s US, racism aside, was more like 1960s Cuba or 1980s Iran than the 2011 US.
So the freedom of speech we see in the US in 2011 is not like the freedom of speech that existed in the US in 1780. The freedom of speech available in the US today comes only from the fact that the US government now has a lot of resources to securely execute power despite that.
The important thing I'm getting at is that as we see freedom of speech decline, we are seeing an accurate reflection of the decline of US relative global power - according to the perceptions of the US government itself.
From a global point of view, that is more exciting than troubling to me. I certainly welcome it and I'll do what I can to maintain myself as an individual but I as an individual, on a global scale, am very comfortable anyway. I'm nobody to worry about.
I've noticed what you've noticed, Lidia, but my feeling about it is far more intrigued than fearful.
Posted by Arnold Evans at 12:23 PM