L. Neil Smith's
Number 144, October 22, 2001
I Hear America Dying

To the Editor: So now, per James Robbins's article "What Will Happen Now," The Objectivist Center supports a national ID card and other assaults on my privacy and liberty?

Question: Exactly how would a national ID card have prevented the events of September 11? Will the ID card say: WARNING: THIS IS A TERRORIST HEAH? And exactly how many of our personal liberties and rights are we supposed to throw away now?

"Since last Tuesday, some of my 'go to the wall' libertarian views, such as opposing a national ID card, have seemed trivial," Robbins writes. "The potential for government abuse is present, but the need for providing security is actual." The potential for abuse is "great"? Yeah, I'd say so.

"So long as there are actual checks and balances..." Robbins advises. Great. What are the "checks" and the "balances" going to be, and what are the risks? Robbins supplies no discussion whatever of what's involved.

Any chance whatever that the government will use the additional information and means provided to it to via a national ID card to do anything besides combat terrorism? What's the history, for example, of the social security number? Anybody at The Objectivist Center remember the fact that it was never supposed to be used as a means of identification? What was the "check" and the "balance" there? Any idea over at TOC privvy as to the content of the various "anti-terrorism" bills now before Congress? Take a look. Then take another look at what gets passed.

Robbins also seems to support the idea of cameras, cameras, everywhere. I just love the idea of living in the Village.

Those who want to control and monitor us are leaping on this event like a pack of hyenas. It is very, very sad and disturbing to find The Objectivist Center joining the pack, and especially in such a cognitively sloppy way.

Meanwhile, of course, it's precisely when we enter into public situations in which our personal safety is most jeopardized by potential terrorism and other random thuggery, that we are supposed to be in particular disarmed so that we have no chance of adequately defending ourselves, if assaulted. Not unless fisticuffs will suffice.

Most of the TOC-sponsored analysis about these horrific events has been sound. I assume not everyone at The Objectivist Center joins in Robbins's ill-considered sentiments.

But on the other hand, there can't have been very fundamental and vocal opposition to them either, as I assume that anything that gets published in Navigator has to pass some minimal gauntlet. Isn't the editor, at least, required to peruse any articles that are slated for publication? And TOC's recently posted "position statement" does seem to endorse a Robbins-style tradeoff. "Measures that limit the [rights to liberty, property, and privacy] are justified only if they are objectively required for security and are tailored to minimize restrictions on other rights." (Oh. And who is going to be the tailor, prithee? Cathy Young and James Robbins? I am not reassured.)

What really bothers me is that I have found the perfect solution to the problem of security on airplanes, but it has yet to be implemented, even though, as I write, this is Day 32 of the crisis. Handcuff all passengers as they take their seats and don't remove the handcuffs until the plane has landed. That way, there will be no need for anybody to be armed, the pilot or anybody else. I am sure Robbins will endorse this, as it will enhance security. Sure, there are risks to this approach, but let's just make sure there are checks and balances too.

Guys, it is conceivable that our "security" will be enhanced if we are all locked up in a giant cage and nobody can do anything without first filling out a form in triplicate. Food -- carefully screened in advance for poison by the Almighty Bureaucrats -- could be extruded to us through various tactically placed tubules. We'll all die slowly, sure, but at least we won't die fast. Except maybe those who are really, really bothered by this sort of thing. Those pesky Howard-Roark types.

But in the spirit of unity, yeah, okay, for the sake of my "security," bring on the fascism. And I'll check my "checks and balances" at the door.

David M. Brown [dmb1000@juno.com]

Why doesn't Bush admit that his war is all about oil? And why is Cheney hunkered in a bunker? Could it be because Halliburton makes oil field equipment?

Brian Monahan [july76@qwest.net]


Re: "Racism and the new Profiling"

Charles Novins takes exception to a Stossel commentary and to the application of profiling in general [TLE#143], but seems to miss a basic point: profiling is not racism, even when it is race-based. Conundrum?

First, racism is a belief system, not exclusively a legal issue. It is the premise that physical attributes (in the extreme, custom and language) define a person. This is a very broad and ethically vacant proposition, with no merit whatever. Nevertheless, it is a belief system, a residue of our humanity's ancient tribal ethic, which is all to common and notably maintained by many tribal and dictatorial governments around the world.

In our present context, we cannot ignore the fact that a very distinctive racial, religious and political group has threatened and executed extreme violence against innocents. Whether we find it meritorious or not, these groups do express their identity with a range of distinctive features. They have chosen a racial identity for their cause; they have chosen cosmetic and clothing features which express their religious convictions; not us.

This collective definition of personhood has thankfully been banished as the basis for any legal action in the United States. In the libertarian ethic, a person is judged by their injurious acts against another, not by their incidental attributes.

Our justice system has -- with growing exceptions -- been based on intervention in response to coercive acts against an individual's rights. Suspicions about possible future acts has not been legitimate grounds for legal or police action. There are a wide range of laws now being contemplated and adopted in response to feeble evidence of perceived threats. Those are bad laws in and of themselves, whether they compromise the due process or equal protections that we expect.

Nevertheless, the pursuit of justice is irrevocably dependent on establishing identity. Excluding any component of identity in assigning guilt -- or even suspicion -- for a criminal act is to deny the possibility of successful investigation and prosecution for the crime. In this context, any distinguishing characteristic is valid grounds for inquiry. The issue isn't whether the defining feature is grounds for restricting a person's rights, but whether it is a "reasonable" and efficacious basis for the identification of someone accused of criminal conduct. That's why the Fourth Amendment specifies an independent arbiter (judge) to determine the merit of the probable cause (identity) for a search or seizure.

"Profiling", racial or otherwise, is merely a precursor to the effort at establish identity. It may be imperfect, inefficient, even unreasonable, but it is not inherently improper in the pursuit of criminals. Rarely do victims or eyewitnesses notice much more than the general characteristics of their attackers. Hopefully, they note distinguishing characteristics, but that isn't always the case. It is therefore perfectly proper for investigators to note those features when they inquire into the identity and recent conduct of those who fit a profile -- even if that profile is purely a physical characteristic that makes the inquiry inefficient and ultimately unproductive. If we deny the profile -- an incomplete identity -- to investigators, then we deny the victims, in many cases, any chance of justice.

None of the preceding is intended to excuse aggressive, malicious, or prolonged inquiry in an investigation, much less an unfounded arrest or detention. Nor is it intended to mitigate the horrendous abuses in the enforcement of victimless crimes, "hate crimes" or "thought crimes." However, "racial profiling" of suspects isn't a violation of anyone's rights in the particular and it is a very necessary component of criminal investigation.

We should use every tool, including profiling, to bring the guilty to justice. Purely racial profiling may both inefficient and fruitless, but in concert with any other features of identity, it is a necessary component in the pursuit of justice.

Bill Westmiller [westmiller@aol.com]




A most excellent article.

I would have added only one thing, which you almost touched upon, but seemingly did not: Surrogates.

Racial profiling does not catch the non-profiled. A most interesting case in point would have been Tim McVeigh.

There are more than a few sympathizers running around supporting just about every cause that you can name, and they all don't match the profile of the prime suspects.

I consider that if revolt ever comes to this nation -- yet again, and it happens that those whom are the actors is 'Caucasoid' only, that the government will have an interesting time suppressing 'white people', while our fellow citizens of the other racial persuasions would no doubt have some interesting things to say.

In Liberty,

E.J. Totty [echeghlon@seanet.com]

The truck bomb in the WTC in 1993 was an FBI bombing:


You don't know this. Nobody knows this, despite the above article being re-printed in every major newspaper.

Now, contemplate what kind of a country you ACTUALLY live in.

Lew Glendenning [rlglende@alink.net]

Warren Tilson's description of the mythical new television series/movie about our brave and hard-pressed heros of the War on Terrorism has already been written, produced and shown.

Have you seen Tom Clancy's "Netforce" yet? I wasn't able to stand 15 minutes of it.

Curt Howland [Howland@Priss.com]

There is an interesting traditional Islamic financial system called "hawala" detailed here:


That might be of interest to privacy conscious libertarians.

apple3 [apple3@bellsouth.net]

I thought this might be of interest.


From CATO Daily Dispatch:

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that the Constitution guarantees individuals the right to have a gun, the first time in recent history that such a high-level legal authority has explicitly endorsed such a view, according to The Washington Post.

Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies Robert A. Levy had the following comments on the meeting:

"On October 16, in United States v. Emerson, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected the 'collective rights' view of the Second Amendment and affirmed the right that each of us enjoy, as individuals, to own a gun. The court's scholarly and powerfully worded opinion said that the Constitution 'protects the right of individuals, including those not then actually a member of any militia or engaged in active military service or training, to privately possess and bear their own firearms, such as the pistol involved here, that are suitable as personal individual weapons.'"


Alobar [Alobar@bellsouth.net]

Dear Sir; I see that Larry Ellison, of Oracle, who first broached the subject of a national ID card a couple of weeks ago, has met with Attorney General John Ashcroft, Dianne Feinstein (chairwoman of the Senate subcommittee on terrorism), the FBI, and the CIA.

All are in favor, of course, as are so-called civil rights attorney Alan Derschowicz, and the retired war hero, General Normal Schwarzkopf.

Obtaining the cards will supposedly be voluntary for citizens, and police should not be able to ask for them at will, as they could in Nazi Germany.

The argument doesn't fool me, however. It's simply a variation of the same argument that they used pass to the 16th amendment (income taxation), to require us to get the government's permission to travel in this once free country (i.e. driver's licenses and auto tags), to enact the Social Security ponzi scheme (for which any individual would have been thrown in jail), to push every other scam that government has foisted upon us in the name of security. It won't be long before we won't be able to cash a check, open a bank account, or even get a new job without showing our papers.

I'd like to know exactly *how* this will make us safer. Will it now be impossible for sleepers with clean records to be activated? Will it now be impossible for ordinary people to be bought or brainwashed?

It's time that we faced up to the fact that it's a dangerous world, and no amount of child-proofing can change that fact. Government and the police can't protect us (and, in fact, are not legally liable for their failure to do so); they just come along and take names after the fact. Self-ownership requires that we must defend ourselves. It wouldn't be so easy to hijack a plane that *I* were on if there weren't 20,000+ unconstitutional (what part of "shall not be infringed" is unclear?) victim disarmament (gun control) laws on the books.

Remember that Ben Franklin said that "the price of liberty is eternal vigilance"? Well folks, most of us have been asleep for far too long, and our liberty is gone!

Ever heard the secret to boiling a frog? Throw the frog in a pot of boiling water, and he jumps right out. But, put him in cooler water, and slowly heat it up, and he'll stay in until he's cooked. People, we are almost well done!

I've said for some time that we aren't free citizens any more; we are nothing more than cattle, to be tagged and herded for money and power, by a partnership of big business interests (including the sycophantic media) and a federal government which long ago escaped the constitutional chains that our founding fathers so carefully crafted. The powers that be have figured out that we will continue to be as productive as we are (primarily for their benefit) if they make us THINK that we are still free.

Don't be fooled into thinking that by voting for one of the two major parties will make a difference. To borrow an analogy, they are both steering this once great country toward Hell, one at 80 MPH, and the other at 60. The only way that we can stop the corruption and take our country back is to remove financial incentives. Take the money (and the power to make or break businesses, which has been proven to cause lobbyists) away from government, and force it to obey the law of the land - the constitution and the Bill of Rights (go Neil!).

Regardless of what they say, the only political party that has this goal in mind is the Libertarian party. Unless and until they become as corrupt as the others, I will vote for no other. Of course, once we have electronic voting, with no paper trail and no independently verifiable auditing method, it won't really matter. After all, as Joseph Stalin is reported to have said "Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything".

Grier Ellis [grier@gate.net]

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