Tuesday, February 08, 2005

After considering the consequences of Right Thinking Girl's ridiculous position on treason, I've decided that the current popularity of intolerant politics deserves a thoughtful and organized rebuttal. This is not an attack on any people at that blog, but rather a narrow attack upon an idea that I think is wrong on its own merits.

Here is the argument that I see RTG making (you can check the above links to her post and comments to check if I'm getting this right):

1.The definition of the national interest is set in stone and undeniable. Therefore, the nation's enemies are also a set determined by objective, empirical fact.
2.The inability of a party to realize the goal's created by this set in stone national interest is the fault of those who do not share their priorities, and does not reflect on the validity of the policies / goals.
3.Resisting the ruling party's definition of the national interest is treason (i.e. providing aid and comfort to the enemy).

The following are the points I want to make:

Political parties distinguish themselves by their definitions of America's national interests. If there were no dispute about what is in the nation's best interests, there would be no need for democracy, the political process, or even most of the gov't we have today. While I do not support the progressive / liberal definition of national interest, I do support their ability to promote it.

But what if they promote a set of interests that, if acted upon, would be detrimental to my view of the national interests - or, for that matter, contrary to the ruling party's goals for the country?

It still doesn't matter, because there are no ideas that are harmful to the national security. This is the reason why the marketplace of ideas is so powerful. Anything can be considered. Anything can be debated. Nothing is off the table as a matter of legal force. Freedom of speech makes our marketplace of ideas strong and robust, giving citizens a wide range of political options. No idea in and of itself can threaten a free people.

Obviously, there are actions one may take that can compromise one's loyalty to one's country (i.e. aiding in an attack upon one's country). It is also reasonable to put prohibit the "leaking" of certain limited pieces of information (and these controls should exist on the responsible individuals and not on the public at large). But even the idea of doing so is not dangerous or subversive, because ideas cannot threaten real things like the integrity of national borders or the military and political dominance of the U.S. Gov't. This is why free speech and debate is a non-existent threat to national security - in fact, it is emminently necessary if a nation is to ascertain exactly what the legitimate national interests are (for example, in a democratic fashion or on a personal level).

To elaborate on this idea, let me state that treason as a result of political ideas is a hallmark of one party rule states. Using force to quell dissent from your opinion is the height of intolerance. Only in totalitarian states can there be one allowable and exclusive definition of the national interest. This is because it is almost always contrary to what the nation's people want for the nation. A democractic republic realizes the authentic national interest - that of the people - precisely because it is not preordained. In other words, totalitarian regimes are the only ones that need to defend their rule by the enforcement of penalties against, essentially, "thoughtcrime". Because their rule is not based on the will of the people, but on the use of compulsion, these regimes are not acting in the "national interest" as we in democratic republican states understand it. It is only the ruling party's disdain for the authentic national interest that makes it imperative that the sole ruling party prevent the people from discovering it, let alone acting upon it.

The identification of a political party with the national interests is an undemocratic idea. The whole point of having a democracy is so that people with different ideas about what's best for the nation can reach mutually agreeable compromises, thus creating the best situation for a diverse electorate and providing an alternative to force as a political tool. In other words, being a political party in a democratic society with its own view of the national interest means (at the very least) tacitly accepting the existence of other views that, if not the same as yours, have the right to be different and have the right to exist or be implemented as such. Because the determining factor is not what one party thinks is right, but rather what the entire electorate decides is right, there is no way that one party can have sole dominion over the authentic national interest unless the people's will is subverted or every single person in the nation agrees (which is extremely unlikely).

Therefore, I believe RTG is wrong. Living in America means putting up with those who disagree with you. You can't just arrest and hang people who have a different opinion than you - and that is what it means to imply somebody is committing treason, since death is the penalty during wartime. If you do not trust the power of a democratic republic to realize the best possible national interests, then you really don't believe in representative government. That's why I believe that RTG is either blowing smoke up her readers' asses or she is in need of medication to control her condition (HINT TO THE EASILY OFFENDED: this is, in fact, sarcasm). She could not be doing a greater disservice to her nation, her president, or her party by promoting a bully state - it just serves to weaken her entire political stance and professed love for the way we do things here in "Murrcka".

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Written on Tuesday, February 08, 2005