Friday, December 19, 2014

Shouting Fire in a Crowded Barracks

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
No amendment is absolute. The Supreme Court has held that reasonable constraints on the freedom of speech are Constitutional so long as they protect a public interest. Copyright law, for example, impinges on my right to reproduce or distribute certain materials for material gain. Nor am I at perfect liberty to obtain fissile materials, land mines, or earth-scouring lasers (I may have to consult with my attorney for that last one). I have no Fourth Amendment protections if law enforcement agencies seek to confiscate my property on "suspicion" of illegal activity. If I am a foreign national (and perhaps even if I'm an American national) sought in connection to non-state aggression against American interests, I have no Fifth or Sixth protections whatsoever. Indeed, I can even have hummus pumped into my rectum to the point of prolapse, or chained to a dungeon wall until I die of exposure.

No amendment is absolute. The 7th is scarcely upheld when the grand jury is little more than a sock puppet for prosecutors. And the 8th? Ha ha ha. No. Botched execution is the most extreme and obvious example, but I urge you to pick up a copy of David Skarbek's latest to get an idea of how the emergent organizations in prisons act to socialize inmates to the society, including otherwise peaceful offenders. Turning a kid with three simple possession strikes into a lifer is a pretty good example of "cruel" even if it is sadly not "unusual." The 9th? Well, let's just regulate everything, down to how many gallons of water you can use to dispose of your feces and what sorts of light bulbs you are and are not permitted to purchase. That should take care of that one. Ditto 10th.

That pesky third though. The joke amendment. What can the ambitions of the sovereign do to abrogate that sucker? Well,

Step 1: find a clever little workaround for the Posse Comitatus Act, like, oh, say, donating surplus war materiel to police departments.

Step 2: handle the inevitable abuses that arise from letting police play dress-up as Soldiers by inciting discontent either by proxy or through direct speech.

Step 3: await sedition.

Step 4: there is no step 4.

Step 5: declare national state of emergency.

Step 6: it ain't a 3rd violation if the police/FEMA/ATF/& al do it, right? RIGHT?

Recall Hume:
May not the sovereign lay claim to [superfluous (unemployed) labor], and employ them in fleets and armies, to encrease the dominions of the state abroad, and spread its fame over distant nations? It is certain that the fewer desires and wants are found in the proprietors and labourers of land, the fewer hands do they employ; and consequently the superfluities of the land, instead of maintaining tradesmen and manufacturers, may support fleets and armies to a much greater extent, than were a great many arts are required to minister to the luxury of particular persons. Here therefore seems to be a kind of opposition between the greatness of the state and the happiness of the subject. A state is never greater than when all its superfluous hands are employed in the service of the public. The ease and convenience of private persons require, that these hands should be employed in their service. The one can never be satisfied, but at the expense of the other. As the ambition of the sovereign must entrench on the luxury of individuals; so the luxury of individuals must diminish the force, and check the ambition of the sovereign [emphasis SLW].
I'd like to think there are good, non-confrontational negotiations that might return the job of policing back to the euvoluntary provision of decent law and order. I worry that as a practical matter for very large jurisdictions, that ship might already have sailed. If you live in an area with cowboy keystone cops, I sincerely wish you the best of fortunes. Let's just hope I'm a false Cassandra and my paranoia is the product of a worried mind and nothing more.

Then again, hope in one hand, sue for libel in the other. See which one fills up first.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?