Three cheers for Arthur Spitzer and the American Civil Liberties Union (“Taking Liberties,” 2/2)! When Jonetta Rose Barras raises the question, “Do civil libertarians really know what’s best for the city?” the answer is, of course, no. But then neither does Marion Barry, Eleanor Holmes Norton, nor many voters exposed merely to sound bite campaigns without depth on many initiative issues.
The key thing that sets the ACLU and other civil libertarians apart from the politicians is that they recognize they don’t have one-size-fits-all answers. So instead of using the power of government to enforce their view of utopia on us all, like the Democrats and Republicans and many other assorted folks on a mission do, they fight for freedom from oppression by majorities gone over the edge.
A majority of people once supported slavery. A majority once burned “witches” at the stake. Majorities often get a notion on what is best for everybody and then use the guns of government to make everybody comply. The constitutional limits our founders placed on government power were designed to protect minorities from the corruption of popular political persecution. While I don’t always agree with everything coming from the ACLU, I have to applaud their efforts in protecting our precious liberty, even when it’s not the popular thing to do.
Curfews that punish good kids with the bad. Campaign spending limits that lock minority parties out of the system. Mandatory public-school prayer. These are all immoral uses of government force as bad as slavery and witch hunts.
via the Internet