Do we live in a police State?

A few weeks ago, the Young Fogey made a passing comment that we live in a police State.  One of his frequent visitors took abrasive exception to this, and I was quite glad to have managed to stay out of the debate.  But it got me to thinking.  Here are some ruminations.

Homeowners who can’t pay their income taxes or property taxes might have their houses taken away from them and sold cheaply at auction, but we do not live in a police State.

Throughout the history of this country, police have shot into crowds of peaceful demonstrators, most notably labor strikers, but we do not live in a police State.  (A side note:  What employer is going to realize the capitalist ideal of mutuality between worker and business owner when he’s got a police force on his side?  Yet again, it’s not the market that fails us, but the government.)

Protesters are arrested in places where public access laws otherwise obtain, but we do not live in a police State.

Cops are trained to give citizens the impression that they are required to remain at the scene when in fact they might not be, but we do not live in a police State.  They are trained to snag people in the midst of routine questioning, but we do not live in a police State.

A Philadelphia jury was selected through the litmus test of being ultimately willing to give an accused cop killer the death penalty, but we have fair trials and do not live in a police State.

The cops shoot harmless black labs to death in suburban Washington, DC, attack ambulance drivers while on duty, and taser old women, but we do not live in a police State.

Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and George W. Bush all suspended habeas corpus, but we live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, not a police State.

The freedom of speech does not really exist because of the Smith Act, the Espionage Act, and perhaps even the Patriot Act, but don’t worry, the government will only limit speech within “reason.”  After all, we do not live in a police State.

Doubtless the reader has by now apprehended my ironical tone of voice.  Maybe we don’t, in fact, live in a police State.  I am, after all, a jackass, and could very well be wrong.  Nevertheless, how could the foregoing give us any comfort?  You see, if I, in maintaining that we do live in a police State, am wrong, I am merely a fool or a crank.  Someone else, however, in maintaining that none of these things portends trouble, becomes an enabler, an apologist of an approach to civic order that dangerously impinges upon freedom.

There is more.  We must never forget that a government, though it be large and powerful, is still executed by mere mortals—other jackasses just like me.  It is a force that some argue is necessary, but even if it is (and as frequent readers know, this is a notion that I am not prepared to accept), it must be watched carefully, for it is prone to all the foolishness and cruelty that are intrinsic to human nature.  I would always rather err on the side of limiting such a malevolent apparatus.

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