It’s Called Sacrificing Individual Rights For “The Greater Good.” Jefferson Would Hate It, And So Should Any Ethical American

Yet this is what progressives and Democrats increasingly argue for to solve problems.

Exhibit #1: David Brooks

It hard to believe that David Brooks was once considered to be a conservative. Spend enough time in the New York Times culture, apparently, at least if your character, principles and integrity are as weak as David’s seem to be, and you will emerge from your chrysalis as a new, collectivist, proto-totalitarian.

Here’s Brooks on PBS talking about what he’d like to see installed to address gun violence:

President Biden spoke about red flagging, that you would find somebody you think is potentially dangerous, and we would be able to — authorities would be able to go in and take guns away.

That would take a gigantic cultural shift in this country, a revamping of the way we think about privacy, a revamping of the way we think about the role government plays in protecting the common good. I think it’d be something I think would be good not only for — to head off shootings, but good to live in a society where we cared more intimately about each other.

And I would be willing to give up certain privacies for that to happen. But, for many Americans, that would just be a massive cultural shift to regard community and regard our common good more frankly, in a European style. I think it would benefit our society in a whole range of areas, but it’s hard to see that kind of culture change to a society that’s been pretty individualistic for a long, long time.

Observe what “conservative” pundit Brooks is advocating here. The government decides someone is “dangerous” and can then take away Second Amendment rights. What would stop the government from taking other rights away that it might believe are “dangerous” in the hands of someone it fears? This is pre-crime. This is open-ended government control over individual liberty based on subjective standards. And David Brooks says he’d “be willing to give up certain privacies for that to happen,” because he knows that he would probably not be a target of such government oppression. After all, he’s now on the “right’ side.

The United States, he says, is “pretty individualistic,” meaning too individualistic, by European standards. Yet the United States of America was created expressly to reject the limitations on individualism placed on its citizens by European cultures and governments.

Exhibit #2: Locking up the mentally ill

As a “do something” response to the rotting conditions in New York City seeded by the compassionate chaos policies of Mayor De Blasio, his successor Eric Adams proposes

If the circumstances support an objectively reasonable basis to conclude that the person appears to have a mental illness and cannot support their basic human needs to an extent that causes them harm, they may be removed for an evaluation. Case law does not provide extensive guidance regarding removals for mental health evaluations based on short interactions in the field. But it does suggest that the following circumstances could be reasonable indicia of an inability to support basic needs due to mental illness that poses harm to the individual: serious untreated physical injury, unawareness or delusional misapprehension of surroundings, or unawareness or delusional misapprehension of physical condition or health.

Good luck with that. As Reason accurately notes,

The Supreme Court ruled in the landmark 1975 case O’Connor v. Donaldson that mental illness alone is not a justification for indefinite custodial confinement, and that “a State cannot confine, without more, a nondangerous individual who is capable of surviving safely in freedom by himself or with the help of willing and responsible family members or friends.”

“May the State fence in the harmless mentally ill solely to save its citizens from exposure to those whose ways are different?” Justice [Potter] Stewart Potter wrote in the Court’s majority opinion. “Mere public intolerance or animosity cannot constitutionally justify the deprivation of a person’s liberty interest.”

Sometimes living with the Constitution’s guarantee of individual rights is inconvenient. Donaldson created continuing problems for the cities, but it was right on the basic principles we are committed to as a nation. Just because someone is strange, or eccentric, or has emotional or mental problems, it doesn’t and must not entitle the government to take over his or her life. Again, if the government can lock you up because it deems you insufficiently conventional, why wouldn’t holding non-conforming political and social views be found sufficient to make you take drugs, live where the state requires, eat and wear what you are allowed? The Broadway hit “Nuts,” which I directed years ago, covered this issue exactly. We call those insane who don’t conform to what we call sane beliefs and behaviors, and we can dominate them because we’re in the majority. It’s an inviting slippery slope: I’ve heard climate change zealots argue that anyone who doesn’t believe we have just years to avoid doom is “insane.”

Exhibit #3:New York’s online hate speech law

A new law in the Empire State is called “Social media networks; hateful conduct prohibited.” It tells internet platforms that they must publish a policy explaining how they will handle “hateful” speech. Note that the law, which is about speech, calls it “conduct” in the law’s title. Nice try. It is an example of the State trying to control speech, and it is clear that New York’s totalitarians are determined to do this, the Bill of Rights be damned.

The law defines “hateful conduct” as online speech that serves to “vilify, humiliate, or incite violence against a group or a class of persons” on the basis of protected characteristics. Companies that fail to do censor or restrict such “conduct” (that is, speech) can be fined of up to $1,000 per day.

This is a Democratic Party-run state whose leaders literally don’t believe in free speech. Governor Kathy Hochul actually claimed that “hate speech” isn’t protected by the First Amendment. The law passed the Democrat dominated New York legislature despite being ridiculously unconstitutional.

Now that the ACLU no longer protects free speech if the goal of restricting it is to keep that corrupted organization’s Woke Masters in power, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) is suing New York and challenging the law on behalf of platforms Rumble and Locals, along with with legal blogger Eugene Volokh. He is also a constitutional law expert, and says, “New York politicians are slapping a speech-police badge on my chest because I run a blog. I started the blog to share interesting and important legal stories, not to police readers’ speech at the government’s behest.”

FIRE attorney Daniel Ortner adds,

“The state of New York can’t turn bloggers into Big Brother, but it’s trying to do just that. The government can’t burden online expression protected by the Constitution, whether it’s doing it in the name of combating hate or any other sentiment. Imagine a similar law requiring sites to publish a reporting policy for speech the state considers un-American — that would be just as unconstitutional.”

Freedom of speech and individual liberty itself is going to be under relentless attack for a very long time. The public has to understate the stakes, and also the motivations of those who claim to be pursuing “the greater good.” It is their un-American interpretation of what is “good” that makes them so dangerous.

8 thoughts on “It’s Called Sacrificing Individual Rights For “The Greater Good.” Jefferson Would Hate It, And So Should Any Ethical American

  1. #1: “What would stop the government from taking other rights away that it might believe are “dangerous” in the hands of someone it fears?”
    See #3 , and the current hysteria over Twitter no longer surreptitiously conspiring to act as an arm of the (democrat) government thought police.

  2. “In a European style?” Let’s be honest: in a Chinese style. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this phenomenon of every corner of society’s elite, from politics to academia to the media to the boardroom to even the ACLU, coming out foursquare against individual freedom just happens to parallel China’s rise as a world superpower. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Chinese psyops get virtually no play in public discourse compared to Russian efforts. I think decades from now we might see a reckoning, if such reckonings are still allowed, comparable to that of the Tuskegee experiments or MKUltra, of how China purchased an entire generation of influential Americans.

    • David should live in Europe for a while. I’d encourage all these, “let’s be just like Europe!” useful idiots to live in Europe and see its numbing effects firsthand. Of course, you’ll need a visa and have to pay lots of complicated taxes if you’re working there, if they’ll give you a visa to work there. Migration is evidently not a human right in the EU, or much of anywhere else, come to think of it.

    • “a reckoning, if such reckonings are still allowed, comparable to that of the Tuskegee experiments or MKUltra”

      If nobody is punished and the behavior of those responsible doesn’t change, can you really call the aftermath of those two incidents a reckoning? I hope the selling-out to China of the American establishment prompts far more consequential results than we have historically seen when our “elites” misbehave. I won’t hold my breath, however.

  3. No. 2. This is a hard one. Undiagnosed and/or untreated severe mental illness is the biggest problem facing American society. Unmedicated schizophrenics pushing people onto subway tracks in front of oncoming subway trains is a problem. Severe mental illnesses are diseases. Read Kay Redfield Jameson about schizophrenia, which she inherited from her father. I don’t know what the answer is but leaving schizophrenics on the street to fend for themselves is not the answer. It’s cruel and unusual punishment, that other constitutional thingy.

  4. Exibit 2 Story- Did my psychiatric training, before Donaldson, at Brooklyn State Hospital. I had to, in 1969, do a case study on a patient who was institutionalized in 1934 at the age of 18. The patient, at that time, had the diagnosis with Catatonic schizophrenia. He was mute and unresponsive until Jeopardy appeared on the common room television. He then became animated and blurted out the correct answers to almost 100% of the question. I had plans to take him on a field trip to the NBC studios in Manhattan, to be on the show. The plans were stopped by the head nurse.
    Anyway, over the door of the admissions building, was a placard, that read, “WE ARE NOT ALL HERE”
    In the year of Donaldson’s decision, the book SYTBL was published. which in 1976 was made into a two-part TV series starring Sally Field. it was about an individual with multiple personalities who walked the streets of NYC.
    Both the placard over the admission building of Brooklyn State hospital, the book, and the movie point to problems we are not facing, We have been inundated with the mentally ill on our streets. Since Donaldson, we have, in essence, given the mentally ill the right to be crazy and not receive treatment. Was Donaldson correct constitutionally, probably yes. Did Donaldson serve society well, probably no!

    • Amen. It’s probably apocryphal, but I’ve heard the Kennedys all pushed for releasing the mentally ill onto the streets because Joe Sr. had one of their sisters lobotomized and institutionalized because she had the temerity to be sexually active, and perhaps even get pregnant, out of wedlock. Sounds like Kennedy/lefty behavior to me. But simply letting people roam the streets untreated and fending for their damaged selves is no way to run a railroad.

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