A Work In Progress


Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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58 Responses

  1. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    In my 9/11 post, when I said that I knew there would be others here that would better say what I felt?

    This would be that post.Report

  2. Avatar jakecollins says:

    “I have yet to experience a TSA agent wanting to touch my penis; no one has reported me as a suspected terrorist that I know of; it has not materially impacted my life that when I buy a car or otherwise apply for credit a record is made to the government of my financial activity.”

    Burt “Whitey McWhitey” Likko finds the security state relatively tolerable. Perhaps those being murdered and/or tortured might not be so sanguine about the balancing act involved in the eternal imperium of “our” res publica.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        AFIC, the quantum of profundity in jakecollins‘ comment is self-evident.Report

        • Avatar James Vonder Haar in reply to Burt Likko says:

          It’s stated much more rudely than it needs to be, but I think it’s a fair point. The unfortunate thing about these expansions of the security state and erosion of civil liberties is precisely that getting political will to roll them back is very difficult because it’s not something that the average citizen would see every day. Nevertheless, if you’re the one whose calls are being wiretapped into, or who has been held on flimsy evidence for terrorism without the ability to challenge your detention, things are terrible.

          I mean, if they suspended habeas corpus tomorrow, not just for national security issues but for every crime, I could go my whole life without that affecting me directly. The ability to challenge my detention won’t particularly matter if I’m not detained. But it would still be a catastrophically terrible thing to happen to the American polity.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to James Vonder Haar says:

            I actually agree. And I’ve rethought my below statement about being “not entirely sanguine” about what’s been done since 9/11. I’m deeply troubled, in fact, and ashamed to have written that. And you are 100% right that the fact that it doesn’t happen to most of us is the most pernicious part about it, and what allows it to creep forward. If it were happening to all of, I hope at some point we’d resist. but it doesn’t, so there is little hope that we will.

            But despite all of that, I still do agree with Burt about the survival of our Republic. And it’s because of that that there is still something to fight for, which I still profoundly believe there is.Report

          • Avatar kenB in reply to James Vonder Haar says:

            It’s about as fair as the point made by advocates for far harsher measures that it’s easy to argue for a light touch if you haven’t personally and directly suffered from an act of terrorism. And yet for either of these sides, there are people who do possess the necessary badge of suffering who’ll nevertheless argue against the point.Report

            • Avatar James Vonder Haar in reply to kenB says:

              If there’s a terror suspect that has been detained illegally that supports illegal detention, I’d be very interested in hearing about it.Report

              • Avatar kenB in reply to James Vonder Haar says:

                First of all, are you acknowledging the point in my first sentence? Does this cite request have a bearing on it?

                Second, I don’t have any cites one way or the other from the specific category you mention (which, by the bye, is raising the bar, since illegal detention wasn’t the only topic) — I’m just assuming that such people exist, based on the unending variety of human nature and opinions. Are you suggesting that anyone who was previously a hardcore whatever-it-takes kind of person who got caught in such a net would necessarily have an immediate change of heart? That no one is capable of holding such an opinion while acknowledging that some innocent people might be affected, possibly including him/herself, and believing that that’s an acceptable price to pay for greater security?Report

          • This point, and the ones discussed below it in the thread, are worthy and important. I respond to them briefly below.Report

  3. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I got pulled in one New Year’s eve while crossing the border to catch a flight out of Buffalo for my grandmother’s funeral and detained for three hours or so and repeatedly questioned along with my wife. A few notes:

    1. It was fishing irritating that we missed our flight and made worse by the fact that the guard’s stated issue with us was his belief that my wife was “giving him attitude”- this was wrong- she had a bad cold and was sort of croaking/barking her responses to his questions. Regardless, my problem with the changes to existing laws isn’t really that they deprive “us” of liberties, which can vary greatly depending on time, place, and who you are. (My friend David has had his book bag searched three times by the cops on the sidewalk. He also lives in NYC) I object more to the way they give more and more powers to government officials with the wishful assumption that they’ll always use them wisely. Many will. Some won’t.

    2. During those three or four hours in the holding area, we were the only whites pulled in, aside from an idiotic teenage couple who tried to cross the border with cocaine on the floor of their car. Everyone else looked very foreign, specifically Middle Eastern or occasionally South Asian. So, when people bitch that “thanks of political correctness, they’re not allowed to racially profile anybody”, I think they’re wrong. Of course they ‘racially profile’. It’s foolish to assume otherwise.

    3. None of this made me think that America is turning into a totalitarian state either. Totalitarianism tends to target things far larger than the ideology of a small subset of a very small subset of the population. Are certain parts of American life more restrictive? Yes. Will that change back over time? Probably not, unless the targeted group grows larger than a subset of a subset. War is the health of the state.

    I’m not a big believer in the idea that American freedoms ever were radically different from freedoms elsewhere. Conversely, someone should probably point out that America is by no means alone in these sorts of measures, as anyone who has seen the groups of soldiers patrolling European train stations and other public places with the dogs and sub machine guns can attest.Report

  4. Avatar Renee says:

    Nice post! 2 comments:
    1. You (sort of) equate the fear of terrorists to the fear of government’s assembly and gathering of information. Although I agree with you that we shouldn’t see conspiracies everywhere and that, thus far, the government hasn’t truly abused the citizenry, I think we are right to fear the apparatus of government power and control of information. Once the apparatus exists, it is an invitation to abuse for future governments in situations that we can’t imagine. To defy terrorist abuses is heroic, to defy government abuses is criminal.

    2. I really like your explanation of the res publica! (New to me) I find it difficult to find anywhere in the blogosphere where society is discussed as more than the political order. Why can’t we have social disagreements that aren’t solved by forcing our opinions on others through law? The standard left-right talking points seem to leave little room for extra-political societal development and I find that sad and depressing.Report

  5. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    I’m not entirely sanguine about all the changes in our society or what we’ve done in the name of security, but this post is closer to my view than probably any other piece of writing on the topic of what’s gone on in this country since 9/11 than probably any I’ve seen.

    I would also point out that idiots and predators in power had plenty of legal tools with which to cause unjustified harm to innocent people long before 9/11 came around.Report

  6. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Burt, between the social Marxists and the progressivists we’ve pretty much become a social democracy. The gummint teat has grown large, swollen, and decidedly sore.Report

    • What I’m saying, Bob, is that we have to decide for ourselves what we’re willing to tolerate from our government and what we demand from our government. And we do still get to decide that for ourselves, which is what I chose to write about today (not wanting to be either morbid or preachy).

      The comments above concerning how insidious it is that denials of civil liberties only really happen to a small number of people are stinging points. Civil liberties for everyone matter; those folks are right to insist on that. My larger point is that despite this, we remain a politically empowered citizenry. As long as that is the case, we ought not give up pride in our nation nor hope for our future.

      If a significant number of people really think as you do that the government is too large and expensive, then we have the tools at our disposal to trim it back down to size. One might suggest that the Tea Party movement is exactly that, although I suspect that were a Republican to gain the White House, the Tea Party would functionally evaporate because history shows that Republicans are for the most part perfectly fine with a large and intrusive government as long as they’re the ones running it.

      If, as some commenters above have stated, the government’s denial of civil liberties is intolerable, we have the tools at our disposal to address that as well. I will note that one of those tools is an active, independent, and empowered judiciary since by definition the civil rights of unpopular people like terrorism suspects are unpopular in the democratic process. Our judiciary has not yet been defanged, and that is cause for celebration.Report

  7. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Burt, first thanks for bringing up the subject. I’d argue most folks haven’t got a clue what a republic is, or the idea of separation of powers, or limited gummint and so forth.
    Further, I’m of that olde school that says when you move from a republic to a ‘social democracy’ you ain’t moving up, or making an improvement, at least in terms of guarding one’s liberty or the communal liberty.
    My argument, and perhaps as a lawyer you’d comment, is that the most important safeguard of these ‘liberties’ is the effort made to tie down the natural inclination of the general gummint to expand. The danger, the founder’s quit correctly found, was in the growth of power within Leviathan.
    Re: the Tea Party, and just having attended a rally on Saturday, I’d say they hate the commie-dems and merely despise the Republicans. That, indeed, they are, in some measure, and in varying degrees, the last semblance of republicanism that remains. They are also older people.
    So, while I agree re: the gummint’s assault on civil liberties, I’d argue that cutting and reducing the size of gummint, it’s ability to spend money, is much more important. In reducing gummint, we should be able to limit the power of the central state to violate those civil liberties we all value. If we don’t limit the general gummint, we will never restore those liberties lost.
    BTW, I’m reading Raoul Berger’s “Gummint by Judiciary”, on the illegal 14th Amendment, and I’d be interested in reading anything you had to say about that.Report

  8. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Now Burt, that’s what’s puzzling me. Here we have a lawyer who speaks of the 14th almost defensively and I had a philosopher, when queried on the subject, respond by referring to certain ‘irregularities’? Now, of course, I’m familiar with the Congressional Republicans who in 1866, used the ‘point of a sword’ to force the occupied states to approve the amendment or not be permitted to re-enter the ‘union,’ and that, of course, negates any legality associated with establishing the amendment as ‘the law of the land.’
    However, what I’m referring to is, I’d like you to comment on how the 14th was hi-jacked by statists-consolidators (imo) to destroy the idea of a ‘republic’ (remember you believe we still have one, and the political symbols of the ‘republic’ are still utilized) through various and sundry decisions that were grounded on their interpretation of the 14th. I want to know what a man who makes his living in the American court system thinks of the amendment,…as in a little analysis of those decison, pro or con.
    I’m not trying to trick anyone…just wondered?Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

      You’ve sure got a drum, Bob. Just nobody’s beating it.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        Actually, I was arguing with a dude about the 14th but wasn’t all that intimate with the history and now I’m slowly but surely getting there and wanted Burt to provide an analysis. The insight, so far, and I’ve got a ways to go is the almost immeasureable change created by this amendment; the negation of the rule of law and such.
        It appears that the 14th has fed and feeds Leviathan almost singlehandedly and grounds American jurisprudence on the idea of the ends justifies the means. Your ‘comment’ below on ‘precedence’ indicates your own derailment.Report

    • The Fourteenth Amendment was reported out of Congress with the appropriate margin of votes, and was thereafter duly adopted by the requisite number of states. It is the supreme law of the land. Period, full stop.

      To be sure, it is an example of what I refer to in this post as the evolution of the republic; it is a change from the original vision of the distribution of power between the national and the state governments as set forth in the original constitution. But as I point out above, that is not a bad thing. It represented the decision of a generation of Americans who confronted a period of history different than the one in which the original Framers worked, problems different than the ones the original Framers confronted, and a solution to those problems which arose out of the political environment in which the Framers of the Fourteenth worked.

      So too do we confront a nation and circumstances and problems different than those of either the original Framers or the Framers of the Fourteenth. We must find our own solutions. Jason points out below that we have set precedents of torture and searches without cause and indeed these are reason for concern because they are departures from both our traditions, our existing laws, and the timeless principles set forth by the original Framers. But my point is that we still have the political tools with which to confront these problems, which is why I declare our res publica yet a vital entity.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Burt, if we aren’t talking past each other, we will be shortly, so let me get this in:

        “To be sure, it is an example of what I refer to in this post as the evolution of the republic; it is a change from the original vision of the distribution of power between the national and the state governments as set forth in the original constitution.”

        I would argue, vehemently, that the 14th isn’t an “evolution of the republic” but a violation of the Constitution described by Justice Story’s comment, “..we are not at liberty to add one jot of power to the national government beyond what the people have granted by the constitution.”
        Also, as I said before the amendment was instituted under the threat of the bayonet in states occupied by federal troops, making the amendment an example of ‘might makes right’. No just law promulgated in the West over the past thousand years would declare such a law either moral or legal.
        In our case the promulgation of the 14th violates the spirit and the limiting intent of the Constitution as well.

        Let’s also listen to Justic Marshall’s words, “To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing; of those limits may, at any time, be passed by those intended to restrained?” Marshall continues, if the Constitution is “alterable when the legislature shall please to alter it…then written constitutions are absurd attempts, on the part of the people, to limit power in its nature illimitable.” (Marbury vs. Madison).

        And Raoul Berger illustrates the folley of contemporary academia and jurisprudence when he writes, “In their zeal to ameliorate social injustice, academicians undermine the constitutionalism that undergirds our democratic system.” In other words Burt, it ain’t how you ‘feel’ about some perceived injustice, no matter how much you wanna sing ‘kumbaya’ and right a great wrong,
        you still must follow the rule of law or all notions of the ‘public good’ don’t mean a hill of beans. Our existence as a government, as a republic, rests on the rule of law.

        My argument is that if you follow that which you advocate, we are not only corrupting the ‘rule of law’ but the republic itself.Report

        • Well, as relevant to the post, the question is not whether the Fourteenth Amendment was properly ratified or not, however interesting that question might be. The question as relevant to the post is whether the Fourteenth Amendment has become integrated into our res publica.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

          Bob, the Constitution sets limits on how much power the Federal Government may take for itself via statute. But the amendment process exists precisely so that we can change where those limits are set to accord with changes in our society. That’s all it exists for. There’s no supra-Constitutional constitution limiting what potential changes to the document we may chose to make: we are Americans; this is our Constitution, our thing to do with what we please. We are at such Liberty, whatever Justice Story’s feelings on the matter.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Michael Drew says:

            Michael, I do believe you’re exactly right in writing, “But the amendment process exists precisely so that we can change where those limits are set to accord…” but I take issue with the idea that it’s for the “…changes in our society.” Society is constantly ‘changing.’
            The problem with the 14th is that there was no great ‘call’ by the citizenry, no demands to right a wrong, no rallies, no burning crosses for righteous change. The 14th was internal, within the GOP committees in Congress, and yet I really can’t say these men (in 1866 promulgating the Reconstruction Acts) intended harm.
            The point here is what Sidney Hook said, “..whoever places greater emphasis upon the product rather than the process, upon an all-sanctifying end rather than upon the means for achieving it, is opening the doors of anarchy.” Once we begin to utilize a philosophy grounded on the idea that ‘the end justifies the means’ we have destroyed the rule of law.Report

            • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              Once we begin to utilize a philosophy grounded on the idea that ‘the end justifies the means’ we have destroyed the rule of law.
              Slippery slope indeedReport

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              If your point revolves entirely around the fealty of the process that was undertaken in that instance compared with what is laid out, I am not qualified to comment. I read your comment has having the further suggestion that there is some substantive limit that exists outside the constitution to what changes we could effect to it even by means of a proper utilization of the amendment provisions.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Michael Drew says:

                No, nothing outside the Constitution other than the sagacious advice of the founders and others who caution prudence. And, as we all know ‘prudence’ is the life’s blood of the true conservative, and prudence cautions us against those individuals and ’causes’ who seek a messianic role in our history.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              I do take your point about changes in society versus the will of the people. The people may change their desires about what the law of our laws may command and act accordingly with our without changes in society; I merely meant to suggest that the people’s response to changes in society would be usually the most likely thing that would lead to such shifts in sentiment, and that anticipation of the need to respond flexibly to real changes was likely a major reason that the Founders made the process for Amendment such an explicit, prominent part of the document.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Burt Likko says:

        “The Fourteenth Amendment was reported out of Congress with the appropriate margin of votes, and was thereafter duly adopted by the requisite number of states. It is the supreme law of the land. Period, full stop.”

        And that’s why nobody in the United States drinks alcohol anymore. Because once a Constitutional Amendment is in place, the debate is over.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to DensityDuck says:

          I may be wrong on this, but I believe Bob is talking about whether the Fourteenth was properly ratified, which he (I think) contends is not the case. He’s setting aside for the moment all questions of whether it was a good idea to have done so.

          In other words, the proposition he’d like us to debate is something like “The Fourteenth Amendment is not truly a part of the Constitution.” It’s not “The Fourteenth Amendment was a bad idea.”Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            Yes, Jason, I’d like to begin there and see all the ‘facts’ on the matter. I really don’t have an agenda, just a curiosity re: not only the implimentation of the 14th but the resultant case law as a result thereof.
            I don’t pretend to be an expert at anything, let alone jurisprudence, but this matter strikes me as it may possibly explicate a great deal of what has occurred in modernity, in America, e.g. the relationship as Burt points out of the dramatic ‘change’ brought about by its promulgation.Report

            • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

              @Bob, While it may well have been the case that ratification of the 14th was done under duress (and if it were a contract that would be nullification grounds), the left unsaid part of your post seems to be why it wasn’t overturned? I’d imagine that if states who felt they had been coerced wanted to bring that to the attention of a court of law, they could have done so sometime in the realm of the statute of limitations? Given that they did not do so, I’m guessing they missed their chance.

              Furthermore additions to the Constitution have become as rare as hen’s teeth these days. I can’t imagine a single amendment getting passed, perhaps in my lifetime unless something dramatically changes in our political system.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to wardsmith says:

                WS, I’m not very critical of the ‘coerced’ states because, as Southern states they were forced to operate under aegis of the general gummint and with it’s close oversight for quite a while. The Northern states were allowed to exercise their Constitutional right freely and without infringement or threat.
                Also, I’ma thinkin’ the first big statist effort invoking the 14th came with Brown vs. Board of Education, but I’m not exactly sure about that.
                What I’m saying is that the intentions of the 14th were not subverted for eighty years or so.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                LOL, lot’s of places for scoundrels to hang their hats in long convoluted legalese. The 14th has been furrowed endlessly to support this and that arcane interpretation. Here’s a historical perspective

                We won’t even get into later SCOTUS imagineering of words, phrases and rights in the 14th that aren’t even there. It is the swiss army knife of amendments, works for any and all purposes to which it can be bent and twisted (by the bent and twisted especially). 🙂Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to wardsmith says:

                Yes, exactly. That’s where I want to end up, but I wanted to examine the ‘facts’ surrounding the promulgation and I’ll probably have to find a good book, some of which I may have. I know the Yankee GOPers had certain fear pretaining to the Yankee Democrats uniting with returning former Confederate Democrats and dominating Congress.
                If we’ve established the immorality/illegality of the amendment we can examine how it was used to pervert state’s rights, expand the power of Leviathan, and oppress the citizenry.Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to wardsmith says:

                WS, THAT’s a great link. Just exactly what I wanted to study and thank you very much.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Permit me to add that Bingham presents some very tall weeds. If we’re to follow Mr. Madison, what’s important is not the intention or sentiment of the framer, but the meaning of the text as understood by the ratifiers.

                [That they may have seen it [and did] as still allowing for the banning of interracial marriage is another set of tall weeds. Mental reservations on anyone’s part, framer or ratifier, hold no legal force either. The “originalist” or “textualist” can hold that the text of the 14th does not countenance separate-but-equal racial distinctions.]Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                TvD, great analysis and I’m currently probing these issues, including the markedly more inimical Northern racism vs. Southern. It seems the fact that Southern whites actually lived with Africans consciously harmed the popular notion put forth by the Northern majorities that the African was, by nature, less intelligent and related racial slurs. Northern racism was predicated on economic considerations, e.g. on the competition for ‘jobs.’

                If you have comments, or would care to expand on this: “…but the meaning of the text as understood by the ratifiers.” please do.Report

              • Mr. Cheeks, Madison kept his notes on the Framing debates under wraps for decades. On “textualism”:

                “As a guide in expounding and applying the provisions of the Constitution, the debates and incidental decisions of the Convention can have no authoritative character. However desirable it be that they should be preserved as a gratification to the laudable curiosity felt by every people to trace the origin and progress of their political Institutions, & as a source perhaps of some lights on the Science of Govt. the legitimate meaning of the Instrument must be derived from the text itself; or if a key is to be sought elsewhere, it must be not in the opinions or intentions of the Body which planned & proposed the Constitution, but in the sense attached to it by the people in their respective State Conventions where it recd. all the authority which it possesses.”

              • Mr. Cheeks, Tocqueville: “…the prejudice of race appears to be stronger in the states that have abolished slavery than in those where it still exists; and nowhere is it so intolerant as in those states where servitude has never been known.”

                “In the South, where slavery still exists, the Negroes are less carefully kept apart; they sometimes share the labors and the recreations of the whites; the whites consent to intermix with them to a certain extent, and although legislation treats them more harshly, the habits of the people are more tolerant and compassionate.”

                See also


                “One of the strangest things about the career of Jim Crow was that the system was born in the North and reached an advanced age before moving South in force.”
                C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow

                I don’t vouch for the above site, but my studies/travels have made me aware that the North had its laws and discriminations too, before and after the war. It was for good reason that after his great victories in the South, MLK headed for Chicago in 1966.Report

              • TVD – This sounds true and makes sense, when you think about it.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Clearly we need to implement a system of chattel slavery, so that we may enjoy the enlightened racial attitudes that flow from it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Distributed chattel slavery would be more fair.Report

              • Sardonic reply noted, Jason. The erosion of black rights after the Founding is one of my bigger surprises in our history, esp in the North. I pass it on to whoever wants to see where it leads. Folks can make of it what they will.


              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Thanks Tom.
                Jason, it’s this sort of ‘comment’ that puts a damper on the polite exchanges I am constantly engaged in here.
                Also, there were 500,000 freedmen in a population of 5 million slaves…what say ye on that, Tom?

                For fun our Northern brethern in Illinois hung a wacky and radical abolitionist editor back in the 1830’s. Get it, Jason, ….editor!
                Northern racism was based on jobs, er, survival and was consequently a very serious matter. The Southern white man did not compete for jobs with the African.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                But Bob… I… I… learned it from watching you!Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                If you learned it from me, it’s ok, then! Simply because I’m here to hep!Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to DensityDuck says:

          If Bob recruits a sufficient number of people to advocate repeal of the Fourteenth Amendment, then it will go the way of Prohibition. He is free to do that — and his liberty to do so is proof of my fundamental point, which is that we are a politically empowered people and this is cause for celebration and gratitude.Report

  9. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    The most serious problem we face right now is that both common sense and American law work on precedent — if it has been done in the past, it’s presumably okay.

    We’ve lately set precedents that allow for torture, secret detention, confinement without habeas, and assassination.

    Sure, sure, it’s only few people. This time.Report

  10. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I’m pretty sure that Franklin would ask why we let a bunch of unelected bureaucrats in the executive branch make all the decisions when the “government as a career” body was supposed to be the Senate.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to DensityDuck says:

      It doesn’t seem like such a stretch to imagine Franklin saying, “Well, if it’s working for you, maybe that’s the right way for you to go.” Which would get to the question, is it really working for us? That’s the sort of question we’re supposed to be asking ourselves, constantly.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Franklin always struck me as more judgmental than that, but in his unique kindly avuncular way. (I mean, what is Poor Richard’s Almanack but a collection of “ur doin it wrong!”?)Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I’d think that Franklin would be happy with whatever system we chose, as long as it was a concious choice–that is, a process of Constititutional Amendments–rather than Congress increasingly saying “we’ll just write a vague position statement and then let the regulatory bureaucracy work out what this actually means”.Report

  11. Avatar Christopher Carr says:

    “We’re a step in that direction from where we were ten years ago, but we’re moving towards reaching a consensus about the balance between what is tolerable in a free society yet necessary for reasonable levels of security.” – I’d say we’ve generally been moving very slowly in the right direction since 2007.Report