Unintended Consequences of Freedom
Recently a California Court overturned the conviction of a rapist, because his actions didn’t meet the legal definition of rape in that state. The court made the right call, although I would prefer the man to be at the end of a rope in the nearest tree.
Freedom has costs, it’s not free, and they are not all borne by those sworn to defend us in battle. The Sandy Hook shootings, tragic as they were, are another cost we must bear to be free. If we didn’t have a right to own firearms, it’s possible the shooting would never have happened, it’s also possible, that if we didn’t have the right to free speech and religion, countless other acts of violence would also have been able to be averted.
Are our rights worth the costs? That is a question for each individual to answer on their own, but for me, I think they are worth it. Tragedies can’t be totally averted, criminals will walk free, guns will be used to unjustly kill, a certain baptist church will picket at funerals blaming the deaths on homosexuality, unicorns, or some other damned nonsense. Those are some of the costs of freedom and are in addition to the costs borne on our behalf by our soldiers, both in peace and war.
Just as Ben Franklin may have once said, “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security deserves neither and lose both.”
Is a totally safe society headed by a pure and benevolent government possible? Can a government that could be trusted to censor speech and involve itself in religion and the press while not misusing a monopoly on force even exist? I think the answer is unequivocally no in both cases.
That foul creature who should be in jail for rape, but now walks free, does so because we are a nation of laws, not of the flighty whims of men. Freedom doesn’t always yield the results we would like, but honestly, what does?
To elaborate on the rape case, we only have the two choices, and neither is optimal. Either judges and other officials are allowed to make law unilaterally, or we must rigidly follow the law as written, allowing discretion in strictly defined situations. There may be degrees in between, but inevitably things will settle into one or the other. As I’ve said before, our political system is designed to be slow and inefficient, the justice system is also set up that way to a certain extent. Guilt must be proven well beyond the point where most people would be convinced of someones guilt, and criminals escape justice all the time because the bar is set extremely high, but most truly innocent people are acquitted because of the height of that same bar. William Blackstone spoke of this principle 250 years ago, “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer“. I’m inclined to agree.