I’m in the midst of a discussion with the Magnificent Seven about rights and freedoms. Dirk just wrote a missive beginning with this statement:

We have enough laws in this Country, that we have secured the highest level of Freedoms ever enjoyed in written history.

To which I gave a long-winded reply…

I disagree. I think we peaked at some earlier time (perhaps September 10, 2001, heh) and have been sliding downhill ever since. We have fewer freedoms today, March 7 2008, than we did a year ago. Do you disagree?

In the last five years I think our government has placed unprecedented restrictions on our rights… as have the governments of many other nations. Our world is becoming more of a surveillance society, aided in large part by advances in technology (video cameras, computer storage, massive data processing) but also by a growing fearmongering that the lawmakers use to justify their new restrictions. It’s all based on the mistaken assumption that increased surveillance leads to increased security.

You may contend that I, Jeff, personally enjoy a great deal of freedom. You would be right. Since I’m not on the TSA watchlist (yet) and haven’t attempted the crime of photographing a public building, I’m lucky enough to be able to sit here working and earning an honest wage rather than languishing in Gitmo or some other rendition-happy country. But that doesn’t change the fact that overall I am subject to more laws and restrictions than I was a year ago, and thus my freedoms are diminished.

I’m straying off topic, but I would say there are three categories of laws that curtail freedom:

1) Moral laws (no murder, no rape) which a reasonable human being would agree are necessary to protect the populace. It would be difficult to argue that these laws should be eliminated.

2) Compensatory laws (no stealing, no cheating) which make it possible for us to enjoy fair commerce with those around us. If we steal, we must pay back; if we cheat, we are thrown out of class (or whatever). Many of these laws are reasonable and necessary, although I feel that many more these days have gone too far into the realm of unfair compensation (e.g., the RIAA collecting $200k from a single mom who downloaded music– yes, she was wrong; yes, she should pay for her mistake; no, it’s not right that she pay that much).

3) Convenience laws (show me your photo ID, tell me your SSN, 75-year copyrights) which have been enacted by the legislature to satisfy the needs or wishes of some agency or corporation. I believe the vast majority of these are unnecessary limitations on our freedoms and serve only those who are in power rather than society as a whole. It is these laws against which I am most firmly opposed.

I think we’ve seen a huge increase in category 3 these last few years, and an expansion (in scope and penalty, if not sheer number) of category 2. Off the cuff I’d say category 1 was established even before this country, and remains fairly static.

So, off-topic musings aside, I long for a place where I have more freedoms than I have now. Call me selfish, call me a communist, call me a libertarian nanny-head, but I long for a day where the Government steps back and lets me live my life.