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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

America Is Not A Police State

Repeating “gestapo” over and over doesn’t make it so. “War on terror” and migration complaints are nothing compared to the drug war. The long-term trends on racism, civil rights, divorce rights, sexual freedom, reproductive freedom, gay rights, criminal procedure, free expression, gambling are all positive.

Conviction rates obviously involve selection effects, and a snapshot of current rates is not evidence for or against a trend. I’m curious what conviction rate you would take to be optimal.

You might think differently about whether you live in a “police state” if you were a black kept from voting, or a wife whose rape by her husband was legal, or a gay convicted of sodomy, or a teenager needing an illegal abortion, or a demonstrator jailed for burning a flag, or a poker dealer busted for running an underground game. So yes, I take “police state” to broadly implicate any police-enforced restrictions on our personal/civil liberties. A narrow definition of “police state” would only involve restrictions on dissent and exit, and America is very free on that score.

The positive trend in criminal procedure to which I refer involves Miranda rights, exclusionary rules, probable cause, capital punishment, cruel and unusual punishment, jury selection, assistance of counsel, juvenile justice, justice for the mentally impaired, discovery rules, etc. For details, see the long list of court decisions e.g. here, most of which advanced civil liberties.

We’re a long way from my libertopia, but to proclaim in public using your real name that we live in a “police state” is simply self-refuting.