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12/05/2005

Trade-offs everywhere: civil liberties involve them also

This Assistant District Attorney for Kings County should be made an honorary economist. There are trade-offs everywhere and he provides some nice examples here.

. . . All of our rights can have dreadful consequences. Including those mandating jury trials, search warrants, probable cause for arrests, and face-to-face testimony —all sometimes allow dirtbags who belong in jail to walk the streets. Not to mention the rights of a significant number of "hip hop" artists — whose freedom of expression, attitudes and lifestyles do a lot more to create a cynical culture of violence among young people than the NRA or any gun company.

All civil liberties involve social cost. But the cost is lower than that of their absence, which would expose us all to organized oppression, both criminal and official, much worse than random street crime. And the costs of such liberties diminish appreciably in societies that demand personal responsibility and conformity to the rules of civilized behavior.

In recent years, 38 states have adopted "right to carry" laws, requiring police to issue full-carry pistol permits to all who meet simple criteria such as lack of a felony record. Despite the dire predictions of prominent Chicken Littles, most of these states actually saw drops in crime.

A society that wishes to remain democratic can never allow the behavior of the antisocial to determine the boundaries of its rights. Doing so can undermine the free society that Officer Stewart and others like him gave their lives to defend.

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