July & August, 2001.
I feel very sorry for all those family members and friends of those who lost their lives on September the 11th; and, we should also feel sorry for the ordinary citizen who is exposed to the risk of terrorism. (It is a risk of modern life which exists and I am not so sure there is much we can do about it, except for taking some basic precautions as we go about living our lives.) The reaction of our "elected representatives" to the events of September 11th, I fear, is only going to add to our problems. They, with the exception of a few brave souls, have all rushed up to invisible lines under the banner of fighting terrorism and then unabashedly pass legislation which trenches and intrudes usurpingly on our civil rights.
Up here, in Canada, the Finance Minister, just a week back or so, opened the country's wallet of quack medicines and conjuring tricks -- excuse me, he introduced his budget to the Canadian Parliament and thus to the Canadian people. In it, he disclosed the financial measures proposed by government. We were thus to find out that the Canadian government intends to increase its spending by an astounding nine percent. At the same time, he says, he will not increase taxes or increase the public debt. It was important for him to say this, as, it seems he would like to deliver on promises made just before the last election. The thing is -- I am not at all sure where the minister is to get the money he intends to spend? It is to come from increased taxes, or increased debt, or both: it has to come from somewhere! Though the minister says taxes will not increase (read tax rates), taxes will increase, absolutely. This is so, because of the progressive tax rate structure that the government long ago put in place: as the economy expands (especially through inflation though this has been less of a problem as of late) peoples' incomes rise into a higher tax rate (the so called "bracket creep"). The bottom line is that the federal government intends not only to maintain the high tax load on ordinary Canadians but to increase it. So, how do you suppose the Finance Minister responded when all of this was pointed out to him. He shrugged, and said, "We are living in Extraordinary times."
Another example of a politician excusing herself by making reference to "Extraordinary times" is the Justice Minister (with whom I happened to have gone to law school -- she was quiet and unassuming in those days). She saw to the passing of an onerous (indeed odious) bill into law. It was a sweeping security bill to ban fund-raising by "terrorist groups," widen wiretapping authority and allow police to make preventive arrests of people they think will engage in terrorism. It is to be thus that the government takes additional Orwellian powers onto itself, on its own motion, to arrest potential assailants, to force people to testify before judges at investigative hearings conducted behind closed doors, and to intercept communications.
The readers of my pages will know that I advocate for constitutional restrictions in respect: to government's power to spend, to tax, and to run deficits. (See, my essay, "On Taxes.") We might well make such constitutional changes, though I think we are well beyond the point that we might achieve the unanimity required for constitutional change. But the question is, will such constitutional limits stop power seeking politicians from blatantly going beyond these limits, by, as for example, creating false emergencies: I think not. We might take the recently passed Security Bill as a case in point, or, another is the Gun Control Bill passed a number of months back (it, incidently, has sucked up four times the money the government represented that it would; and, is proving to be, as a practical matter, unenforceable). These bills clearly are a direct attack on the liberty of the citizen. It seems the people who dreamt up these provisions are absolutely ignorant of basic constitutional law. This abhorrent legislation gives the federal government the tools to spy upon and to beat down Canadians. It would be a mistake to think that Canadians, though they be placid compared to Argentineans, would never come to a point where they determine to rise up and go to the streets (if not with their guns then with sticks and stones). We live not so much in "Extraordinary Times" as we live in "Sad Times."