Bipartisanship, the burden of proof, and the dissenters

People are again complaining about partisanship in Washington D.C., believing it to be self-serving and to cause undesirable legislative gridlock. Recently, President Barack Obama was praised for "courageously" speaking "across the aisle" to a meeting of Republicans.

Well, to many of us, this is all mostly theater and it is rather the overwhelming bipartisanship that is our problem. It's the policies these players agree on and implement that are harming individuals and communities here and abroad.

The two enfranchised parties are complicit in their aggressive foreign military interventions that injure so many innocent individuals and unfortunate communities, while making us less safe. They are complicit in torturing prisoners, suspending habeas corpus rights to due process, and intruding into privacy rights. Not surprisingly, Congress and the president again extended the tyrannical Patriot Act last month.

The two-party cartel delivers corporate subsidies and favoritism, revokes property rights, carelessly spends our wealth, and obstructs the free, mutually beneficial trade amongst individuals, all intrusive policies that produce perverse incentives and impoverish us.

The duopoly is continually finding new ways to restrict individuals, such as our rights to utilize certain medical therapies and dietary supplements. The list of co-offenses is tragically long.

I feel as civil disobedient Mohandas Gandhi did when he said, "If I seem to take part in politics, it is only because politics encircles us today like the coil of a snake from which one cannot get out, no matter how much one tries. I wish therefore to wrestle with the snake." But, historically and currently, dissenters are bullied, silenced, and purposefully mischaracterized impulsively by statists. Statists favor government taking on a large role in our lives and tend to be intolerant of resistance. Since most public policies are coercive, it's right they be debated.

Many people make good faith arguments for intervention by government for a perceived public good. They accept any loss of rights or obstructions to the individual who is not harming anyone as an acceptable trade-off. They believe that the means are justified by their expected positive ends. It is similar to arguments that we should gladly forfeit our rights to due process and to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures in the interest of public security.

To many of us dissenters, however, positive ends are not justified nor are even achievable by aggressive means. Most people could go along with government intervening in cases of indisputable public goods. National security may be such a case, but not at the sake of individuals' rights to due process and privacy.

If we choose not to stick with a narrow and firm definition of true public goods, our property and liberties are always at risk to the whim of the voting majority or to those positioned to gain government favor.

In the end, is not the burden of proof on the proponents of an intrusive policy? They need prove that there is some incontrovertible public good being protected or provided as good reason for their infringing on us. It ought also be shown that the program will accomplish what is intended and not have unacceptable negative adverse effects and costs.

Government is the only entity that has a monopoly on relatively legitimate force, which is why it is prudent to be vigilant in our watchfulness and restraint. Not everyone accepts that government consists of only disinterested parties endeavoring for peace and justice. Many government policies, even those well-intentioned, harm innocent people. It is right for dissenters and victims to voice objections. And, may they be indefatigable, regardless of how they are treated.

Dr. Marc Guttman is an emergency physician and vice chairman of the Libertarian Party of Connecticut. He lives in East Lyme. His Web site is


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