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Should the constitution of a rational government in a capitalist society mandate punishment of those in positions of governance who use the power of government to violate individual rights? For instance, McCain-Feingold represents a massive individual rights' violation; that of free speech and association. McCain and Feingold violated their oath to defend the Constitution as did all those who voted for it; George W. Bush explicitly abdicated his oath in his signing statement. Should such people be punished for legalizing such an encroachment?

Currently, only Treason is specifically mentioned in the Constitution as a criminal act requiring punishment

asked Dec 08 '10 at 13:51

c_andrew's gravatar image

c_andrew ♦

edited Dec 08 '10 at 14:20

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

For additional clarification: I'm asking if it is a contradiction of the rule of law for a public official to take actions with impunity which, if undertaken by a citizen would lead to criminal charges. If I organized a group that took cash from demonstraters of a particular political persuasion as a "fine" I would face charges of conspiracy to theft by threat of violence even if I didn't take any money myself. What, in principle, distinguishes my action from that of McCain etal in regard to McCain-Feingold?


(Dec 08 '10 at 13:52) c_andrew ♦ c_andrew's gravatar image

Other non-political examples include the actions of police with qualified immunity, and prosecutors with absolute immunity who violate the law, under color of law, with no repercussions. Police who arrest individuals for exercising the 1st Amendment and prosecutors who prosecute the same are in violation of federal statutes but are almost never prosecuted. I think that to allow public officials some special standing, such as immunity, in regard to their public actions is a violation of the rule of law. We are saying, essentially, tell us WHO you are and we'll tell you how the law applies.

(Dec 08 '10 at 13:53) c_andrew ♦ c_andrew's gravatar image

The original question begins with "rational government in a capitalist society," but then shifts the focus to examples that do not qualify as "rational government in a capitalist society." Regarding a proper government, I would say that the government exists to protect individual rights, not to violate them, and any government official who violates that principle is not acting in accord with his proper role in the government. A proper government can and should take appropriate action to stop its officials from violating the basic principle for which the government exists.

But when a government is not a proper government, what is one to do? If the government were a proper one, victims of rights violators could turn to the government for protection. But when the government itself is the rights violator, what can one do? The answer advocated by Objectivism is to change the government, preferably by peaceful, lawful means if the government is not a total dictatorship -- or other means, if possible (internal or external), in the case of totalitarian dictatorships.

answered Dec 10 '10 at 16:33

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

I answered this question in a recent edition of my Rationally Selfish Webcast. An audio recording is available here on my blog NoodleFood, starting at 47:47. My basic view is that such structural tweaks to our political system cannot compensate for culture-wide lack of concern for rights -- and they might even be used against us.

answered Dec 31 '10 at 21:30

Diana%20Hsieh's gravatar image

Diana Hsieh ♦

edited Dec 31 '10 at 21:39

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Asked: Dec 08 '10 at 13:51

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Last updated: Dec 31 '10 at 21:39