Column on Phony Righteousness

Phony Righteousness

Tibor R. Machan

Over the last decade we have heard much talk about how the rights of those held in Guantanamo Bay must be protected since they are human beings and since the American political system regards all human beings as having basic rights, including rights to due process. Indeed, this has been a theme of the American Left, when it comes to how all those who are accused of crimes should be treated. It would seem, then, that the American Left is a principled bunch and judging by how vigorously its members denounce those in the George W. Bush administration for giving advice about the legal permissibility of presidential powers, such as have some of Mr. Bush’s legal advisors, one would be justified in thinking so.

But then consider another area of public policy where the American Left cares not a whit about due process. I am talking about anthropogenic global warming. In this area mere probabilities, built upon other probabilities, issuing in weak predictions, surrounded by fishy methods and the like, seem not to be at all objectionable to the Left. Millions of people are going to be forced to change their lives, incur major costs and other burdens, but never mind; the American Left favors doing something, anything, about this hazard and so due process can be cast aside and mere suspicion is sufficient to implement burdensome and costly changes.

Why is it that enemy combatants are so important to the American Left that it advocates meticulous attention to due process when it comes to dealing with them but ordinary American citizens can be imposed upon big time, with no need for rigorous proof that what they are doing causes anybody any harm at all? Why is there this double standard afoot?

I should, I think, be forgiven for suspecting that there is some hypocrisy afoot here, indeed, hypocrisy born of anti-American ideology. Since the anthropogenic global warming theory imposes burdens on Americans who engage in business and the ordinary affairs of life, they aren’t worth any concern when it comes to violating their rights! Why should those in American industries be treated with respect for due process when they are being burdened by increased taxes and other hefty commitments made in places like Kyoto and Copenhagen? They are Americans which is to say unworthy human beings, at least as far as the American or any other kind of Left would have it. But when people set out to murder Americans, plot terrorist attacks against them and so forth, it is quite OK to extend to them all the protections due a human being. You tell me if there isn’t something rotten afoot in all this.

But is any of this all that new? Even back when the American Left was all up in arms about the way accused communists were being treated by, say, the House un-American Activities Committee in Congress, they had no trouble with besmirching all those who voiced some criticism of labor unions and groups that clearly had America in their crosshairs. But when it came to socking it good and hard against American businesses, imposing Draconian regulations on them merely because they might possible engage in in hazardous practices, the American Left–including the ACLU–did not stand up and speak up in defense of the rights of these men and women, no sir.

Right now, after the financial meltdown which was most likely caused in large measure by public policies that wanted to provide everyone with cheap mortgage rates, the American Left is promoting public policies of more onerous government regulation of Wall Street and the banks instead of reigning in the federal government’s easy credit policies. And government regulation is a form of prior restraint, acting against people who have not be proven to have done anything wrong but merely might do so and is thus inconsistent with due process.

It is time to recognize that a great many American Leftists aren’t consistently principled but invoke principles only where it helps their special agenda. The righteousness of those folks has to be seen for what it is, very lopsided, very selective. All that good stuff about respecting people’s rights can be cast aside when it comes to the agenda of the Left, including anthropogenic global warming.

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