I watch election results to gauge whether America has become freer or more tyrannical. It’s hard to know whether Tuesday’s results will make much difference. Often, individual liberty erodes in ways that neither major political party much cares about.
Last weekend, I suffered through the New York Marathon. I suffered not because I ran 26.2 miles but because I live near Central Park, and at marathon time, officials turn my neighborhood into a little police state. Four thousand police officers, 20 boats and four blimps “guarded” the marathon. Barricades, bomb-sniffing dogs and surveillance cameras were everywhere.
This is new. Marathons used to be fun, people-friendly events. Athletes and spectators mingled freely. No more. New York’s authorities now treat marathon spectators as annoyances, if not threats. Even runners must pass through magnetometers before they can race.
This happened, of course, because of the horrible bombing in Boston. That shut down parts of Boston for nine days. But other countries’ response to terrorism is less extreme. Fifty-two people were killed in the London Underground bombing of 2005. By 4 p.m. that same day, bus service resumed.
Government always grows. Police departments are no exception. The incentive is always: do more . Politicians reason, “If anything goes wrong, I’ll be blamed. Someone else pays for prevention, though, so I’ll take every precaution.”
I once asked New York City’s police commissioner if there was now “too much security.” He replied, “people want to feel safe.”
Yes, most people will give up liberty for security. But when we change society this way, we let the terrorists win.
That’s one reason I fight with Ann Coulter. She wrote, “If you are considering voting for the Libertarian candidate in any Senate election, please send me your name and address so I can track you down and drown you … (because) nothing matters more to the country than Republicans taking a majority in the Senate.”
That mindset distracts us from defending something far more important than either party: individual liberty. Neither Republicans nor Democrats consistently protect it.
When I told Coulter that I often vote Libertarian, she replied: “Influence the Republican Party. … Do not be the spoiler to hand the government over to Democrats, who I promise do not share a single principle with you.”
Democrats do want government control of the economy and more regulation of speech, innovation, medicine, school and all kinds of things that ought to be fun. But I feel threatened by Republicans, too. Some want to control our personal lives and fight constant wars abroad.
I don’t want government to regulate every inch of my life. That’s why I’m a libertarian.
Most Republicans and Democrats don’t love liberty enough to remove those barricades near Central Park or countless other impediments to doing what we want. They impose a million boring, bureaucratic intrusions on daily life.
It’s time America obsessed less about Republicans vs. Democrats and more about liberty — in all its forms.
John Stossel is host of “Stossel” on Fox News and author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed.”