What's different about TAKING LIBERTY SERIOUSLY?
Plenty of people claim they favor liberty. But do they?


TAKING LIBERTY SERIOUSLY is different in two main ways:
  • It is not selective about the defense of liberty (unlike many today who use “liberty” as a pretext, supporting only some kinds of freedom and opposing others).

  • It advocates a specific mechanism for reining in “needed” limitations on liberty (i.e., needed because hurting people is wrong). Being frank and realistic about these limits is only way to provide needed harm prevention without yielding to constant calls for unnecessary liberty-restricting laws.

  • I
    No Selective Approach to Liberty
    These days many people talk about "liberty" when they really do not like it—except on a highly selective basis. Too many people use the mantra of freedom as a rhetorical tool to hammer what they don't like when all they really care about is their own special interests. They call, for example, for lower taxes, less regulation or gun rights, but they turn out to be anti-liberty when it comes to freedom of movement (“illegal” immigration) or the rights of sexual minorities.

    By contrast, TAKING LIBERTY SERIOUSLY means genuinely supporting liberty and freedom as a fundamental right—not just in some areas of life but in all. The single exception is for narrowly calibrated responses to conduct that demonstrably causes harm or risk to such a high degree that nearly all agree it is too socially intolerable to allow.

    “Loving liberty means leaving people the freedom
    to do things you’d prefer they didn’t do”

    There are things the government has no business regulating. As a rule of thumb, if people disagree widely and sincerely about whether particular conduct is really “bad,” or bad enough to prohibit, then the government should not be restricting it.

    But the greatest danger to liberty comes from laws that regulate in the name of public safety or general welfare but go too far, well beyond the need. These laws are usually intended to address real problems but they go overboard.

    Surrounding every real problem there is a hazy zone of more speculative or conjectural harms and overblown risks that do not justify restrictions on liberty. Yet, unjustified restrictions on freedom are often imposed anyway. Government seems to follow the motto: “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”

    The worst of this genre is the ever increasing number of “preventative” laws that monitor, regulate or prohibit conduct that is not, in itself, harmful at all (e.g., rules that banks report the payments we make, and the various laws against “possession”). The argument typically made is that, in order to prevent or punish bad acts, the government also has to outlaw harmless activities as well. Countless laws go beyond the core need, addressing harms and risks that are only speculative, conjectural or exaggerated.

    Even the best-intended laws can result in overreaching by government. As new laws pile up year after year, they become an ever increasing overlay that bears down on freedom-loving Americans. Yet, these laws seem to have little discernable benefit. Would we really miss these invasions of our privacy and liberty if they were repealed? Under our present checks and balances, we never know. There is at present no system, such as a Constitutional Court, to root out excessively burdensome laws or to head them off in the first place.

    II.
    How We Handle the Constant Calls for Regulation
    TAKING LIBERTY SERIOUSLY frankly acknowledges that some narrow legal limitations on liberty will inevitably be required, in order to deal with real and demonstrable harms. These legal limits must always be narrowly calibrated and justified under the moral principle that hurting people is wrong. That is to say, they can only be justified if the restricted conduct would cause demonstrable harm or risk to such a high degree that nearly all agree it is too socially intolerable to allow.

    Other defenders of liberty talk little about these limits on liberty or sweep them under vague phrases like "accountability" or "responsibility," but this approach allows for a multitude of anti-liberty horrors. We believe that only by recognizing explicitly the narrow moral limits on liberty can the supporters of liberty:
  • avoid being blindsided,
  • suggest attractive alternatives, and
  • assure that liberty-impairing laws are carefully confined
       to demonstrated needs.
  • To achieve these goals, there must first be a careful definition of what it is that laws liberty-restricting can legitimately do. Without an established formula that defines legitimate restrictions on liberty, it becomes nearly impossible to defend against the constant calls for new restrictions. A clear conception of legitimate restrictions is needed to prevent and eliminate the non-legitimate ones. For this purpose, TAKING LIBERTY SERIOUSLY advocates the extending the use of strict scrutiny that already protects our currently cramped and limited range of fundamental rights.

    Specifically, we advocate:
  • Exacting strict scrutiny for all laws restricting liberty,
  • Liberty Impact Statements to show compliance, and
  • a Constitutional Court to provide an independent check.
  • Only with the use of strict scrutiny by a Constitutional Court and Liberty Impact Statements will Americans be able to respond to the constant calls for “unavoidable” restrictions on liberty while still making our nation, more truly, the “land of the free.”


    Purpose of This Site
    The main purpose of TAKING LIBERTY SERIOUSLY is to develop a framework for considering questions about liberty. Although it does not aim to declare with finality whether particular intrusions on freedom are “justified,” a number of probable cases are described in order to illustrate the approach. In the end, however, questions about particular intrusions on liberty vary with the circumstances, and decisions on them depend entirely on the application of “strict scrutiny” to them.


    What you can do?
  • Ask candidates if they would require Liberty Impact Statements
  • Ask candidates if they would favor a Constitutional Court
  • Vote only for candidates who would demand Liberty Impact Statements and a Constitutional Court
  • Write to newspapers and blogs in support of Liberty Impact Statements and a Constitutional Court

    More laws = Less liberty