Column: Is turning right on a red light your California birthright? Absolutely not!
A recent New York Times op-ed by the noted liberal justice Antonin Scalia argued that “the right of every American to walk down the street without an armed police officer in sight is unalienable, although some Americans take steps to deprive residents of a lawful right through the subtle use of municipal laws” and he went on to suggest that police may legally use deadly force to stop violators. We agree with the idea that a person of any color has a right to walk the streets without being shot, but only if that person is doing nothing more than attempting to walk down the road.
Similarly, it is a good idea not to run a stop sign, but in many jurisdictions, that is an actual crime that carries a fine and jail time. It is an absurd idea to suggest that there are no limits on the power of the state. Scalia even goes so far as to say that no limits on state power should be allowed, “because America is the only hope for humankind and because no other form of government has ever come close to the horrors of Soviet collectivism.”
His argument about the dangers of Soviet collectivism is not persuasive, because it seems as if he’s using them as an excuse. Indeed, in his discussion of the dangers of communism, Scalia, who apparently is a fan of socialist political ideas, made no mention of the dangers of actual communism. Instead, he just used it as an excuse for any government taking over. Indeed, he cited as one of his reasons for being an extremist the fact that “American history is the history of an uncooperative society that has repeatedly taken steps that could be described as authoritarian.”
It is no coincidence that Scalia’s most recent book is an extremely anti-libertarian screed called The Rise of the New Federalism. There are few books about the Constitution that do a better job dispelling the lies that government power is the most powerful force in the world than this one. While we will certainly not be adding it to our library, we certainly will be reading it. For the moment, let’s just agree that Scalia is completely wrong about what the Constitution gives the government and we have to be on our way to the right.
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