Oleg has an image up that references the new full-body scanners they have at some airports. He ponders the dangers of incrementalism, and asks how long it will be until we see those scanners outside of airports as well.
This is one of the things that have frustrated me about the supposedly pro-liberty leaning conservative crowd since 9/11: the inability to see the inevitable consequences of granting such “limited” government power.
The problem here is not one of incrementalism, it’s one of principle. Understand this: every time you grant the government a power that’s restricted in its scope or duration, you grant them that power indefinitely and universally. When you give them the power to use those body scanners at airports to keep us all safe from them thar terr’ists, you have acquiesced the principle of the thing. If it’s not an infringement of Suzy Q. Homemaker’s privacy to get a full body scan at O’Hare, it’s not an infringement of her privacy to get one at the corner of Main and State, or when walking into her local Federal building to get her passport renewed, or even when ending up in a traffic stop or midnight sobriety checkpoint. They say it’s “only against Group XYZ”, and “only limited in duration/scope”, but the nature of the beast is that those powers always end up being used pretty much any way the authorities want to use them.
(Don’t believe me? Look up “asset forfeiture abuses”, or the creeping expansion of RICO, a set of laws that was only supposed to be used against organized crime racketeering. Hell, if you want to have a good example of the Fed’s tendency to fashion any even remotely vague Constitutional phrase into a universal adapter for applying Federal authority, just read up on the history of the Amazing Expanding Interstate Commerce Clause.)
When you hand the Feds a shiny new power under the condition that it only be used against “those people”, they’ll waste very little time either expanding the definition of “those people”, or taking the Supreme Court out for a beer and having them rule that the restriction on that shiny power isn’t valid, anyway. And they’re right, of course, because when you’ve already conceded the bedrock of principle, you’re standing on the quicksand of expediency.
Never, ever consent to giving the government a power you do not want to see used against yourself—because sooner or later, it will apply to you as well. If you’re all for full-body scanners at O’Hare and Dulles, I don’t want to hear a single fucking word out of you when they go up at State and Main, or when every cop car in the country has a portable Nude-O-Vision mounted on the front dash.