50 years after March on Washington, our rights face new peril

I have a dream: the restoration of the Bill of Rights, the Rule of Law and liberty in America. Photo: Associated Press

SHREVEPORT, La., August 25, 2013 — The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington next week has produced chatter among the talking heads about the need for a new Civil Rights Movement to address the lingering problems of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

Enormous progress has been made since 1963. The race-related civil rights issues of that period have mostly been addressed. Persistent economic and social issues remain, however, and the fifty years of socialism and government intervention that came with the civil rights movement have done nothing to fix them.

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It makes more sense to look forward for new solutions rather than backwards to policies that have failed. This anniversary ought to be a time to reevaluate what has been done and admit that the high goals of the civil rights movement were ill-served by huge government programs and central planning. Solutions should be driven by communities, not government. They should be applied at the local level rather than mismanaged by remote bureaucracies. 

Fifty years of experience should have taught us that we need to take responsibility to solve these problems ourselves instead of relying on the nanny state to do the job for us.

Not only has government not solved all of our problems, it is also the source of new threats to our civil liberties which cross all across lines of race, education and social status.

Today’s civil rights fight is over NSA spying, indefinite detention, warrantless searches, government mandates and the breakdown of the rule of law. As the left looks backwards, trying to deal with problems it has proven it cannot solve, it is activists on the political right and leaders like Rand Paul and Justin Amash who are taking up the banner of the new civil rights movement.

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The government that we have looked to for solutions for the last 50 years has been revealed as the source of new threats to the civil liberties of all Americans, including the most basic and important protection of the rule of law.

The Lincoln Memorial still stands as a monument to liberty as it did when Martin Luther King used it as a backdrop for his most famous speech. What will the new Department of Homeland Security building memorialize?

It is the largest and most expensive building the government has ever built, now running 20 percent over budget at a cost of more than $4 billion with 4.5 million square feet of space and room for 14,000 workers. It is certainly a monument to government waste. It is also a symbol of the wrong turn our government has taken. That our largest and most expensive building should be devoted to national security is a reminder that security and policing our own citizens has replaced protecting the liberty and assuring the prosperity of the people as our main concern.

We cannot afford to just look backwards. We need to listen to the voices who are sounding warnings about how fragile and imperiled our liberty is today. 

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Representative Amash warned us that when we abandon the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, our government is rudderless, reminding his fellow legislators that, “whatever we do has to comport with the Constitution. So we can’t violate individual liberty; we can’t violate privacy and property rights in the pursuit of terrorism.”

For more than a decade the government has been given free reign to spend without restraint and legislate our rights away in pursuit of an illusory security which they can never really guarantee. Life is chaos and cannot be controlled and liberty brings with it some risks that cannot be mitigated without paying a cost which is much too high.

Our leaders have chosen to make us pay that cost without our assent. It is past time to make our voices heard. It is time for a new march on Washington to demand the restoration of our rights of privacy and personal security. If we do not speak up now and make absolutely clear that what we want is liberty restored and government off our back, we are on the path to a dystopian future under the thumb of a state security aparatus empowered by technology which we will never be able to fight free of.

I have a dream — the restoration of the Bill of Rights, the Rule of Law and liberty in America.

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Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle has been writing political analysis since the 1980s for newspapers, magazines and now online journals. He is currently Execitive Director of the Center for Foreign Policy Priorities, is on the board of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, and served four years as National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus.

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