The Campaign for Liberty is a political organization formed last year to continue advocating the political and economic principles on which the Ron Paul presidential campaign was founded. As a proud member, I was interested to learn that an internal report of the Missouri State Police lumped the Campaign for Liberty in with skinheads and Branch Davidians as a part of the “modern militia movement.” The report (dated Feb. 20, 2009) listed a number of supposed hallmarks of domestic terrorist organizations, including opposition to the Federal Reserve system, advocacy for a gold standard, and a belief in the impending economic collapse of the United States. In one particularly silly paragraph, the report stated,
Militia members most commonly associate with 3rd party political groups. It is not uncommon for militia members to display Constitutional Party, Campaign for Liberty, or Libertarian material. These members are usually supporters of former Presidential Candidate: Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, and Bob Barr.
I wasn’t sure whether to be alarmed or amused by this, but C4L officials took it seriously, possibly because they were at that time planning a big regional conference in St. Louis. The report was roundly condemned, impressively satirized, and subsequently withdrawn. The Missouri State Police apologized to the named presidential candidates, and it seemed to be over.
But now there’s this: Returning from the St. Louis conference, C4L organizer Steve Bierfeldt was detained and harassed by the Transportation Security Administration, apparently because he was carrying $4,700 in cash and checks. There was, of course, no suggestion that this was illegal. In an extremely heads-up move, Bierfeldt used his cellphone to record the interrrogation. It makes for extremely interesting listening. I think my favorite part is when one of the questioners (who repeatedly refuse to tell Bierfeldt why he is being detained or why the amount of cash is of interest to them) offers the justification that I adopt as the title of this post: “You’re suspicious to me.” That remark clarified a whole lot more than the speaker probably intended.
We’ve talked a lot recently about the economic pros and cons of big government. It’s useful to remember that there are even better reasons to keep the government small. The massive increase in the size and intrusiveness of government manifests itself most clearly in the way ordinary citizens get treated by guys with badges. Some would like to ignore the tendency of guys with badges to abuse their power, and a good many more would like to pretend that tendency is the characteristic fetish of just one political party or the other. I think history, not to mention the work of Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo, shows convincingly that the problem runs a whole lot deeper than party platforms. Statistically speaking, power and its abuse are highly correlated.