Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Abuse of power

I am a conservative. I believe government should be as limited as possible, partly because of inefficiencies but also because a limited government is less likely to endanger civil liberties. My conservatism can also be described as philosophical libertarianism, so I obviously don't believe conservatism and libertarianism are incompatible.

As a Christian, I believe that human beings are inherently corrupt and sinful. Only through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ can we have any true righteousness. Even those who follow the Lord sin. King David, who was a man after God's own heart, committed adultery with his friend's wife and then murdered his friend to cover up the adultery.

The Biblical truth that human beings are sinners by nature and by choice reinforces my belief in limited government. The less power is concentrated in the government, the less power is available to be abused. While King David repented of his sin and was restored to fellowship with God, his evil act reminds us that those who have power are more than capable of abusing it.

This philosophical foundation makes me agree with fellow IU alumnus Radley Balko when he sounds the alarm about "no knock raids". (Balko has an excellent follow-up post on his weblog.) When I read about paramilitary tactics being used by law enforcement, I can't help but be reminded of Waco.

I understand that many conservatives fancy themselves as "law and order" types. Don't coddle criminals and do not excessively tie the hands of the police. I certainly understand these sentiments. But when America's founding fathers wrote the Constitution, their main concern was not the criminal element, but oppression by the government. This is why the Bill of Rights was written to limit government.

I'm not ready to eliminate the use of SWAT teams. There certainly are times when a SWAT force may be needed to prevent loss of life. I do think that police are often too willing to use overwhelming force and that both the American people and our elected legislators (as well as city and county governments) need to work to limit what tactics can be used in raids. Between civil libertarians on the Left and people distrustful of government on the Right, there is enough broad based support for such a move. It is time to get started.