An Argument for the Value and Greater Valuation of Private Institutions
Private protection has a strong and under appreciated place in our society says Sheldon Richman
This is Richman reflecting on a speech by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel:
In making the case for private nonstate protection, he pointed that we already are protected to some extent from government invasion by private organizations. How so?
The U.S. government could be violating our freedom a lot more than it is now. During World War I, Eugene Debs was jailed for making a speech defending war opponents. This doesn't happen today. The main reason freedom of speech is more secure than it used to be is that the ACLU and other civil-liberties groups have for years promoted the idea to the public that free speech is a good thing. Moreover, whenever the state makes a move against it, these groups spring into action. That is, they act as private defense agencies. Interestingly, they are nonprofit and unarmed. Their weapons are ideas, which Hummel emphasizes are always the ultimate defenses against tyranny. As he says, "Force doesn't rule the world. Ideas rule the world because ideas determine in which direction people point their guns."
The point I took away from this is how many organized advocacy groups their are in the U.S. doing lots of work on Many well organized and well funded: ACLU, AARP, NAACP, Sierra Club and the NRA to name but a few. Sure, policy advocacy and lobbying figure into their scope but it goes beyond this. They are also a source of information and help for many people. They spread information and seek to advance an agenda through the market of ideas. I wonder how things would be in a world with less policy lobbying for these groups? WOuld they simply take to the airwaves and battle for support and converts to their message on TV, Billboards and so on?
Funny, this reminds me a clip I saw on Reason TV . There's a hot debate going on over a children's hospital's decision to put the name Abercrombie and Fitch on a new wing of its hospital in honor and appreciation for the clothing company's generous $10 million charitable donation. Apparently a children's advocacy group doesn't think the name is appropriate to be a hospital...not that he thinks A&B should give the money back (of course not!). Well, as much as I'm the hospital's side to do what it wants with its money and hospital, there's a strange comfort from knowing there's groups to speak loud and argue for things from all sides outside of the law making process....just in the public arena.
Taxpayers for Common Sense , one of my favorites BTW, also does a great service in blowing whistles on stupid and politically arrogant spending and shedding public light on it. They have been in the news a lot lately with the whole earmark reform debate.
Personally, I think the world be a little bit more noisy but also a little bit more informed if we did a little less in the halls of congress and little more with private advocacy. Question is...would these advocacy be as pro-active in such a context? I think so....at least most would, IMO.