On the Other Hand...

The Limits to Limbaugh's Love of Liberty

by Jim Davies

If anyone hoped that Rush Limbaugh is a catalyst for restoring personal and economic liberty, they have a disappointment or two on the way.

He is, without doubt, head and shoulders above almost everyone else who broadcasts. He may not have the intellect of Gene Burns, but Larry King, for all his extensive contacts and his interview coups, cannot hold a candle to Rush Limbaugh for flair, for humor, or for clarity of understanding about what's going on. Limbaugh represents Conservatism at its best; and to the large extent that he is wired to the new, "revolutionary" Republicans, he also gives us a pretty good preview of where they would lead us if we let them. Oh, and his comments on the tenants of the White House are always fabulously funny.

Now, I'm no dittohead and I listen to Limbaugh only occasionally. But on the last three occasions, the brief extracts I did hear each highlighted the limits to Rush's philosophy; and he is, alas, no consistent advocate for freedom.

Limit #1 surfaced some weeks back, when a listener called in with a misunderstanding. She thought he had earlier said that the IRS has "no business finding out what we earn" and he immediately denied that self-evident truth. He explained that she had actually heard him say he thought the IRS has no business probing HOW we earn our salaries; but that sure, they have a right [from where?!] to probe all they want about WHAT we earned. For good measure he went on to say he does "not advocate breaking the tax laws, like Irwin Schiff."

Big, big mistake. First, I know Schiff and - very far from calling for any lawbreaking - he has an astonishing knowledge of, and respect for, the Law, and calls for all of us, even the IRS, strictly to obey it. And second, compulsory searching of anyone's "papers and effects" without an express Court order is expressly forbidden to government by Amendment #4. So Limbaugh doesn't seem too hot on our Constitutional rights.

Limit #2 I noticed more recently, and again it was in the context of taxation, surely a favorite conservative issue. He said that any tax is right and proper if it pays for something that people have properly voted for. The context was that a tax would be improper, in Rush's view, if it paid for some activity that people have NOT properly voted for; something that some wicked Democrat had snuck in, for example. And that's fine as far as it goes.

Trouble is, it doesn't go nearly far enough; it means that Rush Limbaugh has failed to study the column I wrote here a while ago entitled "Two Wolves and a Lamb". If you saw it, you may recall how it proved that democracy is badly flawed even when perfectly administered; that majority rule can be (is!) a terrible tyranny, as when 99 members of a society vote to deprive the 100th of his wealth. Perfectly democratic, yet utterly immoral. Or when two wolves vote to eat a lamb for lunch, despite the latter's vigorous N-a-y vote.

Thus, Limbaugh has failed to notice that America is NOT a democracy, but a republic, that is, a society in which the power of the majority is strictly limited by a written Constitution. Once again, he seems susprisingly ignorant of a vitally important conservative principle. Taxes (and any other laws) can be imposed by majority vote ONLY if they also conform to that supreme Law.

Limit #3 came to my notice in a broadcast discussion with a liberal caller from West Virginia, about some court case where a liberal judge acquitted a lady in the trunk of whose car had been found $4 million worth of cocaine. Limbaugh thought that a travesty of justice and said, quote, that he would, if he could, "throw Miranda out the window".

His point was that the Miranda Rule and other restrictions on police power have prevented the conviction of the guilty. Let's leave aside the matter of whether it should be illegal to possess any quantity of cocaine or any other substance (it should not, and his fellow conservative William F Buckley is warming to that very view) and focus on his specific point: police had observed two men break in to a building, bring out some bags, place them in the car trunk without speaking to the lady driver, and then, after spotting the fuzz, take off. The police arrested the driver but the liberal judge let her go, to the chagrin of our subject talk-show host.

The judge's reason was, of course, that the cops did not have "reasonable cause" to search her trunk, and so the evidence they found had to be excluded. The two men might have been owners of the building who had lost their key, the bags might have contained toys for a Christmas party, and they might have been walking off without speaking to the car driver because she spoke no English; all perfectly innocent, hence no probable cause.

Once again, Limbaugh displayed a disturbing ignorance of the Bill of Rights, and so showed himself no true friend of liberty. Amendment #4 mentions no requirement for "probable cause". Its standard is FAR tougher than that: if no jury foreman has sworn out a warrant, government agents may not legally search anyone's property under ANY circumstances! That's our marvellous protection against tyranny, yet Rush Limbaugh has shown he despises it.

What should have happened in that case is, of course, that the evidence should have been admitted (for what it was worth) and the lady driver tried (her defense should have been that laws against drug possession are themselves totally unconstitutional) and that then, she should have turned round and sued the cops for violating her 4th Amendment rights and submitting her to a false arrest. Had the contents of her trunk contained something indicating a true crime had been committed (body parts, for example) then she could still have sued for violation of rights, but only after being tried for murder.

That may seem unfamiliar, but it has the double merit of keeping the police in check AND detecting and curbing real crime (with victims.) The fuzz would not dare violate someone's rights (they'd have to detect crime the hard way), but nobody would escape on such a technicality as applied here. Too bad Rush and his dittoheads haven't grasped what our Supreme Law actually says.

© Copyright Jim Davies 1999

Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.

The above is Edition # 147

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