Like most people with an eye on the news, my main reaction to the day-long manhunt in Boston on Friday was relief that the second bombing suspect was apprehended without further bombings or loss of life. While the lockdown was in place, I noticed a few people commenting that shutting down an entire major city (at a cost of at least hundreds of millions of dollars) in order to hunt for one guy seemed like kind of an over-reaction, and I found myself agreeing, though it didn't bother me a great deal as I figured that it might save some lives and that people would probably be pretty unproductive while watching the news all day, so just shutting things down wouldn't be a big loss.
After it was all over, I saw a link to this post from a libertarian point of view about the whole thing, and it's caused me to think a bit.
Parts of the post strike me as over played (being a 19-year-old student doesn't necessarily mean someone isn't dangerous, a 19-year-old with a lot of high explosives could be as much of a threat as a thirty-year-old) but watching the second linked video, where homeowners are ordered out of their house at gunpoint so that police can search inside for the suspect, I think you do have to ask yourself: However real the threat, does this set a precedent for giving up way too many of our rights, of our expectations for how we as a society treat each other even when we're searching for a bad-guy? Unless the police have a substantive reason for believing that a homeowner is sheltering a suspect (some sort of probable cause other than "we know he's around here somewhere") do they have any business pointing guns at ordinary citizens while demanding that they vacate their house so it can be searched?
I'm not losing massive amounts of sleep over this. Where as a conservative I differ from a libertarian point of view is that I have a certain faith in the reasonableness of the great mass of ordinary people who make up society. And so I think even if this kind of thing is tolerated in a situation where a whole city is desperately rooting for the police to find one high profile suspect, that people would very quickly turn around and demand their rights if these sort of liberties were taken by the authorities frequently. But I do think that libertarians are right to bring this up as a cause for concern. This is not how a civilized society should police itself.
And there's the wonderfully Chestertonian point that a whole day of armored vehicles and heavily armed officers searching the streets could not discover the suspect, but when ordinary people were finally let out of their homes, within an hour an ordinary bloke going into his backyard to smoke did.
Jesse Tree - Day 3: Fall of Man
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