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Thinking Vertically

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The reaction to the Casey Anthony trial in Florida is just more proof of how ignorant so many Americans are about rights, laws, and liberty.

Everyone from TV hosts — who should know better — to radio sports talk-show hosts (yes, really) to the normal gang at the coffee shop, all are appalled at a jury who failed to convict the accused of killing her daughter. People who weren’t anywhere near the courtroom “know” that she did it and should pay with her own life.

So much for what people know or think they know. The reaction reflects a total disregard for due process. One of the coffeehouse regulars said she wishes our court system followed a model where a person is presumed guilty until he or she proves their innocence. What’s really scary is that this woman used to work for a law firm.

This is the same person who has been looking for ways to extend her unemployment, says her taxes are too high, loves Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and wants the government to take care of her like European governments take care of their citizens.

One must wonder where things went wrong.

Some of us were fortunate enough to have a teacher or two who actually respected the Founding Fathers and what they created with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights and the uniqueness of the United States with the idea that a person must be considered innocent until proven guilty.

That last follows naturally from the rule of logic that the burden of proof is on the person making the positive assertion. Philosophically, that’s how it must be. Without the simple concept that presumes innocence, there can be no liberty. The government would treat us all as suspected criminals — as if that weren’t already the case. (Think TSA; think gun control.)

But, the education system began breaking down. Logic was replaced by emotion and truth became inconvenient. Some of us experienced the change, even if we were too young to realize what was going on.

The model of politics that’s been taught for generations is based on a half-truth, a lie of omission. It’s the bipolar notion that the political spectrum is a single, horizontal line that looks more like the flat line of a dead person’s EEG than a properly functioning society.

In the fifth grade I was taught that the far left on that line represented the communists. “They’re bad,” the teacher said. The far right represented the Nazis. “They were bad,” the teacher said again, adding, “We’re good because we’re in the middle.”

Even at that age I knew there was something wrong with that last part.

I was too young to translate my thoughts into words and I just didn’t know what was wrong until I started reading Orwell, Machiavelli, Rand, and Heinlein. But it wasn’t until seeing the World’s Smallest Political Quiz with the Nolan Chart that I got the visual image of the right way to show the political map. There’s a vertical axis representing the difference between authoritarians (statists) and libertarians.

Yet from schools, to the popular media to politicians, all that’s presented to people is that flat, bipolar, horizontal line.

Libertarians stay aware of the vertical. We think vertically, about the difference between people owning their own lives or having the government owning them. That’s a fundamental difference between libertarians and big-government types.

As a member of the media I tend to blame the media, particularly television, for focusing solely on the horizontal with little to no regard or respect for the fact that government force is government force whether it comes from the left or the right.

Perhaps liberty hasn’t been considered sexy enough for TV coverage. That’s changing, though. Two shows, Freedom Watch and Stossel, both on Fox Business Channel, do speak libertarian and speak it quite well.

Maybe it’s only two, but it’s two more than we used to have. That’s positive and other people are beginning to see the vertical line. It’s a small group, and the line is still faint to many. Most likely still don’t fully grasp what they’re seeing, but it’s still a move in the right direction.

The only real truth to the left/right paradigm is that it reflects a bipolar society, a society that swings between warfare and welfare, between the neo-cons and progressives who have increased the national debt to more than $14.3 trillion, putting even newborns in debt to the tune of $46,000 for each. That will continue until more people begin thinking vertically.

Perhaps Casey Anthony actually committed the offense with which she was charged, but the state failed to make its case beyond a reasonable doubt and because of that failure, the jury properly did its duty by acquitting her. Just as there can be no peace without liberty, there can be no liberty without the presumption of innocence.

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    Rich Schwartzman is managing editor at Chadds Ford Live in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.