Saturday, April 20, 2013


“Lockdown” has become an increasingly frequent term in the news. I don’t merely mean frequency of usage, but frequency of the phenomenon denoted by that term.

It’s not just that lockdowns seem to be more frequent, but the scope of lockdowns is quietly and steadily expanding. At least that’s my impression.

When I was growing up (60s-70s), lockdowns were limited to prisons when inmates rioted. At least that’s my recollection.

But more recently, you have school lockdowns when a suspected shooter is on the loose. I understand that authorities wish to contain the area to prevent the suspect from escaping, but in the process they are locking students in with the shooter. I often wonder if that’s even legal. Do school administrators (or local police) have the authority to prevent students from exiting the building when they feel–often rightly–that their lives are endangered by hiding huddled in classrooms as the sniper goes from room to room, seeking fresh victims?

Be that as it may, the Boston bombing introduced a citywide lockdown. Hotels were locked down within a certain radius of the crime scene.

What does that mean, exactly? Does that mean there were security guards or policemen stationed at hotel exits? What would happen if you tried to exit the hotel? Would you be arrested? Shot on sight?

Although it maybe convenient for the authorities to declare a lockdown–the better to facilitate their manhunt–is that legal? Doesn’t that really assume an undeclared state of martial law, where normal civil liberties are suspended and authorities can impose a curfew on the citizens?

It looks like we’re beginning to take lockdowns for granted, as a normal part of life, even though that’s extralegal or unconstitutional. When did Americans agree to this? Is this an Act of Congress?

Moreover, this involves a false dichotomy. We know the profile for likely suspects in terrorist incidents: twenty-something male Muslim bachelors.

Why should all ordinary Americans surrender their civil liberties to protect Muslims?

Liberals scream “racial profiling,” and unilaterally take the profiling of Muslims off the table. That leads to the false dichotomy: between public safety and civil liberties.

1 comment:

  1. Even setting aside the civil liberties issues, what are the opportunity costs of adopting this attitude of hyper-safety-ism? Risk aversion is costly and paralyzing: