ANN ARBOR, MI—Individual freedom is ebbing in the U.S. due to steady government encroachment, Ann Arbor resident and camera-store employee Adam Britt told guests at a party Tuesday.
"Our way of thinking has shifted so that the individual, not corrupt private and public institutions, shoulders the blame for society's ills," Britt told fellow partygoer Jim Kass while helping himself to raw vegetables and dip. "The accused drug dealer is incarcerated without adequate due process under a mandatory-sentencing law, yet the corporate polluters get off scot-free."
Britt added that, ironically, much of this encroachment is the result of government deregulation throughout the '80s and '90s.
"Deregulation has meant the loss of accountability and obligation," said Britt, raising his voice slightly when a nearby stereo was turned up. "As constraints on corporations loosened in the early '80s, and the culture of greed intensified, individual rights took a drubbing. What's more, an American's basic right to a fair trial was undermined by skyrocketing attorney's fees and overburdened caseloads in courtrooms across the country. This meant that poorer Americans could not afford to adequately defend themselves or challenge others."
Britt was briefly interrupted by loud cheers, prompted by the sight of two burly young men carrying a full, untapped keg of Rolling Rock into the house. When the cheering died down, Britt returned to his point, noting that Americans may feel safer than ever, but that the price for such so-called "safety" may be too costly.
"Airport security areas, even in the smallest airports, resemble Iron Curtain checkpoints, yet no one ever complains about their excessiveness," Britt said. "I've seen children's Mickey Mouse suitcases inspected for bomb-making materials. People say they're willing to pay a high price to ensure their safety. But how high? Where do we draw the line?"
Turning to 23-year-old Alyssa Behrens after Kass went to the porch to "get some fresh air," Britt said that the 2000 presidential election was one of the most egregious examples of the government's disregard—and downright disdain—for the will of the people.
"The campaign had already been debased by the fact that the agendas of both major political parties were determined by corporate interests, not the voters," Britt told Behrens, whose escape plan was to finish her beer and get a refill in the kitchen. "Then Florida happened. Granted, the Democrats bear some blame for not insisting that the whole state be recounted, rather than just a few Democrat-controlled counties. But the Supreme Court's insistence that 'rule of law' must prevail even though serious doubts remained about the accuracy of the final count was a snow job that should rank with the Dred Scott decision for pure judicial arrogance."
Jon Light, one of the party's hosts, said he was only marginally acquainted with Britt, inviting him after Britt had given him a helpful crash course in film speeds at the camera store the day before.
"He seemed like a pretty nice guy when I first met him," Light said. "But I had no idea he was one of those political guys. Actually, I didn't find out until the morning after, when I talked to [roommate] Tim [Hecht], who said he got cornered by him for almost an hour."
"I saw the guy talking to Tim for a long-ass time, but I guess I figured he was going off about snowboarding or maybe that Gorillaz CD that was playing," Light continued. "Apparently, though, he was droning on about the government's restriction of individual liberties. The only individual liberties I saw restricted last night were poor Tim's and whoever else that guy managed to corner. Christ."