Jay B Gaskill

Definition of GAFFE – “a social or diplomatic blunder

Both the incumbent president and the challenger have committed gaffes.


“I should tell my story. I’m also unemployed.” —Mitt Romney, speaking in 2011 to unemployed people in Florida.

“Join me in welcoming the next president of the United States, Paul Ryan.”

“I tasted a beer and tried a cigarette once, as a wayward teenager, and never did it again.”

“I’m not familiar precisely with what I said, but I’ll stand by what I said, whatever it was.”


“When I meet with world leaders, what’s striking — whether it’s in Europe or here in Asia…” – said in Hawaii

“The reforms we seek would bring greater competition, choice, savings and inefficiencies to our health care system.”

“On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes — and I see many of them in the audience here today…”

“I’ve now been in 57 states — I think one left to go.”

Gaffes are usually forgiven; Gotchas are usually not.

In politics, Gotchas are the gaffes trumpeted by one’s political opponents who exploit otherwise private statements by “leaking” them to the public.

The disclosure of President Obama’s off-mike whisper to the Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev, asking him to tell Putin that the US will have “more flexibility” in East European missile policy after Mr. Obama’s reelection was a classic gotcha. So was the revelation of Governor Romney’s unscripted presentation to a gathering of Florida donors in which he said that 47 percent of the electorate is so dependent on government that Obama has a lock on their votes.


Policy blunders are the much bigger deal.  In the last half century, I submit that five such blunders will stand out among the rest. Here are my candidates for the most valuable negative examples:

JFK’s 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco — the aborted liberation of Cuba, abandoned when air support was cancelled by President Kennedy, gave rise to Russian miscalculation, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and a narrowly averted WWIII. In a rare display of presidential humility, John Kennedy wryly accepted full responsibility for his mistake (“Victory has a thousand fathers and defeat is an orphan.”)[1]

LBJ’s Two Wars – both failures — the doubling down on the Vietnam engagement, escalation without victory, coupled with a massive war on poverty (the Great Society), both financed with borrowed money, gave rise to an addictive pattern of borrowing for both domestic and defense spending (why argue about guns vs. butter when you can ignore paying for them in real time) that threatens to bankrupt the USA decades later.[2]

Richard M Nixon’s self-inflicted failure as he inherited an unpopular war, doubled down on paranoia, sponsored clandestine government harassments of his political opponents, engineered a cover up, he set in ply a chain of events that led to his own removal from office, and weakened the prestige and trustworthiness of the presidency itself, for those who would follow him.[3]

Bill Clinton and George W Bush’s real estate loan deregulation and liberalization policies – the federal push to get people into unaffordable housing with unrepayable loans, was a disaster in the making. The firewall protections guarding traditional banks against speculation were removed, starting with the effective repeal of the safeguards of the Glass–Steagall Act under President Clinton. Then, under both Presidents Clinton and Bush II, the expansion of under-secured real estate loans by Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC), known as Freddie Mac and The Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), commonly known as Fannie Mae, stoked the housing/banking/financial crisis of 2008 AND the bubble, the banking collapse, the bailouts, the debt explosion leading to the real risk of depression, even now.[4]

The Affordable Health Care Act of 2010 (Obama Care) – a massively bureaucratic and immensely costly attempt to redo the entire health care delivery system in the USA was rushed into law without adequate discussion or vetting.  This was done in the middle of a deep, intractable recession (trending far too close to depression), in the tragically naïve assumption that a robust recovery would be well underway before the considerable tax load of this measure was inflicted on the economy.  At this writing, the severity of the current economic stagnation is compounded by the prospect of increased tax burdens and fiscal uncertainty under Obama Care. [See the cited New York Times piece[5] and for the cost load note the Naill Ferguson – Paul Krugman dustup described by Patrick Louis Knudsen of the Heritage Foundation.[6]

In all this, timing matters; details matter.  Policy blunders, like most other human errors, originate in good intentions. But these good intentions are coupled with the concentration of great power in the hands of leaders infected with hubris, an often toxic mix that leads to the neglect of important details, and invites blithe inattention to the law of unintended consequences.

Put simply, pride and hubris encourage neglect.  The sheer scales of these five blunders and their consequences suggest a series of huge train wrecks seen in slow motion. The damage done by such blunders always lasts longer than the careers of their architects who are, in any event, held harmless from liability.

Have you noticed that our leaders’ egos are always involved in policy blunders?  One signature of the listed blunders is the evasion of personal accountability for their failure.  With the possible exception of JFK, we can search in vain to detect any real sense of accountability by Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Clinton, Bush or Obama.  Even JFK, when confronted with the nail biting crisis of nuclear war over Russian Atomic bomb loaded missiles in Cuba, declined to connect the dots with his earlier failure at the Bay of Pigs.

This is why I propose that we call these blunders, Vainwrecks.

Which brings me to the matter of character:  If we were to fall under the spell of the dominant media spin, this presidential race is between Mr. Cool and Mr. Square, between Mr. man-of-the-People and Mr. Man-of-the-rich.  But if we are to read just a bit beneath the surface, we might see a race as one between Mr. excessively vainglorious and Mr. excessively reserved.

We might ask ourselves – Does any of that actually matter?

We can reasonably expect any major aspiring leader to have earned a good measure of justified self-confidence, based on competence and experience.  [That was the case for that charisma-challenged rich guy, Franklin D Roosevelt.]

And we can reasonably hope that all such leaders have a measure of wisdom and character.

I need to use the term hope only because these are two traits the absence of which rarely become evident until after the fact.  How often someone we thought was a true friend turns out to be much less under stress? Character is manifest only when there are pressures to act otherwise that are resistedWisdom is manifest only when an easy, flawed decision is rejected in favor of a better choice, even if the better path is more difficult[7].

Monumentally challenging policy issues will face the man who is sworn in a POTUS on January 20th, 2013.  This country will desperately need leadership, character and wisdom in 2013 and in the years following.  If there are to be practical, bipartisan solutions, they will come from that president.  If there are no practical, bipartisan solutions, we will not fare well.

In the end it’s not about the gaffes or the gotchas or who is a better or more charismatic campaigner. It’s about policy, character and leadership. And for the last two criteria, isn’t it about time we gave them a try?


Copyright © 2012 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Links, forwards and quotations with attribution are welcome and encouraged.  For everything else, please contact the author via email at law@jaygaskill.com .

[1] Lesson: When dealing with thugs, showing weakness is dangerous.

[2] Lessons: Don’t get into a shooting war without deciding who your real opponent is, and especially without a plan to actually win; don’t attempt to finance a major war and a major domestic spending initiative on credit and fiat money.

[3] Lessons: Don’t get angry at opponents; if you do, don’t show it; and never, never use a powerful federal position to steal opponents’ secrets, especially via a burglary; and whatever you do, don’t make matters worse by trying a cover up.

[4] Lesson: Don’t subsidize or bail out speculation and don’t allow speculation to infect the traditional banking sector.  Speculators are entitled to fail and the rest of us are entitled to remain insulated from their failures.

[5] New York Times, September 25, 2012‘Redistribution’ Debate Has a Gray Area By Eduardo Porter.  Mitt Romney may be right about President Obama’s Robin Hood tendencies. Future historians could well conclude that Mr. Obama led the biggest redistribution of wealth in decades. The Affordable Care Act, which levies new taxes on the wealthy to expand access to health care for the near poor, seems on track to become the biggest increase in government redistribution since the Johnson administration. According to the Tax Foundation, it will raise $52,000 in new taxes on average from families in the richest 1 percent of the population, to pay for some $250 to $2,000 in benefits on average for American families in the bottom half of income by 2016.

[6] Spending is how government programs and agencies do what they do. “In a fundamental sense, the federal government is what it spends,” says longtime budget expert Allen Schick. So it is with Obamacare. Its core is a pair of huge new entitlements: health insurance subsidies and expansion of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. They will add $1.683 trillion in new spending from now through 2022, according to CBO’s latest estimate (which helpfully isolates these components in a stand-alone table). Even after including $515 billion in associated tax hikes, the net cost increase totals nearly $1.2 trillion.

[7] There is a reason that political leaders for several decades have persisted in neglecting the growing tide of public indebtedness. After the early delusional period expired – during which politicians actually believed that growth alone could solve the deficit – their encounter with reality was too much.  Character demanded more than they dared deliver.




A not so partisan Analysis

By Jay B Gaskill

Attorney at Law

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney privately spoke with a group of GOP donors in Florida recently and, mirabile dictu, the publication Mother Jones (roots in the 1960’s) breathlessly released a secretly recorded “damaging” passage.

There are several reasons to engage with the current election, among them this president’s de facto abandonment of Israel, the jihad against the West, anxiety about the social issues of the moment and, of course, the crappy economy. But one issue looms larger than the rest.

Mr. Obama has repeatedly reminded us that his agenda is nothing short of the fundamental transformation of the American political and economic order. I am persuaded that he was not kidding or exaggerating.  He is advocating a truly staggering change in the American way of life. Recall that Mr. Obama has repeatedly reassured his progressive supporters that he believes in wealth redistribution, by which he means the differential taxation of higher incomes followed by the political distribution of the proceeds to others with lower incomes.  For about three decades this game has been conducted mostly with borrowed money.  Mr. Obama really does intend to stack the political deck in a way that will end any significant policy opposition for another generation or more. A built-in majority will be on the dole in the sense that they will be net beneficiaries of the political powers-that-be, receiving more from the government in benefits than they contribute in taxes. A paid-for voting block is the professional politician’s wet dream.  The model was tried out in Chicago…and works.

There are more ancient examples. Serious students of the history of power and politics among us will recall what happened to the Roman Empire. When the ancient, quasi-democratic Roman Republic morphed into a series of Imperial dictatorships, history gave us a lesson that has mostly been ignored.  The ancient historian, Tacitus, chronicled the decay from the law-governed Republic model into the man-governed Imperial dictatorship model typified by the repellant Nero. There was a distinct turning point when the Caesars used their power to buy the loyalty of mobs (think bread and circuses here) and of the privileged classes, simply by using wealth that had been seized from others as an instrument of control.  This was an early instance of the Faustian bargain presented to all those subsequent leaders who have wielded the power of the state “Use your power to buy more power”. There is always the devil to pay. Rome’s path is alive and well in the 21st century.  Think of Chavez and Venezuela.

Have you considered that the really productive men and women in any society (think Edison, Jobs and all the less famous examples) are always a minority? In any healthy social order, most of the single adults and family units are producing enough to support themselves, including their dependent family members and friends. At any given moment, most people in a healthy society are not dependent on government largesse. As a general rule, the productive among us voluntarily support the less productive.  Charities and a manageably small government safety net fill in where families do not.  At least that was our model.

But that does not adequately describe the American political system of 2012, and it is certainly not the radically different system that this president wishes to expand if he is awarded a second term.  The safety net has become a gill net for the politically gullible.

We are facing a tipping point after which most benefits relied on by most people will be supplied by government institutions. When/if this happens, the political feedback system already in play will harden into the dependency state. We will then have been demoted from free agents to petitioners.  Whether the issue of the moment in your life is health care or starting a business, the problems we would normally work creatively with others to solve will become petitions to authority.  In this setting, the authority is the political class.  When political favors and politically powerful interest groups begin dominate all our big decisions (and absent a change in direction, they will), we will have passed a huge tipping point.

All this is context for what Mr. Romney actually said, to wit:

“… there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That, that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49, 48 – he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect.”

Are you shocked by Romney’s political realism? I was not.  We Americans like to talk about checks and balances.  The last check and balance may well be the coming presidential election.  Mitt Romney was simply being candid and realistic about the problems facing any less-than-perfectly-liberal political leader who is seeking the presidency.  And I am simply being candid and realistic about the state of our union if he fails.


Copyright © 2012 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Forwards, links and quotations with attribution are welcome and encouraged.  For everything else, please contact the author via email at < law@jaygaskill.com >.




A Reflection on the Endgame

By Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

We are witnessing the inexorable collapse of modern, progressive liberalism. It’s like watching a demolished building collapse in slow motion. The Greek riots and that country’s likely separation from the EU, coupled with the collapse of Greece’s vast system of subsidies, early pensions and other entitlements are but one vivid example of the trend.  Because of internal contradictions built into the structures of governance in Europe, other examples are queued up to follow. As Europe was first into the progressive orbit, the death throes are manifesting there first.[1]

This is not the end of the world.  It is the end of an era.  The progressive era began when communism failed to take hold in Western Europe and the USA, and it became dominant when democratic socialism began to work out a détente with capitalism. The trend accelerated after WWII when Labour Party socialism flourished in England and was widely copied.  The American “progressive” movement has roots in both political parties from the 1920’s.

Most of us, including conservatives, are liberals in some sense of the term.  But I have chosen the term modern progressive liberalism carefully.  Classical liberalism, the assertion of individual freedom against the state and other repressive institutions, is embraced by modern conservatives. Populist liberalism, which asserts the equal human dignity of the so called “common” workers, artisans, truck drivers and so on, overlaps with modern conservatism as well and with elements of the “old fashioned” liberalism of the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Modern, progressive liberalism is the form of liberalism that feeds on attachment to an unattainable agenda, to wit: the erasure of human differences on idealistic egalitarian grounds. It is the Grand Agenda of modernity, pushing “equality”- whether in accomplishment, material well-being, social standing or cultural distinctiveness.  In its 20th and 21st century settings, this Grand Agenda was to be accomplished by violent revolution, or gradually over time as in the British Fabian socialist model. In either case the Grand Agenda enlisted the power and resources of the nation state. Never mind that the ultimate goal is inherently unobtainable, or that no state can ever assemble and utilize sufficient resources and power to make equality actually happen. And never mind that most people, most of the time do not support the ultimate goal.

The term “progressive” is a tell.  The goal of progressive liberalism is an ever receding mirage, the pursuit of which is based on a faith stance indistinguishable from that of religions.

Progressive liberals are animated by the faith-based notion that human equality is an inevitable, inexorable measure of human progress. Never mind that their goal always hovers tantalizingly out of reach, just over the horizon.  Most progressives are comfortable with the idea that the very pursuit of the goal is progress itself. Modern liberals rarely seriously entertain the notion that there are ultimate limits to the progressive project.

The European welfare state model has exceeded its resource limits, as any democratic or quasi-democratic system in the throes of the progressive ameliorative equalization of the human condition inevitably does.  The tax revenues needed for subsidies and other remedial measures for the less-than-equal among us are finite. But the perceived need for equalization is infinite. The equality goal is a vast black hole of unmet needs and wants with a truly unlimited capacity to absorb human energy and resources – it will never, ever be satisfied.[2]

Enter the totalitarian state model, the proponents of which attempt to advance the Final Stage in the agenda. This is a full-on effort to remake human nature in the service of true equality, using any means necessary. I say attempt because such projects are almost certainly doomed from the start, however bloody and protracted the struggle.  Modern, progressive liberalism is faltering at the moment because most intelligent people with a sense of history have already learned of the horrors attendant the “remaking human nature” projects of National Socialism and Communism in Germany, Russia and China.  These members of the intelligentsia are thankfully pulling back before taking that last, bloody step. Other progressive liberals embedded in the Western intelligentsia persist in the human engineering project because they believe that, through the manipulation of information, psychotropic recreational drugs, and other “scientific” measures, human nature can be gradually modified to accommodate the Grand Agenda.

Decadence is achievable by this latest progressive project, but reconciliation to human equality is not. The progressive agenda will fail…again. The two questions that remain are not trivial: How much long term damage? Will freedom survive?

We can identify several distinct stages in the failure/collapse process.  In the fiscal-crisis stage, democratic and quasi-democratic populations become fractured, naturally dividing into the high-achieving productive set being bled and the highly-dependent, non-productive set being fed.  Eventually the former group declines to pay the bills for the latter, and the conflict precipitates a governance crisis.

The outcomes of such crises will vary significantly.  Sometimes a given society will lurch into the authoritarian model; sometimes it will mutate into a freer social order, no longer captive to the Grand Agenda.  At the moment, the progressives are trying to forestall the crisis by creating divisions among the high-achieving productive set. But this game has its own limits.


To stave off the moment of reckoning, American progressives have used stealth, with the ongoing complicity of conservatives in both parties.  Government regulatory power has been used as a “cost free” measure to enforce the Great Agenda. It was popular in the USA for several decades because the imposed monetary costs on the high-achieving productive set were hidden. Early on, deficit spending was an unexamined magic solution.

In 21st century America, progressives have coordinated three strategies:

  • social and economic regulation (the effects of which we can detect in the culture of “political correctness”);
  • concealing appropriation costs (i.e., avoiding taxation via borrowing and offloading the costs via inflation);
  • promoting divisions and disputes among the productive set (as in pitting labor against entrepreneurs, for example, and exploiting divisive social issues).

These were temporary fixes. A reckoning will not be avoided. The problem is structural, and a progressive win in the 2012 presidential election will simply present the progressive elites-in-charge with the same vexing problems that will face the conservative elites, should the current administration be defeated.  …More on that scenario in a moment.

The early stages of the Grand Agenda include a period of early, relatively painless implementation that is followed by a time when rising costs ignite a popular pushback. Eventually, a genuine or immanent fiscal collapse looms.  This becomes an inflection point that can precipitate a full-on governance crisis. The resolution of governance crises can be violent or non-violent, gradual or swift.  The outcomes can be long, stagnant, dreary periods of authoritarian rule or a renaissance of freedom.

There are no guarantees.

Modern progressive liberalism is a creature of well-off and well-educated elites in the West, a response (if we are to be brutally honest) of imputed colonial guilt.  For the moment, and pending collapse of the Great Agenda, the modern progressive liberals are in charge:

  • of the media;
  • of the cohort of popular celebrities;
  • of the educational establishment;
  • & of the political-bureaucratic classes.

In spite of their cultural and institutional penetration, modern progressive liberals do not constitute a majority of the general population.

In today’s (September 10, 1012) San Francisco Chronicle there was a color spread covering the Opera Gala.  So many beautiful, rich people were having such a good time that in an earlier era we might have been tempted to label the pictures, “republicans at play.”  But with very few exceptions, these were democrats.  Nancy Pelosi and her very wealthy spouse (Nancy P. is one of the wealthiest elected officials in the government) were clearly having a great time as card carrying members of the glitterati.

And this is the dirty little secret: Modern progressive liberals no longer believe in human equality as an attainable goal – even a genuinely desirable one. What they really seek is sufficient political control to impose the maximum measure of equality on others.

If the Obama economic team is returned to power in this election cycle, it will because the progressives desperately need control above all else.  If there is to be a fiscal reckoning, these elites do not trust anyone else to manage it.  And they certainly do not want to lead us to an outcome in which the Great Agenda can be discarded by others.  This inevitably means the imposition of a version of authoritarianism Lite, because the coming populist anger cannot be allowed to dethrone the kings and queens of progressivism.

Moreover, the coastal progressive elites see this as a test of the “reforming human nature project.” They are calculating that sufficient progress has been made. They hope/believe that widely diffused achievement-guilt and political correctness has softened American opinion just enough for one more progressive victory. Some even hope that the progressives can so solidify their grip on the ruling bureaucracies that even a few electoral defeats along the way will not derail the inevitable march towards progress.  In this they are nearly correct.  The governing bureaucracies are already issuing edicts that would never survive robust congressional debate.


An epic struggle awaits us.  Its historical trigger lurks just out of sight, and I can’t tell you when the moment will come. But do know that this conflict of visions engages the very prospect of human survival or extinction. State imposed equality, even in its “Lite” versions, is the mortal enemy of human creativity.  And without smart, robust, life-affirming creative adaptation, humanity will not flourish, but perish. We need our creative communities and they need protected freedom. Freedom, in the form of constitutionally protected, ordered liberty, remains the most durable and effective friend that the human creative spirit has ever enjoyed.[3]

For unique, historical reasons the USA became exceptional in much the same sense that Athens was exceptional in the golden Age of Greek civilization. But we are more than a beacon.  The USA remains necessary to the future of liberal civilization in much the same sense that we were essential for the survival of liberal civilization between 1940 and 1990.  The outcome of both WWII and the Cold War would have been dreadfully different had we not been as engaged as we were.  Imagine a world without a USA that is committed to the preservation of freedom, and you are imagining a world without realistic hope.  We Americans, above all, need to emerge from the collapse of modern progressive liberalism as a bulwark against authoritarian excesses, and as the epicenter for the recovery of robust, free creative civilizations everywhere.

I hope that you share with me the firm intention that, when the progressive project comes to an end, an enduring renaissance of freedom will take its place. Much depends on the fate and character of the United States over the next two decades. And much depends on you, me those who follow us. Even my non-religious patriotic friends will understand the force of my sentiment when I say, God bless and protect the United States of America.



I recommend Victor Davis Hanson’s brilliant essay, The New Reactionaries, for an historical perspective on liberalism, < http://www.victorhanson.com/articles/hanson090712.html >,

My article, Creativity and Survival – < http://jaygaskill.com/CreativityAndSurvival.pdf or http://jaygaskill.com/CreativityAndSurvival.htm >,

…And if you haven’t actually read the classic book, The Road to Serfdom, by the Austrian economist-philosopher Friedrich von Hayek (1899-1992), a liberal who addressed this masterpiece to “my fellow socialists”, you are in for a treat. {The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents–The Definitive Edition, University of Chicago Press 2007, 1944.} Hayek’s main thesis, well and clearly argued, is that the very essence of the progressive socialist project was the conceit that central, top down planning can be accomplished without perverse, inhumane results. Its failures are built into the very scheme.

Copyright © 2012 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

For permissions and comments, contact the author by email: law@jaygaskill.com

[1] The Economist has just published an intriguing survey of the welfare copycat nations in Asia (hint: they are less generous than the West, but bent on “catching up”). Here is a telling example -“…as latecomers to the welfare state, Asian countries also have certain advantages. They can learn from the West’s mistakes, and they can leapfrog some of its obsolete practices. The starkest lesson they can learn is fiscal. Bambang Widianto, the head of Indonesia’s task-force against poverty, confesses to being scared by the example of Greece. Unlike Singapore, where citizens are required to contribute to a provident fund from which their pensions will be drawn, the pensions Indonesia has promised to offer to the nation in 2015 will be partly on a “defined benefit” basis, under which a person’s pension may not necessarily match his contributions. The government thus has crucial decisions to make about the size of the benefits and the distribution of the burden. Unfortunately, Mr Widianto says, ‘no one is doing those calculations right now.’” From The welfare state is flowering in Asia. Will it free the continent from squalor? Or sink it in debt?, The Economist, Sep 8th 2012.

[2] Over the centuries, conservatism and liberalism have operated like cooperating antagonists, one (liberalism) always challenging boundaries and the other (conservatism) always defending boundaries. Yet each has traditionally acted as a check on the other, restoring a condition of balance. The 6th century BC Greek philosopher, Heraclitus (“The road up and down is one and the same”) advanced the insight that opposites are unified at a higher level, symbolized in the Logos. Conservatism and liberalism at their optimum are in an eternal dialogue, and as a result arbitrary boundaries are transcended and essential boundaries are strengthened.  At the present moment in history the liberal tendency – under the spell of progressive ideology – has pushed us past reasonable boundaries into a dangerous imbalance.  Recall the Greek legend of Narcissus and Nemesis. Narcissus, who was impossibly vain, disdaining everyone else (recognized no boundary or limiting principle to his beauty/virtue), drew the attention of the goddess Nemesis, who was the agent of divine justice.  She sat him down next to a reflecting pool and, in love with his own image, he starved to death.

[3] No thinking liberal lusts after true solidarity, though he or she might wish it inflicted on someone else.  No thinking conservative wants the nasty, brutish and short life of the “free” savage. None of us can survive for long without the blessings of civilization. Liberty is a precious and intensely valuable condition that is enjoyed by the individual or not at all.  But it exists only under modern conditions and only when a given civilization is committed to its protection.  When we speak of ordered liberty we are describing the result when liberty is held as a reciprocal value, protected by law on condition that one may forfeit one’s claim to liberty by trampling on the liberty of another.  In the most sophisticated, liberty-friendly civilizations, liberty is protected vis-a-vis other citizens and from the depredations of the government itself – accomplished through a robust protective legal mechanism like the US constitution.