Note: This is a piece that was published in the LSJ. Unfortunately, it seems it's no longer available on their site. This is the unedited version that was submitted. Due to the word limitation, I couldn't go into detail as much as I would have liked.
Given recent events, it's not surprising that gun control is once again a hot topic in the media. One side claims that more people should be armed, with a synergistic call for banishing of no-carry zones. The other side claims that "assault weapons" need to be abolished, along with the cry for more background checks in tandem. Of course, let's not forget something that everyone can agree on - keeping firearms out of the hands of felons! Right?
Now that you've read the opening paragraph, I'll let you in on a little secret - the topic that really requires examination is that of liberty in a more generalized context.
The idea of prohibiting select demographics from certain activities is apropos to more than the firearms debate. After all, we can also agree that sex offenders shouldn't be allowed to live within a certain distance of schools, can't we?
Actually, I would highly disagree.
I'll be blunt: If we can't trust an individual to partake in all of their liberties, while not affecting those of others, they should be trusted with none, and locked up. If we take the stance that those released from confinement after serving their prison sentence should be restricted in their liberties, where do we draw the line? Rather, where do we draw the virtually infinite number of lines?
Should we require background checks prior to allowing access to the Internet? "Preposterous!" you might shout at the screen, spilling coffee all over your keyboard and localized copy of literature du jour. Is it, though?
After all, nowadays it really isn't hard to fire up a slew of virtualized servers and perform a distributed denial of service attack against someone. Such an attack could be used, for example, to destroy someone's online business. If we could even save one business, wouldn't Internet regulation be worth it? Where have I heard that before..
Let's apply the same theory to securities. Shouldn't we ensure that those participating in the various markets aren't dangerous? After all, we can't have the small time investor left holding the bag by those who might paint the tape!
It can be assumed that some formerly incarcerated individuals (felons or otherwise) won't recidivate; Otherwise, why release them?
Who are we to tell them that they should be prohibited from future participation in the stock market, or from running an online company, due to their past transgressions? With their release, we obviously trust them with any number of other liberties, virtually any of which, including free speech, can abet malicious activity.
Attempted regulation of specific liberties is logically flawed. After all, how could one objectively determine the appropriate level of regulation, if any, for a particular liberty (outside of determining whether it directly infringes on another's liberties)? You can't. It's an instantly lost battle.
If we can trust someone with only a certain set of liberties, should we trust them with any? I say absolutely not.