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Conservatives and the Individual The Consequences of Liberalism

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The Enemy is Us

by Christopher Chantrill
June 11, 2013 at 12:00 am

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IT’S great for President Obama to grandly assure the world that “This war, like all wars, must end.” That’s what liberals have been wanting to do since about ten minutes after 9/11. But the president wants to hedge his bet. For political reasons, if nothing else, he wants to be sure that there isn’t a repetition of 9/11. So there will be no end to the war at the NSA.

If the president wants to end the war on terror while keeping the intelligence apparatus on a full wartime footing, it’s a problem, according to Walter Russell Mead.

Here’s the big problem: to the degree that the strategy works, and the public begins to feel safe and the war atmosphere fades, the intelligence work and the drone strikes that the strategy requires look less and less justifiable. After all, the President’s message is that the threat is under control and the terrorists are on the run. Why then is the NSA tapping every phone and reading every email in the country?

If the war has ended, there is no justification for massive and intrusive eavesdropping on Americans any more. No war emergency means no need for emergency war powers.

Of course, it could be that the NSA really needs all that signal intelligence to detect the bad guys. Or it could be that it’s much easier for intelligence agency bureaucrats to build huge computer databases and huge data-mining operations rather than do the difficult and dangerous job of identifying and penetrating terrorist cells.

There is another reason to curtail emergency powers in peace time. It is that the government will find a reason to use its powers. To a politician a domestic opponent is just as much of a threat as a foreign enemy. That’s what the IRS scandal is all about. Normally, the IRS agents would be sitting around counting the days until retirement and merely going through the motions of vetting 501(c) applications. But if there’s a war, I mean an election, to be won, that’s different.

So as sure as eggs is eggs, the government will end up using the NSA data for the harassment of its domestic opponents. Unless we stop it now.

It’s lucky that we have the IRS scandal right before our eyes, otherwise the MSM would tell us that we ought to trust the government, and reject those voices that warn that “tyranny is always lurking just around the corner.” According to President Obama: “If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress, and don’t trust federal judges, to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.”

You can see the president’s point. If everyone was skeptical of government then pretty soon it wouldn’t be able to do anything, not even run a bankrupt pension plan, educate kids badly, or keep the poor in multigenerational dependency. How then could an honest politician buy votes?

If you want to understand the Obama administration and the Obama scandals you should start with James C. Scott and Seeing Like a State. Jonah Goldberg says that Seeingleft a lasting impression” on him; it certainly did on me.

All governments, according to Scott, want to make their people “legible” so that they can be taxed and controlled. That is why we have censuses and income taxes; they make us “legible.” So governments always want to collect more data on their subjects. The collection of cellphone “metadata” is merely the ultimate project in legibility.

Here’s a concurring view from James J. Sheehan’s German History 1770-1866, that I discuss in “Government and the Technology of Power.”

Money — for whatever purpose — was the dominant force behind the construction of the modern state... To support their courts and pay their soldiers, rulers needed a steady, inexhaustible supply of income... Taxation required that rulers penetrate their territories more deeply then ever before, and thereby cut through or circumvent the web of institutions separating them from their subjects.

The only real job for a government is to make war on enemies, foreign and domestic, but liberals don’t want to make war on foreign enemies, and they don’t want to enforce the law on domestic enemies, the common criminals. Yet government must have a war, otherwise it can’t justify its power and its expense. So liberals look around them for something to fight, and the first thing they see is corporations, conservatives, gun owners, Chick Fil-A. And it sure would help to have all that NSA metadata.

We have met the liberals’ enemy, and he is us.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Hugo on Genius

“Tear down theory, poetic systems... No more rules, no more models... Genius conjures up rather than learns... ” —Victor Hugo
César Graña, Bohemian versus Bourgeois


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Postmodernism

A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Religion, Property, and Family

But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family. Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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