American Elephants

How to Destroy Trust In Seven Easy Lessons. by The Elephant's Child

How much should we worry about all these scandals? Professor William A. Jacobson tackles that question, and says “when everything is a crime, government data mining matters.” President Obama, who was elected on the idea that he was going to end the dissension in Washington, and bring people together, has quite clearly been unusually divisive. He has been clear that he believes that “bipartisanship” is when Republicans agree with his ideas.

When the IRS scandal proves that calling yourself a “patriot”, expressing interest in the Constitution, or in smaller government can lead the IRS to descend on you with all their authority, casts suspicion on accounts of how the government data mines phone records and email and search messages from internet companies. When Senator Dianne Feinstein insists that the data mining has prevented large attacks, her paranoia about guns and  lack of sound information make her statements on data mining seem untrustworthy. The level of regulations and mandates emanating from this administration speak constantly of a forceful, authoritarian approach to the public, which is directly oppositional to Americans understanding of individual liberty.

We have all read of the criminalization of life, the attack by the EPA on someone who has allowed rainwater to collect on their land, the attempts by the EPA to regulate trickles of water from snowmelt under their Congressional  authority to make sure that navigable waters are clean. The case of the Gibson Guitar Company shows that government regulators can attack your business and nearly destroy it even when you are obeying all the applicable laws. Overcriminalization is rife, and is becoming a matter of concern.

The United States has implacable enemies. The president’s insistence that he has decimated al Qaeda is not convincing. We continue to be attacked, and data mined from telephone calls between known terrorists or emails between this country and terrorist havens are probably essential to learning about potential attacks. We need intelligence, and good intelligence means trying to find out what the bad guys are doing. They must be found in the general population, and they don’t usually wear tee shirts labeled “bad guy.”

Where should we draw the line? Obama’s response is that we should trust the government. He is advocating a shield law to protect reporters against the sort of harassment that his attorney general and the FBI practiced against Fox News and the Associated Press. He is outraged that the IRS went after his political opponents, and fired the acting Head of the IRS who was scheduled to leave that office shortly, anyway. Victor Davis Hanson spells out the situational ethics practiced by the president. Read that one closely. Obama’s declarations vary from one day to another. Words are designed to please the listener, but have no permanent intent. Americans want to believe their president, but Obama has squandered that trust.

Ironically, the very success of economic and political freedom reduced its appeal to later thinkers. The narrowly limited government of the late nineteenth century possessed little concentrated power that endangered he ordinary man. The other side of the coin was that it possessed little power that would enable good people to do good. And in an imperfect world there were still many evils. Indeed, the very progress of society made the residual evils seem all the more objectionable. As always, people took the favorable developments for granted. They forgot the danger to freedom from  a strong government. Instead, they were attracted by the good that a stronger government could achieve — if only government power were in the “right” hands.
……………………………………………….Milton and Rose Friedman

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