10 July 2013

A Restoration of Principles


As has been discussed ad nauseum in this corner of the web, it appear that some dude named Edward Snowden leaked the obvious but somehow still secret news that, lol, the federal government is spying on everyone about everything.  Apparently 1984 was an instruction manual.  Anyway, a lot of people had been lauding Snowden for bravery and speaking the truth to the masses, which they will soon ignore as soon as SportsCenter returns from its commercial break.  And while the revolution might be a non-starter, there is one sense in which the republic has returned to its principles:

In an initiative aimed at rooting out future leakers and other security violators, President Barack Obama has ordered federal employees to report suspicious actions of their colleagues based on behavioral profiling techniques that are not scientifically proven to work, according to experts and government documents.
The techniques are a key pillar of the Insider Threat Program, an unprecedented government-wide crackdown under which millions of federal bureaucrats and contractors must watch out for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers. Those who fail to report them could face penalties, including criminal charges.

The principle being restored here is that of government competition.  While the constitution is a flawed document written by flawed men, there is no question that it worked brilliantly for roughly 80 years.  And it did so by making the government branches separate but equal.  The beauty of this design is that it ensured that politicians got so busy having pissing wars with each other that they didn’t really have a lot of time to harass citizens.  For example, Jefferson’s squabbles with John Adams’ chief justice appointment John Marshall was probably the best thing about his presidency, in that both men spent so much time trying to thwart each other that they couldn’t get around to thwarting American citizens.

The brilliance of this system, then, is that it basically allowed self-important men do things to make themselves feel important without letting them actually do a lot of damage.  Since these busybodies only really enjoy being busybodies, it was sheer brilliance to let them be busybodies while not tying it to real-world results.*  Ultimately, this system was ruined by Lincoln, who decided to bring guns to a bitch-slap fight. For whatever reason, he decided to take politics seriously, instead of hewing to the time honored tradition of settling political issues by hilariously petty speechifying and ridiculously one-sided but limited legislation.

And now Snowden has tricked the fool Obama into going right back down this same road.  Now federal employees will be watching each other, hopefully in the attempt to ruin each other’s lives over some petty feud.  And with federal employees watching each other and planning their various revenges and comeuppances, the American citizens will be largely ignored, and better able to go on with their lives, free of stupid federal intrusion.

Well-played, Mr. Snowden.  Well-played.

* Clearly, this is a rather hyperbolic description of early US history.  However, federal intrusions into citizens’ lives were quite minimal compared to this modern time, and many attempts at intrusion were shrugged off and ignored (indeed, supreme court opinions used to be just that—opinions—which could be applied or ignored by those who asked for them).