The will of the people and other illusions
“It’s important to remember, though, that we’ve empowered the government to do this. We’ve decided, collectively, that our fears override our common sense, and we’ve accepted every step-up in security up to this point. If our legislators and other government officials spoke with common sense about terrorism — that it is rare, that the best tools with have to stop it are old-fashioned intelligence gathering methods, and that there are likely some determined terrorists we’ll never be able to stop because that’s the price we pay for living in a free society — we’d likely punish them for that honesty. The video was posted to help stir up the anger holiday travelers are already feeling over the newly established invasive procedures, and many of those travelers might have finally realized we’ve gone to far. And now, many will blame the government; E.D. Kain at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen even asserts, nonsensically and without his reasoning, that we should outsource security to a private company who would then somehow be more accountable to public anger. But it’s not the fault of faceless bureaucrats or the individual agents who are going to pop up on countless YouTube videos from now on; it’s our fault. We asked for this. The government actually is accountable to us, and this is what we’ve demanded. Now, every American who flies will feel the pressure of a state authority that suspects them of anything, though we should remember that lots of Americans have been feeling the weight of that for a long time.” ~ Monica Potts
I would only suggest that perhaps government operates, at times, outside or beyond the will of the people and that perhaps, just maybe, the will of the people is not so clear cut as this post would suggest. And even if government action really always is merely the will of the people, I wonder if it is wise to suggest that we should not, because of this, blame the government. Surely blaming the government is every bit as much the will of the people as the government itself.
Also, this Ross Douthat column is very good.
In other words, millions of liberals can live with indefinite detention for accused terrorists and intimate body scans for everyone else, so long as a Democrat is overseeing them. And millions of conservatives find wartime security measures vastly more frightening when they’re pushed by Janet “Big Sis” Napolitano (as the Drudge Report calls her) rather than a Republican like Tom Ridge.
Is there anything good to be said about the partisan mindset? On an individual level, no. It corrupts the intellect and poisons the wells of human sympathy. Honor belongs to the people who resist partisanship’s pull, instead of rowing with it.
But for the country as a whole, partisanship does have one modest virtue. It guarantees that even when there’s an elite consensus behind whatever the ruling party wants to do (whether it’s invading Iraq or passing Obamacare), there will always be a reasonably passionate opposition as well. Given how much authority is concentrated in Washington, especially in the executive branch, even a hypocritical and inconsistent opposition is better than no opposition at all.
At the very least, the power of partisanship means that there will always be someone around, when Americans are standing spread-eagled and exposed in the glare of Rapiscan, to speak up and say “enough!”
Regarding the ongoing private-vs-public airport security debate, I’m feeling rather depressed about the whole thing. The fact of the matter is, we’ve lost the important ground already. TSA or no, we’re likely to be saddled with some oppressive, privacy-killing security apparatus no matter what we do.