There’s A Dear

When it comes to your “personal data” and national security issues, there are two basic layers to the question. The first has to do with the nature of the world, and the second has to do with the nature of our particular moment in history. The first asks whether anybody should be trusted with this kind of information, and the second asks whether these people should be trusted with anything. The first is a constitutional question, the second a practical one.

You would answer the first correctly if you have been taught in line with biblical principles of civic liberty. You would answer the second correctly if you haven’t been hibernating under a rock for the last decade or so.

Start with the second issue, start with where we are. Start with those who are currently governing us. I am conducting a thought experiment here, not making any accusations. Suppose a scandal broke with regard to the NSA data collection — not the mere fact of meta-collection, but a demonstrated actual and egregious abuse of it. Make it a bona fide scandal, where men in power were using the surveillance apparatus of the government in order to get dirt on their partisan enemies. Their gathering of information had nothing to do with national security, and everything to do with getting into divorce records, tax information, salacious and damaging emails, etc.

And let us say that there was an uproar about it — lots of yelling on television, and Twitter was just a burning. “What means this stir in Rome?” Now does anybody in their right mind think that such a scandal would be processed and handled any differently than the Benghazi scandal has been, or the IRS scandal? Does anybody seriously think that these men in power would now — because the letters on the scandal are NSA — be completely honest and forthcoming? Would they give up their sandbagging, stonewalling, and obfuscating foot-dragging ways simply because the information about the porn habits, say, of a Tea Party hack were acquired in some outrageous and unconstitutional way? If you really think that, then you really need to go and sit this culture war out, there’s a dear.

I can tell you what to expect. The aftermath of such a scandal would be the same solemn procession of “mistakes were made” by no one in particular, followed up by “reforms have even now been set in place” for the faceless bureaucrats of the future to get around. Always remember that the problematic laws and regulations we are constantly having to fix are actually the end product of our previous wave of reforms. Someone has wisely said that the state is a poison that masquerades as its own antidote.

The problem is this. I don’t trust these people. I don’t trust them in the morning and I don’t trust them at night. I don’t trust them with foreign policy and I don’t trust them with domestic policy. I don’t trust them in Maryland, and I don’t trust them in California. These people are like green eggs and ham to me. “I would not like them here or there. I would not like them anywhere.”

So why on earth would I expect them to draw an arbitrary line of self-restraint in the midst of all their tyrannical overreaching? Why would I think that we could ever hear them say, “No, no, we must not do that. That’s his private data.”

In saying this, I am simply talking about their motives, and am clearly suspecticating an evil intent. But we must also leave open the likelihood of gross incompetence. Take the lack of security firewalls over at that ramshackle Obamacare website. It now appears that if I were chump enough to sign up at Obamacare, then a competent hacker could get from there to the inside of my Kindle without ever touching the floor. So let us not accept the false dichotomy that is commonly circulated on the Right — wondering whether these people are evil or incompetent. Why not both? Why not a mix?

Now, let’s move from this to the broader question of civic liberty. A free government of a free people must have boundaries and limits that they cannot cross, and everyone involved must know where those boundaries are. This is how James Madison addressed the problem:

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself” (Federalist #51).

In Madison’s mind, this was to be accomplished primarily through having the government dependent upon the people, but he also noted the need for something else — “experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

Auxiliary precautions. Now we’re talking.

What I would really like is for the establishment conservatives to shift their priorities. Stop protecting me from the Taliban. I grant that there are places and circumstances where such protection would really be welcome, but what I actually need is protection from the commies. You know, anybody to the left of Ted Cruz.

And stay out of my Kindle.

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kyle s
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kyle s

I’m outraged that New Saint Andrews is collecting personal data.

Kimberley
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Kimberley

Got to hear Ted speak a few months back. He’s such an encouragement and I’m thankful he’s standing for us, in such a time as this.

Denise
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Denise

Got to remember there were a few angels that were not trustworthy.

Sam
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Sam

“Government is a disease masquerading as its own cure.” –Robert LeFevre

Dan
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Dan

Great post, Pastor Wilson.  Unfortunately, many on the Left are still guided by a late 18th century French Enlightenment mindset, that the government needs to “compel people to be free”.  As is the case with the Left, they “know better” what is best for all of us, so it must be okay if the government utilizes a little coercion to achieve its ends.  The “ends justify the means” is part of their playbook.  And if one doesn’t agree with them, then it must be because they’re a “hater” (i.e. a hater of poor people, gays, minorities, women, the environment, etc.). 

Dan
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Dan

As Charles Krauthammer once put it succinctly, the Left doesn’t care what you do, as long as it’s mandatory.  And since the Left cannot tolerate dissent, they beat the drum all day long about how tolerant and diverse they are.  They keep beating their drum until enough people actually come to embrace their form of “tolerance”.  Then their warped notion of tolerance becomes the basis for their warped notion of “fairness”.  But their notions of tolerance and fairness are not based on reason or evidence, only pure emotion and sentiment.  And of course a large dose of demagoguery. 

RFB
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RFB

Well, as one of their darlings said, “rights. You don’t need no steenking rights.”
http://www.volokh.com/2014/01/16/holmes-helps-americans-go-hell/

Joshua
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Joshua

For all his faults, it would be nice if someone would quote Rousseau in context. The “forced to be free” business in The Social Contract is the least offensive passage in the whole book and has no bearing on this conversation at all. 

jigawatt
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jigawatt

Always remember that the problematic laws and regulations we are constantly having to fix are actually the end product of our previous wave of reforms.

Kinda reminds me of this: 
http://www.despair.com/government.html
 

Dan
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Dan

Joshua, no it is not taking Rousseau out of context.  And yes, it is relevant to this conversation.  This conversation has to do with civic liberty, and how best a government needs to strike a balance between liberty and power.  As Pastor Wilson stated: “Now, let’s move from this to the broader question of civic liberty.  A free government of a free people must have boundaries and limits that they cannot cross, and everyone involved must know where those boundaries are.”  I believe the Left is seeking to force (i.e. coerce) their notions of tolerance and fairness, since they know what’s best for everyone.  If… Read more »

RFB
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RFB

And they increasingly have zero problem speaking publicly and giving you the option which in more dire times becomes that which is mandatory: “get out”.
The Governor of what some might consider a significant State: “Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York…” http://tinyurl.com/llrjymt
Tyrants invariably move from the option to the demand.
 
 

Dan
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Dan

There’s another point I want to make about the philosophy of the Left.  And that is, the Left in this country has, for the most part, tended to view America as fundamentally and systemically “unjust”.  However, their notion of “injustice” is based on a false premise.  Their false premise is based on the idea that our government should be constructed and ordered in such a way as to practically guarantee an “equality of result” for each member of society.  Whereas, in a proper and more realistic worldview, the government (of the people and by the people) should seek to promote an “equality of opportunity”… Read more »

timothy
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timothy

@RFB thank you for the link. I had no idea as when I see Holmes referred to in print, it is usually the  “The Great Oliver Wendell Holmes”.
 
 

Mark
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Mark

Thanks Dan.  
A shift in belief from Man in his state is not good to man is good is a key to where we are today.

Dan
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Dan

  Just one final thought.  I really believe we’re in a battle for the “soul” of America (and the West).  The West has replaced the one true God with the gods of Self and the gods of the State, and we are witnessing the consequences of this.  I also fear that America’s influence for “good” on the world stage is on the decline too, as is the influence of the West in general.  The West has abandoned its Judeo-Christian heritage for an idealistic, multicultural, secular utopia, and it is continuing to fail miserably in many respects.  Yet at the same time, the continued rise and advancement of… Read more »

prayersofadoration
Member

If they must be evil then thank God that they are also incompetent.  A competent totalitarian regime would be much worse.