(The following is my final response in a long and tedious exchange with a fanatical libertarian, after he used examples of alleged and real government overreach to prove that we need his libertarian revolution in America today. Another commenter applauded his coup, comparing it to the scene in “Good Will Hunting” in which will humiliated a pretentious grad student in a bar.)
This is a country of over 300,000,000. You, like the rest of the right, rely on anecdotal evidence to prove whatever it is that your ideology requires of you. You could also prove, in exactly the way you did above, that wearing a seatbelt is dangerous (since occasionally it causes rather than prevents a death), that household pets usually turn on their owners (since occasionally they do), that our pretty good system of criminal justice needs to be replaced with some radical departure that you prefer because of the examples you would be able to provide of horribly unjust convictions (because in any system of criminal justice some rate of innocent people will be convicted of crimes they did not commit), or that people generally have difficulty discerning up from down (since, indeed, you do). I knew this was going to be another stupid waste of time with another raving fanatic! To think that I stayed up hours more than I intended to last night to indulge your apparently (but falsely) sincere desire to learn something…. (If you look up-thread, you’ll see that I predicted exactly this, that you would cherry-pick some information to cling to your shallow little ideology.)
As for the alleged reduction in freedom of thought and expression, well, here we are, writing our own thoughts on a public forum that hundreds or thousands can read, without constraint. I publish mine, derived from a lifetime of thought and study and experience, without any inhibition of any kind. Ironically, I agree that our consciousness, our real freedom of thought, is in jeopardy, but not because some people don’t like the New York Times. Rather, it is the proliferation of self-reinforcing echo-chambers, in which thought isolated from the disciplines and methodologies which best reduce bias and increase accuracy can flourish and in which participants can convince one another of the truth of their delusional cult-like realities, that poses the real challenge, that truly threatens to shrivel our collective consciousness and reduce and stifle our collective genius.
It’s the world of inverted realities, in which people addicted to a narrow ideological dogma reinforced by a network that has no interest in accuracy or integrity, walking around like drones repeating easily discredited nonsense, are the ones calling the rest of the world “sheep” (and especially those people who actually do think for themselves, who are imaginative and analytical and are conceptual innovators, who engage in the disciplined gathering, verification, analysis, and contemplation of information); in which people who claim to be the champions of freedom and bulwark against tyranny are the ones: 1) threatening to overthrow the government if they don’t like the outcomes of our Constitutional and democratic processes, 2) trying to siphon political economic power from our public institutions designed to serve the public interest and significantly constrained by constitutional and democratic institutions, and into private corporations designed to serve elite shareholder interests and not at all constrained by constitutional or democratic institutions, and 3) trying to reduce the Constitution to a Rorschach Test that magically confirms their own ideological dogma even when the actual Constitution emphatically refutes that dogma.
You want a comparison to a movie? Try the witch trial in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, because you exhibit fundamentally the same mentality, the same modality of thought, as the prosecutor in that scene. (as for Good Will Hunting, I LOVE that scene, because there is, indeed, a difference between jargon laden bullshit and authentic analytical thought. But what you missed, Michael, is that Will wasn’t a clueless ideologue dismissing the pompous grad student with a couple of cherry picked examples in service to a shallow, reductionist form of thought, but rather was someone with a sharper, more thoroughly and just as esoterically informed and more authentically analytical mind than that of the grad student. Your anti-intellectualism is the wrong lesson to draw from that scene, because the person who humiliated the fool did so by exhibiting a far greater and more authentic intellectualism.)
This is a perfect example of the cultish way of thinking. Are there examples of government overreach and excess? Of course there are! Is it imaginable in a functioning nation of 300,000,000 that there would not be? OF COURSE NOT!!! Could we and should we reduce that rate. Yes, always. Is it proof that your ideology, to the extent imposed, will increase our real liberty and improve our quality of life? NOT AT ALL!!!
It’s a messy world. It will always be a messy world, no matter what you succeed in imposing on it. Fanatics will always have plenty of messy stuff to point to to prove that their fanaticism is justified and that their radical agenda is a necessary corrective for this horribly flawed world of ours, because it will always be horribly flawed, and always in whatever way any fanatic needs to justify their fanaticism. The fact of such defectiveness isn’t proof of the virtue of your particular overly reductionist panacea that you would impose on the rest of us to our great detriment, but rather of the nature of the reality we live in.
It’s the same stupid nonsense that the world is burdened with over and over and over again. It’s what Christian fanatics do when they want to prove that we’ve become too immoral and that they need to impose their moral tyranny on the rest of us. It’s what fanatics very like you do when they feel the need to blow up federal buildings and kill hundreds of innocent people or fly planes into skyscrapers and kill thousands. It’s what Bolsheviks did when they rightly identified the problems with their Czarist society and so imposed their superior solution to the problem, resulting in a dramatic deepening of the destitution and abject suffering and even oppression of their society (though they, too, claimed to be freeing people from tyranny, and could certainly point to plenty of real examples to justify their own fanaticism).
We have many real challenges to face as a society, including reducing the rate of incidents such as those you cited, and including continuing to refine the balance of powers and liberties within this society of ours (and, indeed, of reducing the rate of unjust convictions and excessive incarceration in our criminal justice system). But what doesn’t serve the endeavor of meeting those challenges, what offers us suffering and tyranny rather than solutions to them, is a fanatical group of ideologues who think they have found the ultimate panacea, that is the solution to all problems, and that requires no actual knowledge of actual systems but rather will benefit all by being imposed on the world in service to the delusional omniscience of these glassy-eyed fools. THAT is what you really represent, and THAT is what you are really inflicting on America.
In the real world, the countries that exhibit the least of your ideological inclination are doing the best. The countries of northwestern Europe, with robust economies, far less economic inequality than us, far less abject poverty, far better health care as measured by accessibility and by health outcomes, lower infant mortality rates, are outperforming us by almost every statistical measure. We, unlike them, and thanks to your ideology, have an obscene concentration of wealth and expansion of relative impoverishment. We, unlike them, and thanks to your ideology, twice in the past 100 years helped to catalyze catastrophic global economic collapses (both right on the heels of record-setting concentration of wealth in America resulting from decades of small government deregulatory policies). We, unlike them, leave people in desperate need to suffer unnecessarily, leave people destitute and homeless and hungry. We, unlike them, have ten times their homicide rates thanks to your fetish for instruments of deadly violence. In the real world, EVERY SINGLE modern, prosperous, democratic country on Earth that has substantial protections of individual liberties and human rights has exactly the form of government that you claim is incompatible with that and so horribly dysfunctional, and most to a far greater degree than we do…, and has had such a system in place since prior to the historically unprecedented post-WWII expansion in the production of prosperity. In the real world, your utopia doesn’t exist and never has, those countries that resemble it in any way are lost in a quagmire of violence and poverty, and you are trying to inflict it on us in the throes of your profound ignorance and hubris.
In reality, we have a beautifully imperfect system in place right now, which balances popular sovereignty against the need to mobilize expert knowledge to deal with the realities of complex systems; that balances popular sovereignty with the need to protect minorities from majorities (as the Bill of Rights is primarily dedicated to doing); that has evolved beneficially in numerous ways, such as by extending the protections in the Bill of Rights to vigilance against overreach by state and local as well as federal government, expanding the franchise to races and classes and genders formerly excluded, protecting the rights of those formerly discriminated against, and using the agency of government to tackle complex problems that require a strong centralized government to address. In such a system, as in any system of such magnitude, there will always be overreaches and abuses of power and horrible injustices, not because the system is fundamentally flawed, but because ANY system of such magnitude will exhibit some rate of overreaches and abuses of power and horrible injustices. And we live in a system in which such abuses come to light and in which we have mechanisms in place to address them. That is the system you are so eager to destroy, and to replace with your own shallow understanding that, once implemented, will be more defined by its unintended and horribly dysfunctional consequences than by any good it actually does.
Now, I’m done. I won’t return to this thread, because it’s impossible not to keep responding to such folly, but it ends up eating up my life to continue to do so.
(See The Ideology of Reason in Service to Humanity for an elaboration of the alternative to ideological dogma.)