I’ve had many friends tell me that I’m too concerned with what some journalists are now calling the “administrative state” or “deep state.” They’re only half right.
Permit me to explain.
In a recent essay penned for the Mises Institute, Albert Jay Knock made the following observation:
“Every assumption of State power, whether by gift or seizure, leaves society with so much less power. There is never, nor can there be, any strengthening of State power without a corresponding and roughly equivalent depletion of social power.”
The America I live in now is less free than the America I grew up in. I suppose if one were to dissect the reasons for this shift, he or she could come up with a lot of reasons, but for me the most obvious reason of all was 9-11 and its impact on our collective psyche. Security and safety became the most important American values. Liberty still had some value, but it took a back seat to safety and security. That shift is becoming more and more pronounced as time passes. It’s like the ratchet moving the gears of State slowly but surely in the direction of totalitarianism.
When I traveled by air prior to 9-11 I rarely had problems with security. That’s not the case anymore. Now, airline travel has become a nightmare. A few years ago I was part of a group from our church that traveled to Mexico to do missionary work in a community that eked out its daily existence in a garbage dump outside of Mexico City. It was a very rewarding adventure.
Coming home almost ruined things. I had no problem with security in Mexico City, but when we got to Dallas I got quite an education. I did everything I was told until a surly T.S.A. agent demanded my wallet. I refused, which irritated him and my friends. “This is all for our safety and security, Phil.” The contest escalated until it got close to the boiling point. I tried to explain the meaning of the Fourth Amendment to him and he didn’t seem to care, nor did my friends.
After we got through the ordeal I got the lecture in spades. “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry about, Phil.” I would have reminded them that one our Founders’ grievances was that King George had “erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance,” but how could I argue with my friends’ compelling logic? I think they may have sided more with Vladimir Lenin, who said “liberty is precious; so precious that it must be carefully rationed” than they would have with our Founding Fathers.
I got a much fuller understanding of the power of the administrative state when Nancy and I returned from Spain this past December. I knew I was in trouble when the T.S.A. agent at J.F.K. referred to me as “Hey, you” after I’d gone through the metal detector. By the time he was done with his “inspection,” he knew whether I was male or female. Nancy, ever the astute observer, couldn’t resist. “It’s President Trump and the City Commissioners getting even with you for those opinion pieces.”
We now have an enormous administrative state with almost unimaginable powers. Our security agencies have a facility in Utah that stores data on our phone calls, e-mails, and internet correspondence. They’re able to store zettabytes of our data (that’s 10 to the 21st power), which amounts to the capability to store all human correspondence since the dawn of recorded history. They’re working on yottabyes (10 to the 24th power) as I type.
The inhabitants of the administrative state tell us not to worry, that they have our best interests at heart. A couple of years ago, for example, James Clapper, the N.S.A’s director, told the U.S. Senate that the N.S.A. wasn’t collecting any data on the average American. When he was later caught in his lie, he told the Senate that he had given them his “least untruthful answer.”
His answer seemed shocking at the time, but why would it? That’s the world our security professionals inhabit – they lie and deceive.
Just yesterday, thanks to Devin Nunes’ press interview, we learned that, despite the repeated use of clever language being used to make it all look quite innocent, someone within our government has been spying on Donald Trump and his campaign team. To many it may seem alright, since the President isn’t well liked, but the last time I checked I believe we still have a Constitution and a Bill of Rights and that those rights aren’t allocated based on popularity. If he doesn’t have the rights of an American citizen, who among us does?
I believe this administrative state and the ability it has to use the law as a cudgel to serve its own ends is becoming dangerous to individual liberty.
Are we coming to the place where someone like Lavrentiy Berea, Josef Stalin’s security chief, will be ruling our security apparatus? Will we, like the people of Russia, be hearing the ominous words, “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.”? Will we get to the place where we lose all our rights and liberties?
I hope not, but the signs I see are very ominous.