The Corner

Losing America

How much more will Americans take?

The “fundamental transformation” of America proceeds apace. The erosion of our freedoms and traditions, once incremental and barely perceptible, accelerates daily.

Armies of bureaucrats commanded by political ideologues remarkable mainly for their galactic incompetence intrude on ever more aspects of our lives — aspects both large and small. They tell us what light bulbs we’re allowed to use and how much water we may flush. They stick swabs in our mouths to collect our DNA and order us to buy health insurance we don’t want. They can seize our land if they think they know how to use it better, or stop us from using our land because a favored amphibian might live there too.

We obediently take off our belts and shoes, shuffle silently into plastic cubicles and stand meekly by as our toddlers and grandmothers are patted and groped by drones of the state. Rarely does anyone peep. Not long ago a tiny mayor wouldn’t dare tell eight New Yorkers — let alone 8 million — how much soda they’re allowed to drink. No more.

Now an administration that may have used the IRS to punish its opponents, disclose confidential information, and suppress dissent assures us we needn’t be concerned that the same IRS is on the cusp of having access to every single intimate detail of our medical lives. And it doesn’t stop even at medical information. We learn they may have been harvesting all of our phone records, our e-mail traffic, our video chats, our transaction histories — even though they have not a shred of evidence we’ve done the slightest thing wrong.

Trust us, they say, it’s for your own good; a sovereign imperative, essential for national security. This from a government that freely lets millions cross our borders illegally without bothering to find out even the slightest detail about them.

The decreasing number of Americans who protest are derided by bien pensants as bitter xenophobes who cling to guns and religion, despite the best efforts of those bien pensants to eradicate both. Popular culture cows ordinary people into silence or at most, political correctness, for fear of being labeled a kook, a racist, or paranoid. Journalists, instead of acting as watchdogs, collude to withhold information and promote partisan agendas.

Increasingly, American policies seem to be shaped less by the consent of the governed than by the needs and inertia of the leviathan state. Tocqueville observed that “the species of oppression by which democratic nations is menaced” produces a neutered populace where rugged individualism succumbs invariably to the dictates of the state. And even some conservatives rationalize that it’s all for the public good; move along, nothing to see here.

So dispirited citizens are ordered to provide abortifacients to their employees and must disclose the content of their prayers to a government that seems to hold them in contempt for believing in something beyond a benevolent state. Government officials, on the other hand, needn’t deign tell us what they’re up to and why. They can send you into harm’s way and needn’t explain why they didn’t bother to rescue you.

Free people never trust their government with power, regardless of who’s in power. Free people instinctively reject the idea that just because something’s legal, it’s a good idea for the government to do it. And while free people are willing to make considered, wise tradeoffs for security, they believe that  freedom isn’t risk-free.

What else are we willing to forfeit because the encroachment is, or may be, lawful and supported by the elites?


Peter Kirsanow — Peter N. Kirsanow is an attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

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