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How the state expands and how we might contract it

Instapundit quotes an emailer (Ed Stephens), on the subject of the TSA and its intrusive gropings at airports:

Remember how not long ago the President was so upset about the possibility of people being stopped and asked for “their papers” while going to get ice cream? It was the height of living in a police state. Yet we’ve not heard a peep out of him while TSA goons grope the general public (including nuns and little kids) on the way to grandma’s house.

If we are expected to put up with this, asking to see “your papers” suddenly seems a less onerous request.

Which was perhaps always the idea? Getting libertarians to beg to have to show only their papers. How perfectly statist is that?

This is how you get what you want in this world, whether you are trying to expand the powers of the state or to chip away at them. Demand something that is, to your enemies, totally outrageous. Then, with a great show of reluctance, settle for something only moderately outrageous. Repeat indefinitely. Sadly, for the time being, the expanders of the state are more numerous and more powerful than us chippers-away.

The secret of chipping away successfully is to continue to discuss the dynamiting of the whole damn mountain. How might that be contrived? How nice would that be? Then settle for dynamiting only half of it …

10 comments to How the state expands and how we might contract it

  • Laird

    It seems that some legislators in Virginia are trying to take back some of their power. I know that this isn’t necessarily reducing the aggregate power of government, but at least it would move it back somewhat closer to the people; it’s a start. Of course, whether anything actually comes of this is questionable, but I’d bet that the “Don’t Tread on Me” license plate gets implemented.

  • Tedd

    Demand something that is, to your enemies, totally outrageous. Then, with a great show of reluctance, settle for something only moderately outrageous.

    I think Hanlon’s Razor applies here, and the direction of causality is actually the other way around. I think the state just naturally expands it’s power until it crosses some line and people push back. Unfortunately, each generation grows up believing the current state of affairs is normal, thereby creating the opportunity for the next stage of expansion of the state.

    It’s interesting to speculate how that might change if birth rates continue to decline and longevity continues to increase.

    For what it’s worth, as much as I would dislike being groped by someone from the TSA, it wouldn’t necessarily be worse than being asked for your “papers” except that you are both groped and asked for your “papers.”

  • Alasdair

    The fastest way for this to be corrected is for the First Family to be subject to the FULL intrusive pat-down *every* time they fly – including on Air Force One …

    Can you *really* picture Ms Obama allowing it to happen to herself or her daughters ?

  • Richard Thomas

    Tedd, I think another interesting thing is that the human race now has a very effective memory. Where events of the past used to be locked up in books and dusty archives and the noggins of a few crusty historians, everyone now has near instantaneous recall, in excruciating detail, of centuries of actions and outcomes. The narrative is now open to question and we are no longer at the mercy of “experts” with vested interests.

  • Tedd


    I assume you’re referring to various effects of the web, and I hope you’re right. But I suspect the very fact that we’re having this conversation in the comment section of a blog suggests that we’re not typical and may have a very atypical perspective. Very few people I know in “real life” participate in this kind of dialog.

    Also, I think the utility of the web in informing people and exposing falsehoods is offset by the confirmation bias that comes from people grouping themselves in like-minded communities. Many of the events that I consider the most pivotal of the past ten years or so are unknown to most of my friends and family, and I suspect the reverse is also true.

  • What Tedd said. The internet brought the water to the horse, but it cannot make it drink.

  • Paul Marks

    Once the concept of the TSA was accepted all this (the thousands of staff sitting in Washington doing nothing – the staff out in the airports sexaully abusing children, and on and on) was inevitable.

    So the path back is plain.

    Campaign for the TSA to be ABOLISHED (not reformed) – only if it fears for its existance may it become a little less money wasting and abusive.

  • Richard Thomas

    True, the effective use of that memory (by which I do mean the web and Internet) is the issue but given how much the progression of the statist agenda was based on outright, bald-faced lies, the ability to disprove those lies easily is a valuable weapon in itself.

    That people tend to group into like minded enclaves may appear to be a problem but the ability to get in contact with scattered, like-minded individuals is something which mostly benefits the losers. And right now, that’s us.

  • Tedd

    …the ability to disprove those lies easily is a valuable weapon in itself.

    I agree, it’s very valuable. It’s also true that you don’t necessarily need to change the minds of the majority of people to accomplish something important, only the minds of influential people. (Who may then change the minds of the majority for you, if that’s still necessary.)

    How one sees it depends on how one measures success. Consider the case of Dan Rather and the fake memo. The web was critical in exposing the fake, which lead to the long-overdue firing of Dan Rather. But very few people I know are aware of what happened, and most still think that the meme about Bush’s air guard career, which the memo was meant to support, is credible. Perhaps most damning, 60 Minutes is still on the air and, so far as I can tell, not one iota improved by the experience. If you regard the sacking of Dan Rather as an important achievement then credit goes to the web. But nothing aside from Rather has changed.

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so Tedd.

    CBS news (even without Rather) is as bad as ever.

    If Bernie Goldberg were writing “Bias” now all he would have to change are a few names – the lies and (far more important) the TWISTING go on.

    And NBC is (if anything) worse, and ABC is bacially on the same wavelength (although it lacks the passion for untruth).

    However, slowly (bit by bit) their ratings are dropping – I feel more positive about the media than I do about the education system.

    I predict (drum roll at this point) that 2011 will be the year the MSM news and current affairs get broken (broadcast and print will both be in terrble trouble).

    I do not know how we can break the left in education – although Texas is trying.