Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans and "Homeland Security"

The state makes a bargain with its subjects.

Not all of its subjects, of course; and not a clearcut, well-defined, legally-enforceable agreement. But the state has to keep at least a majority of the subjects at least vaguely satisfied that this amorphous bargain is being kept. Because, while the state claims a monopoly on the rightful use of force, and while the state has a large practical advantage in the use of force, a majority of the state's subjects could overthrow it. The overthrow could be difficult and bloody, but if most of the subjects are seriously unwilling to submit, the outcome isn't in any real doubt.

What is this "bargain" I'm talking about? Simply and basically stated, it is: Give up such-and-such a part of your liberties, and the state will protect you.

This bargain takes many forms, and operates on many sets of terms. The surrendered liberties may be few, or many. The "protection" offered by the state can be efficient ("Mussolini made the trains run on time"), or it can be the sort experienced by the left-behinds in New Orleans. The "protection" can be from many things: external enemies, real or imagined (Saddam Hussein as The New Hitler); old age, disease, misfortune, and poverty; robbers, rapists, and murderers; or stock-market "insider traders."

But let's think about physical security. We A'mur'kins have rendered up our supposed immunities to unreasonable searches and seizures in order to be, supposedly, safeguarded against the murderous Ay-rab, who is said to "hate us for our freedoms." Toward this end, we have these huge and astronomically-expensive state organizations, such as FEMA, the Homeland Security apparatus, as well as layers of military and police organizations as difficult to list as would be the individual liters of water covering New Orleans. They tax us and roust us pretty much as they please. But we're safe, aren't we?

Well, looking at New Orleans, where civilians with TV cameras seem able to reach people and places where the armed minions of the state dare not go, I think only two conclusions are possible. Either these glorious state organizations aren't competent to, as my late father used to say, "pour piss out of a boot, even with instructions printed on the heel," or they are merely gloriously unconcerned about the fate of those whose safety and well-being they allegedly protect. (In fairness, these aren't exclusive alternatives; both could easily be true.)

Isn't it time for, shall we say, a fundamental and far-reaching review and revision of our bargain with the state?

3 comments:

LP Mike Sylvester said...

I have to agree with you on this one for the most part.

I certainly think the rescue effort has been poor.

I am a small government type myself. I have always felt that we are not getting what we are paying for with our taxes!

New Orleans is a great example.

I just hope that it helps wake Americans up. I hope it wakes up BOTH Democrats and Republicans. I am afraid it will be a political tool instead.

I imagine a bunch of Democrats will wrongly try to blame this on the Republcians. Both Parties are at fault...

Both parties have been growing our government at an unsustainable rate since World War Two.

Think on this, the recently passed Highway Bill had 24 Billion dollars of pork in it. These are local projects the both Republican and Democratic Senators insist on. Why do they insist on it?

To get re-elected.

No one really cares about infrastructure or smaller government. All our politicians do is appease special interest groups and spend money to please voters. It is sad.

Bartleby said...

I can certainly agree with you that "both parties" (actually, both caucuses within the single Warfare and Welfare Party) are culpable for the ridiculous state of our country. So, too, is the electorate, which is so stupid that it willfully continues to choose between Tweedledee and Tweedledum -- doing the same thing, again and again, and expecting a different outcome.

I am less concerned, though, about what we've been paying in taxes than in what we've been paying in terms of our essentially-extinct liberties. We don't really have liberties any more. What we have instead, that most of us mistake for liberties, are privileges. And those can be revoked by the Dread Sovereign at any time.

Siagiah said...

I agree 100%. So what can/should we do from your pov?