Naturally our Megan McArdle is out in front of the pack, which is only her due as a libertarian elite in a time of security abuses. Mrs. McArdle took the unwelcome intrusion and, as is her wont, did her darndnest to use the nation's troubles to advance the careers of herself and her friends.
In "Big Brother Is Watching Your Cell Phone," McArdle declares that government abuses are not the fault of the people who actually commit those abuses for their personal/political benefit. The abuses are not the work of a relatively small group of elite. No, it is our fault, we citizens of the US, because we have traded freedom for safety. Of course we do bear responsibility for our own decisions, including supporting those who are in power and practice abuses, but McArdle's history of supporting the elite over the individual make her meaning plain. The powerless are to blame for the abuses of the powerful.
However fear is even stronger than greed, and while she always eagerly inserts her tribe into the narrative, McArdle, her head a bran mash of popular fiction and schoolroom classics, has no desire to end up in an Orwellian nightmare.
Libertarians have been saying for years that the surveillance state has gotten out of hand, but on their own they are not enough of a political force to make any change. The liberal civil liberties movement lost a lot of its fire (and most of its political power) when a Democratic president was elected, and on the conservative side, there never was much political power to begin with. And so, just as libertarians predicted, the government has extended and consolidated its surveillance powers. Fifteen years ago, all of us would have laughed at the notion that the government would assert the right to know about every phone call made by ordinary American citizens suspected of no crime—that's something that East Germany would do, not the American government. How have we gotten so comfortable with the panopticon state in little more than a decade?
y greatest fear is not that this surveillance will turn out to be more widespread. My greatest fear is that we will find out they are spying on us, and the American public will yawn. And in some secret room, bureaucrats and politicians will note that the American public does not care, and turn to discussing how much more spying they can get away with.In "Internet Companies Deny They're Helping the NSA Collect User Data. Should We Believe Them?," McArdle quotes fellow libertarian Julian Sanchez, who thoughtfully informs us that sometimes people don't say what they mean. McArdle's own concern is that lying corporations might suffer a backlash from consumers. Or maybe not. However as time passes, so does McArdle's new fear, as she settles back into her more familiar concern, random death from one of those foreign people who hate us for our freedom.
In "We Shouldn't Treat Terrorism The Way We Treat Bathroom Falls," McArdle quotes libertarian Conor Friedersdorf's concern about security abuses but is swayed in the end by Jeffrey Goldberg's fear-mongering about al-Quaeda, a childishly easy task. She decides that the fight must go on to keep
McArdle's latest post explaining why we should submit to authority because whistleblowers are weird will be covered in a separate post.