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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hyperbole

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Patriot Act.

On an email discussion group of Austro-libertarians some were lamenting the inability of our efforts to do anything to check State power. Others were saying that we had to keep plugging away with articles and PhDs etc. I for one said that there had been modest gains on tax and inflation rates, at least since the 1970s.

In response to my naivete, someone said I was ignoring the curtailment of civil liberties under the "Bush gang." Someone else chimed in--and I can't remember the exact quote--to say that we were now living in an Orwellian state.

This struck me as a bit much. If we're trying to be "realists," as the cynics who questioned the efficacy of our writing efforts professed to be, then we're not in an Orwellian state. Winston in 1984 wasn't on a fairly accessible email discussion group talking about the best ways to eliminate government.

6 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:11 AM

    To be fair though, an Orwellian state is a metaphor. It would help to have the exact wording and context of the reference to Orwell, but there are certainly many similarity in the conceptual position of the Administration (doesn't that sound sinister!) to the patterns and tools of 1984's government.

    So a state doesn't have to be as bad as the Soviet Union under Stalin to be called Orwellian, necessarily; although, on the otherhand, you do have a point that the government's reach is sometimes exaggerated, possibly out of paranoia, possibly a legitimate fear of a steep and slippery slope.

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  2. A relevant point here is that the State does not need to shut down contrary opinion -- indeed, it's best for its purposes that there indeed be places where dissidents can vent -- but only to marginalize it. The dissidents can have their little, useless Internet discussion groups (I'm not pointing fingers outward here! I'm on those groups too), and the State can say, "See, everyone is still free! We even let unbalanced nuts like those folks express their batty opinions."

    de Tocqueville saw the beginnings of this phenomenon almost 200 years ago.

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  3. De Tocqueville anticipated the Internet?

    Yeah I saw a funny clip in a Noam Chomsky documentary one time. After his talk the young radicals were gathered around him asking questions and for autographs. One kid was confidently telling him that the Bush government told the media what stories to run.

    Chomsky just looked at him like he was an idiot and said something like that, "No they don't, and if they did, the media would refuse. The gov't allows the media to perpetuate its rule through running stories that serve its interests without even realizing they're being manipulated."

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