Mr. Snowden Departs

When I mentioned here last year that I'd made a little web site at, there were, incredibly, some who poured scorn on the idea – which was, as stated, to introduce to its employees the news that it's dishonest to work for government, and so to prepare their minds for the day when one or more of their friends invites them to consider more detailed ideas about freedom and so to quit government employ in disgust. I certainly didn't anticipate that one of the earliest job-quitters would rock the world on his way out.

That's not for a moment to say that Edward Snowden is even aware of the website; he's clearly very bright, and had worked out its message for himself, was clever enough to gain some newspaper attention to why he quit and brave enough to do it very publicly. At 10:25 in his interview with Glenn Greenwald, he says "If I had just wanted to harm the US . . . you could shut down the surveillance system in an afternoon," and by “you,” he meant himself while in his former job, or any of his ex-colleagues still in a similar job. The possibility that NSA's workers or contractors can sabotage its entire surveillance system on their way out, if they so wish, may be why all those high government folk have had to change their underwear.

Most or all of the remaining 40 million still serving Leviathan will in due course quit silently, rather like the fictional DMV employee I described in Twenty Twenty Two back in 2007. They will study, decide, prepare an alternative occupation, and just hand in their resignations. It will be so quiet that for a long time nobody will notice; and when the number of leavers does get noticed, it will be too late to do anything about it. When all have gone, the government era will have ended. There will be no violence, no civil war, no street protests or parades, no political action, no voting, no civil disobedience, no appeals for money – just a whimper. The handful who stop their ears and refuse to listen to the chorus of their friends' invitations will wind up barking orders to an empty office.

But the name of Edward Snowden, because he chose to make his exit very public, is now known to about one seventh of the entire human race. If anyone was unaware that the FedGov is spying systematically on everyone it can reach, as duly authorized by Congressional law but in flagrant violation of the Supreme Law, they aren't unaware any longer – and the clear fact that government can never be constrained by pieces of paper has now been advertised for anyone to see.

Its spying certainly extends to Hong Kong, whose main daily newspaper devoted the whole of its front page to the story earlier this week, and in a rich irony the Feds are now to apply to the Hong Kong government for extradition of the person who revealed it was being spied on by the applicant. I hope the response will take the general form of a finger.

The story has had another useful effect, by advertising the propensity of government people to lie. In John Oliver's hilarious debut as summer host of The Daily Show, he presented NSA Director James Clapper (did I spell that name correctly?) reluctantly answering a question in a hearing last March from Sen. Wyden (D, OR) about whether his agency was collecting any data on Americans' phone calls and emails. “No Sir,” he said at length, “not wittingly.” You just have to watch how Oliver treated that whopper. The less people trust government, the better.

Snowden's spectacular achievement compares with those of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and even Daniel Ellsberg, two of whom have warmly endorsed his action and the third would surely do so if the Army were to remove his gag. It's exciting and encouraging and may materially affect history on its own, but even a dozen more like it will not complete the job that needs to be done: the total eradication of government.

That's so, even when we reflect that increasingly, government relies on IT experts, like Mr. Snowden, in almost everything it does at every level. Such geeks are not only smart, they tend to be thoughtful, and it's my bet that right now hundreds of thousands of them are paying very close attention to the Snowden story and asking themselves whether they really want to spend their lives propping up an outfit as mendacious and intrusive as government. Now, if they should happen in significant numbers to decide “hell no,” they might walk out so abruptly as to throw government into total chaos rather soon. That news may not be uniformly good.

Why not? Because the rest of the population isn't ready for a general collapse of the State. The result would not be a free, anarchist society but a massive squealing for welfare to be restored and for a new Leader to sort out the mess. Out of chaos can come an even more brutal form of fascism – the form that for example noticed on February 18th 1943 that Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst were distributing anti-government leaflets. They were arrested, tried on February 22nd and beheaded the same afternoon. So in addition to giving government employees a reason and motive to quit, it's vital that the rest of the population be shown how to live, independently and responsibly, in the resulting free society. Universal education, in other words, is the indispensable prerequisite for liberty.

The reason any government employee should leave his job is not that it involves spying on innocent individuals, nor that it necessarily violates the Constitution--for the Constitution allows a whole range of activities repugnant to freedom. Rather, the reason is that working for government is morally equivalent to soldiering for the Mafia; no matter in what particular job, all the money to be paid in wages is stolen money and every action the employer takes is based on the use of force. After considering the specific damage being done to society by the particular function he works in (Information Technology, for example) the government worker will come to wish to leave out of self-respect, which is central to the enjoyment of life.

This process cannot, unfortunately, be rushed. We each need time to change our minds from the prejudices of a lifetime. The whistleblowing by Manning and Snowden, and the respective aftermaths, give wonderful boosts to morale, but what counts in the long run is the patient preparation of a whole population, to live free and to bury the government myth forever.

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