In Praise of Paranoia
May 28, 2013
This is so, so right. Bet on Madison and give the points.
To listen to the amateur philosophizing of Obama and Blow is to be unhappily reminded of a 1767 essay, “On Public Happiness,” in which that execrable Frenchman Jean-Jacques Rousseau argues terrifyingly that one should “give man to the State or leave him entirely to himself.” This dichotomy — pristine solitude or total immersion in the State — is both false and dangerous. Yet Obama shows a particular fondness for it. The government cannot become tyrannical, it essentially holds, because, as Obama seems never to tire of intoning, the government is us. How many times has he insinuated that those who issue warnings about government are “anarchists”?
James Madison, writing as “Publius” in Federalist No. 47, insisted that it didn’t matter whether tyranny was “hereditary, self-appointed or elective,” because tyranny was tyranny. Who cares whether l’état, c’est moi or l’état c’est nous? “Even under the best forms of government,” Jefferson recognized, “those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” Alas, in the age of universal suffrage, this truth has been lost on many. In response, we might insist more loudly that democratization does not necessarily equal government virtue and recall that the Bill of Rights effectively presumes that government is guilty, holding as it does that government may not intrude in certain areas of life however good it claims to be, and that the people may not be asked to relinquish their ultimate checks on power however secure they feel themselves to be. This is nothing short of codified paranoia, and America is better off for it.