A popular way to understand the problems of the present is to compare current times to the past. It is popular to say there is nothing new under the sun. That is certainly true regarding the human condition. The mix of people changes over time, but the types of people are fairly fixed. What changes is material progress. There are new things, and those new things are often very important. Those new things create new challenges for those old ways of thinking and acting.
For example, advances in weaponry changed how people related to the people in charge of their society. The crossbow suddenly made it very easy for one man to kill another man from a distance. Even a farmer could quickly learn to use the weapon and be deadly accurate with it. The traditional bow required training and was not as accurate as the new weapon. Suddenly, an angry peasant could take out the king, which changed how the king looked at the peasants.
An example in our age is how technology has made it nearly impossible to know who is making the laws. We have a labyrinth of laws regarding immigration, but no one knows who offered up these laws or when many were created. Exactly no one has ever heard their congressman or senator promise them to increase immigration from Somalia, but it happened. Someone in the law-making system tucked that provision into a bill that no one read, and we suddenly have infinite Somalis.
The truth is, the reason we have the open borders system we have is that a million rats in the system have been gnawing away at the borders for generations. A defense bill will have tucked within in it an obscure passage that removes some provision of a previous bill on immigration. In the farm bill some other gremlin will slip in a provision that replaces that one removed in the defense bill. The old bill that became law years ago is still there but amended over time to be the opposite.
The irony of this is that the argument in favor of liberal democracy is that it opens the law-making process to the public. Laws are proposed in a public forum by legislators, who are elected by the people. Those laws are then debated and voted on by those representatives of the people. If the people do not like how their representative voted they can vote him out of office. Unlike palace intrigue and laws passed by the whims of a king or dictator, it is all out in the open.
This would certainly be true a century ago. The reason is the bills were written by hand and read out loud. Legislators had private correspondence, but it was also written by hand and carried by horse. The only way to conduct business in a parliamentary body was in person and out loud. It also meant the bills were short, as no one was going to write a 6,000-page bill by hand. An American could sit in the gallery and literally watch the laws be written and debated in the Congress.
Today, we have no idea who is writing the bills. There is a vague sense that it is the army of squires in Washington, taking dictation from monied interests. The names of these people are unknown to us. In fact, they are unknown to the legislators who vote on the bills presented to them. None of the bills passed by Congress are read by the men and women voting on them. They simply get an executive summary and calls from their donors as to how they are supposed to vote.
It is not just law making where we see the democratic process overwhelmed by the technological progress of this age. Here is an example from the courts. A century ago, the Supreme Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment protections only apply to your immediate dwelling. They do not extend to your land. At the time, this meant that the government could walk onto your land and look around for crime. They could not go into your house, but they could walk all around it.
At the time, this seemed perfectly reasonable. You can’t reasonably ask someone to not look at something in plain sight. Modern technology, however, has now taken this bit of common sense and turned it into another tool of the police state. The government can install cameras on your property and record your comings and goings. A century ago, this outcome was impossible to imagine, so no one imagined it. Technology does not just make dreams come true. It makes the unimaginable into reality.
Here is the thing. We have no idea who decided that the court permitted this new intrusion on our privacy. Clearly, the court did not say it is okay for the government to install cameras on your property. Someone in the system looked for a way to do this and found that court ruling. No one knows who that person is because it is probably a collection of people. Like the rats eating away at the border, these rats gnaw away at other aspects of civil society.
A reason America is in crisis is that no one knows who is responsible. The left-wing rioters we saw in the summer were not acting irrationally. Sure, they were mostly rental mobs, but let us suppose they were motivated by legitimate grievances. Where can they go with them? To whom would they make their appeal? The Right is now facing the same dilemma. Where do they go for a redress of their grievances? Who can they blame for the censorship regime we have now?
Since aggrieved citizens cannot put a name to the problem, they are left with attacking the system itself. Technology plus liberal democracy has ended up with a war between the system and the people. Technology has made the democratic process a black box that even the legislators do not understand. It is a system in which no one is responsible for anything, so the system itself becomes responsible. The only option for the disgruntled is to smash the system.
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