Edward Snowden’s Future

Another sobering and thought-provoking article from our friends at Laissez Faire Today.


Can Snowden Occupy a Vacant Cabin in a Snowstorm?

When it comes to the NSA leaks and Edward Snowden, government has circled the wagons. Whether Democrat or Republican, the folks doing the people’s business have one view and the people see it differently. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was booed and interrupted by liberal attendees at the Netroots Nation conference on Saturday.

Netroots Nation is a convention for progressive political leaders. Pelosi, a darling of those on the left, was the keynote speaker at the event. But her pro-surveillance, anti-Snowden remarks incited the crowd.  “We’re listening to our progressive leaders who are supposed to be on our side of the team saying it’s OK for us to get targeted” for online surveillance, said Jana Thrift of Eugene, Ore. “It’s crazy. I don’t know who Nancy Pelosi really is.”

We know who Nancy Pelosi is. She’s an authoritarian. She isn’t for freedom, or the people, she represents authority. She’s all for the government spying on us and taking lots of our money to do so. Like most in Washington she believes she knows what’s best for us. Americans should be on a “need to know” basis to keep us safe in Pelosi’s world.

Those on the right are just as bad. “Either you’re with us or you’re against us,” Senator John McCain told BBC anchor Freddie Lyon last week, “and clearly the nation of Hong Kong is against us. By harboring this known cybercriminal [Snowden] they pose a clear and present danger to the American people. “I don’t want to hear about extradition or rendition or any of that nonsense. This man is a traitor and if we don’t get him within 24 hours I say we need to start bombing the hell out of Hong Kong.”

The goods news is we can breath a collective sigh of relief this guy wasn’t elected President in 2008.  Bomb Hong Kong?  Really?

Now that Snowden has flown to Russia, Senator Chuck Schumer is seeing a red conspiracy.  “What’s really infuriating is Prime Minister [Vladimir] Putin of Russia aiding and abetting Snowden’s escape,” Schumer said on CNN. “I have a feeling a hand in Beijing was involved here.”

But the American people don’t see eye-to-eye with their elected officials.  Some 60 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 believe Edward Snowden has performed a public service. According to Yahoo! News, “People who identify themselves as tea partyers believe the release of this information is in the public interest by a 56 to 39 percent margin. An almost identical segment of liberals – 57 to 38 percent – say the same.”

Judging from these polls, a good number of Americans on the left and the right, if given the opportunity, would likely help Snowden avoid the authorities. I can tell you for sure that had Edward Snowden found his way to Rogers Campground in Lancaster, New Hampshire last week during Porcfest, he would have been safe and sound.  He would have been ably protected by dozens of armed individuals and well fed with an ingenious concoction that Michael Bloomberg would love to ban, called a Rick Roll (an omelete wrapped in a pancake, wrapped in a bacon weave).

There was no debate at Porcfest whether Snowden was a hero or traitor, it wasn’t a question.  Snowden’s disclosure that the government is keeping tabs on all of us was heroic and gutsy, for sure, but it was really just the common sense right thing to do.

University of Colorado philosophy professor Michael Huemer made the case at Porcfest that it’s best to defend liberty with common sense. Libertarians will not attract followers using economic arguments or appeals to abstract theories about the nature of morality. He said people don’t like economists and, the minute a freedom evangelist lets “non-aggression axiom” leave their lips he or she has lost the listener’s attention.

Huemer is young, smart and an engaging speaker.  He explained the rhetorical superiority of common sense that puts statists on the defensive. It’s uncontroversial that stealing is wrong, that murder is wrong, that prohibiting drug use is wrong. Yet, the state is given special moral status that allow it to tax (steal), wage war (murder), and dictate what we can ingest in our own bodies. These simple examples are what need to be pointed out.

It’s much easier and effective to make these points rather than launch into philosophical theories of liberty, because as Huemer pointed out, “About all philosophical theories are false” and “the stronger the premises, the greater the risk of error.”

Huemer made his point using an often-used libertarian morality scenario. You’re caught in a snowstorm with no food, water, or shelter.  You come upon a vacant cabin. Morally, do you have the right to break in and save your life?

To the average person this is a “no brainer.” Libertarians, on the other hand, can argue about this kind of situation for hours. If Professor Huemer hadn’t moved the discussion onward, I think a half dozen of the group that attended his talk would still be there arguing about it. “Yes, you can break in, but you must make restitution.” “No, you can’t under any circumstances, it would be trespassing.” “Yes, you can, but you must pay it forward.”

Huemer contends that defending libertarianism with common sense is easy.  On the other hand, defending anarchy is much more complex.  While common-sense morality is non-absolutist, anarchy takes complex, partly inferred proofs.

So, do you break into the cabin and save your life?  Sure, and try to do something nice for the cabin owner if you can.  Do you break the law and warn the American people that they are being watched at every turn? Yes, If you are made of strong enough stuff you do.

Voters should take note.  You are not choosing a side in elections. The two sides are: government vs. the people. I’m rooting for Edward Snowden wherever he ends up. I hope he finds that vacant cabin in the snowstorm.


Doug French

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