Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 798, November 23, 2014

There is no one in charge.
There are only lies.

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Living the Satus Quo (The trouble with right-wing arguments)
by Cathy L.Z. Smith

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

I've been away for a while.

Life has made demands that have limited the amount of time and energy I have for engaging in, or even paying much attention to, the endless, ever-never-changing swirl of political crises that define life in 21st Century America.

Right now I'm listening, not by choice, to a right-wing radio pundit holding forth on why it is that Ferguson, Missouri's preparation for a riotous response to whatever verdict is returned by a grand jury in the Darren Wilson indictment is somehow unnecessary.

Once upon a time, perhaps mistakenly, in my youth, my sympathies might have rested with the "Noble Peacekeeper" whose life was unjustly derailed by opportunistic ne'er-do-wells out to disrupt the "American Dream".

Lest I be misunderstood, please let me clarify that the sarcasm here is applied to the "Nobel Peacekeeper", and not to the "American Dream". I love the American Dream. I love the idea that we are all entitled to equal opportunity to pursue that dream. I understand, as well, that we are not entitled to an artificial intervention that contradicts or overrides our competence to pursue and secure that outcome. What I'm dancing around here is a bald statement that "trying" is not the same as "succeeding". Some of us, myself included, must "try" multiple times before we find the formula that leads us to our successes.

My immediate point here is that those once-"noble peacekeepers" of my youth are (and have been) engaged in behaviors that seriously tarnish their armor and call into question their very understanding of the difference between peacekeeping and enforcement. The first is egalitarian. The second is nothing short of authoritarian decree—a distinctly un-American-dream function.

"Law enforcement" is a direct outgrowth of the modern state's operational paradigm—the state of exception[1]: "... the original structure in which law encompasses living beings by means of its own suspension." (Agamben, 1942). Gone are the days, if you choose to believe they ever existed, of the peace keeper, the friendly cop on the beat who knew his neighborhood, knew his neighbors, had ties to the community, and exercised his own judgment in situations where disagreement occurred. They have been replaced by men of less-than-average intelligence, imported from far-away communities, with no ties to the community, unlisted phone numbers, and who abuse their positions with impunity. These are men and women who recognize and accept their inability to exercise judgment and who, although they have sworn to uphold an abstract set of ideas, have, in fact, no idea what those ideals are, or how they should be applied to any random encounter.

Modern cops "uphold the law" by violating the rule of law—at the bidding of those who extort the funds with which to secure their fealty. And modern cops have earned the distrust of all they still sardonically insist they serve, beating men like Kelly Thomas to death. They sustain the farce through "internal" investigations that almost uniformly confirm the "goodness" of the enforcer. And in those cases where the gob is just too big to comfortably swallow, the miscreants are "discharged" from the force and routinely show up on some distant law enforcement payroll, where background checks seem to consist of calling up the local dogcatcher to find out if the cop's pup has been caught outside the fenced yard off its leash. And they have earned the mistrust and distrust of all who are unfortunate enough to come into contact with them.

But in truth, these circumstances are the only logical local outcome of an authoritarian regime.

There is no "rule of law" left to which to appeal. The Constitution has failed us; we have a President who is contemptuous of the limitations placed upon him by the document that grants him his authority; we have a Congress that has failed, time and again, to perform its duty of checking and balancing—not because the opposition had no opportunity to do so, but because they understand that every transgression the current administration successfully performs becomes a tool in its own arsenal when the pendulum finally swings past the midpoint and they are once again in power. We have a judiciary that sups from the same tax-supported trough, and yet we somehow expect them to rule in favor of the chattel.

The right-wing is currently employing the cloak of invisibility—banking on the fact that the electorate will view its own republicanoid violations in a somehow different light than those of its predecessors. And I have little doubt that they are correct.

And so, the pendulum will once again swing from the authoritarianism of the left, to the authoritarianism of the right ...

Libertarians, if they are to be of any importance at all, need to be the nail that stops the pendulum.


1 Agamben, Gregory. "State of Exception".Translated by Kevin Attell, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2005.

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