The modern state is messianic. While denying the existence of God, it seeks to replace God.
My father-in-law, R. J. Rushdoony, used to say that the state wants to predestinate mankind, because the state wants to become the god of this society. Exactly half a century ago this month, his book appeared: The Messianic Character of American Education. The founders of public education in the United States really did believe that the agency of the tax-funded school could redeem individuals and the American social order. They said so repeatedly, and Rushdoony assembled the citations and provided the footnotes.
The same analysis can be applied to the intelligence community. Its impulse is messianic.
Also half a century ago, I studied under philosopher and theologian Cornelius Van Til. Van Til had many aphorisms, and his aphorisms were far more powerful than his prose. One of them was this: “Autonomous man believes that he can know anything truly, only when he knows everything exhaustively.” In a universe in which anything can conceivably affect anything else, a person who wants to understand anything needs to know all of the potential causal relationships involved. But these relationships are inherently infinite. This is the so-called butterfly effect. If a butterfly in California can flap its wings and cause a hurricane in Miami, then it behooves the weather services in Miami to monitor every butterfly.
MONITORING EUROPEAN LEADERS
In recent days, another release of information accumulated by Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA has been monitoring telephone calls of Western European leaders for a decade. Why did the NSA do this?
It had to do with two factors: the inherent bureaucratic commitment to expansion vs. the price of expansion. Pricing is always at the margin. Someone pays something extra for a little more of something else. The NSA pays a little more, or perhaps a great deal more, in order to accumulate more information in its databases. There is an economic law that says the following: when the price falls, more is demanded. The price of information, and especially stored data, has fallen as nothing else has in the history of mankind. It will continue to do so.
There is a theory known as the technological imperative. It says the following: “If it can be done, it must be done.” Why should this imperative be true? Why should something be done merely because it can be done? That was the response of Bill Clinton with respect to Monica Lewinsky. This was not a technological imperative, but it certainly was what appeared to be a psychological imperative. In neither case should we regard such an imperative as legitimate.
The bureaucratic imperative, the statist imperative, and the falling price of data collection and storage have combined to create a snooping state. It cannot be reformed so as to overcome these three imperatives. It can only be de-funded.
THE STATE AS GOD
The NSA, the CIA, and the FBI are not simply following a supposed technological imperative. They are following a messianic imperative. They are pursuing exhaustive knowledge, on the assumption that they cannot know anything accurately unless they know everything exhaustively.
Much the same can be said of the healing arts. There was a time when men believed that God can heal sick individuals. Today, most people believe that medical science can heal sick individuals. Given such a view, the state is sure to intervene. The state seeks control over medicine. Its agents assert both the authority and the capacity to serve as the functional gods of society, and therefore the state cannot allow medicine to be governed by free market agreements. The state is seen as having a moral imperative, which is ultimately a religious imperative, to intervene into the relationship between the healthcare provider and the customer.
The NSA, the CIA, and the FBI will continue to accumulate as much data as they can afford, and far more data than they admit to possessing.
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