Orwell’s Britain and America’s future

9 Jul

Since watching Daniel Hannan’s fiery speech attacking British Prime Minister Gordon Brown last March, I’ve started to pay more attention to the US’s faithful subject, Great Britain. Hannan, a member of the European parliament, is the “Ron Paul” of England, and his popularity is growing in the same manner that Paul’s presidency bid did in the last US “election.” Hannan tars-and-feathers his Prime Minister for 3 minutes on the floor of the European Parliament for his government’s massive borrowing and spending, nationalization of major industries and institutions, most banks, and his utter incompetence.

Hannan, and his rising Conservative Party, are also highly critical of the many police-state measures that make George Orwell look more prophetic by the day. England, the birthplace of the Magna Carta, has over 4 million closed-circuit TV cameras that watch their every move, “speaking cameras” that warn people to pick up litter or stop loitering, and very restrictive gun laws (gun control is mandatory in any tyranny, whether it was Hitler disarming the Jews years before the Holocaust or the Jim Crow South that barred blacks from owning guns).

Not only are these policies huge violations of privacy and civil liberties, they are ineffective and laughably inefficient. There is no evidence that the presence of cameras deters any crime, and it’s easy to see why.  Britain’s cameras are frequently unmonitored and out of order, and the data they collect creates such a large database that it makes it much tougher to catch actual criminals. The more eyes Big Brother has, the less he tends to see.

The US and Britain have a so-called “special relationship,” and it is true in that what happens in Britain slowly but surely finds its away across the Atlantic. Britain was once a sun-defying empire that is now a broke and receding surveillance state. The US is a debt-ridden empire that has quite a few Orwellian tools to control and monitor its domestic empire over our cities, counties, and states. Cameras in stoplights that actually increase accidents, drug prohibition, cops that look like soldiers, warrantless wire-tapping, and armed guards at airports are all too common in the “land of the free.”

Privacy is essential in a free society, but unfortunately both liberals and conservatives don’t do a thorough enough job of defending it. Liberals are  correct that the right to privacy is threatened when the State restricts abortions and enforces morality, but do not object to massive invasions of economic privacy, like the income tax.  Conservatives want government “off their backs” but embrace it in defense of our foreign wars and restrictions of civil liberties.

Americans are not faced quite yet with the violations of privacy and liberty that are imposed on British citizens, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen here. Government, Nietzsche’s cold, cruel monster, feeds on power like an addiction, and the more freedom, privacy, and private property it takes, the more it wants. Though the thought of Orwell’s nightmares becoming reality in the US is a frightening one, it is comforting to know that government is too clumsy, inefficient, and wasteful to be omnipotent.

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