I have a few thoughts, germane to what we are supposed to be celebrating on July 4th.
Judge Napolitano: “The reverence we once held for privacy – and private rights with it – is virtually gone.”
This is the sea change in America that will, at some point, be most regretted. We once closed our drapes. On Memorial Day, some nitwit actress, famous but not known to me, tweeted that, at 10 A.M., she had already peed in two different Starbucks’ bathrooms. Apparently quite an accomplishment for the young lady. And this was reported by TV news media. Generations younger than mine, plus people of my age who should have better sense, are trading privacy for living their own little reality TV shows, plastering everything all over social media, tweeting about their eating and peeing and screwing. Police security cameras in the streets are welcomed. The ownership of unmanned drones by local police departments has not sparked outcry. The daily demonstrations that information transmitted online is easily hacked and stolen – whether our most important military secrets or Bobby’s online banking – is not discouraging people, companies or the government from this foolishness. The IRS used as a political intimidation and hit squad against conservative groups, their organizers, and their donors would have led to immediate resignations and firings, a special prosecutor, a presidential impeachment a decade ago; now it gets a shrug. Large numbers of college students actually signed a giant thank-you card for the IRS, thanking them for cracking down on the Tea Party. They do not know the chief lesson of history: anytime you let Them come for others, it is only a matter of time before They come for you. Back to social media: the collective narcissism of this knows no bounds. It is possible only because shame is a thing of the past. But worse, because, as the good judge said, our reverence for privacy is lost.
It is a denigration of what it means to have friends and to be a friend. It is an illusion. And it is a giant time suck. It is even, actually dangerous: burglars, kidnappers, child predators, identity thieves, etc. love social media. It is one thing to do some of this in a calculated and controlled way, to a target audience, for profit, or if a mainstream celebrity paid for your celebrity, by necessity. It is another thing altogether for an entire society, an entire population to trade privacy for fake fame, for a delusion of self-importance. Respect and prominence by achievement is, for many, an unknown path. Instead, they know both casual and extreme self-promotion despite having no accomplishment and no worthy activity to promote. Peeing in two different restrooms before noon should suffice.
All sacrifice of the individual is inter-woven. The home as castle. What is earned, saved, accumulated, wisely stewarded yours, and yours to do with as you see fit. Your business run by your rules. Your health a matter only for you and your chosen doctor. Decisions about parenting, yours. Every one of these fundamental rights is now being challenged, assaulted, criticized, ridiculed, ripped asunder and worst of all, voluntarily, even eagerly abdicated. Obama has said that individual rights “must be balanced with the collective needs of society” – a kissing cousin to the statement “from each man, according to his ability, to each man, according to his need.” In a poll, college students attributed that to Thomas Jefferson. It belongs to Karl Marx. No, Mr. President, the American idea has always been that individual rights are sacrosanct. Make no mistake: he has enunciated, with carefully chosen words, a position he believes and that a growing number are willing to accept. The hairs on the back of their neck do not rise the instant they hear such a thing said. He isn’t alone. His re-making of what it means to be an American is a chorus, not a solo performance. And ignorant, foolish, lazy masses are applauding.
Home as castle. Contrast this with warrant-less, no-knock searches, warrant-less wire taps, expansion of eminent domain confiscations, unmanned drone surveillance. Your business run by your rules. Bloomberg telling you the maximum number of ounces of Coca-Cola you may sell in one cup – although not capping the maximum size of a beer or milkshake. Obamacare dictating what employee perks you must provide. Your health – Obamacare inserts federal boards and panels, even the IRS. Parenting: at a major city’s public school system, e-mail accounts were established for students as young as 8, with no parental notification, and when a parent strenuously objected, he was told he has no say in the matter. Morning-after abortion pill sold over the counter, no prescription, no parental rights. Hillary’s “it takes a village” morphed into “the village NOT the parent”, a Communist and Fascist approach. On MSNBC, the socialist network, Mellissa Harris-Perry, their Saturday propagandist, stated that it was time we force parents to give up the out-dated notion that ‘Father knows best’ or that they own their children, and recognize that other wiser, more educated, more qualified people, as a collective group, need to control the development of America’s children. They are not yours. They are America’s. They belong to the collective. She said it. The backlash was infinitesimal.
The war against the individual and individual rights is well underway.
You cannot pick and choose these things as if on a cafeteria line. You can’t be for heavy-handed gun control or smoking bans and against monitoring of your e-mails or Obamacare-dictated employee perks. You are either for or against the individual. You are either for or against collectivism. If you stop drawing your drapes, you’ll soon have no door, then, soon, no walls to call your own. Each and every thing, whether you are personally, presently affected by it or not, must be viewed through the prism of: does this strengthen or weaken the individual, the concept of the individual, the rights of the individual?
We only have a Republic if we will keep it, and we are letting it be taken away at an accelerated pace.
So let’s get personal. You can at least make a decision to, yourself, be independent, self-sustaining, to be a guardian of yours and your family’s privacy to the greatest extent possible, to hold at-home classes and make your young ‘uns learn the differences between evil collectivism and the true American Way. Make them read and discuss Animal Farm. Atlas Shrugged. You can resist a lot of the intrusiveness and surrendering of privacy. I am not even connected to the internet, thus no online banking, no social media, no distractions from productive work. If I had kids, they would have severely restricted and closely supervised computer use and internet access and they damn sure would not have I-pads or cell-phones: 2-way portals to sewage and hazard.
And you can busy yourself getting so rich you can make a lot of your own rules. It is damnably hard to defend yourself against the collectivism assault if you are poor or just barely making it. That is somewhat like my experiences with severe winter when young; my cars had bald tires, I lacked good winter clothing – one winter, my father and I shared one coat, I was ill-equipped to exercise any control. I don’t mind those same winters now at all. I have a lot of money. I have a proper 4-wheel drive, heavy, able vehicle with the right tires, good and even high-tech apparel and gloves, and if I choose not to leave my house for days on end, I have no need; I can make whatever of the world I need journey to me. You can buy some privacy. You can buy better security for your homes, property, family. You can buy quite a bit of autonomy. You can buy better quality advice and assistance, deal with a private banker instead of clerks, a top-notch CPA instead of an ordinary accountant, a top-flight personal, concierge car mechanic instead of the dolts at the Goodyear store, a real clothier. You can travel by private jet and avoid the crowds sick with colds and flu, the maddening lines, the TSA groping, the delays, the lies, the wasted time. You can live where you choose. These are all things you can buy with sufficient money. You can also buy better, less toxic food. You can have special access to top-notch health care, as a donor to the right hospital. You can buy influence.
On Father’s Day, Carla gave me a card made to look like a little plaque, gold letters engraved on a black background, that reads: Awarded For Excellence In Avoiding Home Improvement Projects. I don’t even change light bulbs. I have a guy for that.
It is arguable that you should not be able to buy so much of this, when others are deprived of it simply because they lack money. How unfair! But even the luxury of such thinking is best bought. That’s why there are a lot of super-rich liberals; they got that way after “getting theirs”. They can now afford the luxury of liberalism, and can even dare advocate re-distribution and egalitarianism and even collectivism, knowing they are beyond its reach. This was Carnegie late in life; it is Gates and Buffet now. I have sometimes been labeled as ‘The Professor of Harsh Reality.’ This is harsh reality: living with autonomy, independence and imperfect but the best possible security is bought and paid for with money. It is unavailable otherwise.
Money changes much. My friend Joan Rivers extolled the wonderfulness of living in Manhattan to me. I said: you don’t live in Manhattan. You live in your over-size, luxury penthouse, with a servant and an assistant, everything brought to you, your refrigerator stocked for you, your building secured, and when you leave, you walk only six steps outdoors, from door to limo, you don’t hunt for a parking spot or brave the subway, your limo lets you out at the door of restaurant or Bergdorf’s – where you have a private shopper waiting, your limo takes you to your waiting plane. You live in Joan Rivers’ World. Not in Manhattan. I also said: and I’m happy for you, that you do. You fought for it, you earned it, you earn it. Like the Republic is ours if we will keep it, this is hers, mine or yours if she, I or you will keep it for ourselves.
Getting rich enough to buy and own autonomy, independence and a good measure of security rarely happens by accident. It is a decided upon purpose about how you want to live and how you want to live differently, by your own rules, and what it will cost to do so. I recommend, as a mini-course, reading the little book, The Narrow Road by Felix Dennis. It’s full of harsh reality about this.
This is the best advice I have. I am grateful it was hammered into my head. You cannot control your own life and live as you choose unless and until you have the money to buy that control, keep buying it, and be virtually unconcerned with and uncompromising about the cost. Money buys choices. The less money you have, the fewer choices you have, the less control you can assert, and the more vulnerable and in peril you are. If you are poor, you must buy whatever soup is on sale and you’ve found a coupon for. You probably aren’t poor. But if you are not in a position of true financial autonomy, then the analogy applies. Flying your “Don’t Tread On Me” flag is actually an expensive proposition.