Jonathan Gruber

Americans Trust Government Less and Less Because We Know More and More About How It Operates

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Fifty years ago, FBI operatives sent Martin Luther King, Jr. was has come to be known as the "suicide letter," an anonymous note suggesting the civil rights leader should off himself before his private sex life was made public. The information about King's extramarital assignations was gathered with the approval not just of the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover but Attorney General Robert Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson.

"There is but one way out for you," reads the note, which appeared in unredacted form for the first time just last week. "You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation."

Thus is revealed one of the most despicable acts of domestic surveillance in memory. These days, we worry less about the government outing our sex lives than in it tracking every move we move online. It turns out that President Obama, who said he would roll back the unconstitutional powers exercised by his predecessor, had a secret "kill list" over which he was sole authority. Jesus, we've just learned that small planes are using so-called dirtboxes to pick up cell phone traffic. One of the architects of Obamacare publicly states that Americans are stupid and that the president's healthcare reform was vague and confusing on purpose. The former director of national intelligence, along with the former head and current heads of the CIA, have lied to Congress.

Is it surprising, then, that 72 percent Americans consider "big government" the largest threat to the country's future? That's more than twice the number in 1964, when the King letter was sent.

The thread—maybe it's better called a piano wire—connecting the present to the past is the subject of my latest Daily Best column. Here's part of it:

Fifty years ago—again, right around the time that the FBI was about to become the subject of a hagiographic hit TV show and trying to goad Martin Luther King, Jr. into killing himself—Richard Hofstadter was denouncing the "paranoid style in American politics,". He lamented that, "American politics has often been an arena for angry minds."

But today's lack of trust and confidence in the government doesn't seem all that angry. It's more like we're resigned to the fact that our rulers think little of us—that is, when they think of us at all. In gaining new knowledge about how people in power almost always behave, we are wiser and sadder and, one hopes, much less likely to put up with bullshit from the left, right, or center.

There's a real opportunity to the politicians, the parties, and the causes that dare to embrace real transparency —about how legislation is being crafted, about our surveillance programs at home and abroad—as a core value and something other than a throwaway slogan. But as an unbroken thread of mendacity and mischief binds the present to the past, a future in which government can be trusted seems farther off than ever.

Read the whole piece at The Daily Beast.

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  1. In gaining new knowledge about how people in power almost always behave, we are wiser and sadder and, one hopes, much less likely to put up with bullshit from the left, right, or center.

    That’s hardly “new knowledge”. Its how people with power have always acted. It was well known, for example, to our revolutionary forebears, who designed a system of limited government precisely because they knew you couldn’t change how people with power will act; all you can change is how much power they have.

    It is part of the immense vanity of the current age that we throw away what we have been given, and then when we discover why we were given it, we pretend that we are the first to ever have such deep and profound insight.

    1. It is part of the immense vanity of the current age that we throw away what we have been given, and then when we discover why we were given it, we pretend that we are the first to ever have such deep and profound insight.

      Yes. The book Libertarians and really everyone doesn’t read enough is Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty. Everyone reads the Road to Surfdom and that is great. But that is only half the story. The other half is in The Constitution of Liberty. In that book, Hayak talks about how traditions are the expressions of collective wisdom obtained through hundreds of years of trial and error.

      The book teaches two lessons. First, that we don’t need government managing society because society has inherent self correcting mechanisms. Second, that it is a really stupid idea to reject traditions and societal mores without a very compelling reason.

      1. Road to Surfdom

        Now you’re just haming it up for your fans.

        1. Yes. It is just a way to distract stupid people from the substance of the post. That way they won’t much up the thread responding to it and will instead point out things like this.

          1. Really, John? You’re going to act all pissy when people bust your balls for the one thing you’re known for on these forums? It would be one thing if it were mean-spirited, but light-hearted ribbing of your penchant for malapropisms?

            Put your big boy pants on.

            1. Relax didn’t mean to offend

        2. Road to MILFdom. Got a link for the HM?

          1. Now that is a great Porn movie title.

        3. Beach Boys suck

      2. I would like to add a plug for my favorite Smith work The Theory Of Moral Sentiments

        http://www.econlib.org/library…..Cover.html

        1. I also recommend Russ Roberts’ How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness. It does a great job making Smith’s work relevant and readily comprehensible to a modern audience.

          1. Stop giving us excellent reading advice, Bo!

            Nobody loves you!

          2. I recommend you retire that shitty sockpuppet bo.

            1. I dunno, I think he acts slightly less condesending than Bo was.

              1. He’s less pedantic, and actively swore last night on the shirt thread. I’d say there’s a 92% chance he is not Bo, with a 4.5% margin of error. /random numbers pulled out of my ass.

                1. /random numbers pulled out of my ass.

                  Still more accurate than fatal police shooting data.

    2. That’s hardly “new knowledge”. Its how people with power have always acted.

      Well, not really. Life probably was pretty transparent back when we lived in caves and carried everything we owned when the herds moved. But once we developed agriculture and record-keeping, and moved into villages and cities, the Top Men went into acton.

      Which is pretty close to your analysis.

  2. Yes but what do semi-sentient bipedal omnivores spawned after 1980 consider is appropriate?

    1. I’m 31, and I take offense to this.

      Now take off your sexist shirt and give me free money!

      1. Now take off your sexist shirt

        Go on . . . .

        1. Sorry, that would be sexist.

  3. http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/198300/

    The cop who obtained a warrant to get a picture of a teenager’s erect penis to try and prove a sexting case has now filed a defamation against the teenager’s attorney. What makes this story so delicious is the allegations made in the suit. The cop says:

    “intense media and public scrutiny, embarrassment, shame?injury to his reputation as a law enforcement official?hundreds of emails that included pornographic or threatening material?telephone calls threatening death or other actions…” […] “severe emotional distress?which resulted in counseling with a psychologist and the need for medication.

    I am going to take the cop at his word here. I bet the publicity and social shaming over this case has made tyrannical motherfucker miserable. I bet he rues the day he ever thought getting that warrant was a good idea. On top of that, the fact that he filed the suit shows he has a complete victim complex about it. He wakes up every day thinking how unfair the whole thing is. That makes me happy because having a victim complex is one of the most miserable ways to live. I love it.

    1. I just wanted a picture of a teen’s woody and now you gotta shame me publicly? Ever heard of privacy?

      1. I was just following orders!!

        I love it that he is suing and still thinks he was right. If he realized he was wrong, he would be able to move on. Since he thinks he was right, he will spend his whole life miserable. It is a lot easier to get over a mistake than it is an injustice.

        1. You saying he’s Ahab going after his Moby Dick?

          1. +1

        2. No, John, you’re missing the true irony. He wanted to shame and humiliate the teen, and is now whining that he’s being shamed and humiliated because of it. It’s not just ironic, it’d be karmic if I actually believed in that shit.

      2. It’s not right that the child outted me as a pedaphile. I demand recompense.

    2. Sure, I get the Bad Things this goon was subjected to.

      What I don’t get, is what wrongful act did the attorney commit to subject him to these Bad Things?

      1. “Damn you and your truthful statements about the warrant I sought!”

    3. I’m glad to know that there are significant consequences for a pervert in uniform. I hope he ends up taking the coward’s way out.

      -jcr

      1. The coward’s way out = run for office?

    4. Oh no, the truth! Bad attorney, BAD!

    5. Hopefully what happens is the lawsuit brings national media attention to this creep.

    6. Sounds like the cop in the Butter’s Bottom Bitch episode.

    7. …injury to his reputation as a law enforcement official?

      As a law enforcement official how much personal reputation could he have?

  4. Many are disgusted as govt’s behavior is exposed, but you also attract more psychos, too. Also gives people the false security that, surely after such abuse has been aired in public, now things will change.

    1. Actually, that is the exact mentality that keeps me awake at night.

      I KNOW nothing will change, regardless of how much of this comes to light. I KNOW people will forget or grow used to it, and leave it be. I KNOW that the people in power are going to continue to consolidate and gather more power to themselves, forever.

      I know that the only way to end it is with a Libertarian House, Senate, and POTUS, or a bloody revolution. Which do you think will happen first?

      1. Of course the power-hungry are going to keep consolidating their power. They have the energy, because they want it so badly. It drives them. They’ll do just about anything to get it. While the rest of us just want to go about our lives and not have to fight against their power grabs every second of the day.

        The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity.

      2. Everything will change when the economy
        collapses and the makers have to rebuild
        what the takers and fakers have ruined.
        Afterwards,
        The makers will sit down at the table,
        look around tiredly at one another and
        ask ‘How the Frack do we keep this from
        happening again ?’

      3. Probably bloody revolution. Most likely started by a group from outside the country, who many will see as liberators. And then a few months later when these outsiders won’t leave, the real, effective bloody revolution will begin.

  5. I think the real problem for the government today is the utter failure – the complete, absolute, utter failure – of the last generation of reforms.

    And the public knowledge of, and contempt for, that failure.

    In the 70’s the state could try to claim it was reforming. They could trot out civilian police review boards and whistleblower protection laws and the Freedom of Information Act and ABSCAM and say, “Hey, look everybody – we’re reforming!”

    The problem is that all of those reforms failed. Every one.

    And everybody knows they failed.

    The people no longer expect transparency, justice or accountability. And they sneer now at all the tools that were created that would supposedly provide those things, because they didn’t. That is not a recipe for good outcomes, because the next time the state reaches a crisis there will be no bottom in the bucket when they try to go to the well on placating the people with symbolic reforms.

    1. I dunno, Fluffy. It seems to me that the failure, out of the gate, of any proposal for symbolic reforms intended to placate the public is a good thing.

      The bad things that are in store for this country aren’t the result of a populace that is insufficiently trusting of their nascent Total State. Its the fact that we have allowed our Total State to get so much traction.

    2. It is because government can’t be reformed. It will always be inefficient and corrupt and generally louse if sadly necessary. The government has always sucked. It is just that before the Progs came along its powers were limited such that it didn’t have the ability to do that much damage absent a real emergency like a war or something. Along come the progs and they give it all of this power over every day life. Sure enough the government sucks like it always has. So the Progs promised to reform government. And of course they have failed and people are starting to understand that the only solution is to limit government’s power not reform it. It can’t be reformed because people can’t be reformed.

      1. I don’t think the progressive movement is the defining factor for the rise of the powerful modern state. Even culturally dissimilar nations have seen the same sort of massive bureaucracy rise as wealth increases (Japan, Korea, and Eastern Europe). The goldfish grows to the size of the bowl, and the state and its entrenched bureaucracy grow according to the overall wealth of society.

        What seems to be the case is that traditional classical liberalism could only function prior to the explosion of wealth that, when leeched off via taxes or central banking, would fund the leviathan. And since no constitution can be a closed system–even without an amendment process, you can’t prevent living political actors from ignoring the contracts of the dead, whether through sophistry like the Living Constitution or blatant tyranny without justification–there’s no way to prevent the state from getting its hooks in the wealth of the public. Even if the 16th Amendment hadn’t happened, a central banking law would’ve had the same effect, and those laws come and go all the time.

        Even if the Confederacy had won the war, there’s no reason to think that the individual states/nations would not have seized as much wealth as they could even in the absence of a strong federal gov. When the people have wealth, state actors will take as much of it as they can to fund their pet projects–that’s not just a progressive thing, it’s a human (at least non-liberal/libertarian) thing.

        1. Correct. The distinguishing feature of
          the Progressive psyche is the need to
          prove their power and superiority by
          doing harm and being praised for it:
          ‘Thank you sir, may I have another ?’

          the female version is even worse;
          It involves a coat-hanger, the phrase
          ‘Thank you mommy dearest.’ and 3 rules:
          1) This hurts me more than it does you.
          2) This is for your own good.
          3) One day you will thank me for this.

        2. Did you mean Western Europe?

          Because Eastern Europe was really the cradle of progressivism. Marx, et al. The Catholic Church and other religions may have extolled the virtues of compulsory education, but it was a Prussian ideal that made it the state’s duty, especially at ever-advancing age limits.

  6. If I had a time machine, I’d send MLK a letter telling him all about Hoover’s sex life.

    -jcr

    1. “Doc, on early morning, April 4, a shot will ring out in the Memphis sky. Make sure you’re under your bed. Signed, a friend.”

    2. I’d send him one about Johnson’s and the Kennedys’s sex lives

  7. James Clapper. Domestic enemy of the Constitution. Deserves to spend the rest of his life breaking rocks in Death Valley. I really don’t like that guy.

    1. I thought the penalty for Treason was death?

      1. It is. I just don’t trust our government masters to even do that right.

      2. It can be but not necessarily.

  8. I started with my online business I earn $58 every 15 minutes. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it out.

    ??????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  9. @Nick.

    “Fifty years ago, FBI operatives sent Martin Luther King, Jr. was has come to be known as the “suicide letter,…”

    That sentence needs some work.

    1. He’s trying to flush out the Grammar Nazis.

      1. You know who else was a type of Nazi?

        1. OMFG HITLER!

  10. Why would any one trust a large group of people.If I go to Kroger I expect a certain amount of service and quality,same with any other group.I trust no one I do not know and have reason too.That’s why I do not understand progs love of government and socons love of the police and military.You don’t know these people and many will be evil.Get a clue

  11. Why would any one trust a large group of people.If I go to Kroger I expect a certain amount of service and quality,same with any other group.I trust no one I do not know and have reason too.That’s why I do not understand progs love of government and socons love of the police and military.You don’t know these people and many will be evil.Get a clue

  12. Oh,hoover was a evil person who should be taught as such,not have a building named after.

    1. He is taught as being evil. The problem is that the is taught as being evil for exactly the opposite reason he actually was evil. Most people think Hoover is some kind of evil do nothing small government type who sat and did nothing about the Depression. If only he had been that rather than what he was.

      1. Most people think Hoover is some kind of evil do nothing small government type

        I distinctly remember this narrative in hs: Hoover=laissez-faire=bad

        1. And everyone seems to forget Harding, the drunk who didn’t really do anything besides pardon people convicted under the Espionage Act, and the depression that never happened.

      2. J. Edgar Herbert C.

        Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.

        Herbert Hoover may have had some misguided notions as President, but he was probably the least evil president of them all. Hoover’s humanitarian work during the Great War, largely conducted at his own expense of funds, energy, and reputation, is still commemorated in Belgium.

        1. Hoover’s humanitarian work during the Great War

          I think I read somewhere that Hoover’s problem was that this humanitarian work convinced him that central planning could work. That was one of the great tragedies of both World Wars as they convinced a lot of people that TOP MEN could get centrally planned economies to work.

          1. What seems to hold true is that even people who are opposed to central planning turn into central planners the minute they have power, then flop back out of planner mode when they’re out of power.

            Greenspan being the best example today, but Jefferson a legendary one as well. And Hoover himself was a pretty big name in the Old Right, proto-libertarian movement, despite his FDR-esque role in entrenching the Depression by preventing real wages from falling at the outset of the crash.

      3. Wrong Hoover?

        1. We’re talking about the vacuum, right?

          1. Yes, the one between some folk’s ears, which was supposed to be filled by education. 🙂

  13. Finally a SJW video I can get “behind”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new…..tices.html

    1. Behind, In front of, above, beneath…

      #BlahBlahBlahNoFemaleLibertarians

    2. To me, the amazing part is when the store clerk looks RIGHT AT HER “pants” from short range and tells her they should have them in the basement (or wherever).

      Really, its a very clever demonstration of how perception is a conscious act, how we see what we expect to/want to see, etc.

    3. Let her try it without the G-string.

  14. It’s because Obama’s black isn’t it.

    1. No?.it’s all about Bush! 😉

      1. Nana nana nana nana!

        Nana nana nana nana!

        Bushpig! Bushpig!

  15. RE: Public Paranoia

    It’s valid. Look at all the militarization of the police. Look at the NSA spying on all of US.

    It’s nice, at last, to see our concerns about the government have been validated and our integrity vindicated.

    1. I’d be happier if my worst fears weren’t being constantly validated.

      For example, I am happy that there has been no Ebola breakout, even though this means that the more aggressive quarantine-type measures I favored weren’t apparently needed after all.

      I’d like to wrong and happy more often.

      1. I’d like to wrong and happy more often.

        Your wife can make you be wrong more often, but I don’t know about the happy part.

        [ducking]

    2. Feeling validated isn’t much of a consolation when it comes at the expense of a boot on your neck.

      I felt validated in my belief about cops being assholes the last time I was pulled over and the cop said to my face “This is Illinois, we can do whatever we want.”

      That sense of validation didn’t do anything to stop the theft of $125 (plus administrative fees) for not having a front license plate on my Honda.

      I’ll save my validation for the revolution, thank you.

      1. RE: Bootnecking

        They tried that. It didn’t work very well for them.

        Got SWAT’d. Someone called the police out on me. The house was surrounded by about a dozen police with their weapons pointed in my direction. The SWAT team champing at their collective ‘bit’.

        The distaff went out to tell them nothing wrong was happening. They took her hostage.

        Three hour stand-off. They telling me to come out with my hands up. And me?being an Airborne-Ranger type and trained not to do dumb things like that?saying, “No.”

        They couldn’t find someone amongst the SWAT team dumb enough to be the ‘forlorn hope’. And finally backed off.

  16. Jesus, we’ve just learned that small planes are using so-called dirtboxes to pick up cell phone traffic.

    Did you get religion, Nick?

    1. dirtboxes

      Excellent band name?

      1. Jesus’ Small Plane Dirtboxes is better.

        I envision them as a Ray Stevens tribute band.

        1. We could shorten it to Plane Dirtboxes.

          Ska band, maybe?

          1. If it’s a Ska band, the words “mighty” and/or “super” should be in there, somewhere.

          2. What about “Plain Dirtboxes”?

            1. “Mighty Plain Dirtboxiz”.

              See, the “iz” at the end makes it appeal to Millenials. Because it’s misspelled, and Millenials like misspelled words. Because Millenials are stupid stoopids.

  17. “Fifty years ago, FBI operatives sent Martin Luther King, Jr. was has come to be known as the….”

    Really wanted to read your post, but when the first sentence contains a grammatical error in it, I just close the window. Proof reading used to be something everyone did. Now it seems optional in the hurry up internet world.

    I think what you meant was “Fifty years ago, FBI operatives sent Martin Luther King, Jr. “WHAT” has come to be known as the…..”

    Errors in the letter, errors in the story about it. Seems about right.

    1. It’s Sunday, okay? He can’t be expected to give a shit on the Sabbath!

      1. I thought the Sabbath was on Saturdays?

    2. FBI operatives sent Martin Luther King, Jr. was has come to be known

      grammatical error

      Isn’t there some Net Law for this phenomenon where one must make a linguistic mistake while criticizing the mistakes of others? I think there’s one for spelling errors, but what about pointing out “grammatical errors” that are, in fact, spelling errors (which seems to be the most common variant of this phenomenon)?

      1. It’s called Joe’s Law. (after Joe Boyle, a former commenter on this forum.)

  18. So how to change distrust into dismantle?

    1. I mean, anybody can blow shit up.

  19. OT.
    I was flipping channels today during tv timeouts and caught my first look at The Newsroom:

    Evil White Businessman type: I know we have this political difference, but I’m a job creator. I’m proud of the fact that I cut paychecks to 141,000 people.

    Hot Woman: Our differences aren’t political; they’re religious. My religion is Economics, so I know that the customers are the job creators.

    Businessman: Speechless

    Me: nearly pulled a muscle changing the channel.

    1. Was the “Hot Woman” supposed to be a thinly veiled dramatic version of Hillary?

    2. Demand-side economics: Where wealth exists because consumers demand it, not because entrepreneurs created it.

  20. my neighbor’s sister-in-law makes $70 /hour on the computer . She has been out of a job for 5 months but last month her pay check was $14539 just working on the computer for a few hours. find out here now……

    ?????? http://www.payinsider.com

  21. Not only do we trust them less because we know more about how they operate – we also trust them less and less as they operate more and more. The government of the 1950’s was doing things that would have been unthinkable in 1900. The government of today is doing things that would have been unthinkable in the 1980’s. Heck, as late as the mid 80’s even mentioning something that could be construed as a national ID card would have gotten your run out of politics. Today we have a national law on health insurance requiring everyone to buy insurance.

    The level of intrusion into our daily lives should make all those baby boomers in the government blanch. But it doesn’t. They seem pretty proud of their domestic intelligence gathering capabilities and their TSA inspections before getting on a plane and their national education plans. Any of those things would have gotten those early 70’s anti-Nixon protester’s panties all in a twist. But today they are super-proud of their accomplishments.

  22. “The information about King’s extramarital assignations was gathered with the approval not just of the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover but Attorney General Robert Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson”

    Damned right wing fascists!!

    1. Damned right wing fascists!!

      Your irony or sarcasm is duly noted, but compared to the bunch running things today those guys back then would almost have to be considered right wing.

      As for King being investigated, many today have conveniently forgotten why he was investigated. It certainly wasn’t because Mr. Holy Preacher Man couldn’t keep his pants zipped or remain faithful to his wife – hell, neither could Saints John, Bobby, or Teddy. He was investigated for any ties he had to communists and as part of an inquiry into allegations of communist involvement in the civil rights movement. This was considered the FBI’s job at the time – the marital infidelities came up inadvertently. It should be recalled that the country was in the middle of a cold war with the Soviets. We even had kids being drafted and sent to Vietnam to die stopping the spread of communism during that “cold war.”

      Sure, J. Edgar Hoover was a pervert and a sorry bastard who misused the power of his agency. But was he really any worse than any of the other holier-than-thou phonies back then who couldn’t or wouldn’t live up to their public personae? Doubtful.

  23. “There is but one way out for you,” reads the note, which appeared in unredacted form for the first time just last week. “You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”

    Perhaps he did. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that he arranged his own assassination; there was certainly enough inspiration around at the time for such a scheme. If anyone ever thought of himself as some sort of messianic figure, it would have been King (aside from the present occupant of the White House.) Ya gotta admit that turning oneself into a martyr is one way to get back at your enemies if the alternative is disgrace and humiliation.

    In any event I’ve always thought it was just a little too good to be true that he was shot by some racist redneck. Some years ago I saw a story on one of the major television network news programs that looked into whether James Earl Ray really was the one who killed King. It raised more questions than it answered. According to Wikipedia even King’s family thinks Ray had nothing to do with the assassination.

    Maybe one of his own people did it. Or maybe it was the commies. Who knows?

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