Totalitarian regimes are living states. They think and feel and adopt emotional rationales in picking and choosing minorities within the population to aid through legislation.
In short, the government adopts all the characteristics of a single human being, including a survival instinct. But because they have a monopoly on power, there is no check to their self-interest, meaning there are no impediments to them running over individuals who stand in their way.
But the recent revelation of the Secret Service’s targeting of Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) demonstrates that absolute power wielded by unaccountable bureaucrats is not limited to fascist dictatorships- it can occur in democracy when oversight is taken away.
Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has led the calls for reform of the Secret Service in the wake of agency scandals that include the solicitation of Columbian prostitutes and a failure to stop intruders from entering the White House.
The agency, rather than admitting to very obvious failures that place the life of the president and other top government officials in jeopardy, decided to target Chaffetz. An investigation by the Associated Press revealed criminal access to Chaffetz’s personal records- an action that may be a breach of the Privacy Act- with an aim of leaking information related to an unsuccessful job application.
Though Ed Lowery, the agency’s assistant director, rather ironically cites transparency as the reason for his actions, the intent is clear- to intimidate and silence a threat to their power.
This is the classic bully tactic of a living government.
In some ways, the agency cannot be blamed. It is, like any other frightened creature, fulfilling its survival instinct. The real problem is the culture of modern bureaucrats- the belief that they have a level of power that allows them to act independently of the law because it is in the interest of the government, which is roughly analogous to the public interest.
Really, it is Chaffetz whose investigative work is in line with ensuring the public welfare. Where the Secret Service acted only on an impulse- a desire to protect their status- Chaffetz checked his desire against the limits of his power. Both his action and his instincts are consistent. The Secret Service’s action did not consider the ultimate rightness of their action.
In other words they acted out of irrational self-interest- they did not consider whether the consequences of their actions would be ultimately deleterious to their position. In doing so, they showed a reckless disregard for the constraints of power.
And that, not the survival instinct, is the problem. Every one has a vested interest in their survival. It is not a bad thing. Theoretically, the fear of harm from retaliation of the peer’s one has wronged should keep men honest.
The problem, as in the case of the Secret Service, is when the locus of conscience is removed from an individual and instilled in a government agency which has power, resources and the law on its side.
And that is why this incident is significant beyond the inevitable media frenzy of anchors drooling over Capitol Hill scandal. The disregard for consequences is pervasive and the more entrenched it becomes in government, the harder it will be to eradicate because all the organs of power will be on the side of those who see them as a part of their property- to be defended at all costs.