Edward Snowden heading for Ecuador reminds me of the roaches checking into a roach motel. It’s hard to see how he can survive on a long-term basis in country within such easy physical reach of the United States. The Atlantic says “Snowden could be following in the footsteps of another high-profile whistleblower, Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for an entire year after Ecuador offered to protect him from extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sex crimes.”

In recent years, Assange and Wikileaks have presented an especially golden opportunity for [President] Correa to take a stand against U.S. foreign policy, which he has said he finds “questionable.” In explaining his rationale for granting Assange asylum, Patino, the foreign minister, said that if Assange leaves the embassy, he could also be extradited to the U.S., where he might face “political persecution.”

But no politician, especially a Third World politician, stays in office forever. One day Correa will be gone or find himself short of dollars. And then he’ll remember what’s stashed away in his embassy in London or in a safe house in Quito or Guayaquil. And on that day the truism “¡Tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos!” will be never so true.

Looking down from the hills at Quito

Looking down from the hills at Quito

Guayaquil from the air

Guayaquil from the air

A cynical man might think the Chinese have washed their hands of him; and so have the Russians. They’re sending him onward to Ecuador where the beaches are fine and the mountains are close to the city. How’s he ever going to go down to the store to buy a bag of groceries again? The man next to him might be a SEAL who swam ashore the night before or walked down from the hills, waiting to tap him on the shoulder and bring him in for the greatest of all crimes: making a fool out of the incumbent.

The problems of the modern rebel are illustrated by KTLA’s story on the Last Email of Michael Hastings, sent to them, just hours before he died. He wanted to get “off the radar”. Hastings wrote:

Hey … the Feds are interviewing my “close friends and associates.” Perhaps if the authorities arrive “BuzzFeed GQ”, er HQ, may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.

Also: I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the radar for a bit.

According to eyewitnesses near the crash, no one was following Hastings as he hurtled through LA in his high performance car. But you can’t get off the radar at 100 miles per hour; not even at 200 miles an hour. The modern surveillance box is all around you, not behind you. And where was he going anyway?

Snowden’s basic problem — and perhaps ours too — is that he has nowhere obvious to go. Does it really make sense to turn on the NSA if the only place to hide is with China, Russia or Chavez’s allies? Whatever one may think of Barack Obama, it is doubtful to imagine that the Chinese or Russians are more libertarian.

How does it go? “I’m fighting for freedom. Onward to Moscow!”

Over the last 60 or so years, we’ve traded the promise of safety for freedom, not simply in practice but in principle.  Cass Sunstein, who was the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under Barack Obama until 2012 wrote about how we would be much better off if we forgot about “negative rights” and focused on the “positive rights”. How much nicer it was to be fed rather than to be free.

In what sense is the money in our pockets and bank accounts fully ‘ours’? Did we earn it by our own autonomous efforts? Could we have inherited it without the assistance of probate courts? Do we save it without the support of bank regulators? Could we spend it if there were no public officials to coordinate the efforts and pool the resources of the community in which we live? Without taxes, there would be no liberty. Without taxes there would be no property. Without taxes, few of us would have any assets worth defending. [It is] a dim fiction that some people enjoy and exercise their rights without placing any burden whatsoever on the public… There is no liberty without dependency….

If government could not intervene effectively, none of the individual rights to which Americans have become accustomed could be reliably protected. [...] This is why the overused distinction between “negative” and “positive” rights makes little sense. Rights to private property, freedom of speech, immunity from police abuse, contractual liberty and free exercise of religion—just as much as rights to Social Security, Medicare and food stamps—are taxpayer-funded and government-managed social services designed to improve collective and individual well-being.

“There is no liberty without dependency.” Sunstein forgot to add, “there is no liberty with dependency” either. Therefore logically there is no liberty at all. I wrote in my pamphlet, Rebranding Christianity, that every right thinking Marxist has known this all along. But so what? We’re just a kind of animal, and a reprehensible kind at that, so ugly that nobody even goes on photo safari to see us unless we’re wearing loincloths or rings through our nose.

The central tenet of Marxism is that humanity is nothing but a chemical accident; that humanity’s self-awareness is an illusion, just as if a rock were able to attain a fleeting sense of its existence. Marxism teaches that this consciousness has led humanity into no end of trouble because it makes humanity imagine it is more than it is.

Aspirations to transcendence make people susceptible to what Marx called “the opiate of the people” – religions like Judaism or Christianity. And religion makes man forget – to his detriment – that he is nothing but a self-aware animal and fills his head with airy visions of heaven, meaning and truth thereby distracting him from his true destiny, which is to eat, consume, get high and have sex to the maximum possible extent. In a word, the illusion of transcendence makes men waste their time and keeps them from fully embracing their true animal nature.

To fix this problem, Marxism undertakes to relocate heaven to earth and give man back his animal life in the form of a Worker’s Paradise. There is nothing original about this plan. The idea of a Perfect Earth was held out by rulers to their subjects long before Islam and even Christianity came on the scene. We hear of it in the story of the Tower of Babel: the vaunting structure that would reach the heavens.

Positive rights. Yeah, man.

The sooner we forget the negative rights, the better off we will be. It’s true we won’t be free, but we were never free to begin with. As I wrote in my pamphlet, “Samuel argued that if we sought a king we would find a tyrant. But Marxism-Leninism did not believe this warning because in the first place man was merely a bag of chemicals, and you could no more oppress humanity than oppress a sack of fertilizer.”

To a significant extent the American experiment was an attempt to discover whether a government could be constructed on the foundation of “negative rights”; where the prime duty of the state was to keep itself unobtrusive and small. But we have filled the universe with government and Snowden will find, as perhaps Hastings found, that you can’t find the liberty we’ve traded for mess of pottage by running away.


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