David Brooks impresses me with his piece in The New York Times on Edward Snowden. I don’t agree with a lot of his conclusions, but I like that Brooks doesn’t leap at the chance to use Snowden as a blunt instrument against President Obama, as some conservatives are doing.
More importantly, I think, is that Brooks takes aim at modern libertarianism, which has often been a strange bedfellow with today’s Republican party.
If you live a life unshaped by the mediating institutions of civil society, perhaps it makes sense to see the world a certain way: Life is not embedded in a series of gently gradated authoritative structures: family, neighborhood, religious group, state, nation and world. Instead, it’s just the solitary naked individual and the gigantic and menacing state.
This lens makes you more likely to share the distinct strands of libertarianism that are blossoming in this fragmenting age: the deep suspicion of authority, the strong belief that hierarchies and organizations are suspect, the fervent devotion to transparency, the assumption that individual preference should be supreme. You’re more likely to donate to the Ron Paul for president campaign, as Snowden did.
Brooks does not overtly condemn the Tea Party but I can’t help but think he has them in mind when he writes the following:
But Big Brother is not the only danger facing the country. Another is the rising tide of distrust, the corrosive spread of cynicism, the fraying of the social fabric and the rise of people who are so individualistic in their outlook that they have no real understanding of how to knit others together and look after the common good.