If this is your first week following the news, you could be forgiven for believing America’s biggest problem is that pylons were placed with extreme prejudice on a New Jersey bridge last September.
The closing of the George Washington Bridge by members of Gov. Chris Christie’s staff, apparently as payback for the denial of an endorsement by the local mayor, has reached the level of national scandal for two reasons: Christie is a formidable presidential contender, and he is a Republican.
Many have pointed out that the media have devoted more time to this regional dust-up involving a potential president than to the weaponization of the IRS by the man who actually is president, Barack Obama.
That’s fair enough. The United States possesses the most oppressive and rapacious tax authority in the world, and siccing it on political foes is unworthy of a leader. But these issues are merely symptomatic of the real problem.
Indeed, both stories – the IRS debacle and bridge imbroglio – have some bearing on what truly ails America. Sages from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to Mark Steyn have warned of the peril posed by faceless bureaucrats whom you don’t know, didn’t vote for, and against whom you have no recourse, possessed with tremendous power to screw with your life.
And whether you find yourself in the throes of a thorough audit, or unable to speak your mind or practice your religion for fear of crippling costs and possible imprisonment, or simply stuck in traffic for hours because some politico wanted to teach someone a lesson, you are experiencing a manifestation of America’s greatest problem: the loss of personal freedom.
This is a systemic, cultural crisis, with incidental relevance to particular politicians.
Christie is the wrong man to lead America not because members of his staff engaged in petty revenge tactics, with or without his knowledge. Rather, Christie is poorly cast as Leader of the Free World because he demonstrably does not believe in individual freedom.
Moreover, he announces his antipathy to personal sovereignty with bluster and swagger, as though it were absurd to dispute that ubiquitous security and total surveillance are crucial to our liberty.
Christie is of that breed of benighted Republicans who may not agree with what you say, but will defend to the death the National Security Agency’s right to monitor it. Such politicians, who purport to represent the party of personal freedom and responsibility, really ought to know better.
Likewise, Obama campaigned for the presidency promising to restore civil liberties and undo the national security excesses of his predecessor. Instead, he has exacerbated these issues and taken government intrusion upon private life in bold, new directions.
The loss of personal freedom spans every aspect of modern existence, from doing business, to getting around, to behavior in your own home. If individuals are not free to strive and speak and move about as they wish, what is America, really? A continental land mass with a large consumer market?