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L. Neil Smith's
Number 736, September 1, 2013

Please don't quit just when we're
almost where we want to be. Just
when we're almost where we need to be.

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This Ain't East Germany
by Paul Bonneau

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

The hoopla surrounding Snowden's revelations included the claim that the old East German secret police, the Stasi, would have loved to have had in their bag of repressive tools the same mechanisms that the NSA has already put in place in America. I believe this is true; but that's not the same thing as saying we are in the same boat (or worse) than those unfortunate East Germans. America is not East Germany.

How long would an East German have stayed out of the gulag for criticizing Erich Honecker, even in private conversation? Contrast that to the constant public barrage at Obama and the rest of the American ruling class. It's not too worrysome to call Obama the vile warmongering tyrant that he is. Although it is true that there are some bootlicking organizations out there (this clown shouldn't have any problem getting work in Wyoming rodeos), most of us just hoot at presidents. I still fondly remember the Clinton years where you heard a new joke about him every night on even mainstream (Ministry of Propaganda) TV.

While it's true that East Germany was filled with "good Germans", Americans seem to delight in doing the opposite of what their "betters" wish them to do. In fact it might even be said many Americans don't know what to do until they figure out what the rulers want; then they do the opposite. I suppose much of the German submission to authority has to do with what it took to survive WWI and the following starvation blockade, National Socialism, WWII, the invasion by the allies, the rapes and abuse following the Red Army invasion, the DDR/Stasi tyranny, and who knows what else. All that would tend to wear a person down, and convince him not to rock the boat.

But look at the homeschooling question for example. How did homeschooling become established in America? By breaking the law. In contrast, as Michael Farris puts it,

"Germans can trace a long tradition of excellence in a wide variety of national pursuits. They are proud of their culture, history, and expertise, and are reluctant to apply to their own country lessons and experience from other countries. However, once a new concept is validated by respected German academic and professional institutions and a viable solution is developed and implemented with some success, Germans readily adopt new ideas, including ideas about education."

Such deference to authority seems strange to Americans. Homeschooling remains completely illegal in Germany.

An even better example is the purchase of arms and ammo by Americans. It is commonplace that Americans, hearing from their "betters" how bad guns are, proceed to go out and buy another. Obama, who hates firearms in the hands of the mundanes, has been the greatest firearms salesman in world history.

Perhaps that is the point. It's one thing for intelligence services to learn things about you. It's another thing entirely for them to do something about it! The Stasi may have been a violent, thuggish organization, but they would not have lasted long here, attempting to do the same things they got away with in Germany.

It's been in vogue for libertarians to make fun of the notion of American exceptionalism, and I agree with that where the ruling class is concerned - thugs are the same around the world. But the ruling class is not the whole story. American "mundanes" are actually quite different than in most countries. I think the difference is due to our being heavily armed, and the mindset that goes along with that. State thugs such as bureaucrats and police have to worry a bit more about survival than in most countries.

Despite the fancy NSA snooping tools, most people would rather be living in America than in East Germany. That makes perfect sense.

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