Who Is Really Crazy (James E. Miller)
Wednesday February 5th, 2014
On the surface, Cass Sunstein seems like a put-together guy. A former Obama administration official, he currently holds a prestigious teaching position at Harvard Law School. Throughout his career, he has been awarded a litany of accolades from academic institutions of high regard. University of Chicago, Columbia, Harvard – Sunstein has seen the inside of all these ivory towers.
But, methinks, this seemingly calm lifestyle is all a ruse. Sunstein fancies himself an intellectual and a navigator of high class. He moves effortlessly between the twin sectors of government and academia. His wife is the current U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. His books and academic articles are frequently cited by colleagues. Sunstein appears to live the quintessential life of a supercilious name-dropper who is hard pressed to find an unfriendly face at Davos.
Not everything is as it seems however. For Sunstein, there is something darker underneath his shell of guiltlessness. The thing to remember about intellectuals is that innocence is not always their forte. The incestuous mix of bureaucracy and university makes for a stupefying drug. Government enforcers are already afflicted with antisocial tendencies. College professors, specifically those no longer accountable to the community (also called "tenured"), sometimes have the same disposition.
Our friend Cass suffers from this potent mix of contempt for society and a desire to use force to correct its naturally-occurring anomalies. It's quite sad, really. Sunstein is not the fine, upstanding gentleman he appears to be. Behind his facade of professional gloss is a scared and bitter man. In fact, all evidence points to a paranoia so extreme and profound, it's a wonder how any university allows him to teach in front of students. Any average person with this kind of mental instability would have been committed by now.
So, what's my evidence for this charge? In a recent article for Bloomberg, Sunstein is given a platform for his incredible derangement to run wild. And he sure knows how to use it. Titling his article "How to Spot a Paranoid Libertarian," our would-be investigator thinks he has found libertarianism's Achilles' heel.
In a screed that reeks of desperation, Sunstein calls out libertarians for taking the snowball's approach to caution. As he writes, this wily band of freedom-lovers regard all state action as questionable because government "will inevitably use its authority so as to jeopardize civil liberties." The past two centuries of Washington slowly accumulating power to become a global hegemon is paid no mind. The same goes for anyone with a "presumption of bad faith on the part of government officials." These suspicious folks, Sunstein claims, are not to be trusted.
You see, those who challenge the efficacy of government or its surveillance activities – meaning the triforce of Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and Julian Assange – are dangerous. Sunstein damns the very notion that government could be working against its citizens rather than for them. For him, if state-uniformed enforcers are out confiscating guns, it's insane to think a violation of rights is occurring. And it's just as crazy to assume public servants have it out for a certain sect of radicals that demand the most asinine of things: to be left alone.
As Sunstein notes, these paranoid and crazed libertarians "tend to believe that as individuals…they are being targeted by the government." The evidence for such an outrageous claim, he says, is always "speculative or remote." This scant corroboration still entices the libertarian community, and will even strengthen its bonds in some cases. And it's because of this unfounded propensity to distrust their mild-mannered overseers in government, that libertarians are tinfoil-chewing cranks incapable of behaving in modern society. To Sunstein, these surly freaks must be censored from the rest of the public.
The only problem with Sunstein's depiction of paranoid libertarianism is the existence of evidence that backs the claim of unfair targeting. In the early part of 2012, it was revealed the Federal Bureau of Investigation has special instructions for the handling of anyone who supports the gold standard or expresses contempt for the thieves at the Internal Revenue Service. Citizens who don't like to have their wealth stolen or to use a currency backed by guns are called "extremists." Thus, the government treats them differently, for fear they might live their lives unbothered by state officials.
In fall of the same year, a 16-year-old boy was paid a visit by two goons from the FBI. They requested he act as a spy on the hacker organization Anonymous. The teen was targeted because of his online support for then-Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul. Seeing as how Paul promoted a Golden Rule-esque version of politics, it only makes sense for the government to be suspicious.
All the misgivings about libertarians stem from two studies leaked in the past five years that put intense scrutiny on citizens who are "reverent of individual liberty" and are acrimonious toward centralized authority. Even the conservative tea party movement was the target of an effort by the IRS to deprive political groups of tax-exempt status. It was discovered the Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations division directed her subordinates to scrutinize applicants that had a fondness for limited government.
What does Sunstein say about irrefutable evidence of Uncle Sam discriminating against political dissidents? Not a word. The proof is ignored in favor of his own deranged theory. The only conclusion to draw from this obvious ignorance of the truth is an inability to cope with the modern world. Sunstein is attempting to place his foot on the pedestal of sanity. He thinks lambasting a political minority will help him appear favorable to his peers. In that regard, he is correct. Cudgeling libertarianism is the media's new hobby.
But the recent string of essays highly critical of this peaceful political philosophy are all marked with a growing agitation on the part of progressives. They won't stand for dissent or open thought. The very idea of individuals living freely, not hurting each other, and pursuing the Good is too much of a threat to their domination. So myopic bureaucrats like Cass Sunstein are left with nothing to do but project their psychosis onto their enemies. They scream "paranoid!" while the real paranoia stares at them from the mirror. It's sad and pathetic. Their souls will never find peace in a world of cooperation and respect for individual rights.
Here is my advice to Cass Sunstein: get help. Your paranoid delusions of a coming libertarian revolution are misguided. Society will not fall apart with the absence of a coercive government. To the contrary, it will thrive much more than it does now. Fretting over that possibility reveals a deep insecurity about humanity at large. Should this paranoia be put into public policy, it will have grave ramifications for all individuals. Sunstein has already floated the idea of subverting the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of speech. There is no telling what harebrained, tyrannical scheme he will come up with next.
Cass Sunstein is a threat to himself and others. He believes might makes right and will do anything to achieve his goals. If such a sicko were to hold real power, there is no telling the horror he would unleash. For now, he will continue to fill the heads of students with fearful ravings about liberty. Hopefully his pupils will know better than to trust this madman.
James E. Miller is editor-in-chief of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada. Send him mail