Posted by Butler Shaffer on June 24, 2013
The White House is all aflutter, stymied by the lack of knowledge of Snowden's whereabouts. I am reminded of the poem in that wonderful film, set in the French Revolution, The Scarlet Pimpernel: "They seek him here, they seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven? Or is he in hell? That damned elusive Pimpernel!"
Snowden was reportedly to be on a flight from Moscow to Cuba this morning, but was not aboard when the plane departed. This inconvenienced numerous reporters who booked the same flight - apparently hoping to get interviews with him - but who must now look forward to a day or so in exciting Havana.
Taking a self-righteous stance grounded in moralistic legalism, the White House strongly criticizes the governments of Hong Kong and China for not honoring their "obligation" to capture Snowden as a prelude to his being returned to America for his destruction. The Russian government is also admonished to "expel" (White House words) Snowden and thus set up his recapture by the U.S. Perhaps the Hong Kong, Chinese, and Russian governments might have been advised of the legal precedence, under American law, for the White House demands: in the pre-Civil War years, the federal Fugitive Slave Laws - which Abraham Lincoln strongly supported - required runaway slaves to be returned to their owners.
What amuses me the most in the current Snowden episode, is that the American government, with all of its supposed intelligence-gathering capacities - the revelations of which are at the core of the case against Snowden - cannot locate this man's presence. "All the king's horses, and all the king's men" - even with access to all communications of all Americans - can no more find him than could they anticipate the collapse of the Soviet Union or the attacks of 9/11. The entire affair - along with the actions of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and other whistleblowers - helps answer the pessimists who ask "but what can one person do?"
Snowden's actions are confirming the consequences of living in a free society: individuals, pursuing their self-interests, are better able to focus their intelligence on matters of direct concern to their lives, than are those who busy themselves with gathering trillions upon trillions of pieces of information, deluding themselves that such powers provide them with some imaginary sense of collective intelligence with which to rule the world. To those who pay attention, Snowden is demonstrating how decentralized decision-making - in a society that respects individual liberty, private ownership of property, and free-markets - is far more productive of human well-being than is collective subservience to authority.