December 5, 2013

The Omniscience-Seeking of the Modern State

By In Politics

“And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”  ~Hebrews 4:1

The great Creator of the universe knows all that can possibly be known about His creation.  He is ignorant of nothing, for nothing exists outside the bounds of His eternal knowledge.  Charles Hodge writes:

This knowledge of God is not only all-comprehending, but it is intuitive and immutable.  He knows all things as they are, being as being, phenomena as phenomena, the possible as possible, the actual as actual, the necessary as necessary, the free as free, the past as past, the present as present, the future as future.  […]  The vast procession of events, thoughts, feelings, and acts, stands open to his view.  [Systematic Theology Part 1, Ch. 5, Sec. 8]

Hodge continues his reflection to state that not only does the Scripture clearly teach the absolute knowledge of God, but the idea is necessarily included in the very concept of His perfect being.  A perfect being, Hodge says, simply “cannot be ignorant of anything” for to be ignorant in some area is to lack perfection.  It is to this God that we pray and it is on behalf of this God that we live our lives.

And yet, how clear has it become that the State, the great idol of the modern age, jealously lusts after this aspect of God’s nature.  The State considers itself a God, with the moral ability to do all that it wills.  It mocks the so-called self-interest of the individuals in society, and yet has not ever slowed down in its despicable quest to render unto itself all the power of the earth.  As it seeks to pillage and plunder the multitudes, it’s most enthusiastic servants, the politicians, bureaucrats, and lobbyists, have realized that it needs to take up the attribute of God known in theology as omniscience.

The most recent example, the American surveillance State, by no means operates alone.  The United States seeks domination over the world, but works with other States globally.  Moreover, the current status of State-omniscience is by no means the first attempt by any State to play God in this way.  In fact, the practice goes back for centuries.  In the Roman Empire, especially under Diocletian, a heavy emphasis was placed on the census.  We find:

A census had to be taken to assess the basis on which the tax was levied.  This was in places extraordinarily complex.  In Syria for instance the land tax was assessed in various bands, with three different bands for arable, and quite separate bands for vineyards and olive groves.  It was assessed on the basis of a iuga, which was the amount of produce that one man and his family could be expected to produce.

The census became the basis on which peasants became tied to the land.  In a document from Egypt it is laid down that for the purpose of this census every body must return to their home village.  But once the census had established the taxation to be levied, as the produce of so many people, then there was a tendency to insist that once one was recorded on a census, that was one’s legal place of residence.  One could not move away from it, and furthermore your children had to continue to cultivate the land and provide the taxes.

The State, it becomes clear, needs omniscience as a means to advance its own glory.  Like God, the State desires the multitudes to praise it.  The State demands our everything: our wealth, our obedience, our affections, our respect.  But how can these things be taken if little is known about the individuals over which it seeks to rule?  Surveillance becomes necessary for the State’s expansion and self-glorification.  The extent to which the Roman Empire could know about those who lived under its rule, to that extent it had power.  The American surveillance state knows so many times more about the people of the world than Rome once knew.  How much more power does it then have?

If the State wishes, like it always does, to have the same power as God, it must act like God does.  It must seek the same characteristics as God.  Those people who make up the State do not consciously know this.  But it is inevitable.  This is what is going on as the world discovers the great lengths to which the State has gone to know what God knows.  As God’s creatures are all laid bare before His great and glorious knowledge, so the State desires the same relation to the multitudes.  If God knows the number of hairs on our heads, the State yearns for that same knowledge.

Your individual liberty is a roadblock on the State’s blasphemous march to deity.

The leaks that people like Edward Snowden have provided offer a new look into just how expansive government spying has become.  Of course, most that has been released has been known for quite some time.  But the professional and purposeful ways in which the recent material has come to be known has caused the leaks to have a fascinating impact worldwide.  Just this week the Washington Post has provided newer information:

The National Security Agency is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world, according to top-secret documents and interviews with U.S. intelligence officials, enabling the agency to track the movements of individuals — and map their relationships — in ways that would have been previously unimaginable.

The records feed a vast database that stores information about the locations of at least hundreds of millions of devices, according to the officials and the documents, which were provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. New projects created to analyze that data have provided the intelligence community with what amounts to a mass surveillance tool.

The State has determined that it is in its best interest to know the locations of every person.  Jonah could not hide from God, and neither does the modern State want its own coerced-servants to hide.  The verse in Hebrews has an eerie ring to it, once we realize that it seeks the same knowledge as God: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”  The State is a jealous god.  When it realizes that there are some who do not worship it, these are the objects of the State’s attention.   For instance, Reuters reported the following last year:

Anti-government extremists opposed to taxes and regulations pose a growing threat to local law enforcement officers in the United States, the FBI warned on Monday.

These extremists, sometimes known as “sovereign citizens,” believe they can live outside any type of government authority, FBI agents said at a news conference.

The extremists may refuse to pay taxes, defy government environmental regulations and believe the United States went bankrupt by going off the gold standard.

It is by data collection, the means by which the State pursues omniscience, that such persons are identified and tracked.  To purchase libertarian oriented books on Amazon after searching for an article via Google on the history of anarcho-capitalism provides the State with a reason to be alert.  Everything that the citizens does must be known.  Traffic cameras are used to scan citizens.  Obamacare is a database of medical history.  CommonCore is a database which collects family health information, psychological history, and education reports.  Your credit card statement provides a story worth knowing.  John Whitehead writes:

On any given day, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. Police have been outfitted with a litany of surveillance gear, from license plate readers and cell phone tracking devices to biometric data recorders. Technology now makes it possible for the police to scan passersby in order to detect the contents of their pockets, purses, briefcases, etc. Full-body scanners, which perform virtual strip-searches of Americans traveling by plane, have gone mobile, with roving police vans that peer into vehicles and buildings alike—including homes. Coupled with the nation’s growing network of real-time surveillance cameras and facial recognition software, soon there really will be nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

In every area of life, the State seeks to know.  It will not stop.  It is obsessed with pursuing omniscience.

Abraham Kupyer once noted:

“No single piece of our mental world is to be sealed off from the rest and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”

The State has issued the same battle cry.

It will never reach its ultimate goals.  For only God is sovereign.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com