This is a long excerpt from the often brilliant Mark Stoval, but it's still a small fraction of the whole thing. Feel free to click over and read it all.
Winston Smith was a party member but he was not one of the Inner Party. Rather he was a member of the Outer Party just as most of our federal bureaucrats today are not part of the ruling elite of our own Empire. At one point he says to an Inner Party member, “I understand how, but I don’t understand why.” He wanted to know why the Party did all those immoral and rotted things.
One of its leaders explains:
“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others were cowards and hypocrites. They never had the courage to recognize their motives. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. How does one man assert his power over another? By making him suffer. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. In our world, there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement – a world of fear and treachery and
torment. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.” ~1984
Orwell captured the essential nature of the State perfectly in this speech by the party member to Winston Smith. Far too many people in the modern age have watched the American Empire start endless wars and grow ever more tyrannical without allowing themselves to ask the question: “why“?
A few years ago, Wendy McElroy asked the question: does the US have police state powers now? Her answer:
Clearly it does. The American government exerts extreme control over society, down to dictating which foods you may eat. Its economic control borders on the absolute. It politicizes and presides over even the traditional bastion of privacy — the family. Camera and other surveillance of daily life has soared, with the Supreme Court recently expanding the “right” of police to perform warrant-less searches. Enforcement is so draconian that the United States has more prisoners per capita than any other nation; and over the last few years, the police have been self-consciously militarizing their procedures and attitudes. Travel, formerly a right, is now a privilege granted by government agents at their whim. Several huge and tyrannical law-enforcement agencies monitor peaceful behavior rather than respond to crime. These agencies operate largely outside the restrictions of the Constitution; for example, the TSA conducts arbitrary searches in violation of Fourth Amendment guarantees.
The methods that the ruling elite use to control the masses have been documented in many, many places. I ran a Google search today on “US police state” and Google yielded just shy of one Trillion hits. The question is not “is the USA becoming a police state” but rather the question is “why”. Why does the state continue to grab power and why do we allow it to do so? Just as Winston Smith pointed out, we can easily see how the total control by the state is coming to be, but we need to know why. It is not, my friends, to keep you safe. Your safety is the last thing on the minds of the rulers.
I agree with Mark that the United States is turning into a police state. It's a police state that is not benevolent, but is mostly benign for most of those who dwell within it. Its power is backed by the truncheon, the machine-gun-armed EPA team, the local suburban police department with the Lenco BearCat off-road SWAT vehicle with .50BMG protection and dog-killing SWAT ninjas, but it does not deploy the truncheon and the rest the vast majority of the time. No, the vast majority of the time, the United States is a slightly frustrating uncle who provides nice birthday checks and stops you from buying a soda that's too big to be healthy (even as he subsidizes tobacco farmers).
So, I agree with Mark that the United States is turning into a police state.
…but I disagree with him that it's doing so "for a reason".
I am not a conspiracy theory type; I do not think that large numbers of people plot, plan, execute, and then keep the details silent with any great frequency (although the more I learn about government tools to spy on the citizenry like Stellar Wind, the multi-yottabyte Utah Data Center , PRISM , etc., the more I question whether I should be more of a conspiracy theorist…).
What I do believe, though, is that systems come into existence and have their own incentives. No one needs to be a black mustache twirling villain in order for evil to happen.
The United States does not have an Inner Party that is plotting FEMA camps for political dissidents because they lust after power for the sake of power.
No, the United States government is a vast ungainly beast composed of millions of "moving parts", as Megan McArdle is fond of saying, and the vast majority of the people that make up the machine are fairly reasonable people.
They're just trying to do their jobs.
All of them would reject the idea that "doing their jobs" is the same thing as "just following orders". The cop who kicks in a door and immediately shoots two cowering Labrador retrievers is not some lone nut following an unpopular crazy anti-Semitic ideology. He's a good guy! He mows his lawn and pays his taxes! Everyone – everyone! – at work agrees that drugs are a scourge, and by rooting out the evil of drug dealers, he's helping the community. If he gets paid well over $100k per year, earns overtime, gets to retire at 42, gets educational pay credit for time served, gets a pension calculated in part on the extracurricular work he does at utility work sites, and more – well, that's just reasonable, because everyone knows that cops have the single most dangerous job in America.
The machine gun armed SWAT team of the Unites States Fish and Wildlife Service who raided Gibson Guitar two different times were not "just following orders" either. They were enforcing regulations! Yes, regulations that they themselves wrote, and regulations that they used to interpret Madagascar export law in a way that Madagascar itself did not agree with – but still! The men and women of the USFWS were not doing the raid because they wanted power. They were doing it for the best possible reasons. They were trying to preserve the Earth's ecosystem for future generations. And if a successful armed raid garnered huge amounts of media attention, made everyone involved feel like heroes (and not just SWAT heroes but environmental heroes), that's a fine thing. The armed raids aren't about a sense of power or authority – they're about doing the right thing.
The hundreds of New York City inspectors who secretly and anonymously checked every bodega and convenience store for illegal beverages so that they could turn the first generation immigrants in for fines were not "just following orders". Godwin forbid that anyone compare them to Jew hunters in Nazi Germany. No, they're enforcing legitimate regulations designed to keep people healthy and lower the cost of government provided health cart – which keeps taxes low(er) for all of us.
The Border Patrol officers that stop American citizens 100 miles from the Mexican border and search their cars based on manufactured drug dog alerts aren't in it for the power – they're honestly trying to enforce the laws. And if they're unionized, have gold-plated benefits, can't be fired, and get raises every year during the Great Depression 2.0, then that's because they earn it. They're working 8 and 12 hour shifts out in the desert, trying to keep their country safe.
And on and on and on.
Members of the Party don't stand around talking about their desire to crush a boot into anyone's face. There's not a conspiracy. Everyone is just doing their jobs, trying to enforce reasonable laws, and responding to the incentives around them.