The Surveillance State

Via Bruce Schneier’s blog I came across an excellent, and short, essay regarding the surveillance state. Ian Welsh, the essay’s author, sufficiently sums up the tense relationship between the rulers and the enforcers:

This is one of the biggest problems the current elites face: they want the smallest enforcer class possible, so as to spend surplus on other things. The enforcer class is also insular, primarily concerned with itself (see Dorner) and is paid in large part by practical immunity to many laws and a license to abuse ordinary people. Not being driven primarily by justice or a desire to serve the public and with a code of honor which appears to largely center around self-protection and fraternity within the enforcer class, the enforcers’ reliability is in question: they are blunt tools and their fear for themselves makes them remarkably inefficient.

It’s easy to see the state’s motivation for implementing comprehensive automated surveillance. Paying enforcers to perform surveillance manually is expensive. Why would the rulers want to spend large amounts of money on manual surveillance when they can automate a great deal of the work and pocket the saved wealth? This is also the reason why the state tries to involve everybody, whether they’re an enforcer or not, into its surveillance system. How many times have we seen the phrase, “If you see something, say something?” Hell the phrase has its own Department of Motherland Fatherland Homeland Security (DHS) webpage. Every tattling neighbor increases the state’s watchful eye without incurring additional costs. Fortunately surveillance has a weakness:

The reliance on surveillance is however a weakness, one of many. One of the simplest ways to reduce the power and reach of the oligarchy is to destroy surveillance equipment, much of which is very easy to reach. I have frequently said that we will know that people are becoming more serious when they start destroying surveillance equipment, when it becomes an ethical imperative to do so; ideally when people believe that blanket surveillance is an ethical wrong.

I, am, thus interested to see that the Barefoot Bandit Brigade destroying surveillance cameras. In the US, those who oppose current elites directly seem strongest around Oakland and in the Pacific Northwest.

I touched on the strategy of destroying the state’s surveillance system when Minnesota politicians proposed reinstall red light cameras. Welsh puts forth an interesting idea: one can judge how serious people are about avoiding the state’s watchful eye when they begin openly advocating and participating in the destruction of surveillance equipment. It will be interesting to see if organizations like Camover and the Barefoot Bandit Brigade become more prevalent in the United States as the state becomes even more intrusive.