Mr. Snowden Departs

Column by Jim Davies.

Exclusive to STR

When I mentioned here last year that I'd made a little web site at, there were, incredibly, some who poured scorn on the idea – which was, as stated, to introduce to its employees the news that it's dishonest to work for government, and so to prepare their minds for the day when one or more of their friends invites them to consider more detailed ideas about freedom and so to quit government employ in disgust. I certainly didn't anticipate that one of the earliest job-quitters would rock the world on his way out.

That's not for a moment to say that Edward Snowden is even aware of the website; he's clearly very bright, and had worked out its message for himself, was clever enough to gain some newspaper attention to why he quit and brave enough to do it very publicly. At 10:25 in his interview with Glenn Greenwald, he says "If I had just wanted to harm the US . . . you could shut down the surveillance system in an afternoon," and by “you,” he meant himself while in his former job, or any of his ex-colleagues still in a similar job. The possibility that NSA's workers or contractors can sabotage its entire surveillance system on their way out, if they so wish, may be why all those high government folk have had to change their underwear.

Most or all of the remaining 40 million still serving Leviathan will in due course quit silently, rather like the fictional DMV employee I described in Twenty Twenty Two back in 2007. They will study, decide, prepare an alternative occupation, and just hand in their resignations. It will be so quiet that for a long time nobody will notice; and when the number of leavers does get noticed, it will be too late to do anything about it. When all have gone, the government era will have ended. There will be no violence, no civil war, no street protests or parades, no political action, no voting, no civil disobedience, no appeals for money – just a whimper. The handful who stop their ears and refuse to listen to the chorus of their friends' invitations will wind up barking orders to an empty office.

But the name of Edward Snowden, because he chose to make his exit very public, is now known to about one seventh of the entire human race. If anyone was unaware that the FedGov is spying systematically on everyone it can reach, as duly authorized by Congressional law but in flagrant violation of the Supreme Law, they aren't unaware any longer – and the clear fact that government can never be constrained by pieces of paper has now been advertised for anyone to see.

Its spying certainly extends to Hong Kong, whose main daily newspaper devoted the whole of its front page to the story earlier this week, and in a rich irony the Feds are now to apply to the Hong Kong government for extradition of the person who revealed it was being spied on by the applicant. I hope the response will take the general form of a finger.

The story has had another useful effect, by advertising the propensity of government people to lie. In John Oliver's hilarious debut as summer host of The Daily Show, he presented NSA Director James Clapper (did I spell that name correctly?) reluctantly answering a question in a hearing last March from Sen. Wyden (D, OR) about whether his agency was collecting any data on Americans' phone calls and emails. “No Sir,” he said at length, “not wittingly.” You just have to watch how Oliver treated that whopper. The less people trust government, the better.

Snowden's spectacular achievement compares with those of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and even Daniel Ellsberg, two of whom have warmly endorsed his action and the third would surely do so if the Army were to remove his gag. It's exciting and encouraging and may materially affect history on its own, but even a dozen more like it will not complete the job that needs to be done: the total eradication of government.

That's so, even when we reflect that increasingly, government relies on IT experts, like Mr. Snowden, in almost everything it does at every level. Such geeks are not only smart, they tend to be thoughtful, and it's my bet that right now hundreds of thousands of them are paying very close attention to the Snowden story and asking themselves whether they really want to spend their lives propping up an outfit as mendacious and intrusive as government. Now, if they should happen in significant numbers to decide “hell no,” they might walk out so abruptly as to throw government into total chaos rather soon. That news may not be uniformly good.

Why not? Because the rest of the population isn't ready for a general collapse of the State. The result would not be a free, anarchist society but a massive squealing for welfare to be restored and for a new Leader to sort out the mess. Out of chaos can come an even more brutal form of fascism – the form that for example noticed on February 18th 1943 that Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst were distributing anti-government leaflets. They were arrested, tried on February 22nd and beheaded the same afternoon. So in addition to giving government employees a reason and motive to quit, it's vital that the rest of the population be shown how to live, independently and responsibly, in the resulting free society. Universal education, in other words, is the indispensable prerequisite for liberty.

The reason any government employee should leave his job is not that it involves spying on innocent individuals, nor that it necessarily violates the Constitution--for the Constitution allows a whole range of activities repugnant to freedom. Rather, the reason is that working for government is morally equivalent to soldiering for the Mafia; no matter in what particular job, all the money to be paid in wages is stolen money and every action the employer takes is based on the use of force. After considering the specific damage being done to society by the particular function he works in (Information Technology, for example) the government worker will come to wish to leave out of self-respect, which is central to the enjoyment of life.

This process cannot, unfortunately, be rushed. We each need time to change our minds from the prejudices of a lifetime. The whistleblowing by Manning and Snowden, and the respective aftermaths, give wonderful boosts to morale, but what counts in the long run is the patient preparation of a whole population, to live free and to bury the government myth forever.

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Jim Davies's picture
Columns on STR: 243

Jim Davies is a retired businessman in New Hampshire who led the development of an on-line school of liberty in 2006, and who wrote A Vision of Liberty" , "Transition to Liberty" and, in 2010, "Denial of Liberty" and "To FREEDOM from Fascism, America!" He started The Zero Government Blog in the same year.
In 2012 Jim launched , to help lead government workers to an honest life.
In 2013 he wrote his fifth book, a concise and rational introduction to the Christian religion called "Which Church (if any)?" and in 2016, an unraveling of the great paradox of "income tax law" with "How Government Silenced Irwin Schiff."


Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

Jim, thank you for this article. Let's hope that the "quitting and talking" continues. I remember when I taught in the Detroit Public Schools -- before quitting. I had been raised in the standard quasi-socialist manner, believing in what I was doing. But the butt-ugly ignorance of my fellow teachers (I had a real degree, not a degree in education), their lack of concern for the subject matter, low expectations about the abilities of their students, and willingness to accept anything stupid shocked me. What caused me to make my departure -- first mental and then physical -- was encountering the ideas of freedom. These were things I had never encountered during my classic experience with schooling.
Unlike nearly everyone I knew, even as a child I knew that taxing everyone to send other people's children to school was wrong -- like stealing. And seeing it first-hand again as an adult and being part of it did not change my mind. First, I stopped voting for raising school taxes or even continuing them -- even though I would have benefitted. But I knew I would have to quit eventually. I only needed to witness some of the natural violence caused by imprisoning children in these concentration camps to make my final departure. I really do miss teaching, but I've even changed my views on that very concept itself. I've come to prefer the self-directed learning/teaching experience -- where children follow their intrinsic motivations and mental/physical connections to acquire knowledge and ability by discovering for themselves and seeking appropriate mentors to help them pursue their own interests.
I really like the idea of your website. Even if it only sticks a finger in their eye, you help them remember that inside of them is a decent person just waiting to break out! Good going, Jim.

Jim Davies's picture

Thanks, Lawrence!
Spot-on about learning by discovering, w/help when requested. I don't know whether it's still the way they work (I wasn't too happy about their emphasis on student democracy) but I once visited Sudbury Valley School in MA and that's exactly how their students learned. Teachers were ready and available, but did not direct anyone to do anything until a child asked questions and made a commitment to learn.
"even as a child I knew that taxing everyone to send other people's children to school was wrong" - that would give you a real head start! Where did it come from? Just natural genius, or did a parent or someone point you that way at an early age?

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

I was in 2nd grade, and I recall silence from the class when pointing this out. I arrived at this while young because I had to find a way to make sense of the world -- a situation made necessary because I had been separated from my care givers more than once, and when I was returned to my original family, they were "strangers" with strange ways. They insisted that I use my right hand, disagreed strongly about mere preferences such as favorie colors snd music, etc. It was like Ayn Rand -- but without her positive qualities -- was raising a 2-yearold using an arbitrary recipe book of crazy rules with a real vengeance. So ethics was a thing I focused on at a young age -- reinforced by Catholic readers, which were the only material that was not destroyed by my older brothers by the time I learned to read. All of the classic comics and other kid books had been destroyed partially after 2 boys had ripped and colored in them. I was well into my teens before I owned a new book.

George F. Smith's picture

Hi Jim,
It would be wonderful if the government experienced an onslaught of Snowdens, and if somehow he survives persecution that would be more than a mathematical possibility.  As you note the end of government as we've known it will be a problem for many people, but the libertarian alternative has a voice that grows louder with each new crisis. I commend you for setting up a website for government renegades. 

Jim Davies's picture

There are some great reactions buzzing around today, to news of the rumor that Snowden may have fooled the entire FedGov by arranging his "flight" to Moscow to have been a decoy. I sure hope it's true. had a neat headline, "Hide and Leak" and my favorite was a comment in the Guardian, which adapted Baroness Orczy's famous verse:
They seek him here
They seek him there
Those Americans seek him everywhere
Is he in Moscow? Is he in hell?
Is Snowden really the Pimpernel?
When the State is widely ridiculed, its days are numbered.

tzo's picture

May you be in Iceland half an hour before the government knows you've fled.
~New American proverb

Sharon Secor's picture

Ha, I liked that new American proverb before I saw who wrote it. Should have known it would be the ever witty tzo. Very nice.

Jim Davies's picture

Today's rumor has our hero in the transit lounge at Moscow airport, so alas yesterday's delicious fare didn't quite make it. However the new news has drawn forth this neat cartoon in
It's really eloquent, and hints at some awesome things going on. With a stroke of the pen our public servants in DC have "cancelled" the passport Snowden bought from them, as a result of which he can't cross any border anywhere, and cannot even buy a ticket. Such awesome power has never been wielded before. Utterly sinister; and what they can do to him, they can do to anyone they please.
Some wonder, why doesn't he trade on Putin's kind words of sort-of welcome and ask to stay in Russia. Others answer, because the NSA has the goods on Putin and would tell all Russians where their President stores his loot.
Like J Edgar Hoover, the NSA is in an extraordinarily powerful position, and Snowden's fears of assassination are well founded. He, meanwhile, may have a copy of some of their dirt on enough US Pols to get clear of them to a peaceful South American beachfront.
What a sick system governments run.