In this land of the free and home of the brave, a friend of mine wrote about an experience he had at the airport recently. Having taken his watch off to pass through the TSA scanner, he forgot to retrieve it. He was nearing his gate when an announcement was made. “Could the person who left their watch behind please return to Concourse B to retrieve.”

He returned to the TSA screening area, and here’s what happened.

Me: Yeah, I left my watch here a minute ago, and I’m here to retrieve it.

TSA officer: Can you describe it to me?

Me: It’s an athletic watch… black with a little blue.

TSA officer (looking behind a counter at watch): Can you name the brand?

Me: No. But, it says Ironman Triathlon on it—right above the time.

TSA: I can’t see anything like that.

Me: Can I show you?

TSA: No. Because then you would know the brand.

Me: You’ve gotta be kidding me. I’m absolutely certain it says Ironman Triathlon if you look closely.

TSA: I don’t see anything.

Me: Hey, I know the time from my last run down to the second. Can I tell you that time before touching the watch and then push one button to show you it’s stored?

TSA: No.

Me: It’s 28:29, and I’ll show you that time whenever you give me my watch back.

TSA: That’s nice, but I can’t let you touch the watch.

Me: Just push the upper-left button once.

TSA: Sir, I really shouldn’t be pushing buttons on someone’s watch.

Me: There must be a camera here that saw me take off my watch or a supervisor I can talk to about this, right?

TSA: Sir, there’s no need to overreact… I’m going to take your word for it: here’s your watch back.

This is the kind of freedom the rest of the world hates us for. George W. Bush told the nation a few days after 9/11, “They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”

Government figured out a way to fix all of America’s freedom-mongering: take it away step by step. The booboisie won’t even notice. America is still great, say the majority, despite more than a decade of hassle from the TSA.

A Pew Research poll found 28% of Americans think the US “stands above all other countries in the world,” and 58% say it is “one of the greatest countries in the world, along with some others.” Only 12% dare say there are other countries “that are better than the US.”

Of course, the TSA is just a tiny (but visible) annoyance compared to the real slaughtering of freedom. The average American evidently isn’t concerned that Presidents Obama and Bush each claimed to have the right to order the assassination of US citizens whom they deem terrorists or abettors of terrorism.

The president now has the authority to detain citizens accused of terrorism indefinitely. As law professor Jonathan Turley writes, “The government continues to claim the right to strip citizens of legal protections based on its sole discretion.”

The nation’s chief executive can now arbitrarily decide if a person will be tried in a federal court or military tribunal. The Patriot Act also gives the president the power to order warrantless surveillance, including, as Turley explains, the “capability to force companies and organizations to turn over information on citizens’ finances, communications and associations.”

In the good old US of A, the government can charge its citizens with a crime and if asked what the evidence is, a stone-faced bureaucrat will reply, “It’s a secret.” And if, say, you were to sue the government, it can simply file a declaration that the case would force the government to reveal classified information that would pose a security threat. Game over.

War crimes for waterboarding? Fuggedaboutit! Obama wouldn’t allow CIA employees to be investigated, let alone prosecuted, for these violations of the Nuremberg principles of international law.

Ever heard of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court? It’s secret, and Obama renewed its powers in 2011. You don’t even have to be part of a known terrorist group to be searched. The Fourth Amendment left the country and nobody told us, because it’s a secret.

The government wants help from private business to do its warrantless surveillance. Companies, of course, want immunity for doing the fed’s dirty work; and the Obama administration has successfully advocated for this protection.

Edward Snowden warned us the government is listening in on all of us. No court order required. And if the constant spying isn’t bad enough, the federal government can ship you to another country under a system called “extraordinary renditions,” AKA “torture by proxy.” It was used during the Clinton and Bush years to have other countries do Uncle Sam’s torturing. The Obama administration says it won’t give up this power, but claims it won’t abuse it. It’s not like the president has ever lied to the American people, except, well, at least that one time.

A land of the free and home of the brave would never have allowed itself to be overrun. To the contrary, “This is the land of whipped dogs and whimpering dogs,” Doug Casey said in a speech in 2010. He provided the three reasons America has declined after admitting America was once truly special.

First, Americans don’t have a philosophical anchor anymore. Next, the reigning emotion of the middle class is fear; and finally, Americans have a reflexive belief in government. “People view it as a cornucopia,” Casey said.

America, still a middle-class country, is so afraid that it will let the government push it around as much as it likes as long as it claims the citizens will be kept safe. But the government that everyone trusts is run, as Casey says, by knaves and fools. Evil and stupid are in charge of our security and everything else.

So while 80% of people are basically good and 20% are bad, the real problem is the 20% of the 20% who are sociopaths drawn to government work. And as things deteriorate, the rest of the 20% will begin to swing toward the sociopaths, says Casey.

Doug didn’t see much reason for hope four years ago, and the situation has only gotten worse. But Americans love America and the democracy that keeps us “free.” Enjoy the X-ray scanners and hope that’s the biggest problem your government ever gives you.

This article originally appeared on December 5th, 2014 at Casey Research.
The original image used to make the cover was taken by Steve Jurvetson (CC BY 2.0 — photoshopped).