American Big Brother: A Century of Political Surveillance and Repression

May/​June 2016 • Policy Report

Since its inception in 1908, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has kept itself busy surveilling those who hold controversial political views — from Christian pacifists in World War I, to Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1950s, to Arab/​Muslim Americans in the 1990s. “American Big Brother,” a new project from the Cato Institute, features an interactive online timeline of these surveillance projects over the past 100 years. “The theme that emerges clearly from the timeline’s episodes is that in many of these cases, federal surveillance and political repression were directed most forcefully at individuals and organizations that challenged the prevailing political paradigm on the issue at hand,” wrote Cato policy analyst Patrick G. Eddington. And in many cases, the individuals and organizations subjected to this warrantless surveillance suffered irreparable damage to their personal and professional lives. The timeline, found at www​.cato​.org/​a​m​e​r​i​c​a​n​-​b​i​g​-​b​r​other, already features dozens of stories of surveillance, and is an ongoing project which will be updated regularly with archival research and new developments in the news.

The Battle for Free Expression, Continued
The Tyranny of Silence, the story of how one cartoon ignited a global debate over free speech, was first published two years ago. Since then, the battle for free speech has raged on—from the tragic Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, to the fight for free speech on public campuses. Now available for the first time in paperback, Flemming Rose’s book, which The Economist dubbed one of the best books of 2014, recounts his experience publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in Danish newspaper Jyllands‐​Posten in 2005, which quickly exploded into a global controversy known as the “Cartoon Crisis.” Rose bravely defended the decision to print the 12 drawings, even as Muslims around the world protested, Danish embassies came under attack, and newspaper and magazine editors were arrested. Rose tells his gripping personal story of the events that unfolded. “What do you do when suddenly the entire world is on your back?” Rose recalls. The paperback edition includes a new afterword, in which Rose reflects on the Charlie Hebdo attack and the state of free speech in both Europe and America. The United States, he writes, is “afflicted with identity politics and grievance fundamentalism,” while in Europe, “it looks like freedom of speech will be sacrificed on the altar of cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity.”

The Economics of Environmentalism
More than 10 years after its original publication, the second edition of Richard Stroup’s invaluable Eco‐​nomics: What Everyone Should Know about Economics and the Environment provides a thoroughly updated guide to environmental problems from a free market perspective. As in the first edition, Stroup offers a concise primer of how economic principles shed light on environmental issues, and why so many environmental laws fail. But Stroup also adds new chapters, including a brief overview of the history of environmentalism in the United States, the “constantly changing view of our environment and how to protect it,” and an examination of the most controversial environmental issue of today—climate change. “Although the book is a small one, I have attempted to identify in it the core tenets of free‐​market approaches to environmental protection and to make clear why these approaches are worth serious consideration,” writes Stroup. “The weight of opinion tends to push toward a greater role for government, even though that role is often misused and sometimes has unfortunate consequences. Economics shows us the wisdom of considering a greater role for market solutions.”