No Comment, Quotation — March 24, 2008, 12:00 am

Kisch and the National Surveillance State

Ursprüngliche Aufgabe der Polizei war der Schutz der Gesellschaft vor Verkehrsunfällen und vor Verbrechen. Längst aber ist sie darüber hinaus zu einer Waffe geworden, angewendet wider alle, die aufzumucken wagen gegen Willkür des Unternehmers, gegen Dünkel des Bürokraten und gegen Mißbrauch der Gesetze. . .

Es gibt keine ethische Rechtfertigung für die Mittel, deren sie sich bedient.
Auch die willfährigsten Staatsphilosophen könnten keine Entschuldigung dafür finden, daß ein Land seine Ordnung aufrechterhält durch eine Armee von Lockspitzeln.

In the beginning the mission of the police was to protect society from traffic accidents and crimes. But over time it came to be a weapon deployed against all who dare to raise questions about the arbitrary conduct of entrepreneurs, who probe into the conceits of bureaucrats and who question the misuse of the law. . .

There is no ethical justification for the tools which it uses. Even the most compliant political philosopher could offer up no excuse for a state that seeks to maintain order with an army of snoops.

Egon Erwin Kisch, Wagnisse in aller Welt, ch. 27, “Die Polizei und ihre Beute” (1927) in Gesammelte Werke, vol. 5, p. 592 (B. Uhse & G. Kisch eds. 1983)(S.H. transl.)

Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada



October 2015

Lives by Omission

Lifting as We Climb

Cattle Calls

Getting Jobbed

view Table Content


“One of the peculiar things about economic inequality is that the people who are most articulate about it are not poor, while the poor themselves have said little, at least in print, about their situation.”
Photograph © Reuters/Brendan McDermid
“It would be nice to get through this review without recourse to the term ‘writer’s writer.’ The thing is, in the case of Joy Williams, I have seen the cliché made flesh.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
“Miniatures originated in Persia and were brought to the Indian subcontinent when the Mughals conquered it in the sixteenth century. They could take on almost any subject: landscapes or portraits; stories of love, war, or play.”
Painting by by Imran Qureshi.
“The business of being a country veterinarian is increasingly precarious. The heartland has been emptying of large-animal vets for at least two decades, as agribusiness changed the employment picture and people left the region.”
Photograph by Lance Rosenfield
“Rosie and her husband had burned through their small savings in the first few months after she lost her job. Now their family of five relied on his minimum-wage paychecks, plus Rosie’s unemployment and food stamps, which, combined, brought them to around $2,000 per month, just above the poverty line.”
Illustrations by Taylor Callery

Percentage of Americans who can correctly name the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court:


Peak happiness was observed at a per capita GDP of $36,000.

Doctors Without Borders withdrew from the Afghan city of Kunduz after a U.S.-led airstrike destroyed one of the organization’s hospitals, killing 22 people.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


Subways Are for Sleeping


“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today