Michel Foucault

Soft Tyranny in Albuquerque: The Politics Of Better Call Saul!

Libertarians tend to concentrate on the classic forms of government intervention: taxation, the monetary system, economic regulations. Better Call Saul! reminds us that government tyranny is actually more insidious and pervasive than might at first appear. A theme that unites Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul! is that we live in a surveillance state and our government records can mark us for life. In order to regulate every aspect of our lives, the government cannot go it alone — it works through a web of intermediaries. Many of these institutions purport to take care of us, but in the process they chip away at our freedom. Better Call Saul! brilliantly portrays the interlocking directorate of modern government, quasi-governmental institutions, and all their satellites. Jimmy McGill is a contemporary Everyman, crushed by the soft tyranny Alexis de Tocqueville predicted for the United States in his Democracy in America.


Transparency has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with control, and the more “radical” the transparency the more effective the controlthe more willingly and completely we police ourselves in our own corporate or social Panopticons. This was Michel Foucault’s argument in his classic post-modern critique Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, which – just because it was written in an intentionally impenetrable post-modernist style, and just because Foucault himself was a self-righteous, preening academic bully as only a French public intellectual can be – doesn’t make it wrong. The human animal conforms when it observes and is observed by a crowd, at first for fear of discipline but ultimately because that discipline is internalized as belief and expectation.