Setting aside such universals as cancer and such acts of God (if that term may be permitted) as being struck by lightning, what is the worst thing that is likely to happen to Marie Harf? Losing her job. Why? Because the most important thing in her life was getting that job. In a secular life — and the lives of Americans and Europeans are by and large secular, even for the sincerely religious among us — the economic opportunity that Harf proffered as a palliative to what ails the Islamic world is, if not the most important thing in life, then near to it. Divorce rates in the United States rise by a fifth after a husband loses his job — and American men are more likely to kill themselves during a bout of long-term unemployment than after a divorce, loss of a loved one, or other unhappy incident.
Employment speaks so deeply to the regnant American notion of self that the inability to hold a job is listed as a notable symptom of any number of psychiatric disorders. F. A. Hayek worried about the company man’s displacement of the entrepreneur and the small proprietor, believing that lifelong employment in the beige precincts of bureaucracies, whether corporate or governmental, encouraged dependency, passivity, conformity, and the mental habits associated with these things. What, then, might he have made of Marie Harf, whose function in the vast bureaucracy of the State Department is not to do what she’s told but to repeat what she’s told until she’s so accomplished at it that she doesn’t necessarily need to be told in the first place, the party line having been written in her heart?