Generally speaking, people can be divided into 3 groups: (1) Those who thirst for power; (2) Those who thirst for freedom; and (3) Those who are fairly indifferent to both power and liberty.
The real battle that is taking place with respect to the future of direction of our nation is between Groups 1 and 2 — those who thirst for power and those who thirst for liberty. As part of that battle, those in Groups 1 and 2 try to influence those in Group 3 to support their cause.
One of the most effective tools employed by those in Group 1 is crises. After all, it’s normally a tough sell to convince people that they should sacrifice freedom so that others can quench their thirst for power. Those in Group 1 know, however, that if people in Group 3 can be made to feel fearful or insecure, there is a much greater chance to convince them to surrender freedom for the sake of safety or security.
That, of course, was how they got the Patriot Act passed. Long before 9/11, federal officials had thirsted for the powers granted by that law but they knew that people would oppose such an extensive grant of power. The 9/11 crisis, however, gave them the opportunity they needed. The 9/11 attacks engendered tremendous fear and anxiety within the American people. That enabled U.S. officials to convince them that the terrorists were on their way to conquer the United States with WMDs, take over the IRS and the public schools, and barge into people’s homes and cart them away. Seizing upon that crisis-driven fear and anxiety, U.S. officials were easily able to attain the powers they had long sought through the passage of the Patriot Act. In fact, in the midst of the terrorist crisis, the people’s elected representatives in Congress didn’t even bother to read the Patriot Act before voting to approve it. The idea was, “Just trust us. Give us these powers. We will take care of you and keep you safe.”
Thus, crises are the best friend of those in Group 1 because in the absence of crises, it is difficult for those in Group 1 to convince those in Group 3 to support their cause. Crises engender fear and anxiety among the citizenry, which then causes the citizenry to support the assumption of massive power and the surrender of their own freedom.
That’s what the current financial crisis is all about. The idea is to scare the people to death so that they will turn to those in Group 1 to save them from the coming catastrophe, chaos, great depression, and, possibly, the end of the world.
Another important point is that while the crisis doesn’t have to be government-produced, oftentimes government policies do produce the very crises that engender the fear that then motivates people to surrender their liberties in exchange for the promise of security.
One example of the latter phenomenon, of course, was the 9/11 attacks, where U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, including the brutal sanctions against the Iraqi people, produced the deeply seated anger and rage that culminated in both the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center and the 9/11 attacks.
Another example is the current financial crisis, where U.S. domestic policy in the housing industry, including the government-created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, produced the financial crisis.
Of course, not surprisingly, those in Group 1 blame the 9/11 crisis not on foreign policy but on “hatred for America’s freedom and values” and the current financial crisis not on domestic policy but on “greed, unfettered capitalism, and deregulation.”
One of the greatest books on the subject of crisis, power, and liberty is Crisis and Leviathan by Robert Higgs. If you have never read it, you owe it to yourself to do so. It carefully explains how crises are the fertile soil in which tyranny grows.
Of course, because those of us in Group 2 understand the nature of government power and the motivations of those who thirst for it. Thus, we don’t fall for the fear-mongering and crises-laden environments in which those in Group 1 induce people to surrender their liberties.
In the battle between those who thirst for power and those who thirst for liberty, our job remains to expose the shams and charades of those in Group 1 to those in Group 3. Our aim remains to convince those in Group 3 that freedom is too important to surrender for any reason. Moreover, we must continue showing them that those who trade liberty for the promise of safety end up with neither.