Monday, December 8, 2014

The State Thrives on Fear

-Tom Woods
I wrote the foreword to Connor Boyack’s new book Feardom: How Politicians Exploit Your Emotions and What You Can Do to Stop Them. With Connor’s permission, I reproduce it below.

We are told that what makes our system great is that we make political decisions through rational discussion, not the arbitrary fiat of the kings of yore. But in fact, the last thing the state wants is calm deliberation. It thrives on fear. Government power tends to expand no matter what, to be sure, but it expands much more rapidly under what are perceived as emergency conditions. Give us more power, citizen! There’s no time to lose!

Government officials push this line because they know that power once granted is almost never relinquished. All they need to do is trick the public into accepting the latest rationale for additional rounds of government expansion. The people may later repent of their haste in consenting to this episode of government growth, but these second thoughts rarely amount to full-fledged campaigns of repeal, especially since they’d be up against the power and institutional inertia of entrenched bureaucracy, which rarely yields ground.

The exploitation of the public through fear is not limited to left or right. It is common to both sides of what we laughingly call our political spectrum. The left spins tales of wicked businessmen, who without the benevolent hand of government would lord it over the rest of us, and who would churn out poison sandwiches and exploding computer monitors. The right warns us of foreign malefactors who have no rational motivations or identifiable grievances. They wish only to pursue evil, we are told, and they attack the United States not because of anything the U.S. government has done, but simply out of envy at the sheer awesomeness of the American people. (The establishment left gets in on this act, too, having in fact supported every major American war since World War I.)