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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/16898/it-can-happen-anywhere/

It Can Happen Anywhere

May 11, 2011 by

Key to the explanation for Nazi Germany and current America is the steady and profound reshaping of society’s institutions, from the school system to law enforcement, from the courts to the hospitals. FULL ARTICLE by Wendy McElroy

{ 61 comments }

David C May 11, 2011 at 8:40 am

The US authorities certainly have totalitarian tendencies. However, I think it’s going to be extremely difficult for a totalitarian state to emerge just as the US births into the information age. The libertarian counter-culture in the USA is rapidly growing, not declining. Also, many of the pressures propping up the totalitarians in Germany were caused external forces created by the Allies after WW1, I’m not sure Germany would have gone totalitarian on it’s own, without that. The US is not under the thumb of countries around the world putting statist pressures on us, instead it’s the other way around and our problems are all internal. Instead, the US will probably be kicked off the throne, like the UK was, and will suffer a lot of internal strife eventually leading to change and a short term reprieve from the violence of the state, till they figure out how to regroup.

Dan May 11, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Perhaps, but I wouldn’t count too much on any wide-scale libertarian counter-culture anytime soon. Despite the swelling popularity of libertarianism, on a whole we make up a tiny tiny (>5% probably) percent of the population.

It is much easier to be an inconsistent hack (neo-con/lefty) who attacks the meaningless “right wing” or “left wing”. It is so much easier to say “I support property rights” and to turn around and support eminent domain because it is in the best interests of the “community”.

We are already totalitarian in most ways, it’s just a matter of time before leaving and entering the country becomes difficult and we get to total federal control over our personal lives.

Dan

Ned Netterville May 11, 2011 at 10:38 am

Great article, Wendy. but I would date the beginning of the end of freedom in America to many much-earlier, major and minor statist experiments and expedients, accepted by Americans because the loss of freedom and/or individual responsibility entailed seemed small or even went unnoticed, and the alternative of doing for oneself not so easy. Look, for example, at how the constitutional compromise on slavery eventuated into civil war, or how Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase hath wrought State ownership and control of vast resources, forever after made subject by that state ownership to political or bureaucratic control or disposition as opposed to the free market. Of course the drive to a police state definitely shifted into high gear on 9/11/01.

Patrick Barron May 11, 2011 at 11:03 am

Excellent essay. The way we Americans are treated at airports is nothing less than monstrous. The barking orders to take off our shoes, place our computers in plastic bins, put 3 oz liquids in clear plastic bags, etc. reminds one of Nazi behavior. The true challenge is the support that many give to the disarming of Americans. There are many who are willing to confiscate our personally owned firearms, leaving us vulnerable to criminals and, especially, to totalitarian government. The police attract those who have a propensity to violent control of others, and this is a true threat to our liberties, should they be the only armed force in the nation.

Freedom Fighter May 11, 2011 at 11:41 am

“but an abrupt pivot of society requires the acceptance or acquiescence of a majority of people who are neither.”

In other words, for tyranny to exist, it requires the consent of the governed ?

Stan Warford May 11, 2011 at 11:56 am

Indeed it does. See “The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude” by Étienne de la Boétie. It is available at

https://www.mises.org/resources/1218

augusto May 11, 2011 at 8:12 pm

not so much consent as acquiescence, in my opinion.

Tony Fernandez May 11, 2011 at 11:48 am

The economic modernization has already occurred. If we were to progress any further, it would be down the Communistic path rather than the full-blown fascist path. Though the economics are the same, it’s the politically favored group only that differs.

Drigan May 11, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Pick your flavor of socialism. Honestly, I think we’re already far advanced on the fascist path, otherwise why would the climatologists/oil companies/unions/universities/sports leagues and heck, even churches! be currying so much favor with governments?

Dan May 11, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Excellent article as always, Wendy McElroy.

michael cook May 11, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Great article. If Obama wins re-election I believe it could be a fatal tipping point.

A very interesting and informative article about the constitutional compromise on slavery, by Joan Kennedy Taylor, can be found here:
http://www.worthyshorts.com/bookdetails/bookviewer.php?book=WS109

Gilbert W. Chapman May 11, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Fascinating essay.

What I also found ‘fascinating’ was when the book was published . . . At about the same time as F.A. Hayek was working on “The Road to Serfdom”.

Interesting. Two men with much the same perspective, and no one listened; and, few are really absorbing the events of today that coincide with those of eight decades ago.

Martin OB May 11, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Here we go again. This kind of hyperbolic comparison between Nazi Germany and USA is absurd and insulting, both to Holocaust victims and true defenders of freedom. Where is the Jewish 9-11 ? The Jewish masses dancing in the street when innocent Germans were killed? The Jewish shameless public threats and murder of their critics in Germany?

No, the closest thing to Nazi Germany is not America, it’s Dar-Al-Islam. Just look at Hitler’s picture with Al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, and of course, the “God Bless Hitler” and “death to all Juice” signs at Islamic rallies. Also, Islamic societies buy into all conspiracy theories where Jews are involved, just like the Germans did, hence the rise of Hitler.

Yes, the TSA controls are intrusive and annoying, the USA Patriot Act is dangerous, but people comply and cooperate, not because they are sheepish and gullible, but because they know increased security is a must, and they rightly blame the terrorists, not the government. What kind of freedom is it when you can’t even go out of your home without the risk of being blown up? And don’t come again with the hit-by-thunder fallacy Michael Moore is so fond of. It’s both incorrect and irrelevant. When the terrorists find a way to hit and they see it works, they will do it again and again, bigger and better, until the security hole is plugged. Then they will try something else, but it will be something more difficult (anyone who understands marginal utility should get this simple point), all the while being prosecuted, arrested and interrogated, or killed in action, and so on until their chances are squeezed out and the terrorists are crushed.

Once the threat is reduced, the emergency measures will be relaxed accordingly, if common sense and history are any guide. Otherwise all the restrictions imposed by Lincoln (like outright general suspension of Habeas Corpus and freedom of speech), and FDR (internments , price controls, rationing, etc) would have remained in full force all along until today.

Libertarian jerry May 11, 2011 at 3:55 pm

The Liberty versus the Tyranny pendulum has swung back and forth many times throughout American history. Slavery,Lincoln’s measures during the War between the States,Jim Crow laws,the genocide against the Native Americans and their lock up in concentration camps(reservations),the WW1 anti German and anti free speech measures,the Red Scare, FDR’s Fascism, the Internment of the Japanese Americans during WW2 and today the so called War on Terror.plus many other examples. America has always rebounded to a certain measure. However,this time I fear we are going over the edge.What will destroy American Liberty? Not The Patriot Act or the TSA or the”War on Terror.” What will be the last nail in the coffin of our Constitutional Rights will be the proliferation of the American Welfare State throughout the country. Because along with the Welfare State comes the destruction of Property Rights. And without Property Rights no other rights are possible. It has been proven over and over again throughout the history of mankind that the Welfare State always degenerates into a Police State. There are no exceptions. A majority of American people,over the years,have voted away their birthright of Liberty for the illusion of security. And,of course,in the end, they will have neither.

Dan May 11, 2011 at 4:07 pm

“Once the threat is reduced, the emergency measures will be relaxed accordingly, if common sense and history are any guide.”

Right, the age old excuse (it’s only temporary and its for the good of the country – we should know, we’re regulation peddling bureaucrats who can’t even run a government department that breaks even). While many of FDR’s fascist programs were ended, a great deal continue to plague us today (FDA, USDA, etc.)

After FDR, the country was left with an enormous bureaucracy and useless departments from his administration. The sum of those “emergency” measures: more government.

Not sure what history your referring to, but sounds like you need to re-acquaint yourself with some reality.

“…until their chances are squeezed out and the terrorists are crushed.”

Except that will be a surefire “never”. These seemingly mystical and occasionally US-trained “terrorists” (i.e. Osama) you refer to never seem to go away, do they? Moreover, the TSA restrictions you seem to think are worth it- do NOT result in increased security, only harassment of citizens, 99% of which are innocent and peaceful.

Investigators have smuggled handguns and knives numerous times past the dull-witted, TSA agents you have so much faith in.

http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/TSA-Agent-Slips-Through-DFW-Body-Scanner-With-a-Gun-116497568.html

That’s just one among many.

Thinking before writing is always useful, as is actually reading the article so you know what your talking about.

The government loves this terrorist scam, it’s like a war except it never ends and their will always be more boogey man to use as justification for more emergency measures.

Regards,

Dan

J Cuttance May 11, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Yours is an excellent rebuttal. When I read a comment that, on the face of it, seems reasonable, but contains assumptions that need to be shot down, I can rely on somebody from this site to do so. Cheers Dan.

Martin OB May 11, 2011 at 7:10 pm

The most glaring Lincoln and FDR restrictions to individual freedoms were removed completely, and those you mention are related to welfare rather than warfare, so my point stands. Also, the reason they remain is not some ratchet mechanism that gets triggered during wars. The reason is that most people think they are good ideas. They are wrong. Don’t blame war, blame the liberal left.

On the TSA scanners, your link is anecdotal. Actually, I reassured to know they are testing them all the time, and it’s just normal that sometimes the employees make mistakes. The whole point of making tests is to improve the technology and the attention of the employees, otherwise they wouldn’t bother. In any case, the scanner technology is a great security improvement, regardless of political and economic considerations. I don’t need to trust the TSA experts, I can see the images.

There is no hard proof that Bin Laden was trained by CIA, and he always denied it. The official version of the facts is that they absolutely did not. Look it up. Yes, I take it with some skepticism, but if that were true, why no Wikilieak document has so far proved the connection, when so many embarassing documents were leaked?

These mythical terrorists had never performed an attack on US soil before 9-11, as far as I know. That’s why there was nothing like the war on terror and the USA Patriot Act at that time. So don’t talk as if America has always been like that, it’s only 10 years, and it’s a natural, justified reaction of a civilized country under attack.

Of course I’ve read the article. It’s not particularly long (or substantial). You don’t like the message, don’t kill the messenger.

The terrorists are being crushed, and the process would be quicker if the US government had hit all their sanctuaries, like Pakistan and Iran, instead of Irak, and if the liberal left stopped complaining of racism, profiling and “islamophobia” each time the US government and the American citizens try to protect themselves from the real fascists.

Abhilash Nambiar May 11, 2011 at 8:07 pm

This ought to be good. I am beginning to get interested in what Martin has to say and what people have to say back.

augusto May 11, 2011 at 8:17 pm

“These mythical terrorists had never performed an attack on US soil before 9-11, as far as I know.”

errrm… never heard of the 1993 World Trade Center?

Martin OB May 12, 2011 at 4:11 am

augusto,

Ah, I knew I was missing something, that’s why I qualified the statement. I stand corrected, but you see, the fact that I forgot that precedent proves my main point: America is about as far from being a paranoid, fascism-prone country as you can get.

joe May 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Why do terrorists attack us in the first place? Because we’re occupying their countries, and dropping bombs on their villages. The terrorism itself is mostly a response to our own terrorism, through unconstitutional, undeclared wars, and acts of war. You say the government will give us back our rights when terrorism is defeated, but say nothing of why it exists or how to truly make it go away.

Martin OB May 12, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Terrorists attack America because it has the spine and the resources to protect its allies from extermination. When you are defending freedom, you should wear the hate of its enemies as a badge of honor. Israel is the shining light of freedom and justice in the Middle East. The best way to make terrorism go away is to make them realise they will never win.

Abhilash Nambiar May 12, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Golden words ought to be repeated

When you are defending freedom, you should wear the hate of its enemies as a badge of honor.

Gil May 23, 2011 at 10:21 pm

How come the actions of the U.S.A. isn’t “blowback” for the terrorists’ actions?

Abhilash Nambiar May 23, 2011 at 10:35 pm

It all seems to boil down to the narrative that certain opinion makers are trying to develop. Facts need to fit in and inconvenient facts need to be explained away.

Here is an idea, how about going back to first principles? Organized fighting forces live and die with the strength of their ideology. What is the ideology that drives the fighting force of the United States? And what is the ideology that drives the fighting force of their enemies?

You cannot know that by asking the foot soldiers. They fight for personal reasons. Their leaders too are fruits of the ideology, so their reasons too may not properly know what the ideology is. I think going back to primary documents helps to find the first principles, but that is only the beginning.

Dan May 11, 2011 at 8:55 pm

“The most glaring Lincoln and FDR restrictions to individual freedoms were removed completely, and those you mention are related to welfare rather than warfare, so my point stands.”

After Lincoln (WW1):

Sedition Act of 1918
Espionage Act of 1917

Result: Tens of thousands arrests of anyone who criticized the government and widespread control of the economy and public information. Most of it was dismantled after the war, only to have more heinous legislation come back just a little over two decades years later.

After FDR: Now, this shouldn’t be too difficult to get your head around. Need I mention the Patriot act? Are you aware of the amount of power the federal government has over peoples lives? Did you know they can tap all of your communications, without getting a warrant from a judge (DHS and CIA agents write and sign the warrants themselves!). They can search your house using the same procedure. The list goes on…

These individual restrictions that were removed so “completely” have an awful habit of showing up again and again don’t they?

“Actually, I reassured to know they are testing them all the time, and it’s just normal that sometimes the employees make mistakes”

LOL. Glad to see your standards are so high on such an issue.

“Don’t blame war, blame the liberal left.”

Instead of finger pointing, why don’t you ask yourself what the costs of a war are for the soldiers, the countries that are destroyed from our invasions, and the cost to liberty and freedom in our own country. A tacit submission to government commandeering EVERY detail of our lives all in the name of “the war on terror” or any other war is a slippery slope to serfdom.

It also demonstrates a naive attitude towards government in general. This attitude is dangerous and belies a fundamental misunderstanding of what a government is. Ironically, it is people like you who’s very attitude about their government can usher in untold amounts of intervention by the government-perhaps leading to a country no one will want to live in any more.

All of this in the name of the war on terror: a meaningless phrase coined by a power-hungry government. People like you support war on all corners of the globe, and have a total hatred of cultures and religions on the other side of the world that you don’t know anything about.

Martin OB May 12, 2011 at 5:07 am

The Sedition Act of 1918 was repealed in 1920. The Espionage Act of 1917 has a much narrower scope, with no visible effects on most US citizens, and it was really necessary during the cold war.

The Patriot Act was signed by Bush after 9-11. What on Earth does that have to do with FDR’s legacy? I know what the Patriot Act allows police to do, and I’m glad it does, as long as there is a terrorist threat, and as long as they only use it to fight that threat. If they misuse it, you can point it out and protest. Try that in a real totalitarian country, like Iran.

Before you ask yourself about the costs of the war on terror, why don’t you ask yourself about the costs of doing nothing. Then hopefully you will see what losing your freedom really means.

I understand what government is. It is you who does not understand what a terrorist band is. The libertarian position should be against aggression in all its forms, not just when they come from the government. I would say that a true market anarchist is not particularly obsessed about government. After all, a government is a powerful militia with overwhelming popular support within some territory and a huge sense of self-importance, no more, no less. They can be a force of good or a force of evil, depending on their actions. Just as there’s nothing essentially “legitimate” about government actions, there’s nothing essentially illegitimate either. It does some good things and some bad things. Fighting crime is one of the good things, maybe the only one, apart from defensive war. It could be done better, but someone has to do it, and as long as someone does it, innocent people will be annoyed in the process.

nate-m May 12, 2011 at 5:58 am

The Patriot Act was signed by Bush after 9-11. What on Earth does that have to do with FDR’s legacy? I know what the Patriot Act allows police to do, and I’m glad it does, as long as there is a terrorist threat, and as long as they only use it to fight that threat.

There really isn’t a terrorist threat. At least not one that is significant. Your much more likely to die from a bee sting or falling down in the shower.

One of the major problems with modern society is a distinct inability for people to rationally assess the relative levels of different threats. We are geared towards instictively understanding and reacting to threats in our natural environment. It’s part of how we are wired to think. However when we are constantly bombarded by unique threats through media and fear mongering government then this causes our thinking to go a bit haywire.

Unusual and rare threats, like terrorism, tend to be elevated to cause fear that is far far beyond any sort of rational or realistic threat caused by them. That is taking your family out to eat will much more likely cause them to die from food poisoning or car accident or whatever versus going to a airport and having your airplane be crashed into a building by terrorists.

If they misuse it, you can point it out and protest.

There is no ‘if’ about it. Give the government power they will use it for political means. It’s the nature of the beast. It’s like trying to give a alcoholic 20 dollars to buy a 75 cent candy bar and then telling them not to use the change it for vodka or beer.

It’s not a realistic expectation to expect government NOT to abuse things like the patriot act.

Try that in a real totalitarian country, like Iran.

Just because other countries are worse off does not justify making our own country worse. This is not a contest to see who has the shittiest government.

If your wife or significant other complains about your foot odor will it be helpful to point out how rotten milk or baby poop smells worse? That’s the sort of reasoning your using here.

Before you ask yourself about the costs of the war on terror, why don’t you ask yourself about the costs of doing nothing.

The costs of doing nothing is, very roughly, nothing.

Terrorists were able to take over the airplanes and crash them into the buildings on 9/11 because people were told and the employees trained to not resist. Prior to that incident the seemingly correct way out of a terrorist or hostage incident was just to wait it out. Because people were told not to resist and the corporations and governments had strict policies of passivity the terrorists were able to take advantage of the system and use it against us.

Do you think that anybody will be able to take over a airplane ever again?

Individuals paying attention and standing up for themselves and protecting themselves is what will protect us against terrorism.

Then hopefully you will see what losing your freedom really means.
We are losing our freedom right now. Our government is our biggest threat and biggest source of lost freedom, not Iran.

I understand what government is. It is you who does not understand what a terrorist band is.

A terrorist band is a group of ignorant and gullible individuals that are recruited and trained by other wealthy western-educated individuals and whose activities are financed by other governments.

The libertarian position should be against aggression in all its forms, not just when they come from the government.
You have to accurately rank threats and work on them.

They can be a force of good or a force of evil, depending on their actions.
‘They’ are like everybody else. They are human.

They act in their own self interest. If they tell you otherwise then they are lying.

Just as there’s nothing essentially “legitimate” about government actions, there’s nothing essentially illegitimate either.

What makes something legitimate in human society is actions that are ethical. In the Libertarian ethos this means that you respect private property and you do not use violence or threats. Ethical and legitimate activities are ones which people engage in voluntarily and peacefully.

Illegitimate actions are ones which violate property and use violence and threats to force other human beings to do what you want against their will. This is what the government does, this is why it exists, this is the purpose behind it.

It is easy to argue that the government is a necessary evil. This is probably true, possibly false. But like anything if it is a necessary evil then it should be kept to a absolute minimum.

The fact that month by month hundreds of new laws are being passed, taxes are being raised, and we are being more and more militaristically involved in affairs that are none of our business. We are losing our freedoms, losing our liberty, losing our capitalistic system. The debt our country if facing is growing almost exponentially.

The police state is expanding massively and we have more people in prison then any other western country. We have a higher percentage of people in jail or prison then Iran or China does.

We are NOT going in the right direction. As time goes by and society evolves we should be gaining more freedoms and more liberty. We should be fine tuning our government and finding ways to reduce the amount of ‘evil’ we need to maintain ourselves.

It does some good things and some bad things. Fighting crime is one of the good things,

Only if the criminals are actually doing bad things to other people and laws are just and evenly applied.

maybe the only one, apart from defensive war.

We have not been involved in a truly defensive war since the 1800′s. WW2 can be argued to be defensive, but WW1 certainly not. It was our involvement in WW1 which lead (in a substantial way) to WW2, unfortunately.

It could be done better, but someone has to do it, and as long as someone does it, innocent people will be annoyed in the process.
Right now innocent people are having their livelihoods destroyed, are threatened under a daily basis, and a huge number of people that did no violence and carried out no action that harmed anybody else are rotting in prison.

This is a serious problem.

nate-m May 12, 2011 at 6:33 am

Oh as far as rationally assessing the threat of terrorism:
(borrowed from http://eyewashstation.blogspot.com/2007/11/odds-of-dying-in-terrorist-attack.html)

You are 13 times more likely to die in a railway accident than from a terrorist attack

You are 12,571 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack

You are six times more likely to die from hot weather than from a terrorist attack

You are eight times more likely to die from accidental electrocution than from a terrorist attack

You are 11,000 times more likely to die in an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane

You are 87 times more likely to drown than die in a terrorist attack

You are 404 times more likely to die in a fall than from a terrorist attack

You are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack

You are 1048 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack

You are 12 times more likely to die from accidental suffocation in bed than from a terrorist attack

You are nine times more likely to choke to death on your own vomit than die in a terrorist attack

You are eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist

J. Murray May 12, 2011 at 6:42 am

“You are eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist”

Is there a difference? ;)

Abhilash Nambiar May 12, 2011 at 6:44 am

@J. Murray
I hope you can understand the difference. It is one thing to restrict the police to protecting your liberties. But accusing them of being terrorists is going way over the line, it is not even funny.

Abhilash Nambiar May 12, 2011 at 6:43 am

@nate-m

You mistake the nature of the threat the terrorist poses. He does not benefit from your death as much as he benefits from your fear. You cannot terrorize dead people. He wants to promote himself and his organization as ready and willing to commit acts of mass killing, even at risk for himself. He will commit enough acts to convince you of his willingness but no more, because it does not suit his purpose.

He wants you afraid and demoralized. Through fear he makes you submit and then you become the means through which he fulfills his political agenda. So just like the rescue workers (but for completely different reasons), the terrorist cares about the survivors more than the dead victims.

djf May 12, 2011 at 7:45 am

You describe the US security complex’s m.o. Thank you.

Abhilash Nambiar May 12, 2011 at 8:00 am

@djf

That must be it! The US security complex organizes suicide terror operations to terrorize a free people! You see the man that squeezes the trigger and shouts “”CRIMINAL”. You are not thoughtful enough to distinguish the security guard who squeezes the trigger to protect your liberty and the criminal who squeezes it to rob you off your liberty. Not that I must blame you too much. We all kind of walked in during the middle of the play. We know not how it all began. We must piece together the plot from what we see now.

nate-m May 12, 2011 at 8:04 am

You mistake the nature of the threat the terrorist poses.

Sorry but that is a load of crap. Showing somebody that they are being irrational and that it’s stupid to hand over you freedom to government is not me misunderstanding threats.

He does not benefit from your death as much as he benefits from your fear. You cannot terrorize dead people

Terrorism is designed to disrupt democratic governments by creating public fear and manipulating the media. They are publicity stunts designed to force the government into action based on the fears of the population.The people that carry out terrorism are too weak and ineffectual to pose serious threats. They are depending on the system to carry out their dirty work as a reaction to seemingly random attacks.

Abhilash Nambiar May 12, 2011 at 9:27 am

No one is willingly handing over their freedoms to the government. People in the mainstream are depending on the government to protect their freedoms. Maybe that is not such a good idea. Maybe there are better ways to protect liberties. Nevertheless I say that you do not understand the threat the terrorists pose. You are comparing the chances of dying other ways to a terrorist attack.

The threat to freedoms from a terror attack does not come from the capacity of the terrorist to kill. It comes from the capacity of the terrorist to terrorize living people into submission. It does not come as much from being a killer, but more from developing a reputation for killing.

The people that carry out terrorism are too weak and ineffectual to pose serious threats.

You need to understand what makes them strong. Their attack is psychological (terrorize). If you can fear the mind into submission you can directed the submitted mind to do your bidding.

nate-m May 12, 2011 at 10:21 am

No one is willingly handing over their freedoms to the government.

Of course they do.They value better security over the freedoms they are losing. That’s fine, but the problem is that they vote to hand over my freedoms also.

People in the mainstream are depending on the government to protect their freedoms. Maybe that is not such a good idea. Maybe there are better ways to protect liberties.

The only way you can protect liberty is by standing up and demanding it.

Nevertheless I say that you do not understand the threat the terrorists pose. You are comparing the chances of dying other ways to a terrorist attack.

No, your having reading comprehension problems. Pointing out the fears are irrational does not indicate that I do not understand the threat terrorism poses. I think I outlined quite succulently what terrorism is and how it’s suppose to work.

You need to understand what makes them strong. Their attack is psychological (terrorize). If you can fear the mind into submission you can directed the submitted mind to do your bidding.

The strength they gain from terrorism is the manipulation of media and the irrational fear that they put into the population and the resultant force that population places on governments to act. If you deny the irrational fear and you refuse to force government to respond to it then they have no power besides the relatively small amount of damage they are able to inflict. The power terrorists have are powers granted to them by the system.

In the grander scheme of things insects spreading disease poise a exponentially larger legit threat to the American public then terrorists could ever pose.. that is until you get the government into ‘protecting’ us from terrorists.

This is all there really is to it. It’s all so blindingly obvious stuff here.

On top that it is not only stupid to give into irrational fear and sacrifice freedom for security, it’s ineffective.

We are no safer from terrorist attacks now then we were 20 years ago. The money, the scheming, the massive enforcement rollouts are completely ineffectual in defending us. The TSA, the air port scanners… it’s all security theater. It’s designed to be visible and make you feel safe, but they do not provide any sort of security at all.

Any clear headed and rational assessment of security implemented by our government with the sort of threats that terrorists can create show that there is a obvious impedance mismatch. That our government is doing a terrible job at protecting us.

Not that I think that it’s possible that it CAN do a good job. Terrorist attacks, by their nature, are the sort of ones that law enforcement is almost powerless to protect against.

If you look at the sort of terrorist attacks that have been thwarted in the USA it has far more to do with individuals simply paying attention and acting in their own self interest. The only significant ‘bust’ I can remember by the government is a idiot that they recruited themselves, provided material and support for, then went in and busted him after he showed enough ‘intent’ that he violated the law.

augusto May 12, 2011 at 7:30 am

and for every single one of these threats, there is a government regulation and enforcement agency designed to prevent it. why should it be different with terrorists, asks the common man? ;-)

nate-m May 12, 2011 at 8:08 am

And just like investing billions in the FBI and other government agencies in order to prevent cancer the police state is good at stopping terrorism.

Martin OB May 12, 2011 at 1:45 pm

nate-m

Please excuse me for citing myself, but I’m tired of this terror statistics fallacy.

From the comments in:

http://blog.mises.org/14999/fear-and-control-the-tsa-case/

“Remember that lighting is 20 times more deadly than terrorists, so the argument above is actually relevant to more people then the one you used.”

Where is your source? I’ve found this one:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-world/2008/05/30/scientists-calculate-odd-ways-to-die-115875-17495916/

300,000,000/1 SHARK ATTACK
250,000,000/1 FALLING COCONUT
9,300,000/1 DYING IN TERRORIST ATTACK
10,000,000/1 KILLED BY LIGHTNING
3,500,000/1 DYING OF A SNAKE BITE.

So, should we be afraid of snakes in big Western cities? Can we swim in shark-infested waters without fear? Statistics can be twisted in many ways. The risk of dying in a terrorist attack in a small village may be small, but in a big city they are much higher. And, as you see, terrorism is now more of a threat than lightning.

More to the point, terrorists act, which lightning doesn’t. If they find a security hole and we don’t plug it, they will do more and more of it. You don’t cut the electricity of an electric fence just because few people tried to cross it. That’s the main difference.

Martin OB May 12, 2011 at 4:06 pm

nate-m,

I will deal with the terrorism risk fallacy in another post.

There is no ‘if’ about it. Give the government power they will use it for political means. It’s the nature of the beast. It’s like trying to give a alcoholic 20 dollars to buy a 75 cent candy bar and then telling them not to use the change it for vodka or beer.

You are just thinking of the government’s incentives to abuse the legislation, but you forget about the disincentives. Politicians cooperate with each other to some degree, but they also compete against each other. If the opposition party can present a compelling case to the public, that the goverment is abusing anti-terrorist legislation, the incumbent party may lose the next elections, or the president may have to resign.

Just because other countries are worse off does not justify making our own country worse. This is not a contest to see who has the shittiest government.

An example of a real, present day totalitarian country is in order for comparison, when people are losing perspective.

You have to accurately rank threats and work on them.

Exactly. But dogmatic anti-government pacifists get their ranking wrong.

‘They’ are like everybody else. They are human.

Exactly. Most government employees are just like you and me, neither saints nor monsters, neither geniuses nor complete fools. They look after they self-interest, but they also have their moral values, like all normal people.

Illegitimate actions are ones which violate property and use violence and threats to force other human beings to do what you want against their will. This is what the government does, this is why it exists, this is the purpose behind it.

t is easy to argue that the government is a necessary evil. This is probably true, possibly false. But like anything if it is a necessary evil then it should be kept to a absolute minimum.

This is where I think you are wrong. Whose purpose? Who really keeps the government in place? The citizens do, with their taxes and general cooperation against its enemies. The reason behind government is that organised force is stronger than individual force. As soon as they have enough common ground and joint popular support, militias unite to form larger units. It’s not a conjecture, you can see it happen in Africa and the Middle East.

The theory that people used to live in peace and harmony in ancap utopia until someone came up with the evil idea of the State is absurd and contrary to all historical evidence. The population supports the State because they see it as a way to avoid social chaos (anarchy, in the colloquial sense), to minimize theft, murder and other crimes, not to enact them.

I don’t think government (by which I mean the State) is a necessary evil, I just think it’s a lesser evil compared to social chaos. Also, current Western governments are incredibly better, closer to the peaceful cooperative dream, than virtually all non-Western ones. It’s good and healthy to criticize their shortcomings, but you need to step back, see the bigger picture and value what you have. Yes, government power should be kept to a minimum, but protecting citizens from terrorism and crime in general is part of that minimum if there’s any.

The fact that month by month hundreds of new laws are being passed, taxes are being raised, and we are being more and more militaristically involved in affairs that are none of our business. We are losing our freedoms, losing our liberty, losing our capitalistic system. The debt our country if facing is growing almost exponentially.

Bah, America survived two world wars and it bouced back better than anyone else. It was in far worse shape in the seventies. And now, you have the Tea Party keeping an eye on Obama. Yes, sometimes Americans forget their core values to some degree, but you know what, I wish the populations of most other countries could learn a fraction of the wholesome values American can afford to forget.

The police state is expanding massively and we have more people in prison then any other western country. We have a higher percentage of people in jail or prison then Iran or China does.

The “police state” is not about the incarceration rates, it’s about the reasons for incarceration. China and Iran are police states, America is not.

In fact, the sentence rate is similar to those of European countries, but the lengths tend to be higher, which I think is a good thing for violent crimes, where many European countries are shamefully lenient. Don’t sell drugs and you will be OK.

We are NOT going in the right direction. As time goes by and society evolves we should be gaining more freedoms and more liberty. We should be fine tuning our government and finding ways to reduce the amount of ‘evil’ we need to maintain ourselves.

Courtesy of Al-Qaeda.

We have not been involved in a truly defensive war since the 1800′s. WW2 can be argued to be defensive, but WW1 certainly not. It was our involvement in WW1 which lead (in a substantial way) to WW2, unfortunately.

Refute this:

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/america_and_world_war_one.htm

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/unrestricted_submarine_warfare.htm

Right now innocent people are having their livelihoods destroyed, are threatened under a daily basis, and a huge number of people that did no violence and carried out no action that harmed anybody else are rotting in prison.
This is a serious problem.

What livelihood, selling drugs? I’m all for drug legalization, but that’s got nothing to do with the war on terror. Who is threatened? I hope you don’t mean the shameless whiny Islamists. Terrorism, rising crime rates, rising support for Marxist policies and other effects of uncontrolled immigration are far more serious problems for America.

J. Murray May 12, 2011 at 6:16 am

“What on Earth does that have to do with FDR’s legacy?”

Plenty. FDR basically set the precidence that the United States government is obligated to engage in interference with foreign affairs, utilize political, military, and economic means to benefit the local population at expense of a foreign nation, and station military bases in every empty plot of land in the known universe.

Terror acts always target large organizations and places of significant importance to the organization (either psychologically or practically). The point of terror attacks is to generate a specific response. Without a large organization running the show, there isn’t anything for a terror group to target, or even the incentive to engage in the attack. Referencing the general piracy of the late 1700s in the Mediterranian as a counter-example will only make you look foolish here.

By establishing a permanently large and powerful state that engaged in International affairs, FDR made the US a target for terror attacks. No powerful monopoly force, no target or incentive for terror attacks. America was the richest country in the world for some 50 years before anyone took notice, and that’s because we up and decided to enter WW1. We were even outright loved in the Middle East until we decided that the purpose of the CIA was to install a dictator in Iran. Terror attacks are a direct result of our government doing something outside our borders. It’s not a surprise that many of the world’s most prolific terror cells (the former Tamil Tigers for instance) and the world’s largest Muslim nations (Indonesia) have never attacked any US interests, mainly because we don’t meddle in their affairs. None of this would have been possible without the New Deal and the belligerance that caused this nation to enter the war.

FDR created the behemoth state that is a giant target painted on this nation, and is therefore ultimately responsible for every terror attack on America since.

Freedom Fighter May 12, 2011 at 7:18 am

Are you really rich and do you really own your wealth if you don’t have the might to back it up by force in the event that your belongings might become contested by another claimant ?

augusto May 12, 2011 at 7:32 am

Please be more specific, what belonging was contested? Private US assets in foreign countries?

Martin OB May 12, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Plenty. FDR basically set the precidence that the United States government is obligated to engage in interference with foreign affairs, utilize political, military, and economic means to benefit the local population at expense of a foreign nation, and station military bases in every empty plot of land in the known universe.

So, what do we have here. I think we can call it the “inexorable process fallacy”. You say “there’s a mysterious ratchet mechanism whereby this process is never fully scaled back”. Then, when I show an instance where the process was fully scaled back, the “precedent” comes to the rescue. Yes, the process was scaled back, but some decades later the process was triggered again by some other, unrelated event. So, the first time was a precedent, so the process was not fully scaled back after all, QED.

Terror acts always target large organizations and places of significant importance to the organization (either psychologically or practically).

So there are no random acts of terror in unremarcable places to scare the general population, right? Tell that to the Israelis.

Referencing the general piracy of the late 1700s in the Mediterranian as a counter-example will only make you look foolish here.

Ha, ha, preemptive rebuttal. No, that’s not terrorism, that’s ordinary crime. But they reportedly claimed they were just following the Qur’an.

No powerful monopoly force, no target or incentive for terror attacks.

So, America should have bombed and impoverished itself to end up like Europe after WW2, so that it wouldn’t call attention and envy from other countries and criminal gangs. Brilliant logic.

America was the richest country in the world for some 50 years before anyone took notice

From a military POV, Spain took notice already in 1898. But of course, Britain was playing the role of present-day America in the late nineteenth century (the Pax Britannica). Nature abhors a vacuum.

We were even outright loved in the Middle East until we decided that the purpose of the CIA was to install a dictator in Iran.

Oh, yes, the Barbary pirates loved to loot Americans. Seriously, relations may have been a bit less tense, but “outright love” seems excessive, given America’s early recognition and support of Israel.

Terror attacks are a direct result of our government doing something outside our borders.

Like protecting America’s allies and preventing proven enemies from becoming too powerful while there’s still time. It may well be true that “they are here because we are there”, but maybe America SHOULD be there. Oh, and maybe America shouldn’t let the Islamists come, in the first place.

FDR created the behemoth state that is a giant target painted on this nation, and is therefore ultimately responsible for every terror attack on America since.

That’s rigth, who is attacking Haiti, after all? Get over it, someone country has to be the big guy who takes all the heat.

Gil May 23, 2011 at 10:48 pm

“Terror attacks are a direct result of our government doing something outside our borders.”

Gee don’t you mean “freedom-fighting attacks” or “comeuppance”. If the blowback is caused by undeserved American interference then it’s quite justified and doesn’t qualify as “terrorism”. It’s like a fellow harrassing an innocent man until he received a just-deserved punch in the nose – it would despicable and wrong for that fellow to claim self-defence.

Freedom Fighter May 12, 2011 at 7:15 am

I can’t help but to think that totalitarian governments and brutal regimes are the result of a totalitarian universe based on the laws of conservation, the laws of thermodynamics which keeps everything in place, in shape and subservient which then turns out into the do or die principle.

Totalitarian governments are just a mere symptom of a greater ailment that comes from the universe as a whole. It’s not a government problem, it’s a reality, nature, universe problem.

As long as we will live in a classissic world as opposed to a quantum world, we will be dealing with totalitarianism in one form or another.

Michael Cook May 12, 2011 at 8:50 am

Quantum or not, “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. That’s pretty expensive, and most people can’t afford it.

victor May 12, 2011 at 8:50 am

It sure looks like Germany 1933. We’ll see what happens when the fiscal bill comes due.

They have a minority to blame already. The state has a war machine to maintain. The state has the detention facilities from previous “wars.” The security apparatus to monitor dissenters is larger than it has ever been before. Resources are drying up for a state that is heavily indebted to pay for the welfare state, fiscal moral hazards, and the war machine. Unemployment, skyrocketing commodity prices in US$ terms, and the real threat of Weimar-type hyperinflation are sowing the fields for just such a government upheaval. Goebbels-types have mass appeal. The new is in-bed-with, not “embedded” in the war machine’s units. Sadly, it is the average Joe that seems to want to be led on some messianic mission whose final destination is totalitarianism.

These bubbles of national uber alles often do not turn out well.

William P May 12, 2011 at 11:04 am

FWIW, and it’s probably not worth much, I cannot help but to think that the deterioration of our society is first rooted in our amoral culture.

If you think about it for a few minutes, the ethical norms that existed for hundreds of years have take a 180 degree turn, particularly those that relate to honor, fidelity, and spousal relations. We’ve witnessed a breakdown of the nuclear family (what is the divorce rate), and the reaction of the culture is to label the few who speak out against divorce and for strong marriages, and all that these entail, as reactionary stooges.

I might also add that while the majority of Americans are religious people, we’ve made it taboo to bring religious conviction into political debate. This is silly. Judaism and Christianity existed long before our Constitution, and we wouldn’t have a Constitution if it had not been for the inculcation of Christian and humanistic values in Europe for centuries.

Finally, consider that the vast majority of people, even the vast majority of “educated people,” know very little modern history, and virtually no ancient history.

Well, anyway, the only way to stem the decline of American society is to build a popular movement that advances liberty. All popular movements carry their own danger and eventually splinter, but it is the only way. In short, we need another Reagan-like leader. (No, he was not a warmonger.)

P.M.Lawrence May 23, 2011 at 9:59 pm

… how could America, a nation with deep roots in individual freedom, so quickly slide into a police state?

Simple – it does not have “deep roots in individual freedom” at all. Rather, it started out by viciously suppressing freedom for anybody who wouldn’t go along, like Loyalists, under the hypocritical pretense of defending freedom (it wouldn’t have been hypocritical if they had admitted its necessity for their purposes – and then it would have been visible whenever it was tried again). And that approach has been close to the surface throughout its history, with a cover of denial.

Abhilash Nambiar May 23, 2011 at 10:14 pm

That makes sense only if the Loyalists are said to be defending freedom. Since they where working actively towards suppressing it, I shall recognize your claim here as shallow boring piffle.

P.M.Lawrence May 23, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Wrong – and you didn’t take on board what I wrote, either.

It is irrelevant whether the Loyalists were defending freedom (though you might like to consider the points brought out by this recent Counterpunch article). What counts is whether the rebels were harming the freedom of the Loyalists (and the others I mentioned, which includes the slaves joining the British to fight for their freedom). They did, with such things as massacre, exile, acts of attainder and so on, and they used the sort of hypocrisy that claimed it didn’t count if they harmed other people’s freedom when they were doing it for their own freedom. It does count, if only on the principle that two wrongs don’t make a right.

And what you didn’t absorb was the point I made, that the rebels didn’t come out and do it visibly without hypocritical denial. If they had, they wouldn’t have built up the tradition of resorting to repression while talking freedom – the very same tradition that is at work now, just as it was when Lincoln did it.

P.M.Lawrence May 23, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Sorry – I didn’t explicitly state there were others when I put “like Loyalists”, so I didn’t actually mention them.

Abhilash Nambiar May 23, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Of course it is relevant whether the Loyalists where defending freedom or not. Again in the case of Confederates it matters whether the confederates where defending freedom or not. And they where in the wrong. It is their wrong actions that makes acting against them right. It is not a case of two wrongs at all. It is a case of acting to right a wrong. You make no point at all. Even with eloquence, it is only piffle, eloquent piffle.

P.M.Lawrence May 24, 2011 at 2:48 am

I do not know whether you are deliberately obfuscating, or blithely unaware of a blind spot.

Whether the Loyalists were defending freedom or not is highly relevant to whether the rebels were acting justly by opposing them. But that is a different question, and praying it in aid is a bait and switch.

It is utterly irrelevant to the point I was trying to bring out, whether the methods used against the Loyalists (and slaves et al) involved repressing them, seizing their property and/or persons and/or labour, exiling them and massacring them, while also denying that this was not (their) freedom. The fact of the matter is, the rebels did just precisely that, including talking the talk of freedom to cover it, which means that the U.S.A. indeed has a tradition of it – and it is that very sort of thing that is being done now. It is not something that needs a break with the foundations of the U.S.A., it is entirely in keeping with how things were done then. Whether those things were justified (then or now) has nothing to with it; even if we stipulate that they were, the fact remains that the approach in use now is just precisely the onet that was used then – so there isn’t any break with the past from using it now.

Oh, and by the way, “were” is a different word from “where”.

Abhilash Nambiar May 24, 2011 at 7:22 am

Whether the Loyalists were defending freedom or not is highly relevant to whether the rebels were acting justly by opposing them.

The loyalists where acting to suppress freedom and the rebels to defend it. Without understanding that, everything else becomes nonsensical as it is in your case. And the fact that you use polished words does not change that fact.

The only point you have made is that “were” is a different word from “where”. But that was never your original point.

Actions taken to dismantle institutions that are responsible for the suppression of freedoms are not violations of freedom. Actions taken to suppress or take out people who violate freedoms are not violations of freedom in themselves. If you imply otherwise, you are implying that the whole concept of freedom is meaningless. This is so fundamental, it is laughable that it was overlooked by you. Actually, I stand corrected. You did not overlook it. You declared it to be irrelevant, precisely because it undermines the fiction that you where trying to generate.

To state the obvious, only people who do not violate the freedoms of others are equally free with respect to each other. The rest enjoy an abridged freedom at most, till their capacity to violate and suppress free people have been fully exhausted.

Gil May 23, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Strange how the author didn’t make mention that America, supposedly different from other Western nations, followed pretty much the same path. After all, the American Revolution was primarily to get away from a foreign government so a homegrown government can be installed (hence tax rebellion was suppressed right from the start).

Anyway, the 1800s was relatively laissez-faire for the West. The 1900s saw large-scale war and the rise of the Welfare State the West. The 2000s see acts of terrorism and the rise of stricter surveillance for the West.

Abhilash Nambiar May 23, 2011 at 11:22 pm

It all depends on what you look for and how you think about things. They go hand in hand. If you are looking for things that make the US similar to other Western Nations, you will find that. If you looking for things that makes the US different from other Western Nations, you will find that too. And what you are looking for depends on how you are thinking about things. Personally I think what makes the US different is significantly more important than what makes it similar.

Steven June 2, 2011 at 9:34 pm

I couldn’t help think of this article when I saw this video of an Amtrak customer being harassed by police for his photography. The officers repeatedly use “9/11″ in justifying higher levels of security, saying that “you understand now, after 9/11, things have changed.” Ominous.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_iMr76atjUA#t=419s

Abhilash Nambiar June 2, 2011 at 10:40 pm

On one hand post 9/11 the police has to take extra steps to protect you and me. On the other hand it creates a better opportunity for them to misuse the power they are given to protect you. But honestly what would you rather prefer? Harassment by the American police or torture (and murder) by Al-Qaeda? You know right now you may not have a third option. But this guy had a third option. He could have co-operated with the police and things would have been ok. It is not too much to ask after 9/11 and it would not have been too difficult.

You have rights of course. But do you really want to exercise those rights in a manner that makes it very difficult for people protecting those rights to do their job? Why would anyone who value their right practice it that way? Again the phrase ‘spoiled children of liberty’ comes to mind. You do not need to prove to the police that you have rights. They already know that. That is probably the first thing they are taught. You need to prove it to the terrorists. And one way you can do that is by supporting and empowering those that actively work to put down the terrorists and by making it easier for them to protect your rights.

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