What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: Defensor Fortis
It is in war that the State really comes into its own: swelling in power, in number, in pride, in absolute dominion over the economy and the society. Society becomes a herd, seeking to kill its alleged enemies, rooting out and suppressing all dissent from the official war effort, happily betraying truth for the supposed public interest. Society becomes an armed camp, with the values and the morale — as Albert Jay Nock once phrased it — of an “army on the march.”
Indeed, governments throughout history have used war as a pretext for domestic tyranny. Our own recent wars have created a fearful populace who bleat like sheep for security and throw away their liberties in an effort to obtain it. The Patriot Act (parts one and two), Military Commissions Act, and a whole slew of executive orders have resulted from foreign intervention and the inflating of threats, whether real or pretended.
With few exceptions (the American Revolution being one of them), war is manufactured by government to protect and promote itself, hoard and assume additional power, and increase control in every sphere of life possible. In fact, war is used primarily to defend the State and diminish personal liberty, rather than defending the individuals enlisted in its service. Rothbard explains:
The root myth that enables the State to wax fat off war is the canard that war is a defense by the State of its subjects. The facts, of course, are precisely the reverse. For if war is the health of the State, it is also its greatest danger. A State can only “die” by defeat in war or by revolution. In war, therefore, the State frantically mobilizes the people to fight for it against another State, under the pretext that it is fighting for them.
A basic philosophical analysis of war demonstrates that the state entities involved must usually engender a collectivist, nationalist mentality in order to rally support for the operation. When support is low, the State mandates conscription to fill its ranks and fight for its survival.
The business of war is not new. Thomas Paine commented on it over two centuries ago, Leo Tolstoy a century later, and with today’s ever expanding military-industrial complex we see the same perpetuated atrocity affecting our foreign policy and military adventurism.
It was this repetition throughout history of governments waging wars that led Alexander Solzhenitsyn to comment that “a state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny”. Why is this so? It is because tyranny and its less ominous precursor of government infiltration into one’s personal life are the blood of government. The State has power only over people—not programs, organizations, or objects. The State only has control over the lives of its subjects, and thus finds war to be beneficial to government growth and more assumed power.