Fear Is Power

“It doesn’t make sense though,” my fairly apolitical friend said to me this morning. “Why would Obama want to hurt the economy by instilling fear into the people of the US?”

Last night, I got into a debate with this friend about the government’s overreaction to the swine flu incidents.  She asked this question after seeing an article on the Web site of our local paper, the Winston-Salem Journal, about how fear is spreading much faster than swine flu:

The swine-flu outbreak is unleashing a side effect that the global economy is in no condition to handle: fear…The threat of a pandemic comes just as the world economy is showing the barest glimmerings of what analysts say might be the light at the end of what remains a long, dark tunnel. And now this.

“This is just another negative shock when the economy can least afford another negative shock,” said Jay Bryson, a global economist at Wachovia Corp.

So far, fear of the flu is at least as responsible for the economic disruption as the disease itself.

This is a great chance to reveal the tactics of government to those who are on the line about the liberty movement. This is far from the first time that our government has tried to inspire fear via overreaction in order to gain more power.  Just consider the rhetoric of Bush in the years after 9/11, stating that if we didn’t go fight terrorists in the Middle East, they most certainly would come hunt us down at home.  Or, more recently, the words of President Obama, telling us that if the government does not act in response to the financial crisis, the results will be horrible, specifically saying that this is a “crisis that at some point we may be unable to reverse.  We can’t afford to wait.”

That government gains power by inciting fear is a strong argument to make to those who are unsure of what to think about the government: Aren’t we smart enough to take care of ourselves and ask for help when we need it, instead of having the government mandate ridiculous overreactions to cases like the one we see unfolding before us?  Thomas Hobbes was certainly right – fear is a powerful emotion.  We should make sure that those in power are not able to use this emotion to threaten our liberties.

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