Saturday, September 05, 2009

Why Obama Needs Crisis

Bloomberg.com reported today that when President Obama returns to Washington next week, he will be in search of the one thing that can revive his health-care overhaul: a sense of crisis. This significance of this should not be overlooked. Classical Greece and Rome had a tradition of appointing a dictator during times of crisis. After the crisis finished, the dictator stepped down and government returned to normal, usually to some form republic or oligarchy.
 
Following this tradition, modern leaders frequently appeal to times of real or alleged 'crisis' to persuade the populace to entrust them with powers that would normally be distributed. The present administration is no exception. Even before he was sworn into office, Obama’s team made clear that the crises facing the country are "an opportunity to do things you could not do before." So said Rahm Emanuel, last November according to the Wall Street Journal. In Emanuel’s conversation with business leaders assembled by the Wall Street Journal, he went on to say, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."
 

Though Emanuel did not specify what “things” he was referring to, it is not hard to guess. It has been a hallmark of American liberalism to use disasters (whether economic, military, environmental, domestic or medical) as a means for increased government control. Knowing that most citizens value security over freedom, and are only too happy to sacrifice the latter if it can increase the former, lawmakers with totalitarian aspirations have never hesitated to greet crises as wonderful opportunities.

In his book Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg chronicles the most significant liberal administrations in modern American history, showing that it was through national calamities – real or imagined – that Americans were persuaded piecemeal to surrender their liberties. In this monument of historical research, Goldberg relates how a long line of Presidents progressively scared the American public into accepting the bloated power of the executive branch as the only alternative to various crises. Barack Obama is well versed in these scare same tactics. On the first of the month, the (then)President-elect warned an audience at George Mason University of the dire consequences that would occur if Congress failed to adopt his stimulus package. Like his statist forefathers, Obama waves the magic wand of government as the only solution. As he put it, “only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe.” Ignoring other credible solutions to the economic downturn - such as returning to the gold standard or abolishing the federal reserve system that caused the recession in the first place - Obama wanted Americans to believe that the only answer is to trust officialdom.

Now it seems that Obama is going to try the same strategy to get his health care proposal accepted. However, when crisis is used as the justification, the implications can only be totalitarian. Thus, already the United States of America is devolving into what might be described as "medical fascism" and Massachusetts is leading the way with the passage of a new bill, the "Pandemic Response Bill" 2028, which has just passed the MA state Senate and is now awaiting approval in the House. As the Centre For Research on Globalization has reported,

“This bill, if adopted, would suspend the Constitutional rights of Massachusetts citizens and forces anyone "suspected" of being infected to submit to interrogations, "decontaminations" and vaccines.It's also sets fines up to $1,000 per day for anyone who refuses to submit to quarantines, vaccinations, decontamination efforts or to follow any other verbal order by virtually any state-licensed law enforcement or medical personnel."
If this shows anything, it is that we haven’t moved very far from the ancient notion that times of crisis justify the suspension of democracy. Given Obama’s totalitarian aspirations, he may have to create a medical crisis (the swine flu may provide just such an opportunity) because it is only during times of crisis that citizens are willing to surrender substantive portions of liberty. In order for Obama’s health care plan to be accepted, Americans must be willing to surrender liberty, as I have argued HERE. But liberty runs deep in the veins of Americans, and it is possible that nothing short of a good crisis will succeed to orienting Americans to favor protection over freedom.

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