The Expansionist State and the Invention of Crises
Those who think the government has the answer to everything, and more troubling, those who earn their living from feeding out of the government (taxpayer) trough, will always find reasons to seek to expand the reach of government.
And the best way to do this is to keep inventing one crisis after another, which supposedly only governments can deal with. The trouble is, these crises usually turn out to have been charades, while the proposed solutions end up being far worse than the imagined problem.
Plenty of examples come to mind, including some recent Australian debacles. Consider Rudd’s panic about the climate change crisis. His solution? Offer subsidised home ceiling insulation. We all know how that beaut solution turned out. At last count, four dead, 120 homes burned down, thousands more at risk, billions of tax dollars wasted, and an entire industry in tatters.
Then we have had various flu crises, such as the swine flu scare. Once again, the government steps in with grandiose plans, but they mainly seem to make matters worse. In Queensland a girl has died twelve hours after receiving a seasonal flu vaccine, while 60 children in WA have been hospitalised following very adverse reactions to the vaccine. As a result Australia’s chief medical officer has had to suspend the vaccines to all children under five.
Or consider the recent crisis concerning ash pouring out of an Icelandic volcano. Hundreds of flights were cancelled, tens of thousands of airline passengers were stranded, and many millions of dollars lost. This led one British columnist to ask, “Is volcanic ash the new swine flu?”
Governments certainly have a responsibility to look out for public health and safety. But we have seen plenty of groundless crises come and go over the years, and often the government solutions have been more dangerous and costly than the supposed crisis. And we also have the problem of the government playing Chicken Little once too often, with people soon disbelieving any cry that the sky is falling.
Don Feder recently had an incisive article on the need for governments to manufacture crises. Entitled, “The Perpetual-Crisis Machine of the Apocalyptic Left,” it is well worth mining for some revealing quotes. His opening paragraphs are well worth repeating:
“The left is in crisis-overdrive. Imminent disaster is its rallying cry. The world will end, if we don’t appropriate billions, launch another massive government program, shower condoms on 6-year-olds, socialize another sector of the economy, cede more of our freedom to Washington, and venerate polar bears.
“Since at least the early 1960s, the left has been in a constant state of agitation, prophesying doom at every turn. Any who question its hysteria-mongering are labeled anti-science, a tool of corporate interests, insensitive or just plain Republican.
“The refrain is always the same: Don’t question. Don’t examine the evidence too closely. Don’t debate the proposals. Whatever you do, don’t read the legislation before you vote. Just give us what we want or civilization, as we know it, will cease to exist – millions will die horrible deaths -and it will be your fault.”
He notes how Karl Marx was the original gloom-and-doomer. He continues, “It wasn’t quite a straight line from ‘The Communist Manifesto’ to Rachel Carson’s ‘The Silent Spring’ (1962). The Al Gore of her day, Carson warned of environmental catastrophe from the widespread use of DDT to control the mosquitoes that spread malaria.
“Considered the mother of the environmentalist movement, Carson was responsible for the 30-year ban on DDT, finally lifted by the World Health Organization in 2006. Her book claimed the compound caused cancer in humans and genetic damage to birds and beneficial insects – all based on anecdotal evidence and rats doing laps in vats of DDT.
“In 1981, Rachel Carson got a commemorative U.S. postage stamp. Millions in the Third World – especially pregnant women and children – got early deaths from malaria, which DDT had largely eliminated by the mid-60s.
“From ‘The Silent Sprint’ to ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and beyond, it’s been a steady march of hysteria, manufactured statistics and speculation totally detached from reality. Stroll down memory lane and meet the ghosts of liberal crises past.”
He examines the supposed US homeless crisis, a supposed epidemic of hate crimes, the global warming panic, and other crises which all resulted in an increase in government powers and a decrease in individual freedoms. Consider the crisis of the heterosexual AIDS epidemic:
“Everyone was susceptible. If we didn’t spend billions pronto, AIDS would sweep the nation like wildfire. ‘Now No One Is Safe From AIDS,’ screeched the cover of Life magazine. It was worse than the Black Plague, a Joe Biden speech and daytime television combined. Then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop (who was co-opted by the AIDS lobby) forecast a ‘heterosexual AIDS explosion.’ Oprah said that by 1990, 20% of all heterosexuals would be dead from AIDS. Clinton’s HHS Secretary Donna Shalala said AIDS may leave ‘nobody left.’
“These projections were delusional, to put it mildly. According to The Centers for Disease Control, in 2007, 14,561 died from AIDS – not much of a mega-plague, when compared to 631,636 deaths from heart disease, 559,888 from cancer and 137,119 from stroke in the same year.
“A 1988 New York Times story (‘Researchers List Odds of Getting AIDS in Heterosexual Intercourse’) gave away the game. According to the paper, which never misses a chance to proselytize for the gay agenda, the chances of contracting AIDS from a single act of heterosexual intercourse – with an infected partner and without a condom – were 1 in 500. No one was safe from AIDS – no one who was gay, bisexual or into sharing (needles).”
Feder concludes with these words: “If they were honest, liberals would confess: ‘There’s a severe power crisis in this country. When it comes to power over your own life, you have too much and we have too little. Please help us to rectify this situation.’
“Of course, that would get them nowhere. Hence, the left’s perpetual-crisis machine – apocalypse now. ‘Unless you let us do something drastic right away, you could get AIDS, end up homeless, lose your health insurance, see your beachfront property under 20 feet of water, and watch as beach towels are airlifted to the Eskimos.’
“Goebbels wouldn’t have the gall to concoct the lies they’ve been peddling for half a century. But more than a power grab is involved. The left hates the middle-class, hates private property and hates limited, constitutional government. It wants to make us feel guilty for what we have. Whatever the crisis, ultimately, it’s our fault – it’s our greed, stupidity, callousness or bigotry that fuels the catastrophe.”
Nothing beats a crisis to allow governments to usurp powers they would never get under ordinary circumstances. Thus we eagerly await what next week’s crisis will be. But hopefully most people are now catching on. The only sky that is falling is the risk of Big Brother statism if we believe their manufactured crisis hype.
14 Replies to “The Expansionist State and the Invention of Crises”
I remember reading an academic paper for my Honours hear in philosophy which was about the SARS ‘epidemic’ which never happened. The interesting thing was that the paper’s overall message was a ‘how to’ in getting socialised medicine through the back door during a so-called crisis like SARS. ‘Never let a crisis go to waste’ as Rahm Emmanuel said.
The head of the WHO (the name escapes me) basically admitted that they beat up the Swine flu epidemic just to get extra money. Of course Swine flu has killed no more people (actually probably much less) than any other strain of regular seasonal flu. In fact, I have heard that it is a more benign form and so may have inoculated people against some of the more deadlier strains.
Moral of the story; beware leftist deceit and trickery!
Melanie Philips on the Iceland panic:
The evidence is now very strong that the panic about volcanic ash over Britain which closed British airspace for five days, caused a £1.3 billion airline shutdown and left 150,000 Britons stranded was completely unfounded. The Mail on Sunday reports that the information on which the British Meteorological Office based its assertion that Britain was shrouded by a dangerous layer of ash was
…mainly derived not from satellite observations of where ash was visible but from theoretical models, so showed the entire region that might be affected by minute concentrations of ash dispersed by weather systems. Across most of this, the ash was so thin as to be invisible.
‘Scientific’ assertions based upon theoretical computer models which produce merely speculation based on ‘might’ and ‘if’, and which actually runs totally contrary to evidence-based, demonstrable reality? Ring any bells?
Clue: another ‘scientific’ claim which originated in the Met Office about a catastrophic development in the atmosphere…
You got it right there Bill.
It is a crisis, real or imagined that drives this socialist change.
Socio psychologists discovered how a crisis tends to bring people together in a setting where they put their difference aside (for the sake of the common good), in order to solve the problem using Hegel’s dialectic process. Some call it the “process” of evolution in action. When consensus (compromise for the common good) is reached then they have a critical mass or synthesis synergy is then released and the whole process starts over again, but at a higher level.
This same sort of thinking gave us two world wars and Communism. with millions dead. Next time it will lead us to Hell on earth. Some call it systems engineering, others total quality management and a hundred other names.
It has it’s own deceptive language with its own meanings.
One popular term would be win win, and the whole thing is aimed right at the heart of God.
We are now a nation run by those who have turned their back on God.
Dean Gotcher says it is rebellion against God and the only word to adequately describe it is,”insanity”.
I believe he is dead right. It’s crazy.
I agree with what you are saying overall but I do have to point out a couple of flaws in this article.
1. Strictly speaking vaccination of children against ‘flu has not been a government thing — the government does encourage it but all parents are given the choice whether or not to take it up. It actually costs someone between $20 and $30 to get a ‘flu shot. Free (taxpayer funded) ‘flu shots are only given to children with certain serious, chronic diseases.
Do you oppose government sponsored immunisation across the board? I am part of the health profession and I believe it is a good thing. Millions more in taxpayer dollars would be spent in hospital admissions were it not for immunisation.
It is inaccurate to blame the government for what happened with those kids in WA.
2. AIDS is very serious. Just look at Africa. The only reason Western countries escaped a scourge is because of government funded initiatives. The main reason why those most susceptible to HIV (homosexual men and injecting drug users) are living long and happy lives despite being HIV positive is because of millions of taxpayer dollars being spent on extremely expensive anti-retroviral therapy. See
But I nowhere said all vaccinations were wrong, or that people were forced to take them. I did say that there is a place for government care in matters of public health and safety.
And where did I say HIV/AIDS was unimportant? You miss the point of the article. On this issue, it was the false scare campaign of heterosexual AIDS in the West. We know that around 85% of cases in the West are due to male homosexuality and intravenous drug use. HIV/AIDS has become the nation’s first politically protected disease. If we took standard epidemiological procedures with this as we have done with other infectious diseases, we would see a great reduction in HIV/AIDS, just as Uganda has seen a marked decrease, due to its ABC strategy.
Instead Western governments are actually promoting the dangerous homosexual lifestyle. So we should concentrate on building fences on the top of the cliff, and not having fleets of ambulance at the bottom.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Bill, you’ve obviously read the poem “The fence or the Ambulance.”
Marvelous piece wasn’t it?
One correction to your reply to Jereth perhaps? –
vis – Western governments are promoting dangerous ‘sexual’ lifestyles of ALL kinds.
Re ‘flu immunisation, I was responding to your remark “Once again, the government steps in with grandiose plans, but they mainly seem to make matters worse.” I don’t think that’s actually a true reflection of events. What are the grandiose plans you are referring to?
I also don’t think a ‘flu pandemic is a baseless left wing alarmist campaign. The medical community has been anxious about ‘flu pandemics for a long time; even back in the conservative era when Tony Abbott was health minister, there was plenty of fear about avian ‘flu, and plenty of talk about big government response. Do you remember?
Re AIDs, I was responding to: “These projections were delusional, to put it mildly. According to The Centers for Disease Control, in 2007, 14,561 died from AIDS – not much of a mega-plague”. You’re right that western govts are promoting the gay lifestyle. However, the scare about heterosexual AIDS was not unwarranted delusion. In Africa most HIV cases are spread heterosexually. That could have happened here (and still COULD happen) were it not for certain actions that were taken at various levels of the community.
Your basic thrust against false alarmism is correct, but you need to be careful not to let your political leaning (with which I am in basic agreement) colour your assertions. There are some things such as ‘flu and AIDS epidemics that we *should* be genuinely anxious about; it is not helpful to lump these things together with alarmist causes such as AGW.
All I was trying to do with the flu examples was remind readers of one panic after another, such as the SARS scare, the mad cow disease panic, and swine flu panic, and so on. The same with things like a nuclear winter, global cooling, then global warming, etc. I did not say these were all lefty plots, but that statists are quite happy to use any crisis to take more powers onto themselves. That much we know quite clearly from history.
As to HIV/AIDS, you continue to miss the point. We are talking about the West here, where the problem is largely confined to male homosexuality and contaminated needles. The heterosexual spread in places like Asia and Africa is an entirely different situation. For example, in Africa poor health and medical conditions, along with a preference for anal sex to prevent pregnancy is a big part of the reason for the heterosexual AIDS epidemic. Places like Uganda are bucking the trend by dealing with prevention rather than cure. But I have written at length about all this elsewhere on this site.
While I certainly do not claim to have a medical background, hopefully we are nonetheless mostly on the same page here!
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
As you no doubt remember, Thomas Sowell’s book Vision of the Anointed documents a number of “crises” that the Anointed have used (scroll down that page for my summary of the four stages and some examples).
Jonathan Sarfati, USA
“Western governments are actually promoting the dangerous homosexual lifestyle” – exactly, dead right, but so often people don’t realise this. Promoting anal intercourse is as much promotion of the culture of death as promotion of abortion. And they’re all at it. A few weeks ago, Britian’s Liberal Democrat leader – desperate for the gay vote – described homosexuality as “normal and harmless” – a criminally dangerous statement; now he is said to have come from the back to being a front-runners in next week’s elections. “The horror! The horror!”, as Mr Kurtz would have said.
John Thomas, UK
While I’m opposed to the nanny-state mentality as much as you, I think there’s danger in your choice of supposed examples.
Influenza in its various strains is a real threat to human life. There have been about 14,000 confirmed deaths worldwide from swine ‘flu in the past year or so. So while we might criticise health authorities if the spread isn’t as wide as first feared, it is most unfair to accuse them of fear-mongering. The precautions that have been taken have no doubt reduced the threat, but it is still there.
I’m also puzzled about your comments on the volcano ash scare. I’m an airline pilot and I know a bit about jet engines, and meteorology. The concern was real and the precautions taken by air safety authorities in Europe was quite appropriate in the circumstances.
I’m reminded here of the Y2K “bug” scare. There are many today who believe it was a false alarm, but that view is based on ignorance. I know people who worked on the problem, and I am aware of the serious and widespread software problems that would have occurred if the relevant systems had not been modified. The reason there were not major consequences was because the problem was recognised ahead of time and was addressed.
Human society today is complex and we depend on the expertise of many others in our daily lives. Trust in the professionalism and work ethic of others is vital to me in carrying out my job. In my experience most professional people act responsibly, ethically and reasonably, and I think it is unfair to suggest that certain professions would deliberately exaggerate problems in some kind of global conspiracy.
I’m concerned that if we too casually and widely dismiss the advice of professionals we risk aligning ourselves with conspiracy theorists, anarchists and extremists. And that is a dark place indeed.
Mike Sheens, Hong Kong
I am afraid I just am not quite as optimistic and sanguine as you are about professionals and our elites. Sure there are a lot of good people out there doing good things, but we need to take seriously the biblical doctrine of the fall, and the maxim that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In a fallen world even those with our good in mind can often turn out to be tyrants. Indeed, all the failed social utopian movements of previous centuries, including the Nazis and Marxists, all claimed to speak for the wellbeing of mankind. They thought they knew what was best for the common man. These elites speak much of humanity but usual;ly have contempt for mere humans.
You really should check out a few titles here such as David Flint’s The Twilight of the Elites or Thomas Sowell’s important new book, Intellectuals and Society for some sober assessment of all this. Or read C.S. Lewis’s important warning, The Abolition of Man. For more on Sowell’s incisive commentary, see my piece here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2007/10/19/a-conflict-of-visions/
As to your remark, “think it is unfair to suggest that certain professions would deliberately exaggerate problems” you seem to be out of touch here. Should we begin with the entire ClimateGate debacle for starters? There are entire industries set up to create panic, partly to keep people in jobs. Government bureaucrats live off of creating crisis so that they can have a job. Even social workers can at least subconsciously delight in social fragmentation, as it keeps providing them a steady case load.
I write more on this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/02/06/government-by-experts/
I must say I have to side with Ronald Reagan here who rightly said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
And I also have to agree with the late William F. Buckley who once said, “I would rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by the 2,000 members of the Harvard faculty.”
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Surely you can’t really believe that decisions about air safety or pandemics should be made by people with no expertise in those fields.
Do you not want trained and experienced professionals to design bridges, design and build aeroplanes, build dams, pilot aeroplanes, navigate ships, construct buildings, represent you in court or build your house? And there are many more skilled professions than that brief list.
You seem to have an anti-intellectual or anti-education bias that I find quite bizarre in this day and age. I don’t know what your occupation is but surely you must have an education of some sort to do your own job.
Mike Sheens, Hong Kong
But where did I say we should not utilise expertise or not have trained professionals? I am speaking about the knowledge class in particular, the self-appointed guardians of society: ideologues, social engineers, bureaucrats, various politicians, many public servants, and the like who often think they know better than the masses. These elites have throughout history sought to foist their grandiose schemes on unwilling populations.
That has nothing to do with legit occupations like pilots or builders, etc, people who are for the most part in the private sector and do not feed off the public trough, and do not have vested interested in crises, bureaucracies, and tax-payer funded tenure.
So you still seem to be missing the point of this article altogether.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch