By Michael Lenz, Ph.D.
The recent revelations by NSA whistleblower Eric Snowden that the US government has been ordering cell phone providers to turn over their records is surely shocking. This revelation was especially alarming given the fact that Verizon Wireless has already handed over cell phone records of all its domestic and foreign customers to the government. Our gravest suspicions have been affirmed: The United States is a full-fledged police state. In reality, it has probably been a police state since the late 1970’s, but the latest incident is icing on the cake. If the codification into law of such nefarious policies as indefinite detention (See the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012), The systematic and violent dismantling of a peaceful protest movements(see Occupy Wall Street protests), The targeting of political opponents through the power of the audit(see IRS scandal), and extra judicial assassinations(see the FBI killing of Tamerlan Tsarnaev) is not indication enough that our personal liberties are under attack- the Government’s clandestine spying program of the American public fully cements the United States as a police state.
While the US is not at the point (yet) where the mass jailing and assassination of political opponents is common place the US is quickly moving down that dark and terrifying road. The Obama Administration has established a pattern of prosecuting political dissenters who blow the whistle on the unconstitutional activities of the government. The horrendous ordeals facing Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and now Snowden are proof of this fact.
The larger question that has scarcely drawn attention (outside of libertarian circles) is as to why the US government is in the process of installing a highly sophisticated police state? As someone who studies the phenomenon of government power for a living, I have come up with only one logical explanation: the government’s fear of mass revolt and its subsequent interest in the maintenance of social control.
In a brilliant essay titled “the Anatomy of the State” the late political historian and philosopher Murray Rothbard explained that all centralized governments(which he refers to as states) are established in the first place so as to privilege a tiny cabal of men to acquire great wealth for themselves through the labor of others. This wealth, according to Rothbard, is secured through the controversial means known as taxation. Why, one might ask, would anyone agree for a group of strangers to reach into their pockets and extract hard earned wealth? The answer is simple: government agents and those in the paid service of the government(the media, educators, church leaders, elected representatives, government spokespeople) convince us through a constant barrage of propaganda that we need government and that government exists to protect us. As long as the citizenry buys into this myth the government’s power is seen as legitimate and the process of extracting the public’s wealth runs smoothly.
But what if a time were to arise when it became clear to the people that not only does the government not protect them but that they would actually be better off without that constant hovering, paternalistic power? According to Rothbard, this is the type of scenario that all governments fear. History indicates that once the populace loses faith in their government and begins questioning the very legitimacy of its authority, mass revolt is usually not too far behind (See Vietnam and the mass protests of the 1960’s). Of course, no government in power will sit idly by as the people stir up a rebellion. The ruler will deploy every method at their disposal to beat the people back into submission. Government, if necessary, will even do so through the means of fear and coercion.
Presently, the American people are not in a state of social unrest. Why then is the government tightening the screws on individual liberty? It appears that the US Government is anticipating an imminent revolt among the populace. The Government appears to be reacting to three emerging threats to their rule: first, they are reacting to waning public support. it is no secret that Americans’ trust in Uncle Sam is at a low. According to a March, 2013 Pew Research Poll, 73 % have “little confidence in Government”, only 26 % “trust government to do the right thing”, and 53 % say “government is a threat to Americans’ rights and freedoms.” The last time public confidence in government was this low was in the early 1970’s following its criminal Vietnam War, Kent State shootings and political assassinations.
The second threat to the Government is seen through the increasing willingness of Americans to openly defy government’s duplicitous and criminal behavior. American citizens like Manning, Snowden and two-time presidential candidate Ron Paul; as well as groups like the TEA Party, the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the fast-growing libertarian movement best exemplify this tendency. Now, Throw in the fact that several US states like Tennessee have revived the time tested tactic of nullification(see last column) and have embraced the notion of secession as a viable remedy to tyranny and one can see that the nation is on the cusp of a significant rebellion.
While the government is surely concerned about waning public confidence and the emergence of protest movement ; there is-one final and catastrophic threat to their rule: the very real prospect of a complete economic collapse. A glance at the medium to long-term viability of the US economy depicts a picture that directly counters the rosy and optimistic predictions of the Obama Administration. Drawing on the nation’s current debt burden (the US debt is about $17 Trillion) and monetary policy prominent financial investors as diverse as George Soros, Warren Buffett and Peter Schiff have all predicted a significant economic crises in the United States. They all go as far as to suggest that it might dwarf that of 2008. Schiff , author of the best-selling book The Real Crash: America’s Coming Bankruptcy,has even gone as far as to predict an economic collapse so severe that it will eclipse that of the Great Depression back in the 1930s. Indeed, the latest report by the Federal Government’s own National Intelligence Council (NIC) titled “Global Trends 2030” predicts a catastrophic global economic collapse and the subsequent rise of mass tumult.
Our Government may be incompetent, they may be ruthless and they are surely maniacal. But they are prepared. When we take to the streets they will most likely already know everything about us. That just means that our resistance movement has to be that much more creative and passionate.
Michael Lenz is a full-time professor of Political Science at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, Tennessee. He earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts@Amherst in Amherst, Massachusetts. He is a self-described anarchist and is currently writing a book designed for classrooms from a libertarian perspective of American Government. When he is not teaching, writing or lecturing he can be found on the hiking trails with his dog Abbie or dancing at a reggae music show with friends. He resides in Nashville, Tennessee. *His views and opinions do not represent those of Volunteer State Community College. Michael may be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Yes, States Can Nullify Some Federal Laws, Not All (dancingczars.wordpress.com)
- EDITORIAL: Nullifying Obama (washingtontimes.com)
- Nullification Flames Spreading (tenthamendmentcenter.com)
- LENZ IN FOCUS: Anti-IRS protests Indicate Citizens are Fed up with Tyrannical Federal Government: Nullification Could Provide the Solution (inphasemag.wordpress.com)