Sultan Knish concludes correctly that the greatest threat to freedom is Security. The issue is not should we go without security… (whether economic or military threat), but rather can we maintain a proportion where we are still free thinkers with the opportunity to be judged by the quality of our lives and still live safely?
Tyranny then could only come from the desire for security. Because not all tyrants march in at the head of an army. Rather they assure the masses that giving up their freedom will improve their security. That was the position of the English during the Revolutionary War, when they placed soldiers in people’s homes and applied taxes for the defense of the colonies. The revolution was an explicit rejection of exchanging freedom for security, of giving up political representation and personal liberties for security’s sake.
But in the aftermath of the Revolution, the problem of security remained. Particularly economic security. The need to stabilize the currency of the new country and find revenue sources to meet its debts, quickly dragged the new country back to some of the tactics of the old… as the Whiskey Rebellion unfortunately demonstrated. Similarly slavery was protected in order to protect the country’s trade in cotton. The race between the factory and the plantation helped drive the country into a Civil War, and put an end to First American Republic.
The Second American Republic that followed was a republic of the factory and the mine, in which the winners of the war profited from using immigrant labor to increase their production and resource exploitation. It was the twilight of the farmer and the sunrise of the urban worker. And above it all was a changing America under a progressive government in which both Republican and Democratic Presidents were besotted with the possibilities of using science to create an ideal state. And when in the Great Depression, the factory stopped, the railroad stilled and the unemployment lines grew– those same ideas were skillfully used to create the first socialist state in America. FDR’s New Deal. The Third American Republic.
It is of course overly simplistic to pretend that the New Deal had come out of nowhere. FDR’s New Deal was not a radical break with the governance and philosophies of Hoover, Wilson or Theodore Roosevelt– much in the same way that Obama’s governance is not a radical break with that of Bush, Clinton or Carter. Like Obama, the New Deal was shocking in the extent of its radicalism, the breathtaking arrogance with which it was implemented and its casual willingness to upend the Constitution. But it was not a true break, rather it was the idea of a domestically powerful government taken to its radical conclusion, through the exploitation of fears of economic insecurity.