real problem stems from the fact that these services are
supplied by heavily-unionized government monopolies. In
spite of this, politicians, unions, and the many interest
groups that benefit from these monopolies succeed in making
Quebecers believe that all problems can be solved by
government. By using fear as a propaganda tool, they propose
new laws and regulations as solutions. Taxes go up in
proportion to the expansion of the bureaucracy with no
corresponding improvement in services. We are caught in a
vicious circle from which there seems to be no escape: more
government creates more problems, which in turn seem to
require more government.
At any given moment,
opportunists are ready to profit from the fears generated
and maintained by governments in order to get rich at the
population's expense. Former politicians and civil servants
become expert consultants from one day to the next. They
author voluminous reports, paid for at great public cost,
confirming the foretold dangers. Whole new enterprises are
born, and others get richer, thanks to subsidies generated
by government programs created with the express purpose of
curbing the many dangers which beset us. These same programs
subsidize hundreds of non-profit social organizations that
exist to help society deal with the stress created by
The Cold War (1945-1990) is an excellent example of the use
of fear to elicit popular support. If the perception of
danger represented by the communist bloc ever showed signs
of diminishing in the public's opinion, the beneficiaries of
the American military-industrial complex were only too happy
to announce a new danger. We were informed that the Soviets
possessed a new warplane, or a new submarine, or a new
generation of satellites, and that generally did the trick.
As if by coincidence, military budgets increased as a result.
When the communist era
drew to a close, there was a period of uncertainty lasting
around a decade. Populations demanded that governments
reduce military spending, and politicians were in obvious
disarray. Finding a new source of danger in order to avoid
an eventual loss of power was becoming an urgent issue.
It is just around this
time that government, with the help of the UN, declared the
environment to be the ultimate source of danger in the 21st
century. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UNFCCC), ratified by 189 countries, entered into
force March 21, 1994. The Kyoto Protocol, its logical
consequent, was signed by 156 countries and entered into
force in February 2005.
The environment is the
perfect domain in which to perpetuate the government's
strategy of fear. There have always been natural
catastrophes, and there always will be natural catastrophes.
Environmental dangers are real, strike without warning, and
exist everywhere on the planet. Every hurricane, tsunami,
flood, or drought gives politicians the opportunity to
remind their population that the government exists to
protect them and to help them in times of need. What better
way of keeping the population in a state of constant fear of
danger on the one hand and benevolence toward the government
on the other!
In all times, public safety represents the most efficient
form of governing through the use of fear. War is the
ultimate threat to public safety. In times of war, the power
of the government apparatus is practically unlimited.
Politicians, bureaucrats, and military-industrial
entrepreneurs understand instinctively that they are lucky
to be living through an exceptional period. The
opportunities for personal enrichment are limited only by
the imaginations of those individuals who hold power.
Politicians obtain long-sought-after budget increases. New
departments requiring thousands of new civil servants are
created overnight. Demands from the military are approved
without discussion, and contracts are awarded without
Those who dare question
the validity of certain decisions are accused of lack of
patriotism, or worse, of being outright traitors. They are
harassed by police and abandoned by friends, neighbours, and
colleagues. Others who were thinking of denouncing abuses
and frauds think twice about doing so.
The tragic events of
September 11, 2001 gave politicians the world over an
unexpected occasion to ensure the long life of regimes that
govern by fear. To make sure the message would be understood
by all, George W. Bush categorized the terrorists' actions
as acts of war.
Terrorism is an
inexhaustible source of potential dangers. Terrorist acts
are spectacular and create a strong feeling of insecurity
within a society. Most people are convinced that governments
are the only entities capable of protecting populations and
preventing terrorist attacks. Since 2001, the war on terror
has become the avenue of choice for keeping populations in a
state of submission.
Politicians have always known that fear is the best way to
convince reticent populations to give their unconditional
support to the government. Whether to distract the public,
to justify more taxes, or to push through unpopular
legislation, politicians can always look to dramatic events,
actual or expected, for the help they need. Gradually, by
maintaining the population in a state of constant fear, the
State erodes individual liberties to the benefit of
politicians and government bureaucrats.
The process has been
greatly accelerated since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
People accept just about anything if it is imposed gradually,
including the loss of liberty. It is therefore more
important than ever to remember the wise words spoken by
Benjamin Franklin in 1759: "They that can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither
liberty nor safety."