Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, February 28, 2005

Is There A State of Fear?

Can government work if the people are happy, unthreatened, and unafraid? Or will comfort lead to complacency, an unwillingness to fund government, and the failure of government?

Certainly, the threat of 9/11 made government work. There was focus, funding and effectiveness for a period of time, and even now after a divisive national election, anti-terror programs tend to pass and be funded, and government can say it's working. The same is true of the Cold War, World War II, the Great Depression, and the more recent environmental scrare decades.

Michael Crichton, in State of Fear, says government needs to maintain a state a fear among the public and work through the PLM system -- political, legal and media -- to maintain it. Further, he says that the evidence is in the history: No sooner did the Cold War end and an era of fear with it, than did a quintupling of use of the word "catastrophe" occur in environmental stories. The environment wasn't catastrophic as long as the Ruskies posed a threat, but once there was a vacuum, alar, dioxin, and global warming stepped -- or were pushed forward -- in to fill it.

I see evidence of PLM-induced fear in my inside-the-beltway-liberal mother, who really does think the world will end soon. Global warming, a trigger-happy cowboy in the White House, the alienation of old allies, a doomed economy, who knows what all, have given her a very negative view of the future. She is a sap for expensive government programs, like the UN and the Kyoto treaty ... so is Crichton right? Do the powers that be have her right where they want her?

I prefer a more optimistic view of the world, but there are the power-hungry, the people-using, the greedy, all of whom would in fact benefit if there were a PLM system behind the curtain, running the show.