Wednesday June 6, 2018
Emergencies are the time-honored method by which people lose their freedom. That’s because public officials use emergencies as a way to acquire totalitarian powers, under the rationale that they need such powers to keep people “safe.” Of course, officials usually make it clear that the totalitarian powers will only be “temporary.” As soon as the emergency is over, they say, the powers will be canceled and things will return to normal.
During emergencies, much of the citizenry becomes afraid, very afraid. Being kept safe zooms to near the top of many people’s priority list. They become willing, even eager, for the government to acquire totalitarian powers to keep them safe, especially since the use of such powers is temporary anyway.
One of the best examples of this phenomenon was the Reichstag Fire in Nazi Germany, when the German Parliament building was made the target of a terrorist attack. After the fire-bombing of the building, German leader Adolf Hitler approached the Reichstag and requested totalitarian powers to deal with the terrorist threat facing Germany. After considerable discussion and debate, the legislature gave Hitler the powers he was seeking to wage a war on terrorism.