On the Other Hand...

The "Security" Swindle

by Jim Davies

Last week in this column, we noted the strong similarity between the Mafia with its "protection rackets" and the government, at every level. Both provide services that are not needed, and punish those who will not buy them.

This notion of protection, or "security", runs so deep in the mythology of government that I thought it worth a further visit here. Suppose you asked someone "What's government for?"

I wish you would, actually. I wish we all asked that question many times every day, of ourselves and all our friends. The answer is so pathetically weak that we would all be astonished that we have continued to tolerate this monstrous institution. Most will say, parrot-like: "Why, it's to protect us, silly!" That's the myth, and it's as old as government itself.

See, the unspoken but underlying assumption made by all those who think government is a good idea is that we are somehow insecure. And like all other Big Lies, this one has a grain of truth: life is, indeed, dangerous. But tragically, in every age people have swallowed the fiction that life's insecurity can be minimized by surrendering their individual sovereignty.

Castle and Keep

Take the medieval Europeans, for example (though they, unlike us, had little choice.) All over England there are remains of hundreds of castles, large and small, built first of wood and later of stone. They date from around 1100 A.D., often appear atop mounds or small hills, and have a three-ring design.

The three rings are walls, inside each other though not usually concentric. The outer wall was the village limit; the serfs worked the Lord's land outside (paying him 25% for the privilege) but lived inside that outer wall - for "security" against marauding gangs from other villages, run by nearby seigneurs or lords - who had all been given their lands as booty following some conquest - like that by William of Normandy. He was the Slick Willie of his day.

Inside the outer was a second, or middle walled ring, into which the serfs might retreat if under attack; losing their homes in the process. In the heat and terror of battle they probably did not pause to reflect that their Lord's provision of "security" had just rendered them homeless. Into this middle area they could take their persons and their cattle, for it was usually quite large and open. There, they fought to survive or die.

Finally there was the inner ring of defensive wall, surrounding the home of the Lord himself, named the "Keep". No doubt that suggests who was really to be kept safe by this defensive arrangement. The Keep was well fortified, and under heavy attack any survivors could retreat for the final showdown. But of course, there wasn't room for many. Just enough for the few survivors.

Local Security

Just as the Castle and Keep was sold as a deal to keep the villagers safe (and sometimes did so) but was primarily designed to keep their overlord safe, today's "security" service in any Town here has the advertised aim of protecting residents but actually places them at risk and secures the rulers.

"To protect and to serve" is the claim, and it's painted on the side of most police cars. For sure, sometimes it's true; sometimes, the police will actually remove a real criminal from a neighborhood, so raising its security level. Like all Big Lies, the Security Myth has a grain of truth at its base.

More often, the police cruiser is the most dangerous hazard of almost every trip we take. They lurk behind bushes, aiming their electronic guns in our direction, and woe betide the driver without his Government Spy Detector. The speed limits are set absurdly low so as to generate a healthy "seigneurage". Traffic anomalies that could readily be resolved by suits at common law (anyone actually injured sues the careless driver) become instead a cash cow for the governing elite and a magnificent boost for their officers' bloated egos.

National Security

The same principle applies all the way up the grim hierarchy of the government class; County, State and Nation. Any time the bureaucrats or politicians want to hide some particularly revolting piece of behavior, the top elite claims the protection of "national security" for keeping it out of sight.

Our own Founders, even, got it wrong: they said in the Declaration of Independence "To secure these liberties, governments are instituted among men." Yes, they did say "are" instituted, not "must be"; but they came awfully close. The very idea that liberties can be made secure by the very kind of organization that, though the millennia, has most frequently savaged them, is absurd on its face! Yet theirs were straight, as they signed those words. Such is mankind's capacity for self-delusion; such is the power of this myth.

Liberty is in its essence an individual thing; groups don't have it, people do. And people, individually, can alone secure it. Best, perhaps, with guns; and that's the whole reason why government so detests their private ownership.

Just as the local Seigneur endangered his serfs while claiming to protect them, so today's overlords in D.C. greatly reduce our safety while claiming to provide us with National Security; and the Iraq Invasion is a current example. In 1989, nobody suggested that the dictator in Baghdad had any plans to injure any American. A savage to his own people and neighbors, but not to us.

Thanks however to the Bush War and its Clinton Continuation, that is now his obvious and deliberate intent. Our "protectors" have created a threat. One day, unless we are lucky, his government may lob a missile to some US city, loaded with anthrax or nuclear explosives. Some "security"! Whenever will we wise up?

© Copyright Jim Davies 1999

Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.

The above is Edition # 288

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