Government Thrives on Fear

What do you fear?


This Halloween, what do you fear?

I fear fear itself because when we are afraid, we willingly give away our freedoms.

Global warning? More power to the EPA!

9/11? Vote 100 to 0 to create a TSA!

Kids don't learn? Common Core!

Crime up? Spend on police! (Or for leftists: increase welfare!)

Immigrants? Seal the border!

Ebola? More money and power for public health programs!

Government thrives on our fears. When we're scared, politicians are always there, promising to protect us if we just give them more money and power. We usually do.

I got into an argument about that with the hosts of the Fox show Outnumbered, which pits one man against four women in debate. The Outnumbered hosts are not the usual silly socialist media alarmists. They often report on the harm big government does. But last summer, with government warning about Ebola being an "incredibly transmissible" disease and media shrieking, "Are hospitals ready?" all four women were alarmed.

They wanted government to do something. Quarantine? Ban flights from Africa? Hire more doctors? Government must do something!

I pushed back, saying, "You women get too scared; you exaggerate the risk." I know that was sexist. But I also think it's true—women fear more. Am I wrong? I'm open to counter-argument.
I told the TV hosts that I believed more Americans would be killed by deer than Ebola. They laughed at me, but I was serious, and in fact, that year only one American died from Ebola, but almost 200 were killed by deer (most from their cars colliding with deer).

But we don't fear deer. This Saturday, no one will wear scary deer costumes. No Halloween party will feature scary replicas of cars. We're accustomed to cars and deer. New threats frighten us—and threats that seem new.

Like school shootings. After the last horrible mass shooting, Hillary Clinton implied that school has become more dangerous. She demanded new gun controls, asking, "How many people have to die before we actually act?"

Every shooting is terrible, and governments often respond by hiring increased security and running "lockdown drills" that terrify kids. Politicians say these steps are needed because mass shootings are up.

But they are not. School violence is actually down. There were almost four times as many deaths back in 1994.
People fear today's resurgence of violent crime. The head of the FBI says he thinks the "War on Cops" led some officers to be less aggressive, and that's why crime has risen a little in some cities.

But he had no hard evidence to back up what he said.

Crime is up in a few cities, but the percentage increase is dramatic only because the crime rates in those cities had fallen very low. "Take New York City. Homicides up 8 percent this year," says Northeastern University criminology professor James Alan Fox, "but it's 35 percent lower than five years ago."

Overall, crime continues to fall. Really. The FBI just released the most recent data, which says violent crime is down.


But what about that "War on Cops"? It's true that in some neighborhoods, police making arrests often face an angry crowd screaming "racism," and 32 officers have been killed with guns this year. That's tragic, but it's not an increase. Actually, today is an especially safe time to be a police officer. Adjusted for the change in population, 2013 saw fewer police deaths than any year since 1887, and if this year's trend continues, 2015 will have the lowest number of police killings in decades.

Fear is a friend of the state. When people are frightened, they willingly give money and power to politicians and bureaucrats.

That's what I fear this Halloween.


NEXT: How Will We Help the Homeless Without Government, Which Just Sent Squads of Cops to Destroy "Microhouses" for Homeless on Government Property in Denver?

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  1. I fear the strangely articulate signs that were held at a protest held by Korean and Chinese nail salon “workers.” I’ve travelled extensively in Southeast Asia (only touching China though) and went many times to Chinatown in SF when I lived there. One of the endearing things about those travels was the ham-fisted attempts at the English language made by the residents. But yet when looking at this protest it’s pretty much all green signs using perfect English.


    1. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what’s known as deflection.

      1. But we knew that, already. National Socialist*, at the end of the day, judges people by their color and accent and is furiously unwilling to see past it. Repeatedly we see that s/he, and the other leftists here, regularly want to categorize large swathes of the population and how they all think/vote/act simply by looking at them, and, when their racist view of the universe doesn’t line up with reality, they call names and, as you see above, deflect from the real conversation.

        *What is a better name for AS above? National Socialist or AmSock? I’m not sure.

        1. I think AmSock works well on a number of levels.

      2. Herro, you don’t like my-ah shitty nail salon? Why is it that every time hard working Chinese man make business some running dog American has to fuck it up?

        1. Do you have a good racist one for “Black lives matter”, too?

    2. american socialist, the greatest threat to liberty, is your centralized government.

      The greatest threat to socialism, is a free individual who says No to your socialist bull shit.

    3. For on so idiotic, you manage to marshall what little brain power you have to be ultra despicable. Kill yourself. No one could ever love you anyway. You’re just a burden.

    4. The only thing we have to fear is our own government!

  2. Has Francisco mentioned he likes Stossel yet?

  3. I cultivate a healthy fear of the government.

    1. I believe we should all fear statistics!

    1. I fear getting slapped by a professional wrestler.

  4. For 17 years I drove home at around 11 at night 4 days a week from work.Last 6 miles 2 lane and saw deer many nights,the fall rut being the worst.Hit three in that time even though I was on the look out.I’m just glad I didn’t live in moose country,BTY,I got my revenge each year during deer gun season,and turned the one’s I hit into dinners.

    1. “and turned the one’s I hit into dinners”

      You can only eat road kill during hunting season?

  5. Fear is inbred. It’s part of evolution. Life without proper fear went off the cliff eons ago. So here we are. The question is what do you do about your fear – be rational or superstitious. You can rationally wind down your fears as best as possible and live with what remains or you can bellow and rend your garments and construct institutions with ghosts and faeries (with messages as interpreted by Wise Men) or institutions with Top Men. The problem is those people who would pause and think first are not likely the people to then decide hiring agents to swing wildly in the dark to connect with any chin within reach “to do something about it” while those who want quick solutions to their fears will fall just as quickly into Force laden solutions. That’s the quixotic task for libertarians – to get any real change you have to ask non-thinkers to think, and try and talk them out of their religions. It certainly doesn’t help that there are plenty of Con Men who play up innate fears we all have.

    1. In other words, we’re screwed.

    2. “That’s the quixotic task for libertarians”

      Their quixotic task is to lead by example. Libertarians can talk and talk trying to persuade the non-thinkers among us about how Obama is a secret Kenyan Marxist Muslim, but leading by example is the best way forward.

      1. The conservatives have a monopoly on nonsense though.

        We can definitely however paint Obama as the enemy of all freedom, which isn’t that far from the truth. Just replace “the antichrist” with Literally Hitler and woosh, something marketable to SoCons.

    3. Yes – fear is part of what we are as humans. Manipulation of that fear has little to do with government. Look at every ad on TV and every product sold to a mass market. Underlying the marketing of everything now is fear/greed/emotions. Once Edward Bernays figured out that Uncle Sigmund was on to something, everything changed. There hasn’t been a ‘rational’ marketing argument made in going on 100 years. Why would government be different?

      And why do libertarians somehow think that they are too precious to join in that on the same terms as everyone else? The goal should be individual liberty – but like it or not that is going to have to be sold/marketed in a mass manner

      1. And sex. Don’t forget the most powerful advertising ingredient!

  6. Fear of the poor: that’s what keeps freedom loving Libertarians in line.

  7. I fear the U.S. Voters and voting machines. Liberty doesn’t stand a chance.

    1. “I fear the U.S. Voters and voting machines. Liberty doesn’t stand a chance.”

      Fear of potential allies and a defeatist attitude. Libertarianism doesn’t stand a chance with advocates like this.

      1. Potential allies? You must know a different group of young people than I do. But then again, I do live in New Jersey. Perhaps I’m jaded.

        Libertarian Advocate? I’m not a Libertarian. I just happen to like some of their platforms. Despise others.

        If Libertarianism depends on me having some optimistic attitude toward the voters and voting machines, you’re right. It doesn’t stand a chance.

        1. “If Libertarianism depends on me having some optimistic attitude toward the voters and voting machines, you’re right. It doesn’t stand a chance.”

          The problem is not with your defeatist attitude, it’s that your defeatist attitude is shared by so many self described Libertarians. You see them all over this board.

          1. I see the solution as the reduction in the number of progtards. That herd needs thinning.

            1. “I see the solution as the reduction in the number of progtards.”

              But you’re a Tory. Libertarians see low taxes and free markets as the solution.

              1. No, I’m a Suicidy. And you aren’t going to get any of those things while progtards exist in large numbers.

                I do like Tory’s though. Especially that Tory Black…….

        2. A democracy can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury.

  8. “But we don’t fear deer. This Saturday, no one will wear scary deer costumes. No Halloween party will feature scary replicas of cars. We’re accustomed to cars and deer. New threats frighten us?and threats that seem new.”

    Hey Stossel,

    Bet you a bourbon more Halloween folks dress up as deer and cars than as ebola. just sayin

    1. That’s because even the hottest yoga instructors couldn’t twist themselves into the shape of an ebola micrograph.

  9. I challenge Stossel’s logic, particularly his conclusions reached by examining the empirical data on the number of deer killed and school violence!! Er .. I mean I could challenge it if I wanted to. But I don’t need to Cuz his libertarian-style mustache is creepy.

  10. I fear them, when they should be fearing me; because I will not go quietly into that good night.

  11. Fear is also a result of social conditioning.

    That is why I won’t disagree with Stossel’s contention that women are more fearful than men generally. We teach them that from an early age. And, it shows.

    Did I mention that I love Stossel’s writing? Concise, sweet and logical. Right to the point.

    Stossel for President! 😉

  12. So JS is basically saying that progressive government toadies would make good Sinestro Corps Yellow Lamtern ring wielders?

  13. The Whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed,
    and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an
    endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary

    H.L. Mencken
    Newspaper Columnist
    In Defense of Women 1920

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  19. Perhaps I could impart a ray of sunshine into your life. I am a female. My life on this planet has taught me where I should concentrate my fear. I fear my local government and the cash cow arm called the police department and the county sheriff department that invades and searches homes without warrants. I fear bodily injury during a “detainment” that by the way did not result in arrest. I fear the use of a government “wellness” check instigated by a lying 911 caller and not vetted by those we place in authority. I fear the state that passed 1500 more new laws and regulations this year. I fear a jury that is not informed but that’s been the plan all along. I fear my state that brags about expanding my gun rights to open carry yet sells me this right through a license fee. I fear the federal government that is so outside of it’s constitutional boundaries that does things that would put you or I in jail for a long time. I fear all levels of government that that have forgotten that we are their bosses. I am not an anarchist. I am an extremely conservative republican. My state is Texas and all of y’all thought we were so free down here!

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