Monday, February 16, 2009

Politics of Fear and the President for Life

So Hugo Chavez has intimidated his way into being "president" for life in Venezuela. In this event we are seeing simply another repetition of the inevitable totalitarianism that results from central economic planning. This is nothing new, historically, and particularly not in the political format of a "democracy" such as Venezuela is. F.A. Hayek addressed this in his Road to Serfdom when he noted that
The whole system will tend toward that plebiscitarian dictatorship in which the head of the government is from time to time confirmed in his position by popular vote, but where he has all the powers at his command to make certain that the vote will go in the direction he desires.

Reading the article about Chavez, it is perfectly clear that this is exactly the case that we have seen come to pass in Venezuela. This is particularly the case when you see statements made by Venezuelas citizens such as this:

In this deeply polarized country, the climate of fear was evident in the answer of Nestor Moreno, a 58-year-old construction worker, when he was asked how he’d voted.

“I voted yes because I didn’t want to face reprisals for voting no,” said Moreno. “People lose jobs because they don’t agree with the Chavez regime. Chavez is very authoritarian[."]

When one looks at the culture of fear created by Chavez in Venezuela, as he has spent the past six weeks campaigning to tell the lower class in his country that they would lose their government provided social benefits, indeed, their bread and circuses, it is remarkable to realize that he has utilized that fear to overcome a 17 point defecit in the polls.

It is through the same politics of fear that we have recently seen our own president, Barack Obama, ascend to the podium over the past week and a half to say that if our government did not act immediately, the world itself could come to a fiery end. Considering that he promptly took a leisurely three-day weekend off instead of signing the bill into law, it really is now blatantly transparent that the situation does not require this particular action from the government, only that the climate of fear was necessary to allow a piece of legislation to be forced through that grows the government more in one fell swoop than at any other time in our history.

Given the growth of the government's social programs about to take place, combined with the recent revelation that our government's outlays already exceed the Gross Domestic Product of the entire world, it seems particularly likely that within the next several years, our country's debts and overall defecits and spending could drive us into bankruptcy. At such a time, could it really stretch one's imagination to think that Obama would ask a country conceptually illiterate of the true nature of its own history to hearken back to the time of FDR, when it required that president four terms to pull the country out of depression? Is it such a stretch to believe that a push would be made to repeal the two-term limit on the presidency, effectively pushing the politics of fear to create in the presidency, an office for life?

Given the great anti-capitalism push currently underway, and the heavy use of the fear as the great political motivator as the fallback for decision, it does not seem that unlikely. The apparent nationalization of the banks that seems to be imminent at this point only furthers the thought that this could be the case. Democracy, and indeed the personal liberties provided therein, simply get in the way of centralization.

The clash between planning and democracy arises simply from the fact that the latter is an obstacle to the suppression of freedom which the direction of economic activity requires. But in so far as democracy ceases to be a guaranty of individual freedom, it may well persist in some form under a totalitarian regime. A true "dictatorship of the proletariat," even in democratic form, if it undertook centrally to direct the economic system, would probably destroy personal freedom as completely as any autocracy has ever done.

--F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

We are not far off from having our liberties usurped in their entirety in every respect but on paper, and, should the government continue to expand, under the guise of emergency and in a culture of fear, it seems not long that we will no longer elect a president, but rather bow to a king.

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