The below, insightful words, are from Chapter 10 of Judge Andrew Napolitano’s great book, “It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom“:
“Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things you couldn’t do before.” – Rahm Emanuel, then Chief Of Staff to President Barack Obama
“The truth is that the ultimate crisis—war—is a dear friend of the state. In fact, the government uses war as the ultimate means to expand its own power, size, and scope. It does so in a multitude of ways, to which we will return below: Tax and budget increases, security laws and regulations, nationalization of industry, censorship of speech and expression, suspension of due process, warrantless searches and seizures, and blanket arrests of war resisters. This list goes on and on. Every one of these measures grossly swells the size and scope of government, thereby stripping us of the freedom to live as we please. The “opportunity,” as Rahm Emanuel states above, to grow, to expand, and to garner power is too alluring and too easy a feat for the state and its politicians to pass up. Mr. Emanuel’s remark fundamentally exemplifies the government’s cavalier and exploitive attitude when it comes to war. The government rejoices in war and utilizes it to leverage its own power. The president’s poll numbers rise in war, the Defense Department’s budget is of no importance, defense contractors close to the government make money, and elected officials get reelected merely for “staying the course.”
The dire result: The state intentionally exploits war to circumvent the Rule of Law—the United States Constitution. Unfortunately for the government, the Constitution is not suspended during wartime. Professor Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute explains it this way:
“The Constitution makes no provision for its own evisceration during wartime or other crisis, yet time and again during national emergencies the [Supreme Court] justices have allowed the legislative branch and especially the executive branch of government to transcend their constitutionally enumerated powers and to nullify individual rights proclaimed in the Constitution.”
In other words, war is the time during which the Constitution should be most adhered to and embraced. In reality, the government purposely looks in the other direction.
Unfortunately, we as a nation have not yet learned from our mistakes. This ugly pattern of warmongering, provocation, and government growth has repeated itself through history, time and time again. When a major crisis erupts—whether it is a world war or economic depression—there is a public outcry for the government to act in some way. The state, in turn, pounces on the political opportunity to make a grab for power and to do things it does not have the constitutional power to do. The government then acquires authority and political clout, ultimately obliterating the Founders’ deliberate and carefully considered relationship between individual freedom and government.
More fundamentally, however, war is the most effective assertion of the primacy of the collective over the individual. As Randolph Bourne notes in his essay “War Is the Health of the State,” in times of peace “the sense of the State almost fades out of the consciousness of men”; we go about our daily lives, subject to no one’s will but our own. Moreover, we are naturally concerned with only our affairs as individuals—our jobs, our spiritual development, our families, and our friends. Bourne continues:
“With the shock of war, however, the State comes into its own again. . . . The moment war is declared . . . the mass of the people, through some spiritual alchemy, become convinced that they have willed and executed the deed themselves. They then, with the exception of a few malcontents, proceed to allow themselves to be regimented, coerced, deranged in all the environments of their lives, and turned into a solid manufactory of destruction toward whatever other people may have, in the appointed scheme of things, come within the range of the Government’s disapprobation.”
In other words, the state needs warfare in order to continue its existence as a coercive force intruding upon our lives. War is the state’s way of saying, “I am still important, and am owed your continuing support and allegiance.” Without war, the government would fade away, with no more power over us than Ozymandias’s crumbled, long-forgotten statue lying impotently in the desert. War is the state’s justification for its own existence.”