Home > Elections 2008 > It Can’t Happen Here

It Can’t Happen Here


Ron Paul Source: Ron Paul

December 20, 2004

In 2002 I asked my House colleagues a rhetorical question with regard to the onslaught of government growth in the post-September 11th era: Is America becoming a police state?

The question is no longer rhetorical. We are not yet living in a total police state, but it is fast approaching. The seeds of future tyranny have been sown, and many of our basic protections against government have been undermined. The atmosphere since 2001 has permitted Congress to create whole new departments and agencies that purport to make us safer- always at the expense of our liberty. But security and liberty go hand-in-hand. Members of Congress, like too many Americans, don’t understand that a society with no constraints on its government cannot be secure. History proves that societies crumble when their governments become more powerful than the people and private institutions.

Unfortunately, the new intelligence bill passed by Congress two weeks ago moves us closer to an encroaching police state by imposing the precursor to a full-fledged national ID card. Within two years, every American will need a “conforming” ID to deal with any federal agency– including TSA at the airport.

Undoubtedly many Americans and members of Congress don’t believe America is becoming a police state, which is reasonable enough. They associate the phrase with highly visible symbols of authoritarianism like military patrols, martial law, and summary executions. But we ought to be concerned that we have laid the foundation for tyranny by making the public more docile, more accustomed to government bullying, and more accepting of arbitrary authority- all in the name of security. Our love for liberty above all has been so diminished that we tolerate intrusions into our privacy that would have been abhorred just a few years ago. We tolerate inconveniences and infringements upon our liberties in a manner that reflects poorly on our great national character of rugged individualism. American history, at least in part, is a history of people who don’t like being told what to do. Yet we are increasingly empowering the federal government and its agents to run our lives.

Terror, fear, and crises like 9-11 are used to achieve complacency and obedience, especially when citizens are deluded into believing they are still a free people. The loss of liberty, we are assured, will be minimal, short-lived, and necessary. Many citizens believe that once the war on terror is over, restrictions on their liberties will be reversed. But this war is undeclared and open-ended, with no precise enemy and no expressly stated final goal. Terrorism will never be eradicated completely; does this mean future presidents will assert extraordinary war powers indefinitely?

Washington DC provides a vivid illustration of what our future might look like. Visitors to Capitol Hill encounter police barricades, metal detectors, paramilitary officers carrying fully automatic rifles, police dogs, ID checks, and vehicle stops. The people are totally disarmed; only the police and criminals have guns. Surveillance cameras are everywhere, monitoring street activity, subway travel, parks, and federal buildings. There’s not much evidence of an open society in Washington, DC, yet most folks do not complain– anything goes if it’s for government-provided safety and security.

After all, proponents argue, the government is doing all this to catch the bad guys. If you don’t have anything to hide, they ask, what are you so afraid of? The answer is that I’m afraid of losing the last vestiges of privacy that a free society should hold dear. I’m afraid of creating a society where the burden is on citizens to prove their innocence, rather than on government to prove wrongdoing. Most of all, I’m afraid of living in a society where a subservient populace surrenders its liberties to an all-powerful government.

It may be true that average Americans do not feel intimidated by the encroachment of the police state. Americans remain tolerant of what they see as mere nuisances because they have been deluded into believing total government supervision is necessary and helpful, and because they still enjoy a high level of material comfort. That tolerance may wane, however, as our standard of living falls due to spiraling debt, endless deficit spending at home and abroad, a declining fiat dollar, inflation, higher interest rates, and failing entitlement programs. At that point attitudes toward omnipotent government may change, but the trend toward authoritarianism will be difficult to reverse.

Those who believe a police state can’t happen here are poor students of history. Every government, democratic or not, is capable of tyranny. We must understand this if we hope to remain a free people.

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Categories: Elections 2008
  1. D Wint
    08/31/2007 at 6:44 pm

    Vote for Ron Paul!

  2. davevontexas
    08/31/2007 at 6:55 pm

    Well, duh.

    Still, it’s hard to be sympathetic. In a participatory democracy, people get the politics they deserve.

    I guess we must have wanted a gerrymandered Texas, gay prostitutes in the White House press corps, a moronically bungled invasion of a foreign country, and endless debt. After all, that’s what we voted for.

    And when people start ending up in Guantanamo to be tortured, maimed or psychologically broken down — not just for being the wrong nationality (like now), but for what they check out of the library or who they are seen with in public — I’ll be in a different country somewhere, voting that we don’t accept any more American refugees.

  3. 08/31/2007 at 6:59 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. And of course the government thinks its ‘necessary’ to do the things it does..

    Remember.. the ENDS do not justify the MEANS..

    This kind of thing is exactly why that saying exists.

  4. Rebecca
    08/31/2007 at 7:07 pm

    Ron Paul, you are our only hope out of this mess. Please help us!

    To anyone here who may not have heard of Ron Paul, check him out!
    He’s the only anti-war, non interventionist candidate!

    Put aside the democrat/republican nonsense and use logic!
    Ron Paul is the only chance we have.

    Rock on!

  5. 08/31/2007 at 7:08 pm

    Way to go Ron,you keep their toes to the fire.Thanks for fighting for freedom. I’ll vote for you for president,even if you don’t win the nomination.

  6. 08/31/2007 at 7:27 pm

    you did it to yourselves! where were you in 1987 when I exposed the NAZI party rise in San Diego and Dick Silverman ring leader and head fundraiser for Jerry Brown ended up in jail? So just remember your to little to late there coming for you in the middle of the nigtht! Quick hide under the bed!

  7. Angela
    08/31/2007 at 7:35 pm

    I can’t believe that it is taking people so long to see the truth. Since the end of the Soviet Union, America has been rushing headlong to replace it. As things become more open and less oppressed there, we here are fast loosing our liberty. 911 aside even our small personal liberties are being lost. Certain groups of people are making rules and decisions for all. What we watch on TV, games, when and where we smoke and how much we pay for it, what we do with our bodies. Small narrowminded people can .judge and control the actions of others because they have money and power. I no longer live in the land of the free and the brave. And people are so gullible that they are easily diverted by the same tactics that Hitler used. Make a group or groups of people scapegoats and throw attention off of what you are doing.

  8. 08/31/2007 at 7:44 pm

    If you want to know what may happen next, just look to the UK. We’ve got more CCTV cameras and speed cameras than most other countries, and legislation for a national identity card might have already been passed.

  9. Sean S
    08/31/2007 at 7:58 pm

    good article, you are right. we are losing more of our rights every single day. this government is going to shit.

  10. Josh
    08/31/2007 at 7:58 pm

    Wow! Just Wow!
    Would that I were so eloquent in saying exactly that. I’ve been trying to explain to people why this is so horrible. Why losing our liberty is a big deal -God I hope we can get this man into office and take America back.

  11. FascistUSA
    08/31/2007 at 8:06 pm

    The Police State is ALREADY here. ZEITGEISTmovie.com. Our Country is run for The American/Israeli Elite. We The People are just SLAVES. 9/11 part 2 is going to happen this month. Then, we invade Iran. American Concentration Camps are already set up here in the States. Martial Law, Baby. Get ready to DIE.

  12. Shaun
    08/31/2007 at 8:14 pm

    Ron, having worked previously in Washington DC and for the goverment I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments. I was not able to accept the culture and I lett for private sector work. Unfortunately, the military industrial complex is a self-perpetuating system because the good people leave.

  13. 08/31/2007 at 8:25 pm

    All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing

    USA is busy “doing nothing” Complacency and apathy will make it another blip in history, unless USA wakes up.

  14. daniel
    08/31/2007 at 9:16 pm

    Nice, my thoughts exactly. People look at the war as a way for the industrial-military complex to rape the americans of our money; but they refuse to see that the fear it has generated was so to rape us of our freedoms as well. The government can read your email for no reason…. that is flat out, 100% against the constitution; no ifs, ands, or buts. Nobody talks about it, I’m glad you did.

  15. garypatrickgarry
    08/31/2007 at 9:58 pm

    Somehow I have some faith in enough of the people coming together when they see what is happening.

  16. vistasucks
    08/31/2007 at 10:05 pm

    Many Germans knew that Hitler was evil. But couldn’t do a thing about it. It took an outside source. Let’s hope Britian returns the favor from WWII and saves America from America.

  17. 08/31/2007 at 10:12 pm

    I as a Canadian – watch dumbfounded by people who can’t see that Ron Paul is not the only the last hope for America, but the last hope of the whole world. With all the Presidential Directives Bush has passed, it’s only a matter of time, before he or some other NeoCon President says

    “I don’t think those Canadians are up to snuff at protecting the resources which are imperative the US national security – the oil and the water. So I have decided to send our boys in to help out! I just want Canadians to understand were just being good neighors and we are gonna help ya!”

    God bless the real America and not this evil scum currently running things!

  18. 08/31/2007 at 10:22 pm

    It is beginning to get far too scary living in this country. Although I want to believe it can change, I’m really not that optimistic. This country is far too divided to be able to come together and make positive change. It’s such a shame. What would our fore-fathers say?

  19. bueller
    08/31/2007 at 10:31 pm

    i hate politics….lets overthrow the government…..of jamaica, and steal all of their weed and bring it back and hot box the white house in the name of bob marley.

    oh and one more thing……hoooray beer!

    http://www.drunkenpanda.com

  20. largemouth
    08/31/2007 at 10:37 pm

    we are bovine in nature–a weak populous. our poor received a 1% pay cut over the last 40 years while the rich received a 81% increase. we have done nothing and will continue to do so because we are a pathetic weakling race (humans) who prefer familiarity to comfort to familiarity. Look! The Jews did not fight the Holocaust on any large level because they are human mass and human mass cannot agree on a strategy unless it is dictated to them by some authority. In a nutshell–I’m screamin all the way to the grave, but we’re screwed anyhow because collectively, we’re stoopid.

  21. freeman
    08/31/2007 at 10:55 pm

    FascistUSA
    Your right!…I see it as you do! I will not end up in no FEMA Camp because I will die first!! To all of you who don’t own a gun, GET ONE!…FIGHT FOR YOUR COUNTRY AND YOUR FREEDOMS when the time comes because it is very near!!!

  22. 08/31/2007 at 11:51 pm

    I was delighted to read this article, which led me to believe that -at last- something good is happening in America.

    Putting aside all the prejudices, all the petty anti-americanism to which we (Europeans) have often been exposed, the situation reminds me of a Greek proverb “rotting fish starts smelling in its head’.

    I think that the world, quire generally, is tired of all this; also tired of the ubiquitous persistence of “two-party systems” in many countries, which seem inadequate to deal with the emerging “Long Tail” phenomena, the positive side-effects of the information revolution.

    It may be that our species will be forced to change its attitude towards the planet, too, in order to survive. But -first and foremost- the exact opposite process of the one denounced by Mr. Ron Pail, the “Long Tail” process of people asserting their rights and preferences “bottom-up”, must be seen and recognised as the only viable long-term antidote to our senescent political and social systems.

    The one-party system failed about two decades ago. Perhaps the two-party system is also beginning to crumble. The world is far too complicated for effective centralised control, of one form or the other. It requires armies of specialists, scientists, experts, engineers, advisors, etc. etc. so that the only remaining useful role for “strong men of government” is marketing their social personas (and the prestige of hidden guys who support them).

    Pyramids are perhaps only meaningful as ancient relics, not as effective systems of modern democracy.

    Greetings from a (probably equally angered with 2-party authoritarianism) small southern European country. Googlemaps can help you find it! ;-)

  23. Hank Chinaski
    09/01/2007 at 12:06 am

    Folks – Remember how the future can change in the blink of an eye. This has just as much possibility to happen faster than you might think.
    All it takes is one event…

  24. ericsomething
    09/01/2007 at 12:16 am

    While our nation was wallowing in the post-9/11 phase and our leaders were coming up with new and improved ways to dispense with the Constitution, I sat down and reread Sinclair Lewis’ old chestnut from the 1930s, “It Can’t Happen Here.” And, oh hell yes it can happen here. The novel may have been held up as a what-if back then, a nutty prophecy when it was first published, but somewhere in the past five years it became truth. If you can find that novel somewhere, grab it, read it, and get educated.

    We Americans like our conveniences. We like our peace and safety. We like these things enough that we’d gladly trade our natural rights to insure these. And somewhere along the line, we always end up screwing ourselves on the deal. And that’s what we’re seeing now.

  25. the profit
    09/01/2007 at 2:36 am

    I see where the world is going, it dont look pretty, we either have to unite as a race (all humans on this planet) or we are doomed, we must do this before it is too late and have to learn the hard way, which we have done every time in history so far

  26. 09/01/2007 at 7:26 am

    Ron,

    Thank you for this piece, you are 100% correct when it comes to our civil rights and liberties being sacrificed for security and, at times, a false sense of security. But being a democrat, it is hard for me to support a one time libertarian. Sorry, man.

  27. 09/01/2007 at 7:31 am

    I am glad to finally find someone else that sees the shape of our country today and God Forbid tomorrow. However, the problem is, the ones that are reading blogs such as these are the ones that already know what’s coming. The question is how do we warn the rest of the world? I am continually shocked that a rebellion has not risen up to protest. Is my generation really that apathetic? I think though, that America is best summed up in the words of my friend..”As long as we have our computers, our tv’s, our jobs and our cars we don’t care what else is happening.”

  28. 09/01/2007 at 7:55 am

    It wont happen in the Philippines again.

  29. guebukanmonyet
    09/01/2007 at 8:45 am
  30. maliha11
    09/01/2007 at 12:08 pm

    being safe is not wrong but being paranoid is… anyways Capital hill should be the safest place in the US so, if there intelligence tell them they need these extreme measures then they might do:)
    no harm in being safe, but let them just keep it pretty and kind, i hope they just have a positive behavior and not being aggressive :)

  31. maliha11
    09/01/2007 at 12:09 pm

    your freedom stops when your stepping on some one else’s freedom they should keep that in mind at all times.

  32. 09/01/2007 at 12:55 pm

    Excellent article! We here in the UK share your concerns about western totalitarianism. We are rooting for you!

  33. kashifalvi
    09/01/2007 at 12:58 pm

    We’re heading towards World War III. Will the world will end in the name of terrorism? If we do, it’s because of America and their leaders.

  34. 09/01/2007 at 3:35 pm

    That is the reason to vote Libertarian.

  35. Bobby
    09/01/2007 at 4:47 pm

    I live in Belgium, and it is not exactly pretty. The government here is VERY socialist. Every resident is required to have a “Belgian ID Card,” which, if the police stop us, we are required to show. If we don’t have it (or a passport), then we have to pay a ridiculous fine.

    The red tape here is IMMENSE! My parents, when we moved here, had to prove they were married (I’m canadian), and they wanted a statement from the government saying that they were married, but all they had was the church record, which was not good for the government. So we got the church record. The real point of this story, is that people do not know HOW inconvenienced you are by a police-type state. YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW BAD IT IS UNTIL YOU EXPERIENCE IT! (NOTE: I am in no-way calling belgium a police state, just meerly very socialistic and a bit inconvenient.)

  36. Universal
    09/03/2007 at 5:34 am

    I’m voting for Ron Paul in ’08….well I would if I was American ;).

    One of the biggest problems with America is that instead of voting on issues and for the common good, you are focused on the Republic/Democrat dichotomy. Democracy can’t live when people will always vote Republic or always Democrat come hell, come high water. They are not looking at the issues objectively they are locked into an almost opiate-like trust of one party, or a similarly entrenched distrust of the other, or both.

    Another problem is that your media has such strong ideological prisms it filters all the news through that your country would need very very strong lenses to correct that distorted vision!

    Yet another problem is that your country is so large that politics is so disjointed from the people. How many Americans will get to meet and discuss issues with your Senators let alone your President? It’s very easy for Ivory Towers to form, and the colour of your President’s residence is rather ironic in that regard.

    And this isn’t even covering the incredibly low voter turn out, the political distortions by powerful special interest groups and the fact the the manipulation of county borders by political powers to ensure that they win their elections…

    I do not suppose to say that America is the only democracy to hold these types of problems but because of your size and prominence you make a particularly good example.

  1. 08/31/2007 at 6:46 pm
  2. 08/31/2007 at 6:58 pm
  3. 08/31/2007 at 7:25 pm
  4. 08/31/2007 at 8:24 pm
  5. 08/31/2007 at 10:25 pm
  6. 09/01/2007 at 12:17 am
  7. 09/01/2007 at 2:06 am
  8. 09/01/2007 at 3:31 am
  9. 09/01/2007 at 7:04 am
  10. 09/01/2007 at 10:05 am
  11. 09/01/2007 at 8:09 pm
  12. 09/02/2007 at 3:53 pm

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