It’s Another Crisis, Another Attack on Freedom

It’s Another Crisis, Another Attack on Freedom
Heavy smog covers the skylines of the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan in New York on June 7, 2023. (Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images)
Jeffrey A. Tucker

Well, I dreamed of cigarettes on June 7. Not because I wanted them. I quit that stuff more than 10 years ago. I'm never going back. The likely impetus for my dream is that my chest feels like I just smoked a full pack. Most people in the Northeastern United States are saying the same thing on June 8. Everyone is coughing. Even the birds seem a bit short on song today.

The reason is, of course, the fires in Quebec, the smoke from which mysteriously made its way as far south as Virginia. The skies in New York were orange and mucky everywhere else. In a game of tennis, the ball seemed to evaporate into the air between plays, and that didn’t go well.

And masks are back, of course. CNN is broadcasting with them. Media in general has gone into its favorite mode of massive fear-mongering and freak-out. Outings have been canceled. Many flights have been grounded. Broadway shuttered some shows. Stay-home-stay-safe is back, and you can tell from the very low traffic on the streets.

There are eerie echoes of March 2020.

Back then, the enemy was invisible. Terrifying the population still worked, maybe even more so because no one knew for sure where the bad pathogen was lurking. Maybe it's on our hands! Let’s all wash them 40 times per day! Maybe it's outside, I mean inside or in this car or just on the seats! Put sanitizer everywhere!

This time, the enemy is very visible and undeniable. Neither is its source doubted even if there's already some dispute about how precisely these fires all started at once. And in today’s environment, when no one fully believes anything coming from any official sources, the suggestion that this might be deliberate arson designed to disrupt has a certain resonance. Let’s just say it’s hard to rule out any kind of malfeasance from the ruling elite these days.

It didn't take long for the White House to use the orange air to pump its plans to dismantle industrial civilization. It vaguely blamed everything on climate change, which to them is caused by people driving around and otherwise overusing fossil-fuel energy sources. So through this circuitous route, they've somehow managed to blame a natural pollutant on prosperity itself.

Never let a crisis go to waste, they say.

It’s all very strange because two years ago, people were telling me: You can already start to forget about COVID-19 because the next round of lockdowns will be imposed because of climate change. You see, it doesn’t actually matter what the excuse is. The goal is to take away freedom from the people and give more power to the state. Sudden lockdowns have proven highly effective for acculturating people to tyranny.

And here we are, not so much a forced lockdown yet but certainly a nudged one. It’s all about keeping you safe!

And already, the trolls are active. Back when I was pointing out that lockdowns and masks aren't going to stop a virus, people yelled back at me that they hope I get COVID-19 and die. And just this morning, because I’m expressing doubts about the motivations of those in power, people are telling me to get out there and breathe deeply and die from smoke asphyxiation.

Through some kind of cockamamie logic, elites are trying to tell us that the way to clean the air is by doing without all the things we love. But there's something screwy about this since the lesson of the past few days is rather the opposite. As The Wall Street Journal put it, “Government policies to reduce CO2 emissions will be swamped by wildfire emissions.”

In other words, we can fully destroy our standard of living, and yet we'll still have the matter of actual fires to deal with. That will never go away unless we pave the entire world. I’m not sure that the environmentalists raging about carbon dioxide favor that solution.

Their argument isn't with fossil fuel. It’s with nature and the real world.

In this sense, it's the same with the trans debate. What those who promise a full reconstruction of human life posit is something that contradicts the operations of reality as we know it. It’s not just a revolt against human nature; it’s a revolt against all things as they actually are. It’s gotten so nutty that you have people out there today denying that chromosomes and DNA are artifacts that have no sociological implications and produce no patterns of choice to which we owe any deference.

In every case, a revolt against nature is really just a plan for totalitarian control by fanatics.

The great lesson yet unlearned from all of this is pretty simple. Sometimes things just happen and there's nothing government can do about them. This is true for forest fires. It's true for viruses. It's true for every manner of danger. The power of government to make any kind of difference in any of these subjects is limited at best and the power of government to do great damage in the attempt is huge. The use of any crisis, of any kind, to reduce the freedom of the people only ends in intensifying the power of the state.

And that's the great struggle of our time and all time: freedom versus the state. And by the state, we don’t just mean the people we elect to office. The term is also inclusive of the myriad permanent government agencies that imagine themselves to be immortal. And we also mean the barnacles on the regulatory boat, meaning the industries that use government as a tool in their competitive struggle for domination of the market. They're all the state, and that includes tech companies, media outlets, and major industrial players including pharmaceuticals and “green energy” mavens too.

Through many centuries of experience, we’ve learned that a crisis is always a sure pathway to escalate state control of the population. During the religious wars of Europe, states learned that they could exploit peoples’ piety and love of doctrinal truth to enable and intensify the use of the sword. Religious freedom only came about once people caught on to the racket. They realized that it wasn’t God who was benefiting from all the violence: It was the princes of the earth.

Whenever peace, freedom, and normalcy break out, the rulers of the earth get worried and start to plot another crisis. In medieval times, heresy and the devil would show up at opportune times. It was the same in Colonial times in the United States: Every witch scare coincided with dreams of power aggrandizement by some ruling elite. In the 20th century, the Great War put a tragic end to the era of peace, prosperity, and freedom in the West. Once that recovery was underway, we had an economic crisis to deal with, then another war, and then the great menace of the Russians.

When the Cold War ended and peace and normalcy threatened the elites again, we saw an endless cycling through possible scenarios and excuses to keep that “peace dividend” at bay. In that sense, there were many people in Washington who saw the bloodshed on Sept. 11, 2001, not as a reason for justice but as an excuse for fastening more control over the population at home through imperial expansion abroad.

In the post-COVID period, when vast swaths of the population have become fully fed up with the schemes and lies of the ruling class, we need to be on the lookout for anyone using the exigencies of nature and life as the excuse to retain the awesome powers they gained during the COVID-19 pandemic. The key to beating this back is now what it has always been: resist with all your might. If you suspect that something fishy is going on, it’s a good bet that it is.

I would rather have a few coughing fits because of smoke from a far-away fire than live under the yoke of a ruling class that imagines that the government is fully capable of controlling the global climate by regulating whether I have a backyard barbecue.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Jeffrey A. Tucker is the founder and president of the Brownstone Institute, and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press, as well as 10 books in five languages, most recently “Liberty or Lockdown.” He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He writes a daily column on economics for The Epoch Times and speaks widely on the topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.