How Liberals and Conservatives Use Fear-Mongering to Promote Statism

Jack Hunter
Campaign for Liberty

When President Obama announced a new $50 billion stimulus plan Labor Day weekend, conservatives scoffed — and rightfully so.

Who does this guy think he’s fooling? After the $700 billion TARP bailout, the auto manufacturer bailout, and an $800 billion stimulus, does this president actually think a measly $50 billion is going to successfully turn around an economy where greater sums have failed? But the president and his party have a ready reply for such naysayers: “Imagine if we did nothing?” This open-ended question will undoubtedly continue to provide cover for stimulus-loving liberals, no matter how often conservatives insist that their government intervention simply doesn’t work.

When my commentary on the ninth anniversary of 9/11 was broadcast on WTMA, a number of callers were angry I suggested that our policy of foreign intervention does not work. No matter how much I explained how our incompetent government does more damage than good abroad, my critics sounded pretty much like Obama: “But Jack, imagine if we did nothing?”

So yes, let’s imagine these scenarios. What if the Federal Reserve had never artificially lowered interest rates and created a housing bubble? What if the Fed had not printed literally countless dollars out of thin air, further weakening our currency? What if we never had borrowed money from China to pay for bailouts and stimulus? Would we be worse off financially than if the government had never done any of these things? Any conservative worth his salt recognizes the absurdity of these arguments and also recognizes that such fear-mongering is typically used as an excuse for more statism.

But such fear-mongering is also used by those on the Right to support our equally statist foreign policy, particularly when they portray radical Islam as somehow a threat on par with the Soviet Union or talk radio’s favorite comparison, the Nazis. Although I agreed with some callers that there probably is a uniquely medieval aspect to Islam not present or as prominent in other major religions, I asked, “Why did Americans not have to worry about Islamic terrorism in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s? What has changed? Islam? Or our foreign policy?” The question answers itself in the sense that we don’t have to “imagine” what might happen if we “did nothing” in the Middle East today, precisely because when we did little to nothing decades ago, there was no terrorist threat to the United States.

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