The greatest work of fiction in the 20th century was J. R. R. Tolkien’s "The Lord of the Rings."
Tolkien’s masterpiece reveals the dangers of absolute power, as embodied in the One Ring of Power, fashioned by Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor.
What's most fascinating about Tolkien’s story is his fantasy’s psychological realism about the effect which the temptation to use the Ring has on the story’s characters, both good and bad. The more a character uses the Ring, even for noble purposes, the more addicted he becomes to the power that the Ring represents.
Tolkien’s story is a vivid and convincing illustration of Lord Acton’s famous adage, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
The response to the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated swift and extreme measures by our government at all levels, from federal to local. However, both Tolkien and Acton teach us to be attentive to the ways in which the new powers exercised by government gain psychological power over our leaders in the form of a kind of addiction.
The nobler cause for which the powers were assumed, the greater the danger of a profound and irreversible alteration in their personality.
This applies to the voices of official science, as well as to career politicians.
The recent actions and reactions of the states to the crisis manifest every indication of a growing addiction to power.
Originally, we were told that the government had to shut down all so-called "non-essential" economic activity in order to "flatten the curve," that is, to slow the spread of the infection enough that our medical resources (e.g., ICU beds, respirators) weren’t overwhelmed.
Once it was clear that we were past that danger, we were then told that these extreme measure of state control had to continue because we did not have enough testing kits available to contain the infection permanently within a small segment of the population.
Now that testing is reaching millions of Americans a week, we increasingly hear that total government control must continue until we can resume life "safely," which can't happen until we obtain a safe and effective vaccine for the virus (if, indeed, we ever do).
We can confidently predict that even after we have a vaccine — since the vaccine will necessarily be less than perfectly effective — the Deep State will insist on maintaining its absolute control of our lives for "the greater good."
The criteria for relaxing state control keep moving upward as time passes, always remaining just out of reach.
The level of state control that we have learned to tolerate is beyond the wildest dreams of totalitarians of the past.
The state presumes to decide, on a completely arbitrary basis, which activities are "essential" and which are not. Gov. Whitmer of Michigan, a not atypical case, has ruled that abortion services are essential but cancer screenings are not. She declared that even the selling of garden supplies was inessential, despite the dangers the lockdown poses to our food supply.
Once governors believe that only they can decide by fiat what controls are needed and which are not, they have passed beyond a system of republican self-government to a new dictatorship of Health and Safety.
Most worrying of all are the Scientific Deep State’s invasions of privacy and the developing web of social control. In state after state and city after city, authorities are reviving the linchpin of totalitarianism — the recruitment of citizens to spy on each other.
The East German Stasi apparatus was typical of this. By the 1980’s nearly half of the East German population worked part-time for the state security apparatus, spying on the other half and on each other, producing massive files on every citizen.
Similar neighborhood surveillance techniques existed in every Communist regime.
Moreover, the constant mantra of "testing" and "contact tracing" distracts from the reality behind these euphemisms: a future world in which the state has complete knowledge of the movements, purchases, and social relationships of every single citizen, an arsenal of information that can effectively put down any political resistance before it can get started.
We are also seeing the emergence of the keystone of total power: the demonization of dissidents. The government-media complex labels anyone who demurs from the most extreme measures of epidemic state control as an apologist for the murder of the elderly and vulnerable.
The distinction between intentional killing, on the one hand, and the sober recognition of the inevitability of death in a dangerous world, on the other hand, has largely disappeared from socially approved discourse.
Freedom of thought and discussion is at risk, as social-media and internet monopolies police communications for dangerous thoughts.
We must begin pushing back, before it’s too late.
Rob Koons is a professor of philosophy specializing in logic, metaphysics, philosophical theology, and political thought. He is the author and editor of six books, including "The Atlas of Reality: A Comprehensive Guide to Metaphysics" (with Tim Pickavance, Wiley-Blackwell, 2017). He has been active in conservative circles, both nationally and in Texas, including the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the National Association of Scholars, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the Philadelphia Society, and the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture. Read Rob Koon's Reports — More Here.
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