Many Americans probably aren’t that concerned about the power of the government. They often have the mindset that because black people are finally free, we have free speech and freedom of religion, and women can vote, that this means the fight for liberty against tyranny is somehow over and we can relax. This is unwise. Besides the fact that even the U.S. government still oppresses us in many ways (as described in this entire blog), and that many other countries still oppress their people in older ways that are thankfully gone from the U.S., let’s consider broad history. For thousands of years governments have oppressed their people all over the world. Throughout U.S. history, the federal, state, and local governments have oppressed the people (although we’ve had it better than other countries, relatively speaking). But, it’s true that our federal, state, and local governments have been relatively kind to most of us during the past few decades. We haven’t had concentration camps lately for a certain race (remember the Roosevelt Japanese camps during WWII), we haven’t had a domestic genocide in a while, we can all vote, we still have trials and due process for most people who are arrested, and the government hasn’t shut down the press; these are all good things.
Because we live in the modern U.S., we haven’t witnessed oppression that other generations and other people around the world have, so we aren’t as vigilant and on guard as we should be. But, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. I don’t generally consider myself a fear mongerer, but if a fear has its roots in vast historical precedent and observable evidence, that fear is legitimate. We have been giving our government, military, and police sweeping power over the past century, and especially in the past half century with the Cold War, the Patriot Act, and the war on terror. And, it has been demonstrated repeatedly that large government power usually leads to very dangerous situations for its people. It’s simply irrational to look at only the past few decades in a few Western nations and say, “governments are mostly nice to us, so there’s nothing to worry about”, and ignore thousands of years, including in the recent early 20th century, of governments around the world oppressing and murdering their people. Is this too alarmist? Human nature has not changed over the past few thousand years, or even since the atrocities of the 20th century. Humans in the 21st century western world are not suddenly immune to these vices.