The Panic Imperative

Eric Posner writes:

Many legal academics claimed that courts should serve as fire walls
against the conflagration of fear. When the government locks someone
up, the courts should realize that in many cases either government
officials have panicked or are violating someone's civil liberties
merely to assure frightened citizens that something is being done. For
that reason, courts should treat the government's justifications with
skepticism, and never ever trust the executive branch.

These arguments have not yet surfaced in the current crisis. The
specter of fear is everywhere, not just on Wall Street. And the scale
of the government's reaction is no less than what it was after
9/11"”that is what probably scares ordinary people the most. Yet no one
who believes that the government exploited fears after 9/11 to
strengthen its security powers is now saying that the government is
exploiting financial crisis fears in order to justify taking control of
credit markets. No one who thinks that government would use fear to
curtail civil liberties seems to think that government would use fear
to curtail economic liberties. Why not?

No one, except me of course.  From my October 1 discourse with a Democratic friend:

I find it surprising that you take this administration
on faith in its declaration of emergency in the financial sector.
You've lamented for years about the "rush to war" and GWB's scare
tactics that pushed, you felt, the nation into a war it should not be
fighting, all over threats of WMD's that we could never find.  You
lamented Democrats like Hillary Clinton "falling for this" in Congress

But now the mantra is the same - rush, rush, hurry, hurry, fear,
fear, emergency, emergency. Another GWB declared crisis in which the
country needs to give the administration unlimited power without
accountability and, of course, stacks of taxpayer dollars to spend.  A
decision that has to be made fast, without time for deliberation.
Another $700 billion commitment.     And here the Democrats go again.
Jeez, these guys may have the majority in Congress but it is sure easy
for GWB to push their buttons when he wants to.  Heck, Pelosi is acting
practically as the Republican Whip to get GWB's party in line.

This is Iraq without the body bags, and without the personal honor
of brave soldiers in the trenches to give the crisis some kind of
dignity.

  • Anonymous

    "Another GWB declared crisis"

    Your friend might want to look at Schumer's run on the bank and Frank's "parter" at Fannie Mae and Frank's and Pelosi's, along with mostly Democrats', attempt to rush legislation through.

  • Adam

    Amen to that. We've had almost semi-annual "end of civilization" claims in the last 10 years: y2k, dot.com crash (does anyone remember that?), 911, bird flu, global warming, and peak oil. Some of these were bad, but none were the end of civilization. Indeed, the greater threat to civilization came in the way governments responded.

  • delurking

    And me. However, I don't have a blog so I don't have proof.

  • delurking

    And me. However, I don't have a blog so I don't have proof.

  • http://pith-n-vinegar.blogspot.com/ Quincy

    No one who thinks that government would use fear to curtail civil liberties seems to think that government would use fear to curtail economic liberties. Why not?

    Simple. Except for the libertarians, they oppose economic liberty.

  • Krugman! OMG!

    I've often thought that, in the interest or promoting his ideas as superior, pointing out the fact that Hayek got a Nobel prize in economics was treading on shaky ground, because of the poor quality of work of several of the other economomists who were also Nobel prize recipients.

    But this clinches it. Paul Krugman has been awarded a Nobel prize in economics.

    I know the Swedes have had their challenges with socialism, but how far left can they go before they've completely stripped a Nobel prize award of all legitimacy? What's next, a posthumous Nobel for Marx? Hey, that guy did a lot in the field of economics, right?

  • ErikTheRed

    "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." - H. L. Mencken

  • markm

    "I know the Swedes have had their challenges with socialism, but how far left can they go before they've completely stripped a Nobel prize award of all legitimacy?"

    The Swedes are at a serious disadvantage here - it's the Norwegians that get to hand out the Nobel Peace Prize to the least deserving recipients they could possibly find.

  • Scott Wiggins

    "Another GW declared (read engineered) crisis." And what pray tell does our soon to be retired President gain by manufacturing a crisis? If he had done nothing he would likely be compared with Herbert Hoover...I'm fairly certain that none of us have the visibility that Secretary Paulson has at his disposal. If a known and respected former Wall Street Banker sees a credit default Tsunami on the way, I'm pretty sure that action should be taken. And so, the President took action and the Congress followed. Warren Buffet's comments on the matter affirm the necessity of action. When the patient is off the operating table, we can discuss the finer points of surgery but we have to make sure the patient lives first.

  • K

    I'm with Scott. What does Bush gain from making the mess seem worse? Or the GOP?

    One can always generate Machiavellian logic to prove X, Y, or Z benefits from any event. That doesn't prove they did, or even that they tried to.

    Obama seems the uninvolved beneficiary from the crisis. His polling numbers went up sharply. And I don't see any other big reason.

    And the Democrats in Congress simply didn't want to risk saying no. If they blocked passage and disaster followed they had five weeks to lose the election. Backing Bush posed no risk. And they could tack on hundreds of earmarks before passage.