Blogs > Liberty and Power > Fear as the most fundamental government resource

May 18, 2005 10:18 pm

Fear as the most fundamental government resource

I have just drafted a paper titled "Fear: The Foundation of Every Government's Power" (also posted at under the title"The Political Economy of Fear"). Inasmuch as this paper is a work in progress, I would be pleased to hear privately from anyone who cared to send me comments, criticisms, or suggestions.

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Robert Higgs - 5/19/2005

Dear Chris Pettit,

Yes, I would be glad to receive a copy of your paper. Please send it as an attachment to an e-mail message to Thanks, too, for your substantive comment.

chris l pettit - 5/19/2005

Right off the bat I noticed that you do not distinguish between fear and being afraid. THis distinction is huge, and you need to define your terms before proceeding. The man who is "scared" in battle is facing bullets and immediate death...the man who is "scared" enough of terrorists to vote for tyrannical legislation that destroys human rights is irrational (and it is not just based in percentages and probability). For example, in my own analyses, fear is irrational, while being afraid is a natural reaction to an event. One then has to break down "common sense" precautions that can be taken in response to situations (for instance staying in a group in a high crime area), and which realm they fall in, fear (not entering a high crime area or taking measures to lock up most everyone in it) or rationality (group mentality). For instance, gated communities are based in irrational fear of "others," whether it be blacks, the homeless, whatnot. It gets extremely complicated and involves the role of moral entrepreneurs and theories of deviance and what dictates who is labelled (or becomes) deviant, etc.


chris l pettit - 5/19/2005

If interested, I just completed a brief article that was presented at a U of Cape Town Dept. of Criminology symposium entitled, "Power, Fear, Moral Panics, and the Media." It is based more in criminal theory and sociology, but also delves into legal angles (the terminology is very much criminology based). Let me know and I can send you a copy.