I'm more worried about the government than about the terrorists

I view the United States government as a greater threat than international terrorism, and I have good reason for this view.

If Al Queda managed to pull off another 9/11 in the near future, we don’t know what the death toll would be. But we do know what in the entire history of modern times, no terrorist attack has caused a death toll higher than 3,000. So let’s estimate the death toll from an upcoming terrorist attack as 3,000.

If the United States government were to be taken over by fascists, we again don’t know what the death toll would be. We do know that the United States is currently a world power. What death toll can we expect from a fascist world power? Averaging out the figures from the four historical examples we have (Nazi Germany, Societ Russia, communist China, and Imperialist Japan), we get somewhere around 30,000,000, so let’s use that figure.

Now what are the probabilities of these two events. That’s even harder to state, but I think that any reasonable guesses would support my conclusions.

Let’s put the probability of a major terrorist attack against the U.S. as one half, or .5

Let’s put the probability of the United States becoming a fascist nation as one in ten thousand, or .0001

Then the expected value for the number of people who will die from a terrorist attack is 1,500. The expected value for the number of people who will die when the government turns fascist is 3,000.

I conclude that it’s better to spend effort protecting against the government turning fascist, than against terrorism.

One last point. Some may say that we should put the probability of the American government turning fascist at 0, in which case my argument collapses. To this I respond, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. This quote is often mistakenly
attributed to Thomas Jefferson. He didn’t actually say it, but doubtless he and many others among the founding fathers would have agreed with it. The point is that no matter how good you think your government is, there’s always a danger of it turning really really bad. And the founders of our country would surely agree that regardless of what legal protections you put in place, that threat is always there.

I think your reasoning is incredibly flawed, for a great many reasons. But chief among them would be that you’re presenting this as a choice, when there’s no reason we can’t simultaneously punish terrorists and prevent the U.S. from going Nazi.

Why on earth do you think this is an either-or proposition?

Not so much fascist per se as becoming too trusting of politicans for Liberty to long survive.

I’ve not yet given up on the onherent decency and goodness of Americans at large, though.

Without trying to be snarky… when you pull numbers out of your ass (the probabilities) and come up with two results the differ only by a factor or 2, your results are meaningless. IOW, what is the margin or error in your estimate?

I don’t necessarily disagree with your thesis, but your reasoning is lacking rigor. But also, we have a LOT more control over what happens in Wash DC than we do over what happens in some cave in Buttwhackistan.

Government is the biggest killer of man after disease. According to RJ Rummel governments killed 170 million people in the 20th century, 2/3 of them in either Nazi, soviet or Chinese communist occupied territories.

But this fascism thing applies to all first world countries. And the odds of the US becoming nazilike in nature are very low, far lower than 1/10000.

I’d be more worried about preventable diseases in the third world and the results of bad diet and lack of exercise in the developed world. About 10-15 million deaths a year are due to these th ings.

You seem to be fighting the last war here. What makes you think AQ (or more likely another terrorist group) would do the same thing for aproximately the same deathtoll? You could look at this two different ways after all. 9/11 COULD have been a hell of a lot worse with a much larger death toll. Or, the terrorists could have stuck to much easier and less elaborate plans, such as the various bombing around the world since…with far less casualties. Trying to predict what the next big attack will be (or even if one will happen) and extrapolate casualties from that is…well, not very profitable. Perhaps the next crop of super wacko’s will get their grubbly little hands on a nuke or something.

Ridiculous assertion. HOW would fascists bent on world destruction ‘take over’ the US?? Why even assert this fantasy as a realistic possibility except to bash the US? If you want to talk more realistic, why not assert you are afraid of the Chinese reverting to hard line communism and embarking on several wars of conquest in the far east? Why not say you are afraid the Europeans will decide they have been peacefull long enough this time and embark on a remilitarization program to tear the world appart again. Based on the past I find both of those scenerios (and a few others involving say Russia and some other nations) much more plausable…probably within your own estimate of 1 in 10,000.

I wasn’t aware that the US was the only nation under threat of terrorism. Interesting. Why not instead calculate the odds of a major terrorist attack in the world instead? And I’d rate the odds, reguardless of if its in the US or in the world of a major terrorist attack as being significantly higher, depending on the time frame we are using. I’d say the odds (pulled out of the air, same as you did) of a major attack (defined as a 9/11 scale or greater attack) in the next decade as something between 10-20%.

I suppose it depends on what timeframe we are talking about here. In the next decade? Next century? Next…what? I think the odds of the US becoming both a facist nation AND a fascist nation on the order of Nazi Germany significantly less than one in ten thousand over any reasonable time frame.

For myself, I am far less worried about the threat that the US will attempt to take over the world than I am about terrorism. I’m also more worried about OTHER nations doing stupid things that will spark a major war than I am about the US doing so. Hell, I’m more worried about alien invasion than I am about the US going fascist and deciding to launch a war of conquest that will devastate the world. Clearly the US is less of a threat to world peace than terrorism…Q.E.D (why, because I said so and my own figures back it up). :wink:


Why assert that defending against terrorism or stopping government fascism is an either or proposition? Because in some cases it is. Read the PATRIOT act? Or it’s sequel? Aware of what has been revealed about U.S. interrogation methods during the last year? It may well be the case that being able to conduct secret arrests, hold suspects indefinitely without charge or trial, torture suspects for information, torture suspects just cause we feel like it, spy on political groups without just cause, order banks and other institutions to do the some spying for the government, etc… may help the government corral some number of terrorists. However, I think that anyone would agree that *if *a fascist takeover of the country was attempted, then all of these powers and others that have been pushed in the name of fighting terrorism, would come in quite handy for the fascists. I’m trying to give us a logical framework for weighing respective dangers, and thus setting priorities. In cases where we can fight both threats, great. In cases where lowering one threat level raises the other, we need to know the relative levels of danger.

Why am I not calculating based on the threat of China going back to hardline communism, or Al Queda striking elsewhere in the world? Because the U.S. government’s duty is the protection of the American people from threats including crime, outside attack, and the government itself. For better or worse, the Constitution doesn’t include “in order to secure the blessings of liberty for the people of China” in the preamble.

My numbers are just guesswork. Not kidding. All government policy, all setting of priorities, is based on guesswork. The best we can hope for is intelligent guesses, and that’s what I’m trying to provide. And I was very clear about this in my OP.

In choosing my numbers, I tried to always be generous in my estimates, generous in the direction that works against my argument. Let’s see.

Death toll from a terrorist attack. Can’t be said for sure, but we know this much: Al Queda leaders are currently hiding in caves. A recent intelligence report said that there are no sleeper cells in the United States or plots to attack the United States that we know of. The cell that carried out the 9/11 attacks left a trail a mile wide, and could have been stopped if only the government agencies responsible for stopping terrorism had been more alert. All told, the chances of them successfully carrying out an attack larger and more complicated than 9/11, when our security agencies are now alert and are cooperating with those in other countries, looks not very high. How not very high? Can’t say. It’s intelligent guesswork, not precise numbers.

Probability of a terrorist attack. We have no solid evidence of any specific plans by terrorist organizations for such, in the United States, in the last three years. All rumored reports have been based on “chatter” and other vague notions, and frequently urgent warnings of impending attacks have been issued, only to be later withdrawn.

Probability of America “going Nazi”. Some people have high faith in human nature. I’m not one of them. When I look at the history of the 20th century, I see clear evidence that when people are desparate enough, they will turn to any leader who vows to fix there problems. And one of the most common “fixes” is to turn the people’s wrath against a scapegoat, usually resulting in mass violence. There are possibilities for desperate situations developing in the United States: economic collapse, massive natural disaster, disease epidemic. If we estimate a one in a thousand chance of such a total disaster occuring within the next ten years, and a one in ten chance of the people responding to such a disaster by choosing fascism, then there you go: one in ten thousand chance of fascism.

The United States, as a nation of citizens, cannot be taken over by fascists. We are too well armed. Worry about a country like Pakistan. It borders on such an event daily.

Basically true. Countries that get ‘taken over’ by Fascism (or Communism for that matter) are nations in serious trouble…or nations with weak governments. Unless the US every has SERIOUS problems or unless the government becomes much weaker, you are wasting your worry. Of course, if either of those things ever DO happen, then the US probably won’t be in the same position its in today…we’ll be a much weaker nation. So it will be kind of moot.


Yes, I would believe that the million or so (if I remember correctly) members of the former-government’s army, who would probably still have all their equipment and bases–along with all of the people at home with their personal weaponry that they are guaranteed by the bill of rights–might have some issue with allowing the fascist overtakers to proceed unhindered. So until you get to a point where the entirety of the nation is corrupt and the military is composed of fascists and corrupt crooks instead of ordinary people (…ordinary people with a hankering for things that go boom), I don’t think we have much to worry about getting overthrown.

Who said anything about taking over? What I have in mind is a slow evolution, American citizens becoming more self-centered and hateful and fanatic until one day we look into the mirror and see a fascist staring back at us. And then we won’t like what we see, and take a pill to make it all go away. The road to fascism won’t be a violent takeover, it will be a slippery slope.

Right. And theres no effort ever being made to take guns away? I used to hear that all the time, turn in guns, get something. Cannot be? I see us as being quite close to that! Can anyone else not see that? Probably not, we’re too busy looking at the latest trial on our shiny tv’s.

Right. We have so much more freedom nowadays than we did ages ago. Ur, not. And its not like they ever try to get people to turn in their arms. I see it as being close to fascism right now, most are too busy watching the latest trial on their shiny tv’s to notice or care.

Or we could all slowly become tree huggers. Honestly I would be scared either way.

Hitler only required a bad economy to take over. The rest of everything going bad is a matter of too many people being too fearful to stand up against wrong-doing they knew was happening and/or uncaringness due to upbringing when it came to Jewish people, gypsies, homosexuals, and such. So, yes, it is theoretically possible for the US (or any country) to suddenly become fascist–but there really isn’t anything you can do except increase education that advocates individualism and non-hatred. So assuming that the American school system is doing these, then we’re above 1/5000 odds of fascism (though no time scale is given for those odds…)
Japan, however, has a school system that was based on the school system of pre-WWII Germany and also has the second largest military spending in the world.* Personally I would be more worried about them reverting than the US.

Everyone remember to vote down school uniforms if the issue comes up in your area!

  • Last I looked

Do you honestly think the US would respond to a terrorist attack by setting up domestic concentration camps? Why would we do that and what would that accomplish?

What the governments of China, Russia and Germany had in common was that they all had philosophies of a perfect state and were run by sociopaths (Hitler and Stalin were certifiablly mentally ill, I do not know about Mao), and the belief that the individual citizen was an irrelevant cog to build this perfect state. Citizens were children to be led to create this state, those who got in the way were eliminated. That has nothing to do with national security.

Even though it can be argued that the govs. of Germany, Russia & China came to power due to turmoil, so did hundreds of other governments throughout history. These 3 were just the most destructive towards human life of all of the hundreds of revolutions birthed in turmoil. The french revolution which eventually gave birth to French democracy came as a result of turmoil. Germany’s shift towards accepting democracy and human rights (something Germans rejected after WW1) came as a result of turmoil and war in WW2 and the cold war. So did the humanization of western civilization, that was in part a result of WW2.

If the US did have a string of terrorist attacks what is 90% likely to happen is we’d turn into Israel. Israel does not respond to Iran building nuclear weapons by setting up concentration camps. It increases intelligence, espionage, international pressure and covert military operations. If the US were attacked repeadly we’d just increase military spending, military activity (covert and overt), private and public security & intelligence operations.

It would unite “real Americans” against our “domestic enemies,” increasing nationalism and making the targeted group less human, and thus less deserving of things human beings usually get, like voting rights and the right to own property and the right to not be murdered at the hands of the state. Its accomplishment would be the bringing-together of “real Americans” (white people and maybe some blacks and possibly some Asians, but certainly not Arabs or gays or non-Judeo-Christians), and the resulting solidarity would give us that added push it’s going to take to churn out enough machinery and cannon fodder (by which I mean other real Americans) to fight the next great war, America versus the Rest of Them. Because when you’re fighting a war against people halfway across the globe it’s easy to lose focus; you forget these people are supposed to be your enemies, because they’re so far away. But when the enemy is in your own backyard, you’re going to fight against the perceived infiltration by going at its perceived source.

I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but the introduction of concentration camps would provide certain tactical benefits to a would-be fascist state.

I also think calling Hitler and Stalin mentally ill is an insult to the mentally ill. They weren’t crazy, they were evil. Don’t attempt to humanize their actions by writing it off as a chemical imbalance.

Maybe the possibility is remote that the entire country will start speaking German and sieg-heiling a Hitler clone, but the chances are always strong that any given country will turn against it’s own people.

I submit these countries that have (in the 20th century) killed their own people on the order of thousands or more (mostly much, much more): Germany, China, Russia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Turkey, North Korea, Sudan, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Iraq, Spain, Uganda, Haiti, Chile, Argentina, Burma, Angola, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Japan, Ethiopia, Chad, Italy… that there alone is 24 countries out of 258 - roughly 10%. And because I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of world history - this is an incomplete list at best and only includes the 20th century. I’m sure others can think of many more examples.

Yes, most of these were countries in “turmoil” at the time that they decided to off large segments of their populations, but “turmoil” is always just around the corner (remember how WWI started?). And looking at the sweep of history, I’d bet you’d be hard pressed to find more than a handful of countries on the planet whose governments haven’t subjected groups of their own people to some type of horrific purges and/or exterminations in the past 500 years. In many or most cases over and over again.

So where do we get it’s out of the realm of possibility that the current U.S. government could be a greater threat to its own than terrorism? Because we’re a democracy? Because we’re special? Because we’ve never had a 200 year history of slavery or set up concentration camps in response to an attack or engaged in a massive genocide (you personally know lots of indians)? No sure, it couldn’t happen NOW - we’re too civilized. We have Starbucks and everything.

You pollyannas you.

Just looking at the statistics I figure my chances are way *way * higher of being killed by my own government than by a terrorist. And actually we’ve forgotten the most efficient way governments kill their own - by turning them into cannon fodder - ie. engaging in ultra-violent modern warfare which can easily kill millions. I’m not going to list those you can do that for yourselves.

I think the OP is taking a perfectly good thesis, i.e. that being worried about the government is more rational than being worried about terrorists, and making it into a ridiculous argument. (Are you sure you are not a neo-con plant ITR champion?)

Our government is a long way from fascism, but the erosion of civil liberties and the potential harm being done to our economy by the massive deficits and the current “borrow and spend” mentality is very worrying. I, personally am much more worried about runaway interest rates, the devaluation of the dollar, and a possible recession than I am about anybody planting a dirty bomb within a couple of hundred miles of me. The erosion of civil liberties is also much more concerning to me than the possibility that the next plane I am on is going plummet to earth in a fireball of death and martyrdom. I think more about the suspension of habeas corpus for American citizens and the holding of human beings indefinitely without ever having any due process of law than I think about bombs in my local Wal-Mart (don’t terrorist blow up marketplaces?).

All that said; comparing our government to the fascist regimes of history is pretty laughable in my opinion. We have a long way to go before we reach that stage, and the majority of the population (at least 48% - but let’s face it, more like 90%) would fight it. The OP is counter-productive in my opinion. Implying that our government could kill 30 million people is absurd in the extreme.

Is it possible that we might invade other countries? Yes. Is it probable? No (at least IMHO). We are stretched pretty thin and the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 (again, IMHO). Another 9/11 style attack would not necessarily mean the invasion of another country (Who would we invade, Saudi Arabia? – Well and good, but even the current administration knows that it is important not to shit where you eat.). I think the current administration will invade another county if they want to, whether another attack happens or not. They might use another attack to stir up as much of the populace as they can to promote a war they already have in mind, but to use the attack as a reason? Not in my opinion. I have some ideas about why this administration does things, but I don’t believe the reasons they give to the public (why should I?). They are actually much smarter than most people give them credit for.

I can’t wait until 08’.

Humanize their actions? Hitler and Stalin were paranoid sociopaths, I did not mean they were bipolar or anything like that.

And the odds that the US will set up concentration camps is so low I don’t even know how to fight that. As far as ‘real americans’ John Kerry was labeled the most liberal senator in the US and he still got 49% of the popular vote and this was in the middle of two wars.

In Israel about 1/6th of the domestic population is Arab muslims. If Israel can handle terrorism and threats w/o mass murder of the domestic population I don’t see why the US couldn’t. The US can coerce arab countries to obey and cooperate in the war on terror (the US can pressure Libya or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia to cooperate, Israel cannot), plus the US is seperated from its enemies by ten thousand miles of ocean, Israel is not. Plus the US has the military might to overthrow any country it wasnt, Israel does not. Plus the US has the backing of international countries (believe it or not), Israel does not. Plus the US is not 1/6th people who come from a background that may make them prone to terrorism, and Israel is surrounded by Palestinians who are about as numerous as the Jews in Israel. Its like if the US had 50 million arab muslims in it and 300 million pakistani and saudi arabian muslims in Canada and Mexico right over thh border. Even with all that Israel still does not resort to fascism. If Isreal can handle all that then the US could do it too and the US will never have it as bad as Israel. We would just build up militarily and build up our intelligence capacities.

Some of you guys really have no faith in humanity, that is sad. I can understand to a degree, but to assume a country which prides itself (correctly or not) on being the world’s most human rights oriented democracy would reply to a terrorist attack by setting up concentration camps and killling millions of innocent people is something I can’t grasp.