Citizen security force?

Patrick Gibbons

In English parliamentary elections just after World War II, Winston Churchill found himself on the defensive against a well mobilized Labour Party. The Labour Party had argued that "planning had won the war," so "planning would win the peace."

Churchill began to quote from the libertarian-minded Friedrich von Hayek, author of The Road to Serfdom. In speech after speech he warned his nation that the socialists would first attempt to take command of the economy by nationalizing industries. They would then attempt to nationalize labor by deciding which workers worked where and what type of jobs they could hold. Finally, he argued, the socialists would enforce their new rules to "compel cooperation" through a secret police, like a Gestapo.

At that point, Labour ridiculed him (and also used charges of racism and fear-mongering, since Hayek was German) for these comments.  A Gestapo in England, one of the freest countries in the world, seemed preposterous. Labour won in a landslide.

Shortly after, Labour "compelled" heavy industries and utility companies to "sell" themselves to the government. A few years later, the Labour party attempted to organize labor boards, which required citizens to file requests with the government in order to change jobs (and subsequently wait for approval by the government).

No Gestapo ever did come to England. Still, the Labour Party had gone too far, and was promptly booted from power. England, which had adopted "nationalization," apologized for its mistake a few decades later through "privatization," which simply consisted of government selling industries back to the private sector.

A Gestapo in the United States seems even more unlikely, but President-elect Barack Obama made an eerie comment this summer, calling for a "Citizen Security Force" – suggesting that it be a well funded domestic military organization.  It is probably just an attempt to increase patronage for his party (just as Republicans created Homeland Security, which probably annoys more Americans than it actually protects).

But be warned.

The military's job is to protect the country's citizens from foreign enemies.  But when a military is formed to protect us from within, the country's enemies just might become the citizens.