Bringing our fellow Americans to a greater understanding of the evils of a government-dominated society and the virtues of a free society has always been difficult and frustrating work. It’s no wonder that Albert Jay Nock likened it to Isaiah’s job. People are easily misled by promises of government salvation, especially when they are consumed by fear for their physical safety or their economic security. Making matters even more difficult is the state’s co-optation of a large number of people who have discovered that in the United States the rise of Big Brother offers enormous opportunities for personal enrichment — fascism’s greatest advantage over socialism.
The potential for making off with such loot has long been appreciated in connection with the military-industrial-congressional complex (MICC), and recent years have witnessed another great bonanza there. Between the fiscal years 2001 and 2006, Department of Defense (DoD) outlays, excluding payments to military personnel, increased from $217 billion to $366 billion, or by 69 percent (49 percent after the DoD’s generous allowance for inflation). Nearly all of this money finds its way into the pockets of the owners, employees, and suppliers of military-contracting companies. We are not likely to win many converts to the cause of liberty in this crowd.
Alongside this entrenched predatory monstrosity, the government has built during the past five years a completely new and even more menacing apparatus, which I call the security-industrial-congressional complex (SICC). According to Paul Harris’s September 10, 2006, report in the Guardian: “Seven years ago there were nine companies with federal homeland security contracts. By 2003 it was 3,512. Now there are 33,890. The money is huge. Since 2000, $130 billion of contracts have been dished out.” Harris adds: “With so much money on offer and such riches being made, there is a powerful economic incentive to exploit the threat to America. The homeland security industry has an army of lobbyists working for its interests in Washington. It grows bigger each year and they want to keep the money flowing. America is in the grip of a business based on fear.”
I tracked one of Harris’s sources to the informative Web site of the Center for Public Integrity. If you want to become truly discouraged about the prospects for liberty, spend some time perusing the center’s voluminous data on the lobbyists, their clients, the amounts of money being spent, and so forth. According to these data, the number of companies and other organizations registered as lobbying the federal government with regard to homeland security increased from 3 in 2001 to 671 in 2004 (the latest year for which the center has compiled such data). Small wonder that Alex Knott, manager of the center’s Lobby Watch project, declares: “All this money in the industry is just up for grabs. It’s like a gold rush.”
No gold rush, however, ever involved the massive amounts of money now on tap in the SICC. To gain an appreciation of the contours of this piratical apparatus, visit the Web site of Government Security News (GSN), an online publication that bills itself “the newspaper of record for government security.” In only the few issues I examined, I discovered enough material to throw any sane person into a funk of despair for the cause of liberty. In an August 2006 issue (vol. 4, issue 12), for example, one finds a beautiful advertisement in full color with the headline, “Looking for Billions in Upcoming Government Contracts?” Underneath a pie chart depicting the dimensions of the various categories of loot up for grabs, the text continues: “Knowing where to look is half the challenge. Federal, State and Local Government IT Spending Will Exceed $70B in 2007. What are you waiting for?” After which the reader is directed to a Web site “to learn more about System Integration contracts and who’s winning.” You can be sure that the winners do not include the taxpayers in general or the citizens whose rights are being suffocated by the fear-exploiting opportunists who are rushing to get rich by supplying goods and services to the Surveillance State.
Among the many fascinating features in GSN are “Around the Country,” which describes contracts placed in various states (extensive geographical spreading of government contracts, long an attribute of the MICC, is a telltale sign of congressional intervention), “Contracts,” which gives the details of recent awards, and “Business Opportunities,” which describes “recent and upcoming government solicitations.” In the August 2006 issues, GSN features an eye-popping list of leading SICC companies, which range from obscure firms such as 4D Security Solutions, Alutiq, and Cernium to familiar names such as Boeing, Diebold, Northrop Grumman, and Lucent Technologies. Come one, come all. The only losers are the citizens’ wallets and their liberties.
As in any other dynamic industry, the SICC firms are being brought together in trade shows to display and tout their new wares. (If you’ve never checked out the trade publications and shows in the MICC, you don’t really know the meaning of gruesome, slick yet disgusting advertising.) Thus, the GSN for August 2006 contains an ad for a massive trade show to be held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York on October 24—25. There you can “source new products and solutions, make new contacts and gain critical industry knowledge.” The participants will include “9,100 industry professionals” and “more than 400 leading exhibiting companies,” including Bosch, Brinks, Honeywell Security, Panasonic, Tyco, and many others.
GSN also makes available a job placement service, where employers and employees can find one another. Among the nearly two thousand jobs listed, those for systems and software engineers, IT managers, and other techie types loom largest, but other sorts of jobs are available for you and me — well, truth be known, probably not for me, but surely many takers will come forth to occupy these well-paid positions.
After all, the U.S. government is sparing no expense ostensibly to protect all Americans from every known form of threat and from many threats yet undreamt of, too. Americans expect nothing less from their government, which constantly presents itself as their savior of first resort. Strange to say, however, no one seems especially distressed by the bogus quality of most of the goods and services being procured under the rubric of “homeland security,” a nebulous objective that now elicits — not by accident, but by design — little more than a gigantic exchange of political pork for items that merely purport to protect Volk und Vaterland.
For present purposes, however, the bad news is that the owners and employees of the SICC firms are not likely to have any interest in joining a movement to restore our lost liberties. On the contrary, these people are literally Big Brother’s little brothers and sisters. However unwittingly, these private-sector facilitators and handmaidens of the government’s pervasive invasion of everyone’s privacy have formed a new bulwark against those who seek to divert the American people from their headlong rush into tyranny.
Robert Higgs [send him mail] is senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review. His most recent book is Depression, War, and Cold War: Studies in Political Economy. He is also the author of Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11 and Against Leviathan.