L. Neil Smith's
Review: The State vs. The People
by Sunni Maravillosa
Special to TLE
Donít bother with this review - go read this book! Yes, that gives away my feelings on The State Vs. the People, but it isn't often that I think as highly of a book as I do this one. Written by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman, TSVTP documents the rise of the American police state in very clear, detailed fashion, moving swiftly through eleven chapters (and six appendices).
Wolfe and Zelman begin with a specific definition of "police state", then apply it to the current situation in the United States. Each chapter focuses on one aspect of potential state tyranny, including obedience, thought control, the justice system, and gun control. Comparisons to known police states--mostly Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union--are plentiful, and impeccably documented. Each chapter closes with a concise list summarizing the most important points from the chapter, usually organized around two or three themes. As an example, the chapter "Thought Control: Lies and Language" closes with two statements summarizing why and how the state engages in thought control, then expands on them under the subheadings of "Lies", "Manipulation of Language", and "Consequences". If one were really pressed for time, one could simply read these information-dense distillations. However, to do so would be akin to taking a bite of chocolate and getting an intense, brief hit rather than savoring its full, rich flavor in a delicious cake. TSVTP is well worth a careful, thorough reading.
Lest you get the wrong idea, the contents of the book are disturbing for anyone who cherishes freedom. TSVTP meticulously documents the existing and encroaching tyranny we must try to deal with to live. It's depressing to think about, yet the book itself is not depressing to read. Despite the numerous footnotes (most of which are worth reading) and citations, TSVTP is not an academic tome. Nor is it a libertarian screed or rant. To be sure, it is uncompromisingly, passionately pro-freedom, but in such a way that all but the most rabid statist can read it and find value in it.
Chapter Two, "Learning to Obey", is an example of how well-researched TSVTP is. Rather than relying on a typical psychology textbook summary of the Milgram experiments on obedience to authority, the authors apparently read the original research. They understand the studies he (and others) did on the topic, and accurately summarize the conditions under which blind obedience is most likely. In doing so, Wolfe and Zelman provide readers with a deeper understanding of the concepts involved, as well as tools to help resist authority figures. This depth of coverage permeates the book, yet does not weigh it down. The references also make it easy for the interested individual or skeptic to learn more.
The book is not without flaws, however. Typos are usually minor annoyances, but in a few cases make it difficult to understand a sentence. Footnote foibles (incomplete footnotes, or notes marked on one page but appearing on another) are more common, and appear to be due to typesetting challenges rather than author error. All can be fairly easily corrected when the book comes out in a second printing, which it well deserves.
A more substantial potential stumbling block for many libertarian readers is Wolfe's and Zelman's contention that America is not yet a police state. Indeed, after reading page after page documenting how American atrocities preceded Hitler's or exceeded those used in the Soviet Union, one may wonder how they can advance such a claim. According to their definition of "police state" (which is not so specific as to be ridiculously restrictive), we aren't there yet. But, as they readily grant, we seem to be heading there. Their focus is on the totality, and within that framework, Wolfe and Zelman are correct.
In the chapter titled "Can We Be Free Again?" Wolfe and Zelman deftly peg daily life for many Americans:
"The result of this bastardization of Western traditions, this perverse mating of Polizeistaat authoritarianism with the rhetoric of liberty, is so far neither freedom nor a total police state. It is a kind of dreary everyday drone in which we tell ourselves we certainly must be happy, as long as we have a well-paying job, nightly entertainment, and food on the table." (p.443, italics present in original)
Perhaps to the dismay of some, they donít offer specifics on taking action. Thatís the province of other books, however--for example, Wolfe's own 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution and Think Free to Live Free. That said, however, there are ideas in here, such as in the aforementioned discussion of obedience to authority. In "Can We Be Free Again?", Wolfe and Zelman offer sound advice, such as:
"Even where we can't directly turn aside the might of omnipresent government, we can strike many blows against tyranny. The first thing we can do is to determine to be our highest selves, regardless of what the powerful do around and to us. ... This is not a mere character- building exercise. This is resistance to tyranny at the deepest level.
I generally resist giving pro-freedom books to apolitical friends. Most libertarian books are so far removed from the framework of a typical American ("sheeple") that at best they will not be persuasive, and at worst, may actually reinforce the notion that libertarians are "extremist wacko kooks". The State Vs. the People stands with The Discovery of Freedom as a book that is wonderfully suited for sharing with the general public, as well as libertarians.
Read this book. Talk about it and share it with others. In The State Vs. the People, Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman have created a book that will resonate with any American concerned with the state of the country. It's past time to energize all available opposition to the encroaching tyranny.
The State Vs. the People, by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman. Trade paperback, 517 pages (including appendices). ISBN 096423047, www.jpfo.org/tsvtp.htm published by Mazel Freedom Press, $19.95, postage included.
Is America becoming a police state? Friends of liberty need to know.
Some say the U.S. is already a police state. Others watch the news for signs that their country is about to cross an indefinable line. Since September 11, 2001, the question has become more urgent. When do roving wiretaps, random checkpoints, mysterious "detentions," and military tribunals cross over from being emergency measures to being the tools of a government permanently and irrevocably out of control?
The State vs. the People examines these crucial issues. But first, it answers this fundamental question: "What is a police state?"
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