Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 22:00 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 22:00 | SYDNEY

War is the health of the state


Sam Roggeveen


6 February 2009 10:29

As if to reinforce the point I made yesterday, the Prime Minister employed the language of national security again last night when describing the financial crisis:

With a battle erupting in federal parliament over the passage of his $42 billion plan, and sounding more and more like a wartime prime minister, Mr Rudd likened the current crisis to the challenges both Australia and the US faced during World War II..."The conflict we are talking about today is of an entirely different hue," he said. "This is not about the machines of war. We are dealing with the machines of money."

Indeed it is 'entirely different', which rather raises the question of what purpose is served by employing the war analogy at all. Hugh provided an answer to this question in his post — the language of national security deligitimises debate and elevates the leader. But it does something else as well: it increases the authority of the state. As Michael Oakeshott wrote:

In war itself, the latent or not so latent ingredient of managerial lordship in the office of the government of a modern state comes decisively to the surface and is magnified, and what had hitherto been no more than contrivances for collecting revenue, for safeguarding the sources of revenue, or for maintaining civil order become devices for controlling the use of resources and for removing substantive choice from the conduct of subjects.