A hundred years ago in response to the horror of WWI, the great Randolph Bourne famously pronounced the truth that “War is the Health of the State.” Said Bourne,
War is the health of the State.
It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate co-operation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense. The machinery of government sets and enforces the drastic penalties, the minorities are either intimidated into silence or brought slowly around by a subtle process of persuasion which may seem to them to really converting them……
Other values such artistic creation, knowledge, reason, beauty, the enhancement of life, are instantly and almost unanimously sacrificed and the significant classes who have constituted themselves the amateur agents of the State are engaged not only in sacrificing these values for themselves but in coercing all other persons into sacrificing them.
In a nation at war, every citizen identifies himself with the whole, and feels immensely strengthened in that identification. The purpose and desire of the collective community live in each person who throws himself whole-heartedly into the cause of war. The impeding distinction between society and the individual is almost blotted out.
A century later it appears that Randolph Bourne needs an update: Apparently, Sickness is the Health of the State, as well.
During the past 10 weeks state, control of economic and social life in America has erupted like never before. The stay-at-home and lockdown orders decreed by mayors and governors intrude into every nook and cranny of daily life, essentially subjecting tens of millions of Americans to house arrest and/or entombment in six-foot cylinders of social control.
The historic quasi-regimentation and suppression of dissent that occurred domestically during both world wars, for instance, pales by comparison.