As pointed out in the first part of this article trying to outline some of the background important for understanding but not explicitly mentioned by Moisi in his recent book on Geopolitics of [TV] series, fear and warmongering in heroic histories were also used to prime youngsters, from their early childhood, to be prepared to accept and make own sacrifice for the honour or better of the whole. Moisi is by no means first to point to the sociological role of fear. Frank Furedi [1] provides an excellent overview of the recent literature on the subject as a good background reading for both, this and Moisi's text. He there quotes Norbert Elias who identified fear as a main “mechanisms through which ‘the structures of society are transmitted to individual psychological functions’” (ibid).

The fear and the resulting anxiety are often encouraged, by real or imaginary experiences in encouraging social integration and, eventually, state building. However, one of issues Moisi and, also, a large amount of other geopolitical literature tends to stay shy off is mentioning some of the underlying economic aspects, and I will here focus on two main ones.

For start, once an early form of state is established, it also starts seeking various forms of contributions in material goods and products, directly or indirectly needed for fulfilling its main roles in protecting its people and means of justifying these needs. Whilst this protection is primarily from external enemies, for larger groups forming states, as many pointed out (e.g. Adam Smith), state acts in its secondary role of protecting internal order based on unwritten or written social rules and morals, and, once put in place, enforcing its legal order and, also in self-defence in protecting its own institutions too.

The continuous and near-constant reminder of dangers, imminent or not-so, real or mythical, needs however to remain part of culture not only to mobilise young men to join war efforts and the training, but also, to justify to the others to support it financially. For the latter, varieties of taxes, financial or in good and products have been imposed on trade, transport or agricultural yield.

Over the last few centuries, other, additional protection related roles for states are brought in and modern economics seems more concerned with those, such as unemployment, health and retirement support than those traditional ones. It appears to be forgetting that government has bit more of a role than just making transfers for unemployment benefit and pensions (34% of UK budget), or, perhaps, that education, defence, health and police protection and juridical services and (in more or less democratic countries), the parliamentary institutions, to name just a few, are among those public goods that come entirely for free public goods. And, though they do come (almost) for free, automatically, in the views of the individual agents since they can benefit from them, they are certainly not free to enforce and maintain, accounting for nearly 60% of the budget - of course, that is, if one actually intends to continue to maintain them rather than protect society only against the exceptional circumstances of high unemployment in times of recessions (see also Why Nations Fail).

“Fear entrepreneurs”

“Fear entrepreneurs” is a term very well coined by Furedi to denote social forces that utilise or manipulate and exploit fear to create anxiety and gain some benefit. Extending his notion we can say that, in a similar fashion as the established religions and churches sometimes spread fears from the condemnation to the Hell and divine punishment aiming to congregate its followers, sometimes, in the past, selling them absolutions from some of their sins, or to collect donations and taxes from them, so also do the modern states and the commercial insurance companies. They both have vested interest in spreading fear from as large spectrum of risks and contingencies as possible, ranging from accidents, home-borne, intra-national and international risks, malicious deeds to global natural disasters. One of the aims is to create a mixture of state and commercial markets for as full set of unfavourable contingencies as possible and to encourage audience to take up protections policies with both, tax seeking and collecting states and, as well, the commercial financial institutions such as insurance, “future contingencies protection” and pension investments products and packages selling companies.

However, on the other hand, with the increasingly liberal political-economic policies applied to the governments in some of the modern states, less and less of those protection related responsibilities are expected from the sovereign states themselves and the varieties of protections are increasingly provided by commercial and private institutions where financial investment and insurance institutions provide necessary financial mechanisms. Such trend is seemingly aiming to gradual reduction of sovereign states' responsibilities down to only those two or three basic ones listed by Adam Smith. In short, one could say that it appears as if the sovereign states, effectively, their citizens' risk protecting, and sometimes also risk insuring institutions, are gradually being pushed out, loosing their shares on the markets for insurances and contingencies to the commercial ones.

One then may wander if an additional, though probably unintentional, effect of such geopolitical series may thus be to also remind the audience of the related risks and fears that they as citizens may face and that their sovereign state itself has more roles other than providing for social security, policing and health protection, and that it consequently, has the legitimacy in claiming taxes for provision of other public goods and services that are, at least for now, still beyond the fully privatised sector.

Continues on the 7th of November...

[1] Frank Furedi: The only thing we have to fear is the ‘culture of fear’ itself.
New Essay: How human thought and action are being stifled by a regime of uncertainty.