The Garrison State is Coming from Inside the House

Here is Senator Ted Cruz offering the only policy prescription that the American Republican Party has for stopping Americans from killing children in schools using semi-automatic weapons:

That’s right, the plan is to put more armed agents of the state in our local institutions. It’s easy to dunk on Ted Cruz by noting that there was an armed security guard at Robb Elementary School and he didn’t do anything to stop the killer from murdering 21 people, mostly children, mutilating their bodies beyond recognition. But the point is, for Ted Cruz and the modern Republican Party, the only solution to a plague of Americans killing one another with military grade weapons is to turn our schools into fortresses.

In 1941, political scientist Harold Lasswell introduced the concept of the garrison state. The idea was that the growth of military firepower and the expansion of the state’s role in providing collective security would lead to a kind of fortress mentality among Americans, and a form of social organization in which specialists in the production of violence would dominate the “civilian” arms of society. In his words,

This leads to the seeming paradox that, as modern states are militarized, specialists on violence are more preoccupied with the skills and attitudes judged characteristic of nonviolence. We anticipate the merging of skills, starting from the traditional accoutrements of the professional soldier, moving toward the manager and promoter of large-scale civilian enterprise.

The garrison state never really came into being in the sense that Lasswell imagined it, although security theater at airports is a good example of it, as is the very concept of the “Department of Homeland Security.” But I don’t think it’s hard to see the garrison state’s evolutionary trajectory in the pleas from Republican elected officials to turn schools into fortresses, to place armed guards outside of kindergartens, and—this is the critical bit—to conceptualize the threat of random mass violent death emanating from some armed American as simply unavoidable, the existential condition of modern American society.

Quite the realization to understand that such “defenders of liberty” claim to be defending us from exactly the tyrannical military government that they are simultaneously creating. The only way to have true liberty is by adding a state-sanctioned specialist in violence to every America social institution? Sounds positively Georgian.