The next installment of Star Wars premieres Friday. The Star Wars franchise tells the story of a republic that falls into a dictatorship because its citizens desire safety and are willing to sacrifice civil liberties in response to fear. Sound familiar? Western countries, including the U.S., have sacrificed hard won civil liberties as a way to supposedly keep their citizens safe from external threats. At a recent U.S. presidential primary debate, one candidate even suggested shutting down parts of the internet to better keep us safe from terrorists.
In the new video below, Lenoir-Rhyne University Professor Amy Sturgis uses the Star Wars storyline to explain that tyrants don’t simply take power. Rather, people hand it to them out of a desire for safety, then watch helplessly as that power is used against them. But there is little-to-no evidence that such concentration of power makes us more safe. It certainly makes us less free. This cycle of fear and power has recurred throughout history, from Nazi Germany to Napoleonic France and on.
As Professor Sturgis says: “Emergency powers often outlive the emergency.” But don’t expect to hear that from politicians who are trying to capitalize on their citizens’ fear. Just ask the Jedi.