Idaho Politics by William L. Spence: Marketing of freedom (from fear) becomes big business

WILLIAM L.SPENCE, politics reporter, Lewiston TribuneJuly 16, 2013 

William L. Spence

Fear sells better than sex. That was the conclusion of a university researcher a few years ago, when asked why people would fork over $2 million for one of the "Doomsday condos" being built inside of an old nuclear missile silo in Kansas.

Forget your Hollywood starlets and Viagra-fueled fantasies: When the world is going crazy, what could be more comforting than a 14-story luxury apartment bunker, complete with swimming pool, movie theater and underground farm?

And the mega-rich apparently aren't the only folks looking for safety in the Heartland. Vivos, a California firm, just announced plans to build a 2 million-square-foot survival shelter and recreational vehicle resort in an abandoned limestone mine near Atchison, Kan. The former U.S. Army storage facility is 150 feet beneath the surface and comes complete with nuclear-proof blast doors.

The company is reportedly asking $1,500 per person and $1,000 per lineal foot for the RVs. Book your spot now, because it will be too late once Armageddon is upon us.

As impressive as these entrepreneurial efforts may be, though, the recent news from Washington shows they're rank amateurs when it comes to cashing in on people's fears.

The U.S. Senate, for example, enthusiastically approved plans to add $38 billion in border security costs to what had been an $8 billion immigration reform bill.

The amendment was proposed to address concerns that, if nothing is done to tighten our borders, immigration reform will simply become a free path to citizenship for anyone able to sneak in from Canada or Mexico.

The measure calls for 20,000 new border patrol agents, 700 miles of new fencing and $4.5 billion in drones and high-tech border surveillance equipment. It would double the size of the U.S. Border Patrol - an agency that has already seen its budget increase tenfold in the last 20 years, from $326 million in 1992 to $3.5 billion in 2012 - and install a spiffy, double-layered fence at an average cost, according to a Government Accountability Office report, of about $3.9 million per mile.

The plan is straight out of "Dr. Strangelove," protecting America's precious bodily fluids from the polluting influence of illegal immigrants and all things foreign, while simultaneously lining the pockets of the nation's security-industry contractors.

By all means, if we can't let freedom ring, let's at least stand atop the ramparts of Fortress USA and safely thumb our noses at those huddled masses yearning to take our jobs and benefits.

Oh, for the simpler days of the Peloponnesian War, when Pericles praised the Athenian city-state for its intellectual strength and openness:

"Far from exercising a jealous surveillance over each other, we do not feel called upon to be angry with our neighbor for doing what he likes. We throw open our city to the world, and never by alien acts exclude foreigners from any opportunity of learning or observing, although the eyes of an enemy may occasionally profit by our liberality," he said during his famous funeral oration, described in Thucydides' "History of the Peloponnesian War."

But times are more difficult now. Fear is the coin by which politicians and businessmen earn their livelihood. So shutter the doors. Let loose the high-tech hounds. It's July - time to celebrate our independence.

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bspence@lmtribune.com, (208) 791-9168

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