In spite of the actuality that no one who is not extraordinarily cultured can even begin to think for himself, and Americans are not even remotely cultured personalities; and in spite of the actuality that marriages, families, religions, languages, public funds, public schools and libraries and post offices and clinics and even corporations and mass-media are all forms of “communism,” Americans take “mind control” and “communism” as the horror of all horrors (witness the cyclical crusades of Red Scares, the ever-piquant Invasion of the Body Snatchers, etc.). But in spite of such a phobia against losing proprietary control of their “own” minds, Americans are one of the most cult-prone, mass-organized and –manipulable collectivities that has ever existed, as abject and pathos-besotted conformists down to their slavish toenails. In the early nineteenth century De Tocqueville already observed this striking phobia among Americans against standing alone and thinking for oneself. The bonds of subrational control over us are more potent than ever precisely because the critical culture, the “know thyself” that would make such controls accessible to conscious evaluation, has withered to nothing, eaten away by democratist fear of “elitist” critical intelligence and proprietarist neglect of and contempt for public education.
The forbidden truth is that we are living by a set of lies which are necessary for short-term profit, at the expense of human physical and psychological life and global environmental integrity. We are living in a system where power ensures that the requirements of profit take priority over the requirements of living things-including the need to know that this is the case. Consequently our freedom extends as far as, and no further than, the satisfaction of these requirements, with all else being declared neurosis, paranoia, communism, extremism, the work of the devil, or Neptunian nonsense.
We're all afloat in a boundless sea, and the way we cope is by massing together in groups and pretending in unison that the situation is other than it is. We reinforce the illusion for each other. That's what a society really is, a little band of humanity huddled together against the specter of a pitch black sea. Everyone is treading water to keep their heads above the surface even though they have no reason to believe that the life they're preserving is better than the alternative they're avoiding. It's just that one is known and one is not. Fear of the unknown is what keeps everyone busily treading water. All fear is fear of the unknown. If someone in such a group of water-treaders betrays the group lie by speaking the truth of their situation, that person is called a heretic, and society reserves its most awful punishments for heretics. If someone decides to stop struggling and just sink or float away, every possible effort is made to stop him, not for the benefit of the individual, but for the benefit of the group. To deny at all costs the truth of the situation.
If you give the government the right to determine the consumption of the human body, to determine whether one should smoke or not smoke, drink or not drink, there is no good reply you can give to people who say, "More important than the body is the mind and the soul, and man hurts himself much more by reading bad books, by listening to bad music and looking at bad movies. Therefore it is the duty of the government to prevent people from committing those faults.
And, as you know, for many hundreds of years governments and authorities velieved that it was their duty.
Ludwig von Mises
Source: Economic Policy: Thoughts for Today and Tomorrow, Pages: 22