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The Camel’s Nose Under the Tent Flap

By Chris Brady

People don’t like to be told what to do.  Even children are not very receptive to instruction.

So when governments set out to take over peoples’ freedoms (which means, quite simply, government telling people what to do instead of people making their own choices) they have to get crafty.

Some serious skill is required. That’s where politicians come in. Politicians are educated in the arts of “creep.” Not to be confused with the derogatory word which, coincidentally, can accurately be applied to many bureaucrats, creep is a term used to describe a specific strategy nearly perfected by governments.

Here’s how it works.

Since people don’t like to be told what to do and will generally resist being bossed around, something must happen to convince them to allow what would normally and naturally be considered contrary to their best interest.

Although there are many ways to get the process started, usually a crisis of some sort is extremely useful. As one politician recently slipped up and stated publicly, “Never waste a good crisis.” A crisis causes fear. Fear inhibits clear thinking and causes all kinds of knee-jerk reactions.

One such reaction is to allow people in power to utilize that power to “do something.” Almost always, that “doing something” involves the growth of government through the creation of new agencies, bureaus, boards, committees, programs, expenditures, and the passing of new laws. This would all be fine and dandy, except for three little reasons:

  1. they cost money and therefore create massive problems of their own,
  2. they generally don’t work, and finally,
  3. they generate secondary consequences (some would say “unintended” consequences, but given the power lust of many bureaucrats, one wonders).

With each new government creation the “creep” into our personal freedoms increases. Freedom shrinks as governmental interference grows. Many think it’s all okay as long as they are getting their pet programs, handouts, freebies, kickbacks, and power perks.

This is why a growing government is always accompanied by a growing “mooching class.” As this plays out, “experts” in government get to decide things we ought to be free to decide for ourselves. “They” are cock-sure that they know what is better for us than we do.

Programs and “Great Societies” and “fairer resource management” and “progress” are trumpeted as grand new foolproof ideas. But it is really the same old story of control over the many by the privileged few that litters the pages of every history book. Freedom bleeds to death on the altar of government worship.

There is a cute illustration often used to describe “creep,” and it goes like this.

Anyone who has ever spent any time around animals knows they are filthy. Camels, famously, are some of the nastiest and filthiest of all. Traveling in caravans across the sub-Saharan deserts for centuries, traders would tie up their camels a distance far enough from their tent to prevent the camels from trying to get in.

Nobody, no matter how dependent upon his camel for survival and transportation, would choose to lodge alongside his camel within the warmth and comfort of his tent. The camels, however, resisted this fact. No matter how unwanted they were within the confines of their owner’s tent, they still desired to partake in a little of that luxury themselves.

They would start their attempt by pushing only their nose under the tent flap. If this went successfully unnoticed, they would slide the full length of their head in. Gradually, little by little, they would stick their whole neck inside, and finally their whole body.

Suddenly, it would seem, the whole animal would be smugly inside the tent enjoying the shelter from the elements, entirely crowding out the tent’s rightful owner. Government can be seen to act in the same way. “It’s just a temporary expedient until the crisis is abated,” they say, sliding their nose under the flap. “Just a little while longer and we’ll have this problem licked,” they say, sliding in their entire head and neck. And on it goes.

As President Reagan said, “There is nothing quite so permanent as a temporary government program.”

The strangest fact, however, is that so many people seem intent on actually helping the camel sneak into the tent! But a little thought is all that’s required to explain this strange situation: they don’t want a camel in their own tent, they only want to help one get into yours!

However, if they really have bought so far into the blind dribble of our day to actually think they want a camel in their own tent, then, well, I suppose they deserve the flea bites they’ll receive.


Chris Brady co-authored the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Weekly, USA Today, and Money Magazine best-seller Launching a Leadership Revolution.

He is also in the World’s Top 30 Leadership Gurus and among the Top 100 Authors to Follow on Twitter. He has spoken to audiences of thousands around the world about leadership, freedom, and success.

Mr. Brady contributes regularly to Networking Times magazine, and has been featured in special publications of Success and Success at Home. He also blogs regularly at Chris Brady.

He is an avid motorized adventurer, pilot, world traveler, humorist, community builder, soccer fan, and dad.

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  1. Great article! I’m sharing with as many as I can.

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