tB I CHRONICLESnTHE FEAR OF CRISIS by John P. SisknIn the November 1986 Encounter, the Princeton Universityneconomist Harold James sets out to tell us “Why WenShould Learn to Love a Crisis.” His explanation is not quitenwhat we would expect from a champion of a marketneconomy. In that economy, he says, crises serve a necessarynfunction; states should not try to avoid them out of anreluctance to risk since they can be purgative and therapeutic;nmost importantly small crises may be ideal ways ofnavoiding major crises.nProfessor James stays pretty much within his own discipline,nbut because he stays there so competently andnreadably we get the impression that there is much to be saidnabout the relevance of his thesis to the understanding andnmanagement of crises generally. Certainly, he will encouragenmany readers to extrapolate his essay into the worlds ofnpolitics and religion. There in more familiar territory theynare likely to ask the sort of questions that James’s fellowneconomists may be asking him.nFirst is the question of scale. It may be that small crisesnare good for us because they help prevent big crises; butnhow do we tell them apart when they are happening? Evennthe layman, for whom economics is, as it was for Carlyle,nthe dismal science, can see the difference between thenJohn P. Sisk is Arnold Professor of the Humanities atnGonzaga University. He is the author of Person andnInstitution.nnninside trading scandals that periodically rock Wall Street andnthe stock market crash of the early 1930’s — especially whennDow Jones quickly indicates that the economy has receivednno mortal wound from the former. But when we were goingnthrough the Iran arms crisis, was it properly identified asnmajor or minor? Where on a scale ranging from Watergatento the discovery that the government had been usingndisinformation against Libya should it have been placed?nThe consequence for the nation depended on that placement,nand that placement depended on the extent to whichnwe could or could not see it in a perspective of major eventsnsince World War II.nThe proper placement of a crisis on a proper scale is, ofncourse, crucial in every walk of life at any time. This is nondoubt why the literature of crisis management, howeverncalled, is as extensive as it is now, when, as it may seem to usnAmericans, our complex and information-crammed worldncondemns us to a crisis-rich environment. However, peoplenin any democratic society have a notorious capacity to turnnsmall crises into big ones, to say nothing of a perversencapacity to become addicted to crises of all dimensions. Thisnis in part because crises are relief from boredom, andnboredom in democratic societies, where it is easy for thenindividual to become alienated from boredom-reducingncommunal structures, is always an important determinant ofnpolitical and social history. But even apart from suchnalienation, life in a democratic society, relative to moren