Reprinted from Law and Liberty
When you lean in a boat on a river, the boat tilts but then tilts on itself. But if there is too much pressure on one side, the canoe skips a certain point and becomes a overturned boat. It has pontoon pads at both ends so it doesn’t sink, but the canoe situation has changed from a maneuverable pontoon to a newly stable but sad state.
The tipping point from one state to another can occur unexpectedly for those who have never experienced inversion. People in developing countries are not surprised when their government overturns. But the advanced democracies are satisfied, even though we know that seemingly stable democracies can be overturned. Between 1850 and 1930, Austria-Hungary, Germany, Italy, Japan and the Ottoman Empire all turned into totalitarian regimes. Since 2000, there has been a massive increase in the number of people living under authoritarianism, with 80 percent of the world’s population living in countries that Freedom House classifies as having no “free” systems of government. In fact, as of 2021, 58 countries, with 38 percent of the world’s population, were classified as “not free” complete systems, having collapsed into tyranny.
It’s tempting to think that “it can’t happen here”. But Americans are more concerned about that than they have in decades. In July, a CNN poll indicated that 48 percent of respondents believed it was “likely” or “somewhat likely” that state representatives would succeed in overturning US election results because their party did not win.
We, the current authors, are concerned that today’s supposedly straight countries are in danger of slipping into tyranny. Tyranny—once the capacities of control and tyranny are built up, including in some cases expanded government employment, subordination, and generosity—can be nearly impossible to fix. The key to descending into tyranny and stabilizing tyranny once it is achieved: Tyrants use tyranny to fortify their stronghold and to protect themselves from the penalties imposed on them for their crimes.
Describing authoritarianism as “stable” may seem paradoxical. Authoritarian regimes suffer from chaotic upheavals and violent outbursts. but the tyrannical state itself Stable, like a capsized boat. Organized freedom is best for everyone—perhaps regardless of the tyrannical faction and its offshoots. It is difficult to restore the rule of law once it has been weakened. Correction may require changes in people, processes, and situations. The relative power and perks of tyrants will disappear with the patch. Tyrants use the tools of tyranny to protect themselves from the sanctions imposed on them.
How could this faction be so cruel and corrupt? It is difficult to understand the psychology of corruption and delusion. Some say the devil works. And if we hope for God’s goodness in the depths of the tyrant, consider another difficulty: even if virtuous reformers persuade tyrants of the errors of their ways, there may be no way for them to credibly guarantee that tyrants will escape punishment. , such as confiscation of illegal funds, imprisonment, or the death penalty for their crimes. Inability to comply with clemency may make it impossible to admit wrongdoing and “make a deal”. Also, there is, however, the shame that comes with restoring liberal mores and condemning the fallen.
What prevents regimes from overturning are the virtues of liberalism and liberalism (in the sense baptized in the 1770s). As long as there are enough people who do not agree with illiberalism, as is systematic, for example, in Twitter, Facebook, Google-YouTube, and with anti-liberalism, the system can correct itself and avoid a coup. Election integrity is of course vital.
We are used to thinking that modern democracies are always like a pendulum – swinging away in one direction is counterbalanced by swing in the other. But regression into despotism can mess up the entire pendulum mechanism, preventing counter-swing. We are concerned that the mechanisms that, fortunately, have so far prevented us from reaching the tipping point and inversion, are being dismantled. Deconstruction is done somewhat on purpose by seasoned tyrants and despots, who act differently from greed, corruption, and delusion – and God knows what!
Politics is always a matter of the lesser of two evils, but our view is not directed only at the greater evil. In the American context, we note the illiberalism and anti-liberalism among some who vote Republican and those who vote Democrat. People who advocate taking over government often do so for (what they see as) the best reason: the achievement of the good society. One of the functions of liberalism is to advocate and oppose the governmentalization of social affairs, even when it is done in the hope of putting the “right” people in charge.
Some of the founding fathers of liberalism can help us understand how to oppose authoritarianism. Thinkers David Hume, Adam Smith, and Edmund Burke represent the original liberalism now aptly called not only “classic” but “conservatism”. Hume, Smith, and Burke opposed radical change in the institutions of government. Indigenous liberalism is conservative when it comes to radically changing the political system.
However, the conservative component of conservative liberalism is based in part on How liberal status quo institutions. The events in the United States from 1830 to 1865 are a clear example of why liberals were not always opposed to fundamental reform. They highlight our main theme: the danger of slipping into authoritarianism.
The institution of slavery was simply incompatible with liberal values. Tensions rose after the founding period, with many intellectual voices in the South stating that “all men are created equal” asserting clear principles about character and citizenship. The system descended into more evils in the period after 1831. What precipitated the change were the growing movements and accusations against the slave owners, for being unjust. Slave owners responded with more injustice. They could not control the voices in the north, but southern governments could control their subjects. Slave owners and government resorted to “abolition of culture” and increased oppression to protect deeply illiberal and anti-liberal institutions of legal enslavement of human beings. The system passed a turning point into a system of fully institutionalized oppression, with voices calling for abolition banned and a code of conduct in place that made any questioning about slavery socially unacceptable.
Liberalism involves a self-correcting system of decency that invokes violations of liberal norms in defense of liberal institutions. In the face of illiberal institutions, the liberal must be a difficult voice at times; In the context of liberal institutions, the liberal appears as a conservative, invoking initiatives that subvert norms and assumption in favor of freedom. The United States is unique, or until recently, had a framework that allowed conservatives and liberals to “merging”: the status quo to be “preserved” was a liberal coalition built around “all men are created equal,” “life,” freedom and the pursuit of happiness. “.
What we see among southern slave owners and tyrannical actors in governments today is the use of tyranny to perpetuate their position and protect themselves from the just correction of their injustice. As long as they hold the whip, the injustice may not only continue, but get worse. The fate of the slaves in the Southern Slave was truly terrible. The shackles became tighter. Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service is hiring. If we don’t find a way to defuse tyranny, our future may be slavery to all.
The horrors of World War I and then communism, socialism, and fascism led some to believe that liberal civilization would soon be wiped out completely. However, since 1939 some people, in many countries, have waged a war against tyranny, in a movement mobilized under the banner of “freedom” or “liberal democracy”. After World War II, the Cold War was not only against the Soviets, but against the spread of totalitarian ideology. In the future, will there be Winston Churchill and Vaclav Havells to resist tyrants? Or will the governments of all the major powers belong to a network of authoritarian governments?
It’s Not Just a Miserable Imagination – Orwell’s Novel 1984Richter pictures of the socialist futureHuxley Brave new world, “Harrison Bergeron” by Vonnegut – who gave us the image of a liberal civilization that is now overturned. Some great liberal writers have warned us against the very real march toward a civilization overturned, and among them are Alexis de Tocqueville, Hilaire Belloc, CS Lewis, and AF Hayek. May we heed their warnings. They tell us that the governmentalization of social affairs is a tool of would-be tyrants, and that it hatches despotism even if it is not on purpose. We must speak courageously against the welfare government and against the oppressive feelings and beliefs that drive it.