Tyrants may oppress you. They may lead you into disastrous wars. But they don’t demand that you take personal responsibility, that great burden of democracy. And every tyrant worth his salt provides scapegoats for his people’s failures: It’s never your fault, it’s them.
Politicians sell victimhood. They convince individuals that nothing is in your control. And in doing so, the politicians seize the power for themselves.
Individuals really do have personal power, but they end up selling it to be cleansed of their personal responsibility.
The article quoted pits democracy as the opposite of tyranny. But it is really just an earlier stage of tyranny or the tyranny of the masses. As they say, democracy is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. (And liberty is a well-armed sheep contesting the vote.)
Democracy is the camel’s nose under the tent. It may seem like you are participating in the political system, but you still can’t opt out. Yet once people exercise their “right” to vote, the control is out of their hands. I did my part, they can say, the rest is out of my hands.
And that is another form of abandoning personal responsibility. You become the victim of a society out of your control, rather than the sole arbiter of your circumstances. Inevitably, this leads to tyranny as more and more things slip out of your control. We can blame the politicians or the voters, after all, aren’t we all just victims in this system?
But the first flaw is accepting the system that puts others in control of things only the individual should control. That doesn’t mean rebel and get yourself shot or arrested. There are other ways to go about reclaiming your individual freedom. In fact, the free guide that we send everyone who joins The Daily Bell email list takes you through that process.
Cycles of Tyranny
For a while, China inched towards freedom, realizing that the entire country would be poor unless individuals had some means of personal responsibility to make their own way. Russia too, and the former Soviet states became freer after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
But people still believe in the idea of democracy, elected leaders, and government by force. And remember, Putin has been elected several times. To outsiders, it is obvious that the elections are rigged. But what about our own elections? And even if elections are fair, politicians still create more powers for the next guy who comes along to win popular support.
So now we reach another bust in the cycle, where despots once again rise to power. Putin in Russia, Xi in China, and Erdogan in Turkey have each solidified their exclusive executive power.
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. After the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, democracy was supposed to be irresistible. While some of us were more skeptical than others, even cynics allowed that freedom seemed to have the upper hand.
The article confuses freedom with democracy. But democracy leads to the same loss of freedom and tyranny. Democracy still involves abandoning self-reliance and handing over control of your life to the government.
The article praises the Constitution as the major difference between tyrannies and democracies.
We need to stop whining and be grateful for the freedoms we enjoy, our countless privileges as Americans and our remarkably effective government. In perilous times such as these, when domestic demagogues cherry-pick the Constitution and even a president displays impatience with our laws, we must put the Constitution above party and personal biases, above all else.
The article seems to want to make the right point about freedom, but it is woefully misguided. Stop whining? There is plenty to improve–and prevent–in this country. The author admits it in his very next sentences. Individual freedom is constantly under threat, and democracy is a very poor method of addressing that problem.
The Bill of Rights has some great words about protecting freedom. But they are still just words. Without a majority standing behind those words, a democracy could just as easily erase them. And in many ways, the protections of the Bill of Rights have been erased.
Freedom is actually even simpler than democracy or the Constitution. Freedom is just the recognition of the most basic building block of society: don’t hurt others.
That is the same as the Golden Rule and the basis of Common Law. And this one basic rule can govern the entirety of human interactions.
That doesn’t mean the lines will always be clear. There will still be disputes about how much defensive force was justified, and what exactly constitutes a violation of another’s rights. There will be differences between regions and people about how serious certain crimes are. And always we will need to be vigilant that the methods of resolving these disputes are fair.
But with tyranny, these issues are truly out of our control. We have no say. We are at the whims of the government.
Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. It always will be, no matter how free individuals can become.
With large authoritarian governments, you can be vigilant and still powerless. We also need to have individual power in order to act on our vigilance.
And despite rising despots and ever-expanding laws and regulations, it is actually easier than ever to live your life virtually as free as you want.
The first step is refusing to play the victim. No, your freedom is not outside of your control. Download The Daily Bell’s free guide to learn more.