The “soft tyranny” of which I speak has and is being played out right before our eyes and has been for as long as we have had “progressives” in our government. Anyone who believes in a government over the people and not of the people is in this camp…and there are many of them. This is not a Republican versus Democrat issue; it is an issue of statists and statolatry (a combination sometimes referred to as “progressivism”, Marxism or communism) versus independence and individual freedom.
There are three steps common to this tyrannical process:
- Pick an individual liberty to focus on, preferably one that can be sold as a “threat” to good societal order and demonize it
- Offer a “common sense” solution – restrict that liberty through force of law, regulation or executive fiat
- Selectively enforce that law along ideological or arbitrary guidelines
The “gun control” debate offers two examples of how this tyranny is created.
First, we have the demonization of the right to bear arms, a right explicitly protected by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution:
… the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Yet, look at any major newspaper or any news or cable network (except Fox News and the conservative blogworld) and you will see things like this:
“I say to you – forget the extremists. It’s simple — no one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer and too many people have died already,” Cuomo said…
“End the madness now. Pass safe, reasonable gun control in the State of New York. Make this state safer. Save lives. Set an example for the rest of the nation. Let them look at New York and say this is what you can do. This is what you should do,” Cuomo said.
Pick it and demonize it: Extremists. Nobody needs it. “Assault” rifle.Too many have died already. End the madness. The possession of guns is dangerous and immoral.
Restrict it via a “common sense” solution: Pass safe and reasonable laws. Save lives. Set an example.
Then you get things like this from Washington D.C., a city where the mere possession of a 30 round magazine is already a crime:
It’s been more than a week since police in Washington, D.C., opened an investigation into NBC’s David Gregory’s possession of a “high-capacity magazine” that’s prohibited in the District on on national TV. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier’s spokesman refused Monday to respond to whether Mr. Gregory had even been interviewed yet. This is a rather curious departure for a city that has been ruthless in enforcing this particular firearms statute against law-abiding citizens who made an honest mistake.
In July, The Washington Times highlighted the plight of former Army Spc. Adam Meckler, who was arrested and jailed for having a few long-forgotten rounds of ordinary ammunition — but no gun — in his backpack in Washington. Mr. Meckler, a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, says he had no idea it was illegal to possess unregistered ammunition in the city. He violated the same section of D.C. law as Mr. Gregory allegedly did, and both offenses carry the same maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.
Selectively enforce that law along ideological or arbitrary guidelines: Charge an Iraq vet but not a news “personality”.
Folks, it is happening right before our eyes. This has to be stopped. When Republicans are in power, and try to strictly enforce laws, we get called heartless and evil – so eventually our elected officials do the DC two-step and dance to the same tyrannical tune. We simply cannot agree to it just because it fits our ideological predisposition if we actually value and support the Constitution, limited government and individual freedoms.
I hate to keep repeating this – but Ayn Rand illustrated this perfectly in Atlas Shrugged, something that we have noted several times in the past. Again, I will remind the readers of an exchange in that book between Hank Rearden and Dr. Floyd Ferris, Ph.D., the Associate Director of the State Science Institute.
Hank Rearden is the sole owner of Rearden Steel. He had developed a new steel formulation – Rearden Metal – that was cheaper, lighter and stronger than any other formulation. Needless to say, the market saw the value of this material and his business was growing by leaps and bounds. The government didn’t like it and created legislation to “protect” ore producers and other steel companies from Rearden’s success. They required by law that all steel producers had to receive an equal share of ore, thereby restricting Rearden’s ability to produce.
Rearden would not accept that restriction and broke the law by cutting deals with less reputable mine owners to keep supplying him the ore to meet his demand – eventually, one of the mine owners needed a governmental favor and in payment for that favor, turned Rearden in, leading to this exchange between Rearden and Dr. Ferris:
“Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against—then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it.
You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of law-breakers—and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”
For me, the most relevant points in this exchange are these:
- There is no way to rule innocent men.
- Governments can declare so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws and they can pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted.
- Create a nation of law-breakers—and then you cash in on guilt.
- We’re after power and we mean it.
Again repeating another quote, the truth and wisdom of Alexis de Tocqueville:
If ever the free institutions of America are destroyed, that event may be attributed to the omnipotence of the majority, which may at some future time urge the minorities to desperation and oblige them to have recourse to physical force. Anarchy will then be the result, but it will have been brought about by despotism.
This is the reason that Jefferson said that government that governs best, governs least. He knew that the temptations of men to power over others through government will eventually turn to tyranny to control the populace. It was true in his time and it remains true today.
Everywhere you look in America today, there are two sorts of law: First, the sort the Ruling Class reserves to itself, to enforce or ignore at its preference. Second, the vast, Leviathan law enforced in toto against all the rest of us, a monstrous edifice that makes us all criminals at the whim of the enforcers.