One of our greatest tragedies in today’s Western societies is that we think we are free when in fact we aren’t. Indeed, our era is witness to a gradual decline in personal liberties, as shocking as it is subtle, which has run parallel to the worrying rise in political power.
Power is the ability of an individual to impose his will on others through a system of rewards and punishments to which others are vulnerable. The powerful does not feel constrained by the rules that regulate the behavior of others, but redefines good and evil at his convenience and tends to deify himself. To command and to be obeyed becomes a drug that demands ever greater doses – that’s why all power naturally tends to grow and to abuse. In fact, the power-junkie is uncomfortable with any rule that might limit him, since the summum of power is total arbitrariness.
Throughout history, societies’ efforts to protect themselves from the abuse of political power have been marked by more failures than successes. As John Stuart Mill explains in his classic On Freedom, the concern for the abuse of political power generated the need to establish limits to “what a ruler was allowed to do,” which took the form of “the recognition of certain freedoms or political rights that could not be transgressed” and, later, “the establishment of constitutional impediments”. The Courts of León in 1188 in Spain (the first parliamentary system in history) or the Magna Carta in England in 1215 are paradigmatic examples, as are some modern constitutions (especially that of the USA), designed to place limits on the action of government (ordinary legislation guarantees the right of everyone over the individual, while the Constitution guarantees the rights of the individual over everyone). Historically, two additional limits constrained political power. The first was the absence of conscription (the coercive obligation of every citizen to enlist in the army in the event of war under penalty of imprisonment or death), which caused the armies prior to the French Revolution to be small (because they were expensive) and, therefore, wars hardly affected daily life away from the front lines. The second limit to the abuse of power was the very low level of taxation, then so difficult and unpopular to collect. To give you an idea, in absolute monarchies it is estimated that public spending did not exceed 5 or 7% of GDP, and even in 1913 (just a century ago!) public spending was 7% of GDP in the US, less than 10% in the Nordic countries and 12% in England. Today, public spending in the EU is close to 50% of GDP, a symbol of the worrying and overwhelming rise in taxes and the weight of political power. Always bear in mind that freedom and political power are antagonistic.
The threat of power abuse stemming from an individual’s tyranny led to the belief that if the people themselves elected their representatives, the power of the rulers would never turn against them. Then, unfortunately, “some began to think that too much importance had been attached to the idea of limiting power itself”. Hence, a naïve interpretation of democracy has allowed power holders to begin to dismantle any hint of limitation in the exercise of their own power, multiplying the rules (and constantly changing them) with no other requirement than a meager parliamentary majority, and endowing them with an increasingly intrusive, profuse and confusing content (to facilitate arbitrary application). Likewise, the political power has decided to control the judiciary and in particular the courts in charge of interpreting the Constitution, so that the last line of defense of the individual against an unjust law is left defenseless (hence the bitter battle for controlling the US Supreme Court and the Democrats’ unheard-of unscrupulous tactics). Finally, power holders have made taxes skyrocket (and they continue to rise, despite the fact that the average Spanish worker, for example, already pays 65% of his salary in direct and indirect taxes, taken together) while the tentacles of power conquer ever deeper realms of the privacy of the individual and the family. The mole that has introduced this brutal increase in political power, unparalleled in history (with the exception of communist totalitarianisms), has been the astutely named Welfare State, a clever alibi invented by power holders to morally justify the progressive serfdom to which they subject the citizen.
Weirdly enough, freedom around the world is more and more defined just by one measure, that is, the fact of being able to put one vote (lost among other 24 million votes, in the case of Spain) in an urn every four years. But who cares about all the other, much more relevant, civil rights? Freedom is being able to vote, but it is way more than that. However, democratic power holders have distracted us with political freedom while taking away ever higher degrees of personal freedom – while we turned a blind eye to the fragility of democracies, which soon move away from the utopian “government of the people”. Indeed, as Mill points out, “the people who exercise power are not the same people over whom it is exercised”. As stated by the Iron Law of Oligarchy, regardless of the apparent form of government (republic, monarchy, democracy, dictatorship…), all political power presupposes the power of a very small group over the vast majority of the population. Secondly, “the people can aspire to the oppression of a part of it,” that is, democracy may become the tyranny of the majority over the minority (made up of Jews, blacks, the rich…), a sort of mob rule, as the US Founding Fathers feared. For this reason, Mill recommended keeping democracy constrained by the same controls that prevent the abuse of power typical of the tyranny of an individual.
But the oppression of political power is not the only form of tyranny. As Mill described in 1861 in a remarkably prophetic paragraph, society itself can also exercise the subtlest of tyrannies, “a social tyranny more formidable than that of many models of political oppression, which affects much more details of daily life to the extent of enslaving the soul (…), that is, the tyranny of dominant opinions and feelings that seeks to impose by force its own ideas and practices as a standard of conduct to mold characters according to the preconceived model”. Today, the oppression of political correctness, decided by the global power agenda of noisy, powerful and organized minorities, is trying to stifle the once sacred freedoms of conscience, opinion and expression in an era in which free and truthful journalism is all but gone and in which social networks, the most dangerous societal control weapon ever invented, impose their slogans and release their hordes to lynch the dissident. New totalitarian ideologies want to dominate as new state religions of mandatory belief. Such is the case of the absurd and manifestly unscientific gender ideology (that would just be another stupid fad were it not for its goal of deceiving the youngest in order to “enslave their soul”), or of the ideology of the also unscientific and superstitious climate catastrophism. Not content with controlling our actions and appropriating our money through abusive taxation, the tyrants of today’s democracies seek to control what we believe and what we feel (and particularly, what we fear!).
Possibly never in history has there been such a brutal attempt to steal man’s freedom, and never has man been so blind, so sheepish and so helpless before those who openly wish to enslave him. In fact, we are being ruthlessly pushed towards a society of slaves of the State and of political correctness. Will we break the chains, now that we are still in time, or will we allow our children to be born already slaves wondering why their parents conformed and chose not to fight for their freedom?
Fernando del Pino Calvo-Sotelo