Securing Liberty

When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Benjamin Franklin

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Martin Niemöller


Liberty and freedom aren’t new or recent inventions.

It’s long been seen as necessary to limit the powers of government so that they don’t interfere with the enjoyment of life. Our exercise of liberty to choose what we think, say and do, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the fair enjoyment of the lives of others.

One historically inevitable development is that all governments try to make themselves more important; more powerful.  They will, if necessary, invent threats to us, internal and external, and then pretend that sacrificing some of our freedoms will somehow make those threats go away.

Most of the time, those threats are smoke and mirrors. An illusion. A fabrication. Look very carefully. Pull back the curtain. See who’s pulling the strings and who has what to gain.

And if there’s not a threat, there’s a promise of a far, far better world.

Recently, I read the following at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Most Europeans know that Goethe was the greatest of all German writers and poets and one of the giants of world literature. Less well known is that he was also a thorough-going classical liberal, arguing that free trade and free cultural exchange are the keys to authentic national welfare and peaceful international integration. He also argued and fought against the expansion, centralization, and unification of government on grounds that these trends can only hinder prosperity and true cultural development.


Ordnung muss sein

The Germans like to say “Ordnung muss sein”. (There must be order). Of course that’s also been drilled into them for centuries. Perhaps in the hope of quashing any desires to usurp those whose order prevails.

The Germans have a rich tradition of rebellion. Going back to the middle ages before there was even a Germany. Evidence of that is in the 13th century folksong “Die Gedanken sind frei” (Thoughts are free.) up to the Reformation kindled by Martin Luther. Prior to that, there was the year 9 AD century Arminius (Germanised as “Hermann”); a Teuton tribesman who’d been trained by the Romans; who organized a rebellion against Rome in his homelands … but that didn’t end well for either Rome, nor Arminius.

By the 18th century, the idea of a “Germany” had become popular and that required a lot of rules and for things to be conducted in a orderly manner. But for that to happen, the people had to believe in “order”; above their own desires. (Bavarians still aren’t too happy about the whole arrangement, but they’re only a syllable removed from the real Bohemians.)

Anyway; the reason for the tangent is to illustrate how the behaviour of people can be changed by persistent processes of “convincing” them to make sacrifices for the greater good. To turn a blind eye to maladministration, if it’s in the interests of preserving order.

Order is of course an intangible concept that is only useful for administration by those who want to determine how other people run their lives. The only sometimes-acceptable “order” for the general population is the Rule of Law where the body of Law is ultimately determined by the people to whom it applies.

On the other hand, liberty and freedom are things that one misses immediately upon their loss. It seems to me that the Battle of Athens was a result of the people feeling such a loss because they were no longer able to determine who was holding office and how the law was being applied. Both democracy and the rule of law, the only order which they accepted, had been taken away.