And no freedom, either.
In the West, the morality of the state has been determined by how much or how little it respects the basic rights of its citizens. During the Cold War this was a critical measure used to justify foreign policy. The American government claimed it was within its rights to overthrow South American governments that got too chummy with the Soviets because they would endanger the rights of their people. On the other hand, they would back anti-communist dictators because they were better than communists.
There was a lot of lying and dissembling on this issue, but the principle was important to Western governments, so they made a big show of it. In America, for example, this meant protecting property rights from the excesses of the state. As a practical matter, it meant the state had to prove they had good reason for violating your rights before the court would permit them from doing it. They had to get a warrant, for example, before tapping your phone or riffling through your papers.
Government is always a blunt instrument and men are not angels so to avoid office holders and bureaucrats from abusing the rights of the people they first had to demonstrate there was a compelling government interest in declaring your backyard a wetland or banning a certain activity. Put another away, it was the duty of the government to make the affirmative argument. Citizens did not have to justify their rights to exercise them. They were assumed.
Property is a useful metric in this regard because it is simple and the economic basis of Western society. Even in feudalism property rights were respected, because ownership was what made the system possible. The right to speak out or organize are up for debate to some degree, but the right to own the fruits of your labor is the starting point for social organization in the West. It is what makes communism alien and why it has always been the domain of outsiders and subversives.
The general violation of property rights is now the norm. The tech oligarchs, for example, strongly oppose private property. If they don’t like what you are saying on your website, they will steal your domain name. They will collude to limit your ability to hold a job or have a bank account. What used to be a sacred right of all people is now up for debate with an unelected oligarchical class as the judge and jury. What is yours is theirs and what is theirs is theirs and they own everything.
Today, the people in charge have no respect for the law or the concept of law, so their agents just do as they please. In fact, they take pride in trampling the rights of the people, because it pleases their masters. The goons prosecuting the January 6th protestors, for example, take a sadistic pleasure in the torment they are inflicting on the people caught in their trap. Their intentional cruelty has become a positional good, something that elevates them in the eyes of the oligarchs.
The Declaration of Independence is a remarkable document that is mostly remembered for the opening lines. Even though those lines have been abused by the very tyrants that now rule over us, the document is a remarkable expression of Western thought and Anglo-Saxon morality. After the long bill of indictment against the king, a list familiar today, there is this line. “A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
The beauty of that line is that it qualifies the moral depravity of the tyrant by juxtaposing it against the nature of a free people. A people who sit idly by as their rulers trample their ancient rights are getting the government they deserve. A free people, in contrast, must hold their prince to the highest moral standard. It is immoral for them to do otherwise, as it violates that which defines them as free people. Every tyrant issues his own death warrant to the free people he seeks to oppress.
True, dat. Or, as some fool or other recently put it: The bane of all tyrants, sooner or later, is tyranny itself. The thing is, it’s usually up to We The People to see to it that the tyrant’s self-issued death warrant is executed.