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The mechanism by which the Total State is being built

I have argued in the past that violent repression, gulags and mass murder are not in fact the defining characteristics for a state to be ‘totalitarian’. The defining characteristic is, as the word itself suggests, that control over people be pervasive and total… mass murderousness, goose-stepping troops, waving red (or whatever) flags are merely an incidental consequence and which can be better described in other ways (such as ‘tyrannical, murderous, dictatorial, brutal, national socialist, communist, islamo-fascist etc.).

As a result my view is that we in the west are already well on the way to a new form of post-modern totalitarian state (what Guy Herbert calls ‘soft fascism’) in which behaviour and opinions which are disapproved of by the political class are pathologised and then regulated by violence backed laws “for your own good” or “for the children” or “for the environment”.

And so we have force backed regulations setting out the minutia of a parent’s interactions with their own children, vast reams on what sort of speech or expression is and is not permitted in a workplace, rules forbidding a property owner allowing consenting adults from smoking in a place of business, what sorts of insults are permitted, rules covering almost every significant aspect of how you can or cannot build or modify your own house on your own property, moves to restrict what sort of foods can be sold, what kind of light bulbs are allowed, and the latest one, a move to require smokers to have a ‘licence to smoke‘. Every aspect of self-ownership is being removed and non-compliance criminalised and/or pathologised.

The person suggesting this latest delightfully totalitarian brick-in-the-wall, Professor Julian le Grand, says some very telling things:

“There is nothing evil about smoking as long as you are just hurting yourself. We have to try to help people stop smoking without encroaching on people’s liberties.” […] But he said requiring them to fill in forms, have photographs taken in order to apply for a permit would prove a more effective deterrent.

No doubt Julian le Grand thinks that makes him seem reasonable and sensible, because he does not want people to have their civil liberties encroached upon… and he then proceeds to describe how he would like to do precisely that in order to ‘deter’ you from doing what you really wanted to do.

The reason for this seemingly strange approach is simple to understand because to the totalitarian, something does not have to be ‘evil’ to warrant the use of force to discourage it, you merely have to have (a) coercive power (b) disapprove of another person’s choices regarding their own life. That is all the justification you need, simply the fact other people are not living the way you think they should, in your presumably infinite wisdom.

Notice how coercive actions imposed by state power are described as ‘helping’. We will force you to pay more, force you to go to a doctor…but we will throw your arse in gaol if you dare try to circumvent our unasked for ‘help’.

The ‘paleo-totalitarian’ simply uses force if you disobey, no messing about… however the post-modern totalitarian prefers to add a morally insulating intermediate step that allows his kind to talk about ‘civil liberties': first he gives you a nice regulation to obey and only if you dare not comply with that do the Boys in Blue get sent to show you the error of your ways.

I can think of quite a few ways I would rather like to ‘help’ Julian le Grand and his ilk in order to mitigate their pathological need to interfere with other people’s lives. All for the greater good of society, you understand.

146 comments to The mechanism by which the Total State is being built

  • and if they introduce a “smoking permit” without a shot being fired , then you know darn well that its going to be an “alchohol permit” next. then “fatty food permit”. then a “car driving permit”…. this toleration of fascism from our political elite absolutely astounds me. its as if they have completely forgotten exactly WHY we fought WW2.

    on a different note , are any Samizdata folks going to the pro-referendum rally this Saturday?
    http://www.proreferendumrally.co.uk/

    even if only 1 man and his dog turns up , its a good excuse to have a few pints anyway.

  • Eloquently getting to the nub of the matter, as ever.

    Part of the problem is that “normal” people (i.e. people who don’t think about politics and philosophy and don’t read Samizdata and assume that the BBC is the last word in what’s going on in the world and how to interpret it)…

    …*don’t see the link between form filling and force*.

    They think that everybody agreeing with each other about what is best for everybody (democracy) is the pinnacle of civilisation, and a bit of harmless form filling or or painless paying of fines is perfectly reasonable.

    Trying to convince them otherwise without coming across as a nut-job is almost impossible.

    “Normal” people don’t care about principles and just want an easy life. That’s why there won’t be any shots fired over this sort of thing and why the slow chipping away of liberties is such an effective strategy for totalitarians.

  • Indeed Rob, which is why it is important to keep pointing out the truth and not just conceded the ‘meta-context’. We have to keep making the links they do not want made and not just fight them on ground of their choosing (which is why I think democratic politics is usually, though not always, a waste of time).

    In all likelihood when Julian le Grand looks at himself in the mirror when shaving in the morning, he does not say to himself “So, what are we going to do to bring about The Total State today?”… yet I would venture that really is the consequence of most of the things he believes to be right and proper. It is also why trying to convince him of that is probably also a waste of time.

    I see my job as convincing other people to start seeing the well meaning advocate of tyranny as the advocate of a totalitarian dystopia that they really are.

    It ain’t easy but that is no excuse not to try.

  • guy herbert

    The distinguishing feature of the new totalitarianism is that though the final resort might be to the violence of the state, it is led by sentiment and by PR. The principal technique is that identified by Orwell, advocated in slightly different form by Gramsci, and dissected in action in New Britain in Oborne’s The Rise of Political Lying: the agents of power overwrite public discourse with stories that conduct both sides of their desired argument. This makes opposition in any form other than the pre-fabricated, pre-defeated, one, literally unthinkable for most people.

    Mick Hume covers a straightforward example in his latest Times column:

    Two years ago the civil liberties lobby claimed victory when MPs rejected Mr Blair’s plans for 90-day detention and voted “only” for a 28-day limit. Now the Government’s opponents talk as if defending 28 days is the height of civil liberties in Britain. But if the possibility of being locked up for four weeks without charge is the definition of a free society, then the right of habeas corpus is already a corpse.

  • chip

    Actually, I agree with the professor. I would propose too that:

    “There is nothing evil about academics talking nonsense as long as you are just hurting yourself. We have to try to help academics stop talking nonsense without encroaching on people’s liberties.” … Requiring them to fill in forms, have photographs taken in order to apply for a permit would prove a more effective deterrent.”

  • Perry, I agree about trying to convince people. It can be frustrating, hence my venting. FWIW, Samizdata helps me do that by providing good arguments and ideas I can use — no doubt it does the same for people with real influence.

    Guy’s point about defining the boundaries of the debate is also important. Even if my opponent thinks I am a nut-job, he at least becomes aware of a whole new area he hadn’t considered before, the middle ground is somewhere new, and his meta-context is changed.

    Perhaps the “normal” person won’t be convinced until the MSM’s meta-context is changed. Still, I am always on the lookout for new debating strategies to help with my small part.

  • Brad

    I agree 100%.

    But (and I know I may be in for a whipping) how does the fact that our own totalitarians are the same people who are prosecuting the “war on terror” jibe?

    I’ve been down this path once or twice before (when right libertarians are accused of being moonbats or mountain men). I always conceded that radical Islam is a problem. I’ve never said different. But it is also true that the people who have mounted an amorphous “war on terror” are the same group of people who endlessly chip away at freedom and liberty themselves. Is this merely a deal with fallen archangels to beat the devil, and then to deal with them in due time? If so, it isn’t working very well because it is these Statists who are aiming at maintaining more of a status quo with the Eastern mentality more than reckoning with it. All the while entrenching themselves more and more into our lives.

    The issue merely boils down to an “expectations” table with probabilities as to outcome. Is the magnitude of the threat times its probability higher or lower? Is radical Islam and its threat times its ability to actually do something about it worse than the threat Statists offer times its near certainty? Perhaps the only real difference is that some right libertarians see their own Statist totalitarians who are in control are a worse threat than radical Islam (and that’s not to diminish that threat at all, it merely shows just how much of a threat our Statists are). Perhaps the average Samizdatista sees it the other way around. I can accept that. But it does seem a bit schismatic to see umpteen articles about how bad the State is, and growing daily (and will only continue to do so as the majority of the unfunded defined benefits comes due) and then see articles on how wonderfully it seems to be working when it starts up a “War or Terror”.

  • I am most certain that the smoking permit will hang off the ID card infrastructure along with a drinking permit, which will tot up your “units”. Imagine at a bar you might have to say “fancy a pint ‘on me card'” and you can imagine the death of the great British “round” – this is just what the self-loathers want, I am sure.

    Le Grand is surveying the ground for more fence posts.

    …and we know about plots against milk and food.

    Each time they try to dig a hole for one of these damn things we need to chase them off our land.

    They need to be hounded. They need to be ridiculed.

  • the other rob

    Some weeks ago, in the comments on a home defence story, poster Rob asked me why, with a Texan wife, I was staying around to put up with all of this.

    This latest sinister insanity makes me really, really relieved that my wife has finally agreed to move to Texas.

    Just think: Lower taxes; permitted, nay applauded, when you shoot some little scrote who breaks into your house; and you can enjoy a smoke after a meal without having to leave the restaurant. Not to mention the opportunity to build a business without having it all stolen.

    I’m sorry, Messrs Brown, Cameron and your ilk. You’ve fscked up this country so badly that this (highly productive) citizen is getting out while the gettings good. I’ll be putting my affairs in order now.

    Incidentally, I’m on vacation in TX right now. The house prices are remarkable. This article has an interesting theory as to why there’s such a disparity between red and blue states.

  • Indeed, chip, indeed!

    But (and I know I may be in for a whipping) how does the fact that our own totalitarians are the same people who are prosecuting the “war on terror” jibe?

    Brad, it is a perfectly reasonable question. I regard the use of force to keep the barbarians from the gate as one of the few legitimate roles of the state (i.e. killing tyrants and their minions). Because the state does a whole lot of other stuff I disapprove of does not change that.

  • Nick M

    I loved the worker’s hour of physical jerks too. Very 1984.

  • guy herbert

    Brad,

    But (and I know I may be in for a whipping) how does the fact that our own totalitarians are the same people who are prosecuting the “war on terror” jibe?

    While Perry is right about keeping the barbarians frpom the gate, my answer is slightly different: The barbarians are out there, but they are nowhere near the gate. (An eye on the barbarian Middle Kingdom would not go amiss, though.) “The War of Terror” is a terribly convenient pretext to dispense with the institutional protections of our liberty, and expand the security state. It is so much more convenient and effective for that purpose than the War on Drugs, which was where the security agencies began building their empires after the Wall came down.

  • Gabriel

    Each and every piece of intrusion by the state by necessity will piss off a lot of people who are by no means consistently libertarian, either because it hits their pocket or infringes upon their personal enjoyment. The only way to defeat the Total State is through maximum mobilisation of such people at every step of the way. It would be hard work, but if consistently carried out, the state can probably be defeated about 50% of the time and, hell, people involved in such campaigns might pick up some Libertarianism while they’re at it.
    Why didn’t smokers march on parliament? Where are the mass letter campaings of people who like to leave their heating on when they’re not in so they can have a pleasant return from work? Why have people who like McDonalds and don’t want to pay an extra tax on their Big Mac not formed an electoral pressure group?

    Speaking for myself, strictly speaking I think anti war loons should be allowed to protest in front of the House of Commons and that 28 days is wrong, but I’m not going to get out of bed about it. Smoking, though, and the right to fill my body with crap without paying extra tax – I’m there!

  • Perry,
    I somewhat disagree with you on the use of the term totalitarian. Totalitarians want to control your thoughts not only your behavior.
    For example: in the middle ages – if you expressed some doubts about catholic dogma they burned you at the stake. In the USSR – if you expressed any unorthodox view they sent you to the Gulag, in Siberia for 10 years. They actually sent there dozens of million people, the majority of which perished there.
    So, if Britain or the EU have some totalitarian tendencies – on the scale between soviet (or nazi) totalitarianism and liberalism – they are far more liberal than totalitarian.
    I don’t dispute the fact that the mentioned proposal is terribly silly and annoying. But, for god’s sake, how many people are currently held in the British Gulag ? How many are held in the Tower of London for having dared smoke ?
    A sense of proportion is lacking here.

    As to Brad – I think that comparing the flaws of our governments to those of the Islamic Barbarians is insane. Just insane. Nuts.

  • permanentexpat

    The barbarians are out there, but they are nowhere near the gate.

    I have the impression they are already inside it.

  • Jacob: fine, but are we supposed to sit and wait until it gets that bad?

  • BTW, Jacob: it is physically impossible to control someone’s thoughts. What can be controlled, and was, at the times and places you have mentioned, is speech. It is also being controlled, although to a much lesser extent, by the modern Western state.

  • RebeccaH

    The freedom to smoke is one of those areas where I have to examine my ideals.

    I’ve had an aversion to smoking almost my entire life. My whole family smoked, but I never took it up, and in fact, could not. It’s a physical issue, and a personal phobia. Throughout my childhood, adolescence, and working adult life, I was subjected to an atmosphere filled with tobacco smoke, until the mid-80s when smoking began to be banned inside buildings in more and more places. Eventually, smoking was banned nearly everywhere, a reality I welcomed, even while I recognized that there were people for whom this was a hardship, because they were addicted to a legal substance.

    I have great sympathy for people who are smokers. Most of the people I’ve loved in life were smokers. The most devastating thing I can say about them now is that they are all dead before their time (ages 50, 64, 58, and that’s just three of them).

    You can argue your stupid politics all you like. Reality bites.

  • But, for god’s sake, how many people are currently held in the British Gulag ? How many are held in the Tower of London for having dared smoke ?

    You do not actually seem to be reading what I am writing, Jacob. I have explicitly said, in two articles now, that that I do NOT regard putting people in gulags as what defines a totalitarian state, so asking how many people are in British gulags is moderately perverse.

    And if you smoke where the law says you cannot, you can be fined and if you refuse to pay, you will be thrown in gaol, so the threat to gaol smokers is not an abstract one.

    I understand you think brutality, rather than pervasive control, is what defines totalitarianism. And I have disagreed for the reasons I have stated.

  • Nick M

    Alisa,
    You can control people’s thoughts. It’s called indoctrination. Even just controlling speech can result in controlling thought. Isn’t that the whole PC project’s aim?

    permanent,
    There are always barbarians within the gates.

  • You can argue your stupid politics all you like. Reality bites.

    I don’t smoke. Well, I will puff on a cigar maybe once or twice a year but I am not really a smoker. Moreover I could not care less if some smoker goes through hell because they are hooked on nicotine. Smoking was their choice and that is a consequence of their choice. With the freedom to live your life comes the consequences of your choices.

    Your relatives died because they smoked. And you are sad about that. And of course I don’t really care all that much because I never knew them. For all I know they enjoyed smoking and so maybe did not think missing the drooling years was such a terrible thing when they got the Big C. I have no way of knowing because although you said it made you sad, you did not mention what they thought at various points in their lives.

    So what do you think I am supposed to ‘take away’ from that? You speak of reality. As in “smoking kills people”. Sure. So does drinking and over eating and skiing and mountain biking, which presumably you also wish to ban because those avoidable deaths are also “reality”. Or is only smoking to be banned because *you* find it icky? You do not do not give me enough information to know.

    I presume you feel using force to make people live the way you think is better, or at least more convenient for you, is okay (such as banning smoking in restaurants because you do not like it).

    Thus I also presume as you like the idea of majority being able to ban anything they find distasteful or find unacceptably dangerous when other people do them… so if say, homosexuality or Judeism or wearing black, were banned, because the majority one day decides that is better or it just too icky, you would have no problem with the principle of that even if you disagreed with the specific ban, because that is what you think life and politics is all about I guess. Is that correct? Again, you need to actually explain what you think as I am only deducing this from what you have said.

    I assume you feel that your dead relatives should not have been allowed, by law, to smoke…and if you do not think that, what exactly is your point?

    And what gives you the right to decide that for them? What claim of ownership do you have on the living bodies of others that should supersede their own wishes? And as for smoking on the private property of, say, a restaurant owner, what gives you the right to use force (i.e. the law) to prevent other people consensually doing something just because you hate it?

    My view, my ‘stupid politics’ (which is actually not ‘politics’ at all) is that if you do not like smoking, feel free to stay the hell out of my (hypothetical) restaurant if I (as the owner) want to allow it. Who the hell are you to interfere in other people’s lives?

  • John K

    Surely the problem with smoking is that you don’t just do it to yourself. When you smoke, you inflict your smoke on everyone else around you. I don’t actually buy the argument that passive smoking is a major danger to anyone (though do you have the right to inflict even a minor danger of cancer on another person?), but it has to be said that by smoking in public you are imposing your pollution on other people. I would not have any problem with people taking snuff in public, or even snorting coke, because they are not imposing their choice on other people. But does your right to smoke include the right to make someone else breathe your smoke?

  • The main result of dirigiste legislation is that crime increases.The smoking license for example,quite simply a vast illicit trade will develop,as it has through higher taxes on cigarettes ,this trade is the foundation of many large criminal enterprises.Bloody gang wars are fought over profitable turfs.
    Club doormen control the drugs,viz the Noonans in Manchester,punters believe the regulations have no sane legitimacy,so everything becomes criminalised,viz the former Soviet Union.
    The vast revenues generated by crime draw in the politicians,most of whom have a price,eventually the entire political class becomes corrupt and the country is finished.

  • RAB

    Rebecca and John K,
    We have done this quite thoroughly once or twice before.

    http://www.samizdata.net/mt/suckitspammers.cgi?entry_id=10481

  • John K, but a restaurant or private club is not a *public place*, such as a road or state owned park, it is a place that people do business, or not, with the owner of that property.

    If you do not like the fact a restaurant allows smoking, no one is forcing you to eat or work there. If you go into a room filled with smokers, you are choosing to accept the risk.

  • CFM

    John K, I have an extreme allergic reaction to 80% or so of the cosmetics on the market. If you wear after-shave, or your wife (?) wears perfume, or if either of you uses certain scented soaps, you are having a significant impact on me. Thus, I’ll grant your position some (minimal) credibility if you first agree to stop polluting my air with your vile agents of chemical warfare.

    To live is to impact your environment. Sometimes to the annoyance of others. Too bad isn’t it?

  • DocBud

    Alcohol permits will have one benefit, all the teetotallers, mormons and JWs who live on the fringes of society, unloved and unwanted, will suddenly find themselves in huge demand as companions on a night out, and they can drive you home.

  • Midwesterner

    As long as you are specifying ‘your’ air and environment and not mine. I do not allow either tobacco smoke or air fresheners in my house or car. But back in the day, when I smoked a pipe, it was always with the permission of the property/business owner. And if I was in a ‘public’* place, I extinguished it immediately if anybody commented anything but pleasure with the smoke. A surprising number of people would deliberately sit where they could smell the smoke, but that did not mean I could compel people who didn’t want smoke to inhale it.

    *The validity of ‘public’ property is a whole debate in itself. For decision making purposes, I consider the government rules to be those of the owners/taxpayers. Rejecting the idea of ‘publicly’ owned parks etc, does not entitle me to attack others who use them while I am using them.

  • nick g.

    What we need is an argument that can be applied to all topics, so as to win the case for libertarianism. We might be onto something if we can restate physical laws into our own terms.
    ‘For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’ becomes the maxim, ‘For every swapped value there should be an equal and opposite value’. Occam’s Razor, ‘Do not multiply entities needlessly’, could become, ‘Do not multiply bureaucracies mindlessly’. ‘E=MC squared’ could be ‘F=MC,C (Freedom = Money x perCent untaxed, see?)

    Can anyone else think of a way to simplify our message so it permeates the culture?

  • Andy

    Government doesn’t work.

  • Pascal

    The problem with people like John K, is that they are thinking now in terms of rights, as in “its my right not to inhale cigarette smoke in a restaurant/bar/whatever”.

    Which not only is not a right at all, but actually removes someone else’s actual right to smoke something legally purchased.

    It seems to me this confusion is wilfully created and maintained by the totalitarians.

  • not the Alex above

    My girlfriend said she was looking forward to the smoking ban – no longer as she spends half the night waiting for me to come back inside after having a fag! haha, i told her it was a rubbish idea

  • John K

    John K, but a restaurant or private club is not a *public place*, such as a road or state owned park, it is a place that people do business, or not, with the owner of that property.

    If you do not like the fact a restaurant allows smoking, no one is forcing you to eat or work there. If you go into a room filled with smokers, you are choosing to accept the risk.

    I think most people here are not anarchists, therefore we accept that there should be some laws we all obey.

    A restaurant is indeed a private place of business. However, the fact that it is private property does not mean the owner has the right to serve condemned meat. He does not have the absolute freedom to do as he wishes, even in his own property.

    I hope we would all accept that workers in dangerous industries have a right to be provided with the appropriate protective equipment; their employer owes them a “duty of care”. We don’t accept the argument that no-one is forced to work down a mine or in a foundry, and if you do not want to be put at risk by the employer’s disregard of safety, then he can always find some Poles willing to put up with it.

  • MarkE

    I have never smoked and find the smell of cigarette smoke objectionable, but I never had any problem in avoiding the smell until the recent ban. I could easily find restaurants that banned smoking (the owner was free to impose whatever rules he wanted in his own premeses, and I was free to enter, or not). Now however it is far harder to avoid the smell as smokers are forced out onto the street. I can avoid smoking pubs and restaurants, but I can’t avoid having to walk along the street. If the ban were lfted the smokers would go back inside, I would eat and drink elsewhere and the streets would be clearer; everyone is happy, but the puritans couldn’t handle that.

  • MarkS

    Once upon a time, when I was a local councillor, I attended a course run at Bristol University’s School of Advanced Urban Studies. The lecturer was one Julian Le Grand. He thought he was amongst friends as most of the councillors were Labour place men. I asked him if he ever allowed his political views to colour the outcome of his research. “Of course I do!” was his disarmingly frank reply. Sadly, academia is stuffed to the gunwales with politically motivated types (as is journalism) who are able to confuse truth and fiction if it means they can advance their cause. In other words, the end justifies the means. Most decent people still think that academics and politicians play fair… they are far too trusting. If things get much worse then we will have to take to the hills and respond with violence. That’s what the French Resistance did. I fail to see how this totalitarian nightmare is any different from Nazism.

  • A restaurant is indeed a private place of business. However, the fact that it is private property does not mean the owner has the right to serve condemned meat.

    Yes, because there is an implicit contract when you sell something to someone that it does not pose a hidden unadvertised danger. But a smoke filled room is nothing of the sort. Moreover, I would have little problem with requiring a ‘SMOKING ALLOWED HERE’ sign so that the easily frightened can manage their exposure to risk more effectively.

    He does not have the absolute freedom to do as he wishes, even in his own property.

    Sure, but that was not what I was saying. I do not think a property owner has the right to spread infectious disease from their property or fire guns in a way that sends bullets off their property or be a serious fire hazard that could cause an entire neighbourhood to burn down.

    Those things impose a clear and undeniable risk without the prior consent of the people put at risk because they cannot avoid the risk by just staying off the property … likewise there are implicit contracts that products preform as advertised, so you cannot poison people with bad food or sell them a car which will explode in normal use…But smoking does none of those things. You can avoid the smoke of others on private property by staying away. You avoid the real risk cigs pose by not smoking yourself and if you buy cigs, you are clearly consenting to the risk.

    Your mere convenience however does not justify the force backed abridging of the right of someone else to control what goes on on their property.

  • Watcher in the dark

    The Barbarians are at the gate, but they are busy measuring and examining in order to issue edicts, make laws and create guidelines on construction, use and safety.

  • Alisa,

    Jacob: fine, but are we supposed to sit and wait until it gets that bad?

    No, denouncing and bitching is fine. It’s just the hyperbole that I don’t like. Save the heavy verbal artillery for when it’s justified.

    Jacob: it is physically impossible to control someone’s thoughts. What can be controlled, and was, at the times and places you have mentioned, is speech.

    Have you read 1984 ? Was it just “free speech” that they suppressed ?
    Whether possible or impossible they DO try to control your thoughts.

  • MarkS,

    Sadly, academia is stuffed to the gunwales with politically motivated types (as is journalism) who are able to confuse truth and fiction if it means they can advance their cause.

    Exactly the same is true (alas!) also for some scientists – what’s called “climate scientists” .

  • Perry,

    I do NOT regard putting people in gulags as what defines a totalitarian state

    Then you have some private vocabulary. Here is a dictionary definition.
    But the argument is only about semantics. I agree with the substance of the poet.

  • guy herbert

    nick g.,

    What we need is an argument that can be applied to all topics, so as to win the case for libertarianism. We might be onto something if we can restate physical laws into our own terms.

    I regret to say that this is dead wrong. The reason libertarians lose so badly in the real world is most people don’t demand logical consistency and coherence. It is not that they don’t demand complete consistency. They don’t demand it at all.

    The techniques of subverting thought I mentioned above make lavish use of non sequitur. They substitute for following logically, following the crowd. Sequence is consequence. Repetition and use will make it so. Anecdotes are proof; counterexamples, however, are invalid… because they are produced by the opposed, and therefore are immoral.

  • Then you have some private vocabulary. Here is a dictionary definition.

    to·tal·i·tar·i·an /toÊŠËŒtælɪˈtɛəriÉ™n/ Pronunciation Key –
    1. of or pertaining to a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life.
    2. exercising control over the freedom, will, or thought of others; authoritarian; autocratic.

    Actually the definition you link to do not really undermine my thesis at all, particularly definition 2… but you also seem unable to see that my argument is that my definition of a state being totalitarian simply by virtue of it seeking total control over the lives of its subjects is actually a better one.

    The two main parties in the UK are becoming ideologically indistinguishable, so if that process continues we will have a de facto one party state in which you can vote for any party just as long as it stands for the same populist centrist statism. Belgium is an interesting example in which a major party that bucked the ‘consensus’, the Vlaams Bloc’, was simply made illegal when people refused to stop voting for it. And yet Belgium is still said to be a ‘democracy’.

    Likewise dissent is increasingly not tolerated and is, in the Chinese fashion, pathologied… wanting to travel by eco-unfriendly aircraft is described as an “addiction” to air travel. Eating foods frowned upon by the Islington set is also an “addiction” to fatty food. Daring to tell a racist or sexist joke is not just a social faux pas these days, it can get you up in front of the Beak, and you think they are not trying to control our thoughts? I beg to differ. We are not in a total state yet but that is sure as hell where some people want to take us and the direction we are headed.

  • MarkS

    “We are not in a total state yet but that is sure as hell where some people want to take us and the direction we are headed.”

    So what are we going to do about it?

  • R C Dean

    Surely the problem with smoking is that you don’t just do it to yourself. When you smoke, you inflict your smoke on everyone else around you.

    Because everything that you do as a member of a functioning society has some effect on other members of that society, this is a rather simple-minded recipe for Total Control. What it lacks is any idea that there should be some threshold impact on others that triggers State intervention. Minarchists tend to describe that threshold as “force (or the threat of force) or fraud”.

  • Here is what a totalitarian state looks like:

    Cuba’s rulers promised individual liberty. Instead they denied their citizens basic rights that the free world takes for granted. In Cuba it is illegal to change jobs, to change houses, to travel abroad, and to read books or magazines without the express approval of the state. It is against the law for more than three Cubans to meet without permission. Neighborhood Watch programs do not look out for criminals. Instead, they monitor their fellow citizens — keeping track of neighbors’ comings and goings, who visits them, and what radio stations they listen to. The sense of community and the simple trust between human beings is gone.

    A small example, taken from Bush’s sppech.
    Quoted on NRO

  • Yes, that is indeed totalitarian. However where you are part of the problem is that you cannot see that is not the only way. You are fighting yesterday’s war, not today’s.

    In Cuba it is illegal to change jobs

    Yes, but that is a characteristic of a sub-set of totalitarianism called communism, because under communism the state owns all the means of production. If every job you can change to is regulated by the state, are you really all that much freer? In a fascist system it is easier to change jobs between one state licensed regulated business to another state licensed regulated business, but said fascist state is still quite totalitarian, so what does that prove?

    There have already been various calls for ‘Neighborhood Environmental Watch’ programs so that you can denounce people for not recycling or using too much water or other politically disapproved of things. Join the dots and stop looking at the outward trappings. It is already damn near impossible to go a week without breaking some sort of law, which means we live at the sufferance of the state not enforcing all its laws. People can use the state to cripple a business because someone said a naughty joke and caused a ‘hostile work environment’. People are encourage to use torts to ‘punish’ politically incorrect behaviour and make all civil social interactions subject to politically approved formulae. It will not take a revolution to bring about a total state, just a continuation of current trends… but everything, and I do mean everything, will eventually be regulated, and that is also totalitarian.

  • but everything, and I do mean everything, will eventually be regulated, and that is also totalitarian.

    Well, that’s kinda, sorta totalitarian too… anyway – it’s not pleasant.

    But there’s a big, big difference between this and a state where people get murdered routinely. I somehow don’t feel really menaced by the Eurocrats and their ilk. They are a might nuisance, though.

  • But there’s a big, big difference between this and a state where people get murdered routinely.

    Only because, as I also keep writing but you never seem to read, we are not in a total state yet, we are just heading towards one.

    I somehow don’t feel really menaced by the Eurocrats and their ilk. They are a might nuisance, though.

    Oh I expect it could end up much like Nazi Germany in the long run (but please read on to see what I actually mean by that) in terms of most people’s actual experience. In Nazi Germany many, even most, could live a pretty normal life as long as you obeyed (which most did) and happened to be a member of the Herrenvolk (which most were).

    As the German grandmother of former girlfriend of mine once told me (and I am paraphrasing somewhat) “living under the Nazis in Germany was never difficult for me. I was not political but I could see that people had jobs and we felt that at last things were being run in our interests, not because Goebbels said so, but because that is what we thought.”

    She lived in a total state and but did not herself experience fear or terror (until the war came) or state repression, or even personally know anyone who did. Yet almost nothing she did was not controlled by the state, at least indirectly. As a member of the ‘Aryan’ majority who did not want the sort of things the state disapproved of, the Nazis all seemed perfectly reasonable and unobtrusive. She was also honest enough to admit to me that the only reason she and many others turned against Hitler towards the end of the war was not that he started it but that he lost it. So just as the Eurocrats do not seem very menacing to you, she never felt menaced by the Nazis either. It was the RAF & USAAF that scared her, not her own government.

    And she also said “Of course now I realise we understood nothing. Our whole view of the world was based on the lies we all told each other.”

    Totalitarian states… your experience may vary depending on who you are and what you want.

  • Nick: the point about thought control is well taken – I don’t remember what I was thinking:-)

    MarkE: have no fear, soon enough it will be illegal to smoke anywhere, including outdoors.

    As to a restaurant serving condemned meat: not a problem, as long as it is openly advertised. Whether such a business is commercially viable, is another matter. Consider a S&M club: people doing to each other things most people, including, I presume, some of the patrons of these clubs, would not tolerate in a normal environment. I mean, would you tolerate being tied up and spanked upon entering a regular nightclub?

  • Reminds me of Demolition Man!

  • BL

    Actually there is a mathematical equation for Nick G. It’s one of Larry Niven’s Laws:
    F * S = K;
    Where F = freedom, S=security, and K is a constant.

    Note: I don’t know if Niven intended it this way, but the F & S only work as totals w/in a society not averages. Thus a society run by goverment thugs who have high F & S, but with the average person having low F & S is still K. It’s an important distinction, with some interesting corrollaries pertaining to the “soft” totalitarianism being discussed.

  • RAB

    Alisa.
    I mean, would you tolerate being tied up and spanked upon entering a regular nightclub?

    You mean this isn’t normal?
    Where have these taxi drivers been taking me to then,
    when I jump in and asked to be taken for a slap up good time? :-)
    Perry is spot on again.

  • I, too, would shudder at the thought of infringing on anyone’s personal liberties. Yet dating, and particularly multiple sexual partners, is bound to lead to disease and cost for the State’s various health services. Therefore a dating license should be required, with name, photo, identifying number, sexual preference(s), sexual health status (to preserve privacy this can be on a scale from 1 to 5), and marital status. This way we can prevent many unnecessary social problems with a minimum of impact on personal privacy.

  • Kevin: you are obviously getting the hang of it. BTW, failure to follow the above procedure will result in being tied up and spanked. (RAB, we’ll have to think of a different deterrent for the likes of you).

  • barnabus

    …and what do we do about it? How do you go about halting the slide into totalitarianism? Isn’t the ultimate answer getting people to think for themselves?

  • tony

    deleted: if we have any job opportunities for new editors, I will be sure to let you know

  • …and what do we do about it? How do you go about halting the slide into totalitarianism?

    Because it does not look like the totalitarianism they have seen in the movies, the first thing to do is actually make enough people to realise that is what is actually happening.

  • rasqual

    See http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=5127&var_recherche=oldest+virtue for an article that hasn’t gone out of date at all. Totalism is right around the corner. All it takes to kill civilization is the death of civility.

  • Paul Marks

    Jacob.

    As you know, my fellow baldie who first used the term “totalitarian” in government (the government of Italy from the early 1920’s) did not actually take over everything (although he did make the state very big – in both size and scope) and nor did he shove vast numbers of people into concentration camps.

    Indeed there were even academics in Italy writing against statism during his rule. One could even argue that there were more academics in Italy arguing for a smaller government in the 1920’s and 1930’s than there are in modern Britain (even though the state in modern Britain is at least as big in total as was in Fascist Italy – less state owned companies, but more government spending).

    Indeed the general air of corruption and farce (with limited brutality, rather than mass terror) of modern Britain is not a million miles from Fascist Italy before World War II. Of course in some ways Britain is better (for example elections, at least in theory, offer the chance to change things). But it is not a vast distance away.

    What matter is not just how bad things are, but what the DIRECTION of policy is.

    Of course Britian is not as bad as many other places past and present – but it is getting worse.

    There is also the question of PHILOSOPHY.

    In theory Fascist Italy placed no limits on government. In practice there were all sorts of things the government did not do, but in there were no PRINCIPLES limiting it.

    Now that is too close for comfort.

    Even on things like “freedom of speech” the government does not expect a principle of limitation (the “Human Rights Act” and the Convention on which it is based are, of course, vague and sometimes counter productive).

    The government makes it clear that it will not accept racist publications, and it expresses an interest in suppressing publications that attack Islam (although this has yet to be done), and Christians are under attack because of their opinions on homosexual acts……..

    Now the specific cases are not the vital thing – the vital thing is that the government does not accept any principled limitations on what it can do.

    Self defence does not include the private ownership of firearms – something that would have astonished previous generations of people on this island.

    Free speech only covers speech the government does not consider wicked – (ditto).

    A vast “education system” (schools and universities) are openly encrouraged to teach a certain way of looking at the world – and different ways of looking at the world are held to have no place in education (there is strong pressure for private schools to be included in all this).

    Guy Herbert could explain to you how changes in the law mean that both charities and commercial companies are now held to have social duties (very vague things to be DEFINED BY GOVERNMENT) that they must perform – i.e. that the basic indepencence of supposedly private organizations if being undermined.

    The broadcasting media (both state owned and private) all have the same political point of view BY LAW. For example, the news on “Classic F.M.” is no different in point of view from B.B.C. news – and nor can it be.

    This political point of view is called being “unbiased” (a blatent lie).

    The newspapers and magazines have come under more and more pressure to conform.

    Certainly they are NOT like the broadcasting media – but, for example, the sort of thing that would have been normal in the Daily and Sunday Telegraph only a few years ago are now virtually unknown (and I am not just talking about race or “sexual orientation”)

    There are all sorts of opinions that are considered unaccpetable – and it is not just the weight of public opinion. There are sanctions from government itself.

    Lastly.

    It is much too late to protest about totalitarianism when it is has already been totally established.

    To wait till Britain is a totalitarian country (say when Samizdata and so on are banned) before opposing the direction of policy and the philosophy on which that direction is based, would be a great mistake.

    The time to oppose totalitarianism is BEFORE it is fully established – i.e. NOW.

  • John

    I can think of quite a few ways I would rather like to ‘help’ Julian le Grand and his ilk in order to mitigate their pathological need to interfere with other people’s lives.

    This is the problem with civil society: too much voting, not enough retribution toward people that truly deserve it.

  • Perry,

    “I was not political but I could see that people had jobs and we felt that at last things were being run in our interests, not because Goebbels said so, but because that is what we thought.”

    Oh, you can’t believe this crap. Every old German says: “we didn’t know, we didn’t sense anything out of the ordinary”. That’s a load of crap. Every single German knew exactly who Hitler was, and what he was doing every single minute. Hitler’s goons (brown shirts) murdered people long before he gained power, in street “brawls”. The Weimar Republic was too weak to stop him. The first thing he did upon being named Cancelar was to murder Rohm, the homo head of the Nazi party. (Yes, Hitler’s own leader). Long before the war they started by murdering some 70,000 good arian germans who happened to be cripple or sick mentally.
    Every German knew perfectly well Hitler was a mad murderer, from day -1000. (Hell, he wrote an explicit book about it, long before he came to power!). A few Germans opposed him, but were too weak or too afraid to speak out (and those who did were murdered). Most Germans participated willingly and enthusiastically in an orgy of mass madness and murder. It’s unbelievable, but that’s what happened. Don’t you buy one word from the old Germans who say “we never knew”.

    It was different in Russia, where a mostly uneducated and ignorant mass was taken in by communist slogans, and were terrorized into submission by the brutal (but few) cadres of the regime. The criminal Communist regime was intensely hated by most Russians, which cannot be said about the Germans and their regime.

    Oh I expect it could end up much like Nazi Germany in the long run

    Nonesense. The current crop of European leaders are imbecile impotents. Implying that they (or their successors) might become murderous tyrants is ridiculous. They don’t know the business side of a gun. Hinting that the current regime might lead toward a murderous tyranny is preposterous.

    The danger is that the decline and decadence of current social-democrat regimes in Europe might generate a crisis and pave the way for another mad strongman which would sweep them away, and grab power. The current regimes are not dangerous by themselves, in a murderous way. They are dangerous because of their weakness and the intellectual and physical decadence they are part of.

    By the way: the European leaders are the result of the prevalent mass ideology, not it’s cause. A great majority of people are perfectly happy to live under a smoking ban – the government does not impose anything on the public, it’s rather the public that demands these measures. People don’t care very much about some freedoms, and they get what they ask for.

  • Nick M

    Because it does not look like the totalitarianism they have seen in the movies, the first thing to do is actually make enough people to realise that is what is actually happening.

    Absolutely Perry. Way too many people think that these rules and regulations, these quangos and inspectorates are there to protect us!

  • abc

    I think of the current enthusiasm for totalitarian thinking as a kind of mania which has gradually made its way across the mental landscape of the population. The only tonic is to draw attention to its contradictions and inconsistencies. I have a friend, a decent guy, who believes in the smoking ban and, more worryingly, seems like he would be quite prepared to act in a good citizen-like way to enforce it. He justifies it by saying stuff like – “well, we all have to live together.” I think he was taken aback though when he found himself having his car confiscated right there in the street after a police ANPR camera caught him driving without insurance.

  • Jacob, I think discussing this you is pointless as you do not see bothered to actually grasp what I am saying. I do not expect you to agree, but it irks me you are not actually addressing the points I have made.

    One last time.

    We are NOT headed for a new Nazi Germany, in the mass murder, gas chambers and invade-the-Sudetenland sense. That is my whole fucking point about the NEW totalitarianism. They will not murder you for being difficult, but they certainly will throw your arse in gaol if need be. However the fascist approach to economic control has indeed come into favour in a kinder gentler post modern form, assigning increasingly nominal private ownership of the means of production whilst removing control over them… i.e. making ownership consist of liability but with increasingly less control.

    In that sense, it will indeed be more more like Nazi Germany (which always had lots of private companies that could exist as long as they were doing something that conformed with overall political objectives) rather than Soviet Russia.

    A doubt Hannelore would care if you believed her or not, but I am pretty sure that she did not (a) care if the ‘politicals’ (to use the word she always used) killed each other (b) have much of an idea at the time what happened in downtown Hamburg (at least before it started getting bombed), let alone in the rest of Germany much beyond her small rural community in Schleswig-Holstein.

    I think you greatly underestimate how little apolitical ‘normal people’ care about or even notice what you and I might regard as the burning issues of the day. People are terrifyingly ignorant. The modern equivalent is the lumpen of Britain being more concerned with who just won Big Bruvvah and yet are oblivious to where the term ‘Big Brother’ actually comes from or who Orwell was, or the fact there are more CCTV cameras watching them per capita than in Israel, a country under constant terrorist attack. As a result I have no problem believing a great many Germans were ignorant as pigshit about what was happening or only ‘understood’ in the most abstract way… that is in fact a major part of the frigging problem both then and now, except there is less excuse for it now.

  • nbpundit

    I noticed this, hidden quite cleverly….

    I hope we would all accept that workers in dangerous industries have a right to be provided with the appropriate protective equipment; their employer owes them a “duty of care”. We don’t accept the argument that no-one is forced to work down a mine or in a foundry, and if you do not want to be put at risk by the employer’s disregard of safety, then he can always find some Poles willing to put up with it.

    True commiespeak as ever. If you have an employer,
    then that makes you an employee, and not a worker.
    As to what’s happening to Britain, the forecast is
    chaotic and gloomy for the time being. The criminal
    element is coming into their own. Look for smoking
    and the quaffing of alcohol to go underground.
    The same will happen with food as it continues
    to come under the reins of those full of themsuperiorselves.
    Of course they have most certainly set the
    ship of state on a collision course of failure.
    Therefore plan quickly to hide your precious libraries
    to keep them from being burnt down by the
    barbarians of religious or secular movements.

    There is nothing civilized about any form of totalitarianism

  • Mike

    We live in a time when freedom is being looked at askance. When people are being made to feel that it is somehow “selfish” to demand to be left alone, to be free. In fact, here is my slogan for the up and comming nanny-state:

    FREEDOM IS JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR SELFISH!

    I’m thinking of having T-shirts made. Who’s with me?

  • Eric

    Jacob,

    I fear you are wildly optimistic regarding the men in Brussels. When the tools for total state awareness and control are in place, do you think there’s any chance the people in power won’t use them? After all, we can’t let a few outliers stand in the way of progress.

    I am a monster. What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done. — The Operative

  • Fat Man

    So Huxley was right about the future, not Orwell.

  • nick g.

    After the revolution, fellow co-allies, you might want to consider that today’s politicians simply have too much time on their hands. If we still want some minimal government structures, perhaps the politicians of the future can be fully occupied in constantly reviewing old laws. I propose that ALL laws have an automatic sunset clause and need to be constantly reviewed to be effective. If they’re occupied in updating and passing established laws, they’ll have much less occasions to make new laws!

  • CFM

    Quite right. People are stubbornly unable to separate the form (goose-stepping) from the substance (total control).

    However, I have a quibble: Our current crop of post-modern totalitarians has not employed violent repression . . . yet.

    The new totalitarians already find enthusiastic support the only acceptable response to their views, and they are not finished building their Utopia.

    As things progress, we’ll find it takes an ever-smaller set of non-compliances to get that visit from the Boys in Blue. Which still may become black, with ever bigger sticks.

  • Mark in Texas

    I was having a discussion recently with someone about the tyrants on the board of his Home Owners’ Association wh were ordering him to take down some rose bushes and park his car pointing into the drive way not out of the drive way.

    There seems to be some irreducible fraction of the population who’s major motivation in life is to impose petty tyrannies on others with the force of law. These people are drawn to the governing boards or HOAs like flies to excrement.

    My modest proposal is that libertarians in Britain do everything in their power to get as many Home Owners’ Associations established as possible so as to give these junior Pol Pot’s free reign to their nasty impulses in an environment where the worst they can do is to order someone’s roses pulled out or bushes trimmed. They will be helplessly drawn to these opportunities for minor unaccountable power like flies to fly paper or mosquitoes to an electric bug zapper.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I had actually forgotten that a sad old “academic” like Le Grand was still around; amazing really, these old decaying egalitarians, Marxoids and the rest, cannot we set up a sort of old folks’ home for these bastards?

  • Plamus

    Jacob:

    If you do not believe Perry, you can take it from me – I did live behind the Iron Curtain, in one of the Russian satellite states. Even in the last years of the regime, when actual persecution was minimal (they no longer would shut off electricity to apartment buildings, in order to check what videotapes were in your VCR’s, for example – even though in theory even owning a VCR in itself COULD get you in trouble), we were clueless beyond belief about the outside world. Now we know they could not triangulate your radio-receiver for listening to “Free Europe” – but we did not then, and thus we did not do. Now we know the West was more right to be afraid of us than vice versa – but sure did not appear that way then. Even when the propaganda was not nearly as intense as it had been in years past, it was deadly efficient, as it was building on the foundation laid earlier. Very, very few actually got hauled off to jail or to a labor camp (and even fewer even knew those camps existed) – the knock on the door almost never came. But if you heard it and saw the guy in uniform on the other side through the spy hole, change of underwear was an imminent concern. No one HAD to show up for those hideous parades – but enough did. You dismiss Perry’s recount of his relative’s impressions, but I have to tell you they do jive with mine. We knew who the leader was, but not what he was up to, and certainly (what turned out to be) only legends of what he was doing before the “dawn of Socialism.” And most did not care – it was so much safer not to be interested.
    I understand why you find it hard to believe, but it did happen. The totalitarian state can be extremely efficient at what it is trying to do – do not dismiss the Putins and their ilk as dumb – they are willing and happy to employ tools and tactics you would not.
    I can go on, but will likely bore most of the readers, just wanted to say that Perry does have the right intuition, all the more surprising to me since (if I am correctly informed) he did not live under Commies.

  • Paul Marks

    This “totalitarianism = the National Socialists sending millions of Jews to the gas chambers” stuff is simply wrong.

    As I have already pointed out even Mussolini (the first user of “totalitarianism” in government) did not go in for this – Fascism was a about the total state, not racialism (although Mussolini did imitate the race laws of Hitler after he made an alliance with him).

    As for the leaders of Europe following the ideas of the masses – SIMPLY WRONG.

    In fact it has always been wrong.

    For example, Bismark subsidised socialists groups back in the 1860’s to try and undermine the Liberals (Liberals in the liberty sense).

    The new Liberals of Lloyd George and co were not elected in 1906 by promising welfare schemes – there was no great demand from below for these schemes (as Joseph Chamberlain had found when his radical “Birmingham Progamme” for nation wide welfare statism went down like a lead balloon when he launched it in 1865).

    In the American context there was no demand from below for things like the New Deal of F.D.R. or the Great Society of L.B.J. – these things were thought up by academics and then pushed through by politicians AFTER they came to power.

    It is the same with the “New Freedom” (President Wilson could sue if he was still alive) supported not just by New Labout but my most of the Social Democrat, Christian Democrat and Liberal party politicians.

    Under the “New Freedom” (often just called “freedom” now) freedom is being “part of society” (society being defined as the state) not being “excluded” from its various benefits and activities.

    Things change fast and they do NOT change from below.

    As late as the 1970’s I can remember most of the things that are held sacred now being openly mocked in popular entertainment – it was only gradually that the elite has made most people ashamed to believe certain things and led them to believe (or at least accept) other things.

    For example, look how fast the traditional family has declined – this was not an accident, still less part of some natural evolution. It was a deliberate aim of policy – policy created by an “enlightened” elite and put into effect (with more or less knowledge) by politicians and administrators.

    “But the Fascists were in favour of the traditional family” – it does not matter that the AIMS of the modern controllers are different, what matters is that their METHOD (the control of civil society by the state) is the same.

  • John K

    I noticed this, hidden quite cleverly….

    I hope we would all accept that workers in dangerous industries have a right to be provided with the appropriate protective equipment; their employer owes them a “duty of care”. We don’t accept the argument that no-one is forced to work down a mine or in a foundry, and if you do not want to be put at risk by the employer’s disregard of safety, then he can always find some Poles willing to put up with it.

    True commiespeak as ever. If you have an employer,
    then that makes you an employee, and not a worker.

    Sorry, but I think that is taking semantics to a ridiculous level.

    You have not addressed my point: if tobacco smoke is an environmental pollutant (and I think it is, though not as dangerous as zealots like to claim), then by what right can an employer expect his employees/workers to work in it? It really is no sort of argument to say “they can just work somewhere else”, because if we go down that route you imply that employers do not have a duty to provide their employees with a safe place in which to work.

    As to the way Britain is drifting into soft fascism, I take that as a given. However, I really don’t think that from a libertarian point of view, the ban on smoking in public places is a good battle to fight. The salient point about smoking is just that: the smoke. It is inflicted by a smoker on all people around him, and that is what makes it objectionable. I don’t suppose we will agree on this, but that is my opinion.

  • Paul Marks

    Eric.

    As you know the Operative changes his mind when he sees the results of the state having unlimited power – even for a “good purpose”.

    It was part of the strength of the film Serenity that the change of heart by the Operative does not feel false in any way – the character is a murderer (and much else), but he is also the sort of man who could have just such a change of heart.

  • Sunfish

    In a free society, people would be able to speak in public without fear of reprisal for the content of their speech, because there wouldn’t BE any reprisals.

    Most people probably can in the present-day United States. Pharmacists won’t generally risk their jobs to have a problem with abortion unless they refuse to dispense morning-after pills, and maybe not even then. The guy who works as a chemist at the brewery can have an RMGO “It’s a Right Not a Privilege” sticker on his car. The lady who does my taxes has a “The Only Bush I Trust Is My Own” sticker on her car and the accounting firm where she works seems to be solely concerned with her performance as an accountant.

    All of which is fine. It’s (supposed to be) a free country.

    Well, unless you happen to be a local government employee: then, your opinions are those of the Mayor or the City Manager. Even when you’re off the clock. Post here using my real name, even omitting my job title/employer’s name, and it’s my ass.

    I’m sure that the KGB kept a very close eye on the Ministry of the Interior militia, too.

    I’m also sure that I was going somewhere with this, but I fear that several bottles of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale were harmed in the making of this post.

  • Sunfish

    John K:

    because if we go down that route you imply that employers do not have a duty to provide their employees with a safe place in which to work.

    My employer won’t provide me with a safe place in which to work. Who do I call?

  • Sunfish

    It was part of the strength of the film Serenity that the change of heart by the Operative does not feel false in any way – the character is a murderer (and much else), but he is also the sort of man who could have just such a change of heart.

    That was the same strength in “V For Vendetta” and the “Star Wars” double trilogy. Det. Finch, Darth Vader, and the junior officer who ordered the soldiers to hold their fire outside the Parliament all were able to have that same change of heart.

    For some reason, for me, that’s the difference between a powerful and compelling story, and a one.

  • John K

    My employer won’t provide me with a safe place in which to work. Who do I call?

    I don’t know. Where do you live? What job do you do? If you work at a nuclear power plant, would you object if your employer asked you to move radioactive items without any safety equipment? Would it be acceptable for him to say “you don’t have to work here, if you don’t like it I’ll get some Ukrainians in to do the job”?

  • Plamus

    John K:

    By your reasoning, there should be no policemen, no military, no miners, no firefighters. That duty sounds pretty dodgy to me – how about a sign at the gate “This is a smoking workplace – please do not apply if you object second-hand tobacco smoke!”, and let the market sort out if smoking or non-smoking businesses survive by attracting better employees? Disclosure I am all for, but where does this duty to actually provide a safe work environments stem from?

  • abc

    I don’t have my Chambers dictionary at work but the etymology of the word “totalitarian” could provide some useful insight into its real meaning.

    Origin: 1925–30; totalit(y) + -arian.

    – Dictionary.com Unabridged

    1926, first in ref. to Italian fascism, formed in Eng. on model of It. totalitario “complete, absolute, totalitarian,” from the It. cognate of Eng. total (q.v.). The noun is recorded from 1938.

    – Online Etymology Dictionary

  • John K

    By your reasoning, there should be no policemen, no military, no miners, no firefighters. That duty sounds pretty dodgy to me – how about a sign at the gate “This is a smoking workplace – please do not apply if you object second-hand tobacco smoke!”, and let the market sort out if smoking or non-smoking businesses survive by attracting better employees? Disclosure I am all for, but where does this duty to actually provide a safe work environments stem from?

    Obviously all workplaces are not the same. Some jobs have more risk than others, which is usually reflected in the pay. That does not mean that deep sea fishermen, who have the most dangerous job of all, should not expect their employer to provide a seaworthy boat, with life jackets and life saving equipment. The fact is, if the law did not force them to do so, some employers would not do this, and would try and get away with using Mexican or Filipino seamen who were desperate enough to risk their lives for the money. So I don’t accept that a fishing boat owner should just be able to get away with saying “my fishing boats don’t have life boats. If you don’t like that, work somewhere else.”

  • RAB

    Sunfish talking about having his opinions curtailed to those of his employers, stirred a vague memory.
    Perhaps Paul can help here. Is the following situation correct?
    Say you are a local Councillor, perhaps an Independent, taking no party whip.
    A constituent comes to you for help to oppose a ring road scheme that will demolish his house.You agree the scheme is a bad idea and even attend the protest demonstration, and write an opposing article in the local paper.
    A Council debate on the road is to be held this evening, but when you get there you find you are barred from speaking because you have shown bias.
    Now I thought that debating different points of view was what democracy is all about.
    Am I correct here?

  • RAB

    PS John K, Sunfish is a police officer.
    ipso facto, his working environment is “unsafe”

  • John K

    RAB: I believe you are correct in what you say. The Standards Board of England enforce this particular bit of totalitarian thinking. It was an invention of the Prescott era, needless to say. The upshot is that if you are elected on, say, a platform of opposing a wind farm, you will not be allowed, as a councillor, to vote on the wind farm’s planning application, because you do not have an open mind on the matter. The fact that that is the reason you were elected in the first place is oldthink.

  • John K

    PS John K, Sunfish is a police officer.
    ipso facto, his working environment is “unsafe”

    That does not mean his employer does not have a duty of care to him, to provide him with the equipment he needs to do his job safely: gun, radio, kevlar vest etc.

  • RAB

    Thank you John K. I thought that might be the case, astonishing though it is.
    But for gawd’s sake, lighten up!
    Sunfish’s comment was meant to be ironic. Who says Americans dont get it? :-)

  • Plamus

    John K:

    And why not? An employer providing unsafe boats for fishermen (again, I stipulated, properly disclosed) will likely find they are out of business very soon. Not smart business strategy, and yet, none of the government’s business to “make it right”. It’s a contractual agreement between fully informed and willing parties.
    If the police officers you talk about get shot without a kevlar vest on, they will suffer significant injury. In an environment with tobacco smoke, you might breathe all your life and suffer no ill consequences – in other words, it’s a probability risk, not a direct risk. Traffic cops in the average busy city breathe in way more carcinogens each day they work in the street that they would if they worked out in the sticks but smoked a pack a day – should the government move them all there, or should we ban internal combustion engines, or….?
    What do you find so objectionable about people choosing to work in a non-perfect environment? As an economist, I would actually argue that if you have 5 companies, each with 80 non-smoking and 20 smoking employees, you would achieve a Paretto-efficient outcome if you make 1 company smoking, and move all the smokers there, ceteris paribus. Smokers do derive benefits from smoking, believe it or not, just not ones that many non-smokers appreciate, and that can translate into higher productivity at both kinds of companies.
    Poke a hole in that scenario, please?

  • John K

    And why not? An employer providing unsafe boats for fishermen (again, I stipulated, properly disclosed) will likely find they are out of business very soon.

    Actually, they might not. It is quite possible that by skimping on life boats they could get away with it for years. If the boat doesn’t sink, they win. If it does, they lose a rotten boat manned by a few Mexicans. Meanwhile, they are undercutting boat owners who do provide life boats for their crews.

    If you want to see how something like this worked in practice, look at the battle to get Plimsoll lines on cargo ships in the 19th century. You would think it was in the interests of ship owners to have such a simple safety device to stop them overloading their ships, and thus risk losing them, but in fact it had to be forced on them by law, after years of parliamentary battles.

    A more modern example: when BP took over its refineries in Texas, Lord Browne immediately cut the maintenance budget by 25%, with the result that the plant blew up killing several people. BP have just settled for $180 million. It was clearly short sighted and stupid to cut the maintenance budget, but they did it anyway.

    It is just a fact that there are some business people who will cut every corner they can get away with to shave costs, and although you might argue that in the end the market will sort them out, in practise it might take years, during which time people can suffer or die at work.

    As I said, I really think the smoking issue is a poor one for libertarians to take up. The fact you cannot get away with is that smokers inflict their smoke on people who do not want to breathe it. When someone invents a zero emission cigarette I will be more than happy for anyone to smoke them anywhere they like. There are so many awful laws and intrusions on our freedoms being imposed that I think it is very unwise to get hung up on this one.

  • Quite right. People are stubbornly unable to separate the form (goose-stepping) from the substance (total control).

    Yes. Some people here are under the impression that the Nazis, (or Mussolini) or Lenin were just like say, Tony Blair, but with a predilection to goose-stepping or flag waving mass parades. Totally wrong. Classical totalitarians (to distinguish them from “New Totalitarians”) – were ruthless, diabolical mass MURDERERS. Not “goose steppers”.
    Yes, their substance was TOTAL control – total as in: “one wrong word or gesture and you’re dead”. You don’t get total control unless you murder people who don’t comply. You don’t have to murder millions every day to be a respectable totalitarian, but you have to murder a few, so the rest of the population will live in terror and dread of that knock on the door at night. (Hitler and Stalin murdered millions out of sadistic madness).

    Palmus,

    Very, very few actually got hauled off to jail or to a labor camp (and even fewer even knew those camps existed) – the knock on the door almost never came. But if you heard it and saw the guy in uniform on the other side through the spy hole, change of underwear was an imminent concern.

    It shows that you lived under those classical totalitarian regimes. In the above paragraph you express extremely well what it feels like to live there. You dreaded that knock on the door for a reason, that contradicts your saying that you weren’t aware of what was going on.
    And, wherever you live now, I don’t think you are terrified about a knock on your door at night. That’s the difference between a totalitarian regime and the annoying nanny state.

    do not dismiss the Putins and their ilk as dumb

    When I talked about “impotent imbeciles” I was speaking about western leaders, not Putin. Putin is a dangerous thug, very dangerous. But Blair and Brown are no putins.

  • RAB

    John K. I posted a link to our earlier debate on this subject back on oct 25th about 1am ish.Perhaps you havent got round to reading it yet?
    To precis for you.
    Prior to the blanket ban, there were bars and restaurants which were non smoking and there were ones that were smoking. You had a choice of which environment you decided to enter. Nobody was inflicting anything on anyone who had not consented to it.
    What is it about contracting in that you find hard to grasp?
    I also addressed the workplace situation. That should be a compromise between the employees as to what should and should not be permitted, and where. As befits grown up adults.
    The point of this thread is, that the State doesn’t really care what the consequences of it’s actions are, so long as their diktats are obeyed.
    I would love to see the half year figures for the Licenced victualers. I predict that sales of beer in pubs will be down at least 20%.
    See the Govt doesn’t care whose business is wrecked by their actions, just as long as we march to their step.
    And you think this isn’t Totalitarianism?

  • Paul,

    This “totalitarianism = the National Socialists sending millions of Jews to the gas chambers” stuff is simply wrong.

    I didn’t say that. The Nazis weren’t just totalitarians, they were also pathologically insane mass murderers (Same as Stalin and Mao). You don’t have to be stark mad to be a “good totalitarian”.
    Classical totalitarians just murder enough people to keep the population in a state of perpetual terror, dreading that “knock on the door at night”. Their murders are calculated artifacts of their power grab. But I submit that those people who don’t murder their rivals, and don’t terrorize the whole population are not really classical totalitarians, they are at most “new totalitarians”.

    As for the leaders of Europe following the ideas of the masses – SIMPLY WRONG.

    Maybe it’s you who are wrong about what “the masses” want. Most of “the masses” are politically inert, they don’t participate in politics, and don’t express strong opinions. It’s difficult to know what they really think, neither is it important.
    On the other hand – there is a class of opinion setters: the academia, the press, the students, the elites, the office holders, the legislators, the judges.
    It is the ideas of these classes that the current leaders follow. That the current “leaders” don’t do any actual leading is obvious.

  • Perry,
    As I said – it’s only about semantics. When you call (say) Gordon Brown a totalitarian it sounds to me as when Edward Kennedy describes himself as liberal.

  • Plamus

    Jacob:

    I acknowledge an apparent contradiction, mostly due to a shoddy recount on my part. You knew you were in trouble, but you did not always know why, and almost never what would happen to you. Everybody transgressed in one way or another, so you were basically at the mercy of the police – if they wanted to pick you up, they would always have a reason, although they did not really need one. At various times and for various lengths of time, a myriad of trivial things were verbotten – owning a VCR, wearing jeans or long hair, listening to foreign stations, traveling abroad, etc., etc., down to the most trivial. Generally, with quite a few of them you could get away just fine, maybe with a reprimand and a wagging finger if you attracted undue attention…. but the possibility of ending up in a very unpleasant place for any of them was there. Does this not sound to you eerily similar to the situation at hand? No, the government cannot haul off 1/4 of the adult population to jail… But it can declare the activity illegal, and then chart off a clear path to jail for any random citizen it chooses – reprimand, fine, bigger fine, arrest, judge…
    It could be the indelible mark of years in that “paradise on Earth”, but this gives me the willies.

  • Plamus

    John K:

    You said: “There are so many awful laws and intrusions on our freedoms being imposed that I think it is very unwise to get hung up on this one.”

    “In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
    And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
    And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
    And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.”
    Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

    I hate to sound melodramatic, but are you saying we should let them get the Communists, in a way?

  • Paul Marks

    Jacob.

    As I explained first most people have certain opinions (they are not a blank slate – politically inert), but the elite get to work (not just through politics, but also through the “education system” and the media) to try and make most people have different opinions.

    If they have total control over schools, universities and broacasting (and so on) they stand a better chance of success than if they do not.

    This total control may never be truely “total” (for example a teacher may something un P.C. in private), but if it is near total that is enough.

    That is “totalitarianism” – not control of everything, or “fooling all the people all of the time”, but control of most things, fooling most of the people most of the time.

    A free society is where there are lots of schools, universities, broadcasters (and so on) with very different views of the world.

    Freedom is not always lost all at once, and Britain is NOT yet totalitarian – but it is heading that way.

    It would be a bit late to start trying to prevent totalitarianism AFTER it had been established.

    John K.

    If a fisherman chooses to go to sea in an unsafe boat that is his choice. And if I choose to go with him (choosing the money he is offering me over the risk to my life) that is my choice.

    It is nothing to do with you.

    “But I finance the rescue efforts if the boat goes down” – then do not finance them. When did I ask you to finance them?

    Ditto any other “working environment”.

    Your only case would be if the employer was telling lies to the employee.

    For example, “no this chemical will not give you cancer” (when he knew it would).

    We are not elves, we are humans – we age and die.

    If I choose to shorten my life, or even end it in a single day, by working in an “unsafe working environment” this is nothing to do with you.

    Unless, of course, you are willing to offer me equal or more money to work for you in a “safe working environment”.

    Oh, by the way, many “health and safety” regulations make things worse rather than better.

    “But I want government to pass sensible regulations”.

    Good luck with that barking cat.

  • Paul Marks

    RAB

    Due to the compaign of Christopher Booker and others the Local Government Standards Board of England and Wales have recently backed down on the “express an opinion before the formal debate and you can not take part and vote” line (at least they say they have).

    As you know, the nasty little perverts were trying to pretend that an opinion was an “interest” in the prejudicial sense.

  • Midwesterner

    Mark in Texas, re your comment at October 26, 2007 06:17 AM. When he joined the Home Owners’ Association, maybe reading the contract would have been a good use of time. Or perhaps you think contracts should not be enforced if one party decides after the fact that a clause (in the contract that he signed) is petty? I find your characterization of people insisting on contracts being honored as “impose petty tyrannies” and behavior “like flies to excrement” to be more of a collectivist ‘for the common good’ attitude than a ‘contracts are binding’ attitude.

    I detest those communities you describe and would never choose to live in one. That is why I don’t sign one of their contracts. It may be your intention to slander people who accept enforcement responsibilities in home owner’s associations, but you are in fact slandering the people who think that contract’s terms should be honored. You’re inference that people should sign and then ignore contracts is extremely anti-free market.

  • Midwesterner

    Jacob,

    Maybe accepting standard usages is in order.

    Totalitarian The original meaning of the word as described by Mussolini and Gentile (G. Gentile & B. Mussolini in “La dottrina del fascismo” 1932) was a society in which the ideology of the state had influence, if not power, over most of its citizens. According to them, thanks to modern technologies like radio and the printing press, which the state could, and probably would, use to spread its ideology, most modern nations would naturally become totalitarian in the above-stated sense.

    You appear to be describing a

    Police state The term police state is a term for a state in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic and political life of the population, especially by means of a secret police force which operates outside the boundaries normally imposed by a constitutional republic. A police state typically exhibits elements of totalitarianism and social control, and there is usually little distinction between the law and the exercise of political power by the executive.

    but in any case, it is important to draw a distinction between the extent of a government’s power, and what it does with that power. Because any power a government has, will soon be abused.

  • John K

    See the Govt doesn’t care whose business is wrecked by their actions, just as long as we march to their step.
    And you think this isn’t Totalitarianism?

    RAB:

    To be honest, no, I don’t think the smoking ban is totalitarian, and I don’t think it is a good platform to argue for libertarian principles. I keep coming back to the point that smokers inflict their smoke on other people. I doubt we will agree on this one.

    If a fisherman chooses to go to sea in an unsafe boat that is his choice. And if I choose to go with him (choosing the money he is offering me over the risk to my life) that is my choice.

    Paul:

    Again, I cannot really agree. Unless certain safety standards are mandated, I guarantee that some owners will send unsafe boats to sea. They won’t be on them of course, just as Lord Browne didn’t actually work at the Texas City oil refinery where he cut the maintenance budget. The fact that some poor people might need the money so badly that they have to go to sea in an unsafe boat, does not in my opinion mean that an owner should be allowed to use an unsafe boat.

    I can quite understand the intellectual justification for these points of view on libertarian principles, but I do feel they come close to a sort of reductio ad absurdam. Given the huge growth of the authoritarian state in the UK in the last few years, massively accelerated under NuLab, I just feel there are far better battles to fight than the rights of smokers to pollute non-smokers’ lungs, or bad employers to run unsafe businesses.

  • RAB

    Sigh!
    To totally re-write the only joke from
    Good Morning Vietnam-

    John K, you are despirately in need
    Of a Marlbro Moment.
    Preferably during Miller Time ;-)

  • Mid:
    From the same Wikipedia article you linked:

    “For Friedrich and Brzezinski, the defining elements [of totalitarianism] were intended to be taken as a mutually supportive organic entity comprised of the following: an elaborating guiding ideology; a single mass party, typically led by a dictator; a system of terror; a monopoly of the means of communication and physical force; and central direction and control of the economy through state planning.

    (My emphasis).

    You will find several definitions, several versions… the above is the one closest to my understanding… totalitarianism is, in my opinion, associatively linked to the infamous regimes of the 20th century.

    On the other hand, a police state isn’t necessarily totalitarian – it isn’t if it doesn’t try to impose on you a state ideology.

  • Midwesterner

    In that case Jacob, what do you call a state that regulates every facet of its citizens’ public and private lives but only resorts to violence when a citizen revolts against that control?

    If not totalitarian, what shall we call it?

  • Mark in Texas

    Midwesterner

    I don’t live in a place with a Home Owners’ Association because I have heard so many stories about board members using their little bit of power to make miserable the lives of unwary folk who foolishly chose to place themselves in power of these petty Pol Pots.

    My point is that you cannot get rid of that fraction of the population who lust after the power to make other people do or not do arbitrary things. I think that it is good social policy to create those little sandboxes where aspiring Stalins can impose their wills on people who did not take sufficient care to avoid their clutches because the worst that they can do is to yank out rose bushes or make homeowners take down their basket ball hoops.

  • Paul,

    Freedom is not always lost all at once, and Britain is NOT yet totalitarian – but it is heading that way.

    No. Wrong.
    Maybe Britain will become totalitarian, but not under the current regime, and not going the way it does now. It would take a revolution, a regime change. It might happen, but it would not be the necessary outcome of current policies.

    On the other hand, Russia, under Putin, is going that way. To see why Britain isn’t just compare Brown to Putin.

  • Mid,

    what do you call a state that regulates every facet of its citizens’ public and private lives but only resorts to violence when a citizen revolts against that control?

    That’s a loaded question. It depends on that “every facet“. And on what is the degree of violence in the “resorts to violence” part.

    I’d call the current social-democrat regimes in Europe “collectivist nanny states”.

  • If you get tired of the police state and want to do something about it, consider joining the http://www.FreeStateProject.org. I made the move in June.

  • Nick M

    Guys, this is getting tedious. I seem to recall Counting Cats a while back merely stating that NuLab were “unquestionably fascist” or similar and nobody called him. Now we’re getting our dictionaries out and arguing definitions.

    Perry’s original post was spot-on and anyone who disagrees will be hung with piano wire, right. And yes Jacob that means you.

  • Midwesterner

    I don’t know the answer to this, Jacob. What would happen if somebody in the UK insisted on owning and operating a television in defiance of law without paying the ‘tax’? How would that escalate?

    In the US where I live, if you do not use the required amounts of insulation in the walls of your new family room and also allow government inspectors to examine it (and everything else), they will escalate until, if necessary, they shoot it out with you to get you out of your house (so the room can be destroyed at your expense and the house sold to cover it if you won’t pay). Needless to say, people just do what they are told or lie and hope they don’t get caught.

    If the government actually shot somebody for improper insulation (the actual charge would be something like resisting arrest and threatening an officer, but there would be no question that the root problem was the amount of insulation) would you call that ‘totalitarian’? Is this strictly a body count thing?

    How many people have to fight to the death over R-values in the walls of their house additions before it becomes totalitarian?

  • Nick M

    Mid,
    Not paying your TV license starts at £1000, can lead to you having your car clamped and will, if you hold out, end in jail.

    I’d call the current social-democrat regimes in Europe “collectivist nanny states”.
    – Comentator Jacob.

    How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.
    – Abraham Lincoln.

  • Sunfish

    That does not mean his employer does not have a duty of care to him, to provide him with the equipment he needs to do his job safely: gun, radio, kevlar vest etc.

    Well, they gave me the radio anyway.

    Actually, dodgy working conditions for police seem to be more of a problem in the UK than the US. And not just because of guns. From what I’ve seen, there might be one or two officers actually on the road in a city of 50,000 on a Saturday night. If someone decides they want to kick a cop into a coma, that’s not much help available. Over here, that same city will have anywhere from ten to 30 working, and there’s huge safety in numbers.

    Jacob says:

    Classical totalitarians just murder enough people to keep the population in a state of perpetual terror, dreading that “knock on the door at night”.

    Some segments of the population may reasonably be in a state of terror.

    Innocent people rarely have dealings with police. If they do, it’s because they walked into the city hall to get fingerprinted for a professional license or wanted a permit to have the East Westchester North Stars (champions of the state 6A football southern conference) have a parade down main street with the Banana County Okra Queen. Thus, they’re more than a little nervous during any contact with us.

    Ever seen a middle-aged suburban woman shaking in fear when she gets pulled over for running a stop sign? If that $60/4 points penalty assessment is her only experience on the bad side of the law, then she’s not going to know “the system” all that well. What she’ll know is that she saw Andy Sipowicz beating the crap out of people every Tuesday night on ABC, and think that she’s next.

    How do you think she’d react at the prospect of two cops at her door at 2AM?

    Your average shithead, OTOH, isn’t as afraid of a traffic ticket. And in the UK, with what passes for sentencing over there, not to mention how eager CPS is to grant immunity to real criminals in order to headhunt cops, the average shithead isn’t afraid of the judge either.

    Getting back to my point, though: innocent people are less likely to be familiar with how the criminal justice system works. And their ignorance translates as a mixture of fear (of the nonsensical crap they see on “The Shield” or “NYPD Blue”) and awe (at the nonsensical crap they see on “CSI.”) Which means they actually might BELIEVE that the cigarette butt tossed out the window (a minor traffic misdemeanor called “depositing burning matter on roadway”) will be tested for DNA and that they’ll get the 90-day maximum sentence[1] in jail, where they’ll break rocks for sixteen hours every day and get raped in their cells the other eight.[2]

    People with no dealings with police see that crap on TV and see nothing at all to dispute it, which means it’s almost actually reasonable for them to believe it.

    [1] which Osama Bin Laden couldn’t get for dumping a whole carton of lit Camels during conditions of high fire danger

    [2] Prison rape is (obviously) an egregious wrong. It’s also a lot less common than people seem to believe.

  • Midwesterner

    Nick,

    How do they get you out of your house? It seems at some point they will escalate their force to get you out until they overwhelm your resistance to being gotten out. Although not impossible, it seems unlikely they would wait for you to come out voluntarily and then grab you. Is shutting off your water, blocking your food supplies and starving you into unconsciousness somehow non-violent?

    Jacob doesn’t get it. At some point, they will use violence (even if it is just starving you out) to get you for having an ‘illegal’ tv set. While they can be passively unaware of cheaters, they absolutely must ‘correct’ a public refuser. If he gets away with refusing, it may start something. Jacob seems to think that since there aren’t many suicidal holdouts against these petty but strictly enforced regulations, that the threats aren’t real.

    By virtue of attending local government meetings, I am aware of many times that the code/statute enforcement officer took police presence with him to enforce something many here would consider petty. Jacob certainly can’t believe that the refuser really has any choice in how much insulation he uses, or whether he has an illegal television, can he? The ultimate crime that initiates government ordered violence is always something to do with resisting authorities. You will not find a tv set or thickness of insulation in the walls mentioned as a reason when injuries are inflicted.

  • Nick M

    Mid,
    It’s not just the escalation to deadly force though that does happen… It’s the gradual strangulation by the knot-weed of the state which impedes our every action… Forms, assessments, this that and the other… This is “soft totalitarianism” – they go through all the official crap, pay the fine and then bitch about it later rather than end up in chokey or dead. The “hard” version doesn’t give you that option but the brilliant realization statists have had is that practically everyone doesn’t require “hard” coercion. Why do you think they spread the joy of taxation over everything? A small cut isn’t anything to worry about but we have all heard of the death of a thousand cuts haven’t we?

  • Mid,

    Jacob certainly can’t believe that the refuser really has any choice in how much insulation he uses, or whether he has an illegal television, can he?

    Why do you think that ? You think I don’t live in this world and am not subject to the petty regulations that I hate as much as you ?

    On the other hand it seems you can’t imagine or appreciate the horror of living under a totalitarian regime. Read some books on it. Alexander Soljenitsin would be a good point to start (also a very good read).

  • Sunfish

    Someone please tell me how this isn’t totalitarianism.

    What the hell kind of “crime” is it to, um, self-stimulate with an inanimate object in a LOCKED PRIVATE hotel room? Did he think that the bike at least looked 18 years old?

  • Midwesterner

    Jacob,

    Last try, you are confusing quantity with quality. I can absolutely assure you that if, as a builder, I had refused to comply with ANY of the minutia of the building code, it would have come down to guns at the door. The government would have confiscated me and all of my property until they were satisfied. Had I survived the process, I would have been a convicted felon for the rest of my life. But there is no guarantee that one will survive. Every month or two we hear about somebody barricaded in their house with a police cordon around the area. Sometimes they give up, sometimes they get dead. Generally only idiots and ‘real’ criminals press matters to that point, but make no mistake, there are guns and prisons enforcing the building code. Not directly, the crimes of violating building code don’t necessarily carry prison sentences. But interfering with/resisting the enforcement process does.

    Make no mistake, there is nothing ‘nanny state’ about having a SWAT team and a ring of snipers to enforce the state mandated distance between electrical outlets in your new house. But that is unquestionably what it will come to.

    You are confusing the percentages of the population that submits with the ultimate consequences of overt resistance. The fact that there is a highly refined progression of means to force the submission of the citizen does not change the final outcome.

  • Mid,
    I wish you that you never get hit by anything worse than insulation regulations.

  • The old totalitarians were very violent. We all know that. The new totalitarians are different.

    Where you are wrong, Jacob, is that the old Totalitarians did not always kill anyone who looked sideways at them. Nope. It was worse in Russia but I have met Germans whose lives were quite undisturbed by the Nazi regime until the war took over everyone’s lives, living without much impact from the Nazis because the Nazis had very little interest in interfering in the things they were doing… or with the sort of people they were. Sure, they were luck to be of the right ethnic group, apolitical and rural.

    Was Nazi Germany totalitarian as well as mass murderous? Of course it was, no one is suggesting otherwise. But in many ways the sheer range of things regulated today is greater. Our states are not mass murderous, or even particularly murderous at all, but their desire to control is insatiable and that is the characteristic of a total state. The post-modern total state will be democratic (i.e. everything will be political, not social) but it will not tolerate truly divergent options on the democratic menu you get to choose from if people actually start to show an interest in such things. It will be impossible to avoid (every aspect of your life will be on file and updated in real time to an extend the tyrants of the 1940’s could only dream about, which is WHY it does not need to be so violent) and it will be so pervasive that everyone will be a criminal if the state chooses to look hard enough because the sheer number of regulations already make it very hard, if not impossible, to not break some law on a fairly regular basis… and that means you will exist at the sufferance of the state not wishing to actually enforce everything it could.

  • Perry,

    I have met Germans whose lives were quite undisturbed by the Nazi regime

    Yes, but they were in immediate danger of being murdered or sent off to concentration camps if they spoke out against the Fuhrer. They knew this perfectly well, they were perfectly and acutely aware of the danger, they were terrorized, and therefore they kept mum. As long as they beahved, they lived a relatively normal life. (And “behaved” I don’t mean “insulated their walls as per regulations”, though they had to obey regulations too). This permanent and prevalent terrorizing of the population is a characteristic of classical totalitarianism, that’s what makes “new totalitarianism” entirely different, that is: not murderous.
    (In Nazi Germany, many didn’t feel terrorized as they were rather supporters and followers of the regime).

    Our states are not mass murderous, or even particularly murderous at all, but their desire to control is insatiable and that is the characteristic of a total state.

    That’s true. They are not murderous. They desire to control may be great, but as long as they are not murderous, it’s bound to fail, when the population revolts.
    The petty oppresion (like smoke bans) creeps along exactly because the population at large doesn’t find this objectionable, even finds it desirable. That’s why I said that the “leaders” – more than imposing their oppresive will, are obeying the demands of the people.
    This creeping totalitarianism is the will of the people.
    It is bad, but not imposed from above by a brutal government.
    In the current state of affairs – you can’t revolt agains the tyranny of the rulers – because they aren’t tyrant. It’s the attitude of the masses that you need to change.

  • Nick M

    Jacob,
    The smoking ban is not “petty oppression”. It is a full-on power-grab. It is dismantling civil society and replacing the subtle rules and courtesies of that with government mandated “No Smoking” signs. You want to put up your own sign instead – perhaps more keeping with the premises? – you’re breaking the law. You have to have the official sign up or else. Every business or publically accessible building in the country has to display the UKGov sign. So who owns the place? You do, conditionally.

    Back to civil society. You even have to put the fucking ugly things up in churchs! Forget about abiding by the rules of the owners of the building you have to abide instead by the rules of Gordon Brown’s muppet circus. It’s a start. The next step is rationing Victory Gin and chocolate.

    At what point does the thin end of the wedge become a slippery slope and start bothering you Jacob? When they criminalize criticism of Islam (they nearly did that), criminalize “denying” anthropogenic global warming (they’d love that – screw “crimes against humanity” they’d have “crimes against the planet”… Ah, c’mon Jacob… get against the programme.

    This is not a “definition thing” – this is real. You can call it totalitarianism or you can call it Mary-Beth for all I care but the important thing is to see it for what it is: a complete inversion of the Lockean concept of government. You know, that tired old idea that we tell them what to do…

    Your argument seems to boil down to “It was worse under Hitler” which is a bit like a doctor telling a patient, “Hey having your leg amputated ain’t too bad the guy in the next bed had both of ‘em off!” Of course it was worse under Hitler but Perry’s point is well made. They ramped up the oppression gradually. They didn’t even run a full-tilt war-economy until the shit really hit the fan in ’43. You ought to read Len Deighton’s “Bomber” for a description of German Hausfraus carrying on as normal even with a war raging. Normality for many can hide an awful lot.

  • I find this creeping totalitarianism very disturbing. I’ve often wondered what’s driving it, and I think it’s a very primitive thing, like cannibalism. (This may seem like an over the top analogy, but I think there’s truth in it.)

    See, when they steal a bit of someone’s freedom, they’re taking a bit of their soul, their essense. And they’re invigorated by it.

    I’ve met more than a few people like this, and even if they can see that what they’re doing is totalitarian and destructive, they seem not to be able to restrain themselves.

    That’s what I find really scary!

  • Midwesterner

    Jacob,

    The same applies today. But today’s fuhrer to whom you owe your allegiance and who will send you to the gulag for not submitting, is ‘the common good’. Just because ‘the common good’ does not have one face and one person’s voice, you are relaxed about it.

    The reason guns and snipers are the ultimate teeth enforcing the building code is ‘for the common good’. ‘We’ cannot let somebody build in an unapproved method because it would be bad for society to allow people to build, sell, and live in unapproved homes.

    You don’t seem to understand. It is not possible to refuse to comply with these petty dictates. At no time will you be allowed to refuse to obey the state. There ARE guns and prisons for people who refuse to serve ‘the common good’, and the pettiness of the original infraction does not make the bullets less meaningful.

    I am understanding better from encountering your attitude, how so many nations have slipped into such horrific nightmares while assuring each other that “it isn’t bad yet”. And these same people, (like you no doubt will) later say “we didn’t know”.

    Last I heard, possession of 650 grams of cocaine was a mandatory life prison sentence without parole in Michigan. The only other crime of all possible crimes in Michigan with that sentence is first degree intentional homicide. But since you don’t use cocaine, the idea that life without parole for possessing something that is a threat to ‘the common good’ is no concern to you. I don’t use it either. But unlike you, I do see the problem with life sentences in prison without any possibility of parole merely for having the capacity to engage in consensual activities (selling cocaine) that are unapproved by the state.

    Maybe this other Michigan law seems a little over the top to you. Maybe thats a bad choice of words, but yes, technically if somebody, maybe you “engages in sexual penetration with another person” while committing a felony, you can receive a life sentence. BTW, adultery is a felony. Make sure your divorce papers are in order.

    Or maybe this, it was about 500 grams, but 50 would have been enough.

    I just grabbed one of the first three links that came up on each of the first two (and only) Google searches I ran. I can google you examples till the net runs out of bits, but somehow I doubt that would sway you.

    Imprisonment by stealth.

  • Nick

    They ramped up the oppression gradually.

    Totally wrong.
    The Weimar republic was impotent and chaotic, but they didn’t threaten the people. When Hitler came to power it was a revolutionary change – the governmentterror and murders started at once. It wasn’t that the Weimar regime slipped gradually into the Hitler regime. There was nothing sinister about Weimar – it just fell off the cliff suddenly. Hitler wasn’t a continuation of Weimar, he was the total opposite of it.

    Same now. That’s exactly my point. The slippery slope and gradual escalation of the current regime doesn’t lead to a totalitarian regime. You need a revolution, a falling off the cliff. The current regime may be bad, I don’t dispute that, but it’s radically different from the totalitarian regimes that existed in history.
    Seems to me you don’t fully grasp the horror of those totalitarian regimes. It is common wisdom that Westerns aren’t really able to grasp how life is under a totalitarian regime, having never experienced it themselves (thank good).

    A second point that you don’t seem to grasp is, that while you see the smoking ban as a horrible loss of freedom (and you might be right) most people have another perspective, they see it as desirable. You are not subjected to oppression by a vicious ruling body or tyrant. You are, maybe, subjected to oppression from your fellow people, oppresion by the masses. The weak politicians in power just follow the polls. If the polls said the people strongly object to the smoking ban, they would back off, or would be thrown out, and replaced by more compliant politicians.
    This too makes the current regimes different, drastically, from totalitarian ones.

  • Mid,
    Look, I know that (some) government regulations are enforced. I’m a little slow, but I got that.
    I also understand that if a cop stops you and gives you a traffic ticket, and then you take a shot at him becuase you don’t like the idea of getting a ticket, the cop is liable to kill you. Same as when the insulation inspector comes to your home, and you try to shoot him.
    Your examples are irrelevant.

    As to the draconian drug laws: seems the people like them, or they would have changed them. They seem outrageous to you (and perhaps to mee too) but they don’t make the government totalitarian, because, as I wrote above, it’s oppression by your fellow citizens, or by the masses, not by a totalitarian regime.

    To sum up, and repeat myself for the n-th time: your freedom (as you and I define it) is considerably abridged under the current regime. But’s it’s nothing at all, compared to totalitarian regimes. As I said to Nick, you don’t seem to grasp the horror of a totalitarian regime, and I wish you never to experience the true thing.

  • Hope

    I miss Balint Vazsonyi. He had a clear grasp on the concept of encroaching totalitarianism. He’s worth a read.

    Thanks for maintaining a great blog.

  • Hope, thanks for the link.

    Mid, Nick, here is a piece from one of the articles in the link above (originally published in the Washington Times):

    The subject is the revelation (in 2002) that the elected Hungarian Prime Minister, Mr. Medgyessy had been an informer of the communist secret services:

    “The published document which confirms his promotion in 1978, gives the year of his entry into the service as 1961. That was a time when the Hungarian government – no doubt on Soviet instructions – was still engaged in hanging teenagers for participation in the 1956 uprising.”

    Just so you get the flavor of a totalitarian regime.

  • Paul Marks

    Actually the Weimar Republic may certain key changes Jacob.

    For example, trial by jury was abolished (it had been chipped away before, for example as regards treason trials in Prussia – but under Weimar it was swept away).

    Also the special State Police (Gastapo) were created. Yes it was a small force, but it remained small under the National Socialists.

    The entire department, nationwide, was smaller than the N.K.V.D. of middle sized Soviet city.

    More basically the “rule of law” was replaced by the “social rule of law”. Once “social” considerations are allowed to trump individual rights (“rights” being understood as limits on government power) than the “rule of law” as traditionally understood, is a walking corpse.

    If you re read (I am sure you have read such works already) such books as Ludvig Von Mises “Omnipotent Government” and F.A. Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” and the “Constitution of Liberty” and MOST IMPORTANTLY his “Law, Legislation and Liberty” (spoilt by the bad section on John Rawls, Hayek even admits that he has not read “A Theory of Justice” but defends Rawls anyway, – but still very good on the history of ideas and practices in both Europe and the United States), you will see how totalitarian practices and ideas did not just spring up from nowhere in 1933.

    They were part of process that existed even in Imperial Germany, but made a big step forward under the Weimar Republic.

    Many of the socialist thinkers and administrators lived to bitterly regret breaking down the traditional limits on government power.

    Yes indeed the Weimar Republic was NOT fully totalitarian and Britian is NOT fully totalitarian – but it laid the foundations for totalitarianism (via its practices and the ideas they were based upon).

    Totalitarianism does not always come from a Revolution like 1917 Jacob – it can come without any great Revolution.

    And I say to you again, that it is too late to oppose totalitarianism AFTER it has been fully established.

    “Yes but, for example, there is freedom of speech in Britain”.

    No there is not – there are some opinions which it is not legal to express. And once such a precedent has been set (once principles have been discarded) it can be expanded.

    From race, to religion, from religion to “bugger Blair” on a shirt, from “bugger Blair” to economic policy (and so on).

    I again request that you read again the works of such writers as Hayek before you comment again on these matters.

    If you really do not see the drift towards totalitarianism in places like modern Britain then you are in need of time spent in study and reflection (although that could be said of everyone – including myself).

  • Midwesterner

    Jacob,

    One last time. No, really.

    You are confusing the body count with the purpose. The purpose is total control of every detail. THAT is why it’s called ‘totalitarian’. Not for the fraction of the population it kills to achieve that state.

    You mentioned not being able to change jobs as one of the signs of a totalitarian state. Today I had lunch with a friend. Pretty good job, nice older home. I asked her when she might lighten up, retire early and switch to part time work. I touched a nerve. To cut a long outburst short, I’ll abbreviate. She said “I’m stuck in a job that’s killing me and I’m terrified that if I quit I’ll never get [health] insurance again.”

    You may self righteously proclaim that to be the consequences of bad decisions on her part. It’s not. You said “but you have to murder a few, so the rest of the population will live in terror and dread of that knock on the door at night. I have lived for almost twenty five years in fear of the knock of a major injury or illness ‘in the night’. That is life without access to health care. And you are right. You only need to kill a few for the rest of us to “live in terror and dread” and do as we are told. Small business people are notoriously independent. It is no coincidence that we and nobody else are singled out for punishment. So my friend is being a ‘good citizen’. Our health is being held for ransom by a totalitarian state that regulates every minutia of my medical care and which persons the state permits me to get it from.

    I know that no matter what I say to you, you will find a way to rationalize it. I hope a few others reading this thread may think about the total control that the state exercises over ever facet of our personal lives in a new way. I never knew that this friend of mine (for ~15 years) was yet another victim of our health care tyranny. After all, she has insurance. But it turns out she is a prisoner as much I am paranoid about a major medical need. She used to be a small business owner. It turns out she is “in terror and dread” of what could happen if she were to go back to that.

    The government is totalitarian. You are equating the whip and the harness. You need a reality check. If you get one, for your sake, I hope it is not too painful and not too final.

  • Jacob, you wrote:

    This creeping totalitarianism is the will of the people.

    This is very interesting. Firstly, because it contains a statement that contradicts your own argument (which was, as you might recall, that this is not a totalitarianism). More interestingly, though, is the “will of the people” point, which you also have repeated in later comments on this thread. So, first you say that it is not totalitarianism, because it is not murderous. (Perry stressed this several times, even before you entered the discussion). Then you concede that it is, in fact, totalitarianism. Moreover, you also concede that it is “creeping”, i.e. not very bad yet, but is bound to get worse, gradually (A point Perry has also made several times). And then you say that the totalitarian in question is not a single person (Hitler, Stalin), or even a small group of persons (the PRC politburo), but the the society itself, the entire masses, or at least a majority of these (Perry may have not touched this point on this particular thread, but other people did on this site, many times. I don’t know about you, but the fact that we are being oppressed not by one or ten, but by millions of people does not make me feel any better). Now, could you please tell me, why do I get the impression that you are trying to use whatever argument there is to reach the conclusion you desire, consistency be damned?

  • I’m probably a very bad communicator if I can’t get across a point that is, to me, clear as day:

    I will repeat that last sentence (not written by me)

    “[the regime in Hungary] was still engaged in hanging teenagers for participation in the 1956 uprising.”

    How many teenagers have been hung in any Western nation in this century? Is the difference a matter of body count ??? What are you talking about, for god’s sake ? Comparing house insulation regulations to mass hanging and murdering of people ? Do you hear what you’re saying, and repeating ??? I can’t believe it.

    Alisa,

    This creeping totalitarianism is the will of the people.

    I meant: This small loss of freedom that you call “creeping totalitarianism”
    is the will of the people. (I apologize for the ambivalent formulation).

    The point is that you Alisa, Mid and Nick (and me too, if you’ll allow me) are alarmed and indignant by this loss of freedom, but we are a small and insignificant minority, our point of view isn’t shared by many. Most people don’t see this a a loss of freedom, they see it as an important social achievement. Can you call a government that gives people what they want “totalitarian” ?
    If the government decided for example, to close down Social Security, as per our recommendation, most people would cry “tyranny” and “bloody murder”.

    Seems some people are so entrenched in their own selves that they lose a sense of proportion, and relation to the rest of the world.

    I’m not disputing Perry’s main point: we are losing some freedoms, and it is worrying, it is bad. I just pointed out that totalitarianism is something else, on an entirely different plane.

  • I just pointed out that totalitarianism is something else, on an entirely different plane.

    Yes, and I have pointed out why I think you are quite wrong. We have all made it clear what we all think so this does not need to be repeated.

  • Can you call a government that gives people what they want “totalitarian”

    Yes, I thought I made it clear in my previous comment. Imagine that you live outside Israel in one of the western countries that you may have lived in the past, and the majority of voters decide that all Jews should convert to Christianity. Would that not be considered totalitarian because it is what the people want? And it is not such a big deal after all, just a minor change in the building code concerning you door posts.

  • Jacob

    Alisa,
    Very good question.
    I guess that if a big enough atrocity is commited it doesn’t matter so much whether the government acts with or without popular consent. A crime is a crime.

    Take for example the case of Darfur. Arab tribes are murdering negros by the hundreds of thousands, and driving millions off their land. Is the government of Sudan totalitarian ? The government is either actively encouraging the atrocity, or just turning a blind eye and hindering the UN intervention – probably encouraging.
    There is no doubt at all in my mind that the Sudanese government is a criminal one. Would “totalitarian” be the right adjective to describe it ? I don’t think so, it’s not the case. It can be criminal without being totalitarian (though not the other way round). Not everything that is bad should be called “totalitarian”.

    Going back to our case: when the atrocity (smoke ban or insulation) isn’t that big, public consent matters. It’s a question of proportion. The rules that apply to smoking bans and to murder are different, that’s my whole point. I’m at a loss to understand how it is possible to bundle the two cases together.

    We assume that the people are both civilized, and averse to atrocities, and they won’t permit the government to commit crimes, unless the government is totalitarian – i.e. – imposes it’s way on the people by force and terror. Therefore public consent matters.

    Can you, for example, imagine that the British Gov. will issue a decree that all Muslims living in Britain must convert to Christianity (or to atheist softcore marxism ) or else be expelled ? (This would be an atrocity, a totalitarian act). Can anyone claim that since they have banned smoking they have embarked upon the slippery slope that necessarily ends in commiting real atrocities of this kind? That the one leads to the other? Or can anyone claim, like Mid, that what the gov does (insulation regulation, medical insurance regulation) is an atrocity on par with murdering people ?

    Any government that isn’t adhering strictly and meticulously to Libertarian Doctrine is “totalitarian” ??

    (Perry, I am repeating myself, I hope that, since pixels are inexpensive, you don’t mind).

  • Sunfish

    Most people don’t see this a a loss of freedom, they see it as an important social achievement. Can you call a government that gives people what they want “totalitarian” ?

    I suspect that enough people in 1940 thought that the “improved law and order”[1] was worth the cost. I also suspect that there really was a vast silent majority that wasn’t TOO outraged by Kennedy, then LBJ, then Nixon using the FCC, FBI and IRS to harass political opponents. On the smaller scale, I suppose that there were plenty of people in Chicago in 1968 who didn’t mind that Mayor Daley dropped the hammer on a bunch of political opponents who were dead set on nominating a presidential candidate without his approval.[2]

    Across the ditch from me, the UK passed a bill (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, was it?) requiring that people turn over electronic encryption keys at the demand of government personnel. I don’t think that RIP specified what sorts of cases allowed this power to be invoked or mandated judicial oversight as we know it in the US. Not totalitarian at all, that one.

    Meanwhile, the US government arrested a US citizen INSIDE THE US and then claimed that he was an “enemy combatant” with no right to demand to be brought before the relevant US district court. And maybe most of the talking heads thought that was okay. I don’t care.

    There are such things as right and wrong, regardless of what 50%+1 have to say about it. Calling jailing some guy over using a bicycle as a masturbation aid, or holding your own citizens incommunicado, or preventing people from taking lip balm on airplanes in order to remind them that you’re the government and they’re not, or, dear sweet baby Jesus, have you EVER filled out a US tax return Form 1040? How many governments claim the “right” to know every financial move of any importance that you’ve made?

    [1] A discussion for another time: Did Nazi Germany really have reduced crime as a result of being a bunch of assholes? And, was that because of the expanded police powers or was it because German culture contains a sickening degree of submissive conformism?

    [2] Oh, yeah, he was merely enforcing the curfew in Grant Park *cough*cough*bullshit*

  • Jacob, Mid never claimed that that the regulations he mentioned are atrocities. You obviously are not willing to see the point, so there is no point for me to keep trying.

  • Midwesterner

    I am not responding to Jacob, I am summarizing my own thoughts which are quite close to those Perry expressed in the original post.

    One of my goals, and a key part of (re?) building meta-context, is the re-narrowing of words which have been loaded with a lot of additional baggage and had their meaning diluted. This takes the form of adding something extreme ‘B’, to the definition of a word ‘A’, and then saying that “A doesn’t have B, therefor, this isn’t A” If these attachments are allowed, it makes it virtually impossible to find, and therefor to fight, condition ‘A’.

    A totalitarian government does not have to be murderous. It is far more likely to spend its time in diligently earnest discussions of how to put its citizens to the best possible use and how to best preserve the citizens net value to society. It may use guns and physical violence to compel its decisions. But it is far more likely to save that for an absolute last resort and to first commandeer the market, personal choices, and (formerly) private property in order to put its citizens and property to the best use. For a totalitarian, perception of liberty is oftentimes a motivational tool, but true liberty is never a goal. Fundamentally, whether murderous or micromanaging, all totalitarian governments believe they are putting collective property to the collective’s best use. Even when they are murdering it. And all totalitarian governments will use ultimate force to compel their goals, whether they are what some consider benign goals, or overtly murderous goals.

    To see a difference between a ‘murderous’ or a ‘nanny’ state is to judge a thief by what he does with the stolen property. While there are many who do judge thieves by what they do with the stolen property, I do not. The theft is the same and any additional crimes are just that, additional crimes. In my comments here, it is not my intent to devalue these additional crimes, but rather to avoid devaluing the original crime (theft of person) because, through ‘good’ planning or whatever, the later crimes do not require as many deaths.

    As more qualifying characteristics are added to a word, the word’s usefulness actually decreases. What the narrowly defined word originally described can no longer be attacked because with the added qualifications, it cannot be found.

  • Paul Marks

    Jacob asks “can a government that gives people what they want be totalitarian”.

    But the majority of people do not want it – at least not at first. They have to be told over and over again (by the “education system” and the mainstream media) that they really think (or SHOULD think) X, Y, Z, before most people say they support X, Y, Z.

    The policy comes first – the majority support afterwards (if at all).

    And yes this process tends towars totalitarianism if a single view of the world is made to dominate the schools, universities and the media.

  • Paul,

    But the majority of people do not want it – at least not at first.

    Well, they want it now.
    Reeducate the people in a libertarian spirit, and government will follow (though maybe, reluctantly).

    There is a built in tendency in all governments to be anti-libertarian, i.e. to grab power for themselves. That’s why anarchists don’t want any governments.

    But, between a fully libertarian, or minarchist government, and a fully totalitarian one, there are a wide range of intermediate states.

  • Mid,

    To see a difference between a ‘murderous’ or a ‘nanny’ state is to judge a thief by what he does with the stolen property.

    I am familiar with the idea, held by many libertarians, that all taxation is theft, and all governments are by definition, oppresive, and there is no point in discussing the degree of oppresion. It’s a respectable idea, it has a lot of merit.

    I just don’t share it.

  • Mid,
    To put it another way: you recognize only two categories: A and non-A (A= a fully libertarian government, whatever your definition of this is).

    I recognize several categories, roughly: A, B (social-democrat welfare state), C (authoritarian, mixed economy), D (totalitarian).

    You say: B, C, and D are all non-A, undistinguishable from my point of view.

    Well, fine.

  • Paul Marks

    You are missing the point Jacob.

    I do not want the power to “reeducate” the people – i.e. a de facto monopoly over the “education system” and the mainstream media.

    I want NO ONE TO HAVE THIS POWER.

    Nor is it the case that most people are totally on board with the project to create a total state even now.

    The “ex” Marxists (some of whom are still Marxists and some of whom have moved to a set of beliefs closer to Fascism) who dominate the institutions still have a lot of work to do – Britian is not a totalitarian country yet.

    And most people do not want it to be a totalitarian country.

    If there was greater freedom (for example television and radio stations with different political points of view – rather than the private Classic F.M. having to have the same political line as the government B.B.C. and “Sky” television being nothing like even its sister station Fox in the United States, not that Fox is exactly wonderful) things might not tend in this direction.

    For example, if there was no government de facto monopoly of education – via control of most schools and of examinations.

    Of course there would be broadcasting stations and schools and universities supporting the agenda of building the Total State. But there would also be broadcasters, schools and universities that did not support it.

    People would be expossed to different arguments and would be able to CHOOSE between them.

    Rather the de fault position of modern Britain – where most people actually think the powers-that-be are WRONG but they do not have the words (let alone the arguments) express their dissent – so they go along with it.

    At a local level I deal with “ordinary people” every day who do not agree with the “policies” that come down from on high – but they feel that they have to go along with it all (because no alternative is ever presented to them).

    To take a non British example:

    If most people really agreed with the “Progressive Agenda” why are the United States (that favour this “unbiased” and “scientific” Progressivism) facing a collapse in circulation?

    And, no, it is not just “the internet”.

    To take a practical issue:

    If you tell people 24 hours a day that SCHIP (the effort to destroy non government health cover for middle income families) is wonderful and that anyone who opposes it is a savage beast who wants little children to die – of course most people will eventually say that they support SCHIP.

    But it is interesting how fast such support declines when people are exposed to arguments against SCHIP.

    Not “reeducation” the people continue to have all the pro SCHIP stuff – just a different source of information.

    With different lines of information the people can choose in a way that is much harder if it is just “my little head against all the world”.

    That is the heart of totalitarianism – it is the effort to convince each person (non violently if possible, violently if need be) that the Total State is the only way, that everyone but them believes in it.

    Subjected to this many (perhaps most) people crack – at least to some extent.

  • Paul Marks

    Among my several mistake above was missing out the word “newspapers” after the words “United States”.

    It remains a valid point.

    Why, if the people really support building the Total State, has circulation of newspapers like the “Houston Chronicle” (a de facto monopoly newspaper with a lot of support from the city government and connected business enterprises) dropped so much?

    “The people are all on the internet” – pull the other one it has got bells on.

    The “Progressive” line that government will solve all problems if only it spends enough money and passes enough regulations (and is led by “good” people – i.e. not President Bush) is not really believed by most people.

    They know in their gut that this Total State (for that is what it leads to) line is crap. And they reject newspapers that preach it at them every day – even if not buying them means missing out on the sports news.

    Most people may support specific statist suggestions (after they have been hit with enough propaganda) – but not when they have an alternative sources of information.

    It is the same at school and university:

    Most students write out, in examinations, the crap they are taught to get the qualifications (to get good jobs) – they have no deep belief in it.

  • Why, if the people really support building the Total State…

    No, people don’t support the building of a Total State, and therefore there is little danger of one being built in the West. That was precisely my point.

    People do support (maybe) smoking bans, building regulations, social security, maybe even the NHS, gov education, welfare programs, etc.
    Therefore we have a mixed economy, in a mixed state, some freedom, and some state mandates and government programs.

    I said: this mixed state, half free, half state controlled is not a Total State, but a mixed one (bad as it is). And it is not in danger of becoming a Total State, as long as the people don’t desire one, as the government isn’t violently oppressive, and isn’t moving toward becoming one, unless there is some revolution.

  • Paul Marks

    Again you miss the point Jacob.

    This is HOW the Total State is built – bit by bit, not all at once by revolution.

    It does not matter a tinker’s curse that the people do not support the objective of the Total State IF they can be convinced (by a de facto monopoly of education and the media) to support each step towards it.

    This was the battle plan of Fabianism – long before Gramsci wrote a word of his version of Marxism.

    Now is the time to stop totalitarianism – not after it has been fully created.

    “Half free and half not”

    No – step by step away from freedom (not some sort of stable half way house).

    “Not in danger of becomming a Total State”.

    False – indeed absurd.