Friday, September 11, 2020

Lord Sumption on How Societies Lose Liberty

 Lord Sumption,

The great former UK Supreme Court Justice, Lord Sumption, during a recent interview remarked, “What you have to remember is that when societies lose their liberty it is not because liberty has been crushed under the boot of some tyrant, it’s usually because they’ve been frightened into giving it up voluntarily. And that is what happened. Fear is the number one instrument of every despot. I dare say the intentions of this Government are benign. But their methods have not been.”

Some may question whether the actions of government officials during the COVID-19 panic were benign but Sumption has it correct in that government has used fear to bring about escalating tyranny.

Over on this side of the pond, the current hysteria can only be matched by the Salem witch trials, and it should be remembered what Murray Rothbard wrote of the period in Conceived in Liberty, Volume 1  (my highlight):

Now a group of young girls of Salem Village became "bewitched" and began the delightful game of accusing other people--at first mostly personal enemies--of witchcraft...

After the classic pattern of intmidation and informing, reprieve came only if a witch would confess his or her guilt; and the confession was deemed sincere if other people--accomplices--were named...

Too many writers have treated the Salem witch-hunt in psychological terms: child neuroses and mob hysteria The vital point is not the hysteria but the use made of it... a program carried out by the elite of the colony and directed by the lieutenant governor himself, the man whose major aim had long been the exercise of power.


1 comment:

  1. Yes the hysteria is used by ruthless people to gain more power. But when victimized people are in a moral panic or mass hysteria about something there is no reasoning with them. There is no way to argue that this experience is another reason to limit the power of government. Fear blinds them and can be debilitating for decades. Even now we are unable to persuade the pubic that the TSA is a mistake let alone that bigger issues like government education or taxation victimizes them. The psychological issue remain a vital point. Dr. Hoppe's theory may be correct. That our economic success has subsidized a growing population of people who are not psychologically or mentally capable of living in a free society. History suggests it could take thousands of years to evolve a population more suitable to liberty.