Column on the Genesis of Tyranny (corrected)

The Genesis of Tyranny

Tibor R. Machan

One of my neighbors has built a small shed next to her home, maybe 8x8X8,
if that much. Its not connected to her house. Indeed, it is nearly
invisible from the outside–you must actually be snooping in order to get
a decent look at it. The purpose of it, I have been told, is to store a
stroller and some other objects associated with her young children. It
couldn’t possible be a hazard to anyone near or far.

Nonetheless a neighbor of hers down the street, roughly 120 yards from
her on the other side, snitched on her, calling the local county
authorities and reporting that not everything about the shed is in full
compliance with what the planners like. By doing this our nasty neighbor
will have imposed several thousand dollars worth of totally useless
expense on the family that built the shed.

When I found out about this I asked what on earth might have motivated
the snitch and was told that it was politics–the folks who built the shed
are conservative-libertarians and the snitch is a statist through and
through (which I could confirm from the bumper stickers on her vehicles,
including a nifty BMW SUV). I believe, though do not know it for sure,
that this snitch works at a local community college which is why one of
her bumper stickers lamented that education doesn’t receive enough funding
form the government (a self-dealing complaint for sure).

This episode in my little community goes to illustrate several aspects of
political philosophy. One is the utter utopianism of that currently
prominent doctrine called communitarianism. It is this doctrine today that
has replaced the utopianism of communism–indeed it amounts to small scale
communism. It worships at the altar of community harmony, fraternity,
promoting the notion that unlike in capitalist markets, under
communitarianism people will share and support one another without
rivalry, without hostility. Give me a break.

Another element of this episode is just how in the absence of strictly
protected individual–especially private property–rights, citizens lack
protection against the prejudices and ill will of their fellows. I recall
back in communist Hungary–as well as in Nazi Germany–wherein the idea of
social solidarity ruled, all kinds of assaults on people were carried out
by folks who didn’t like their politics or religions or just their style
of life, all in the name of community solidarity, of having to follow some
kind of pseudo-common good that the powerful members of society laid down
for everyone. The suspicions this reaped within the population of various
communities was felt by everyone–is my next move going to provoke someone
to turn me into the government? Will someone report my private actions,
even thoughts, to the authorities who will then intrude on my and my
intimates’ lives good and hard?

So much for communitarianism, so much for the false ideal of harmony
within all neighborhoods! This is just what a system within which
privacy–individual rights to life, liberty and property–is respected and
protected is meant to avoid. No one can do away with nosy neighbors, with
their gossip and ill thoughts but their attempt to impose their ideas on
others will have no legal standing in a society wherein such rights are
respected and protected. This false ideal of community is based on a
misunderstanding or at least total lack of appreciation of human
individuality. It fails to recognize and respect genuine human diversity,
so that, for example, my or my neighbor’s small shed in our front or back
yards may be built even if others frown upon its style or purpose.

Another lesson from this episode in my neck of the woods is that it’s not
always politicians or bureaucrats who champion arm-twisting–many citizens
do, as well, so long as it serves their hostile purposes, so long as it
serve to impose on others what they prefer, even if only to express their
prejudices and dislikes of whatever kind, including political. This is,
after all, one way that one can get back at those in one’s community who
refuse to bend to one’s will!

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