Tyranny marked by silenced dissent

By Tibor Machan: FNM columnist

When people voice fear of the American government, they are often accused of being irrational or paranoid.

But there are good reasons not to dismiss such concerns under current circumstances.

When society is considered a collective, those who see themselves as its leaders can quite easily slip into a mode of thinking that construes all opposition a form of betrayal.

If, for example, the federal government wants to set goals for us all, resources and hard work are needed. Dissent may threaten the ability to collect those resources and secure such work. Dissenters will naturally be perceived as traitors to the cause.

After all, those who lead us toward a goal they consider vital to the public interest do understand themselves to be champions of social justice. How else are they to understand wealth redistribution, for example?

How can a bona fide promoter of social justice tolerate serious, persistent dissent? It is not possible unless one is firmly committed to the idea of individual rights.

When a country’s government is administered by officials who do not believe in individual rights, the concern that dissent will land one in hot water with government officials is quite rational.

OK, for a while there is the protection afforded by the First Amendment to the Constitution. But the defenders of the public interest could very well see full warrant for weakening such protection.

This is one of the lessons of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to pack the Supreme Court when that court would not go along with his plans for the country. Roosevelt did not believe in the Bill of Rights as traditionally understood in America’s legal history. So he crafted a Second Bill of Rights, which included “rights” to a “good education,” “adequate medical care,” “a decent home,” etc.

Today, the legal team of President Obama is of the same mind as FDR when he launched the New Deal. What is needed, they argue, is the reaffirmation of FDR’s Second Bill of Rights, with its emphasis on entitlements and the coerced services needed from everyone so as to deliver on these.

So when one opposes this policy, one is clearly an obstructionist. One is breaking ranks from an army that needs all the soldiers to be dedicated and loyal.

Patriotism is then defined as falling in line with the government’s plans.

Why is it such a surprise, then, that the Obama administration is attacking those Americans who voice opposition to its plan for the virtual nationalization of the health-care profession in America?

Why be surprised that opponents of bailouts and stimulus programs are denigrated and marginalized instead of argued with?

Such people are seen as vicious opponents of social and economic justice, and such opposition is quite intolerable to anyone who cares for such justice.


Once the bulwark against this kind of tyranny — namely the basic rights of individuals and the legal system that rests on those rights — is rejected as ultimately mythical, what will stand in the way of treating dissenters as traitors?

The fear of the American government becoming more and more tyrannical is not irrational but completely justified by the logic of the current administration’s attitude about political and legal theory.

What we are seen as — all of us — is tools and resources for carrying out the government’s plans. Anyone who disagrees may well need to be neutralized.