Sunday, October 28, 2007


Writer Perry de Havilland:
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 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.
(via Instapundit)


Ronald 'More-More' Moshki said...

Uh, things are getting out of control in all 50 states. Partition?

Anonymous said...


Please find Quotes Of The Day that are "worthy." Perry de Havilland's statements suffer from the logical fallacies of "false dichotomy" and dicto simpliciter (hasty generalization). While I do not support totalitarian regimes, whether murderous or just overly coercive, many regulations that at first blush seem intrusive are in fact beneficial to social compatibility and ensure the freedom and other rights we hold so dear. We can have a democracy that incorporates certain traits that Mr. Havilland attributes to totalitarianism; it clearly is not an either/or situation.


MaxedOutMama said...

Carl - the smoking license has made me laugh for several days. Can you imagine what would happen if the UK government proposed forcing homosexuals to get a license every year and a signed permission slip from a doctor for the right to have anal sex?

Havilland is right. It's totalitarian.

Carl said...


Of course we can have some of both. But as M_O_M intimates, we're approaching the totalitarian tipping point (if we've not already passed it). Even lefty Kurt Vonnegut was concerned--in 1961. So, Cogito, what's your bright-line rule, and have we yet crossed it?

Anonymous said...

> many regulations that at first blush seem intrusive are in fact beneficial to social compatibility and ensure the freedom and other rights we hold so dear.

Really? How does taking away the property rights of an owner of a bar or restaurant to either allow or not allow smoking on the premises "protect" anyone's freedom? Beforehand, you, the potential customer, had the right, the freedom to go somewhere else -- if enough people are making this choice, there will, indeed, be places which don't allow smoking. Now, the smoker has close to no right anywhere, to do as they please. Less freedom.

Before, I had the right to create a "smokers' airline", if I chose and could get the backers, and only those who chose to fly on said flights would do so. Now I have no such right

It's the death of a thousand cuts for freedom, it's that simple...

"The only social order in which freedom of speech is secure is the one in which it is secure for everyone... and, as those who call for censorship in the name of the oppressed ought to recognize, it is never the oppressed who determine the bounds of the censorship. Their power is limited to legitimizing the idea of censorship."
- Aryeh Neier -

The same holds true for all the other rights. Once you grant someone the power to substantially control a right, you have lost that right. The Right to use one's own property as one sees fit is as important a part of the foundation as all the others.

Freedom is not an individual effort. Yours comes only if you grant others

"...that way lies death. It's a dead end road that assumes inner growth can only be had at the price of giving up that which has made us what we are over [the last] million years... chained and channeled organisms grow stunted and wrong, always. Free ones grow wrong sometimes, but right other times; because the price of life is a continual seeking to grow and explore. Lacking that freedom, all action, physical and mental, circles in on itself and ends up only wearing a deeper and deeper rut in which it goes around and around until it dies."
- Gordon R. Dickson, 'The Final Encyclopaedia' -

"...An hour's perusal of our national charter makes it hard to understand what the argle-bargle is about. The First Amendment forbids any law 'abridging the freedom of speech.' It doesn't say 'except for commercials on children's elevision' or 'unless somebody says 'cunt' in a rap song or 'chick' on a college campus."
- P.J. O'Rourke, 'Parliament of Whores' -

One question for you: What is the oldest contiguously unchanged government of any major nation on earth (excluding, say, 'San Marino' or 'Vatican City')?

Think about it.

Right. It's ours. Each and every other major nation, if it existed at all (Germany, Italy) has gone through a radical change since 1789. In some cases (France), many. The best second answer, Britain, went through a substantial change from a true monarchy to a parliamentary system with a figurehead monarch.

And the solidity of ours is that, despite having a major crisis seven years ago, there was no violence at all. Those in power didn't dare attempt to just "take over" -- they played musical legal maneuvers until one found himself without a chair. So the FF's did something not just right, but spectacularly right.

This stuff all interlocks. Any social system is a house of cards -- Pull out one of the cards and the whole house of cards can come crashing down.

You cannot guess ahead of time which "right" is the lynchpin of the whole arrangement.

I fear for our grandchildren.

--- OBloodyhell

Carl said...




OBloodyhell's comment is excellent; the penultimate sentence is his most persuasive.