But there is also evidence around us that the British government is engaging in repression. And not just in Iraq or Afghanistan, but here in Britain. Perhaps those of us who have lived for a time under dictatorships can spot some of the warning signs:
- Inconvenient elections are avoided in the name of getting on with the job.
- Leaders of the opposition are character-assassinated by the state media.
- Institutions like the legislature begin to lose their independence and traditional role.
- Citizens are increasingly afraid to speak openly on certain issues.
- Citizens are observed and monitored on cameras and the government can tap into their conversations at will.
- Governments can snatch anyone from their homes or off the street and detain them without trial on charges of treason or terrorism.
- Ethnic and religious minorities are persecuted and are made into scapegoats.
- The state increasingly intervenes in family and community life in an attempt to control citizens' behaviour.
- The focus of discussion moves away from the issues and into a narrative of political rivalries and gossip spreads.
- Governments use bread and circuses to shut people up and distract attention away from their increasing political impotence.
- Public spaces for demonstrations are closed down and restricted.
- Large and ridiculous monuments are built to impress the citizens.
- Individuals have to carry ID with them at all times and the government holds large amounts of information on every citizen.
How does the British government rate on the dictatorship scale?
But it's all OK, isn't it? Even if we are moving towards a dictatorship, it is absolutely fine because that is what the people voted for, is it not?
Via Bishop Hill, and quoted by the Adam Smith Institute, Gibbon showed us what happens when we get to such a state.
In the end, more than freedom, they [the ancient Athenians] wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all—security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.
Does that sound at all familiar? It should do...