The Foundation for Economic Education published an interesting essay last week on the nature and politics of authoritarianism and how it is not the sole preserve of the politically left or right. The tract is primarily focussed on the US but it works just as well for this side of the pond.
Here are some extracts which will be easily recognisable by fellow jewel robbers.
What exactly is authoritarianism, though? It’s rather hard to defeat an enemy that one cannot define, let alone understand.
Broadly, authoritarianism is the desire to impose one’s own worldview on others in one’s society by institutionalized coercion. Authoritarians, therefore, see punishment as an appropriate response when members of the group with which they identify (the United States, in this case) diverge too far from values that the authoritarian believes are best for society – even if the punished person has neither caused direct harm to another nor infringed another’s rights.
Yep, "leave us alone" is no longer a defence against the people we despise here, they insist on doing things to you for your own good.
Authoritarianism becomes a significant force in the politics of a society when a psychological disposition to authoritarianism is activated among enough of the people who possess it. Any large country has a significant minority that score highly for the authoritarian psychological disposition. Usually, however, that disposition is latent, driving neither behavior nor political preferences.
There used to be an insignificant minority who peered through their curtains and didn't like what other people were consuming, but they were insane, anti-social, and thankfully powerless.
'Public health' massaged their bigotry, encouraged their misanthropy, and turned them into a vile throbbing mass of seething anger about the inconsequential choices of others. In an era where racial, sexist, homophobic and religious hatred has been largely reined in, the legions of self-enriching 'public health' professionals nurtured the bile and redirected it towards the harmless choices of friends, family, acquaintances and strangers so much so that online comments such as "the only good smoker is a dead one" are not only not unusual, but almost endorsed by the state.
Authoritarians – whether they lean left or right – justify their politics, like everyone else, by arguing for particular positions on issues they care about. But if your goal is a free and kind society, then arguing an issue on its merits with an authoritarian may often be to shoot yourself in the foot. Doing so can mean buying into the unstated assumption that underpins all authoritarian politics – that an argument that X is right is automatically an argument for using force to make people do X.
Specifically, the fact that “X is morally right” is a long, long way from, “It is morally right to compel people to do X,” because the latter actually means, “It is morally right to harm someone for not doing X”… and whether that is true can only be determined by an unprejudiced comparison of the harm caused by not doing X vs. the harm done by the enforcement.
And, as we know, on lifestyle issues, the 'public health' racket never, ever, even considers harm done by enforcement, just as it also ignores the benefits of the behaviour it is paid to hate.
In any political argument with an authoritarian of any stripe, the real issue – the meta-issue, if you will – is whether, even if he is right about the best way for people to behave in a certain situation or for society to organize itself, what makes it right to cause physical harm to compel it?
It isn't right, obviously. And this is a truth which was universally held to be true from the teachings of J S Mill for over 150 years before the current crop of repulsive state-funded prohibitionists resurrected a new age of obnoxious hate-filled puritanism against respectful and law-abiding citizens.
You can read the whole thing, "Authoritarians to the Right of Me, Authoritarians to the Left", here.