The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

France Ends Freedom

The terrorists don’t hate us for our freedom, but if they did, well, they’d stop attacking France.

Fifty seven percent of the French approve, according to a poll.

It takes so very little to get people to give up their freedom. Find an enemy, have a few atrocities, and they’ll squeal for you to take it from them. Shades of Goerring’s comment on how easy it is to get citizens to line up behind wars.

“Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship…

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

Such laws as France has passed, will be used against others. The anti-terrorism laws in the US have been used vigorously against environmental protestors, including entirely peaceful ones.

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Centuries ago Machiavelli observed that some peoples lacked sufficient virtue for freedom. They could only be ruled by despots. Increasingly, the West has shown that they have fallen into this class.

While the young are quite good on issues of economic fairness (out of self interest), they are not particularly good on most civil liberties, so we cannot be sure that the tide moving through the Anglo-West, towards more equal economic arrangements and less corporate control will necessarily push back on civil liberties abuses.

Humans didn’t evolve to live in large societies. We are terrible at it, and our decision-making heuristics are not capable of handling it. We cannot evaluate threats properly, our enlarged senses of identity (like nationalism and ethnic identification) are easily hijacked and usually we are unable to change our minds about anything important once we become an adult unless there is a catastrophe which personally devastates us, and when there is, we simply pick up (as Friedman noted) whatever ideas are around, rather than think critically.

And so, so much for Liberte.

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  1. Herman

    The problem with most young people is that they have little interest in the concept of privacy. Having grown up with surveillance cameras everywhere and the Internet and social media they think it is weird not to put your entire life online for the world to see. If you are a private person they assume that you have something to hide which brings up the old “you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide” argument in favor of limiting civil liberties.

    Many young people seem to think nothing of trying to ruin a person’s life through doxxing and getting people fired from jobs over political opinions. When added to the measurable decline of empathy among the younger generations you can see that we are headed in a bad direction, hence my refusal to believe in the theory that the young will save us, something that is a popular idea on the left. The young are only good on economics because it is currently in their self-interest and even here I suspect that for many this doesn’t go much further than “I want free college.”

    On the decline of empathy among younger Americans:

    Another factor behind the West’s acceptance of limits on civil liberties is that governments and media and academic elites have made a big fuss about the decline of violence over the last 20 or so years. This is probably the one thing that is seen as an unequivocal triumph of the neoliberal era. I can’t tell you how many times defenders of the current system have brought this up in arguments. No matter what other bad things may have developed over the last few decades the drop in violent crime is always brought up as evidence that things are getting better.

    Westerners are now so easily scared by crime and terrorism that all you have to do to promote a totalitarian agenda is put it forward as an anti-crime or anti-terror measure. This was how Westerners were coaxed into accepting mass surveillance and I guarantee similar rationales will be used to promote eliminating cash (stop drug dealing and money laundering) and microchipping people (prevent or solve abductions).

  2. A double handfull of dedicated individuals …

  3. Dan Lynch

    Ian said “Humans didn’t evolve to live in large societies. We are terrible at it, and our decision making heuristics are not capable of handling it. We cannot evaluate threats properly, our enlarged senses of identity (like nationalism and ethnic identification) are easily hijacked and usually we are unable to change our minds about anything important once we become an adult unless there is a catastrophe which personally devastates us, and when there is, we simply pick up (as Friedman noted) whatever ideas are around, rather than think critically.”
    Nailed it.
    A system is developed to solve a problem. That problem is solved and after several generations is forgotten, so the reason for the system is forgotten and system is abandoned. Meanwhile a new problem comes along. A new system is developed to address the new problem …. Rinse, lather, and repeat. Except in this example, the new system will not solve the terrorism problem, which is rooted in imperialism.

  4. Hugh

    Actually the US has been under a state of emergency (Proclamation 7463) since 9/11. Trump was the third President to renew it and did so on September 14, 2017. As for our Bill of Rights and habeas corpus, they have been under attack since 9/11 with the Supreme Court generally providing national security exemptions to them or, as with habeas corpus, a pro forma expression only.

    France does not have a formal “Bill of Rights”. The current Constitution of 1958 cites the preamble to the Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen de 1789 among other documents. As far as I know, the British don’t have one either. The Canadians recently instituted one, and Ian could probably discuss its scope and effectiveness.

  5. Arthur

    Every day brings more evidence that it is better to be 62 (as am I) rather than 22. We are racing to the end. As best one can one must seek to find some sort of personal peace and leave it at that. The Greco-Roman is finished. For better or worse is for the next paradigm to judge.

  6. Billikin

    I don’t know if liberté goes away first. My guess is that égalité goes away first, with fraternité close behind. How to restore them? Maybe fraternité is the place to start. Too many people want liberté for me, not for thee.

  7. Hugh

    To expand upon the theme of national states of emergency. As per this CNN article, the US currently has 29 of them:

    Declaring a national state of emergency under the National Emergencies Act of 1974 outlines how a president can activate special statutory power during a crisis.
    George W. Bush declared 13 emergencies and Barack Obama declared 12 — nearly all of which are still active today. Bill Clinton declared 17 national emergencies, six of which are still active. Ronald Reagan declared six and George H.W. Bush declared four — but all of those have been revoked by now.
    The first declaration under the National Emergencies Act of 1974 came during the Iran hostage crisis — a national emergency that is still active today. Jimmy Carter blocked Iranian government property from entering the country. It’s been renewed each year by all presidents since then.
    Presidents must renew national emergencies every year, because the statute lets emergencies automatically expire after one year.
    A special White House panel led by New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie recommended that Trump make the emergency declaration on opioids. A statement from the White House said Trump has “instructed his Administration to use all appropriate emergency and other authorities to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic.”
    Other ongoing national emergencies focus on the 9/11 terror attacks, the war in Iraq and the blocking of some property and people from around the world in countries such as Yemen, Ukraine, South Sudan, Venezuela and Burundi.
    Past emergencies have focused on everything from swine flu to rough diamonds.
    Here’s a list of the 29 active national emergencies:
    1. Blocking Iranian Government Property (Nov. 14, 1979)
    2. Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (Nov. 14, 1994)
    3. Prohibiting Transactions with Terrorists Who Threaten to Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process (Jan. 23, 1995)
    4. Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to the Development of Iranian Petroleum Resources (Mar. 15, 1995)
    5. Blocking Assets and Prohibiting Transactions with Significant Narcotics Traffickers (Oct. 21, 1995)
    6. Regulations of the Anchorage and Movement of Vessels with Respect to Cuba (Mar. 1, 1996)
    7. Blocking Sudanese Government Property and Prohibiting Transactions with Sudan (Nov. 3, 1997)
    8. Blocking Property of Persons Who Threaten International Stabilization Efforts in the Western Balkans (Jun. 26, 2001)
    9. Continuation of Export Control Regulations (Aug. 17, 2001)
    10. Declaration of National Emergency by Reason of Certain Terrorist Attacks (Sept. 14, 2001)
    11. Blocking Property and Prohibiting Transactions with Persons who Commit, Threaten to Commit, or Support Terrorism (Sept. 23, 2001)
    12. Blocking Property of Persons Undermining Democratic Processes or Institutions in Zimbabwe (Mar. 6, 2003)
    13. Protecting the Development Fund for Iraq and Certain Other Property in Which Iraq has an Interest (May 22, 2003)
    14. Blocking Property of Certain Persons and Prohibiting the Export of Certain Goods to Syria (May 11, 2004)
    15. Blocking Property of Certain Persons Undermining Democratic Processes or Institutions in Belarus (Jun. 16, 2006)
    16. Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Oct. 27, 2006)
    17. Blocking Property of Persons Undermining the Sovereignty of Lebanon or Its Democratic Processes and Institutions (Aug. 1, 2007)
    18. Continuing Certain Restrictions with Respect to North Korea and North Korean Nationals (Jun. 26, 2008)
    19. Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in Somalia (Apr. 12, 2010)
    20. Blocking Property and Prohibiting Certain Transactions Related to Libya (Feb. 25, 2011)
    21. Blocking Property of Transnational Criminal Organizations (Jul. 25, 2011)
    22. Blocking Property of Persons Threatening the Peace, Security, or Stability of Yemen (May 16, 2012)
    23. Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine (Mar. 6, 2014)
    24. Blocking Property of Certain Persons With Respect to South Sudan (Apr. 3, 2014)
    25. Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in the Central African Republic (May 12, 2014)
    26. Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Venezuela (Mar. 9, 2015)
    27. Blocking the Property of Certain Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities (Apr. 1, 2015)
    28. Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Burundi (Nov. 23, 2015)
    29. Opioid Crisis Emergency Declaration (Aug. 10, 2017)

  8. Hugh

    I agree with Billikin. First comes fraternité. It is the essence of society, really what holds it together. Égalité and liberté flow from it.

  9. Peter

    The French have suffered 7 terror attacks this year and 30 in the last 7 years so they seem to be preparing for a long battle that may include taking back control of the no-go zones around Paris.

    We have a security problem with our porous southern border but the French and other Europeans have internal security crises. I wonder what other options they have now besides what they are doing.

  10. NR

    “the no-go zones around Paris.”

    Ian, maybe it’s time for a post about fake news.

  11. Somebody’s been smoking Siberian Thunderfuck again.

  12. V. Arnold

    Now, now; don’t go blaming some good smoke… 😉

  13. Peter


    You must believe that ignorance is bliss. France can have had 30 terrorists attacks but the idea they have lawless ghettos is beyond the pale. That’s strange fake thinking especially because we have similar areas in some of our cities. I read that Paris has an I-phone app to direct tourists away from these areas.

  14. Willy

    I read that Trump has a red queen proximity detector app.

  15. V. Arnold

    October 9, 2017

    Agree; I’ve done it. Now, if I can just refrain from reading the news and posting comments to no purpose…

  16. Chiron

    If your think is bad now just wait the next decade, the NeoLiberals think they can control/manipulate the masses but the demographics say otherwise.

  17. Masses – mobs – can be manipulated, but not controlled.

  18. I’ll miss Paris.

  19. realitychecker

    I have to laugh when I recall all those genius thought-leaders who fearlessly told us after 9/11, “We won’t let them change us.”

    Seems to me they’ve changed us a lot.

  20. C53

    Seems to me they’ve changed us a lot.

    The “they” being said “thought-leaders”.

  21. In addition to giving up freedoms, add an increasing popularity of the military. Applause when the CJCS contradicts the CINC on transgenders in the military. The memes of “support the troops” and “take care of veterans” which none dare suggest be moderated, much less curtailed. New television shows ever year; this year “The Brave” and “Seal Team.”

    Liberals and Democrats, having lost the last election, are vigorously casting doubt on the validity of our election system, never thinking that it might be sued to question the validity of an eventual win by their side.

    Add a president with 20% approval and Congress with 16% approval, and when do we reach a point at which a military takeover of government receives popular support?

  22. nihil obstet

    I tend to think that we’ve already had a military takeover of the government.

  23. realitychecker

    @ C53

    “The “they” being said “thought-leaders”.”

    Actually, I don’t think our thought-leaders changed, they just got to realize their traditional police state wet dreams.

    I lost a close friend when I told her, two weeks after 9/11, that they would use it as an excuse to impose a police state.

    I don’t think it took any genius to know that would be our future.

  24. When it ensures an unrigged, untampered election?

    The population has grown too large, too diverse, across too much too diverse territory, for centralized, in particular the lopsidedness of our central, “control”. Think of a perpetual motion machine, bound by the laws of physics to fail. Wheels coming off implies momentum, momentum implies anticipation where the wheels will go. We’ve reached a point of insustainability and the militarization of the situation be it a good for the country coup or Our Carnival Barking Tea Pot Dictator’s imposition of Martial Law far the more likely the catalyst to that failure. It may be inevitable, out of our control.

    Interesting times, we live in.

  25. Steeleweed

    Reminds me of France during the war in Algeria. DeGaulle had enough personal power and prestige to end that, but not without a lot of chaos, particularly from the clandestine OAS, operating much like the post-WWI Freikorps (and for the same reasons).
    Spain falling apart; UK tripping over it’s own feet; America gazing at tRump’s navel; Turkey withdrawing into dictatorship, NK refusing to stand still for a replay of being carpet bombed.

    The only question is if it ends with a bang or a whimper.

  26. AC

    France wouldn’t need a state of emergency to prevent terrorism if they would cease supporting jihadis in Syria, Libya etc and turning a blind eye when they come home. All the bataclan perpetrators were known to the intelligence services and not arrested for example. But a few dead at home is worth it stacked up against the kickbacks paid out as part of those massive arms sales to the also jihadi supporting gulf states.

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