Thursday, April 4, 2024

The Danger of the Western Public's Neglect of Individual Rights


Though the Western political class constantly criticizes the “authoritarian” nature of certain nations, one should sweep in front of his own door first, to paraphrase Goethe. Indeed, Western nation-states and international institutions have for years been gnawing at the freedom and rights of both individuals and companies.

Firstly, the exorbitant fiscal and inflationary pressures on Western populations should never be considered “normal” or “acceptable”; they are severe violations of property rights in and of themselves. These pressures alone help to explain the economic stagnation and political decadence of Western societies. Additionally, previously unthinkable powers have been given to Western police and security forces, many of them now permanent. Wikileaks and others have revealed the programs of mass-surveillance of entire populations that is practiced by unaccountable Western intelligence agencies.

Censorship and propaganda is common practice by governments and mainstream media, not least in Western democracies where control of public opinion is key. But the violation of rights in the West took a dramatic turn with the unprecedent and unjustified confinements of healthy people during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the essentially mandatory vaccination policies, and the other political scandals surrounding these vaccines.

Next on the agenda are further restrictions to freedom of speech of certain social media platforms. New laws, like the RESTRICT Act in the USA and the Digital Services Act (DSA) in Europe, are undemocratically pushed through, ostensibly to protect the people. However, they allow the Western oligarchic elite to increase its control over society, to implement its globalist agenda, and to protect itself from brewing dissent.

Yet, in the near future things are probably going to get far worse. From the alarming potential control of individual lives through the planned digital wallets and CBDCs, to the grave economic and social consequences of the “Green deals”: all the alarm bells have been ringing for some time already.

In view of these severe rights violations and threats of further violations, much more pushback from the majority at the receiving end might be expected. True, there are pockets of political disobedience, like the encouraging farmers’ protests in Europe, but these are fringe movements by people who are experiencing firsthand the above-mentioned policies.

There are positive signs of disapproval among the general population, like a measurable loss of trust in both Western mainstream media and political leaders. Yet, there is no massive opposition to these glaring violations of individual rights. Thus, before asking what conditions are needed for radical political change in the West, it seems necessary to first look at this indifference.

The Neglect of Individual Rights

The Western world was able to produce such inspiring texts as the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen and the US Bill of Rights, both from 1789. Their purpose was to guarantee the protection of individual rights and liberty against state coercion. For more than two centuries these two documents have played a certain role in restraining the most egregious violations of individual rights by Western governments against their subjects.

It must be noted, however, that these documents have not only been quite “liberally” interpreted but also violated, even openly, on many occasions (e.g. forced conscription and confiscatory taxation to name but two). This is unavoidable when such rights are only protected by the willingness of legislators and judges to adhere to old parchments, however “sacred” they are often pretended to be. Considering the relatively poor protection of individual rights that these documents have in fact provided, it is not surprising that these rights - in particular the most fundamental one; the right to property – can be so easily undermined today.

Arguably, this current brazen violation of rights can happen for several reasons. Firstly, in the prevailing post-modernist culture the meanings of words are subjective, positivist, and not to be taken very seriously. This is reflected in the current zeitgeist which considers statist intervention as not only acceptable, but also a much better means to move society than such “quaint, old principles”. A good example of this are the draconian measures that are planned to be imposed in order to fight “climate change”.

Secondly, individual rights are usually just disregarded by the majority because they are taken for granted. This is the na├»ve “End of History” conviction, according to which Western “liberal democracies” are the pinnacle of mankind’s moral and political development. It is the idea, common among the goodhearted but politically ignorant, that individual rights no longer need attention because they have been acquired already, once and for all.

There is thus little recognition today in the West, that the struggle for liberty never ends. As Benjamin Constant said in a famous speech to the French assembly in 1819: “In order to benefit from the liberty that they would like, the people must exercise an active and constant surveillance of their representatives.” Otherwise, as George Santayana wrote, “unless all those concerned keep a vigilant eye on the course of public business and frequently pronounce on its conduct, they will before long awake to the fact that they have been ignored and enslaved.” Such words of wisdom have never been absorbed by Western publics.

The Focus on Positive Rights

The third way in which individual rights are undermined is when they are interpreted too widely and thus diluted. This happens when rights are expanded to include not only negative rights, but also positive ones; those that the state is expected to enforce. This legitimizes both the state’s growth, as well as its coercive and unjust wealth redistribution, in order to assure “equality of opportunity”, or worse; “equality of outcome”.

Such thinking permeates Western society today, even in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which hails positive “rights” such as the “right to work”, the “right to equal pay”, or the “right to rest and leisure”. These are obviously not “rights” in the same sense as the natural right to property, and their enforcement by the state necessarily violates the property rights of others. Indeed, as Murray Rothbard wrote in The Ethics of Liberty, that “the very concept of “rights” is a “negative” one, demarcating the areas of a person’s action that no man may properly interfere with.”

As Ever, Education in Liberty

There can be only one result of this multifaceted neglect of individual rights among the majority in the West: the creeping violation of individual rights that is so obvious today. If the principles of natural rights were really taught, instead of the vacuous mantra repeated ad nauseam that “all men are created equal”, then the nefarious agenda of control being imposed by the Western ruling minority would be far more readily resisted.

It is worth remembering that the first sentence of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen states that “ignorance, forgetfulness or contempt for human rights are the only causes of public misfortunes and government corruption”. Efforts must therefore continue unabated to inform and educate the public about the principles of freedom and the importance of protecting negative rights against constant attempts to violate them.

 

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