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From Censorship to Health Emergencies: Are Doomed to ‘Democratic’ Tyranny?

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POLITICIANS, academia, and the mainstream media in the west talk a lot about democracy and little or nothing about individual rights, while they hand over the sovereignty of their nations to large supranational bureaucracies that lack democratic legitimacy. Two years of government-mandated shutdowns, blockades, and COVID passports have caused more damage than the pandemic itself. Two years of limitations on individual freedom under an “emergency” imposed without real legislative controls or representative political discussions. After two years of censorship, disinformation, and Cancel Culture, the fierce authoritarian aspiration of a good part of the political and intellectual elites of the democracies of the West is in sight.

When authoritarianism is imposed by means of “emergency powers”, it is not surprising that they speak of new and endless “emergencies” to crush those who dare to defend their inalienable individual rights. Canada is a democracy, no one doubts that, but it is a democracy whose Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, crushed the peaceful protests of truckers against COVID-19 emergency mandates by confiscating bank accounts and ordering arbitrary arrests without due process to deny freedom of speech to Canadians who opposed his authoritarian delusion.

Trudeau brazenly argued that what he was doing was legitimate because he was acting against a minority of “unacceptable” views in defense of “the majority.” It is not at all clear that the majority of Canadians actually support the brutal authoritarianism to which their prime minister resorted, but if so, that does not give him the right to deny any minority their rights to property, liberty and life. And yes, Trudeau’s authoritarian repression put innocent lives in danger by confiscating everything from bank accounts to heating fuel and food from peaceful protesters.

The Western idea of natural rights is that they are superior to constitutional authority and all power. Juan de Mariana argued in 17th century Spain that when the king violated the individual rights of his subjects, he became a tyrant who could be overthrown by force. The Declaration of Independence of the United States echoes Mariana’s arguments and proclaims inviolable individual rights. If we stick to that, freedom of speech cannot be censored, nor property violated, when rulers confront a speech with which they disagree. Mariana defended private property by stating that “the goods of his vassals do not belong to the King”. The right to property that Trudeau violated by confiscating, like a tyrant, the private bank accounts of citizens who were peacefully protesting. For that he asked for and obtained “emergency” powers.

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Today individual rights to life, liberty and property are ideologically attacked as “selfish” and contrary to the “common good” throughout the West. And the excuse is democracy, as if the will of the majority justifies violating the rights of the minority. But the truth is that the opposite of tyranny is not democracy, but freedom and individual rights. And that is why so many Western leaders praise democracy while despising individual freedoms. But those same Western leaders who praise democracy so highly undermine the power of their constituents by strengthening the authority of supranational organizations that do not respond to any democratic scrutiny. Today democratically elected governments cede sovereignty to transnational bureaucracies that were not democratically elected, and over which authoritarian and totalitarian governments have the same or greater influence than Western democracies, such as the UN and the WHO.

So our “democrats” insist on making democracy a mere formalism without real division of powers or guaranteed individual rights, and nationalism and patriotic pride synonymous with “enemies of democracy”. Political movements advocating national self-determination in the West such as MAGA in the United States, and the Brexit movement in the United Kingdom, have been fallaciously labeled “fascist,” “neo-Nazi” and “threats” to democracy, but the real danger are those who attack national self-determination and individual freedoms, because it is they who aspire to establish tyrannies. And a “democracy” without individual rights would serve their purposes perfectly well.

Guillermo Rodríguez is a professor of Political Economy in the extension area of the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Universidad Monteávila, in Caracas. A researcher at the Juan de Mariana Center and author of several books // Guillermo es profesor de Economía Política en el área de extensión de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas de la Universidad Monteávila, en Caracas, investigador en el Centro Juan de Mariana y autor de varios libros

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