“The Republic of Voltaire is dead. It has been replaced by a repressive, authoritarian republic, obsessed with the fear of independent activity, which is all the more hostile to the weak the more submissive and powerless it is to the strong,” says the French magazine Les Elements in a commentary on the banning of the political party Civitas. It was a Catholic monarchist party, in all respects totally insignificant. There was absolutely no reason for its dissolution.

The number of organisations and conferences banned in France in the last year is perhaps in the hundreds. Even the suspicion that speakers might link radical Islam and migration is enough to ban them. Or other disagreement with government policy.

The opening quote is accurate and profound. That is the real problem. If inequalities are too great, the powerful will domesticate the state to serve them. The weaker ones will not only not be defended by the state, but turned against. A state submissive to the strong and tyrannical to the weak is a necessary consequence of inequalities of wealth, income and power.

Some propose to address this by abolishing or shrinking the state. But that solves nothing. The powerful will simply replace the state with private security. And they’ll fund it anyway with what they extort from the poor and powerless.

It is a pity that we resist admitting that equality (not just formal equality before the law, but real equality in everyday life) is an absolutely necessary condition for freedom. If society allows inequality to grow beyond a reasonable level, freedom will also disappear. This is exactly what is happening in the West at the moment.

But it is fair to admit that it is possible to imagine tyranny imposed in the name of equality.

Leave a Reply