Category Archives: tyranny

The State of the Union: The Path to Tyranny continues

An essay this weekend at Politico looks at the similarities between the fall of the Roman Republic and the United States today. I was asked by a friend to give my opinion.

The parallels between the fall of the Roman republic and our country are so numerous. Decline of virtue. Loosening morals. Redistribution of wealth. Multiplicity and mutability of laws. Ignorance and disdain for religion and the Constitution (way of the elders). Debt and monetary devaluation. Panem et circenses.

In The Path To Tyranny (2010), I wrote, “As of 2009, the federal debt held by the public was 55 percent of GDP,[1080] a large but manageable amount. The debt was just 41 percent at the end of 2008 and the 40-year average is 36 percent. The problem though lies in the future, not the present. By 2035, the debt is projected to be between 79 and 181 percent of GDP and, by 2080, it is predicted to be between 283 and 716 percent of GDP. The United States is clearly on the road to bankruptcy if the situation does not improve. Given that the deterioration intensifies just after 2020, we have just ten years to fix our government. Ten years may sound like a long time, but barring a real revolution, one with guns and violence, governments rarely change that quickly. It has taken the progressives and modern liberals a hundred years to produce our large government, but we have just one-tenth the time to reverse the trend. Not just stop new spending programs, but actually reduce the current commitments of the U.S. government.”

Unfortunately, we have kicked the can down the road for the last four years. If anything, the fiscal problems have gotten worse, not better, and the political situation has certainly gotten worse.

What scared me most, short term, is that this economic recovery officially started five years ago. As far as recoveries go, this one is a little long in the tooth. Some time, we will experience another recession. Deficits will go from the current $700-$800 million up to $2 trillion or so. Starting from such a weak economy to begin with, it this recession hits sooner rather than later, the lower and middle classes will be hit hard and will demand action from the government. It is in the throes of such economic despair and political incompetence that power accumulates in a single hand. I truly believe we are just one recession away from seeing a Caesar in our country. The apparatus is already in place (executive orders, non-enforcement of the law, NSA spying, etc.). One good crisis is all that is needed.

Fortunately, I don’t see anyone on the horizon with the charisma and skills to be this Caesar. Caesar was a great man, a great warrior, great politician, and great speaker. Obama is none of those, though some think he speaks well. If he had been competent, he could have done even more damage. God bless incompetence. Hillary Clinton is no Caesar either. Fortunately, I don’t see one, but then I am not predicting a potential rise of a new Caesar in the immediate future. It won’t happen until after the next recession has run a number of years. Think of the German economic misery of the 1920s that gave rise to Hitler. It takes many years before the people give up hope and give up their freedoms. As I wrote four years ago, I am looking for such an event to take place around 2020, if we don’t fix our problems, which so far we have only made worse.

Tea Party Tyrants

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) called the tea party “tyrants” in a tweet on August 7 because its members supposedly blocked a bigger and better deal from being approved.

Disregarding what effect the tea party had on the debt ceiling negotiations, there is absolutely no comparison between the tea party and tyrants. Aristotle writes:

A tyrant, as has often been repeated, has no regard to any public interest, except as conducive to his private ends; his aim is pleasure.

The tea party has not promoted a single idea to promote its “private ends.” Instead, it has promoted ideas that it believes would benefit the entire nation. Democrats may disagree with the tea party’s agenda, but it is ridiculous to assert that the tea party’s “aim is pleasure.”

I can hear the liberals complaining that Aristotle’s definition of tyrant is old and out-dated. Let’s turn to a more modern and American definition. A definition that was essential in the creation of the Constitution and our republican. James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 47:

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

Let’s see here. The tea party controls none of the branches of government. In fact, the Republicans do not even fully control a branch of government. (They control half of the legislative branch and 5 of the 9 Supreme Court Justices could be considered Republican, but the Senate is Democrat as is the President.)

But James Madison wrote that more than two hundred years ago. Many liberals don’t think the Constitution and our Founding Fathers are relevant any more. So let’s check an even more recent definition, Merriam-Webster:

1
a : an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution
b : a usurper of sovereignty
2
a : a ruler who exercises absolute power oppressively or brutally
b : one resembling an oppressive ruler in the harsh use of authority or power

Hmm, the tea party fits none of those definitions either. The tea party is not an absolute ruler, has not usurped the nation’s sovereignty, is not a ruler with absolute power acting oppressively or brutally, and is not an oppressive ruler acting harshly.

I’d be very interested to hear by what definition the tea party are tyrants.

– Michael E. Newton is the author of the highly acclaimed The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny. His newest book, Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers: The Fight for Control of the American Revolution, was released by Eleftheria Publishing in July.

Could a Nazi-type takeover happen in America?

The Kindertransport Association (my grandfather and his brother were on the kindertransport) recently asked, “Could a Nazi-type takeover of our Federal government happen in America. Why? Why not? Could it happen in Western Europe?” My response made the front page of their newsletter:

History teaches us that society is always at risk of losing its freedom and descending into tyranny because there are always people who wish for and actively seek to rule over others and profit at their expense.

With the separation of powers and checks and balances, western civilization has created systems, best exemplified by the United States Constitution, designed to prevent demagogues from gaining power. However, when people think the political system no longer functions properly, they will demand change, thinking that “anything else will be better than this.” At this point, a demagogue may convince them that he will fix the nation and bring prosperity to all with relative ease. These demagogues tell the people that all they need to do is vote for him and their problems will be solved.

Demagogues seeking to take over the government create or find an enemy to attack and blame. The demagogue informs the public that it is not their fault the economy is bad, they lost in a recent war, or that they are poor. Instead, it is somebody else’s fault. Hitler’s blamed Germany’s problems on both the communists and capitalists, with the Jews supposedly supporting both groups. Julius Caesar blamed the Roman Senate. The Communists in Russia blamed both the Czar and the democrats. With the recent economic weakness and increased partisanship in the United States and Western Europe, there has been a lot of blame bandied about, especially by politicians looking to win election.

Weak economies, a wide disparity between rich and poor sparking class warfare rhetoric, and the perception of a broken political system open the door for an eloquent demagogue to trick the people into voting for him, increasing his power, and paving the way for him or his successor to become a tyrant.

So it is possible for a Nazi-type takeover in the United States or Western Europe? Most certainly. In fact, we have already seen something similar happen just recently in Venezuela, which had been a prosperous western-style nation until the late 1980s when an economic crisis and political corruption paved the way for Hugo Chavez and his Bolivarian socialism.

Fortunately, the Founding Fathers of the United States created a system specifically designed to prevent one man or faction from gaining too much power. Western Europe has largely copied that system, with some alterations. Additionally, our long tradition of liberty is not one that people will throw away lightly. However, an eloquent demagogue promising peace and prosperity at no expense amid economic and political chaos may, at times, be able to overthrow the delicate political, economic, and social system we have. This happened in ancient Greece, ancient Rome, ancient Israel, Russia in the 1910s, Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the 1930s, and Venezuela in the 1990s, to name just a few of the most notable examples.

Only through eternal vigilance against demagogues, their false promises, and their scapegoating of minority groups can we prevent Nazi-type takeovers in the United States and Western Europe.

Michael E. Newton, KT3

— Michael E. Newton is the author of the highly acclaimed The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny. His newest book, Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers: The Fight for Control of the American Revolution, was released by Eleftheria Publishing in July.

Mubarak and Gaddafi were in it for the money. Tyrants always are.

Just in! Muammar Gaddafi has grown rich on the back of the Libyan people.

The dictator’s dough: Astonishing wealth of Gaddafi and his family revealed

The astonishing wealth of Libyan tyrant Muammar Gaddafi and his family has been laid bare as countries around the world begin freezing billions of dollars worth of their assets.

The U.S. alone has seized $30billion (£18.5bn) of their investments, while Canada has frozen $2.4bn (£1.5bn), Austria, $1.7bn (£1bn) and the UK, $1bn ($600m).

These assets appear to be just the tip of the iceberg, as no one is yet certain exactly what the family owns around the world.

Story continues here…

Previously, we learned the same thing about Hosni Mubarak in Egypt:

Mubarak family fortune could reach $70bn, say experts

President Hosni Mubarak’s family fortune could be as much as $70bn (£43.5bn) according to analysis by Middle East experts, with much of his wealth in British and Swiss banks or tied up in real estate in London, New York, Los Angeles and along expensive tracts of the Red Sea coast.

Story continues…

But then we learned those estimates were too high. Nevertheless, Mubarak was still quite wealthy.

Hosni Mubarak’s Wealth: He’s a Thief, But Not That Big a Thief

Egypt’s Former President Worth ‘Only’ $5 Billion, Says U.S. Intelligence; Family Wealth Estimates Range Up to $70 Billion

Newly deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his family have a fortune of $1 billion to $5 billion stashed in foreign banks, according to U.S. intelligence estimates — a significantly lower figure than most recent estimates of the wealth accumulated by Mubarak during his 30 years in power.

Some experts have estimated that the Mubarak family has a net worth as high as $70 billion, while others have reported $40 billion, but U.S. intelligence sources told ABC News that the real number is probably much lower.

Story continues…

Surprised? I assume you are not and you shouldn’t be. Aristotle warned us that tyrants are like this:

As of oligarchy so of tyranny, the end is wealth; (for by wealth only can the tyrant maintain either his guard or his luxury). [Aristotle, Politics Book 5 Part 10.]

Another practice of tyrants is to multiply taxes, after the manner of Dionysius at Syracuse, who contrived that within five years his subjects should bring into the treasury their whole property. [Aristotle, Politics Book 5 Part 11.]

Just in case some didn’t believe Aristotle, a quick look at relatively recent history demonstrates the same. (Quotes from my book.)

Regarding the Soviet Union:

Stalin and his cronies, though, did not share in the people’s suffering. In fact, Stalin and other leading Communists lived in houses that had belonged to Russia’s wealthiest families before the revolution.

And in Nazi Germany:

As in all tyrannies, many of the Nazi leaders used their power to amass vast wealth. Hermann Goering used his power as commander of the Luftwaffe, administrator of the Four Year Plan, and Hitler’s designated successor to acquire mansions and create an enormous industrial enterprise called Hermann Goering Works. As Reichsminister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels received gifts from the media, including a house given to him by the film industry. He also used his power to seduce several female film stars.

Arabs waking up? We shall see.

One political analyst told AP:

Arab peoples used to fear their authoritarian regimes. Things have changed and now Arab leaders fear their peoples.

Reminds me of a famous, often misattributed, quote by John Basil Barnhill:

Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.

Let us hope and pray these authoritarian regimes are replaced by something better. As I write in The Path to Tyranny:

Furthermore, once tyranny is established, it is difficult to abandon. Most often, upon the death or overthrow of one tyrant, another tyrant takes his place. Aristotle points out that “a tyranny often changes into a tyranny, as that at Sicyon changed from the tyranny of Myron into that of Cleisthenes.” Sian Lewis gives an even more impressive example: “When one looks before a tyrant such as Pittacus or Cypselus to see what kind of government they replaced, one tends to find not aristocracies or monarchies, but an infinite regress of tyrants, each apparently overthrown by a successor in the name of liberty: at Mytilene, for instance, Pittacus overthrew the tyrant Myrsilus, who had in turn overthrown Melanchrus, and before Melanchrus we hear of Megacles, who put down the rule of the club-wielding Penthelidai.”

This succession of one tyrant followed by another makes it all the more important to avoid the first tyrant. Plutarch reports that Solon “uttered the famous saying, that earlier it had been easier for them to hinder the tyranny, while it was in preparation; but now it was a greater and more glorious task to uproot and destroy it when it had been already planted and was grown.”

Overthrowing authoritarianism and replacing it with republicanism will not be an easy task. But for the first time in recent history, it appears that the Arabs desire and are willing to fight for true freedom.

NASA’s James Hansen attacks democracy, supports totalitarianism

The Washington times reports that NASA’s laboratory head James Hansen is:

Citing the Chinese government as the “best hope” to save the world from global warming. He also wants an economic boycott of the U.S. sufficient to bend us to China’s will.

“I have the impression that Chinese leadership takes a long view, perhaps because of the long history of their culture, in contrast to the West with its short election cycles. At the same time, China has the capacity to implement policy decisions rapidly. The leaders seem to seek the best technical information and do not brand as a hoax that which is inconvenient.”

“After agreement with other nations, e.g., the European Union, China and these nations could impose rising internal carbon fees. Existing rules of the World Trade Organization would allow collection of a rising border duty on products from all nations that do not have an equivalent internal carbon fee or tax.”

“The United States then would be forced to make a choice. It could either address its fossil-fuel addiction … or … accept continual descent into second-rate and third-rate economic well-being.”

Does Mr. Hansen really believe Chinese totalitarianism is better than American democracy? Does he really support an economic boycott of his own country? And what is the source of his ideology? Does he really favor these positions because it would help the environment? Or is he just interested in political power?

I’m not sure which is worse: 1) a demagogue using the environment to control the country or 2) an ideologue who is willing to adopt a political system responsible for death and destruction to save the environment.

I must thank James Hansen for his comments. He is showing the world what the “experts” in global warming really want: to control us.

The oldest and best warning against big government

From Samuel I Chapter 8:

10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

Notice the progression in the king’s oppression. As I write in The Path to Tyranny:

Samuel’s warning in the Bible follows a logical progression. He starts by predicting the king will impose a military draft, a reasonable decree when the people desired a king to defend the country and defeat the Philistines. But the situation worsens with time as the king soon drafts men to farm his land and then women to cook, bake, and make perfume. Then the king takes away the people’s land followed by their servants and their livestock. Finally, “you will be his slave. On that day you will cry out because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves – but God will not answer you on that day.”

I analyze Samuel’s warning in even more detail in The Path to Tyranny. Also note that Thomas Paine comments on Samuel’s warning in Common Sense and W. Cleon Skousen does as well in The 5000 Year Leap.