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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Trading on Fear

It occurs to me that one of the reasons why politicians find space for the erosion of our freedoms is that they know how powerful trading on fear really can be. We all want to be safe and one of the primary duties of the State is to protect its citizens against external threats and internal disorder. When the magnitude of such threats is potentially so high, fear can serve as a powerful solvent, removing all trace of public opposition to measures that would be inconceivable in more settled times.

Now, I may happily and with a good conscience prefer to be dead than fettered but I cannot claim the same sacrifice from others in the face of weapons of mass destruction. So, we have to take reasonable steps, democratically mandated, for our mutual security.

The bottom line in any democracy is the separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive combined with a common allegiance to a moral and constitutional code transcending both. When politicians see themselves as "managers" or "guardians" however, rather than representatives and servants we have trouble on our hands. When the human city attempts to subvert the perogatives of God, who in the Judaeo-Christian tradition is an ultimate respecter of personhood (even if HIS representatives often fail in that regard), then this is truly a demonic idolatry infecting the body politic. The end term of that progression is North Korea. We may not be there yet, (indeed, mercifully we are not), but it only takes a little sleep for the juggernaut to advance. We need to wake up, protest and act.

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