Emergencies erode freedoms

Column from Penticton Western News publisher Mark Walker

“Every collectivist revolution rides in on a Trojan horse of ‘emergency.’ It was the tactic of Lenin, Hitler, and Mussolini. In the collectivist sweep over a dozen minor countries of Europe, it was the cry of men striving to get on horseback. And ‘emergency’ became the justification of the subsequent steps. This technique of creating emergency is the greatest achievement that demagoguery attains.”    – Herbert Hoover

Last week the European Union, the European Central Bank and the IMF, better known as the “troika,” attempted to confiscate property in Cyprus. This time the “emergency” the EU was leveraging was the impending bankruptcy of Cypriot banks.

Laws and processes exist to deal with the default of nation states. Why the EU embarked on such a foolhardy exercise is hard to imagine without some context about modern Europe and the European Union.

Communism and collectivism have long been features of European society. At the end of the post-war boom, Europe, threatened by a vibrant North American trading bloc, reverted to its collectivist roots and formed the European Union. The influence of technocrat communists in this endeavour cannot be understated. Communists and collectivists run the bureaucracy that is the EU.

To people steeped in collectivist ideals, there is nothing wrong in confiscating the wealth of others, or in selectively conferring rights and privileges on one group of people at the expense of some other group of people.  We see this in our own courts, and in  policies of the NDP and federal Liberals.

The excuses to implement collectivist policies are always meant to address some new emergency, the fault of some demonized group. In Cyprus it is the failing banks caused by “dirty” Russian money. In 1930s Germany it was the Jewish people cheating “pureblood” Germans. In Cuba it was the Americans stealing from Cubans.

The events in Cyprus, and in Europe, should be a warning to us.  We consider the EU to be a social democracy, similar to our system. In many respects it is, and that is worrying.  We are not far behind the Europeans in abdicating all individual responsibility in favour of more government. Western governments watching the reaction to the EU’s thefts of Cypriot’s property are emboldened.

In the wake of the events in Cyprus, New Zealand has proposed a similar scheme, changing law to enable a 10 per cent confiscation of individual savings. Spain confiscated private pensions.  The Obama administration blew up bondholders’ legal rights to the assets of GM and Chrysler. So-called “Wealth Taxes” on individual assets are being pushed in Britain, the U.S. and by the NDP in Canada and B.C. Obama won his re-election largely by demonizing the “rich” as the cause of all misery.

It is a short step from the confiscation of the property and rights of a select few, to the confiscation of the property and rights of many more, all in the interest of addressing some new emergency. It has happened before, and it is happening now.

We allowed our governments to choose our lightbulbs, as the “emergency” of global warming bore down upon us. We allowed our government to restrict our access to firearms, after the “emergency” of the Montreal Massacre, and there is pressure in the U.S. to follow similar steps after the “emergency” of Sandy Hook.  Press freedom is under attack in Britain and Australia after the “emergency” of the hacking scandals. In Canada, freedom of speech has become a figure of speech in the name of “human rights”

No matter that in each case, laws existed to remedy any damages — these events were “emergencies,” requiring “new,” largely administrative, collectivist solutions. Whether through ignorance or apathy, virtually nobody protests these erosions of our freedoms.

History shows us the weight of successive “emergencies,” co-opted to advance the collectivist agenda invariably spawn real emergencies that change the world, often violently. In the past, there have always been societies prepared to fight for the cause of freedom and individual rights.  Cyprus may well turn out to be our times’ “final straw.” This time however there may not be enough individualists left to fight back.

Mark Walker is the publisher of the Penticton Western News.