Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tyranny on the instalment plan

Almost 70 years ago the novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand wrote a letter to the New York Herald-Tribune which was not published by them. At the time she was discussing efforts by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to vastly expand the power of the presidency and the federal government. What she said about him applies to King George as well. Here it is:

No tyranny in history has ever been established overnight. The method of dictators has always been a slow, gradual, well-calculated series of measures, each one of them seemingly innocent enough, easily alibied and explained by the ruler as embodying the best intentions in the world, and not one of them clear, direct and sufficiently flagrant to make the entire people – every single man on the street – realize that it affects him personally. Each measure is passed without great trouble or violent public opposition because the average man does not see at the time, how it can possibly affect his own existence ... . Then, one day, he awakens suddenly to realize all his rights and liberties are gone. He cannot say exactly how or when it happened. He sees only the cumulative effect of single measures he did not consider important at the time he accepted them. He may be horrified and he may want to scream in protest. But it is too late to protest.