We are currently witnessing a paradigm shift that is turning the bottom on top and placing the state and society on a new footing. Since the Enlightenment, individual freedom has been the paramount value to which everything has been oriented. At least that is the case in the western hemisphere, apart from a few outliers. Freedom was good in principle, restrictions on freedom should require justification. In contrast to this, the view is increasingly noticeable today that too much freedom is dangerous for society, which is why the use of freedom must be restricted and controlled. From the protection of freedom to protection against freedom – that is, in a nutshell, the development that is currently taking place in front of our eyes.
Basic social patterns
The information garbage with which we are filled up by the media every day can easily lead to the fact that you can no longer see the forest for the trees. You can only get a clear insight into what is currently going on if you reflect on the basic principles that distinguish free and non-free societies. The former are based, to put it bluntly, on the principle that everything is permitted, except what is prohibited, and that all prohibitions require justification. The exact opposite applies to societies that are not free, namely that everything is forbidden except what is explicitly permitted, in which case the permission must be justified. In free societies, the individual is unbound in case of doubt, in non-free societies they are bound without doubt. Of course, these principles are nowhere realized in their purest form. However, they do form orientation patterns for assessing and shaping existing legal frameworks.
Western societies have traditionally been liberal because the focus was on the individual striving for self-development. They were granted extensive freedom of action for their own good, which was differentiated in more detail in the form of special freedoms such as freedom of belief and freedom of opinion, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of movement as well as freedom of training and occupation. Organizationally, this sphere of freedom was secured by the rule of law and the separation of powers as well as by the right of the people to elect and vote out their own government according to their own convictions.
For a few decades this “free democratic basic order” was opposed to the socialist states of the East, which also tried to put on a “humanist-democratic” cloak, but under which in reality a dictatorship was hidden. Freedom of opinion, training and occupation did not exist under socialism; the free exchange of goods failed due to the planned economy, and freedom to leave the country was prevented by the wall, barbed wire and gunshots.
Old ghosts come back
After real socialism collapsed in 1989, however, there was by no means a definitive victory for freedom. It did not take long before the struggle against a free and democratic order began again in the West. Of course, this time other means were used: one invoked the protection of generally recognized legal interests in order to wrest more and more pieces of freedom from citizens. Basically, this game is very simple: to protect other people’s feelings from any kind of impairment, public speaking is placed under supervision. To protect against politically incorrect thoughts, language is manipulated in a grotesque manner. To protect against fake news, social media are subject to censorship. To protect the global climate, the the production of CO² is being regulated in ever new areas. To protect the health of others, a large number of fundamental freedoms are abolished or restricted, etc.
As a matter of fact, more and more freedoms, which in the past have never been questioned, are suspected of doing more harm to society than to the individual. This now affects such diverse behaviors as talking and thinking, living and eating, buying and selling, sport and socializing, driving and flying – nobody knows what will be in store for us in the near future. Everywhere there are new dangers for society, if not humanity as a whole, which, it is said, can only be countered by curtailing personal freedom. In this way the thought slowly but surely takes hold that freedom is not good, but dangerous, dangerous in the highest degree.
Somehow this was always known, but it was assumed that freedom was only associated with danger for those who make use of the possibilities it offers themselves. The new thing is that the use of freedom suddenly appears dangerous for everyone else too. But it is precisely this that makes it so easy for the critics of freedom to appear as benefactors of the general public.
Fundamental rights as a concession
Politicians and mainstream journalists are so adjusted to the questioning of freedom that they publicly doubt whether there will ever be a return to the old situation. Without shame, the pioneers of society who are convinced of their mission are already speaking of a “new normal”. If one ponders for a moment what this means, a state in which fundamental rights are granted by the authorities at their discretion is evidently envisaged as a permanent state. The basic rights, which were created primarily as defensive rights against state interference, should then in future be owed to the state!
If that’s not enough to see where the journey is going, it might help to point out that China is now more and more often being praised as a role model because it can cope with upcoming crises better than the West. You don’t really believe your ears; because China is not exactly famous as a haven of human rights and democracy. Anyone who would like to emulate China in this regard is apparently toying with a regime change towards an order in which there would be little talk of Western idolatry.
Limits to freedom and democracy
Societal engineers, who already think they are in the future, may object that all of this is unnecessary excitement; after all, it is clear to anyone with insight that all freedoms can only be granted within the framework of the given possibilities. If these were to decrease, the extent of freedom would inevitably decrease. That is undoubtedly correct, and that is why there were and are good reasons for the environmental movement. But in the meantime this argumentation pattern has been hijacked by movements hostile to freedom and transferred to more and more areas. More and more people are taking advantage of the opportunity and jumping on the train that is in motion in order to resume their grandiose failed plans to set up a totally regulated society. Actually, the people should defend themselves against it. Why don’t they do this?
Unfortunately we encounter another malaise here; for who does not know that the people of the West has been foresightedly transformed into a mere population by their elites? Unlike a people, a population has no “self” and is therefore not capable of self-government; it has to be governed and feels this too. Nor does it have common basic convictions for which it would go to the barricades against the rulers. How one can get out of this predicament of ‘progress’ is therefore difficult to predict. New leaders and new values are necessary!