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I wrote an essay some time ago about how the use of secret police to combat foreign threats (or "terrorists" in the modern version) quickly morphs into spying on political opponents.

I used the example of Russia from a time period that removed it from current political issues.

Authoritarians tend to be amoral, aggressive and egomaniacal, they thus tend to rise to positions of power in both government and industry. The less authoritarian often underestimate the lengths that these people will go to, and by the time they wake up they have lost their civil liberties.

We have seen this played on with the GWOT in the US and even in Australia(!) recently. So it is not surprising to see the same sort of dynamic re-emerging in Russia and Germany. Both countries still have a residual group who feel that the best days were in the past when strong leaders defended national pride.

Here's my cautionary essay:
Surveillance vs Civil Liberties

Depending upon courts to defend civil liberties is a risky course of action. Judges can be intimidated quite easily. If you want to defend civil liberties you need to push for strong democratic institutions.

I don't have a solution if the majority decides to vote themselves into servitude, however.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 09:24:20 AM EST
I mostly agree with you. Just this one point:

Both countries still have a residual group who feel that the best days were in the past when strong leaders defended national pride.

Seems a bit of a leap. Reflection on the "glory days" in Germany is a marginal phenomenon - politically, socially and geographically as well. The rhetoric plays no part in the general discourse (except to entirely disqualify the speaker).

The only lever Schäuble uses is fear.

My take is that Schäuble is a control freak with an extremely low tolerance for diversity, even by the standards of his own party today.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Thu Nov 13th, 2008 at 10:22:02 AM EST
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Both countries still have a residual group who feel that the best days were in the past when strong leaders defended national pride.

All countries will have a subset of their population that are prone to authoritarian tendencies.

Whether the authoritarian tendencies are primarily due to genetics and/or environment is unknown.  If primarily due to environment, perhaps the tendencies can be reduced.  I lean towards environment as the primary cause.

Although in the foreseeable future, the authoritarian danger will continue exist in all countries.

by Jagger on Fri Nov 14th, 2008 at 12:03:46 AM EST
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