Authoritarians To The Right Of Me, Authoritarians To The Left

Robin Koerner, Foundation for Economic Education

Authoritarians to the Right of Me

Trump’s election caused a spike in sales of George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984 – apparently to people who believe that his becoming president may be a harbinger of an Orwellian dystopia across our country.

Last year, my first book was published. It concerns why Americans have let the principles of liberty on which our nation is founded recede so far, and how they might assert them again. The introduction references Orwell’s novel extensively, and I am pleased that those scared of the rise of authoritarianism in the USA are picking it up.

What exactly is authoritarianism, though? It’s rather hard to defeat an enemy that one cannot define, let alone understand.

Broadly, authoritarianism is the desire to impose one’s own worldview on others in one’s society by institutionalized coercion. Authoritarians, therefore, see punishment as an appropriate response when members of the group with which they identify (the United States, in this case) diverge too far from values that the authoritarian believes are best for society – even if the punished person has neither caused direct harm to another nor infringed another’s rights.

Those of us who don’t believe that’s an effective or moral way to run society raised flags of warning in response to Trump’s suggestions, when he was campaigning, that media outlets that publish things he doesn’t like should be shut down; that whistleblowers should be executed, or that businesses should be penalized for not making widgets where the dear leader thinks they should, to name just a few.

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