The Banality of Evil
Many think that Biden will respect personal freedoms more than Trump. Or that Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen are the biggest risks for France in the next presidential election. But what if tomorrow’s dictators are today’s moderates?
I couldn’t agree more with this tweet by Bruno Maçães:
Psychology teaches that incentives, not personality, drive human behavior. As Charlie Munger said:
“Never, ever, think about something else when you should be thinking about the power of incentives.”
According to the public choice theory, politicians seek (re)election to office. So if authoritarianism pays off to be elected, politicians will turn authoritarian, no matter their political, philosophical, and psychological background.
It may explain why Franklin D. Roosevelt—a Democrat and the architect of American liberalism—sent 120,000 Japanese Americans to concentration camps during World War II for racist reasons. Anyone with "one drop of Japanese blood” had to be interned.
Or the “French paradox”: during WWII there were more anti-racists than antisemites in Vichy France, whereas the Resistance was mostly composed of far-right antisemites and Communists.
Could something equivalent happen today in Western liberal democracies?
In France, President Emmanuel Macron, a liberal centrist, is now waging a war against ‘Islamist separatism’. His ministers vow to fight ‘islamo-leftism’, a term that Israeli historian Shlomo Sand sees as the equivalent of 1930 ‘Judeo–Bolshevism’. “The same attempt to create a diversion” from an economic crisis, he writes, and to find an easy scapegoat. French Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin also complains about religious food aisles in shops, which he says are the result of ‘wild capitalism’. A scary nationalist and socialist rhetoric… How far can this go?
This month, English lawyer David Allen Green explained that in 2020 Britain, like in 1933 Nazi Germany, “the government could obtain absolute power and we would be impotent to prevent it”. As he wrote, after this photo of Hitler’s speech at the Kroll Opera House:
“The last five years have shown that authoritarian populist nationalism is not always just for other countries. The politics and policies that once seemed to be a problem abroad have turned out to be something that can manifest just as easily in the US and the UK.”
I’m afraid he’s right and we may soon see moderates become dictators.
What do you think?