Beware of “Exceptions” to Freedom

Yale University historian Timothy Snyder wrote a short book called On Tyranny that’s quite good. Each of its 20 chapters explains a way to preserve freedom and civilized society in the face of attacks by tyrannical government.

The book came out in 2017, so it’s clearly meant as a warning about The Devil Trump. But apart from the author’s political partisanship, the content is valid. And it’s a quick read.

None of it is about 2021, of course, but a lot of it could be:

  • “Do not obey in advance.”
  • “Be wary of paramilitaries.”
  • “Believe in truth.”
  • “Investigate.”
  • “Make eye contact and small talk.”
  • “Be a patriot.”

Chapter 17 isn’t about 2021, but almost sounds like it is:

“The most intelligent of the Nazis, legal theorist Carl Schmitt, explained fascist government. The way to destroy all rules, he explained, was to focus on the idea of the exception. A Nazi leader outmaneuvers his opponents by manufacturing a general conviction that the present moment is exceptional, and then transforming that state into a permanent emergency. Citizens will then trade real freedom for fake safety.”

That sounds uncomfortably recent and familiar. It’s worth pondering.

About N.S. Palmer

N.S. Palmer is an American mathematician.
This entry was posted in Political Science, Psychology and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Beware of “Exceptions” to Freedom

  1. I am on Chapter 9 of your book. Thank you, it is a good read.


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