Peter Hitchens at the Daily Mail has an illuminating story of how we modern Americans and British allow the political police to boss us around in our daily lives: ‘It’s not debatable,’ they bawled. My chilling encounter with Britain’s jack-booted paramilitary police. He describes encountering a squad of riot police brusquely guarding a 300-person demonstration in London, sweeping aside ordinary citizens in much the same way as you might imagine an earl’s minions sweeping aside the commoners as he rode down the streets. We take this sort of thing for granted nowadays, though. I often read stories of abusive behavior by the U.S. Secret Service, for example, and of course at airports the police (tho not called that) make us take off our shoes for them. Mr. Hitchens did not get beaten up or arrested. What he writes about is chilling precisely because it is routine, the kind of thing we take for granted.
How can this be? My theory is fairly simple. In a liberal state, the police are weak on crime because it is officially regarded as a social disease, not really the fault of the criminals. But they are tough on individuals who tackle crime themselves, because they threaten the state monopoly of law-enforcement (worse, their methods, if generally allowed, would be more popular than the feeble methods of the state police); and they are tough on street protest because they represent a state which regards itself as good, and so sees all protestors as automatically malignant. How do you think totalitarianism would establish itself in a once-free country? What do you think it would look like? I think it would look like this. Fortunately, it is still debatable.