“A warning sign of what?” asks the scoffing useful idiot. “Of the end of even the pretense of liberal democracy, constitutional republicanism, or any other form of government answerable to the governed.”
It became a cliché during the last century to say that tyranny has the advantage over freedom in a crisis, because while the legitimate government must follow its own internal processes for assuring the consent of the people (or of their representatives) prior to acting, the tyrant may simply issue a decree, irrespective of anyone’s objections.
It is true that legitimate governments comprised of co-equal branches, or of deliberative bodies, are somewhat limited in their power to act precipitately. And that limit is precisely the source of their legitimacy.
Churchill argued vehemently and repeatedly in and out of the British parliament against Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler, and in favor of forceful action. Through this process, his case, which was initially unpopular both in parliament and among the British people, grew in force and effect, and Churchill himself was chiselled by it into a greater leader of men — precisely when Britain, and the world, needed such a leader. His path to action was longer and more laborious than Hitler’s, but he had right on his side — and he won.
Churchill was forced to these extremes of patient argumentation in the face of an immediate threat to his nation’s survival by a tyrannical lunatic commanding the most powerful military in Europe. That is a case study in what I am calling “legitimate government.” Illegitimate government, by contrast, would follow the opposite trajectory: pursue the most radical policy proposals while circumventing or avoiding patient argumentation and debate, even in matters of relatively little urgency.
To state this contrast differently, a free nation thinks before it acts in its own best interests, even in a genuine crisis, while an unfree nation is dragged into unthinking action against its own interests, in response to an illusory crisis.
Thus it is that mainstream reporters can now matter-of-factly describe the White House’s mission on gun control this way:
Think about that. The president and vice president of the United States are urging immediate action on gun control, pre-empting all debate about the measures’ constitutionality; and their justification for this urgent, anti-constitutional action is that “the American public has a short memory.” In other words, this is not a real crisis (i.e., an ongoing threat), and the public will soon realize that, and carry on with life as usual; therefore, we must act before that happens.