William Haupt III
The author is a Center Square contributor
“To reason with governments, as they have existed for ages, is to argue with brutes. It is only from the nations themselves that reforms can be expected.”
– Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791
The Age of Enlightenment or the “Age of Reason” was the intellectual and philosophical movement that swept Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire and others theorized that man had specific natural and God-given rights that no aristocratic or monarchical government could deny him.
It is considered the most important event in modern history. It established that all men were equal and guaranteed the pursuit of happiness, sovereignty of reason, and “evidence was the source of all knowledge.” It affirmed the rights of liberty, toleration, fraternity, and self government. It divided church and state, and recognized the ownership of “ideas” and physical and intellectual property.
According to the latest World Freedom Index, democracy is facing its most serious crisis in years. Its basic tenets, including guarantees of free and fair elections, human rights protections, freedom of the press, and democratic rule of law have come under attack around the world. This increased due to the mandated restrictions on individual rights by world governments during the pandemic.
Since the Great Recession, we have seen a global slide of freedom take place. Recent data shows 113 countries saw a net decline, with only 62 having experienced a net improvement. Seventy-one countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties, with only 35 making small gains.
“I’ve proposed that we start charting those that get vaccinated and those that won’t.”
– Joe Biden
For the last 13 years, the world freedom index has been in retreat. The U.S. slipped steadily to No. 15 by 2021. This sharp decline is attributed to the loss of freedom of speech with increased censorship during the last election. America fell out of the top 10 in protecting individual rights, civil liberties and free speech.
The pandemic is a gift that keeps on giving for power-hungry politicians. It gave them a convenient pretext to silence critics and to increase power. They have utilized censorship to feed the message to expand government as a caregiver and provider. They turned a containable threat into a liberty-constraining opportunity. This expansion of central power will be the pandemic’s enduring legacy.
Governments know the public is more willing to accept increased central power in times of crisis. That’s why responsible government is needed. But during this pandemic, power-hungry politicians cited COVID-19 as a dictation to censor government criticism and undermine judicial balance of power.
“There is no absolute power that truly empowers without corrupting.”
– Constance Friday
Globally, governments stepped out of line in the name of protection.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán declared a state of emergency to rule by decree. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gifted himself total power to silence critics and restrict individual rights. Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha will only allow reporters to republish government press releases. In Bangladesh, Cambodia, Venezuela and Turkey, anyone who criticizes the government will be jailed, or eliminated.
The Algerian government has halted any protests seeking reforms. The Russian government has outlawed protests against President Vladimir Putin’s obsession with being a warring, intolerant, Russian dictator for life. The Indian government recently announced a lockdown to end political protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strict anti-Muslim citizenship policies.
“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this one reason: I insist on the right to criticize her.”
– James Baldwin
The biggest offender of individual freedom is the Chinese.
They’ve expanded power in the China Sea, and threatened Taiwan and Hong Kong’s sovereignty to abridge U.N. discussions about their role in the pandemic. They put Communist Party goals over the health of world citizens, refusing to inform the World Health Organization of the Wuhan virus. To silence global critics, they locked out foreign journalists.
In the U.S., claiming to protect us from ourselves during the pandemic, leftists violated our rights daily. Since the pandemic was declared in March of 2020, progressives have used COVID-19 as a vehicle to advance their political power without regard for our constitutional rights and liberties.
During the 2020 elections, liberal states arbitrarily mass-mailed ballots to everyone, including the dead, and invented rules that violated election integrity. Social media giants censored material from conservatives and eradicated all information about Hunter Biden’s illegal and illicit escapades.
This blatant, abusive censorship that violated free speech did not go unnoticed on the freedom index.
This commentary was provided to the News-Press by The Center Square, a nonprofit dedicated to journalism.