Principles of Tyranny
by Jon Roland
Definition of tyranny
Tyranny is usually thought of as cruel and oppressive, and
is, but the original definition of the term was rule by persons
legitimacy, whether they be malign or benevolent.
tyrannies have tended to be insecure, and to try to maintain their
becoming increasingly oppressive. Therefore, rule that initially
is inherently dangerous, and the only security is to maintain
an unbroken accountability to the people through the framework of
constitution that provides for election of key officials and the
powers among branches and officials in a way that avoids
powers in the hands of a few persons who might then abuse those
Tyranny is an important phenomenon that operates by principles by
can be recognized in its early emerging stages, and, if the people
vigilant, prepared, and committed to liberty, countered before it
The psychology of tyranny
Perhaps one of the things that most distinguishes those with a
mentality from most other persons is how they react in situations
feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. Both kinds of people will
tend to seek
to increase their power, that is, their control over the outcome
of events, but
those with a fascist mindset tend to overestimate the amount of
outcomes that it is possible to attain. This leads to behavior
brings them to positions of leadership or authority, especially if
persons in their society tend to underestimate the influence over
can attain, and are inclined to yield to those who project
confidence in what
they can do and promise more than anyone can deliver.
This process is aided by a common susceptibility which might be
rooster syndrome, from the old saying, "They give credit to
rooster crowing for the rising of the sun." It arises from the
people guided more by hope or fear than intelligence to
overestimate the power
of their leaders and attribute to them outcomes, either good or
bad, to which
the leaders contributed little if anything, and perhaps even acted
or reduce. This comes from the inability of most persons to
dynamic systems and their long-term behavior, which leads people
effects to proximate preceding events instead of actual long-term
The emergence of tyranny therefore begins with challenges to a
develops into general feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, and
falls into a
pattern in which some individuals assume the role of "father" to
others, who willingly submit to becoming dependent "children" of
persons if only they are reassured that a more favorable outcome
realized. This pattern of co-dependency is pathological, and
in decisionmaking of poor quality that makes the situation even
because the pattern is pathological, instead of abandoning it, the
co-dependents repeat their inappropriate behavior to produce a
that, if not interrupted, can lead to total breakdown of the group
worst of the available outcomes.
In psychiatry, this syndrome is often discussed as an
personality disorder". In common parlance, as being a "control
The logic of tyranny
In Orwell's classic fable, Nineteen Eighty-Four, the
Winston Smith makes a key statement:
Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.
that is granted, all else follows.
Following the trial of the surviving Branch Davidians in San
in March, 1994, in which a misinstructed jury acquitted all the
the main crimes with which they were charged, but convicted them
enhancements of using firearms in the commission of a crime, the
Walter F. Smith, first dismissed the charges, correctly, on the
grounds that it
is logically impossible to be guilty of an enhancement if one is
the crime. However, under apparent political pressure, he
his own ruling and sentenced the defendants to maximum terms as
though they had
been convicted of the main crimes, offering the comment, "The law
have to be logical."
No. The law does have to be logical. Otherwise it is not law. It
arbitrary rule by force.
Now by "logical" what is meant is two-valued logic, which
is sometimes also called Boolean, Aristotelian or
Euclidean logic. In other words, a system of propositions
within which a
statement and its negation cannot both be true or valid.
the two must be false or invalid. The two possible
true and false, and every meaningful proposition
can be assigned
one or the other value.
A system of law is a body of prescriptive, as
descriptive, propositions, that support the making of decisions,
and therefore its logic must be two-valued. It is a fundamental
law that like cases must be decided alike, and this means
propositions that exclude their contradictions.
It is also a fundamental principle of logic that any system of
that accepts both a statement and its negation as valid, that is,
a contradiction, accepts all contradictions, and
basis for deciding among them. If decisions are made, they are not
made on the
basis of the propositions, but are arbitrary, and that is
of the rule of men, as opposed to the rule of law.
So what Winston Smith is saying is that freedom means being able
distinguish between a true proposition and a false one, and what
O'Brien therefore does to crush him is make him accept that
"2 + 2 = 5", which cannot be true if the logic
Aristotelian. O'Brien represents the logic of arbitrary power, a
"logic" we might call Orwellian, although Orwell, whose
name was Eric Blair, was strongly opposed to it.
The methodology of tyranny
The methods used to overthrow a constitutional order and
establish a tyranny
are well-known. However, despite this awareness, it is surprising
how those who
have no intention of perpetrating a tyranny can slip into these
bring about a tyranny despite their best intentions. Tyranny does
not have to
be deliberate. Tyrants can fool themselves as thoroughly as they
- Control of public information and opinion
- It begins with withholding information, and leads to putting
out false or
misleading information. A government can develop ministries of
many guises. They typically call it "public information" or
- Vote fraud used to prevent the election of reformers
- It doesn't matter which of the two major party candidates are
elected if no
real reformer can get nominated, and when news services start
outcomes of elections before it is possible for them to know,
then the votes
are not being honestly counted.
- Undue official influence on trials and juries
- Nonrandom selection of jury panels, exclusion of those opposed
to the law,
exclusion of the jury from hearing argument on the law,
exclusion of private
prosecutors from access to the grand jury, and prevention of
parties and their
counsels from making effective arguments or challenging the
- Usurpation of undelegated powers
- This is usually done with popular support for solving some
problem, or to
redistribute wealth to the advantage of the supporters of the
but it soon leads to the deprivation of rights of minorities and
- Seeking a government monopoly on the capability and use of
- The first signs are efforts to register or restrict the
possession and use
of firearms, initially under the guise of "protecting" the
which, when it actually results in increased crime, provides a
further disarmament efforts affecting more people and more
- Militarization of law enforcement
- Declaring a "war on crime" that becomes a war on civil
Preparation of military forces for internal policing duties.
- Infiltration and subversion of citizen groups that could be
- Internal spying and surveillance is the beginning. A sign is
prosecutions of their leaders.
- Suppression of investigators and whistleblowers
- When people who try to uncover high level wrongdoing are
is a sign the system is not only riddled with corruption, but
corruption has passed the threshold into active tyranny.
- Use of the law for competition suppression
- It begins with the dominant faction winning support by paying
supporters and suppressing their supporters' competitors, but
leads to public
officials themselves engaging in illegal activities and using
the law to
suppress independent competitors. A good example of this is
- Subversion of internal checks and balances
- This involves the appointment to key positions of persons who
controlled by their sponsors, and who are then induced to do
The worst way in which this occurs is in the appointment of
judges that will go
along with unconstitutional acts by the other branches.
- Creation of a class of officials who are above the law
- This is indicated by dismissal of charges for wrongdoing
who are "following orders".
- Increasing dependency of the people on government
- The classic approach to domination of the people is to first
everything they have away from them, then make them compliant
with the demands
of the rulers to get anything back again.
- Increasing public ignorance of their civic duties and
- When the people avoid doing things like voting and serving in
juries, tyranny is not far behind.
- Use of staged events to produce popular support
Acts of terrorism, blamed on political opponents, followed
well-prepared proposals for increased powers and budgets for
agencies. Sometimes called a Reichstag plot.
- Conversion of rights into privileges
- Requiring licenses and permits for doing things that the
not have the delegated power to restrict, except by due process
in which the
burden of proof is on the petitioner.
- Political correctness
- Many if not most people are susceptible to being recruited to
repressive actions against disfavored views or behaviors, and
led to pave the
way for the dominance of tyrannical government.
The key is always to detect tendencies toward tyranny and
before they go too far or become too firmly established. The
people must never
acquiesce in any violation of the Constitution. Failure to take
action early will only mean that more severe measures will have to
later, perhaps with the loss of life and the disruption of the
society in ways
from which recovery may take centuries.