The use of unlimited, naked coercion in pursuit of contestable policy has radicalised three generations of the calmest and most stable realm in human history – the Anglosphere.
We’re used to seeing riots and flares on the streets in the developing world. And in Continental Europe, with its history of revolutions and untrustworthy government.
But for two hundred years a combination of culture and prosperity has insulated the Anglosphere from broad sections of the community resorting to civil disobedience and violence as a natural, assumed part of their political behaviour.
The foundation of this peace isn’t law, isn’t religion, and it isn’t Constitution. It’s the combination of the ruling class culture and the broader culture which gives those things teeth.
The success of the Anglosphere, both political and economic, is built on restraint. The community has restrained its political behaviour for the simple reason that they have been able to trust (relatively) that the ruling class will restrain itself and act with some sense of duty.
This is the power of the liberal, Anglosphere tradition. It limits democratic government power to protect due process and the rights of minorities. But that only happens when a political class internalises these values of liberal restraint. The English speaking world has done that better than any other. Foundation documents and law are irrelevant if those with power don’t restrain themselves. The real constitution is always found in political leaders’ heads.
The disappearance of restraint, duty and honour has been coming a long time. It is another victim of 1960s thinking, with a side dish of the cynicism that emerged after the Great War. It isn’t confined to politics.
That absence of restraint and duty has been obvious in our ruling class for 20 years. The idea that in politics, or bureaucracy, or education, or corporate life you should act with impartiality to political and moral difference is long gone. Setting aside your personal beliefs as a matter of duty is seen as quaint and old-fashioned. The cool idea of integrity in these offices is more about political engagement than restrained impartiality.
What every government in Australia has just done is blow up the deal based on mutual restraint. They have revealed that they reject the liberal trade-off, and that they will not restrain themselves or act with a sense of duty. By doing so they show that government in Australia is based on pure coercion and threat.
They have taught every Zoomer, Millennial, and X-er that in the absence of principled political leaders, the police are thugs. They have taught every Zoomer, Millennial, and X-er that if they want controls or limits on their government, that civil disobedience and street violence are the only answers.
In the next 20 years you’ll need to become comfortable with the street politics of a place like France or Italy. A cultural change made and delivered by our governments.