One World

Freedom as a Servant of Tyranny

For at least the past forty years, the political debate in Brazil has been reduced to a choice between free market and state interventionism, identified with the “Right” and the “Left,” respectively, and charged with automatically defining, on that economic basis, all other human alternatives in all fields of culture, legislation, morality, etc. When a person identifies himself as a “free-market advocate,” he is immediately classed among rightists, conservatives, and reactionaries, becoming, on the other hand, a socialist, a progressive, and a revolutionary as soon as he switches to the field of state interventionism. Roberto Campos and Celso Furtado, both Brazilian economists, are the icons of the first and second factions, respectively.

When factors—of a moral, cultural, military, geopolitical, or any other nature—interfere in the dispute, complicating the picture and depriving the honorable public of the comforts of that primary schematism, the only reaction the Brazilian mind is capable of is an attempt to quickly retrieve its state of homeostatic equilibrium by proclaiming that  Left and Right no longer exist, that the world has entered a stage of paradisiacal unanimity, and that, to sum up, there is nothing left to be discussed, except for the names of those who will fill out the offices in the hierarchy of universal peace.

Transitioning thusly from a silly schematism to an even sillier one, they believe to have overcome all ideological conflict and risen to the heights of some sublime pragmatism, where, with the lower passions already extinguished, techno-scientific reason reigns supreme, nothing else being important but the objective calculation of costs and benefits.

Unfortunately, these are all self-flattering illusions, designed to protect the human mind from a conflict with the painful complexities of the real world.

First of all, the choice between free market and state interventionism is one thing when regarded as a theoretical alternative, or as an abstract model of an ideal society, and a completely different thing when placed in a specific historical and geopolitical context. The banner of economic freedom was first raised against monarchic despotisms. At that time, it was identified with the forces of revolution. A free-market supporter was closer to a socialist than to an ultramontane monarchist. Later on, with the rise of the Russian and German statist totalitarianisms, free-market advocacy became “reactionary.”  By then, free-market proponents would team up with their former enemies, monarchists and Christian conservatives, against the socialist threat. This second form assumed by the ideological debate, upon which the usual Brazilian distinction between Left and Right is based, has long been absorbed and transcended by a third equation. Free market has become the pretext upon which the globalist forces interested in building a controlling and despotic world government have been undermining national sovereignties and inducing entire nations to abdicate all other liberties in exchange for the mere power of buying and selling. The argument that economic freedom brings with it all other freedoms is therein used as an excuse to bring about the opposite result: the suppression of all freedoms but one. Concomitantly, those very globalist forces have been giving billionaire support to all leftist and revolutionary organizations in the world, in order to make them work against the nation-states, causing many supporters of the free market, who nonetheless fancy themselves as men of the “Right,” to ultimately join forces with the leftist rebellion against moral and cultural traditionalisms, which, to some, are obstacles to the revolution, and to others, are impediments to the free market. United by their clinging to old stereotypes dislocated from the present situation, both fail to perceive that, in their fight against the nation-state, which some hate as reactionary, and others as interventionist, they are only aiding the Great Leviathan of the world state to rise upon the ruins of many lesser Leviathans.

The ideological conflict is not over. It is just formidably more complicated. The struggle between freedom and tyranny has taken on a new format, in which the engineers of tyranny, by playing with the conventional symbols of political debate, have managed to enlist to their service even the very supporters of freedom.

Olavo de Carvalho is the President of The Inter-American Institute and Distinguished Senior Fellow in Philosophy, Political Science, and the Humanities.

The opinions published here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute. This article was originally published in the Brazilian newspaper Diário do Comércio on May 25, 2009 and translated from the Portuguese by Alessandro Cota.

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