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The End of Democracy and Human Rights

by Dr. JR Miller

Scotland’s new law, “The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021,” is a warning to the West: We are at the end of our common-good society. According to James Cook at the BBC, this law “creates a new crime of ‘stirring up hatred’ relating to age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or being intersex.” And while many pundits are rightly concerned with the loss of free speech, this law underscores a deeper corruption of Western civilization.

Notice that the law is not concerned with “stirring up hatred” against every individual, but with hatred against specific groups of people. This law does not protect the rights of the individual, but the “rights” of certain groups of people deemed worthy of protection.

Scotland’s new law reminds me of the Greek system of justice that denied rights to one’s political enemies. Simonides of Ceos said, “Justice is doing good to friends and harm to enemies.” Thrasymachus said, justice is “the interest of the stronger.” The scales of justice are no longer weighted in favor of equal justice for every man and woman. The new scales of justice are weighted in favor of certain groups, or tribes, of people with access to political power. Sadly, the pursuit of tribal justice is not new, nor is it without terrible consequences. We can learn something of the dangers of tribal justice from the French Revolution of 1848.

Lessons from the French

Also known as the February Revolution the French Revolution of 1848 was preceded by several years of economic depression, increasing food prices, and high unemployment. (Does that sound familiar?) In January 1848, the government moved to limit the right to assembly; they even went so far as to require government permits for meetings of over six people. In response, the people protested, cutting down trees and building barricades to cordon off the streets of Paris. Eventually, a new provisional government was formed with a strong centralized authority over the people. This government promised jobs, equity, and security for everyone. By February 26th, the old monarchy was dead and a new French Republic was born. The red flag of socialism became the new standard for France.

On January 27, amidst the revolution, Alexis de Tocqueville gave a speech before the Chamber of Deputies. He lamented the radicalization he saw among the people. He warned:

“…what is happening in the class which governs disturbs and frightens me. What I see, gentlemen, can be put in a word: public mores are changing and have already profoundly changed; the change grows greater from day to day; common opinions, feelings, and ideas are more and more being replaced by particular interests, particular aims, and points of view carried over from private life and private interests.”

In other words, with the rise of socialism, French society was becoming balkanized—fractured into interest groups that cared little for the common good. Politicians were now driven by their commitment to these interest groups and to their financial donors.

The Revolution in the West

Not surprisingly, the tribal justice de Tocqueville observed during the French Revolution of 1848 mirrors the tribal justice we are seeing in the West. And the rapid change in social norms and moral priorities occurring in Scotland is not much different than what we are seeing here in the United States.

The critical framework of intersectionality is one tool being used to reshape America into a nation of tribalized interest groups who see other “tribes” as either allies or enemies. Intersectional justice means the necessary end of the common good in favor of the tribal good. There is no objective justice; there is only social justice. And, as happened in France, political corruption is dismissed, justified, and defended as long as the corruption serves the interest of one’s tribe.

Warnings From a Christian Ethicist

What I say now, I say as a Christian ethicist and not a politician: The shift in private morals matters. And it matters because justice based on sexual attraction or gender identity will ultimately lead to the suppression of rights and the oppression of any person who holds an opinion deemed “hateful” by the tribe in power.

Here again, in the midst of the chaos of revolution, de Tocqueville’s warning holds true for the West:

“Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, socialism restricts it.

Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”

More to the point, he said:

“Americans are so enamored of equality, they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.”

You may not like how he compares socialism to democracy. But my point is not to advocate for a specific form of government. Neither is my point to say that the Western system of justice is perfect or that “the good old days” reflect the ideal of justice. My goal here is simply to point to the shift in private morals as the new foundation for justice.

Dehumanization is the inevitable end when the common good is supplanted by tribal justice. As de Tocqueville recognized, the American form of democracy (our constitutional republic) is especially fragile and cannot survive a tribalist morality. When one tribal group and their allies vote into power those who will pass laws that favor only certain groups, then justice is lost for everyone. When the government trades individual “rights” for tribal “rights,” the moral worth of the individual must also be given up to protect the tribe. The individual who finds their identity outside the tribal power systems will be marginalized and dehumanized. Justice will become a shifting standard tied to the social construct of tribal identity rather than to the transcended and divine standard dignity which is common to every person. Without a doubt, the pursuit of tribal justice will usher in the end of the common-good society


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