History is the story of the struggle of the psychologically normal majority of humanity to free ourselves from the tyranny of a psychologically disordered minority who are marked by their innate propensity for violence and greed. In this long struggle, previous generations have crafted seven essential safeguards to protect us against rule by tyranny – the following seven pillars of freedom.
1. The Rule of Law
The very concept of civilisation is almost synonymous with the rule of law. The absence of the rule of law is a state of violent anarchy, which advantages those of a psychopathic disposition. This was the situation for most of human history up until the advent of the first city states and the first ancient civilisations. The emergence of Leviathans, the term that Thomas Hobbes used to describe governments with the power to impose order, marked a major step in the reduction of violence.
2. Electoral Democracy
As Steven Pinker has documented in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature, the emergence of governments with a monopoly on the use of force solved one problem – violence between citizens – but created another – violence inflicted upon citizens by an all-powerful state. For most of the history of civilisation, government has meant tyranny. The first decisive step taken by citizens to protect themselves from pathological governments was the invention of electoral democracy. In theory at least, electoral democracy provides the opportunity both to keep dangerously disordered individuals from power and to remove them from power once their destructive nature has become apparent.
3. The Separation of Church and State
Electoral democracy and the separation of church and state became the basis of government for the first time, and at the same time, in the Constitution of the new United States of America. This fact singles out the US Constitution as one of the seminal documents in humanity’s historical struggle to wrestle power from the hands of a pathologically dangerous minority. By preventing governments from promoting the interests of a single religion above others, the First Amendment denied zealots the opportunity to use religion as a pretext for discrimination and persecution.
4. Social Democracy
The next three safeguards against rule by pathological elites arose as a direct result of the devastation of World War Two. The Great Depression of the 1930s and the absence of adequate systems of social protection created mass unemployment and poverty across Europe. The public anger at the inability of democracies to resolve the crisis led to support for authoritarian leaders, Hitler among them, who promised to act decisively. One of the lessons that European nations learned from the carnage of the ensuing war was that governments needed to act to protect social cohesion in times of economic crisis. What emerged was the European model of social democracy, which tempered capitalism with economic redistribution. Social democracy aims at limiting social inequality in order to avoid the type of social breakdown that can propel tyrants to power.
5. Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stands alongside the U.S. Constitution as one of the most important milestones on our journey to protect ourselves against psychologically dangerous individuals. In the aftermath of the Holocaust and the systemic mass murder of the citizens of Nazi occupied territories, the international community vowed that how governments treated their citizens would no longer be a matter of domestic concern only. The international framework of human rights law that is now in place is designed to safeguard every citizen on earth from arbitrary abuse of power by national governments. Human rights law also serves to protects citizen, including women, homosexuals, and religious and ethnic minorities, from so-called traditional values and cultures that discriminate against them.
6. Pooled Sovereignty
The third safeguard against tyranny that emerged from the ruins of Europe after the Second World War was the development of what has now become the European Union. In the aftermath of the War, European nations created political institutions in which bitter enemies pooled aspects of their sovereignty in an explicit attempt to secure lasting peace. In the light of the present crisis for the Euro currency, it is important to remember that the institutions of the European Union – the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Court of Justice – were formed not primarily for economic reasons, but rather the prevent former enemies from ever waging war against each other again.
7. Cultures of Tolerance
The final safeguard which societies are building against rule by psychopaths, narcissists and those with severe paranoia, are cultures of tolerance and equality. Societies where the prevailing cultures reject prejudice and discrimination on the basis of race, gender and sexual orientation enable all sections of the psychologically normal majority the freedom to develop their abilities and contribute fully to society and deny pathological elites scapegoats for populist campaigns of oppression. The fight for women’s rights across the Arab world, south Asia and India, and elsewhere, is not just about the safety and freedom of women, it is about the safety and freedom of us all.