One simplified way to look at society is as a balance of order and freedom. Since order generally imposes rules, and rules restrict freedom, having too much of one means having too little of the other. While this is not a very precise view of the world, this balance in a society is very important.
One issue with the way many people view this topic is the bias of what they think the world and humanity is. The most important bias I feel is that which comes from a person’s life experiences, particularly their upbringing and traumatic experiences.
- Consider a person who grew up in a conservative, wealthy, and highly controlled environment. This person may grow up in at least two ways, the first being that they conform with their conservative education and that that shapes the way they see the world, that is that order is needed. The other extreme way is that the person grows up either feeling restricted and suppressed himself by the constricting environment, or that they view others as being restricted by it, and consequentially view this extreme control as harmful to people.
- Now consider the opposite situation: a person grows up in desperate poverty and war, with no rules and no protection. This person will analogously either view this as the natural order of life as survival of the fittest, or will despise the disorder an want to change it.
- In a less extreme case, a person might simply be brought up in relative freedom and view how restricted others are, which would lead them to appreciate the freedom they have. Alternatively, they might be brought up in a relatively controlled environment and appreciate the safe life they have.
These situations may however be changes or reinforced by traumatic experiences, which can radicalise people to one of the extremes mentioned above. In these situations the person is generally either ignorant of the benefits and drawbacks of the other situations, or too close minded to accept or consider them.
Order is needed to allow people to live safely and freely. Order can however be taken too far in order to control others for selfish or misguided reasons. A person who grows up in a safe conservative environment, never being made aware of the horrors of a repressed society, might look down on a younger generation being wild and promoting freedom. It is easy for someone accustomed to order to view any added freedom as being conducive to disorder and chaos. They often use slippery slope fallacies to explain why more freedom will lead to the end of society. The issue with this view is that it assumes that the controlled lifestyle the person is used to is normal and sufficient, but that only reflects how the system worked with them. The same system might be oppressive to others, or might have tricked them into thinking it was good.
The idea that giving people a bit more freedom will become a slippery slope also suffers from an assumption due to point of view; when control is favoured, it is easy to think that control is the same as stability, and that less control means less stability leading to uncontrollable change. This is not true because both free and controlled societies are valid ways to make society, and infact it is not one side or the other that is unstable, no known political system is stable, especially the extreme systems. Moderate policies that combine both points of view are the only systems that are reasonable and allow for the people living in them to be reasonable, which leads to general stability. The argument about stability though assumes that stability is objectively good, while in fact excessive stability will lead to stagnation and close mindedness, which is why moderate systems work better. As a result, it is not more freedom that is a slippery slope, instead it is oppressive or lawless systems that are a slippery slope to dictatorship or chaos.
Another issue with this point of view is that it ignores the fundamental, basic, and universal human rights that everyone is entitled to. One cannot allow a government to ban a specific type of dress for arbitrary reasons, because that allows them to restrict further types of dress. The Only time a type of dress can be banned is if it is objectively proven to cause harm that cannot be otherwise mitigated.
The same principle applies to books. A book, magazine, film, audio, music, or videogame must not be banned no matter how bad it is, because when the government will not allow people to make their own choices, they are censoring the spread of information. Just as the dress, the only time this should be done is if it is known for sure that that information will cause unavoidable harm, which is not only difficult to prove, but unlikely. When information is controlled, the government will not be able to be held accountable for their actions because the people will not know what they are doing. Without a free press, anyone will be able to do anything without many people finding out, which means that no one can hold them accountable if they commit crimes.
The inverse effect is also oppressive; when the government surveils everything the people do, they will be able to stop anyone who speaks out against them.
Abuse of Power
When the government gives itself the power to control people’s lives and decide what information they can have, this power can easily be abused. Even if the current government does not abuse these powers, the next government might. Such powers must only be used exceptionally and for short durations. In the past and even today such powers have been declared in supposed times of need and then extended indefinitely as a means of gaining absolute power.
Control should be exercised in moderation and when needed. If there is no practical and unavoidable reason to restrict others’ freedoms then it likely should not be done. People who promote government control for such things often have a subjective view of how people should be, which they falsely believe is objective and that it should be enforced for the greater good when in fact it is just to satisfy their misguided sense of justice.
Be open to others’ points of view and allow them to do what they want unless it harms others.