Daily Centrist: Steve Bannon: Not Just Donald Trump. Also Viktor Orban, Illiberal Democracy.

(TaraElla News 08/21/18)

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In recent times, when we talk about threats to freedom, the focus is often on the left. And of course, you can’t blame people for thinking this way, with ideas like no-platforming, safe speech and so-called free speech with consequences all coming from the left. However, it would be a mistake to assume that all of the right is necesssarily pro-freedom. The recent news of American conservative Steve Bannon hanging out with authoritarian Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban gives us a timely reminder of this.

In America, Steve Bannon is perhaps most well known for his on-again, off-again relationship with President Donald Trump. In recent days, Bannon has gone all out in his endorsement of Trump again, pointing out that the president is perhaps the Republicans’ best asset at this year’s midterm elections. However, Donald Trump is not the only world leader Steve Bannon is actively supporting. What Americans have perhaps been less aware of is what Bannon has been up to in Europe. He has been hanging out with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is known for opposing liberal democracy, and championing illiberal democracy. Now, some American conservatives may be happy to see somebody who is anti-liberal in the American sense, but we are not talking about liberal meaning leftist in the American sense, we are talking about classical liberal values in the European sense here. Viktor Orban clearly has no time for classical liberal values. His whole point is to run a strong man administration, an all-powerful government, never mind the individual liberties that may be compromised as a result. The fact that Bannon chooses this kind of company, well, I think should tell us what kind of future Bannon actually wants for America and the world. I wouldn’t trust Bannon as a fellow freedom fighter.

As a moral libertarian, I believe it is a moral imperative that each individual has equal moral agency. That each individual should be equally able to decide how to conduct their lives, guided by their own moral compass. Obviously, a big and powerful government deciding things for everyone makes this impossible. Liberal democracy is the only system that is compatible with allowing equal moral agency for each individual. Liberal democracy supports the notion that the government is a servant of the people. Liberal democracy puts moral agency in individual citizens, not the leader. For me, supporting liberal democracy is a matter of supporting a more moral system. It’s something that we cannot ever give up on.

In the current political climate, many sincere freedom fighters, who have been legitimately scarred by the left’s rising authoritarianism, think they can simply seek refuge in the right. And it is true that, right now, the right is much better on average on issues like free speech. But the attitude that the right is always pro-freedom is dangerous. Because, as the actions of Viktor Orban show us, it’s clearly not always true. Instead, we need to think critically about how to protect and increase individual freedoms in society, and fight back against collectivist attitudes wherever they raise their head. Left or right, we need to call out anti-freedom attitudes.

That’s all for today. I’ll be back with more centrist commentary tomorrow. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it.

TaraElla is a singer-songwriter, independent journalist and author, who is passionate about liberty and equality. She is the author of the Moral Libertarian Horizon books, which focus on developing a moral case for freedom-based politics in the 21st century.

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