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The state as an enemy of freedom. Lessons from Lisbon for us all!

Sunday, January 07, 2018

In the historic sector of Lisbon, Portugal, nestled quietly next to the imposing 13th Century Lisbon Cathedral is a nondescript block of a building. It houses the Museum of Aljube – Resistance and Freedom. For the naive tourist who wanders in from the intriguing, cobbled alleyways of Lisbon and not familiar with the more recent history of Portugal, the museum is a moving shake-up. The museum records the struggle against the dictatorship that governed Portugal from 1926 to 1974. This is recent history! The museum building itself housed the dictatorship’s secret police. As you move through rooms you find yourself standing in torture cells, places where murder was committed by the state in the name of the state.

The museum pays tribute to the strength of the Portuguese people and the human spirit. It’s a confronting reminder, though, that throughout human history the state, allegedly there for the people, too often becomes the greatest oppressor of the people.

It’s for this reason that, in free societies, the power of the state and the institutions of the state have to have their power constrained. Countervailing power between institutions protects freedom, and protects individuals from the inclination of state institutions to see themselves as above the people. Freedom cannot be taken for granted. It’s always at risk.

Take Poland. Only released from dictatorial communism in 1989 and now a solid democracy, late in 2017 new laws passed restricting the independence of the Polish judiciary. An independent judiciary is central to the continuation of freedom.  But old habits to curtail freedom return. Freedom is at risk. No country is immune.

Take Australia. The power of the state through the institution of the Taxation Office is effectively unrestrained. Few individuals can afford a legal defence if targeted by the ATO even if the ATO is acting counter to the law. This has been our discovery in 2017.

This was made abundantly clear in our battle to have the ABNs restored to vulnerable self-employed, work-from-home people. The state, in a supposed free society, illegally (on our assessments), took away the business registration of 16 people thus preventing them from earning a living. This was oppression by the state in the name of the state. And this is a ‘free’ Australia? We divulge the story and events here.

True, this is not physical oppression, but it is certainly financial oppression. Is not the intentional denial of an income to an individual by the state a clear form of oppression?

Staggeringly, this can happen to anyone in ‘free’ Australia! The ATO has not changed its procedures. That’s why countervailing power must be applied. That’s why we’ve developed our Protected Membership. Join here.

No-one can take freedom for granted, even in countries where freedom is assumed as a given!

[SEA’s Executive Director, Ken Phillips, has been visiting family in Europe.]
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