Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are 20 lessons from the 20th century, adapted to the circumstances of today.
1. Do not obey in advance.
Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.
2. Defend an institution.
Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.