Creeping Tyranny

It’s actually not all that common to have the Evil Tyrant take over the land and impose crushing new rules that the Hero and friends spend the book trying to overthrow. No, more commonly the Evil Tyrant replaces the previous Evil Tyrant (meet the new boss, just like the old boss) and changes who’s on the enemies list and the beleaguered subjects do the same as they’ve been doing forever and get on with life in general.

And bruised souls from the compromises that are necessary to get by when living in an abusive regime.

When some flavor of tyranny happens in a place that was more or less free, the usual way is after a period of complete anarchy that happens when a legitimate – or not – government collapses, or it creeps in the back door via ever more restrictive laws passed “for your own good”. This is, of course, what C. S. Lewis was talking about when he said

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

This can lead to slippery slopes and domino theories and plots that aren’t nearly as exciting as the violent overthrows, but when you see it happening, it’s worrying. Also fuel for dystopian tales that I’d rather not be writing thank you very much.

Interestingly enough, I wasn’t chasing that kind of story or nightmare fodder, but earlier this week I ran across a tidbit of news to the effect that another US state has written legislation intended to ban employers from making getting a microchip compulsory for employees. There are several states now that have rules to the effect that companies can’t make getting chipped a condition of employment. There are also rules requiring the VA to accept chipping to identify and monitor patients. I haven’t dug far enough to which came first, but I have absolutely no doubt that once the technology got to the point where it was simple and easy to use there were people with power rubbing their hands together with glee at the opportunities for abuse it provided.

Because yeah, I can’t see any way being able to monitor someone’s location and tell exactly what they did when as long as they’re in reach of a scanner can be abused. Next there’ll be reports of employees being forced to take paid time off for excess loo time. Or something.

Sure most people are decent and do what’s right most of the time. There are always predators around, and it’s inevitable that some of those predators are in governments or in charge of large corporations (they tend to be less inclined towards smaller businesses unless they’re doing the fly-by-night Dodgy Brothers deal where they shut down and move on to the next set of marks before they can get hit by consequences) and busily arranging as much as they can to suit their desires.

And the smart ones will introduce oppressive rules slowly. First it’s an option. Then it’s the preferred option. Until eventually it’s mandatory. And if it’s done well enough, people keep trundling along, never realizing that what used to be relatively free has become rather less so until they get smacked in the face with the changes and wonder where their freedom went.

It doesn’t make for exciting storytelling, unless done by a master. What it does make for is a chilling realization that, as Wendell Phillips said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”


  1. Extra “fun” comes in, in real life– hard to make it interesting in a book– when you have competing freedoms.

    Saw a newspaper headline the other day about how some web sites are shutting down, because they got sued by/on behalf of blind folks who can’t access them usefully.

    So you have a company that is BUILT around everyone having a chip– and then someone applies, is turned down as not qualified because they don’t have a chip. They are objectively not qualified. Employers have a right to set the standards for employment.

    Now, an obvious work-around for that case would be putting the chip on a glorified band-aid, and there’s an obvious weakness in that anything that is on the implanted chips can be monitored, and dang it now I’m picturing RFID blocking gloves and trying to figure out how my cyborg race would use this stuff….

    1. You make it a crime to interfere with the RFID ID signal, and you use a secondary scanner with face recognition or something similar. If the IDs don’t match, you dispatch the police to make an arrest.

      “If it saves even one life/child/whatever…”
      “If you’re not doing anything wrong…”
      “It’s for the good of society…”
      “Because we can…”

      1. That would actually make it worse, actually.

        I was in the Navy when they [short version] did this chip thing with ID cards.
        They were really hard to keep readable, AND when you could read them, they were so clonable you could almost do it on accident.

        1. When did they start chipping the ID cards? I got out in 95 not long after they started writing your DNA in barcode on the back (Had to get a new card with that done in 94 when we deployed to Croatia)

          1. I retired in 1999. ID cards were bar coded at least up to 2003 when I had to get a new DD Form 2 for some reason (I think I remember having the first one split in half.) No chip at that time. Since it expires in 2023, I suppose I’ll have to get a new one before then. Personally, I’d rather have a Lens of Arisia instead.

          2. Not sure exactly, the Common Access Card was “new” at my first command, about 03 they had “just got the reader working,” and about 05 they were not really bothering because handing a sailor his records on transfer worked better.

            You know how flexible “new” is, even without rollout issues.

  2. The problem with “mandatory chipping” is too many people have either allergies or sensitivities to the chip materials. You get rejections, inflammations, erosions, pain, abscesses, infections, etc. Working in a hospital quality office, I see reports on implant failures for those reasons quite frequently. It’s one of the reasons why I’m not very interested in lens implants for my eyes, or auditory implants for my poor hearing.

    By the way, your pets can have the same kinds of reactions to being chipped as people can.

    Stephanie Osborn’s character, Omega, has a situation in one of her recent books where her body has a massive and immediate rejection factor on mega-steroids to any chipping. Artificial, contrived for the story, sure; but solidly based in reality.

  3. Politics, culture, and ways of doing things have massive amounts of inertia. It takes a lot of energy to change that- multiple years of total war & privation for instance.

    But once that change happens, the new government is quite easily overthrown, because it doesn’t have the same amount of institutional inertia as the old one did. Wiemar Germany, the Kuomintang, and the Russian Provisional government come to mind.

    Because these new governments are perceived as weak, there’s a desire to return to a previous, stronger form (institutional inertia). That’s where your Hitlers, Maos, and Stalins come into power- they represent a return to the powerful leaders of that nation’s past.

  4. “We don’t take cash” comes to mind. I went all plastic years and years ago (mainly so I didn’t need to lie to the homeless people about not having cash), but I still don’t want it banned.

  5. then there’s the whole thing where RFID readers can be made from about $10 in materials and hooked up to lots of things…

    1. We already have augmented reality and it sucks.

      Look at all the people around you. How many are wearing ear buds listening to something other than what’s actually going on around them? Reduces social interaction, increases chances for accidents and injuries. Now layer augmented vision on top of reality. It’s NOT a pretty picture. (pun intended)

        1. It awes me, really.

          Spend 60 years raising the cost of social interaction by screwing up manners, and now folks are upset that there’s less social interaction.

          Yeah, it’s expensive!

      1. (btw, I wasn’t being mean, but God, getting bloody My Heart Will Go On five times an hour on all pop music stations, COMPLETE WITH VOCAL CLIPS FROM THE DAMN FILM has made that movie one of the ones I refuse outright ever to watch. And they did it for two years.)

        1. Heh. I’ll fix your little Drow wagon. Augmented reality with only ONE audio track, and a visual field with dancing hamsters. Hmmm. That sounds like something Ol’ Scratch would do to some bad guy.

    2. Theft-proof… right until someone puts a skimmer on the reader and clones the chips. And, as has been often done with fingerprint-locks, some thieves will lift the print and make a, essentially 3-D printed mask with the prints. Some will just destroy the lock, or take the door off the hinges, bypassing it entirely. And some will cut off the hand and use it. Nothing stopping all three approaches from criminals once it’s out there.

      1. They steal ATMs with a pickup truck and a chain. Drive truck through doors, hook chain around ATM, yank it out and drive away to bash the ATM open at leisure.

        Low tech generally beats high tech. Just takes a bit of elbow grease, and time.

  6. Just heard that a couple of European countries are in the middle of passing some mandates requiring new cars have some complicated automatic driving mechanisms. Which is really excellent timing, given the lessons we may wind up learning from the investigation into this Boeing thing.

    My objection to government decisions I consider tyrannical is not because I entirely dislike the idea of being able to impose my will on others. It is because I want to avoid becoming part of the inevitable pile of bodies when hubris causes decisions to be made beyond government’s ability to implement decisions safely.


      They’re proposing a black box for every car, by 2022. Which is three years away, not waaaay off in the future and my hindbrain keeps telling me.

      The stated purpose is to reduce speeding. After I stopped laughing I read the rest of the article.

      The thing European socialists love about trains is that they control where the train goes and when it goes there. By controlling that they control the movement of any individual they want to. Don’t want peasants in the capital? Stop the train.

      The thing they hate about cars is they don’t control that movement anymore. Yellow Vests from the provinces, protesting in Paris. Inconceivable!

      Note the time frame for this progression means that the technology is ready to be deployed -now-. Your 2018 European car probably has wiring harness drops already installed for this. The Tesla AutoDrive feature basically -is- this, just without the government regulation.

      I am never going to sell my 1964 Buick. Never. But I may install a revolving license plate like 007.

      1. People can’t keep malware out of their home computers and they think it will be great when they put computers in charge of 1 ton mobile objects. Wanna Cry on your car will be the least of the damage.

        1. Oh please, Bob, the deaths of a few worthless peasants is a small price to pay to keep the riff-raff out of Paris. One can’t even enjoy a moment of peace in one’s favorite cafe with all those Yellow Vests around.

          But on the practical front, one need not postulate enemy action. How long will it be before some Ministry of Transport moron accidentally sets the speed limit on the main motorway to 10Km/h instead of 100Km/h? Or sets a back street from 40Km/h to 400Km/h?

          Of course the very first thing that will happen is that the central planning sons of bitches who set the speed limits will find out what happens when people actually follow them. The traffic jams are going to be epic.

    2. Don’t be reactionary. That policewoman in the headscarf is confiscating your children’s scissors for their own good.

      1. No she’s not. That is, she’s not confiscating the scissors, she’s confiscating your children. For any reason: failure to vaccinate, choosing to treat them at home instead of the emergency room, spanking, letting them play with sharp objects, talking mean to them, or just because she got up on the wrong side of bed today.

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