Liberty Matters

Of nut runners, forerunners, and the hopping procession of Echternach


Gerard Radnitzky used to compare the modern democratic state and its restrictive impact on individual freedom with the ratchet effect of a nut runner. Nut runners allow humans to tighten bolts firmly with ease, and politicians to tauten the corset of the citizens full of finesse. Ratchets might not be a perfect metaphor, for the laces are sometimes loosened and restrictions truncated. However, as Michael rightly observed, rolling back the state is not possible in our states – not only because tentacles are not frontiers, but also for systemic reasons. “Addictive redistribution” – as Tony de Jasay used to call it – is probably the most prominent one. 
Creeping states with tentacles occasionally pruned back resemble the hopping procession of Echternach in which pilgrims move iteratively two steps forward and one step back. All ratchets – traditional as well as hopping ones – finally reach the point where either the nut or the nut runner will burst with the next circumvolution. Whether that circumvolution will be followed by a revolution or any other process of transformation is an open matter. Secession, non-centralism, disintegration, and other forms of transformation processes following or starting even shortly before the point is reached, because some groups intend to pre-empt its consequences, would be obvious options. Whatever the next step will be, it will be a successive one to which the previous one was constitutive – a forerunner in the chronological sense, though not in a teleological one. Sharing the Popperian wig with Hartmut, I second his forerun response to Michael. I suppose that all of us, Edoardo included, do not see historical entities interwoven in any sort of Hegelian law of history.