“The Italian tragedy, in my opinion, had its beginnings in August 1939, when, having gone to Salzburg on my own initiative, I suddenly found myself face to face with the cynical German determination to provoke the conflict. The alliance had been signed in May. I had always been opposed to it, and for a long time I had so contrived that the persistent German offers were allowed to drift. There was no reason whatever, in my opinion, for us to be bound in life and death to the destiny of Nazi Germany. Instead, I was in favor of a policy of collaboration, for in our geographical situation we are bound to detest the eighty million Germans, burtally set in the heart of Europe, but we cannot ignore them. The decision to conclude the alliance was taken by Mussolini, suddenly, while I was in Milan with von Ribbentrop. Some American newspapers had reported that the Lombard metropolis was proof of the diminished personal prestige of Mussolini.

Hence his wrath. I received by telephone the most peremptory orders to accede to the German demands for an alliance, which for more than a year I had left in a state of suspense and had thought of leaving there for a much longer time. So ‘The Pact of Steel’ was born. A decision that has had such a sinister influence upon the entire life and future of the Italian people is due entirely to the spiteful reaction of a dictator to the irresponsible and valueless utterances of foreign journalists.”
- Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, December 23, 1943, Cell 27 of the Verona Jail

There are two central concepts to this blog: individual liberty and restraint of power. These two concepts are inextricably bound as the former cannot possibly exist without the latter. As organized power grows and devolves into the hands of fewer individuals or groups of people, personal freedom declines. It makes no difference how intelligent, beneficent or well-meaning those individuals may be. Power does not leave room for freedom. Period.

Ciano touches on an important demonstration of this as he writes his last passage before being executed by his ruthless Nazi captors. The entire fate of Italy and the consequences of that fate not only for the Italian people but for the world at large in the 1930′s and 40′s rested almost soley in the hands of a single human being. No other person had either the will or the ability to stop him. The fate of millions rested on the arrogant whims and jealous emotions of a flawed individual. It can be pointed out of course that the individual responsible for the decision – Benito Mussolini – was a pompous, ignorant and profoundly ruthless person. The individual to whom he was fearfully subservient – Adolph Hitler – was infinitely more ruthless and ignorant. There is no doubt that this is true.

But it is almost always this manner of human being that seeks to find him or herself at the seat of such power. And it is rarely any other type of inividual who has the stomach to maintain such power for very long. Whatever utopian platitudes or benevolent purposes such seats of power are established to pursue, corruption is inevitable. This is what Benjamin Franklin meant when he declared the lifespan of our Constitution temporary. Sooner or later, despotism will take hold.

What is the point of this post? Responsible citizens should carefully consider those policies of their government which seek to centralize power. Sooner or later, those seats of power will be occupied by individuals whom you will not want empowered to make the decisions they will inevitably make. One of the reasons democracy did not sustain itself in Germany before Hitler was because good people accustomed to entitlement were frustrated with the inability of their government to “get things done” as Hayek put it. Entitlement is a dangerous vice for an ostensibly free people to develop.