By Alexander S. Kirshner
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Additional info for A Theory of Militant Democracy: The Ethics of Combatting Political Extremism
Moreover, the political process itself is used to determine which of the rights the community will recognize, as well as the practical contours of those rights. Some people believe that the right to property is a natural right, a right possessed by individuals on the basis of their nature and not because they are granted this right by the legal system. But the way in which that right is instantiated, whether, for example, the government can tax one’s property at death or remove it under the guise of eminent domain, depends in part on the game of politics itself.
Perhaps just as important, I can switch positions. We rightly regard this interest as passive because the choice to participate or not, to canvas for votes on a rainy day or to stay at home and drink a cup of tea, is of fundamental import in politics. The interest in self-governance is not satisfied solely through participation, but even, at a minimum, by the option to participate. Of course, even those who lack effective rights to participate can make fateful political decisions. Adam Michnik’s example attests to this.
12 Persuasive evidence that engaged pursuit of a defensible ideal could lead to the perversion of that ideal was not hard for Michnik to light upon. Idealistic antiheros are the outstanding figures of his writing. The partisans of the French Revolution, the classic examples of idealism gone cannibalistic, are recurring subjects of analysis. But Michnik also found more immediate exemplars of self-defeating and corrupted idealism. These local precedents included the Polish national icon General Józef Piłsudski.