From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2012)|
|This article may contain original research. (September 2012)|
|Part of the Politics series|
|Basic forms of|
A police state is a state in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic, and political life of the population. A police state typically exhibits elements of totalitarianism and social control, and there is usually little or no distinction between the law and the exercise of political power by the executive.
The inhabitants of a police state experience restrictions on their mobility, and on their freedom to express or communicate political or other views, which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement. Political control may be exerted by means of a secret police force which operates outside the boundaries normally imposed by a constitutional state.
As the maintenance of a standing police force became common in the late 19th and early 20th century, the term "police state" came to be used more commonly to refer only to when a police force was used "too" strenuously, in a "rigid and repressive" way, as under fascism, crony capitalism, and in retroactive application to oppressive/repressive historic incidents like the French Revolution and the Roman Empire.
The Oxford English Dictionary traces the phrase "police State" back to 1851. The German term Polizeistaat came into English usage in the 1930s with reference to totalitarian governments that had began to emerge in Europe.
Genuine police states are fundamentally authoritarian, and are often dictatorships. However the degree of government repression varies widely among societies. Most regimes fall into some middle ground between the extremes of civil libertarianism and totalitarianism.
In times of national emergency or war, the balance which may usually exist between freedom and national security often tips in favour of security. This shift may lead to allegations that the nation in question has become, or is becoming, a police state.
Because there are different political perspectives as to what an appropriate balance is between individual freedom and national security, there are no definitive objective standards to determine whether the term "police state" applies to a particular nation at any given point in time. Thus, it is difficult to evaluate objectively the truth of allegations that a nation is, or is not becoming, a police state. One way to view the concept of the police state and the free state is through the medium of a balance or scale, where any law focused on removing liberty is seen as moving towards a police state, and any law which limits government oversight is seen as moving towards a free state.
An electronic police state is one in which the government aggressively uses electronic technologies to record, organize, search, and distribute forensic evidence against its citizens.
|The neutrality of this article is disputed. (April 2011)|
As previously discussed, it is not possible to objectively determine whether a nation has become or is becoming a police state. As a consequence, to draw up an exhaustive list of police states would be inherently flawed. However, there are a few highly debated examples which serve to illustrate partial characteristics of a police state's structure. These examples are listed below.
The South African apartheid system was generally considered to have been a police state despite having been nominally a democracy (albeit with the Black African majority population excluded from the democracy).
The Soviet Union and its many satellite states, including North Korea and East Germany were notorious for their extensive and repressive police and intelligence services, with approximately 2.5% of the East German adult population serving (knowingly or unknowingly) as informants for the Stasi.
Nazi Germany, a dictatorship, was, at least initially, brought into being through a nominal democracy, yet exerted repressive controls over its people. Germany was a police state; using the SS/SA to assert control over the population in the 1930s
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders ranked North Korea second last out of 168 countries in a test of press freedom. It has been reported that the only TV channel in North Korea predominately eulogises the country's past leaders Kim Jong Il and his father Kim Il Sung. As a result, some locals in Pyongyang have been quoted as stating that their leaders are gods.
George Churchill-Coleman, who headed Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist squad in the United Kingdom, stated he had a "horrible feeling" that Britain was moving in the direction of a police state,. Claims of police state behaviour have been dismissed by the UK government.
Under the political model of enlightened absolutism, the ruler is the "highest servant of the state" and exercises absolute power to provide for the general welfare of the population. This model of government proposes that all the power of the state must be directed toward this end, and rejects codified, statutory constraints upon the ruler's absolute power. Thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes supported this type of absolutist government.
As the enlightened, absolute ruler is said to be charged with the public good, and implicitly infallible by right of appointment, even critical, loyal opposition to the ruler's party is a crime against the state. The concept of loyal opposition is incompatible with these politics. As public dissent is forbidden, it inevitably becomes secret, which, in turn, is countered with political repression via a secret police.
Liberal democracy, which emphasizes the rule of law, focuses on the police state's not being subject to law. Robert von Mohl, who first introduced the rule of law to German jurisprudence, contrasted the Rechtsstaat ("legal" or "constitutional" state) with the aristocratic Polizeistaat ("police state").
Fictional police states have been featured in a number of media ranging from novels to films to video games. George Orwell's 1984 has been described as "the definitive fictional treatment of a police state, which has also influenced contemporary usage of the term".