Egyptian Bloodbath: This is What Democracy Looks Like

America’s “Occupy Wall Street” movement has compared itself to the Arab Spring, a social media driven revolt that caught fire earlier this year. Both “democracy” movements were lauded repeatedly in the mainstream press, even as conservatives warned time and time again that such praise was misguided.

While the Occupy movement has turned into a festival of arrests for petty crime, radical Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and even Al Qaeda have rushed in to fill the anarchic power vacuum resulting from the uprisings. Now that the fruits of democratic destabilization and resulting Islamization are becoming clearer, it would behoove us to examine the mismatch between the left’s laudatory rhetoric and the visual reality of the situation.

The left may cry foul and allege that such comparison is unfair, and that to make a democratic omelet, it is necessary to break a few eggs (eggs being human skulls).  But it is well-known in political science that democracy is an unstable political system and rapid democratization is a very unstable and often bloody process.

Lest anyone should forget, in the midst of the Egyptian uprising, the CBS reporter Lara Logan was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a crowd in Cairo. Below is a picture of Ms. Logan moments before the brutal and despicable attack:

An anomaly? Not hardly. More recently, this is how those chivalrous, “misunderstood” Egyptians have treated women who dare express their “democratic” rights.

Get the picture?

And with the rise of Islamist groups in the Middle East, the rights of women and homosexuals are only going to degrade further. Perhaps it is time for the left to support individual rights and the rule of law, rather than the false seduction of democracy for the sake of democracy?


Tyranny: An American Way of Life?

A century into the progressive domination of politics, and the slow creep of statism has led to a massive government promising its citizens everything from subsidized childcare and medical care to free education and retirement pensions. Of course, these benefits of simply being born in this country are being financed by productive citizens, while liberals accrue all the credit by merely waving their hands from the lofty seats of government.

Many conservatives grumble about this state of affairs but accept as a way of life the perquisites, which allow progressives to act like all good comes from the state’s magical money tree.

But contrary to common belief, there is so such a thing as an opportunity cost. We cannot continue to have freedom and fiat, economic dependency and social license, mediocrity and prosperity. Americans appear to believe that society can be rearranged like modular furniture, and liberty and tyranny can coexist side by side. But these are antitheses – eventually one will win out.

Continue reading “Tyranny: An American Way of Life?”

Why Political Equality is Impossible and How Its Pursuit Leads to Tyranny and Poverty

It is taken for granted in Western liberal democracies that equality is a positive thing and should be pursued. But it is a paradox of modern history that the political program to achieve more equality has often lead to tyranny and poverty.

How can the aim to bring about such a desirable thing as equality result in such unequal and undesirable ends?

The classical liberal understanding of equality, pertaining to the universal applicability of the law to individuals, was a revolutionary Enlightenment ideal that proved conducive to promoting freedom.

But more recently, equality has expanded to mean a comprehensive political program where everyone has equal means, and thus, equal political power. This more modern conception of equality is consistent with the redefinition of democracy away from electoral accountability of the government to the people to the theoretical state where the collective has political power through the government, and in turn, essentially becomes the government.

Equality has thus come to describe the proportionate interrelationship between individuals in the economic, societal, and political spheres. These spheres are theorized to be interlinked and inseparable; inequality in any sphere is understood to be inconsistent with democracy. Herbert Marcuse, for example, believed power relationships were inescapable and extended to all aspects of human life.

What the modern left craves is the absence of class boundaries and fuller equality for all human beings. The belief in this presumably ideal state of affairs can lead to disastrous consequences if any agenda to bring about its culmination entails empowering the state.

One of the most egregious errors left-leaning thinkers tend to make is that they misunderstand the causes of inequality. They assume that inequality is a result of the economic system, and that humans otherwise would be equal if not for that system. But inequality is an aspect of nature: people are more or less talented as an aspect of their unique genetic makeup; they are born in different environments and not one homogenous “environment”; and are necessarily raised differently by individuals. No two human beings are equal in reality, not even twins.

Because of this reality, the left desires, as a matter of  its political agenda, to make “the environment” uniform and thus more equal in a very abstract and particular sense; in other words, we are all global citizens who are essentially equal and should unify to overcome shared problems such as manmade climate change, poverty, etc.

The left’s political agenda necessarily means limiting choice and therefore restricting freedom; this despite the veneer of diversity along such trivial lines as skin pigmentation, and aspects of its agenda like cultural relativism and thus equivalence. It may not be the left’s intention to make our political community less free; on the contrary, they believe their program will lead to human beings being more united in common interest due to shared experience and ideology, and thus more free in the long run.

By extension, progressives want more uniformity in education, and additionally, to restrict certain unsavory ideas through political correctness. They think this will result in more equality, and thus more freedom, since we will disagree less with one another, and be less likely to fight.

To sum up, the left wants freedom from dissent, freedom from conflict, and freedom from burdens in life. This is not the way leftists would describe their goals, it should be noted.

Today’s left generally cannot see or understand that it is promoting unfreedom in the interest of equality, because the theoretical aim of leftism is that it will lead to ultimate freedom.  Only there will be no such freedom. There can be no “withering away of the state,” as Engels put it, and the following is why.

If equality is not a natural state, but rather an abstract condition that must be enforced by the state, then we must assume that without the state there would be some kind of inequality; or at the very least, the potential for inequality. Therefore, the state as a coercive body must never “wither away” and must be inherently unequal to those whom it is coercing to be equal or may need to coerce to be equal.

Ironically, when the left advocates for more equality through the state, the effect of its success is that it actually creates greater inequality. When the left empowers the state to make things more equal among less powerful agents, through the mechanism of wealth redistribution, for example,  the state is yielded more arbitrary power to make things “fair” and “just,” is granted more of its own resources, and itself grows more powerful and unequal.

Perfect equality between all men in a state of nature is impossible; and thus, political equality through the state is impossible. When equality is strongly pursued through the state in the interest of furthering freedom, the only end-run results can be anarchy (in no way consistent with equality, as weaker men are more vulnerable to becoming prey of the stronger) and tyranny or unfreedom.

Perversely, the radical pursuit of equality leads to the successful being penalized for their successes, the unsuccessful being rewarded for their failures, the criminal and corrupt reaping benefits for their crimes, and the moral and noble being victimized for their virtues. The inevitable result is demoralization and poverty.

The socialist left may have all the best intentions in the world by their own esteem. But their misunderstanding of nature, the state, and freedom are a plague on humankind that must be remedied.

As posted on Political Crush.

Alexis de Tocqueville's Passage Presages Danger of Centralization in America

“The partisans of centralization in Europe are wont to maintain that the Government directs the affairs of each locality better than the citizens could do it for themselves; this may be true when the central power is enlightened, and when the local districts are ignorant; when it is as alert as they are slow; when it is accustomed to act, and they to obey. Indeed, it is evident that this double tendency must augment with the increase of centralization, and that the readiness of the one and the incapacity of the others must become more and more prominent. But I deny that such is the case when the people is as enlightened, as awake to its interests, and as accustomed to reflect on them, as the Americans are. I am persuaded, on the contrary, that in this case the collective strength of the citizens will always conduce more efficaciously to the public welfare than the authority of the Government. It is difficult to point out with certainty the means of arousing a sleeping population, and of giving it passions and knowledge which it does not possess; it is, I am well aware, an arduous task to persuade men to busy themselves about their own affairs; and it would frequently be easier to interest them in the punctilios of court etiquette than in the repairs of their common dwelling. But whenever a central administration affects to supersede the persons most interested, I am inclined to suppose that it is either misled or desirous to mislead. However enlightened and however skilful a central power may be, it cannot of itself embrace all the details of the existence of a great nation. Such vigilance exceeds the powers of man. And when it attempts to create and set in motion so many complicated springs, it must submit to a very imperfect result, or consume itself in bootless efforts. […]

Granting for an instant that the villages and counties of the United States would be more usefully governed by a remote authority which they had never seen than by functionaries taken from the midst of them—admitting, for the sake of argument, that the country would be more secure, and the resources of society better employed, if the whole administration centred in a single arm—still the political advantages which the Americans derive from their system would induce me to prefer it to the contrary plan. It profits me but little, after all, that a vigilant authority should protect the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly avert all dangers from my path, without my care or my concern, if this same authority is the absolute mistress of my liberty and of my life, and if it so monopolizes all the energy of existence that when it languishes everything languishes around it, that when it sleeps everything must sleep, that when it dies the State itself must perish.” – Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Ch. V

Democracy, Revolution, and The Imposition of Tyranny

Democracy in its purer forms is not the glorious system of government advertised in today’s popular culture, especially if encompassing a broad, populous, and diverse political community.  Factions tend to arise and seek to seize government to achieve narrow ends in disregard of the impact on the broader political community. As John Adams succinctly wrote, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”

Because of the unstable nature of democracy, a political system especially unsuitable for such a vast and diverse nation, our founders instituted a governmental system of divided powers and checks and balances, so as to pit interest against interest. A federal government, and not a national one, was established; nonetheless, many “anti-federalists,” who were ironically enough the true federalists, perceived flaws in the Constitutional framework that they believed would lead to the rise of a dominant central government.

Nonetheless, it was the founders’ hope and intention that the kind of power hungry elites who tended to be attracted to centralized government would be so pre-occupied with struggling for power against one another that they would be unable to impose tyranny on the masses. But should ruling elites find it more expedient and beneficial to conspire together to entrench their own power at the expense of the people, the system would be gradually undermined, and eventually, made obsolete.

One “anti-federalist” who made strong and articulate objections to The Constitution, because of what he saw as its weakness to check unscrupulous power-seekers, and its initially feeble articulation of the federal government’s duty to preserve the rights of the people, was George Mason.  As the prescient Mason summarized, “This government will commence in a moderate aristocracy: it is at present impossible to foresee whether it will, in its operation, produce a monarchy or a corrupt oppressive aristocracy; it will most probably vibrate some years between the two, and then terminate in the one or the other. ”

What we are witnessing  in this country is the coming to pass of Mason’s prediction.  The nation is being destabilized and brought to crisis by a “corrupt oppressive aristocracy” looting the general wealth of the nation to dispense to interest group factions in order to entrench its own political power. One such faction, the left-wing coalition, seeks to do away with the electoral college, which would remove yet another institutional barrier to the ruling elites’ power.

This corrupt oppressive aristocracy is apparently so concerned with personal enrichment and the petty trappings of power that they are concomitantly allowing the rise of a strong and potentially oppressive executive.  We should point out here that the political systems of a “monarchy” and a “corrupt oppressive aristocracy” are not necessarily mutually exclusive; monarchy is in many ways not an actually existing form of government, because executive-dominated governments de facto require some kind of aristocracy in order to function.

While the government in some ways represents the political opposition of different forms of government, the executive being the monarchical, the Senate being the oligarchical, the House being the democratic, and the judicial assuming the role of arbitrator between the three institutions, there is the possibility of politicians within the government orchestrating a joint imposition of power and control over the people to personally enrich themselves, secure their privileged places in society, and to acquire in their minds some temporary and fleeting form of glory.

The real matter thus consists in where the power lay: in the oligarchy of government or in the people as individuals.  The Constitutional system was meant to broker the relations between both and to prevent the rise of extremes from oligarchic imposition from above and democratic mob rule from below.  It was thus established to unite the states in common cause, soothe internal political instability, prevent civil war, and protect the citizens from oppression coming from above.  The politicians’ undermining of the Constitution has largely come by eroding institutional checks to federal government power by enacting popular measures, and then passing unpopular measures in defiance of the public, which now finds itself frustratingly prostrate to oppose the elites by legal means.

How democracy leads to oligarchy through revolution was formulated by the philosopher and Constitutional scholar Aristotle: “In democracies, revolutions are due mainly to demagogic attacks on wealth, leading the wealthy of combine, and they result in the establishment of an oligarchy or of a tyranny, a ‘popular’ military chief seizing the power for himself; or sometimes in replacing a moderate by an extreme democracy.”

It is crucial that those who misunderstand the unstable nature of democracy, and how it can lead to aristocracy and tyranny, become acquainted with basic political theory so as to not be fooled by the self-serving rhetoric of politicians.  What allows for freedom in a nation is not democracy, but the empowerment of the individual to live his own life.

Public Debt and the Peril of Obamacare

The political opposition to nationalized healthcare within Congress is conspicuous by its absence. Despite the presence of widespread and deep public opposition to “Obamacare,” many politicians are pretending like the upcoming election is not a referendum in some aspects on big government power-grabs like nationalized healthcare.

A Rasmussen Reports poll conducted on July 4th, 2011 found that “53% of Likely Voters at least somewhat favor repeal of the health care law, while 39% at least somewhat oppose it. This includes 40% who Strongly Favor repeal and 29% who are Strongly Opposed.”

Despite this level of public opposition, politicians are tending not to run on the repeal of Obamacare. Part of the explanation for this disturbing state of affairs lay in Congress’ exemption of itself from inclusion in the healthcare system that it would legislatively impose on the citizenry at large. President Obama’s waivers for mandated healthcare coverage continues the trend of the political class issuing arbitrary exemptions from this law.

Arbitrary fiat of this kind accrues personal political power to individual politicians under the guise of “democracy” by allowing them to misuse government power to patronize specific interest groups. These interest groups tend to operate on a quid pro quo basis with politicians, as they often contribute campaign funds and issue other political favors in exchange for taxpayer subsidies, grants, or loans, or relief from burdensome or oppressive laws.

The misuse of government power by both Democrats and Republicans to reward political allies and punish adversaries is a major continuing trend that is destabilizing our Constitutional system of government. In combination with such anti-republican actions as the ratification of the seventeenth amendment, establishing direct elections for U.S. Senators instead of elections by the state legislature, the practice of political patronage has fostered the steady rise in America of an oligarchic class on the foundation of “democracy.”

It was never the intention of the father of the Constitution James Madison that Constitutional clauses such as the “necessary and proper clause,” the “Commerce Clause,” or the “general welfare clause” be taken out of context and be so construed as to allow politicians to extract resources from the general population to be used as patronage for political cronies.  As James Madison wrote of the general welfare clause in particular:

“If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their Own hands; they may appoint teachers in every state, county, and parish, and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision for the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads; in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress; for every object I have mentioned would admit of the application of money, and might be called, if Congress pleased, provisions for the general welfare.” (On the Cod Fishery Bill, granting Bounties. House of Representatives, February 3, 1792)

Therefore there are checks instituted in The Constitution not only to prevent the accumulation of political power, but to present barriers to the capricious institution of sweeping national measures on the basis of bare popular sentiment, or by the determined will of a power-hungry minority.  The amendment process was embedded in The Constitution to allow a means for a policy or program to become established in accordance with a broad and deep consensus of the people and the states; amendments by design require high thresholds to ratify.  That the amendment process is largely ignored by the government as the legitimate method of instituting broad and sweeping federal authority over the citizenry is a major sign that our Constitutional republican system is becoming undone.  The common justification for ignoring the Constitution among our intellectuals and politicians is that we have a “need” for greater democracy.

One measure of “democracy” in the world can be found by proxy in the level of public debt.  Though an imperfect proxy, because military spending contributes greatly to national debt, there appears through comparison of global charts, graphs, and statistics to be a connection between high levels of public debt per capita and eventually popular, though ultimately unsustainable, social welfare programs such as universalized medicine.

Universal medicine is, politically speaking, the sina qua non of humans’ dependence on government for their very lives.  When government has such intensive control over the lives of the citizenry, control of all other spheres of life follows by necessity.  Americans’ recognition of this dangerous interrelationship between the citizen and the government is the reason for such strong opposition; the power and surety of control universal medicine grants to politicians is the reason for its tacit and overt support in the government, especially as the elites have exempted themselves from what certainly will be a degrading system in terms of quality and human dignity.

Nationalized healthcare falls generally into three categories: single payer, two-tier, and universal mandate. While many have deluded themselves into believing universal healthcare will be “free,” what they don’t realize is that under an eventual single-payer system, as Obama has repeatedly stated is his intention, the monetary costs are replaced by personal costs. Such costs possibly including one’s life, as due to rationing one may be denied or forced to wait too long for what the government considers to be an excessively costly procedure. But those in denial as to the constraints of economic reality are mentally unable to make such connections, and instead substitute altruism as an all-powerful force able to overcome such costs.  “Love conquers all,” as they say; this should be amended by adding, “except reality.”

The best indicator of a nation’s living outside the constraints of economic reality is public debt.  Even further, public debt is largely driven by welfare spending.  But what distinguishes nations with moderate and sustainable levels of debt and those with unsustainable levels of debt is universal healthcare.  Two graphs will illustrate this point.

Below I will post a chart from “The Economist” on public debt per person around the world (linked here is the interactive chart).  Nations with higher levels of debt are in red, and include the United States.  The chart has the U.S. at 59.2% public debt-to GDP, while per capita debt is at 95% debt-to-per capita GDP, and total federal debt is 95% debt-to-GDP.

Below I will embed a chart illustrating national forms of healthcare (interactive chart here).  Notice the correlation between universal healthcare and extremely high levels of national debt.

Countries with universal healthcare fall into two camps:

1. Totalitarian regimes like Cuba and North Korea, and authoritarian Third World countries in the Middle East and Africa.

2. Western nations that free-ride off of American military spending and its provision of international security, but nonetheless run unsustainable budgets with immense debts trying to pay for their social welfare states.

Since America, the banker of last resort, will be unable to shoulder the burden of sustaining its own debt, at least in the foreseeable future, and the states able to bail these Western nations out will likely be unwilling to, these countries will likely economically collapse like Greece, probably to be followed by Portugal, Ireland, Iceland, Spain, even Britain; this is due not only to welfare programs like universal healthcare, but because of demographic time bombs, government waste, and exorbitant union wages and pensions beyond what workers actually contribute to the economy.

There appears to be no general rule of thumb when a nation’s debt becomes so great it leads to economic collapse.  I agree with Ben Bernanke when he remarkably commented: “Neither experience nor economic theory clearly indicates the threshold at which government debt begins to endanger prosperity and economic stability. But given the significant costs and risks associated with a rapidly rising federal debt, our nation should soon put in place a credible plan for reducing deficits to sustainable levels over time.”

Such a statement from a Federal Reserve Board Chairmen, of all people, makes clear that Obamacare is unsustainable as a program.  Consider that according to the chart above, and the levels of debt-to-gdp statistics cited, America is already in the category of high debt-to-gdp.  Now also consider that although it is among the most indebted countries in the world, what distinguishes it from the rest is that it does not currently have universal medicine!

There is a deal of ruin in a nation, as Adam Smith wrote, and these politicians are apparently content to find out what that deal is.  An economic collapse is not a pretty thing, and although it appears to the rest of us to be undesirable, it may actually accrue power to politicians to reinvent a nation as they see fit, which invariably entails tyranny of one form or another.  Never in history has the collapse of a country into chaos and tumult led to happiness and prosperity – even once. On the contrary, those countries that collapse economically become easy prey for aspiring dictators, who are granted legitimacy and arbitrary authority to come in and put a bloody end to the inevitable rioting and infighting, and after the insurrection is put down, to reinforce the oppressive regime as a “normalized” aspect of national life.

It may be one of those ironies that the desire for “free” healthcare can lead to the loss of our relatively free country.  We need to inform our admirably well-intentioned, but less-than-bright fellow citizens, of the urgent need not to trust the seemingly good intentions of power-bent politicians, who will use compassion against them to undermine the rule of law and all barriers to political power.

American Thinker: Why Socialist Tyranny is a Certainty

The Federal Budget and the Crisis of Democracy
By Michael Filozof

Hard to argue with this logic:

The budget cannot be balanced by the democratic process. That is because we have three distinct groups, each acting rationally: clients of the welfare state, who vote to obtain as many benefits as they can; taxpayers, who vote to pay as little as they can; and politicians, who can only get elected by appeasing both groups through deficit spending. Sooner or later, this house of cards will collapse. There are no good options anymore. As the House Budget Committee‘s website reveals, 47% of our debt is now held by foreigners. Either foreigners will quit lending to the U.S., or the federal government will devalue our currency to pay the debt (resulting in massive inflation) or taxes will be raised to obscene levels, destroying economic growth.All of this is happening because our country has become democratized far beyond what our Founders intended. Twenty-five centuries ago, the philosopher Plato argued that democracy led to tyranny when the people rose up against the propertied class; the tyrant gained his power by first posing as a “defender of democracy” and a “man of the people” against the oligarchs.4 America’s Founders knew this, of course, so they devised not a democracy but a republic of limited powers. The Founders envisioned that factions antagonistic to each other would balance each other out. But they never envisioned that government could loot the wealth of one faction and give it to another. Under the original Constitution, the Federal government could collect taxes on excises and tariffs only, not on incomes. Today, the government takes our money in the form of payroll deductions, and promises it to someone else before we even cash our checks. When that proves insufficient, they borrow from future generations of taxpayers to pay for today’s entitlements. The insatiable appetite of the welfare state has destroyed the constitutional framework carefully constructed by the Founders.Madison warned us of democratic urges like “a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, [or] an equal division of property.”5 Today, our body politic is infected with all three diseases.

We have already seen authoritarian attempts to control the budget because the political process cannot. Monetary policy has been placed into the hands of appointed commissioners on the Federal Reserve Board, and the justification offered for forcing every single person in the country into the authoritarian ObamaCare program against his will is the need to “control costs.” These measures have proven insufficient, so there will be more of them. We are thus left with the unpalatable choices of an authoritarian denial of welfare state-benefits, or an authoritarian confiscation of property to pay for them.

Welcome to socialism, folks. Welcome to tyranny.

Rethinking Government

We need to rethink government. We should start with what the Founders read and thought, and work our way from there.

There may be prudent means of modernizing how citizens express their preferences in government; the business as usual of electing representatives who go on a reign of error for two or six years at a time isn’t working. But we shouldn’t be seduced into unrestrained populism; we need to aim for greater accountability in government, not for instituting the whims of the masses.

Considering then that we need representative government, but with greater accountability, the policy of term limits is necessary. Term limits would free politicians to do the right thing, rather than the popular thing.  Additionally, it would free politicians from focusing so heavily on re-election.  It is thus essentially a policy designed to change Washington culture. Once elected, a politician’s terms in office should be limited to twelve years total; and Senators’ terms should be limited to four years, instead of six. The U.S. Congress should be a place for extraordinary sessions, not routine business. Televoting and virtual conferencing should become the norm.

In conjunction with the policy of term limits, those who serve in government should be forbidden from lobbying after they retire;  this would help prevent a conflict of interest between representing one’s state and/or district and representing narrow moneyed interests. Campaign contributions should be capped at an upper threshold in order to prevent politicians from “buying” elections.

Continuing with the theme of ensuring greater accountability, there may be a way to institute more frequent voting on referenda, particularly concerning spending. The danger is that if we make voting too easy, the dumber, relatively apathetic people will have more of a say. We still need representative and not democratic government; no one wants to live under capricious mob rule.

Such a routinization of voicing public opinion on spending matters only makes sense within the state government context; and as such, federalism is strictly necessary. When political communities can utilize the central government as a means to appropriate funds from those will not see the benefit of the program or policy, then those who are taxed are not being justly compensated for their property or labor. In addition, the political community receiving the funds is relieved of its representative obligations to use the money prudently. When people do not feel the immediate “pain” of making choices, then rationality, defined as making preferences while acknowledging the constraints of reality, is unhinged from its moorings.

With the goal of re-establishing rationality in a representative-democratic government in mind, there is something to be said for making sure everyone has a stake; thus, not just for fiduciary reasons, but for civic responsibility reasons, a flat tax makes sense. A Balanced Budget Amendment capping the government’s spending at a certain level of GDP is a good complement to the flat tax; but such an amendment should not be an authorization to spend the entire fixed portion of GDP.

In the economic sphere, our theme should be to ensure we live within realistic constraints, and following as such, fiat currency must be abolished. Sound money is not merely a constraint tethering an economy to the reality of scarcity, it is also a means of ensuring transparent pricing; but most importantly, it is a political constraint blocking the representatives’ means of financing debt-spending.

In conclusion, the United States needs a stable government in order for a vibrant civil society and a free market economy to flourish. We need to re-gird those institutions conducive to stabilizing and restraining government: private property, sound currency, and individual rights.  But we would also need to supplement our efforts to prevent the corruption of those institutions in the future; thus, mechanisms of greater accountability and responsibility, such as term limits, checks on campaign financing, tele-referenda on spending, a balanced budget amendment, and a flat tax would buttress those institutions and do much to safeguard them from depradation.  But ultimately, the only sure guardian of any free political system is an active, informed, and intellectually engaged citizenry.

Democracy in Egypt: Good, Bad, Neither?

Democracy is spreading all over the Middle East. Yeahhhh! The people who would be voting in any elections are mostly fanatical Muslims. Nooooo!

Tunisia and Egypt are going democratic, or so the people think. Things are up in the air and only decisive… (oh, never mind, I forgot who was in office).

So is becoming a democracy good or bad? Bad if the people are bad, and slightly less bad if the people are good. (And by good I mean, “people who mind their own business and know how to take care of themselves.”)

Democracy is not a value in and of itself, but a means for decision-making. It gives voice to the values of a culture. If a culture is driven by a murderous ideology, democracy leads to the persecution of minorities. If a culture is comprised of people who don’t know how to self-rule, democracy leads to unsustainable demands for welfare redistribution.

The same culture that clamors blindly for “democracy” is the same culture that will lead to anarchic chaos and a “popular” dictatorship. And if the dictator should become unpopular, as inevitably happens when he fails to fulfill the mob’s demands, or to impose order on a disorderly mob, then repression follows in democracy’s wake.

That the administration that now blindly supports “democracy” in Egypt, while failing to support a democratic movement in Iran (heck, in its own country!), shows how far the supposed intellectual elites have fallen. Ideologically incomprehensible, self-contradictory, tendentious, specious, ungrounded in reality, amoral and oftentimes immoral, this is the mental state of the American left.

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The Ruthless Few

The grinding machinery of the state requires philosophical lubrication in order for it to effectively crush autonomous human existence and smash it together in the new totalitarian society.

For the ruthless few who orchestrate the transformation from ordered liberty to centralized authoritarianism, the ideological justification for such a structural shift is not utopian but pragmatic.

States that are in the midst of transformation from democratic government and civil society to fascistic forms are never self-consciously evil; their most remarkable quality is an absence of the notion of evil.

The self-appointed philosopher-kings who reside behind the veneer of the demagogic politicians, who specialize in sophistic rhetoric, are devoid of the intuition or value-judgment that individual human beings have intrinsic worth.

“Liberty” for these technocrats is a hopelessly romantic and misguided ideal that is merely a barrier to their construction of the perfectly efficient integrated political, social, and economic system. The ideas that animate men are of little consequence to these social scientists who prostitute principles on behalf of the would-be rulers; what matters is the reality of power over the mindless mob. As such, if the blank slates of humanity call tyranny “freedom,” and oppression “liberty,” so much the better.

The sense of intellectual superiority among the ruthless few is driven by a few basic assumptions.

First, that human beings are tabula rasa that can be conditioned to believe, through manipulation of the sense-data in their environments, whatever the propaganda class tells them to believe.

Second, individual human beings have no intrinsic value, spiritual or otherwise, that warrants special consideration in the design of their totalitarian system. They are merely numbers or objects to be manipulated (this, after all, is the “scientific” and “pragmatic” way to look at things).

Third, the value systems to be inculcated in the masses are selected on the basis of their utility for power accumulation. For all intents and purposes, these values are the sinews of collectivism that the technocrats use to orchestrate their structural transformation.

Yet the ruthless few are intellectually blind in that they do not recognize the philosophical shallowness of their designs. Designing a system for the sake of the system overlooks that human life is driven by men’s search for meaning. Individuals are not animated by their desire to be part of a “system.” Alienation and anomie erode such totalitarian designs at their foundational level.

The instrumentalist system the technocrats contrive causes human misery and suffering, true; but how does one objectively measure such suffering? And after all, aren’t social experiments designed to be run again until the system is perfected?

The cold comfort for the victims of totalitarianism is that the ruthless few’s disconnect from humanity, beyond its superficial abstraction, is the fatal flaw that prevent their machinations from becoming a lasting reality.

Aristotle on the Purpose and the Forms of the State

From Aristotle’s The Politics, Book III: Parts VI, VII

Part VI

[W]e have next to consider whether there is only one form of government or many, and if many, what they are, and how many, and what are the differences between them.

A constitution is the arrangement of magistracies in a state, especially of the highest of all. The government is everywhere sovereign in the state, and the constitution is in fact the government. For example, in democracies the people are supreme, but in oligarchies, the few; and, therefore, we say that these two forms of government also are different: and so in other cases.

First, let us consider what is the purpose of a state, and how many forms of government there are by which human society is regulated. We have already said, in the first part of this treatise, when discussing household management and the rule of a master, that man is by nature a political animal. And therefore, men, even when they do not require one another’s help, desire to live together; not but that they are also brought together by their common interests in proportion as they severally attain to any measure of well-being. This is certainly the chief end, both of individuals and of states. And also for the sake of mere life (in which there is possibly some noble element so long as the evils of existence do not greatly overbalance the good) mankind meet together and maintain the political community. And we all see that men cling to life even at the cost of enduring great misfortune, seeming to find in life a natural sweetness and happiness. […]

Part VII

[W]e have next to consider how many forms of government there are, and what they are; and in the first place what are the true forms, for when they are determined the perversions of them will at once be apparent. The words constitution and government have the same meaning, and the government, which is the supreme authority in states, must be in the hands of one, or of a few, or of the many. The true forms of government, therefore, are those in which the one, or the few, or the many, govern with a view to the common interest; but governments which rule with a view to the private interest, whether of the one or of the few, or of the many, are perversions. For the members of a state, if they are truly citizens, ought to participate in its advantages. Of forms of government in which one rules, we call that which regards the common interests, kingship or royalty; that in which more than one, but not many, rule, aristocracy; and it is so called, either because the rulers are the best men, or because they have at heart the best interests of the state and of the citizens. But when the citizens at large administer the state for the common interest, the government is called by the generic name- a constitution. And there is a reason for this use of language. One man or a few may excel in virtue; but as the number increases it becomes more difficult for them to attain perfection in every kind of virtue, though they may in military virtue, for this is found in the masses. Hence in a constitutional government the fighting-men have the supreme power, and those who possess arms are the citizens.

Of the above-mentioned forms, the perversions are as follows: of royalty, tyranny; of aristocracy, oligarchy; of constitutional government, democracy. For tyranny is a kind of monarchy which has in view the interest of the monarch only; oligarchy has in view the interest of the wealthy; democracy, of the needy: none of them the common good of all.