Non-Democracy

Eli Dourado’s piece at The Umlaut on ‘What the Neoreaction Doesn’t Understand about Democracy’ has already accumulated a mass of (to this blog) telling criticism in its comment thread, plus a full-length critique by Henry Dampier. The tone of the discussion has been encouraging, and the grounds proposed by Dourado upon which democracy is asked to defend itself (government incontinence and rampant redistributionism) is doubly so. Based on this (rather odd) research paper, the conclusion is that ‘non-democracies’ are at least as messed up as democracies on the indicators that matter to the economic right.

From the perspective of Outside in, the central problem with this line of argument is the assumption that ‘Neoreaction’ can be aligned with the grotesquely aggregated category of ‘non-democracy’. (Although, this is of course how things will look from a default commitment to democratic normality.) The Neoreactionary critique is in fact directed at demotic government, a regime class that includes democracy, authoritarian populism, and socialist ‘people’s republics’. The reliable signature of this class is that its members legitimate themselves through democracy, however their various levels of democracy are gauged by social scientific analysis. North Korea self-identifies as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (and to a formalist, this is of ineliminable significance). Since it is the principle of democratic legitimation that NRx denounces, its models are restricted to a far more compact class than ‘non-democracies’ — namely, to non-demotic states: with absolute monarchies and colonial regimes as the purest historical examples, supplemented by restricted-franchise commercial republics (17-18th century United Provinces and United Kingdom*), (still virtual) Joint-Stock Republics, and demotically-compromised Confucian Autocracies, plus rightist military juntas (since Pinochet cannot reasonably be excluded). As soon as regimes of such types are statistically amalgamated with socialist / populist dictatorships, the theoretical chaos is irredeemable.

Furthermore, and even more crucially, main-current Neoreaction does not argue for ‘non-democracy’ over democracy, but for Exit over Voice. It does not expect some governmental magic from ‘non-democracies’ (except on its — admittedly wide — theoretically incoherent fringes). Effective government requires non-demotic control, resulting from (apolitical) selection pressure. The identification of the state with the corporate institution is directed to the fact that businesses work when they can be bankrupted. The attraction of the ‘dictatorial’ CEO is a twin-product of demotic desensitization and competitive hyper-sensitization. The reason to free the ‘monarch’ from the voice of the people is to lock him into undistracted compliance with the Outside.

Approaching his conclusion, Dourado suggests:

Of course, Mulligan et al. also provide some limited ammunition for the neoreaction. That nondemocracies have essentially the same social and economic policies as democracies undercuts a key tenet of the demotist religion: that formal (and equal) voice is an important channel by which policies come to reflect the will of the people. If nondemocracies have many of the same policies, then it is clear that democracy is not necessary to implement the will of the people on some policy issues, at least.

This is, of course, completely upside down as far as NRx is concerned. The demotic sensitivity of ‘non-democracies’ — far from being a point in their favor — is the factor that exposes this category in all of its radical and theoretically-unusable bogosity. The only appeal of ‘non-democracy’ is immunity to corruption through demotic pressure. Dictatorial populism can be expected to be even more distant from the principles of Neoreactionary government than democracy, because its comparative efficiency at representing a coherent ‘popular will’ digs it even faster and deeper into ruin. It is administrative action in the name of the people that is deplored.

If Dourado were saying non-demotic government is simply something you can never have, then it is an argument that at least addresses NRx in a way that makes sense. The same cannot be said about the ‘debate’ as it yet exists.

* My description of Hannoverian England as a ‘commerical republic’ can be attributed to an anti-Jacobite tic.

ADDED: Meta-reaction. (ED seems not to see any deep connection between propertarian and Exit-based models of governance, which is at least a little thoughtless. Property is defined by an effective right to free disposal, making it equivalent to an Exit-option on its current instantiation. On these grounds, there is no difference between my definition of the principal Neoreaction governance criterion and Dampier’s, except for variation of emphasis.)

ADDED: Some interesting comments from Eli’s Neoreactionary phase (dug up by Blogospheroid).

August 21, 2014admin 31 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Democracy , Neoreaction

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31 Responses to this entry

  • Contemplationist Says:

    Indeed. The ‘Unprincipled Exceptions’ (as Larry Auster put it) are needed to get any semblance of a working machinery in a demotic system. These Unprincipled Exceptions need to be relentlessly exposed. The militarized cop patrolling a white prog neighborhood is one. The many departures from majoritarian democracy in Singapore are another. Any time an exception is made without explanation, democracy concedes to its enemies its own legitimacy, but since the Cathedral ensures a blackout of any discussion of such exceptions, democracy retains the legitimacy.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 21st, 2014 at 3:59 pm Reply | Quote
  • Eli Dourado Says:

    Thanks for the reply. I may answer at greater length, but for now, with respect to:

    > If Dourado were saying non-demotic government is simply something you can never have, then it is an argument that at least addresses NRx in a way that makes sense.

    That is what I was trying to get at with this sentence in my concluding paragraph:

    > Indeed, if you take the view, supported by the data, that social and economic policy are largely determined by economic and demographic factors, then the question of political freedom is largely what is left to be decided.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    The causal mechanism suggested by “largely determined” entirely escapes me. How could, to take the most fundamental example, the development of a welfare state be realistically considered an inevitable product of the “economic and demographic” zeitgeist? It was a policy decision, and if constrained, it was politically constrained.

    [Reply]

    Eli Dourado Reply:

    Sorry, it’s social science speak. I’ll try to do better.

    Of course you are correct, it is a policy decision. The point is that policy decisions are well predicted by economic and demographic variables. They are not well predicted by the actual political rights of subjects. That’s interesting. The most obvious (but not necessarily the only) conclusion to draw is that countries with the same economic and demographic variables are approximately equally demotic, regardless of political rights. It suggests, as you say, that “non-demotic government is simply something you can never have.”

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    The game is still not played out. Don’t you see any danger in generalizing from a couple of democratic high-tide centuries? (Now we have a global cultural and economic sea-change underway with the rise of the Confucian world, and — of course — we have the blockchain …)

    Alrenous Reply:

    It is interesting.
    However, we need to run the experiment again without America’s thumb on the scale. Rather than sociodemographically similar countries being politically similar, it’s that these countries became sociodemographically similar because they’ve been most directly controlled by America.

    Different T Reply:

    How could, to take the most fundamental example, the development of a welfare state be realistically considered an inevitable product of the “economic and demographic” zeitgeist? It was a policy decision, and if constrained, it was politically constrained.

    Can Liberia be a “welfare state” if their leaders muster the political will?

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    It’s a discussion with a libertarian, so only positive constraints are relevant. If it had been an argument with a socialist, then the negative (and apolitical) stuff would have had to come in.

    Posted on August 21st, 2014 at 3:59 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alrenous Says:

    since Pinochet cannot reasonably be excluded

    Certainly Jim’s epistemology is idiosyncratic. But honestly he’s pretty Carlyle – not long on support, but long on being supportable.

    Pinochet was himself a progressive. He was appointed by Salvador Allende who hoped to rule through the army when it became apparent Allende could no longer rule through free elections, nor by the power of the mob.

    Six hours before the coup, the rebel officers informed Pinochet that the coup was rolling. They gave Pinochet a piece of paper to sign ordering the army to support the coup, and told him that if he failed to sign it, this would “undermine the unity and discipline of the armed forces”, which sounds to me to mean “sign or die”. Pinochet signed, then took off. Neither side could find him or contact him. They found him after the coup playing with his grandchildren and hauled him off to the bloodstained and still smoking presidential palace.

    My reading: Pinochet was particularly sane for a leftist – he refused the call to politics. But as a result, he was never in power. As per my shows-up-in-the-news criterion for figureheads.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    OK, but he surely gets some credit for turning economic policy over to the Chicago boys.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 21st, 2014 at 4:33 pm Reply | Quote
  • Eli Dourado Says:

    I see a much greater danger of generalizing from monarchies that existed hundreds of years ago, as some in the NRx do.

    As you know I’m a big fan of Bitcoin, but as I’ve written before, Exit is not the right metaphor to describe blockchain technology. I’m moderately bullish on the power of technology to constrain the state. (See also Adam Gurri’s reading of my views, which are interesting but not canonical.) But none of this changes the fact that to the extent the state remains, it will be demotic.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    I’ll follow those up, thanks.

    Confucianization + territorial fragmentation + commercial-robotic security + blockchained cryptoculture looks to me like an anti-demotic quadruple whammy.

    [Reply]

    Alrenous Reply:

    do the math

    Truly excellent point.

    That said, the thing you’ve overlooked is that Exit is revolutionary. That’s the paradox of Exit. If you have it, you don’t need it. If you keep it, you probably won’t ever need it. Bitcoin is revolutionary because its users weren’t so much adopted as whipped away from traditional coinage. Those whips only exist because the slaves couldn’t reasonably flee them.

    Nitpick:

    No, it will reduce the effectiveness of financial prohibitions between any two parties, regardless of their political views.

    It’s easy to de-anonymize bitcoin if you want. It’s just hard to de-anonymize a user without their consent. If you want to apply regulation to yourself and your customers, do business through an identity-verifying trust. Revive the initial incarnation of bank notes, if necessary. It allows first and second parties to screw up without allowing them to be a busybody to third parties; which has traditionally been used to externalize internalities.

    [Reply]

    Eli Dourado Reply:

    Just saw that my second link didn’t take. It was to:

    http://elidourado.com/blog/technologies-of-control-and-resistance/

    [Reply]

    Blogospheroid Reply:

    Genuine question, Mr Dourado, What do you think about the possibility of anonymous crypto funded… mmm.. “pieing”?
    I know it’s very impolite to talk about these, but it is a possibility, isn’t it?

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 21st, 2014 at 4:37 pm Reply | Quote
  • Chris B Says:

    @eli dourdo The entire thing is one giant joke. Here look, some social scientists applied statistics to states between 1960 and 1990 and found not much difference in percentages of gov spending therefore policy decision are similar in all countries. Ok, but thats kind of pointless. Even the paper acknowledges that its beyond their scope to address how this spending was transfered into policy. Add in the general lack of reality of government figures then you’re entering farse territory.
    The question of if demotism is avoidable, and is intrinsicaly linked with socio economic factors is a valid question – using stupid studies with pointless statistics to try and prove your opinion is not the way to do it.
    But this questions does get right to the heart of NRx tech comm and patchwork – can we replace demotism with business like relationship including exit mechanisms?
    Or for trad NRx – can we developed a better relationship structure based on thedishness?

    [Reply]

    Hurlock Reply:

    “But this questions does get right to the heart of NRx tech comm and patchwork – can we replace demotism with business like relationship including exit mechanisms?”

    This is what anarcho-capitalists have been talking about for a very long time (I hope it is not a surprise to anyone that Moldbug’s idea of completely privatized government i.e. government as a corporation is inspired by anarcho-capitalism)

    Which is why it is quite curious to me that a supposed libertarian like Eli Dourado would be so opposed to the idea of government based entirely on an exit mechanism.

    (Of course, one could say that the question whether this type of government can be achieved is still unanswered)

    [Reply]

    Chris B Reply:

    Not sure what his political view are directly, but another thing that really grates me about the whole criticism is that a large part of MM is stating that the Cathedral pretty much locked everything down following decolonization, and that non democracies are on a constant war footing against USA democratisation. MM and the rest of us also constantly use the examples of the colonial structures and HK, SG etc. So to come back with a study covering 1960 to 1990 is a bit….irritating.
    Throw in the fact that NRx criticizes at a higher level, as in – what is democracy, what is the role of the USA in democracy, the falsity of the sovereignty of the states under the Cathedral, How academia and the media control discourse on topics such as democracy, decolonisation, human right etc and the usage of the study becomes even really irritating.
    Throw in events post pre 1960 and post 1990 and it gets really really irritating.
    Dourado seems smarter then this. He needs to come back with proper thought out criticisms.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 21st, 2014 at 4:59 pm Reply | Quote
  • Dan Says:

    100% of democracies established in the last 20 years and 90% of democracies established in the last 40 years have been stinkers, so lets wait for a little more data, shall we?

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 21st, 2014 at 6:49 pm Reply | Quote
  • Reactionaries React! | Eli Dourado Says:

    […] Turning to Nick Land, I confess to chortling a little (no offense intended) at his suggestion that the paper is “rather odd.” Have you ever read any neoreactionaries!? […]

    Posted on August 22nd, 2014 at 12:58 am Reply | Quote
  • Blogospheroid Says:

    In other news, Mr. Francis “Liberal Democracy is the end of history” Fukuyama appears to have thrown in the towel.

    http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141729/francis-fukuyama/america-in-decay/

    “most citizens have neither the time, nor the background, nor the inclination to grapple with complex public policy issues; expanding participation has simply paved the way for well-organized groups of activists to gain more power. The obvious solution to this problem would be to roll back some of the would-be democratizing reforms, but no one dares suggest that what the country needs is a bit less participation and transparency.”

    [Reply]

    Dan Reply:

    Hoo boy! That guy wasn’t supposed to be allowed off the reservation!

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 22nd, 2014 at 6:56 am Reply | Quote
  • Chris B Says:

    Lol the latest link.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 22nd, 2014 at 10:03 am Reply | Quote
  • vxxc2014 Says:

    This is a very important essay and important response.

    And if things move now we can thank Dourado and Land.
    =============================================================
    “Effective government requires non-demotic control, resulting from (apolitical) selection pressure.”

    Government that results from apolitical selection pressure is a contradiction in terms of reality. The entire business of government is politics, which is why some systems limit the reach of the government. The coin, medium and business of government is POWER, the Levers of Rule are only Force and Gain. All are permutations or variations of these 2 levers.

    You are Sir attempting Technocracy from the Right. Or so called Capitalist, which would have us dead or in factory farms if we had any utility.

    Yes but the Capitalist business will have to profit, hence it will be non-demotic and efficient.

    Yes and it will profit in the interests of the current CEO and his handpicked board of cronies.

    IBD ran a study, all this ZIRP money is going to the bonuses by way of stock buybacks.

    You are attempting to technocrat yourself away from the problem of confronting Evil Men.

    There’s no group of men who will stop being MEN simply because of a change of stationary.

    And again by the way We Have This Now.

    This IS what Government by Capitalism LOOKS LIKE, this IS GOVERNMENT FOR THE CEO’s, Boards and Central Banks.*

    Are Ye Machiavelli courting your desired Prince?

    Well be warned that subject to same follies and faults, The Han Lorenzo De Magnifico [and they aren’t] has blown rather a lot of money themselves, hence CCP crackdown on the very elites it created. This is due to China’s building fear of peasant revolt, something they’ve been dealing with since before the Birth of Christ. China selected it’s present Dynasty based on courting the Demos, alternately wooing and turning her out as none had before in history. Maoism is adopted as a model for absolute power by penniless intellectuals from Peru to Nepal and all of Islam that is at war in between for a reason, it works better than any method yet devised for absolute power. Mao himself made his Long March in a Litter, beheading 10,000 communists along the way.

    Mao was Demotist, further upon reflection the entire west in toto for the last 2500 years pales milky white in comparision to China. China is the land of perfect distilled demotism under it’s current dynasty – Maoist. Deng? What did he offer the masses but the chance to “Get Rich, it’s Glorious”. China the land of the 7 Kill Stele, which NeoReaction believes is the ultimate expression of democratic and demotist madness.

    *Of the Villains I name above the only *system* that partially checks them is the Golden Handcuffs on money. Once removed only the immense [largely untouched still] natural resources of the United States combined with it’s proven power and leveling of all enemies could possibly have extended the Fiat Fraud this far.

    Capitalism is Force keeping it’s hands as much as possible off Gain, in exchange for it’s own greatly exploded gains which it uses …to expand it’s FORCE, that is build Military FORCE or economic predominance, and it’s usually both.

    CEO government is simply demotist government for the few, and at present the next quarter bonuses no matter what the long term ruin of the corpus [body]. Somehow we are to believe that demotism for the select few is better than demotism for the many.

    I disagree.

    [Reply]

    Puzzle Privateer (@PuzzlePrivateer) Reply:

    “There’s no group of men who will stop being MEN simply because of a change of stationary.

    CEO government is simply demotist government for the few, and at present the next quarter bonuses no matter what the long term ruin of the corpus [body]. Somehow we are to believe that demotism for the select few is better than demotism for the many.”

    There’s something going on unsaid here in #NRx that I think needs to be part of the analysis: Culture Matters.

    Culture, like other forms of social cohesion (religion), binds us in a different way that law does but also restricts our behaviors in ways laws can’t. A guilt culture for example will make you do the right thing even while no one is watching while a shame culture / formal law can only punish you when someone is watching & you can’t weasel your way out of it. Regulation & formal law isn’t enough you need a culture that supports things like high-trust, honestly, anti-cheating etc.

    Law can only do so much, formal structures can only do so much. A guilt culture that limits your behavior even when no one is watching would help to keep CEO’s in 2014 honest even when the law isn’t watching.

    Yes I know Japan is a shame culture and they have low crime etc. but I’m not trying to create a Grand Theory of Culture here, I’m just giving quick examples of familiar scenarios in the West.

    If the Amish ran Wall Street (assuming their IQ’s were boosted & the learned how) would you have the problems we have now? Probably not, actually it would probably create a different set of problems but that’s because with grand complex structures often there are no solutions only trade-offs. For example, Scott Alexander made good points about race-to-the-bottom problems such as companies maximizing for profit will do better and the less they are constrained by law the better for them. So if slavery came back in fashion, companies that used slaves should have higher profits (I’m sure there are cases where this is not true).

    “Mao himself made his Long March in a Litter, beheading 10,000 communists along the way.”

    So he wasn’t all bad after all!

    [Reply]

    VXXC Reply:

    Well what you are calling culture I’m calling right and wrong.

    Look there was no system that was going to withstand the Boomers. They should have simply been killed.

    And they still should, and I warrant will.

    NOTHING can be given to Evil humans, especially spoilt selfish fantastically self absorbed still evil children, and expect it to turn out well.

    There was no system save the camps that would have saved civilization from the Boomers.

    I really think we should fix the problem of removing the Evil and Insane from Power – now that’s many lives work there [I mean many will DIE , not that we can take our time] and the first duty again is to remove the Evil and Insane from Power.

    To prevent it from happening again is you know the work of the next generation.

    There are no systems or Cultures where Evil meets Cowardice and Good prevails.

    If you want to know how Evil was matched against Cowardice: Intellectuals.

    [Reply]

    VXXC Reply:

    You can’t have government over men by pretending they and their basic wants and aspirations don’t exist.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 22nd, 2014 at 10:53 am Reply | Quote
  • Different T Says:

    “Effective government requires non-demotic control, resulting from (apolitical) selection pressure.”

    Government that results from apolitical selection pressure is a contradiction in terms of reality.

    John Taylor (and Milton Friedman before him) is advocating monetary policy based on mathematical forumlae instead of the decisions of the Fed’s board in a similar vein. Instead of pressuring the board members, pressure/manipulate the inputs into said formulae. Math is completely objective.

    You are attempting to technocrat yourself away from the problem of confronting Evil Men.

    Unsure about your descriptor, but otherwise this appears to be exactly what is advocated. In fact, it’s probably been admitted proudly somewhere here.

    You may want to consider that it is not DENRx’s arguments that are the problem. Could they just be a symptom of something more fundamentally bad?

    Again, “The entire argument is about systems, not people. Does this not imply that systems determine people and not the opposite.

    The direction of many NR’s makes more sense as religious conversion/missionaries.

    They are too weak to say “This is what I want for me and mine” and are forced into arguing “This is better because of reason x, y, z, etc” with those who are not similar.”

    [Reply]

    Funeral Mongoloid Reply:

    “The direction of many NR’s makes more sense as religious conversion/missionaries.”

    Yes indeed.

    http://youtu.be/Y6LqZOfnngg

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 22nd, 2014 at 1:10 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    @Different T nails it cold.

    “They are too weak to say “This is what I want for me and mine” and are forced into arguing “This is better because of reason x, y, z, etc” with those who are not similar.”

    Yes.

    I’m also right that many in NRxn including some leading lights desire the Cathedral for themselves, and that this conversation takes place because as the stock of elites is WEAK, including the WASP’s putative successors [who can’t run anything of course and never could, other than trade and criminal enterprises] the stock is WEAK and they have completely lost control of their increasingly bizarre collection of feral or damaged pets.

    [not admin, who has walked the talk of Exit and done just that, of course he wants to Transhumanize to Victory as well] .

    God’s Blood, Gnon’s hammer. Say what you want. Can’t? Don’t think of rule and don’t offer advice.

    Criticism of Progress welcome, Red Pill welcome, infecting Right-Overton and Libertarianism welcome.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 22nd, 2014 at 1:31 pm Reply | Quote
  • Xoth Says:

    Does America have Democracy today, or mere Cathedral? Let us ask the permanent bureaucracy.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 23rd, 2014 at 7:08 pm Reply | Quote

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