One Step at a Time

The bad news: Rolling back democracy is really hard. (It’s a stimulating pursuit nevertheless.) What are the chances of this happening before this? Not high, in my estimation.

The good news: The ‘task’ of spruiking evangelical democratization is supported by the historical tide, and has already reached a quite remarkably level of maturity. If people are looking for a near-term goal, this surely gets jostled to the front of the queue. It’s not hard to foresee a time, only a few years out, when the very idea of pushing the Cathedral on politically ‘under-developed’ societies will look like sabotage pure and simple. This is already how much of the world sees it (including all honest observers).

Looking back, the ‘Arab Spring’ will be seen as the decisive moment when democracy promotion became indistinguishable from ruinous coercion. ‘Sprung’ societies are devastated. They are triumphalist democracy’s Russian Winter. Once the enemy’s advance has ground entirely to a halt, the push back can steadily, relentlessly begin.

June 12, 2013admin 14 Comments »
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14 Responses to this entry

  • Orlandu84 Says:

    One of Francis Fukuyama’s great insights is that of inertia. He notes that in politics older forms of organization stick around even when they are no longer the most efficient. They are replaced only when newer forms of organizations gain so much power that they can destroy the older form and have reason to remove them. For example, tribalism exists in the Middle East today because no state or religion has been able to wipe it away. Europe, in contrast, replaced the organization of tribe with race/nation centuries ago.

    What this means for the above discussion about democracy is as follows. First, it will not die quickly in the areas that it has lived in the longest. We should expect democracy to have a long half-life in America and Great Britain. Second, it might continue to exist even when another form of state comes to dominate it.

    Consider the following fantastic scenario. Apple, Google, and Microsoft capture control of the Cathedral in the USA by bribery and surveillance. The USA is now effectively controlled by our high tech overlords. Do they demolish Washington, DC? No way! They keep Washington, DC, as a scapegoat. People blame Washington for their problem while Apple, Google, and Microsoft makes lots of money and make sure their consumers are as safe as possible. In this scenario Washington slowly decays in power. Now, I am not claiming that this scenario is even likely. I just want to note that democracy, like any form of organization, sticks around a while since organizations tend to outlast their maximum usefulness.

    [Reply]

    Thales Reply:

    Wait — you’re saying that scenario hasn’t already happened?

    [Reply]

    Tryptophan Reply:

    Your first set of points about democracy and timescales are great, however it is impossible for a competing set of organizations (or people) to share power indefinitely. In Britain the Crown the Lords and Parliament shared power, but over time the Parliament came to dominate the others. Sovereignty is always conserved, and it is usually maintained in a single body which can act coherently in its own interest. Apple, Google and Facebook would compete, only one could rule.

    A single person or body (the army) could rule, and it could be supported by a wide coalition of interests (who prefer it to democracy). Although the technical possibility for reaction exists, I see no man on a white horse coming to rescue us. Only the yawning maw of the left singularity could possibly trigger the minimally cathedralised elites to act, although I consider it unlikely, reaction can only occur by Coup.

    [Reply]

    fotrkd Reply:

    …although I consider it unlikely, reaction can only occur by Coup.

    I’ve been reading poetry and while I’ll spare you Emily Dickinson, I’ll share some Rimbaud:

    I am well aware that I have always been of an inferior race. I cannot understand revolt. My race has never risen, except to plunder: to devour like wolves a beast they did not kill. – ‘A Season in Hell’

    Before you think (lament?) ‘I’m talking about coups and this fool’s quoting poetry at me’, read admin’s closing sentence again:

    Once the enemy’s advance has ground entirely to a halt…

    Let it fail. Only once the illusion of politics has shattered itself absolutely do we move, picking up the pieces where possible and offering long-lost (but clearly understood) ideas. Until this time (i) reaction can only betray itself by trying to act – inevitably politically – and (ii) nobody (significant) will listen to you.

    Only when Lear has given away all else – lost his reason – does he value and listen to the Fool. We need to build the Narrenschiff, which is work enough without worrying about being listened to:

    Lear. Dost thou call me fool, boy?

    Fool. All thy other titles thou hast given away; that thou wast
    born with.

    Earl of Kent. This is not altogether fool, my lord.

    Fool. No, faith; lords and great men will not let me. If I had a
    monopoly out, they would have part on’t. And ladies too, they
    will not let me have all the fool to myself; they’ll be
    snatching. Give me an egg, nuncle, and I’ll give thee two
    crowns.

    Lear. What two crowns shall they be?

    Fool. Why, after I have cut the egg i’ th’ middle and eat up the
    meat, the two crowns of the egg. When thou clovest thy crown i’
    th’ middle and gav’st away both parts, thou bor’st thine ass on
    thy back o’er the dirt. Thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown
    when thou gav’st thy golden one away. If I speak like myself in
    this, let him be whipp’d that first finds it so.
    [Sings] Fools had ne’er less grace in a year,
    For wise men are grown foppish;
    They know not how their wits to wear,
    Their manners are so apish.

    Apologies for the theatrical delivery (blame Dickinson).

    [Reply]

    Tryptophan Reply:

    No apology necessary for the theatrics, I enjoyed it.

    You suggest “letting it fail”, but the state never fails completely. Zimbabwe has experienced the utter hell of the leftist singularity, yet at no point has the state been vulnerable to reaction. Letting the world fail also has the minor downside of the World’s destruction.

    I think we need a set of examples of successful reactions and zeitgeist-shifts. (Separating the successful from the failures implies a clear metric for success and therefore clear aims).

    fotrkd Reply:

    To the best of my knowledge admin actually coined Let it fail. But yes, fair (and significant) points. Poetry has a habit of getting you (i.e. me) carried away. I’m not in a position to give a full response (learning as I go..) – but is the collapse of the Third Reich a useful comparison?

    As a citizen within Nazi Germany keen to ‘react’ what are your options? Get out as early as you can (Larkin), obviously. Then? Subversive (esoteric and/or allegorical) literature (Russia is probably a better example for that); blow up the Fuehrer? I’d say the former is part of building the Narrenschiff while the later is the work of a resistance martyr. Both could conceivably shorten the agony, but neither are going to bring down the regime. Nonetheless the Fuehrer will eventually poison his dog; Hess will fly to Scotland etc. and the whole thing will finally, chaotically and brutally collapse.

    So the glaring question is where is the Cathedral’s external enemy? After all, the Reich didn’t completely self destruct. But is that question really our concern? How does it change your options? It seems to me it doesn’t. So let me go prophetic: the enemy is there and it will come. Your choice is do you want to be there for the reset or do you want to be warmly remembered as a well-meaning but essentially failed freedom fighter?

    I’m not saying do nothing. There’s more to being a fool than meets the eye, and more to the Narrenschiff than polemical writing (Bitcoin-style thorns; self-improvement and planning post-Cathedral for a start). Besides, we don’t yet know how big to build the ship! Shipmates!

    But if politics is the illusion and, by definition, the enemy’s domain how can you possibly win through engaging with it? That to me sounds like the worst, most progressive, option – it’s the film Heathers – cut off one head and another sprouts up in its place. ‘But I’ll be a better, nicer Heather…’

    A final note on the Cathedral. As, initially, the symbol of the Catholic Church, a legitimate question to ask is: how big do you imagine it is? And if you go universal does its collapse result in the world’s destruction? Did the Third Reich’s destroy Germany? Or were most citizens (who were still alive) left to start over? The trichotomy gives the people at this stage a clear choice: who do you want to follow? And I’m pretty sure the techno-commercialists will attract the smallest, most ramshackle crew (but that’s enough imagining…)

    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    how big do you imagine it [the Cathedral] is?

    Big enough so that all that 99% of ordinary people know of “the opposition” may be gleaned from watching Fox News, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of the Cathedral. That’s big… although it’s bigness is potentially a great weakness.

    Bill Reply:

    @Orlandu84, Interesting point regarding political inertia. Reminded me of something I had read regarding the transition from ancient Egypt to Ptolemaic Egypt. Instead of transforming ancient Egypt, Alexander and Ptolemy decided to replicate their religious and pharaonic structures, and then only established the powerful Alexandria as a Greek city. Alexandria allowed them to control international trade. In Alexandria they spoke Greek. They built monuments of world recognized magnificence: the Light House of Alexandria, Great Library, and Necropolis, all considered wonders of the world at different points in time.

    Once Ptolemy took control as satrap he established order, killing at least one “autocratic” regional leader, left small developed areas with some sovereignty, and established some basic law structures. He built military and trades centers. After Alexander died Ptolemy copied Alexander and had himself crowned as the Egyptian pharaoh.

    From “A History of the Ptolemaic Empire” by Gunter Holbl:
    “The more belief in the legitimacy and cultic significance of the earthly rulers declined during the course of later Egyptian history, the more the conqueror Alexander and the new foreign dynasty had to strive to obtain legitimacy for themselves. The burden was on them to assimilate and restore in the best possible way the ancient Egyptian ideology of the king. Only in this way could they give the impression that in their actions both at home and abroad they were simply complying with the requirements of a cult whose function was the preservation of world order.” page 77

    Alexander even named himself “he who drives out foreigners” using that phrase as his horus name. p 79

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    @ Orlandu84
    The whole William Gibson flavor of that scenario is vaguely comforting. Much better a cabal of evil tech-tycoons running the show than social activists with journalism majors … at least they’re likely to have ambitions beyond forcing the square peg of egalitarianism into the round hole of functional incentive structures. Also, the kinds of social conflicts generated by their bid for total power might actually be educational, and not merely nauseating. If it empowers lone-wolf hacker types as foes, that also builds a social filter selecting in the right direction.

    [Reply]

    Posted on June 12th, 2013 at 5:15 pm Reply | Quote
  • anonymous Says:

    Do reactionaries actually take western political systems’ self-designation as “democratic” at face value? Democracy isn’t a possibility in any society sophisticated enough to require specialization — the division of labor required to organize a modern state essentially makes them all bureaucratic oligarchies in fact, regardless of what they call themselves. Some positions are elected, but the majority of authoritative positions are appointed/hired and semi-permanent, not to mention the various client organizations that aren’t officially a part of the government but might as well be. “The Cathedral” would be a good example, as it essentially dictates the scope of legitimate debate that might occur during, before or after an election. We already do have an aristocracy of sorts, complete with social castes, formal hierarchy, limited class mobility, etc. Although it promotes a nonsensical ideology of egalitarianism, blank-slatism, and progressivism, such ideals don’t correspond to its actual operations.

    So my question would be: Do you think elections serve any purpose beyond ceremonial ones? Do they actually imbue the U.S. government with a certain degenerate democratic component that, say, the Chinese government doesn’t suffer from? Both governments are bureaucratic oligarchies saddled with patron/client relationships, although one is a “democracy” and the other is not. I’m not asking to be rhetorical. I’m trying to figure out what you’re actually driving at when criticizing democracy, because as far as I can tell, your target is something that doesn’t actually exist.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    An extremely important point, but one that is prone to overstatement. If the Cathedral had truly immunized itself against democracy, then it would no longer be associated with collapsing time-horizons, orgiastic debt financing, and all the other symptoms of a social order than is looting the future to pander to an impulsive electorate. Just look at the importance of opinion polling in Western societies today — already huge, and growing ever more critical. Politicians want to get elected, electoral mechanisms are effective enough to sensitize them to popular feeling, and when politicians get into power they have sufficient discretion to lavish bribes on their electorates. So democracy still works, and the disaster deepens.

    [Reply]

    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    We prefer the term “demotic”, not least because of its lexical proximity to “demonic”.

    It may be a paradox inherent to any democracy, that the more democratic it becomes, the less democratic it must, of necessity be… but that doesn’t make it any less democratic. Some animals simply must be more equal than others… it just keeps getting more expensive to keep them that way.

    [Reply]

    Peter A. Taylor Reply:

    It depends on whether you’re talking about high-profile or low-profile issues. With high-profile issues (e.g. Social Security), you have democracy, and you have to worry about the tyranny of the majority. With low profile issues (e.g. who gets a “rifle shot” tax break in the fine print of the tax code), you have oligarchy, and you have to worry about crooked deals in smoke-filled back rooms. But your point is a good one. Reactionaries have not been very articulate about this split personality of democracy. Bryan Caplan talks about the amount of “wiggle room” that politicians and other insiders have. It’s quite a lot.

    A trio of book reviews on the topic:
    http://home.earthlink.net/~peter.a.taylor/ruling.htm

    Foseti’s essay on the three branches of government was very good. You have to think of the civil service, at minimum, as an *extremely* powerful lobby.

    [Reply]

    Posted on June 13th, 2013 at 8:45 am Reply | Quote
  • sovereignty is conserved Says:

    the meme is always there, lurking the shadows, waiting to infect the minds of the innocent.

    there can only be one.
    — highlander

    one ring to rule them all.
    — lord of the rings

    sovereignty is conserved.
    — mencius moldbug

    it worked on mm, it can work on anybody.

    [Reply]

    Posted on June 13th, 2013 at 6:55 pm Reply | Quote

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