The root problem is not liberalism, but democracy
With regard to the entry, “Murder by liberalism,” I’m afraid that the root cause of the horrors we experience almost daily lies with democracy itself, not just liberalism.
First, let’s note that every modern, Western-style democracy on the planet suffers from the same set of pathologies:
(1) runaway unsustainable government spending; (2) excessive tolerance for criminality, especially nonwhite criminality; (3) uncontrolled legal and illegal immigration from Third Word countries; (4) curtailment of the civil liberties—hate speech laws, laws against firearms etc; (5) an ever expanding administrative state that seeks to dictate every aspect of life, from the car you drive, to what kind of toilet you can own. In other words, every Western democracy has more or less ended up in the same place. Thus there must be some universal force or forces at work that’s causing this convergence. I assert that force is democracy itself under the universal suffrage.
Our Founding Fathers feared mob rule, and initially limited the franchise to adult white-male property owners. [LA replies: If this is meant to suggest that the framers of the Constitution limited the franchise at the federal level, it is incorrect. Yes, the franchise was limited, but the Constitution had nothing to do with it. The rules governing who could vote was purely a state and local matter, and remained so until the 15th Amendment gave the freed slaves the right to vote.] Then we began the long march to universal suffrage. By 1850 all property qualifications disappeared. [LA replies: Yes, but all that happened on the state level. The federal government had nothing to do with it.] After 1870 blacks got the right to vote with the 15th Amendment. After 1920 women were allowed to vote with the 19th Amendment. Finally in 1971, the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18. Today we have advocates who wish to extend voting rights to non-citizens, even to illegal aliens. I assert that every democracy with universal suffrage necessarily evolves towards, and eventually becomes a liberal democracy which creates pathologies 1 to 5. Under universal suffrage voting blocks will coalesce with members of the block acting in a coherent (all together) manner giving them enormous political power at the margin. Voting blocks with high crime rates will lobby for and get increased tolerance for crime.
For example, blacks have an enormous crime rate compared to whites. With only 12 percent of the population they occupy half the jail cells. About one-third of all black males will spend time in prison, so nearly all black families have experienced the criminal justice system. Is it any wonder liberals want to regard criminals as people with medical problems, not moral shortcomings? Marie Le Pen seems to understand this. GalliaWatch quotes her as saying:
“We are rotted by this ideology of constantly excusing crime. The constant intervention by psychiatrists is the proof: they regard criminals as being sick. It’s the psychiatrists who should be locked up (along with the ideologists of the culture of excuse). For five years we have watched recidivists repeat their crimes. Before 2007 and the arrival of Nicolas Sarkozy to power, we had never seen a recidivist repeat his crime.”
Those “psychiatrists” are a product of the administrative state, which in turn is a product of liberal democracy, which is a necessary consequence of giving all adults the right to vote. We cannot fight liberalism without curtailing democracy itself. Until then we will continue to experience the horrors of minority crime, and the big boot of the administrative state on our backs. If anyone is interested I can provide a technical (quantitative) argument as to why a democracy must morph into a liberal democracy.
If you put together your comment, “If evil is the rejection of the good, leftism is the political expression of evil,” with Alexis Zarkov’s remarks on democracy and mob rule, it is clear that evil will eventually prevail in a pure democracy. Just as there are fewer people with high intelligence than with average intelligence, there are fewer people with virtue than without virtue. When majority rule prevails, and when the majority is that of the entire population rather than the natural (virtuous) aristocracy, the result will be the collapse of that society. The non-virtuous majority will use their vote to express their inherently evil (sinful) nature. The Founding Fathers knew this well, which was why they rejected democracy as mob rule and put in place a system in which the will of the people was prevented from operating directly but was mediated through deliberative bodies and checks and balances. This is why the left hates traditional America. Such a system based on virtue does not allow them to express their evil. This is also why the Republicans are such dismal failures. They refuse to challenge the underlying, evil assumptions of leftism.
It’s a complicated issue. On one hand, the left wants the “will of the people”—the “99 percent”—to prevail; on the other hand the left seeks to suppress democracy and rule through unelected elites. And conservatives generally oppose both those tendencies. So, is it the left that is “democratic,” or the right? Is it the left that anti-democratic and elitist, or the right?
Too large a question to be addressed at the moment. But the clue to the answer would be: the original American system is multilayered and transcendent (i.e., more than the sum of its parts), rooted in the people’s sovereignty at the bottom and arched by the constitutional order at the top, and the left wants to destroy all of it, in all its aspects.
A. Patterson writes:
Although I’m awfully damn right-wing, I’m not ready to give up on democracy just yet. Still, what Alexis Zarkov says about the pitfalls of undiscriminating enfranchisement is food for thought. The Founding Fathers feared democracy would lead to mob rule—and mobocratic America 2011 AD is surely worse than any of them imagined it could ever be.
This provocative sentence of Mr. Zarkov’s …
I assert that every democracy with universal suffrage necessarily evolves towards, and eventually becomes a liberal democracy which creates pathologies 1 to 5.
… put me in mind of the second of Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of Politics:
Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.
Yes. To restate your idea somewhat more broadly: Unless the ruling principle of a political society is non-liberal, any liberal element in the society (such as elections) will lead the society to become more and more liberal over time, until it degenerates to a much lower level or even destroys itself.
Democracy is a central sacrament of liberalism. The creed of democracy is freedom and equal rights as the primary purpose of politics, with all else relegated to a private realm where it is not permitted to matter. They are necessarily connected, as form is to matter. So even radical offshoots of liberalism (e.g. Communism) have political parties and hold elections; and even outright heresies from liberalism (e. g. Nazism) arise through the sacred process of democratic voting. Elections are the sacrament of Consent, wherein the modern faithful make a concrete outward sign of the inward grace possessed by the free and equal new man.
Matt knows that I disagree completely with his idea that Nazism is a form of liberalism, but that’s not a discussion we’re going to get into again. My final word on the subject is here.
You might have noticed that in my comment I didn’t refer to Nazism as “a form of liberalism,” but rather as “an outright heresy of liberalism”; so I’ve moved in your direction a bit over the intervening time.
James R. writes:
Alexis Zarkov’s points on democracy remind me of Mencius Moldbug’s analysis, but also of the pithy analysis Plato gave, which you have quoted before. There is also a longer examination of this in Aristotle’s Politics, similar to that of Plato’s. Prior experience is why the Founders wanted to limit democracy, put it in a box and create a polity that had representative features but also tried to contain its tendency to hypertrophy (excess). Many of them were aware that even these constraints would last without constant vigilance. (And, in my opinion, not all of these constraints were worthy ones, but we should respect their efforts while also learning from them, as I doubt many of us would want to live in a polity with no representative features whatsoever).
The founders did not attempt to build a democracy: democracy is what it collapsed into. They were aware of this potential pitfall. Moldbug would say this was inevitable. That may be so, but one of Aristotle’s points seems to be that all forms of government have their own tendencies to hypertrophy and need constant maintenance and counterbalancing, and that this inevitably fails eventually requiring, in essence, a refounding.
James R. continues:
Mr. Zarkov wrote: “If anyone is interested I can provide a technical (quantitative) argument as to why a democracy must morph into a liberal democracy.”
I’d be very interested in that, by the way.
Thomas Bertonneau writes:
Democracy is mob rule.
Mob rule is resentment-driven and dictatorial; every mob is essentially a lynch mob.
The left does not seek to suppress the mob, but to harness it; the left is expert at currying and manipulating the mob. This is called by the euphemism of “community organizing.”
The pact between the demagogues and the mob is not involuntary; the mob feels liberated, not oppressed, by the directions it receives from its cue-givers. Having no capacity to organize itself, the mob likes being organized, and nothing organizes it so well as the designation of a victim. (“Wall Street,” “The Patriarchy,” “Racists”—everyone can name the usual suspects.)
The Crucifixion was democratic. Everyone present willed it, and everyone felt unified by it, including those who had previously hated one another, like Pilate and Herod. Peter, when questioned, denied that he knew that man. The definition of democracy is the same as the definition of sacrifice (with a nod to René Girard): Unanimity minus one.
Ceasing to cherish the fetish-word “democracy” greatly clarifies the thinking of a conservative. When conservatives have figured out that “democracy” is nothing but criminal activity, as is everything that the left does—then conservatives will have a clear notion of political reality.
Two books that every conservative should read: The Crowd (1896) by Gustave Le Bon and The Scapegoat (1986) by René Girard.
Thomas Bertonneau continues:
The “Occupiers” tell us something stunningly candid about themselves that fits with my characterization of them as a sacrificial mob (in Girard’s term, a unanimity minus one movement): They, so they tell us, are the “ninety-nine per cent,” and all evil resides in the remnant one per cent.
Daniel O. writes:
The idea of people’s sovereignty and the idea of a liberal managerial class are compatible in the belief that ordinary people should not get what they want, but what they ought to want. Evidently, this last belief is not a wrong thought at all, but an old truth; the good life is not per se the life ordinary people lead. The distortion, however, is that liberals believe they know what other people want (which they do not), and they themselves are a good standard in measuring these wants (which they are not). For example, if an educated, well-paid liberal sincerely believes that extramarital sex and periodic hard drugs are good for him, because these maximize his utility, then he will believe that it is good for all. Hence, the managerial class of his likeminded liberals should remove all corresponding moral and legal restrictions on people’s behaviour, so ordinary people can maximize their utility and lead the good life as well. By achieving these goals, the liberal ruling class claims to enhance people’s sovereignty.
Clearly, this explanation does not apply to insincere liberals: liberals who politically promote “free sex” and hard drugs, except when it is, for instance, their own children who are utilizing these wrongs. Many liberals do not like it when their children become drug addicted prostitutes. The stance of this group of liberals is called hypocrisy at best (or outright evil at worst); their managerial class rule I would prefer to call hypocracy, and their continuing destruction of social life hypocrisis.
Robert B. writes:
Actually, the problem is a whole lot of people who cannot think clearly. You answered this dilemma a while back, so why the obscure references to what we all know are the root causes of the problem? Are you seeking to prevent some readership of being offended?
“A right that simply accepts, without question, the universal suffrage of all persons, including women, wards of the state, felons, persons with sub-normal intelligence, and 18 year olds, is not a serious right. Furthermore, many destructive trends have been unleashed in the modern world by extreme notions of equality that are incompatible with a healthy and truly free social order”
The Founders understood that the common man was not smart enough to make long term decisions. The common woman even less so as she is encumbered by biology to think in terms of safety and immediacy. We are not being ruled by an “evil elite,” we are being ruled by the masses. The very people who are not able to think about a house mortgage properly let alone the long term good will of the nation. The politicians in question are simply responding to the masses, more or less giving them what they want within certain guidelines, and profiting from it. The elite simply wishes to remain at the top of the food chain—that is human nature. The best and the brightest will always find a way to swim to the top.
The way to end the tyranny of the proletariat, is to convince the bulk of the middle class that it is in their best interests to eliminate the vote of those with a sub 105 IQ, then convince them that they should limit the vote to those who do not pay a net tax, then limit the vote to men who pay a net tax, then limit the vote to those with an IQ above 109. The more Third Worlders we allow into the country, the more important this becomes. This is pretty much what Plato said anyway, is it not?
These guys get it.
The English almost got it perfect with their House Of Commons and their House Of Lords.
Timothy A. writes:
I don’t see an answer yet to your question how a criticism of democracy as a tool of the left can be squared with the seemingly contradictory criticism of the left as seeking to suppress the voice of the people through rule by managerial elites. If you and your readers could address this (perhaps synthesizing the arguments of others who may have addressed it), I think that would be a great service.
For now, I can only give you another short answer: democracy (i.e., pure democracy, mob rule) and elite rule, though they seem like opposites, are both expressions of unmediated will. Both break down the social order.
D. in Seattle writes:
The cited issues with democracy motivated the Founders to structure the United States as a republic.
“There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”—James Madison
“A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”—Benjamin Franklin
The core problem is that starting with the direct election of U.S. senators, the United States has become more and more of a democracy, with everything under the sun unconstitutionally federalized, rather than leaving most matters to the states, as the Founders intended.
The New Deal, World War II, the all-but-unavoidable deformation of the country into a national security state which was required to contain Communism during the Cold War, and the Great Society greatly accelerated this trend. As a result, the United States has essentially degenerated from a republic into a mere democracy, and most of our various social evils can be attributed to this phenomenon.
It should be pointed out that Jefferson by the end of his life had adopted the term democracy (which the Founders had all eschewed) and began to call the United States a democracy. But I don’t think this usage generally took. As I’ve mentioned before, when I was in sixth grade circa 1960, our text books referred to the United States by such terms as a “democratic republic” “federal republic,” and so on, not a “democracy.” But today everyone, including conservatives, uniformly and automatically speaks of America as a “democracy,” making it impossible for us even to conceptualize our constitutional order or understand how it has been perverted.
James P. writes:
Japan is to some degree an exception to Zarkov’s rule. They have unsustainable government spending and a significant administrative state. But, they do not tolerate criminality and do not accept uncontrolled legal and illegal immigration. As for curtailment of the civil liberties, as I understand it these are not enforced by law but are more a matter of social custom. Unlike here, the curtailment of civil liberties is a conservative force, rather than a liberal force—the Japanese accept restrictions on their behavior and freedom as the price for being Japanese.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 24, 2011 11:19 AM | Send