A New Book - Why Democracy Is Failing
I have a new book folks. Please visit my new site at www.savingdemocracyfromsuicide.com/ to read more about it. I also post all my new articles there.
Sir Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the rest. He is right. Its the best form of government but it also has its flaws. I think that its flaws endanger democracy and needs to be fixed. This blog is for like minded people who want to see democracy improved. I invite people to sumbit essays. I will publish even those I do not agree with so long as I find them interesting.
I have a new book folks. Please visit my new site at www.savingdemocracyfromsuicide.com/ to read more about it. I also post all my new articles there.
That's the conclusion I read after reading a book on the Spanish Reconquista. When Christian rulers in Castille or Aragon wanted to fight their Muslim enemies, they would call for Crusade. War was supposed to be for a noble cause and in those days, fighting for God was the noblest thing one can do.
Their Muslim enemies also did they same, only that they called for Jihad. Yet when you get into the details, you will find that monarchs from both sides would fight their own side as much as they fought against the other side. What's more, Christian Kings allied themselves with Muslim Sultans against fellow Christians. Muslim Sultans allied themselves with Christian Kings to fight fellow Muslims.
I think they mostly fought to expand or defend their territories. Giving their wars the highest motives of the time was just way to inspire their people to fight. It is the same today.
Take the recently concluded war in Libya for example. NATO forces allied themselves with the rebels and toppled the Qadaffi regime. The war, prosecuted mainly by the British and the French, was sold to their public in the name of human rights and democracy.
These two words have replaced God and the Church as justification for war. But I think the real reason for the war has to do with Libya's oil. British and French oil companies had made deals with Qadaffi and invested in Libya. After the Arab Spring toppled Ben Ali of Tunisia and Mubarak of Egypt, the British and French governments were worried.
For a while, it looked like a matter of time before Qadaffi was toppled. Would the new regime respect the contracts that Qadaffi signed? Or would they repudiate them and take a unfriendly stand towards the British and the French for being friends with Qadaffi?
The British and French governments, I guess, was afraid that the new government might repudiate all the Qadaffi contracts. So they voiced support for the rebels expecting that Qadaffi would fall in days. Within days of the spontanious uprising, rebel forces were approaching Tripoli, Qadaffi's stonghold at Tripoli.
Then Qadaffi's forces fought back. The world was astonished at how quickly the rebels were rolled back towards Benghazi. At the last minute British and French airplanes bombed Qadaffi's forces. American planes joined them later for a brief while. Western intervention was justified by saying that they wanted to prevent a massacre in Benghazi. Ironically, the rebels they are helping include Islamists who fought British and American troops in Iraq. These guys are no Democrats. They want an Islamic state with shariah and not democracy.
The rest is now history. Qadaffi lost Tripoli and at this time is hiding somewhere in his last strongholds. So we have something that has a close parallel to what happened in medieval times. Western powers fought for their material interests and ascribed their motives for the highest ideal. The only difference is that today the highest ideal is no long God and the Church but democracy and human rights. Otherwise, things have not changed.
If democracy one day fails and is no longer highly valued by people, I wonder what is the next idea that people will fight for? Whatever that may be the real thing people fight for will not change.
After Anders Breivik committed his atrocious murders in Utoya Island, the Left was quick to blame anti-Islam writers like Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller and my friend Fjordman etc.
But that is a lie. The fault ultimately lies with the Left. According to David Wood of Answering Muslims, Breivik explained why he resorted to violence in his 1,500 page manifesto.
First he had a bad experience with Muslim immigrants in his home town of Oslo. Then he read about Islam and became convinced that Islam is a bad religion. Then he joined politics and tried to change things democratically. But when he criticized Islam, he found that people would accuse him of being a bigot. Political correctness, which the Left created to stifle free speech, made it impossible to change things democratically. So he decided on violent revolution.
Its the Left's fault. They have created an atmosphere of political correctness amongst politicians and the news media where you can't criticize Islam. Cultural Marxists (or Gramscian Marxists) have penetrated the mass media and their hold is strong. Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist, started this "long march through the institutions", where ideas that enable the triumph of Marxism are spread throughout newspapers, universities etc to change the culture of the people. He reasoned that traditional western culture must be destroyed because it supports the capitalist class. Hence the Left support Islam and multiculturism.
If you don't want to blame the Left, then you can blame John F Kennedy, a hero of the American Left. After all, Breivik was influenced by him too. Kennedy said:
"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
Its the Left that has made peaceful revolution impossible. Breivik had in the 1990s made up his mind on the need for violent revolution. That was before Robert Spencer, Pamela Gella etc started writing their blogs.
-Those following the news these days cannot avoid noticing that many wealthy democratic nations, from Japan via Britain to the USA, simultaneously suffer from heavy public debt. The fact that this serious problem affects many different countries at the same time indicates that it is systemic. There are probably several reasons for this, but the hypothesis that it is at least partly related to flaws in the democratic system deserves to be taken seriously.
The average person likes to enjoy himself today and ignores potential problems for as long as he can get away with this, allowing them to pile up until they become nearly unmanageable. Given how many difficulties Britain faces because of Multiculturalism and mass immigration from the
Third World, especially Muslim immigration, it is amazing that parties challenging the status quo, such as the UKIP and the BNP, don’t get more votes. No matter how you look at it, well over 90% of the citizens in 2010 more or less freely voted in favor of the continued destruction of Britain. The “Conservatives” no longer constitute a genuine opposition party.
Bruno Waterfield, who has for years been the Brussels correspondent for The Daily Telegraph newspaper, dismisses as fiction the notion that the mainstream political parties in Britain and the West represent competing alternatives. In his view they are all careerists, an empty cadre of more or less left-leaning elite manager-politicians. “Cameron and Clegg could be interchanged, they are identikit managers for a cut-and-paste age without politics. But remember, this anti-political age does not mean the end of choices, such as the Iraq war, bank bailouts or austerity.
It represents the expulsion of alternative points of view, and the public, from the arena. This new British government shows us (yet again) that the starting point for those of us with ideals, those of us who want politics to be contests between alternative ideas, must work outside unrepresentative political parties, parliaments, state institutions and, Clegg’s training ground, the EU.
These are all now institutions that have clearly become about evading or actually removing political choice rather than being an expression of it.”The political system isn’t working properly if good people who genuinely care for their nation’s future cannot get into Parliament, but a Leftist nobody like Nick Clegg can become Deputy Prime Minister.
Yes, I know that the EU has messed things up, and yes, I know that there was a lot of media censorship and election fraud worthy of some Third World countries. Yet at the end of the day, tens of millions of British citizens mindlessly voted for three Leftist parties (the “Conservatives” under David Cameron are not really conservative) that go out of their way to insult them and destroy their country. Numerous individuals make stupid choices, plain and simple.
Far too many are addicted to Socialism and government handouts, both in Greece, the cradle of democracy in the ancient world, and in Britain, the cradle of parliamentary democracy in the modern world. Maybe the best thing Britain can hope for now, if it is going to survive as a nation for native Brits, is an Oliver Cromwell type of person. Democracy of universal suffrage has so far proved itself inadequate at containing the ongoing Third World invasion of the West.
The short-term attention span brought about by brief election cycles hasn’t been good at dealing with long-term threats, economic or otherwise, especially when combined with the dumbing down caused by television and the fact that citizenship and voting rights have been handed out like candy to members of hostile tribes.The USA was specifically designed to be a Constitutional Republic, not a mass democracy.
This arrangement worked well for a long time, yet Americans in 2008 elected an anti-Western Marxist as President. It is a fair bet that their Founding Fathers would have been horrified had they witnessed this. An African Socialist demagogue like Barack Hussein Obama embodies everything they tried to prevent. Perhaps universal suffrage makes a slide to Socialism inevitable, as too many people will vote themselves into possession of other people’s money.
They will gradually grow accustomed to this arrangement and will consider it their “right.”The English essayist El Inglés defines democracy as “an organizational mechanism for allowing parties a) with divergent interests, but who b) wish to function as part of the same polity, to reconcile the divergent interests in a) to such a degree that b) becomes possible.
Having defined democracy in this fashion as a mechanism, I am forced to conclude that it is a means, not an end, and that it therefore possesses no more intrinsic moral value than a truck or a pair of scissors, themselves devices for achieving certain ends.”
He differentiates between democracy-as-ideal and democracy-as-mechanism. Universal suffrage worked for a while in the West because it had a useful role to play in the political needs of these countries, but since then it has been smeared out to include the presence of alien and parasitic tribal cultures.
As El Inglés states, “The scale of the collapse awaiting us in Europe is so vast, and the measures that we will be required to take so severe, that we should be asking ourselves right now what, if anything, can be salvaged of democracy on the other side. It is a sad truth that the existential crisis that Europe has brought onto itself in the form of Islam has not been ameliorated in the slightest bit by democracy as practiced there in the last sixty years.
Enlightened dictatorship has rarely looked better. Whether democracy, in the very long term, is a good idea or not is a question that will be asked more and more frequently in Europe as the crisis worsens. A committed democrat myself, I would like to suggest here that democracy is still just about viable if it is understood rather than romanticized.”
It would be tempting to conclude that we should simply hand power over to the self-professed elites. The problem is that the Western ruling oligarchs are committed Globalists and/or brainwashed Marxists who often make even poorer choices than the masses do. For example, in some cases where the masses made sound decisions, such as the Swiss ban on Muslim minarets or the Dutch rejection of the EU Constitution, the elites have tried to overrule this.
In many cases, the public can be rightfully criticized for making poor choices, but they have also sometimes been betrayed by people they supported who turned out to be very different from what they pretended to be before being elected. Nicolas Sarkozy as French President has disappointed millions of ethnic Frenchmen who voted for him, thinking that he would reverse their country’s slide into poverty and anarchy. As it turns out, he has done virtually nothing to address these issues, but has rather intensified the cultural war waged against the natives.
Mr. Sarkozy apparently cares for nothing other than achieving and maintaining power and the personal privileges associated with this, and will serve any lie necessary in order to do so. If he is the best candidate who can be elected in France then we must conclude that the best isn’t good enough and that France can no longer be saved merely by voting. Tony Blair in Britain was widely popular in the late 1990s during his early years as Prime Minister, yet he arguably did more to hurt his country than any other person in British history. Perhaps mass democracy facilitates the rise of accomplished liars such as Blair, Sarkozy or George W. Bush.
I am personally convinced that a higher degree of political liberty was one of the reasons why Europeans outperformed rival civilizations such as China. Even within Western Europe, Britain had a healthier political culture than did France, followed by other Germanic-speaking Protestants such as the Scandinavians, the Dutch and the Swiss.
I am here referring to Britain as it was in its prime during the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; Britain in the early twenty-first century is a banana republic on its way to becoming an Islamic republic.The principle of power-sharing within the same ethnic group can be beneficial for political liberty and long-term stability, but democracy of universal suffrage does not guarantee this, nor does the act of voting.
The very minimum a political system must do is to ensure the survival of your nation and the continued existence of you and your kin. If it does not fulfill these criteria then it is useless, regardless of what you call it. Right now, it is hard to argue that Western democracies contribute to the cultural and genetic survival of their majority populations. We need to realize that democracy is a tool to achieve a specific goal, not an end in itself. It is not a bad tool, but perhaps it shouldn’t be the only one we have in our tool box.
Much has been written about the Euro sovereign debt crisis. But all the commentators in newspapers have missed an important point. The crisis is at its heart a crisis of democracy.
The Euro Crisis started with Greece running out of money to pay its debts. The EU rallied to lend it money to keep Greece from defaulting. This is with much understandable reluctance from the Germans. Greece had been very naughty. It spent the money to lavish on its people a cushy welfare state where its civil servants retire much earlier than Germans do. It had given false figures to sell its bonds and some say even false figures to get into the EU. Now its debt to GDP ratio has risen to 12.6% when EU rules stipulate 3% at most. But then again, most EU countries failed to follow this rule.
Also according to the rules, each country must keep its finances in order and must not expect others to subsidize their expenditures. So nobody should expect other members to bail them out. But this rule was broken too.
But the fear is that if they don't help Greece out, other PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) countries could default on their debt as well. You see, these countries also borrowed to the hilt and banks and investors might not buy their government bonds at an affordable interest rate if they think richer northern countries are not coming to help them. If a large country like Spain defaults, then it would damage the European economy.
Clearly, all these governments have been overspending and over borrowing for many decades. This crisis did not start overnight. So what happened?
Karl Marx once said, 'Democracy is the road to Socialism.' He was wrong on nearly everything but on this occasion he was right. I would also like to add:
'Socialism leads to ruin.'
As I wrote in my previous essays, income distribution does not follow a normal curve but is skewed. In simple language, there are more poor people than rich people. So votrepreneurs (politicians) get votes by promising to transfer wealth from one group of people to another.
That is why all democracies end up with welfare states. So taxation will have to go up to fund all these government expenditures. But there is a limit to how much you can tax. With higher taxes, you get disincentives to work harder or to take risks. Investors would also prefer to invest elsewhere where taxes are lower. Higher income people also prefer to migrate to lower tax jurisdictions. Or some will simply cheat on taxes. This is the explained in the Laffer curve. Economist Arthur Laffer advanced a theory that is beautiful in its simplicity.
If income tax rate is zero, government revenue would also be zero. When you raise income tax rate income will initially rise. But if the income tax rate is 100%, government revenue will also be zero because nobody would want to work. So somewhere in between there is a point where government revenues are maximized. Income tax rates higher or lower than this point will result in lower tax revenues.
In other words, there is a maximum amount governments can squeeze from the taxpayers. If you keep squeezing taxpayers, they will migrate, work less hard, invest less or simply cheat on taxes and you end up with less tax revenues.
But for votrepreneurs to get elected, they keep promising to redistribute wealth. If tax revenues cannot keep up with their promises, then they resort to borrowing. As I explained in my earlier articles, democracies suffer from a serious flaw. Its political leadership is very short term in its thinking. This is not the fault of invidiual politicians but a systemic flaw. If you have elections once every four or five years, you cannot blame the votrepreneurs for not thinking long term. Thus problems are passed on to future leaders.
So they borrow and borrow because they know that when the debts come due, they won't be in office by then and it would be someone else's problem. Thus in every major democracy, you have huge government borrowings. See chart:
So the problem appears to be systemic for the reasons I have stated in this and earlier essays. Democracy leads to Socialism but as Margaret Thatcher once said:
'The Problem with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.'
That eventuality is happening now across all the developed democracies. Bond investors are begining to wonder how long more can governments postpone paying the bills. But these numbers, horrible as they may be, are not the total liabilities of governments. They do not include promised entitlements like retirement benefits that politicians promised in order to get elected.
According to Jagadeesh Gokhale of the CATO Institute, the public sector debt plus promised social welfare spending such as retirement benefits amount to an average of 434% of GDP for Europe and a whopping 890% for the US. The total government liabilities comprising of actual debt plus politicians' promises are 549% for France, 442% for the UK and 418% for Germany.
This problem is worsened by the fact that birth rates are below replacement level in the developed democracies:
The above picture shows the total fertility rate (births per woman) in Europe. The comparable figure for the US is a still respectable 2.06 and a abysmal 1.2 for Japan. Since all governments are selling long term bonds (as long as 30 years in the case of the US), how are future governments going to repay for their excessive expenditures? Their tax base shrink as there are fewer young workers to pay those taxes.
In the old days, people depended on their children to see to their retirement. There was an incentive for more children and strong family ties. Today, modern societies still need the young to take care of the old. But instead of depending on our own children, we are depending on other people's children, albeit indirectly. The young will pay their taxes to pay for cushy retirement benefits. But raising children takes time and effort and costs money. So lets enjoy ourselves and let someone else do it. In the end, people don't have children or have less than they should.
These debt figures presented above are for current debts owing by the governments. Many of the votrepreneurs' promises are based on the pay-as-you-go system. For example, those working will pay retirement benefits to those who have retired. But with the low birth rates in Europe and Japan, you will soon have a serious problem. There won't be enough workers to pay for the votrepreneur's promises made decades ago. In some countries the projection is that there will one day be one worker to support one retiree. This means that either the worker must be heavily taxed or the retirement benefits and medical care spending will have to drop.
In the case of the Europeans, the votrepreneurs are trying to find a solution to the aging population with Muslim immigrants from North Africa, Turkey and Pakistan. This is a mistake for they bring in an incompatible culture which is likely to cause conflicts into with the native Europeans. Once again, votrepreneurs in democracies cannot see beyond the next elections. I think its far better to get immigrants from South America which has a similar culture.
This game of getting votes by promising one group of voters the money belonging to another will soon collapse. In the following article, my good friend, Fjordman, said that we should look at democracy as a mechanism. That is correct. We need to understand how the mechanism works. Democracy is a mechanism in which votreprenuers (politicians) get elected into office by promising one group of people the money of another group.
But because the law of economics is such that there is a limit to how much tax revenues you can squeeze from the economy, the cost of their promises will soon outstrip the tax revenues. Governments then resort to borrowings which will eventually lead to crisis that we now see in Greece and soon to come to other democracies. The future looks bleak.
Authors James E. McClellan and Harold Dorn in their book Science and Technology in World History claim that Newtonian philosophy was a major force behind the European Enlightenment which followed it. “Ironically, with his mystical speculations largely hidden until the twentieth century, Newton may be fairly said to be a founding father of the Enlightenment, that campaign of reason against superstition and irrationality that arose in France and then spread across eighteenth-century Europe and America.”
The concept of the “clockwork God” inspired by the success of Newton and his successors at explaining the orbits of comets and planets influenced philosophes such as Voltaire and Montesquieu. Many scholars wanted to apply this progress in the natural sciences to the social sciences as well:
“Indeed, the first Enlightenment document may well be the ode penned by Edmond Halley to preface the first edition of the Principia, wherein Halley wrote of understanding the world: ‘In reason’s light, the clouds of ignorance/Dispelled at last by science.’ Voltaire attended Newton’s funeral and brought back the famous anecdote of having left France and a universe filled with the Cartesian aether to arrive in England and a universe of empty Newtonian space.
By the middle of the eighteenth century, aided by Voltaire and Madame du Châtelet, Newton’s science conquered France and won out over Descartes among French intellectuals and scientists. The forces associated with Newtonian science and the Newtonian Enlightenment were liberal, progressive, reformist, and even revolutionary, and they played major roles in the prehistory and history of the American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789. Indeed, as evidenced in the Declaration of Independence, with its proposition that ‘all men are created equal,’ the political realm can be represented as a Newtonian system of politically equal citizen-atoms moving in law-like patterns under the influence of a universal political gravity and a democratic impulse toward civil association.”
A number of historians have questioned whether there was any link between the Scientific Revolution and the more practically oriented Industrial Revolution that followed it. In The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy, economic historian Joel Mokyr argues that the missing link between the Scientific and the Industrial Revolution was the Industrial Enlightenment. This period gave rise to a new mentality, and the spillover effects of this mentality were as important as the new knowledge directly generated by it.
The Industrial Enlightenment’s debt to the Scientific Revolution consisted of scientific method, scientific mentality and scientific culture. One of the most direct links between the seventeenth century and the emerging industrial changes of the late eighteenth century was the emphasis on experiment and the scientific method. Important was also scientific mentality, the concept that the world was orderly and rational and that natural phenomena could be predicted and described mathematically according to universal laws. As Mokyr says:
“The early seventeenth century witnessed the work of Kepler and Galileo that explicitly tried to integrate mathematics with natural philosophy, a slow and arduous process, but one that eventually changed the way all useful knowledge was gathered and analyzed. Once the natural world became intelligible, it could be tamed: because technology at base involves the manipulation of nature and the physical environment, the metaphysical assumptions under which people engaged in production operate, are ultimately of crucial importance.
The Industrial Enlightenment learned from the natural philosophers – especially from Newton, who stated it explicitly in the famous opening pages of Book Three of the Principia – that the phenomena produced by nature and the artificial works of mankind were subject to the same laws. That view squarely contradicted orthodox Aristotelianism. The growing belief in the rationality of nature and the existence of knowable natural laws that govern the universe, the archetypical Enlightenment belief, led to a growing use of mathematics in pure science as well as in engineering and technology.”
This new orderly world has been dubbed the Newtonian universe. Ironically, as his biographer James Gleick points out, Newton himself was not a Newtonian; he as a deeply religious man, albeit in a highly unorthodox manner, who looked for hidden information in the Bible and embraced the mysticism of alchemy. Authors McClellan and Dorn agree with this view:
“In the quest after secret knowledge, alchemy occupied the major portion of Newton’s time and attention from the mid-1670s through the mid-1680s. His alchemical investigations represent a continuation and extension of his natural philosophical researches into mechanics, optics, and mathematics. Newton was a serious, practicing alchemist – not some sort of protochemist. He kept his alchemical furnaces burning for weeks at a time, and he mastered the difficult occult literature. He did not try to transmute lead into gold; instead, using alchemical science, he pried as hard as he could into forces and powers at work in nature. He stayed in touch with an alchemical underground, and he exchanged alchemical secrets with Robert Boyle and John Locke. The largest part of Newton’s manuscripts and papers concern alchemy, and the influence of alchemy reverberates throughout Newton’s published opus. This was not the Enlightenment’s Newton.”
There are both indirect and direct links between the new natural philosophy and the emerging political philosophy of the modern West. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes was exposed to European scientific thought during the early Scientific Revolution, including a renewed seventeenth century interest in the atomism of Greco-Roman Antiquity. It doesn’t require much imagination to see a potential connection between atomism and the random collection of atomized human beings described in Hobbes’ political philosophy and his concept of a “war of all against all.” His mechanistic understanding of the world and human society influenced his 1651 book Leviathan. The social contract theory he introduced there was carried further in very different directions by John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
The English philosopher and physician John Locke influenced leading individuals in both the French and the Scottish Enlightenment, among them Voltaire, as well as the American Founding Fathers. He was a proponent of the idea that the human mind is a blank slate or tabula rasa. In addition to philosophy he was also a man of science who studied experimental philosophy and medicine under the tutelage of leading physicians such as Thomas Sydenham. He worked with noted scientists like Robert Boyle and corresponded with Isaac Newton. Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government from 1689 and An Essay Concerning Human Understanding from 1690 were published shortly after Newton’s great Principia from 1687.
One of the developments that took place during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries following the American and French Revolutions was the spread of democracy in the Western world. In Antiquity and plainly up until the American Founding Fathers, “democracy” was never seen as anything self-evidently good. Plato and Aristotle were quite critical of it, although the democratic system in ancient Greece was rather different from the modern one.
As John Dunn says in his book Setting the People Free: The Story of Democracy, a title he admits carries some degree of irony, in the Athens Assembly citizens had the right not merely to vote on all proposals coming before it and thus to determine together its outcome, but also to address it themselves. This fierce directness of Athenian democracy contrasts sharply with the more indirect system often called “representative democracy” that is practiced in the modern West. Indeed, the two systems are so different that calling the latter “democracy” would have caused confusion among leading figures from Athens during the Hellenic age:
“Under democracy the citizens of Athens, quite reasonably and accurately, supposed that they were ruling themselves. But the vastly less exclusive citizen bodies of modern democracies very obviously do nothing of the kind. Instead, they select from a menu which they can do little individually to modify, whichever they find least dismaying amongst the options on offer.” Moreover, “If the ancient democracy was the citizens choosing freely and immediately for themselves, modern democracy, it seems, is principally the citizens very intermittently, choosing under highly constrained circumstances, the relatively small number of their fellows who will from then on choose for them.”
While citizens were more actively and directly involved in the decision-making process back then, another major difference between ancient and modern democracy is that only a minority of the male inhabitants of ancient Athens were citizens; giving the vote to all those who happened to live within the city limits, including women and recent immigrants, would have been perceived as absurd. This contrasts sharply with the modern West where “democracy” is defined by universal suffrage where every adult male and female has an equal vote.
This concept has been carried to its logic conclusion: The system should be truly universal in that it should extend to include every single human being on Earth. The idea promoted by US President George W. Bush that the “global expansion of democracy” should roll back terrorism is denounced by John Dunn as “a glaring instance of ideological overstretch.”
Not only did Bush perceive his country to be a “democracy,” despite the fact that it was founded as a Constitutional Republic; he perceived it as being “universal.” Every person on planet Earth from whatever cultural background can move to the United States and become an equal citizen. The USA is thus a “universal” nation, and its universal democracy should be exported to all countries around the world. This version of “universalism” would have been profoundly alien to the ancient Greeks, yet has become a prominent feature of the post-Enlightenment West. “We no longer consider any human action legitimate, or even intelligible,” wrote the French late twentieth century philosopher Pierre Manent, “unless it can be shown to be subject to some universal rule of law, or to some universal ethical principle.”
Where does this notion come from? One of the most impressive features of Newton’s theory of universal gravity is that it was literally universal and assumed to apply throughout the entire universe. It is not strange that Newton, a deeply devout Christian man who believed that the universe had been created by a single God, believed this. What is remarkable is that he has since been proven right: Gravity does apply throughout the entire known universe.
Albert Einstein in his general theory of relativity in the early twentieth century showed that gravity is not, strictly speaking, a force as traditionally understood but a property of space itself as it curves around massive objects. However, gravity is no less universal today than it was in Newton’s day. Observational evidence indicates that the theories of Newton and Einstein can largely (with some yet-unexplained exceptions) predict the movements of distant galaxies billions of light-years away. A scientific theory cannot be more successful than that.
The problem is that the immense success of modern natural science has generated the often unrealistic expectation that we can uncover equally universal mathematical laws in the social sciences to describe and explain the behavior of all human beings. Moreover, while the experimental method has been immensely useful in the natural sciences it becomes more of a mixed bag and potentially dangerous when it is applied to politics and societies, and when the subject matter for your experiments is living human beings rather than lifeless substances.
The underlying belief behind the American-led efforts to export “democracy” to Islamic countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan is that all human beings should be subject to democracy, just like they are subject to gravity. But as we have seen, gravity applies throughout the entire known universe. What happens if we discover intelligent life on other planets? My bet is that on day one we will all be excited over finding E.T. On day two, American neoconservatives will ask whether E.T. has democracy. If he doesn’t, the USA must promptly send an interplanetary expeditionary force to export democracy to his planet. After all, if E.T has gravity then E.T. must also have democracy, just like Afghan Muslims.
E.T. vote home.
American journalist and author Thomas Friedman has written several columns in The New York Times during the fall of 2009 where he questions the Western democratic system. There are perfectly legitimate reasons for criticizing certain aspects of the democratic system, but I'm not sure if his are the right ones.
If I recall correctly, Mr. Friedman applauded exporting democracy to an Islamic country such as Iraq, but he wants the democratic system abolished in the USA because it doesn't support his Leftist pet causes:Our One-Party Democracy
Friedman said, "Watching both the health care and climate/energy debates in Congress, it is hard not to draw the following conclusion: There is only one thing worse than one-party autocracy, and that is one-party democracy, which is what we have in America today. One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century. It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power."
Here is a quote from a column by Friedman from November 2009:Advice From Grandma
"California, which, as others have noted, is becoming America’s biggest 'failed state.' Californians had hoped they could overcome their dysfunctional system by electing an outsider, a former movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He would slay the system, like the Terminator. But he couldn’t. Mr. Obama was elected for similar reasons. People had hoped that his unique story, personality and speaking skills could bring the country together, overcome paralysis and deliver nation-building at home. A lot of the disappointment settling in among Obama voters today is prompted by their dawning realization that maybe, like Arnold, he can’t. China’s leaders, using authoritarian means, still can."
The main reason for California's rapid decline is a decline in IQ among those who inhabit that region. This is again caused by mass immigration. The underlying structural problem for the USA now is that US national debt is rising even faster than US national IQ is declining. As long as this trend remains unchanged, continued US decline is all but assured. Mr. Friedman is an Ashkenazi Jew, which means that he comes from the one ethnic group on the planet with the highest average IQ.
Yet while he personally benefits from high IQ he does not want to talk about it. The same is the case for author Jared Diamond, another Ashkenazi Jew who thinks it is immoral and "loathsome" to mention IQ.As I concluded in my in-depth investigation of human evolution and culture, Why Did Europeans Create the Modern World?, while Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel contains some worthwhile parts, the overall conclusion is almost certainly wrong. You can just look at the state of California to disprove it.
California was by the 1960s and 70s the economic engine of the USA and by the extension the world. By 2009 it is close to bankruptcy. The reason for this is not that the geography of California changed, nor its plants or animals to any significant degree. What changed was the demographic make-up of California. As long as it was predominantly inhabited by whites it was a dynamic region. As soon as it become inhabited by Mexicans and other lower-IQ Third World peoples it came increasingly to resemble a Third World region.
Diamond is currently a Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), which means that he can see clearly that his theories are flawed just by looking out the window.That being said, it is certainly true that the democratic system is not working well in Western countries today.
I remember hearing about a mother who tried to figure out how to deal with the concept of free will when dealing with her rebellious young daughter who wanted to wear clothes her mother didn’t approve. She came up with the idea of presenting her with two different sets of clothes, both preselected by the mother. This would maintain the illusion of free will while the mother had in reality made the decision beforehand.
This is essentially how Western "democracy" works. In the USA in 2008 you could vote for an open-border Leftist candidate or an open-border "right-wing" candidate who wanted to implement the Leftist agenda at a slightly slower pace, as Western "conservatives" have been doing for generations now.Once or twice every decade, Leftist writer Noam Chomsky says something worthwhile. One of his best quotes is that "The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum." This is exactly what Western elites are doing today.
President Obama's health care plan is running into trouble even from his own party. In his quest to be President he had to make all sorts of promises and the center-piece was reforming health care. He claimed that tens of millions of Americans are not covered by health insurance and the cost health insurance is also rising faster than the average income.
He promised to expand coverage, improve quality, lower costs, honor patient choice and holding insurance companies accountable - whatever that means. But votrepreneurs (politicians) must have a bogeyman to blame.
This is like trying to square a circle. If his ObamaCare is passed, the current number of health care providers and facilities will be spread over a larger number of patients. How can he expand coverage and improve quality at the same time? If you expand coverage without increasing the number of health care providers and number of hospital beds, then quality will have to drop. For some people, they will not get the doctor that they previously had. Or you have to wait a longer time before a hospital bed becomes available - by which time you might be dead.
So you can see how votrepreneurs get elected by selling snake oil, then rush to come up with a bad plan to keep their hasty promises. An obvious part of the solution must surely be to increase the supply of health care services by training more health care providers and building more hospitals. But this takes time and the system works on a four year election cycle - which is one of the flaws of democracy that I have written about elsewhere in this blog. I have mentioned time and again, the democracies are too short term in outlook to solve long term problems. That is why his Reforms did not even mention anything about training more health care providers.
Currently, 91% of Americans say that they have health insurance. Out of that number, 83% rated their health care as good or excellent. This works out to 76% of all Americans rating their health care as good and excellent. What this means is that Obama wants to help the nine percent of the people who do not have health coverage and the 24% who feel that their health care is not good enough.
But without increasing the supply of health care, the additional 9 percent coverage will be at the expense of the 91% of the population. In reality, no government policy can ever benefit 100% of the population. You have to do the greater good for the greater number. Obama's plan will do the greater good for the smaller number which does not make sense. It should also be remembered that the nine percent of Americans not covered include the rich, the illegals, those in between jobs and those eligible for other government programs. Perhaps, only 5% are left who really needs help.
But it gets worse.
His program is going to cost a lot of taxpayers' money. How is he going to pay for it? To get elected, he has promised that there won't be a middle class tax increase. Only the rich will pay for it. This is popular with the majority of course and it is how votrepreneurs (politicians) win votes. Promise to spend on the majority by taxing the minority.
But this is also nonsense. Already, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is proposing a 5.4% surtax and an 10% point increase in the payroll tax to fund ObamaCare. The surtax is a complete reversal of his promise not to tax the Middle class. But it is the payroll tax that is more damaging. An increase in the payroll tax should result in cuts in wages but the companies are forbidden to cut wages.
So this is effectively a compulsory rise in wage costs for the companies which is stupid at a time of recession. Any rise in wage will result in higher unemployment, smaller bonuses, lower salary increments and lower starting salaries. So the Middle Class will be made to pay for it indirectly. There is still no free lunch. Its just that the cost to the voters is not so obvious.
Even with the tax increase, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) contradicted Obama's claim that his Health Care Reforms won't increase the Budget Deficit, now already in the trillions. Instead, it estimated that ObamaCare will add $64 billion to the budget deficit by 2019.
The whole affair is depressing. What happened was that Obama, a slick votrepreneur, promised the voters the moon and used his eloquence to con them into believing that he can deliver. After entering the White House, he hastily came up with a stupid plan that will worsen America's budget deficit, increase taxes at a time of recession and end up helping maybe only 5% of the population.
If the US is serious about improving health care to its citizens, they should see how others do it. Some experts, like Cynthia Ramsay, have rated Singapore's health care to be the best in the world, while the WHO has rated Singapore's health care system at 6th.
What's amazing is that Singapore spends very little on health care - only 3.5% of GDP as compared to 8.9% for Italy, 8.2% for the UK, 15.2% for the US and 11.2% for France. Life expectancy for Singaporeans is about 82 as compared to about 78 for British and Americans while infant mortality is also lower in Singapore than in the US or UK. See Wikipedia for life expectancy and infant mortality.
How does Singapore do it? While this complex issue is beyond the scope of this article, one key to Singapore's success at providing good healthcare at low cost to the taxpayer and the patient is to adhere to the dictum, "There is no free lunch".
Healthcare in Singapore is not free although the poorest people are subsidized up to 80% of health care costs. Once you give free health care, costs will balloon as patients demand the state to provide everything. Then you need to ration health services. There are horror stories in the UK where patients have to wait up to one year before an operation. By that time, you could be dead. This does not happen in Singapore even for the poorest patients.
So its possible to improve health care without increasing costs but ObamaCare is not the way to do it.
Recently, Congressional leaders were outraged at the CIA and Dick Cheney for allegely not telling them about plans to kill Al Qaeda leaders. Hello? Have they been reading their newspapers?
Ever since the Afghanistian war following 911, the US army has been dropping bunker busting bombs on suspected hide-outs where Osama bin laden may have been hiding. All this while the CIA has been using predator drones to bomb and kill Al-Qaeda leaders all over the world.
They are still doing it in Pakistan and Afghanistan under a Democrat President. Nearly all politicians, including Barack Obama, have publicly called for the killing or capture of Osama bin Laden. Now, they are suddenly outraged that the CIA has plans to assasinate him and other Al Qaeda leaders? Have Congressional leaders been watching TV? Of course, the alleged plans were for a more surgical way of killing such as by poison, a favorite method by the KGB. This is in fact a better method than dropping bombs from Predators as it would minimise collateral damage.
So what is happening? Votrepreneurs (my term of contempt for politicians) want to win votes. The ones bashing the CIA are Congressional Democrats wanting to please their voters must pretend to be outraged at the CIA for allegely not telling them about their plans during the previous (Republican) administration.
Earlier in the year, Senator Pelosi accused the CIA of misleading Congress. She claimed that she was unaware that the CIA was waterboarding Al Qaeda captives to obtain information. Her lie was exposed by current and former CIA directors who revealed that she knew all along. That she knew that such aggressive interrogation techniques were necessary to protect lives was obvious or she would have objected. But such methods are unpopular with her naive Liberal voters. So she lied and pretended not to know.
The more recent case of pretending not to know it was US policy to kill Al Qaeda leaders is even more ridiculous since it was plain to all who has eyes to see. You don't even need to be briefed if you watch TV. In war, you are supposed to kill your enemies.
But the upshot is that CIA agents are demoralized by all this. They are needed to protect the country from its enemies. This is not the way to run a war. But votrepreneurs don't care. Their main objective is promoting themselves. The welfare of the country, as usual, come second. They can't be loved by the spies at the CIA.
According to a Congressional report by Darrell Issa, government intervention in the housing market is the main cause of the Financial Crisis.
The report explained how the Clinton administration in 1995 issued a National Homeownership Strategy, which weakens Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's lending standards and insisting that banks 'work collaboratively to reduce homebuyer downpayment requirements.'
Clinton complained that in 1989 only 7% of mortgages had less than a 10% downpayment. It wanted that figure to be raised to 29%! Generally speaking, the businessman should be left alone to make their business decisions because he knows what's best for himself. The 'invisble hand' of Adam Smith ensures the optimum allocation of resources. Only in rare occasions where there is a market failure in the proper allocation of resources, should the government intervene. Why did the government intervene in this case?
It must be remembered that in a two party democracy, one party is fighting for the losers of society and the other is fighting for the winners. In the case of America, the Democratic Party is the party for losers. It tries to win votes from the bottom half of the income divide by promising to bring material goodies to their voters. This is normally done by redistribution policies ie taxing the top half and spending the money on the bottom half.
The Republicans, the party for the winners of US society, strives to cut taxes and minimise the transfer of wealth from their voters to their political opponents' voters.
So government intervention in this case, was not to make the economy more efficient or more prosperous but to win votes and hence power for the votrepreneurs (politicians) . Power comes with its perks and in Clinton's case, his chief perk seems to be access to loose women.
Monica Lewinsky: Freud beleived that people act out of sublimal desires which they are not even aware of. Was she also a cause of the global financial crisis?
But banks were reluctant to give loans to poorer people because they were higher credit risks. So Clinton toughened the Community Reinvestment Act forbidding banks to expand if they do not lend more (in effect) to Clinton's voters - the lower income groups, especially minorities.
The result was that banks ended up making a flood of mortgages they formerly refused to touch with a 100 foot pole. This fueled a housing boom. Many of these mortagages carried little or no downpayment. That's why they are called sub-prime mortagages. Voters thus were bribed for their votes by giving them housing they could not afford. But there is no FREE LUNCH. Someone has to pay. Let's see who.
The banks, of course, did not want to pay for the lunch given away by the votrepreneurs ie they did not want to hold on to these dubious mortgages. So Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were told to buy up these dud mortages and repackaged them as Mortgaged Backed Securities. The Glass Steagal Act was also repealed to allow banks to do Investment Banking. This allowed them to repackage these dud mortgages into securities and sell them off to anybody who is willing to assume the risks of defaulting mortgages. Somebody else can carry the risks. Hey! Somebody has to be the sucker.
Private investors, fund managers, banks, pension funds bought them and eventually were made suckers when the property market crashed. But the biggest owners of Mortgaged Backed securities were Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
These two are government sponsored enterprises which Congress oversees. Bad deal for their shareholders. What this means is that Congressional leaders will want the two companies to behave in a manner that maximizes their votes instead of maximizing profits for the shareholders. So they ended up owning tons of these risky mortgaged backed securities at very high leverage. If things go belly up, which they eventually did, the shareholders loose their pants. But they are not the only ones to go trouserless.
You see, while Congress did not explicitly guarantee Freddie and Fannie's debts, there is an implicit guarantee. This means that taxpayers will loose their pants in the event that they go belly-up, which they did. Bad deal for taxpayers too. Now you know who the biggest sucker is.
So the bottom line is that the votrepreneurs (politicians) have arranged things in such a manner that taxpayers paid to vote them into office. But don't blame the votrepreneurs, its the system.
While the above description was basically what happened, the whole affair is a lot more complicated and its not just votrepreneurs that should be blamed. A host of characters also must share some of the blame for the financial crisis.
In no particular order, the first on the list is Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve. Let's call him the Fedhead. Well, Mr Fedhead kept interest rates too low for too long. This flood of money encouraged speculation in the property market. Everytime, it looks like there might be a recession, the Fedhead turned on the money taps.
This encouraged people to suffer the delusion that recessions have been banished forever from Wonderland. Soon businessmen and consumers were lulled into complacency and they put on more debt. Actually, recessions are healthy for the economy. It weeds out badly run companies and redeploys capital and workers more efficiently.
The economy is like a forest. From time to time, there is a fire. Forest fires are simply a part of nature. So forest rangers should not try to put out fires. The fire burns away at the dead wood that collect at the forest floor and opens up clearings for new trees to grow. Similarly, a recession forces poorly run companies to go bust, creating space for younger, newer companies to emerge.
If park rangers keep putting out fires everytime lightning strikes, dead wood will collect on the floor. One day, there will be a fire too strong to control and the whole forest will burn down. So it is the same in the economy. The Fedhead kept 'putting out the fire' and thus allowed inefficiently run companies to survive. Complacency set in and these companies piled on more and more debt. The consumers also put on more debt like the forest accumulates tinder.
Then one day we get a severe recession and global crisis that they cannot control - like now. It is better for the Fedhead to allow frequent but smaller recessions to take place than having a huge one like what we have now.
The next on the blame list are the bankers and fund managers. These guys 0n Wall Street get huge bonuses by gambling with other people's money. They system goes like this - heads we win but tails you lose. In the case of bankers, they geared up their companies to make risky loans or buy risky assets. When the going was good, the banks reported fat profits and the executives collected fat bonuses. Shareholders also win.
This encouraged them to take on risky behavior - since they do not generally suffer personal bankruptcy if their banks go bust. The more they leveraged their banks, the more money they made. When the banks go bust, they still get to keep their bonuses earned in previous years. But you, the shareholders get wiped out.
In this current financial crisis, while initially banks were initially reluctant to retain mortgaged backed securities in their books, prefering to sell them, they eventually did so. They wanted to enhance their earnings and hence their bonuses. If the mortgages default, its the sharholders to bear the loss while they get to keep all their bonuses during the good years.
Its the same with hedge fund managers. These guys collect money from their clients to buy financial assets like stocks, derivatives, mortgaged back securities etc. They also used leverage. If they market goes in the right direction, they make more money for their clients who will pour in more money into their funds. During good times, they collect fat fees from their clients.
But when the market crashes, their clients often get wiped out. But they also get to keep their fat fees earned during the good years. In a nutshell, bankers and fund managers gamble with other people's money. They get to grow rich during good times and suffer no losses during bad times, prompting them to take huge risks with other people's money.
The nature of the financial markets is that crashes are inevitable and their shareholders or clients will one day be wiped out given the high leverage. Heads we win and tails you lose. Sooner or later, you are going to lose. But they won't go to jail in a paddy wagon like Bernie Maddoff. Instead, they can sail to Bermuda in their yachts.
That is why I cannot understand why Bernie Maddoff ran a Ponzi scheme. Not only is he a crook, he is a stupid crook. Doesn't the clown know that Wall Street gives you ample opportunity to cheat people the legal way?
The next one on my blame list are the credit rating agencies. There are three large rating agencies - Moody's, Standard and Poors and Fitch. These guys are supposed to give their opinion on various financial instruments. Unfortunately, they get paid by the guys whom they are supposed to rate! This is one time when competition is bad for you. If one agency gives you lousy ratings, you go elsewhere. In the end, risky assets like Mortgaged Backed Securities got high ratings. Its like your boss asking you what you (honestly) think of him.
While the blame for this financial crisis can be spread fairly wide, the largest share of the blame must fall on the votrepreneurs (politicians) and the political system that produced them. After all, it was they who encouraged the growth of sub-prime lending so that they can win votes. That was how this mess got started.
We need to reform the system in such a manner that the personal interests of the political class coincides with the nation as a whole. Unfortunately, the current system makes it worthwhile for the votrepreneurs to behave irresponsibly and betray the very people they were elected to serve.
What can be done about it? The key is to empower the taxpayers whose money is used to bribe voters so that votrepreneurs can win office. Paying taxes is the chief contribution an average citizen makes to his country. Those who pay more taxes must have more say as to how that money is to be spent. That is why America's Founding Fathers restricted the vote to those who paid taxes. They understood the linkage between taxation and representation. That was why their complaint was, "Taxation without Representation is tyranny."
Today, all too often we have Representation without Taxation and it is also tyranny.Those who pay little or no taxes have more power to decide how to spend taxpayers' money than those who paid most of the taxes. The result is to make everyone poorer. In my earlier article, Lessons from the Ancients, I have proposed some solutions that can empower the taxpayers without sacrificing the one-man-one-vote system. Its time for reform or America will go the way of hyper-inflation and economic decline leading to the collapse of democracy itself.
The Billionaire Boss of Formula 1 racing stepped into a minefield when he publicly praised Adolf Hitler.
He said that Hitler could get things done and added that democracy "hasn't done a lot of good for many countries, including this one".
This is the sort of thing I feared when I started this blog. In my very first article, I warned that if democracies cannot solve its problems, people will turn to a strong man, a Hitler perhaps. This is something nobody wants.
While a lot of people condemn Bernie's words, especially Jews, it is really a cry for help. He can see, as I do, that democracy is not working to give people better lives. In fact, I would say that most democracies are disfunctional.
The problem is that the system is incapable of producing effective rational government. I have analysed why this is so in many artcles. So I won't go into detail. In Business School, students are taught a subject called, 'Organizational Behavior'.
Organizations must be designed with a reward/punishment system that encourages employees to behave in a manner that ensures the companies' survival. In the same way, democracies must have constitutions that rewards its political leaders that behaves in a manner that ensures the survival of the country.
This is not so today. The chief weaknesses are that it produces short term thinking, encourages disunity of the people, avoidance of necessary pain, promotes welfare states and a illogical immigration system. Sooner or later, the whole system will break down unless intelligent reforms are made.
But first, people must accept that the system is broken. I fear the words of John Adams 2 is coming true:
Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.
I am aware of the fact that some British people speak of Europe as “somewhere else,” to which they do not belong. In my opinion, Britain is very much a part of European civilization whether they want to admit so or not, but I am willing to grant them a special place within the European tradition. There is a reason why English became the first global lingua franca. While I focus mainly on the history of science in my essays these days, let us have a brief look at some of the political ideas and concepts championed by the British in the modern era.
The famous English legal charter known as the Magna Carta, issued in the year 1215 and written in Latin, limited kingly power in England and had major long-term political consequences when combined with later events. King John (1166-1216) had signed the Magna Carta unwillingly, and the heavy spending and foreign advisers of his son and successor Henry III (1207-1272) upset the nobles, who once again acted as a class under the leadership of the nobleman Simon de Montfort (1208-1265), Earl of Leicester. In 1258 they took over the government and elected a council of nobles which was called parliament or parlement, a French word meaning a “discussion meeting.”
This “parliament” took control of the treasury and forced Henry to get rid of his foreign advisers. Henry died in 1272 and his son Edward I (1239-1307) took the throne. He brought together the first real parliament. Simon de Montfort’s council included only nobles and had been able to make statues, written laws, and make political decisions, but the lords were less able to provide the king with money. Several kings had made arrangements for taxation before but, as David McDowall writes in An Illustrated History of Britain:
“Edward I was the first to create a ‘representative institution’ which could provide the money he needed. This institution became the House of Commons. Unlike the House of Lords it contained a mixture of ‘gentry’ (knights and other wealthy freemen from the shires) and merchants from the towns. These were the two broad classes of people who produced and controlled England’s wealth. In 1275 Edward I commanded each shire and each town (or borough) to send two representatives to his parliament.
These ‘commoners’ would have stayed away if they could, to avoid giving Edward money. But few dared risk Edward’s anger. They became unwilling representatives of their local community. This, rather than Magna Carta, was the beginning of the idea that there should be ‘no taxation without representation’, later claimed by the American colonists of the eighteenth century. In other parts of Europe, similar ‘parliaments’ kept all the gentry separate from the commoners. England was special because the House of Commons contained a mixture of gentry belonging to the feudal ruling class and merchants and freemen who did not. The co-operation of these groups, through the House of Commons, became important to Britain’s later political and social development.”
Merchants and country gentlemen were anxious to influence the king’s policies, as they wanted to protect their interests. When France threatened the important wool trade with Flanders they supported Edward III (1312-1377) in his war. During Edward III’s reign Parliament became organized in two parts: the Lords and the Commons, which represented the middle class; the really poor had no voice of their own in Parliament until the middle of the nineteenth century. Many European countries had similar kinds of parliaments in medieval times, but in most cases these institutions disappeared when feudalism died out. In England, however, the death of feudalism helped strengthen the House of Commons in Parliament.
Like the Civil War of 1642, the Glorious Revolution, as the political results of the events of 1688 were called, was completely unplanned. It was more a coup d’etat by the ruling elites than a revolution as such, but the fact that Parliament made William king, not by inheritance but by their choice, was indeed revolutionary. Parliament was clearly more powerful than the king and would remain so in the future. Its power over the monarch was written into the Bill of Rights in 1689. The king was from now on unable to raise taxes or keep an army without the agreement of Parliament, or to act against any MP for what he said in Parliament.
England was by the seventeenth century emerging as a great power whose influence increasingly stretched far beyond Europe. It was also one of the most intellectually creative regions in the world. After Isaac Newton had published his Principia in 1687, probably the single most influential text in the history of science, the English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704), a friend of Newton, in 1690 published his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, proclaiming the doctrine eventually known as the tabula rasa, where humans come into the world as blank slates. This was perfect for a world in which reason ruled and everything was possible. Human nature itself could be improved by applying reason, and history could take the direction of eternal progress. Locke published his Second Treatise of Government, stating that government is the servant of men, not the other way around, and that men possess natural rights, expanding on Thomas Hobbes’ concept of the social contract.
In the early 1700s, England's combination of economic prosperity, social stability and civil liberties had no equivalent anywhere in Continental Europe, at least not among the larger states; smaller states such as Switzerland is a different matter. The French philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) lived in England for several years in the 1720s and knew the English language well. He preferred British constitutional monarchy to French absolute monarchy. Voltaire praised England's virtues in Letters on the English from 1734 when he returned to Paris. This caused great excitement among French intellectuals for the ideas of Newton and Locke and the plays of Shakespeare, but their own philosophies went in a different direction.
That an important European city such as Paris was the home of a major intellectual movement is not too strange. It is more surprising that the smaller city of Edinburgh was so as well during the second half of the eighteenth century. What came to be known as the Scottish Enlightenment, whose effects were felt far beyond Scotland or Britain, produced a series of prominent intellectuals and scholars, including the pioneering modern geologist James Hutton (1726-1797), the philosopher David Hume (1711-1776), the brilliant, but famously eccentric economist Adam Smith (1723-1790) and the historian Adam Ferguson (1723-1816).
Adam Smith from the University of Glasgow in 1776 - at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, although he did not realize this at the time - published his Wealth of Nations, widely considered the first modern work of economics. Smith stressed meritocracy and introduced the principle of competitive advantage and the metaphor of the Invisible Hand. Above all he championed the idea that trade is not a zero-sum game but a win-win situation; he challenged the ancient assumption that wealth is a pie of fixed size over which everybody has to fight to get their share by showing that the size of the pie itself can grow through trade.
Scotland at this time had a good education system and very high literacy rates, as did the emerging Scandinavian nations. The American polymath Benjamin Franklin, who visited Edinburgh in 1759, remembered his stay as “the densest happiness” he had ever experienced. By 1762 Voltaire was writing, with a touch of malice, that “today it is from Scotland that we get rules of taste in all the arts, from epic poetry to gardening.” In England and the Netherlands, where political power was already in the hands of the merchant middle class, intellectual activity was directed toward analyzing the practical significance of this change.
In contrast, according to scholar Bruce G. Trigger, “The continuing political weakness of the French middle class in the face of Bourbon autocracy stimulated French intellectuals to use the idea of progress to reify change as a basis for challenging the legitimacy of an absolute monarch, who claimed to rule by divine will and protected the feudal economic privileges enjoyed by a politically moribund nobility. By proclaiming change to be both desirable and inevitable, Enlightenment philosophers called into question the legitimacy of the existing political and religious order. Beginning as an intellectual expression of discontent, the French Enlightenment gradually developed into a movement with revolutionary potential….The Scottish interest in Enlightenment philosophy reflected the close cultural ties between Scotland and France but also was stimulated by the unprecedented power and prosperity acquired to the Scottish urban middle class as a result of Scotland’s union with England in 1707. Southern Scotland was experiencing rapid development but the highland areas to the north remained politically, economically, and culturally underdeveloped. This contrast aroused the interest of Scottish intellectuals in questions relating to the origin, development, and modernization of institutions.”
Scottish intellectuals made very important contributions to science and to our understanding of the modern world, but it was the more revolutionary version of Enlightenment philosophy which developed in France that would become popular among the middle classes seeking more political power for themselves in Europe and in North America.
The sad part when writing this is that while Britain was once admired for its political system and was rightfully hailed as a beacon of liberty, today Britain is one of the most politically repressive countries in the Western world, which is saying a lot given how bad Politically Correct censorship is in the entire Western world these days. Britain today is a Multicultural police state where sharia, Islamic law, is quite literally treated as the law of the land. I suppose there is a strange sort of symmetry in this: Britain was one of the first countries in the West to embrace political liberty and is now among the first to leave political liberty behind.
Welfare Excuses: the causes of multiculturalism and western self-loathing
Many writers are openly baffled by European Society’s self-loathing, currently manifesting as multiculturalism and political correctness. And resentment at the fierceness with which these orthodoxies are enforced.
Some more-or-less random examples:
· A 14-year-old girl arrested, fingerprinted, photographed, held in a police cell for 3 ½ hours, and questioned by police on suspicion of committing a race-based public order offence because she had, Oliver Twist-like, they had to approach a teacher to ask if she could sit at a different people for the science lesson because the other three children at the table only spoke Urdu.
· A 10-year-old boy (just inside the age of criminal responsibility, “doli incapax” ending at age 10) arrested, charged, and brought before a judge for responding with “Paki” to taunts from an 11-year-old boy that he was a “skunk” and a “Teletubby”.
· The makers of the Channel 4 documentary “Undercover Mosque” investigated subjected to a year-long police investigation for themselves investigating extremism and mosques.
· Public funding of exclusive organisations for migrant populations, combined with the public prohibition of any such organisation by the host population. What reason, other than exclusiveness, could there be for the “Muslim Boy Scouts”? It isn’t hard to imagine the firmness with which the state squash a Non-Muslim Boy Scouts troupe.
You can find similar stories most weeks, usually accompanied by “How did our elites get to be so witless?” commentaries. To say nothing of the comments section when these reports are published online.
Politicians ignore this frustration at their peril, perhaps in the belief that only eccentrics comment on news stories. But things are reversing: those not baffled by such stories are now the unusual ones.
In this essay I try to trace how such wretched attitudes arise in the first place, and why the wider population tolerate them. The source and extent of the problem need to be revealed if we are to cure it.
The argument I shall put forward is that the welfare state and its justifying philosophy, collectivism, is at the root of western self-loathing. As follows:
· the majority of voters want to keep the welfare money flowing;
· they, therefore, generally endorse the welfare statist philosophy that I call collectivism;
· collectivist entitlements extend to ‘cultural’ minorities as well as ‘disadvantaged’ ones (i.e. most voters);
· multiculturalism is, therefore, a further useful attack on morality, which is anti-collectivism.
I also try to summarise some notable writers’ theories. And I try to guess what will happen if and when welfare shrinks or disappears altogether.
I refer mainly to “self-loathing “, with “multiculturalism” and “political correctness” as offshoots, although I occasionally refer to these things in their own right.
Self-loathing has is historically rare, but not unheard of. After a period of failure, e.g. Weimar, cultures have indulged in self recrimination. But even this has usually been a prelude to a resurgent ambition. I can think of no society which, from a position of physical and political strength, has adopted so rigorous a prejudice against its values.
Surprisingly, few of the first-class thinkers who warn us about cultural relativism and multiculturalism have convincingly explained its cause.
I try to give an overview below of the best explanations for cultural relativism so far: Melanie Phillips, Fjordman, Mark Steyn, Theodore Dalrymple, Bruce Thornton, Walter Lacquer, Paul Gottfried, and even Geert Wilders. Brevity makes it difficult to do the writers justice. I would recommend reading any of them.
A brilliantly articulate and clear thinker. Having suffered years of vilification, she shows no smugness that her warnings are becoming received wisdom.
She puts our enervating political culture down to the general philosophy of relativism amongst intellectual elites, and a lack of appropriate pride in our institutions and traditions. Whilst it is hard to disagree with this view, I think it restates the situation rather than explains it. It would be wrong to call her reasoning tautologous, but moral and cultural relativism describe the texture of western self-loathing rather than its roots.
I love this writer for the quality of his prose, his precise humour, and his observant irony. Theodore Dalrymple combines farsightedness with moderation.
He explains political correctness as “communist propaganda writ small”. Marxism, unlike fascism, survived its denouement, and has retained its attraction to intellectuals because of the status it gives them , and they have evolved it into a more resilient form.
Theodore Dalrymple sees the political elites’ attempts to make the public financially dependent as one of their tools:
Of course, the majority of Britons are still not direct dependents of the state. “Only” about a third of them are: the 25 percent of the working population who are public employees (the government has increased them by nearly 1 million since 1997, no doubt in order to boost its election chances); and the 8 percent of the adult population either unemployed or registered as disabled, and thus utterly dependent on government handouts. But the state looms large in all our lives, not only in its intrusions, but in our thoughts: for so thoroughly have we drunk at the wells of collectivism that we see the state always as the solution to any problem, never as an obstacle to be overcome.
Also their attempt to reduce belief in European culture:
While I have no objection to the children of immigrants speaking their parents’ native tongue at home, or to the private decision of anyone to master any language he chooses, a private choice is very different from the government’s ideological decision to offer such languages (of minor global importance) in the state schools. How not to see such a decision as deliberately subversive of belief in the primacy of European culture—with which, after all, the immigrants have chosen to throw in their lot?
These points strike me as observations rather than explanations, although they go further than merely describing the problem. They do not, for instance, explain why the attraction for Marxism has remained. There are other doctrines – e.g. platonic aristocracy – which intellectuals could have, and haven’t, used to their own ends.
Nor do they explain why the non-elites, the voters, have allowed political correctness – an unpalatable fact that commentators generally skirt around. The traditional British scepticism for egg-heads, and the public scorn that politicians have long attracted, are poor soil for a self-serving elite. It seems unlikely that British voters tolerate soft-core Marxism for the privilege of paying for an unnecessary class of academics.
Whilst I would agree with Theodore Dalrymple about the anaesthetic effect of political correctness, and the dependence of the welfarised public, I don’t think these factors are enough to force the public to get themselves robbed. Theodore Dalrymple seems to me to come close to the tempting fiction that the electorate are the victims of elite manipulation.
Marxism does much to explain the mentality of western self-loathing, but doesn’t explain how that self-loathing arises.
In his devastating “Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt: Toward a Secular Theocracy”, Paul Gottfried states that multiculturalism denies civil society its independence by casting it into competing groups. All of them are subject to the state’s authority, and dependent upon its patronage. To this end the managerial state imposes ideological orthodoxy, which becomes state religion. Heretics fare badly, and there is “the substitution of designated victims for the older adoration of religious martyrs”. “Third World, gender, and lifestyle victims" become the new “suffering just”.
I think Paul Gottfried is exactly right about the guilt-trip effects of multiculturalism, and the state’s wish to undermine cultural independence. But I think he too succumbs to the temptation to blame the elites and passing over the role of the public.
This is a similar to Theodore Dalrymple’s belief that multiculturalism is a deliberate government policy. There is no doubting multiculturalism’s usefulness to Europe’s unscrupulousness elites, but I don’t think this view explains public tolerance of it.
The brilliantly sensitive and scholarly defender of our western heritage. His conclusions – e.g. that we have “no intellectual cadre that can think” – are the more devastating for being thoughtfully researched.
I think his view is similar to Theodore Dalrymple’s. For him, “cultural Marxism” is a Gramscian strain that survived the fall of communism, and which our treacherous elites promote for their own selfish ends. I think he is right. But I wish he went further. Like others, he seems to avoid the conclusion that those elites, whilst self-serving, may be doing the public’s bidding. To be fair, he has expressed doubt that democracy is up to the challenge (“Democracy not Working”), but I can’t find anything from him that alters his basic view that we are duped by the elites.
His views and recommendations are clear and consistent. Like Churchill, he sees the concrete in front of us (God knows, it isn’t difficult). One must admire his sense of purpose, living as he does under effective house arrest, only able to see his partner once a week, menaced and demonised by the collusive Dutch state.
His speeches to the Dutch Parliament protest rule by a cowardly and self-serving elite, dedicated to handing over Western civilisation, as an outgoing President might concentrate on handing over the Oval Office. In a 2008 budget debate he stressed the disconnection between “the leftist canal-zone” (the high-price areas near to the Amsterdam canals where left-wing celebrities and politicians tend to live) and “The other Netherlands (which) consists of people who have to pay the bills”.
As one might expect from a democratic politician who still values aspects of state provision, this line avoids criticism of the electorate. Elite swindlers dupe the unsuspecting tax-paying public, who have not queried the bill yet.
A virtuoso and entertaining writer who mordantly nails hypocrisy early on. And a knack for getting things right that pokes his detractors in the eye.
I think his explanation goes furthest so far. He sees multiculturalism as an absurd symptom of “civilisational exhaustion”. And the most civilisationally exhausted, Europe, is the most absurdly multiculturalist. I think that his argument is right, so far as it goes.
But I think that, like Melanie Phillips’s view, this argument is a little circular. It would be absurd to describe self-loathing and cultural relativism as a symptom of “civilisational vigour”. I don’t think “Civilisational exhaustion” explains PC multiculturalism so much as it describes it.
But he goes further by tracing the exhaustion back to the problem of deathbed demographics – “demography is destiny”. I still have my doubts about this explanation, however.
First, I’m not sure which is the cause and which the effect. Are deathbed demographics the result of civilisational exhaustion, or the other way around? And where does the primary cause come from? Perhaps it is just a feature of age – western civilisation has had a good long run and has had enough of leading. But Mark Steyn, rightly, has little time for such arguments about historical inevitability.
In “America Alone”, he suggests it is the result of the luxury of American military protection since World War I, but I’m not sure he thinks that is the root of the problem. If it were, that would not explain why America appears to share some of Europe’s self-loathing?
Second, whilst demography is a plausible explanation I think it is an oversimplification. It doesn’t explain why multiculturalism, of all things, should be a symptom of shrinking demographics. For instance, inter-war Germany had been experiencing a demographic decline, which the Nazis tried to reverse. Although that policy failed, Nazi Germany cannot be cited as an example of cultural relativism. Similarly, Japan and China have deathbed demographics, and yet neither of them is falling for the cultural self-loathing and relativism of Western Europe. Japan, if less confident than in, say, the 1980s, still has low levels of immigration, and virtually no Islamic immigration, and shows no sign of abandoning its orderly culture. China on the other hand appears to be combining a demographic crunch with civilisational resurgence, and is cited by Mark Steyn as an example of the ‘strong horse’ feared and respected by Jihadis. Russia has, if anything, even worse demographics, owing to disease and low male life expectancy, but shows no wish to abase itself. And whilst the British birth rate is significantly higher than Germany’s, PC multiculturalism appears to be higher in Britain. And America, whose population passed the 300 million mark two years ago, is playing catch-up with Britain in the self-loathing stakes.
I’m exaggerating slightly. And I think that there is merit to Mark Steyn’s view that low demographics are a key factor. But, those demographics look more like a reinforcer of self-loathing than its main cause.
Collectivism - the philosophical poison
The European welfare state forces higher earners to subsidise consumption for lower earners. At least half of all wealth created in European countries is spent by the state, a massive vested interest. It means a good deal for the lower-earning majority of voters.
This is a form of extortion, albeit highly proceduralised. It is not done voluntarily just because it is required by democratic vote. If tax were voluntarily then it would not be tax but generosity, and the taxman, police, courts, and bailiffs would not exist. Tax isn’t freely given and you can’t opt out of it. And democracy cannot legitimise extortion any more than murder.
People say that tax is voluntary because they approve of it, and think that no reasonable person could object to so fair a system. The reasoning is similar to Soviet dogma: I like the system, anyone who doesn’t is irrational, you can’t get out of it, and you will go along with it or face punishment.
Yet the world of tax and welfare is more sophisticated than a mafia racket. It needs wealth creation to continue, and wealth creation requires voluntary motivation. So welfare collectivism needs a widespread acceptance of orthodox opinion. It requires a justifying ideology.
Monarchies use the ideology of the divine right of kings. Military dictators use the national imperative. Communists use the march of history. Welfare democracy uses collectivism.
Hence the misuse of language: “Compassion” – as if forcing a minority, at the point of a truncheon, to pay for things you want is a compassionate act; “social justice” – a phrase without meaning except to imply that everyone should have similar incomes; “giving money to the rich” – as if the state taking less is an act of giving; “investment” – as if it makes financial sense to be forced to buy consumables for others. These terms are used to justify theft by tax. Their common denominator is collectivism.
By collectivism I mean the idea that group rights overpower morality. It replaces rights and duties based on your motives, actions and effects, with rights and duties based on your group identity, particularly your victim identity.
Collectivism is the philosophical poison at the heart of Western self-loathing. Its gradual de-coupling of entitlement and behaviour has permeated welfare democracy for almost a century. The rift between collectivism and morality puts the global fault line in Europe – a new Iron Curtain of the mind.
Collectivism has been surprisingly successful. The meaningless language it uses is widely accepted at face value. Collective wishes trump individual rights, especially property rights.
The corollary of welfare collectivism is that traditional morality is bad because it lacked “social justice”, “compassion”, and “investment”, and because it “gave money to the rich”. The injustice of life without the welfare state is taken for granted, and people adopt this view intuitively. And there is no shortage of self-serving intellectuals to flesh out this crude orthodoxy: that western culture was dull and unspectacular; that individual responsibility is oppressive; that self-restraint is repression; that self-reliance is impossible.
This collectivist mentality extends to a variety of victim groups, including religious minorities. This may irritate Europeans who find themselves on the wrong end of minority entitlements, e.g. the right not to be offended, but most will tolerate this if it helps keep the welfare flowing.
Multiculturalism’s power derives from guilt. European shame following the holocaust is disabling – Europe died philosophically at Auschwitz. A century ago, popular history focused on the high points of your history: the defeat of the Spanish Armada, Trafalgar and Waterloo. Today, it focuses on the Nazis. And guilt. Multiculturalists are not slow to take up this opportunity.
See for instance the calculated comments of the head of the Muslim Council of Britain, on the eve of Remembrance Sunday 2007, that Britain was becoming like Nazi Germany. Remembrance Sunday, being the most solemn day in the secular UK calendar, is intended in part to honour Britons who fought to defeat Nazi Germany.
Or, in 2000, Jack Straw’s (the UK Home Secretary and a major exponent of multiculturalism) comments that the English are "potentially very aggressive, very violent" and "increasingly articulating their Englishness". It makes no difference to have fought against violent nationalism: guilt is desired.
Or, from the other side, take this quote from Martin Wolf, a respected Financial Times analyst:
“The most important conclusion is that one's assessment of the desirability of sizeable immigration is a matter more of values than of economics. It is not a choice between wealth and poverty, but of the sort of country one desires to inhabit.”
‘A Matter of More Than Economics’, Martin Wolf, The Financial Times, 13 April 2004
The value of guilt is that it overpowers opposition. Self-reproach means that any accusation of chauvinism, or “being right wing”, is enough to end discussion. This has been recognised as a law of debate since 1990: Godwin’s Law briefly states that “As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one” and the discussion is effectively ended.
Multiculturalism is, therefore, a very efficient method of overcoming opposition to state management. This is why it is used so frequently – see, for instance, Pim Fortuyn, here, and here – to vilify opponents.
The general public don’t have much enthusiasm for the absurdities of multiculturalism, or particularly enjoy the denigration of their history. But most will put up with it as part of the drive for “services”. Not because they like it but because it is useful.
This is the most unpalatable aspect of my analysis. I appear to blame the majority of my fellow citizens and, therefore, democracy itself. This is controversial because commentators attach great importance to the goodness of democracy.
It would be unfair of me to caricature my neighbours as selling out a towering cultural heritage for a slew of welfare. If you look closer, it isn’t the majority of the public who are the cause, so much as man’s tendency to self-interest, to allow his short-term gain to prevail. This seems to me an inevitable, even a natural, tendency, and one that I share with almost everyone else.
If blame is appropriate, then I go along with the writers I began with by placing it on Europe’s elites. They are not agents but representatives and trustees. Yet the more closely you try to examine their motives, the more self-serving they appear.
What does all this mean now that things appear to be starting to come apart?
If PC multiculturalism stems from the financial transfers of the welfare state, we can expect it to continue whilst the welfare state continues. But we can also expect conflict as limits to the tax take become apparent. If we can no longer increase overall tax-take by punishing higher earners, then that hostility will transfer to other groups competing for the welfare. Each group will have the incentive to blame the next for reductions in the welfare pot, and to cast the other as undeserving.
We can expect this scramble for welfare to fall out along ethnic lines. Partly because of the disproportionate consumption by Islamic populations; partly because European populations don’t see immigrant groups as having such strong collectivist entitlements as themselves; partly because multiculturalism entrenches ethnic entitlement; and partly because the European ethnic divide is so deep. This probably explains the current unpopularity of multiculturalism.
If PC multiculturalism stems from the welfare state then the disappearance of the welfare state will transform self-loathing into a chauvinism which, having heard enough foolish talk, is deaf to reason.
If PC multiculturalism stems from the welfare state then ethnic hostility will not be the primary or immediate cause of European breakdown but will be its harbinger and accelerant.
I hope not. It is one thing to write words like “ethnic hostility” and “civil breakdown”. It is quite another to see those things in reality.
It should be obvious from the above that I have deep misgivings about welfare democracy, and that I think collectivism and its mutations are poisonous. As we watch the breakdown of European multiculturalism, and the welfare collectivism that gives rise to it, I think this view will prevail on some others.
If these people, however few, can take the opportunity to devise ways to live without the state, then the trauma will not have been wasted. And the stature of man, which the western cultural achievement represents, can be renewed.