democracy, morality, war and totalitarianism

One of the problems with democracy is that it tends to make everything everybody’s business. And if everything is everybody’s business then everything is the state’s business. As a result there is a slow but inexorable drift towards soft totalitarianism.

Democracy inevitably extends the range of things with which government is concerned. Everything becomes a political issue (today even marriage and the weather are political issues) and if something is a political issue then the government is supposed to do something about it.

Democracies also make everything into moral issues. The government is not only supposed to do something about everything, they’re supposed to do something which will make us all feel more virtuous.

Before democracy it was considered desirable that governments should govern wisely but nobody really expected the government to be a force for morality. Morality was the province of churches, and of the family. Morality was mostly enforced by social pressure. If you ran off with another man’s wife you could expect a great deal of social disapproval but you didn’t expect the government to have you arrested. Governments did enforce some moral rules but it was not really regarded as a core function of government.

Today’s morality is political correctness and there is a terrifying acceptance of the idea that governments have not merely a right but a duty to enforce that morality. But it’s not just political correctness – increasingly we accept the idea that the government should regulate every area of our lives, even down to what we eat.

Bizarrely, today even foreign policy is supposed to be moral. If you had suggested back in the 18th century that foreign policy should be conducted on moral lines people would have thought you were a lunatic. Even war is now supposed to be moral. Wars have to be moral crusades. Of course if a war is a moral crusade then any methods are acceptable (since the enemy is regarded as being evil), which is why democracies tend to be quite brutal when waging war.

This comes about because foreign policy and war are now everybody’s business. That’s the democratic way. Therefore the objective must be to make us feel virtuous. In fact of course there is no way that foreign policy can be both effective and moral. And in the course of human history very very few wars have ever been waged for moral purposes. Unfortunately when you turn wars into moral crusades you end up with more wars, and more vicious wars.

One of the reasons I tend to prefer monarch (real monarchy not silly pretend constitutional monarchy nonsense) is that kings have never been overly worried about imposing morality. As long as his subjects pay their taxes and obey the law he’s not usually interested in prying into their lives.

I’m no libertarian but there is something to be said for governments that concentrate on sensible policy rather than moral policy.

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a return to the 50s – an impossible dream?

Anyone who believes in traditionalism has to face the reality that the prospects for traditionalism are not good. The fact that there are large numbers of people who identify as “conservatives” is no help at all given that the overwhelming majority of these people are simply right-wing liberals. They accept the liberal program pretty much in its entirety. The fact that there are still reasonable numbers of people who identify as Christians is no help either since most modern Christians accept the liberal program to a horrifyingly large degree.
Of course there is always the chance that a major crisis will trigger a collapse of the current order but given that traditionalists have no established support base from which to work there’s no guarantee that even a collapse of the existing order will usher in a traditionalist revival.
So what do we do if a full-scale traditionalist revival proves to be impossible? Is any compromise possible?
We’ve learnt from bitter experience that compromise with liberals is dangerous. It’s a concept that liberals generally speaking do not believe in. Any attempt by traditionalists to compromise with liberals would have to be made from a position of strength, and traditionalists would need to display an implacable determination to stake out positions of principle and defend them.
What kind of compromise could be possible anyway? If you’re a full-blown traditionalist you realise that the rot set in in the 18th century with the Enlightenment. A return to a pre-Enlightenment society seems like a very remote possibility. What about a return to the 1950s? that would be OK wouldn’t it? 
The 50s weren’t too bad. Christian churches were still Christian. The congregations were mostly actual Christians and there were even actual Christians to be found in the hierarchies. Marriage was still fairly healthy. Most people got married and most people made a real effort to make their marriages work. There was plenty of pre-marital sex but that’s to a large extent exactly what it was – couples who were intending to get married jumping the gun. Lamentable but not disastrous. Divorce was still fairly unusual. Mothers actually raised their children. And those children were still being raised in a moderately satisfactory way. Schools were not vehicles for homosexual propaganda. Traditional sex roles still existed after a fashion. A woman could admit to being a housewife without being sneered at. Multiculturalism had not been invented. Homosexuals enjoyed a fair degree of de facto toleration as long as they were discreet, and as long as they refrained from proselytising and kept away from children. Children in the 50s had not been sexualised. Crime rates were low. People still believed they could trust the police, and even more surprisingly in most cases they could.
The trouble with a restoration of the 50s is that under the surface there were forces eating away the foundations of society. The process of weeding out believes in believers in traditional values had already begun in the universities, the media and the entertainment industries and anti-traditionalist were slowly gaining a foothold in the churches. There were two further dangerous anti-traditionalist forces – democracy and capitalism. Democracy isn’t something that has suddenly become broken. It was a bad idea from the outset and representative democracy was never workable. Voters make bad decisions and the whole process is largely a sham anyway. 
Capitalism is another problem. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the view that capitalism should be destroyed. I think it should be controlled. Rigidly controlled. Difficult, but not necessarily impossible.
So the 50s could never be restored in their entirety because the society of the 50s was a society already programmed for self-destruction. A society with many of the good features of that decade might be possible but mechanisms would need to be found to prevent cultural infiltration, democracy and capitalism from doing their work of destruction.
It’s probably not a likely scenario but perhaps it does no harm to toss ideas around.

the crisis of Late Democracy

You will often hear people talk about the age of Late Capitalism. These people are almost always those who identify as being on the left but they do have a point. Capitalism has mutated. The capitalism of today bears little resemblance to the capitalism of the age of Henry Ford.
What has been less noticed is that we now live in the age of Late Democracy. Democracy of course was always a sham. The purpose of democratic institutions is to thwart the will of the people. What has changed, and it has changed dramatically over the past twenty years,  is that the mask has been dropped. In the past great effort was put into maintaining the pretense that democracy expressed the will of the people. This is no longer felt to be necessary.
Political leaders like Tony Blair, David Cameron, Barack Obama, François Hollande, Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau and Malcolm Turnbull do not even pretend to care about what the voters want or think. 
The media no longer makes any attempt to hide the fact that it manipulates elections. Members of the real elite, the international finance elite, openly buy and sell politicians. Bureaucrats and judges openly despise ordinary people and openly defy the will of the people.
The contempt for ordinary people is palpable. And it is venomous. And it is openly expressed.
The question is whether this is sustainable in the long term. Governments have always felt the need for some sort of legitimacy. This was true even in the days when kings ruled rather than serving as figureheads. A king would think twice before taking any action that he knew would be repugnant to his people. A king reigned by the Grace of God but it was clearly understood that he was in a real sense the servant of his people. If he lost the confidence of the people he could be, and often was, deposed. Such a king no longer had any legitimacy and thus could no longer claim to rule by the Grace of God.
Even dictators usually only survive for as long as they serve the interests of the nation and the people. Like kings they can be, and often are, deposed.
We now have a new situation in which we are ruled by an elite whose claim to legitimacy is increasingly sketchy. Rule by a class which openly expresses its contempt for the people is also new.
Of course our current elites have much greater power in their hands than any king or dictator. Their control over the media is total and the power of the media is unprecedented in history. They control education. They control the police and the military. They control the “intelligence communities” which are now quite blatantly employed for the purpose of social control. They also control the economy. If you oppose them they can destroy your livelihood. They can destroy your family. They can also simply have you locked up and they are increasingly willing to do so.
In spite of all this power held by the elites the situation is inherently unstable. It can only continue as long as the elites remain united, and history shows that there is no guarantee that this will continue indefinitely. There are always groups that are on the margins of the elite and they would be happy to be on the inside, and in order to achieve this they will quite cheerfully displace existing members of the elites. New groups arise that want their share of the action and again they’re happy to take the place of existing elite groups.
The continuance of this situation also depends on the ability of the elites to navigate crises, and crises are by their nature impossible to predict.
Ruling classes also become, in time, decadent.
A ruling class without legitimacy is in a poor position to weather such storms, both internal and external. Whether or not our current ruling class can do so remains to be seen.

democracy, real and imaginary

I’ve often had harsh things to say about democracy so perhaps it’s about time I clarified my position. My disparaging remarks on this topic are directed towards representative democracy, which of course has absolutely no connection whatsoever with actual democracy.
Actual democracy means that the people get to make the decisions and to choose their own destiny. Representative democracy is an elaborate mechanism designed to insure that this never happens. 
Quite apart from the fact that representative democracy always leads to corruption it has a much worse effect – it creates a political class and that political class has no loyalties to anything except its own interests (or the interests of those who bankroll them). The political class does not in any way identify with the nation or the people. They despise both.
These problems appear to be inherent in any system of representative democracy.
Actual democracy, or direct democracy, has its own problems but that’s another topic.

the 19th century roots of our cultural malaise

The great tragedy of western civilisation is that its very strengths are its fatal weaknesses. Openness, innovation, science, democracy and freedom are all no doubt wonderful things but they seem to lead inevitably to corruption, degeneracy, nihilism, despair, a loss of faith and finally cultural suicide.
Cultural marxism is often blamed for undermining the foundations of our civilisation but the process was already under way before cultural marxism began. By the time cultural marxism was in a position to exert any real influence the undermining was well advanced. 
One of the early manifestations of decline was the rise of modernism in art and literature. The exaltation of ugliness and squalor combined with an extreme hostility to traditional values made modernism a potent if subtle engine of destruction. Our cultural dynamism led to art and literature that corrupted and demoralised. Art and literature headed for the gutter, where they have remained ever since. Modernism produced music that was unlistenable, novels that were unreadable and art that was impossible to look at without being appalled. And modernism had already begun to exert its pernicious influence in the late 19th century, long predating cultural marxism.
Science has brought many benefits but it gave rise to a bleak inhuman and mechanistic worldview devoid of hope. It led us inexorably down the path to nihilism.
The growth of capitalism gave us prosperity but it destroyed communities. Rural areas became relatively depopulated while urban areas became hotbeds of crime and degeneracy.
Feminism in the 19th century promised to emancipate women but it enslaved them while destroying families.
Medicine made many advances in the 19th century but the medical profession developed delusions of grandeur, thinking that every social problem could be turned into a medical problem. As a result it gave birth to pseudosciences like psychiatry and psychology.
Democracy was supposed to usher in an era of unparalleled freedom. It has slowly but surely destroyed our freedoms and corrupted our governments. Democracy and corruption are like inseparable twins. 
The rise of mass media began in the 19th century with the explosive growth of newspapers. There were fond hopes that this would lead to healthy open debate. It led to propaganda and manipulation. Democracy and mass media were to a large extent responsible for the increasing madness of politics, as governments became steadily more short-sighted, cynical and reckless. This madness led to western civilisation’s first serious suicide attempt in 1914.
Cultural marxism succeeded so well because it took advantage of weaknesses and vulnerabilities that were already all too apparent. Cultural marxism could not have destroyed a healthy civilisation. The seeds of destruction were already present in the West. Cultural marxism did not plant those seeds although it certainly cultivated them assiduously.
If the remnants of our culture are to be saved we will need to address its inherent weaknesses and tendency to self-destruction. 

can democracy be made to work?

Regular readers will know that I’m sceptical of democracy. To me democracy is simply a marketplace for the buying and selling of political favours. Politicians sell their services. Sometimes they sell their services for cash. This kind of blatant corruption is actually the least terrible kind. Sometimes politicians sell their services in exchange for campaign funding. This is worse but it’s still not the most pernicious element of the system.
More often politicians sell their services in exchange for votes. In other words they sell their services in exchange for power. Voters sell their votes in return for political favours. This is the real problem. It’s like prostitution – it corrupts both the buyer and the seller.
The theory behind democracy is that voters will vote for the party or candidate who will do the best job for the country. This is pure fantasy. People vote for the party or candidate who will do the most for them personally, or for the particular interest group with which they identify.
There are conservatives who think that democracy works reasonably well in an ethnically and culturally homogenous society. There is some truth to this. If a society is divided along ethnic and cultural lines the problems with democracy will be exacerbated. However, even in an ethnically and culturally homogenous society democracy (as we know it) will still fail. No society is truly homogenous. There will always be interest groups. There will always be farming lobbies, mining lobbies, trade unions and countless other interest groups intent on getting the best deals for themselves. There will always be groups that coalesce around some ideology. There will always be groups that self-identify along cultural lines, or class lines. There will always be regional interests. The voters of Lancashire will put the interests of Lancashire ahead of the interests of Britain. The voters of Tasmania will put the interests of Tasmania ahead of the interests of Australia. There will always be special interest groups. Democracy still ends up being a corrupt system of patronage.
The question is – is there any way that democracy can be made workable? Do we need to throw out the baby with the bath water?
There are a few things that might help. Governments in Australia are always complaining about how difficult it is to pass new laws since they need to get them passed by both houses of parliament and it is almost impossible for a government to control a stable  majority in both houses. In actual fact that is a feature, not a bug, of the Australian political system. Changing the law and passing new laws should be difficult. It should be very difficult indeed. It should be difficult because mostly the laws do not need to be changed and most new laws are either entirely unnecessary or positively dangerous. If you can’t have sensible government it’s better to have weak government.
What we really need to do is to return to being a constitutional monarchy. At the moment we are not a constitutional monarchy in any meaningful sense of the term. A true constitutional monarchy should have a balance of power between Crown and Parliament. The function of the Crown should be to protect us from the follies and the corruption of politicians, and from the follies and short-sightedness of the electorate. A monarch with the ability to dissolve Parliament and force a new election at any time on his own initiative and with the ability to veto unwise laws would have saved us from many unwise legislative stupidities. The royal veto would not need to be absolute. You could allow a mechanism for overruling such a veto. A good mechanism would be to allow a prime minister in such a situation to ask for a dissolution of Parliament. If he can win the subsequent election, get the law through the new Parliament and then have it passed by a referendum the veto would be nullified. If the law was genuinely necessary, or at least harmless, that would not be a problem. If the law was unnecessary, or dangerous, there’s a very good chance it would fail at some stage of the process.
It would be cumbersome. That’s the beauty of it. A king who exercised his veto too often would become very unpopular so it’s likely that it would only be exercised sparingly. A prime minister who tried to force through potentially harmful legislation would almost certainly find himself out of office.
The essence of a workable political system is that it should be based on a genuine balance of powers and it should err on the side of caution. No current western democracy fulfills those two conditions. A truly workable system is just about possible but it will require some major changes.

more on the perils of voting

Bruce Charlton was of course spot on in his comment to my previous post. Voting is not just a poor way to choose governments; it is potentially catastrophic to western civilisation.
So what can be done? Any proposal to abolish voting would be met with howls of outrage and would have no chance whatsoever of even getting a fair hearing, much less being adopted.
That would seem to leave only one alternative – to do the deed by stealth (doing things by stealth being of course the favoured method of the Left and one that has almost invariably brought them success). The idea would be to water down democracy. The best way of doing this might well be by pushing the idea of restricting the franchise. A very good start would be raising the voting age to 21. If voting is a dumb idea then giving the vote to teenagers is an even dumber idea. Personally I think 25 would be an even better minimum voting age, but 21 would at least be a step in the right direction.
Any suggestion that the franchise should be restricted in any other way would be unimaginably difficult to sell (at least openly). One suggestion that might have a chance (admittedly an extremely small chance) would be to impose a delay on granting the vote to immigrants – to restrict the vote to immigrants who have been citizens for ten years or more. 
I have seen other suggestions floated, such as removing the right to vote from anyone who is directly dependent on the public purse. This would mean not just those on welfare but also politicians, public servants, school teachers, employees of NGOs and anyone living on arts grants. This idea has some merit, although any measure that discriminates against the poor and the uneducated might well backfire – the sad truth is that educated middle-class people often make voting decisions that are every bit as stupid, short-sighted, irrational and self-serving as the voting decisions of the poor and uneducated. 
Any system that puts more power into the hands of our urban elites would almost certainly have disastrous consequences, those elites being the most dangerous enemies of our civilisation. 
While restricting the vote (with the unstated long-term objective of restricting it further and further) would be difficult enough the real challenge is even greater. If voting doesn’t work, what system should be used to choose governments? My own preference would be a constitutional monarchy, but a constitutional monarchy in which the monarch has much greater and more effective powers than is the case with present-day constitutional monarchies. Monarchy might not be a perfect form of government but it does have some very real advantages. Monarchs have to take a much longer-term view than elected politicians. For a politician the long term is the next election, a few years away. For a monarch the long term is the reign of his or her successor, possibly twenty or thirty years away. No monarch wants to leave a ruined nation to his heir. Monarchs are also more or less immune from corruption. Even more importantly, monarchs are unlikely to be panicked by opinion polls. At present constitutional monarchies are ineffective because the  monarchs do no more than serve as figureheads – they should have vastly greater powers. Possibly even the power to appoint prime ministers (and indeed whole ministries) from outside parliament and more or less independently of parliament.
It all sounds like something that is unlikely to happen. Except that it is happening. The Left is already abolishing democracy by stealth. The EU is a spectacular example of effectively undemocratic government but in almost every western country power is being gradually and surreptitiously transferred to unelected bodies. The problem is that the power is being concentrated in the hands of a self-selected self-serving entirely unaccountable unelected elite that has as its objective the destruction of western civilisation as we know it. Democracy is already being phased out but what conservatives need to do is to make some attempt to ensure that it gets replaced by something better, rather than something worse. Supra-national government by bureaucratic monstrosities like the EU or the UN would be much much worse.
As our civilisation faces more and more serious crises (either real crises or pretend crises like global warming manufactured by the political and media elites) the pressure on democracy will increase. It would be wise for conservatives to be prepared, and more crucially to be willing to put up an actual fight to ensure that the end of democracy will be a net benefit for or civilisation rather than its death knell. Given that conservatives have never yet put up a real fight on any issue that actually mattered I am afraid I am not very confident, but on the other hand history is inherently unpredictable so perhaps there is some hope after all.