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The Scaling Problem in Democracy
Too big to NOT fail
In today’s post, I’ll be explaining why it is that we don’t really have an American republic anymore and why we won’t be getting one back anytime soon. To do this, however, we’ll need to address the question of democracy, which as Hans-Hermann Hoppe noted is the god that failed. He calls it this because many in our modern world treat “democracy” as an idol which cannot be questioned, even as it consistently malfunctions and makes the modern world worse and worse. Now, I’m sure many normie conservatives are right now rolling out that trite old standby “We’re a republic not a democracy!” But…we’re really not, or at least not anymore. Indeed, we haven’t really been one since even before the Civil War, as there were already growing trends toward the vast broadening of the suffrage (beginning with universal manhood suffrage) as early as the 1830s in some states.
The problem is that in a liberal republican form of government (which is what our Founders bequeathed, as opposed to the more reasonable form of aristocratic republic that was seen in ancient and medieval times), there is always going to be a drive towards greater and greater extension of mass participation. As such, the devolution of this type a republic into a democracy (which is really just an oligarchy that uses mass participation as a legitimising structure for elite goals), is almost inevitable via mechanisms I will describe below. Through its use of democratic features such as elections and public opinion, liberal republicanism will fairly quickly be subverted and turned into a vehicle for oligarchic manipulation, even when a particular system (such as the American one) attempts to use written constitutions and law as a brake on such tendencies. This is pretty much the uniform testimony of post-Enlightenment republican across the western world.
Nevertheless, many Americans, especially, have this idealised image of democracy as the small townhall meeting, local citizens gathered together to hash out local policies through reasoned debate. And as a model for local government, that (in and of itself) really isn’t all that bad of a paradigm. But what people generally don’t realise is that this democracy has a practically insurmountable scale up problem. What works in a local school board or rural county’s school gymnasium seems to break down once you start getting too many people involved. As you approach the level of states containing millions of people and continent-spanning empires with hundreds of millions, it quickly degenerates into an oligarchy of the increasingly unfit.
For democratic structures to really work, they pretty much require the ability to exercise face-to-face trust. People dealing directly with each other, or at least within a milieu where there are only one or two degrees of separation between everyone involved, have a reasonable likelihood of being able to enforce bargains, police common standards, and so forth within their community. Any larger scale where this isn’t holistically operational is going to quickly become functionally unworkable (at least from the perspective of doing what it was originally intended to do). At these larger scales, mass participants begin to break up into mutually antagonistic interest groups (whether based on religious, racial and ethnic, economic, or other bases) that only work for their own self-interest, not the community as a whole. Thus, mass democracy actively works to undermine asabiyya, a polity’s social cohesion.
But then you must also factor in that because mass democracy will simply be too large for any one individual or group of amateur participants to handle, there will naturally arise a political caste that “specialises” in mass democratic political participation “representing” everyone else (the “oligarchy” I was mentioning earlier). The problem is that the people who rise demotically into this politician caste are generally lowest common denominator types who can’t succeed at anything else, but who become very adept at things which mass democracy selects for such as identity politics and manipulating procedural outcomes. So these folks are definitely not “elves” with some natural mandate to rule over the rest of us “hobbits.” Indeed, mass democracy almost always ends up with you getting an Al Sharpton backed by George Soros, not a ship of state steered by a Pericles or a Bob the local science teacher who knows about everything.
It gets even worse because at some point, some enterprising politician or faction decides that the current electorate isn’t getting the job done for them. They figure out that by expanding the electorate, they can get votes from the newly-enfranchised (which, of course, synergistically exacerbates the scale up problem even further). Essentially, this has driven every expansion of the franchise in the electoral histories of basically every modern democracy - the belief that the expanded electorate will vote for those pushing for expansion out of a sense of gratitude. And usually they’re right for at least a few generations of voters. But this doesn’t add any wiser or better citizens into the decision-making mix. Instead, it usually has the opposite effect.
This is what has driven, and continues to drive, the post-1965 push for open, expansive immigration. It’s not about bringing in needed workers or “giving people a new life” or “opening up freedom to oppressed peoples” or whatever the current selling point for normies happens to be. It’s about importing new clients for progressives who will gradually but inexorably expand the electorate while voting for the people who will keep the gibmedats coming. This, in turn, makes the social cohesion problem even worse since the expanded electorate now has even less in common with each other than they did before. Truly, diversity is NOT our strength.
But the whole point to it all is that progressives are weaponising all of the flaws of democracy listed above to capture the entire system, lock, stock, and barrel. At the same time, they’re defining their capture as “democracy” itself.
So the next time some politician talks about some “grave threat to democracy” emanating from the Right, you can be pretty sure this person is either a moron or a grifter. What they really mean is that someone was threatening to hinder or overturn some element of the progressive agenda. Of all the things they care about, actual democracy is not one of them.
So what is the solution to all of this? Well, since the problem is democracy, then the solution is less democracy, at least at the levels where it entails mass participation of huge numbers of unworthy people. In other words, I’m not writing this for the purpose of “fixing” democracy, since it is inherently unfixable. Rather, we need to depart from it and return back to some kind of genuinely authoritative system that limits decision-making capacity at the “mass” level to as few people as possible - and these should be selected for their superior qualities rather than their glib tongues. At the same time, this should be coupled with a deep subsidiarity that introduces more decision-making capacity at lower, local levels (i.e. among the people who know what’s going on rather than living in some satrap’s palace five hundred miles away).
In many ways, this would model the imperial “Golden Age” stage of the Roman Empire, which saw the Emperor making broad empire-wide and military policy at the top, while local cities still had their boulai and officials who made decisions, enforced local law and custom, etc. Other historic precedents may be the Venice of the Doges or the highly restricted franchise of the very early American Republic, if you wish to avoid pure autocracy at the top and broaden things out a bit. I suspect the average American recoils at the thought of these, but upon some reflection, many will see the wisdom of such a suggestion as being presented here.
Granted, this would involve a lot of the decentralisation that I’ve been talking about lately. And it’s not at all certain that the current progressive Left oligarchy is going to peacefully allow such devolution of power out of their own hands to take place. But sooner or later they’re not going to have a choice in the matter. As we reach the end of our collapse phase, power is going to flow back towards the local level which will open up more venues for real community participation in local governance.
In addition to this reduction in the effective spatial size of “decision making communities,” there will also need to be a “diversity” reduction as well, one which reduces the “conceptual” size of the community as well. This is hard for normies to grok, but it’s only really possible to have effective community with people who are more or less like yourself. The idea that strong, cohesive effective communities can be forged out of grossly diverse elements - cultural, ethnic, whatever else - is merely Hollywood fantasy. In reality, the more diversity you reintroduce into your newly decentralised community, the more you will start to see special interest groups and blocs form, which leads you right back to the problem of the destruction of your social cohesion.
Again, as with much else that I write on these topics, this isn’t really so much of a “call to action” as it is an encouragement to be ready to act when the circumstances inevitably present themselves. I believe that deep down, most people realise that “democracy” is largely a joke and that even the people who talk about it the most don’t really believe in it. A recent survey suggests that a strong plurality agree that having a strong leader is more important than having a democracy. So even here, in the heartland of the globohomo Regime, over 40% are willing to tell a pollster publicly their…doubts…about democracy. Nevertheless, not all hope is lost for consensual government or citizen participation, though this should be - and probably will be - only at the local level where it can actually work.
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