Have you ever considered the possibility that democracy is bunk?
I grew up believing in democracy. I’ll bet you did too. I spent 20 years of my life in democratic schools. I’ll bet you did too.
Suppose you were a Catholic in 16th-century Spain. Imagine how hard it would be for you to stop believing in Catholicism.
You are a Catholic. Your parents were Catholics. You were educated by Catholics. You are governed by Catholics. All your friends are Catholics. All the books you’ve ever read were written by Catholics.
Sure, you’re aware that not everyone in the world is a Catholic. You’re also aware that this is the cause of all the violence, death and destruction in the world.
Look at what Protestants do when they get into power. They nail genitals to the city gates. They behead their own wives. Crazy stuff! And let’s not even start on the Turks…
Now suppose you’re you. But you have a time machine that lets you talk to this 16th-century Spanish Catholic version of you.
How do you convince this guy or gal that the answer to all the world’s problems is not “more Catholicism”? How do you say, um, dude, this Trinity thing—the virgin birth—transubstantiation… ya know…
So you see how hard it is to explain that democracy is bunk.
Of course, I could be wrong. Who the heck am I? No one. And everyone who is someone agrees: democracy is wonderful.
So I’m not telling you that democracy is bunk. I’m just suggesting you might want to consider the possibility.
Or even just consider considering the possibility. The way you consider, like, UFOs, or something. Put it down in the “extremely improbable, but not inherently impossible” category.
One way to consider this question is to look at an alternative. You can’t beat nothing with something. If you didn’t believe in democracy, what would you believe in? Here’s my answer. (Warning: it’s long.)
Another classic approach, though, is just to write up a list of heretical theses. Red pills, you might say. It worked for Luther—why shouldn’t it work for me?
I won’t (in this post) attempt to explain or justify these theses. They are for you, the reader, to analyze, to justify or refute.
For convenience, I’ve matched each red pill with a blue pill. The blue pill represents the orthodox democratic perspective. If I’m wrong and democracy is not bunk, the blue pills are reality and the red pills are poisonous lies. Swallow at your own risk.
- Peace, prosperity, and freedom
- blue pill: Democracy is responsible for the present state of peace, prosperity, and freedom in the US, Europe and Japan.
- red pill: The rule of law is responsible for the present state of peace, prosperity and freedom in the US, Europe and Japan.
- Democracy, freedom, and law
- blue pill: Democracy is inseparable from freedom and law.
- red pill: At best, democracy is sand in the gears of freedom and law. At worst it excludes them entirely, as in Iraq.
- Fascism and communism
- blue pill: The disasters of fascism and communism demonstrate the importance of representative democracy.
- red pill: Fascism and communism are best understood as forms of democracy. The difference between single-party and multiparty democracy is like the difference between a malignant tumor and a benign one.
- The nature of the state
- blue pill: The state is established by citizens to serve their needs. Its actions are generally righteous.
- red pill: The state is just another giant corporation. Its actions generally advance its own interests. Sometimes these interests coincide with ours, sometimes they don’t.
- The power structure of the West
- blue pill: Power in the West is held by the people, who have to guard it closely against corrupt politicians and corporations.
- red pill: Power in the West is held by the civil service, that is, the permanent employees of the state. In any struggle between the civil service and politicians or corporations, the civil service wins.
- The extent of the state
- blue pill: The state consists of elected officials and their appointees.
- red pill: The state consists of all those whose interests are aligned with the state. This includes NGOs, universities, and the press, all of whose employees are effectively civil servants, and side with the civil service in almost all conflicts.
- The danger of right-wing politics
- blue pill: Right-wing politicians, and the ignorant masses who support them, are a danger to democracy. They must be stopped.
- red pill: Right-wing politicians are a classic democratic phenomenon. Domestically, they have little power and are mostly harmless. Their international adventures are destructive, but they are inescapable consequences of democracy itself.
- Democracy and nonpartisan government
- blue pill: True democracy is not merely the rule of politicians. For a democracy to succeed, a nonpartisan decisionmaking process is essential. Civil servants, especially judges, must be isolated from politics, or they will become corrupt.
- red pill: Democracy is politics. Any other definition is Orwellian. The absence of politics is the absence of democracy, and apolitical civil-service government is indeed better than democracy. But this is a low standard to surpass.
- The history of Western government
- blue pill: The present system of Western government is the result of adapting 19th-century classical liberalism to the complex modern world.
- red pill: Western governments today are clones of the quasi-democratic FDR regime, whose best modern comparisons are leaders like Mubarak, Putin or Suharto. Its origin was the Progressive movement, which broke classical liberalism, then complained that it didn’t work.
- The future of Western government
- blue pill: The Western world is moving toward a globalized, transnational free market in which politics is increasingly irrelevant, and technocratic experts and NGOs play larger roles in fighting corruption, protecting the environment, and delivering essential public services.
- red pill: Civil-service government works well at first, but it degrades. Its limit as time approaches infinity is sclerotic Brezhnevism. Its justification for ruling is inseparable from democracy, which is mystical nonsense and is rapidly disappearing. It cannot survive without a captive media and educational system, which the Internet will route around. Also, its financial system is a mess and could collapse at any minute. The whole thing will be lucky if it lasts another ten years.