I’ve written about democracy multiple times in the past, but with the latest revelation that our shadow rulers are now openly bragging about their, uh, fortifying, it is time to return to the topic and summarize my writings into a kind of “primer” on this topic.
The 2020 Election Did Not Really Take Place:
Ultimately, this election can best be described as a c**p, not by Trump against the people, but rather by the Media/Tech/NGO apparatus against the Constitution. Aligned with their Wall Street funding and Academia manpower, this Blue Empire is attempting to seize control by replacing the electoral process with one where they determine reality and who the most powerful man in the world is.
I wrote that on November 12th, almost 4 months ago. I was not the only one expressing these sentiments, but it should be clear that “democracy” is a sham. Why?
Democracy Did Not Give Everyone Equal Power
When the Divine Right of Kings stopped being a legitimate justification for ruling and people stopped believing God himself came down and handed a crown to some inbred sap, a new manner of legitimizing the ruler’s authority. Enter, stage left, the Will of the People. (You can blame Rousseau or whoever for this, it doesn’t matter.)
Here, I need to make an important distinction between authority and power:
Power is the material ability to command action from others.
Authority is the moral right to command action from others.
Powerful individuals now could no longer claim that they had been chosen by God; they needed to claim they were chosen by the people.
But the myth of democracy relies on one of many leaps in logic: how do powerful individuals get people to assent to their rulership?
In a paraphrase of the great ZeroHPLovecraft:
When consent is a precondition for authority, Power will learn to manipulate people into giving consent.
And how does that occur?
Manufacturing Consent: The Institutions that Control Information have Immense Power
Bear in mind two things:
We make decisions based on the information we have available to us (this is neither the time nor the place for a philosophical debate about knowledge - go away).
Which means that if we are deciding what the best course of action is in a given situation, or debating which ‘goods’/values are more important/need to be privileged over others in a given scenario, we make those decisions at least in part based on the information we have about the situation/scenario.
But what if you are misled? What if the “facts” you are given about the situation do not correspond with the reality of the situation? What if you’ve been lied to? Could you know? Maybe if someone told you “there are potholes on my road!” and you drive on the road every day and know damn well it’s perfectly paved then you could tell that person they’re full of shit. But can you tell me what is going on halfway around the world? Do you know? Or must you trust in some other person or institution to give you information?
Must of us engage in the later. We pick institutions worthy of trust and assume that the information they have given us is at least largely correct. There is nothing inherently wrong with this (hell, one might argue it is entirely necessary in today’s world), but it is important to understand how this undermines the myth of democracy further.
No institution is, itself, democratic. The dominant institutions are small in number and the themselves are each dominated by a small cadre of elites at the top. Power laws, power laws everywhere:
We place our trust in different institutions. And these institutions are, by and large, asymmetric: the institution is smaller than its audience. And if the audience believes the institution, then a large number of people will make decisions based on information that a small number of people give to them.
Furthermore, there is every incentive for Elites to capture and then use these institutions. How else am I to convince the people that my interests are legitimate (perhaps, more legitimate than their own)?
“Democracy”, properly understood, is nothing more than Laundered Oligarchy.
Media and Tech elites are so adamant about defending this "democracy" because it is the system in which they can manipulate the people to support elite interests and legitimize those interests with "the will of the people" through voting.
Now, there are exceptions to this when information is spread out across a network (see the above potholes example). When one does not need to have their knowledge of the world mediated by one of a small number of dominant institutions. We will return to this later. For now, we need to go even further, and examine how institutions not only shape the information we receive, but the core values we hold dear.
Going Further: The Power of Socialization
I wrote an entire series on socialization, and therefore will focus on the highlights:
There are individuals, institutions, and groups that we interface with, and through which we learn the rules of society.
Socialization hands you a packet of ‘Goods’ that the society recognizes and expects you to internalize as your own ‘Goods’. Failure to do so can lead to exclusion, punishment, etc.
…someone becomes socialized when they internalize the goods of society into their moral space. BUT someone becomes OVERsocialized, when they either elevate those internalized goods to a status of “higher Good(s)” or they have no other goods at all.
Second, guilt is not the only emotion that is a clear driver of the ‘oversocialized’ (although by god is it a major one). I discussed earlier that ‘derangement’ is a key element of the ‘oversocialized’:
Oversocialization in this context can best be understood as unthinkingly accepting the framing of an issue by a perceived authority, and using that framing as a good. This can obviously lead to derangement syndromes (see: tv-addicted Boomers on each side - CNN vs FOX - with their own derangements).
Now this is not just a hypothetical concern (as one may imagine from the Derangement example at the bottom). Blue Empire is a very real concern:
Blue Empire is the coherent coalition that dominates the institutions responsible for socialization, along with its financing and foot soldiers.
So now, we have a situation where dominant institutions not only give you information but also give you your values. And sometimes the institutions giving you each of these are the SAME institutions. These institutions are therefore massively powerful.
Once again, it appears “Democracy”, at least on a large enough scale, is simply Laundered Oligarchy.
A Key Distinction: Formal vs Material Power
Voting is a purely formal power, i.e. a power that is granted by an institution. It is a “right”. We might associate formal powers with authority. One has the right to something, aka one has a claim on that thing and the claim is justified by some moral standard.
I contrast this with material power, which refers to the instruments necessary to back up Power (ex: guns).
What matters, far more than “democracy”, is the distribution of material power. We need to bring this material power, not the formal power of voting, back to the people. We need to maximize the ability for each individual to control their own destiny (bounded by ethics, of course).
If we take localism and the spirit of democracy seriously, the goal here must be to build a system in which the distribution of material power looks like a pyramid, with more and more of the material power being held by local institutions and individuals. This is subsidiarity in action.
One can centralize decision-making through the centralization of authority, without necessarily centralizing material power to as much of an extent.
Freedom does not exist when material power is concentrated and decision making is formally distributed to the people, allowing an oligarchy to launder their interests through the legitimization scheme of “voting”. Freedom exists when material power is distributed, and all decision makers in the polity are visible/de-obfuscated and able to be held accountable.
Because here is the problem:
If your right to vote is contingent on a powerful elite not revoking or overriding it, of what use is that right to vote?
And going further, if your rights exist at the mercy of an entity more powerful than you, of what use are those rights?
Where Democracy Matters and Where Democracy Matters Not
As I stated earlier, there are situations where are knowledge is not mediated by institutions (“there are no potholes you little shit, stop making me pay more taxes”). Local/Small-Scale decisions therefore make more sense to be democratic. Of course this does not resolve the issues with socialization and shaping values, but that’s another step towards a localist dream.
Another scenario is when information is distributed amongst a network in such a manner that decisions are more efficient when done democratically. Think of this as being the core behind the Economic Calculation problems argued by opponents of socialism. Information is so widely distributed amongst the agents of the economy that a single centralized agent making decisions would necessarily make less efficient ones.
Whether or not you believe in the Economic Calculation Problem(s) boils down to what you believe the distribution of information actually is in the economy (and also how agents make decisions - again, this is neither the time nor place for complex economic debates, so just go with it).
But I believe that there are other situations in which information is distributed around a network in such a way that democratic decision making makes sense from a pragmatic point of view (let alone an ethical one). Most notably: the workplace. One might use something similar to the ECP: relevant information to effective company performance is distributed amongst the workers and much is lost as it is transferred upwards, just as it would be with information from firms -> central planners. If we want the best run companies, workplace democracy should be the goal. (And don’t tell me CEOs know better - Business School is a joke, nothing in modern Finance is real, and CEO pay doesn’t correlate with firm performance for a reason)
The Scourge of Bureaucracy and the Need for Clarity
I want you all to understand that the appeal of apathy and irony today is normal. One of the most pernicious and difficult things to deal with in this world is the obscurity of power.
The greatest tragedy of our world is that, lost in the endless array of kafkaesque bureaucracies and narrative-forming entities, it isn’t even clear who to blame! Who should I be mad at? “The Man”? That’s meaningless.
Certainly, the most democratic thing you can do in a highly federalized and complex system is make it explicitly clear who needs to be gui**otined when things go wrong.
Instead we have an absurd system where no one takes responsibility because power is OBFUSCATED. It is hidden. Most of the debates amongst so-called “revolutionaries” seems to be centered around who is actually in charge of the current system instead of how to take it down. This is why I say that a map of competing power centers is crucial to understanding society.
And furthermore, what this means is that as you get more complex and federalized, society needs to centralize decision making. As I noted above, centralizing formal power/Authority can co-exist with distributing material power (even if this may seem contradictory, it is not - few seem to understand this).
Obfuscation further undermines democracy because our decisions are now misguided. “What policy would work? How do I know?” You have bad information and hidden information. Is it no surprise support for democracy appears to be falling?
Proper Rulers: Governing, not Finger Pointing
Make no mistake, our politicians are our rulers. That should be evidently clear if you have made it this far (or if you are reading this blog in the first place). “Will of the people” or not, they rule us.
Now our rulers are incentivized to make performative appeals to particular experiences or classes instead of actually ruling, actually governing. Something akin to “I’m not here to be your friend. I’m not someone you’d get a beer with. I’m here to get work done and I don’t give a fuck if you don’t like me.” would never be uttered of course. And this has only been made more and more of a problem by our media culture and infantilized society.
Ultimately we need our rulers to acknowledge that they are rulers and to focus on the actual barometer for ruling: materially improving the lives of their subjects in a meaningful manner.
At some point, elites stopped exiling themselves for failing to serve the common good and society never recovered.
I have laid out the case against “democracy” and the plagues that we must deal with.
Democracy on a large scale is nothing more than Laundered Oligarchy.
On a small scale/local level and in situations where information is distributed (like the workplace), democracy is useful and good.
Dominant institutions shape the information we receive and the values we hold. “Anti-Trust” legislation must not stop in the economic sphere. Free Thought and Diversity cannot co-exist with dominant institutions of socialization and narrative-production/information-propagation.
Bureaucracy and obfuscation are two clear evils of our world that must be opposed. We can centralize formal decision making while distributing material power. Everything comes down to network structure and power dynamics.
Our rulers must admit they are rulers and cease their performative appeals to grievance groups and get on with the actual substance of ruling: materially improving their subjects lives and giving them access to the pathways needed to live a good life (more on what that means in a future piece).
I hope you enjoyed. I will be returning to my populism series shortly. Apologies for the break.
If you liked it, please share and join the email list. Consider subscribing if you would like to support my work further.
Leave a comment if you would like to discuss this further. Enjoy the day my friends.