“Democracy never lasts long”

In 1814, John Adams, second president of the United States, and one of the revolutionaries that founded it, said

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy.

And that was the common wisdom at the time.  Democracy in the United States, the work of the revolutionaries, has lasted a lot longer than anyone expected, but the end is now in sight.

I hope that after democracy, we will get, in at least some small parts of what once was the United States, anarcho capitalism, or failing that, monarchy, but the usual successor to democracy is a brief period of oligarchy swiftly followed by the worst form of dictatorship:  popular dictatorship.  Mencius Moldbug hopes that popular dictatorship will transition to monarchy, but consider that in the case of Rome, that took a very long time.

One small ground for optimism is that we are seeing a fair bit of crypto anarchy, as business goes underground, and non state armed forces, both legal and illegal, are growing stronger.  The rise of crypto anarchy could lead to anarcho capitalism, at least for the wealthy, and the rise of private armed forces could lead to feudalism, but I fear that the way to bet is popular dictatorship.

The difference between popular dictatorship and monarchy is illustrated by the difference between Botswana and Zimbawe.  Mugabe, endorsed by the London School of Economics to rule Zimbabwe, had to allow and encourage one group to loot another, in order to maintain a base of support.  Similarly, Ivy League Graduate  Ouattara, sent to rule the Ivory Coast by the world bank, now presiding over the place as the Muslims that gave gave him his legitimacy run amuck.

When the colonialists left, most of Black Africa turned into hellholes, with the notable exception of Botswana, now 53 in world GDP, far above any other black African country.  When Botswana became independent they elected the man born to be King, and the place remained in good shape so long as he lived. Till the day he died, it was the fastest growing economy in Africa. So long as he lived, the place had low and stable taxes, and the best economic and personal freedom in Africa  – because he was elected on the basis of his royal birth, not elected on the basis of paying off one group with the lives and property of another group.

Unfortunately, popular dictators, such as Mugabe, have the same need to pay off their supporters as democratically elected presidents, such as Quattara, so I am less optimistic than Mencius Moldbug about the prospects for America transitioning to a relatively benign monarchy via one man one vote once.  When the deluge commences, let us aim for anarchy and/or feudalism, rather than monarchy.  It takes generations for the sons of dictators to become monarchs, and in the meantime you get most of the disadvantages of democracy with none of the benefits.

7 Responses to ““Democracy never lasts long””

  1. My Blog Title says:

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  2. Leonard says:

    I see no hope for anarchocapitalism, except possibly via a neocameral state, and even that unlikely (I say this regretfully.) Unstructured anarchy cannot congeal into structured anarchy in anything like the time required; instead people short-cut to stability via the state. I.e. I would guess unstructured anarchy, if you could somehow prevent the “state option” from being taken, would evolve into anarchocapitalism in a few years. But it evolves the state in perhaps days, or weeks.

    I also don’t see much hope for monarchy. Monarchy works where the political formula for it is believed. But historically at least, that has required God and heritable political inequality. We no longer believe in either of those things. Therefore monarchy won’t work. We do believe in many things, of course, including the right of the “best and brightest” to rule. So you might get a bright dictator within our modern system. But I don’t think we’ll believe in any heritable dictatorship.

    Neocameralism will be, I think, credible within the post-progressive worldview. It remains to be seen, of course. But it stands on a political formula with two bases we will buy: that the best and brightest should rule, but that that executive power should not be inherited directly. (Of course power via stock ownership is power, but it is not executive power, and people accept inheritance today, even progs to an extent.)

    • jim says:

      I see no hope for anarchocapitalism, except possibly via a neocameral state, and even that unlikely (I say this regretfully.) Unstructured anarchy cannot congeal into structured anarchy in anything like the time required;

      Neocameralism is monarchy, and popular dictatorship cannot congeal into monarchy in the time required.

      But anarchy can be tolerate a fair bit of lack of structure. The Wild West was fair approximation to anarcho capitalism, and it worked OK. The eighteenth century to early nineteenth century British Empire was in substantial part anarcho piratism rather than empire, and it did OK. Froude gives the old semi-tolerated pirates glowing reviews.

      But it evolves the state in perhaps days, or weeks.

      After the communists in Afghanistan fell in 1992, there was no state in Afghanistan until 2001. Massoud had artillery in range of the capital during most of that time, and more warlords than you can shake a stick at had near comparable capabilities. The 9/11 attacks followed the establishment of the Taliban state by about four months.

      There is still no state in Somalia, though it has shown no great tendency to evolve to anarcho capitalism either.

      States are hard to create, harder to create than to destroy.

      The establishment of the Taliban state required extraordinary and dreadful measures, carried out over nine years, and that seems to be roughly what is required to establish a new state, once an old state goes down in flames. The communists generally used artificial famine and mass rape. Sherman did not employ mass rape, but he did employ artificial famine.

      • Leonard says:

        Neocameralism is not necessarily monarchy. It is a superset. I see no particular hurdle for dictatorship to turn into neocameralism. The hurdle is technological, and ideological (the dictator has to believe), but not political. Perhaps you could say more about this.

        I am defining the state more broadly than you. International recognition is not part of my definition. Somalia has not one state, but many. Somaliland, for example, is a state in all ways except that it is not recognized officially by the “international community”. But this does not make structured anarchy. It makes a civil war. Similarly, Afghanistan after the Soviets was hardly lacking in coercive groups claiming territorial monopolies. These are the warlords you mention. States — not very stable ones, I’ll grant you. But states nonetheless.

        As for anarchic 18th or 19th century territories, well, they are interesting to this anarchist, but I don’t think particularly relevant. First, there are no modern analogs: no place in which the state simply cannot get an agent to in anything like a timely manner. USG can probably place armed agents at any point on the Earth within a matter of days at longest. Second, the examples you give, while somewhat anarchic, were not really anarchy. Nobody could have set up an independent protection agency and got it to fly.

        • jim says:

          Neocameralism is not necessarily monarchy. It is a superset. I see no particular hurdle for dictatorship to turn into neocameralism. The hurdle is technological, and ideological (the dictator has to believe), but not political. Perhaps you could say more about this.

          The ruler does not have a magic wand to enforce his will. The essential ingredient to monarchy is that his legitimacy is sufficiently widely believed that he does not have to do anything drastic and extraordinary for his state to exist. For a monarchy to exist, it does not matter what the ruler believes. It matters what the ruled believed.

          Similarly, Afghanistan after the Soviets was hardly lacking in coercive groups claiming territorial monopolies.

          They aspired to territorial monopoly, but if wishes were horses, beggars could ride. You are not a state until you actually have territorial monopoly – which no one in Afghanistan had until the Taliban successfully assassinated Dostum with a suicide newsman carrying a camera filled with high explosive.

          USG can probably place armed agents at any point on the Earth within a matter of days at longest.

          And yet there are lots of points on earth it cannot govern.

          Second, the examples you give, while somewhat anarchic, were not really anarchy. Nobody could have set up an independent protection agency and got it to fly.

          Does the name Leland Stanford ring any bells? Two US presidents and eight US state governors got their start in politics in vigilante groups.

          The song “Waltzing Matilda” says:

          Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred,
          Down came the troopers, one, two, three,

          The squatter, the song implies is wealthy and powerful. The troopers follow his lead. Why is he called a “squatter”? Because the government did not recognize his ownership of his land, and indeed forcefully opposed that ownership, and to this day is still trying to undo it. As Wikipedia says: “The squatter’s claim to the land may be as uncertain as the swagman’s claim to the jumbuck.” Note Wikipedia’s use of present tense. Australia’s turbulent past is not necessarily entirely dead. It may be just sleeping.

  3. long time fan says:

    Nice historiography, if you don’t mind me using the term. Condensed lessons, swaths of times, nodes of empiricism, in 7 paragraphs. What’s not to like? Yet it behooves us all to try and find rays of optimism, things have never looked good for the reflective mind. Thanks for the representation of style, Sir.

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