Democracy fails for two reasons: first, people left of the far right of the bell curve have difficulty understanding cause and effect in complex systems, and second, people in groups get “committee brain” and vote for what they think a compromise will bring, then self-rationalize by claiming that it is what they wanted all along.
These two factors guarantee that democracy will always choose safe options that deny complex problems, which means that democracy rocks in the short term but then collapses because it could never address any problem that was not an immediate risk. It also means that canny snake oil salespeople get elected by speaking of pleasant illusions instead of complex, mixed good-and-bad truths.
Few people know that the grim fact of life is that there are no 100% good solutions and there is no Utopia. There are tradeoffs, and if we prioritize what is good for the next million years, we get an excellent society, where if we prioritize the next dozen years, we get a mediocre third-world hole.
France kicked off democracy in the West with its revolution of 1789 which set the stage for the “Napoleonic Arc” which describes what happens in all Leftist societies. They overthrow their natural leaders, abolish distinction and hierarchy, and then end up with a society so dysfunctional that it can only unify itself through endless war, to spread more democracy of course!
In 1968, France really went full far-Left when the student protests tore the place up and left it a ruin, but even more importantly, transferred Marxists into positions of authority. Marxists are just ordinary Leftists who believe in economic and social equality in addition to legal equality, and they quickly ran through the Napoleonic Arc, but avoided the warfare.
We might ask, how did they avoid warfare? They transferred it to economic and social warfare against the rest of Europe, which they are trying to conquer with the European Union, essentially an internationalist/globalist organization designed to spread world Leftism so that the bureaucrats and neurotics can take over every part of the West.
Since that time, the norm in France has shifted from somewhere in the middle to somewhere on the far Left, and anyone who expresses a remotely conservative opinion is viewed as a Nazi or worse, a royalist. This means that voters know the drill: go to the polls and vote for whoever promises the most free stuff.
As it turns out, this free stuff has a high cost. Every tax, regulation, and bureaucracy imposes costs at every layer of the economy, and these add up by the time goods get to the average citizen, or when it comes time for their paycheck to arrive. They are being bled dry.
In Europe, as in the USA, we see “income inequality” increasing. This means that income is being concentrated among the few who have the wherewithal to buy their way out of the socialist system and therefore, have money to invest and thus make more money. To a rich person, the endless costs of a socialist economy are a few percent of their income… to a normal income person, it is a much higher percentage because they earn less money.
The “yellow vest” protests represent the voters figuring out that they got screwed by all this free stuff, the ideological agenda to avoid climate change and enforce human/civil rights through diversity, and of course the high cost of being in the Leftist globalist EU. These protests are a rejection of 1968, although most of the protesters have no idea that this is the case.
We are seeing the first stages of a revolution against the revolution which has brought globalism, diversity, and the egalitarian mega-state:
The rivers of destruction which spread down the avenues radiating from around the Arc de Triomphe at the Place de L’Etoile were fed not just by social anger but by a kind of self-righteous hatred.
A hatred of Emmanuel Macron. A hatred of the police. A hatred of the state. And a hatred of Paris as a symbol of the unshared wealth and success of Metropolitan France.
…The protests have shape-shifted into a wider cry of anguish against the high cost of living, unemployment and poor local services in small provincial towns and hard-scrabble outer suburbs of the thriving French metropolitan areas.
…In other words, this instant, anti-political, political movement not only detests the young technocratic President who was elected only last year.
Anti-politics might well describe populism itself: a revolt against those who say they know better because they are bringing us the correct ideology, namely the Utopian push for “equality,” which always means taking from the successful to give to the unsuccessful, effectively bleeding the middle class dry in order to subsidize the diversity underclass.
Naturally, the Leftist government blames the populists for having instigated these protests at the incompetence of Leftist government since 1968:
Interior minister Christophe Castaner denounced protesters from the far-right and accused National Front leader Ms Le Pen of encouraging them.
“Marine Le Pen urged people to come to the Champs Elysees, and there are members of the ultra-right putting up barriers,” Mr Castaner said.
“They have responded to Marine Le Pen’s call and want to take the institutions of state. We want people to be responsible.”
Few people realize that this is 1968 come to fruition because we are now fifty years past that date. However, actions of government take a long time to fully manifest, since they have to move through layers of institutions and industries until they achieve full dominance, and tend to be implemented in little steps so that radical change is not visualized by the voters.
However, even the slowest of committees will realize the connection between free stuff and high taxes required to pay for that free stuff:
The cancellation came after violent “yellow jacket” protests engulfed Paris, with protesters vandalizing the Arc de Triomphei, overturning and torching cars and ransacking stores. Protesters are angry over rising taxes and the high cost of living.
…Protests against the high cost of living elsewhere in France on Saturday were largely peaceful.
Free stuff makes the cost of living high by taking money out of the economy so that government can spend it. Government tends to spend this on ideological objectives, which benefit elites who work with NGOs and political organizations, or are experts with college degrees, and others who know how to work the system. Ordinary people pay hard and get little for their money.
This causes a populist revolt that says, in essence, that we cannot trust anyone who benefits from the ideological system. We cannot trust politics, because it creates “deep states” of entrenched bureaucrats who love Leftism because it justifies powerful government and wealth redistribution. We cannot trust experts, academia, media, and industry because all of them are dependent on the state and as a result argue for its ideological imperatives.
In other words, the triumph of Leftism created the new far-Right by failing just as revolutionary France did and unleashing its own political Napoleonic Arc, globalism:
The center-right and center-left parties are losing power and spinning with anxiety, trying to figure out how to win back hearts and minds.
The problem is that Germany’s increasing inequality and lack of trust in government, trends that have given a significant boost to the far right, stem from steps taken by those very same centrist parties in the ’90s and early 2000s.
…What I saw demonstrated conclusively to me that baby boomers now in power in both Europe and America have to get out of the way as soon as possible.
The Boomers created an overly socialist system and then, when it failed, embarked on an “austerity” to cut government size while failing to curtail the ideological programs of government that fuel the tax-and-spend agenda. True, Europe briefly embraced free markets through “neoliberalism,” but only so that it could collect more taxes and fund its entitlements states.
All across the Western world we are seeing the same thing: the policies of the 1960s have failed, and they have left behind ruined states which are headed for collapse. We had a chance to make ourselves great, but instead we used that time to buy votes by promising free stuff to the herd, and now the herd is slowly realizing that this has dug them a narrow grave.
For those who think this is American triumphalism, it is not; with programs like the New Deal, Great Society, and Obamacare, the Americans plunged head first into the socialist-capitalist hybrid of consumerism that creates this abyss. America will fall, too, mainly because it also spent itself into oblivion on social welfare programs that it could not afford:
Foreign leaders also note that the U.S. is likely to be increasingly constrained by its mounting budget woes. The Financial Times’ Gillian Tett points out that the U.S. government now spends $1.4 billion a day on its debt, 10 times more than the next major industrialized country does. As interest rates rise and more Americans reach the age of collecting Social Security and Medicare, the federal government will be tightly constrained. Ezra Klein has quipped that the American government is “an insurance conglomerate protected by a large, standing army,” and that is becoming truer every day.
How did we get this way? In the 1960s, we overthrew the old order, which was based on what worked, and replaced it with an ideological order, or one based on a philosophy that explains (1) how reality “should” be and (2) how its enemies caused all of the problems that our citizens suffer. Egalitarians demanded equality, and pointed to tradition, heritage, culture, values, and the family as the cause of our natural inequality, demanding that they be destroyed.
When we threw in our lot with this group of snake oil salesmen, we created our elites, or those who “know better” because they have mastered the ideology of Leftism, egalitarianism. These elites now cannot see how ordinary people suffer for the great ideological imperative that, Soviet or Napoleon style, is dragging us into self-exhausting internal conflict:
“What scares me the most is Hillary’s smug certainty of her own virtue as she has become greedy and how typical that is of so many chic liberals who seem unaware of their own greed,” Charlie Peters, the legendary liberal former editor of The Washington Monthly, told me. “They don’t really face the complicity of what’s happened to the world, how selfish we’ve become and the horrible damage of screwing the workers and causing this resentment that the Republicans found a way of tapping into.” He ruefully worries about the Obamas in this regard, too.
The elites reward those who work within the ideology, which includes those who work for government, which has become one of our biggest industries both directly and indirectly. Government hires a lot of people, sure, but it “creates” even more jobs with regulations and paperwork compliance, and these in turn employ many people, almost exclusively Leftists who got the “right” degrees in things that most people see as useless.
That in turn has concentrated wealth in the cities, something we justified as a transition to a service economy, but which really means that we have created lots of roles where people act out what is necessary to fulfill ideological objectives, at the expense of those jobs which actually produce things of value. Facebook, NGOs, lawyers, bureaucrats, healthcare workers, insurance workers, and those involved in public relations all form our new elites.
Populist revolts object to this new order, pointing out that if it all goes away as happens during government shutdowns, nothing bad happens to the rest of us. We can all survive if the EU regulations on the right type of pencil lead or grades of sawdust are delayed, just as us normal people do fine when the American welfare system and Obamacare shut down, because we have already worked around and them and found other ways to provide for ourselves.
In the name of equality, we have created massive states that depend on huge underclasses to justify themselves, and this has fundamentally warped our economies to make them into mechanisms for transfer of wealth from the productive to the underclasses and paper-pushers alike:
The change is not down to a conspiracy, a wish to cast aside the poor, but to a model where employment is increasingly polarised. This comes with a new social geography: employment and wealth have become more and more concentrated in the big cities. The deindustrialised regions, rural areas, small and medium-size towns are less and less dynamic. But it is in these places – in “peripheral France” (one could also talk of peripheral America or peripheral Britain) – that many working-class people live. Thus, for the first time, “workers” no longer live in areas where employment is created, giving rise to a social and cultural shock.
…This confinement is not only geographical but also intellectual. The globalised metropolises are the new citadels of the 21st century – rich and unequal, where even the former lower-middle class no longer has a place. Instead, large global cities work on a dual dynamic: gentrification and immigration. This is the paradox: the open society results in a world increasingly closed to the majority of working people.
…Their need in the first instance is to be respected, to no longer be thought of as “deplorable”. Michael Sandel is right when he points out the inability of the elites to take the aspirations of the poorest seriously. These aspirations are simple: the preservation of their social and cultural capital and work.
In other words, we can stop pretending that populism is a new movement, and realize that it is a protest against what happens when human herd behavior dominates. In herds, people want equality which really means a lack of accountability for their actions, and this requires a large and powerful ideological government, which then exploits those people.
As Plato and other conservatives noted, democracy always goes this way. When we take focus away from answers in the real world and turn it to what most individuals prefer, we make ourselves into agents of anti-reality. With the gilets jaunes protest, the revolt against democracy and Leftism has begun in earnest.
The EU and USA are going the way of the USSR, or even revolutionary France before them. In the name of what was seen as “good,” they gave up on what worked, and although it took fifty years, people are now fighting back against the groupthink and conformity that produces these ideologies and the parasite states they engender.