Revolution, Democracy and Governance

Spengler speculates as to whether Egypt is governable by anyone. Revolutions follow a predictable course. Popular passion sweeps away the old system, and political actors- who may or may not have instigated things, it doesn’t really matter- try to create a new system out of the turmoil.

If the new rulers can meet the needs and wants of the people and create a durable system, they have succeeded. Usually they can’t. This is the fate of all revolutions and all democracies- that the expectations of the masses, once raised, can’t be controlled.

But who would think that they can? People as individuals are not realistic or reasonable. People in large groups are much less so, particularly if you have large numbers of uneducated, unsophisticated, low IQ people in the mix. All regimes, even the totalitarian, must maintain credibility with the mass of people in some way; in North Korea this is done almost entirely through fear, but even a normal dictatorship has to keep people from going hungry. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies buy the population off with oil money. Egypt has neither a developed totalitarian system nor massive natural resources.

Once the revolution is underway, those that hope to be the new rulers must get a grip on things. The enemy is no longer the old elite; they are dead or gone. The enemy now is their political rivals and the people themselves. Normally in a leftist revolution political repression is established to maintain control. This worked for a while in the French Revolution and much longer in the Bolshevik Revolution. The socialist government elected in Spain in the 30’s started to try to control society on its own terms, and likely would have succeeded but for excessive insults to the church and the proximity of a mercenary army under the control of its political opponents.

The pattern of Western democracies in the 20th century was to deliver a modest amount and promise more. Some people would receive directly from the government; others from a private economy fostered, regulated and consistently grown under the supervision of the government. That has worked for some time, but appears to be coming to an end.

While permitting mobs to attack the embassy of any ally with whom Egypt has a treaty may seem mad, in the short-term it may be president and Moslem Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi’s best option. He can’t suppress the riots; a strong, credible government could send riot police to calm things down, but Morsi has neither strength, credibility nor riot police. The riots keep his most angry, agitated followers busy doing something and focussing their anger elsewhere while he tries to buy time.

Totalitarian and authoritarian governments maintain control based on power and some credibility. They must have systems of control and belief in place. A “democratic” government must meet the expectations of the mass of people. This appears to be impossible in the long run, but as the patron saint of democratic economic provision, John Maynard Keynes, said, “In the long run we’re dead”. Keynes is dead, but his theory lives on. Milton Friedman had a much more hands-off philosophy, but it amounted to the same thing- government management of the economy, if only by managing interest rates, would deliver durable prosperity. Friedman is also dead, but his theory is alive too. Trouble is neither theory seems to work any more.

As I believe Spengler has said before, Morsi’s best bet is that the Moslem Brotherhood take over food distribution, and that economic collapse and food shortages gives them the power of hunger over the population. All they have to do then is threaten or cajole other countries enough to keep the money or aid coming. It’s worked for North Korea for over twenty years, so there is no reason it won’t work for Egypt. North Korea has a large army, a nuclear program and a close-by hostage, none of which Egypt has, so they will need to rely more on pity than fear, but they also have the card of “you have to help make democracy work”.

The Western social democracies actually have it harder; they need to be able to borrow money, lots of it, to keep the population mollified. When they can’t- “the day the EBT card stops working” in Paul Kersey’s choice phrase- the only alternative is more authoritarian control.

Every regime must solve the same basic problem or set of problems. Wheels that don’t get greased, come off. As the sign on the first sergeant’s door said, “Around here squeaky wheels don’t get greased, they get replaced!” Maintain, repair, or replace; governments or cars, the options are the same.

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About thrasymachus33308

I like fast cars, fast women and southern-fried rock. I have an ongoing beef with George Orwell. I take my name from a character in Plato's "Republic" who was exasperated with the kind of turgid BS that passed for deep thought and political discourse in that time and place, just as I am today. The character, whose name means "fierce fighter" was based on a real person but nobody knows for sure what his actual political beliefs were. I take my pseudonym from a character in an Adam Sandler song who was a obnoxious jerk who pissed off everybody.
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3 Responses to Revolution, Democracy and Governance

  1. Heil Hizzle says:

    John Derbyshire has a new article out claiming basically that the EBT card is not going to go out of style anytime soon. I don’t know too much about varying economic philosophies, but I visit Paul Krugman’s blog from time to time, and from what I’m able to gather, Keynesian economic philosophy basically holds that tea partiers believing in creationism destroys economies, while placing all of the nations trust in diminutive Jewish men with beards (i.e. Paul Krugman and Ben Bernake) is the way to stimulate economies.

    This is very interesting, as one of the classes I am taking on my G.I. Bill is involved with counterterrorism. At the beginning of the semester, the professor warned us that the curriculum might change based on world events. So now we threw the syllabus out of the window, and we are talking about what’s happening in Egypt and Libya. The blogger Whiskey has a post on his blog basically saying that nobody in America gives a shit anymore, because the demographics have changed so much that the sight of white bodies being dragged through the streets doesn’t really affect anyone, when you don’t have that many white guys left to be angry about it.

    I’m torn between agreeing with Pat Buchanan, that no matter how crazy dictators and despots are, they want to remain in power, and thus everyone from Netanyahu to the Iranian president is bluffing, and the view that you probably take, that Barack Obama is essentially Jimmy Carter on steroids, or estrogen rather.

    At any rate they should be interesting.

    • Hey- Milton Friedman was clean-shaven! And Keynes wasn’t Jewish- although he was gay, so he’s under the bar for PC purposes. My feeling is that both Keynesianism and monetarism worked for some time, but the Western economy has become tolerant, in the drug sense, of their effects. Or more exactly, if people expect them to work, they don’t work. The West can borrow money for a *long* time- but how long? Nobody really knows. The West can print money for a long time, but how long? Nobody really knows.

      I’m old enough to remember Carter, and God was he annoying. In the last year he shrank steadily in political cartoons, until he was drawn about 2 feet tall. Obama is nowhere near as annoying as Carter and that may save him.

      Everybody bluffs, until their bluff gets called. Then it’s fold or go for the six shooter.

  2. Heil Hizzle Mein Nizzle says:

    Speaking of communism, I know you are something of an absolutist on the subject, but you should read this excerpt I got from Tom Sunic:

    “The blame for non-European immigration and the decomposition of the European peoples must not be solely borne by the immigrants. It is in the interest of the local capitalists to get a million-strong reserve army of cheap labor to Europe and to the U.S.; in turn, they can lower the wages of their domestic workers. Furthermore, non-European immigrants have little social consciousness, a weak sense of the trade union adherence and practically no sense for the European destiny. Therefore, they can be better manipulated by the local capitalists. One should consider therefore the globalists, the plutocrats and the financial “superclass” as the main enemy of the European peoples. A German stockbroker, or a Croatian or a Russian ex-communist speculator turned now into a capitalist shark, does not care where his nation is—as long as he can rake in big money.

    We are all witnessing a reemergence of the silent holy alliance today—an alliance between the ex-Commissar and the Merchant, i.e. the marriage between the left-winger and big business. The European Left is in favor of mass immigration, given that the exotic picture of the non-European immigrant represents for it now the ersatz symbol of its long gone proletariat. For the capitalist, it is beneficial to bring people from the Third World into Europe, because they can best serve the interests of anonymous capital. The capitalist strives towards the removal of his people, because his people are too expensive for his business transactions. A leftist “antifa” wants to erase his people because it will always remind him of the rising “fascist beast.”

    Lawrence Auster has one of those satellite photograph comparisons of northern Korea versus southern Korea at night on his website, with the South all lit up like a jeweled electrical grid, while the North is an absolute darkness. This is intended to illustrate the beauty of capitalism, versus the oppressive nature of communism. The problem with this, however, is that once we run out of cheap oil, or otherwise find our resources strain, and we must get back to the practical exigencies of farming etc., the people from the “backwards” societies are going to have much more success than we are.

    Sunic is perhaps a little bit of a madman, but there is some truth in what he is saying. The Communist, oppressive societies do not spit in Christ’s eye, where attendance at mass is still high among the Orthodox people, while capitalism and its permissive excesses have basically turned popular culture into one endless stream of pussy riots.

    I think your commentor Ryu basically said that the political system wasn’t nearly as much consequence as the ethnic stock. I think he is right, and that your emphasis on leftism versus race might be off-base. Paul Kersey has a point when he says that Portland and Detroit are both liberal, but one works and the other one doesn’t. Apologies for this long ass comment.

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