You Already Hate Democracy

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

You already hate democracy — at least if you’re progressive — you just don’t realize it. Mencius Moldbug explains:

What one word, dear progressives, best describes the modern Western system of government?

You probably said “democracy.” If you got two words, you might say “representative democracy.” [...] Words mean whatever we want them to. But if we interpret the phrase representative democracy to mean a political system in which power is held by the representatives of the people as chosen in democratic elections, the United States is a representative democracy in just the same sense that the Roman Empire was a republic, the United Kingdom is a kingdom, and the Chinese Communist Party is communist.

In fact, dear progressive, you fear and loathe democracy. Moreover, you are right to do so. Representative democracy is a thoroughly despicable system of government. It is dangerous and impractical at best, criminal at worst. And you hate it like the poison it is.

But you don’t hate it under this name. You hate it under the name of politics. Think of the associations that the words political, partisan, politician, and so on, produce in your mind. You say: George W. Bush politicized the Justice Department. And this is a brutal indictment. If you hated black people the way you hate politics, you might say George W. Bush negroized the Justice Department, and the phrase would carry the same payload of contempt.

Similarly, when you hear antonyms such as apolitical, nonpartisan, bipartisan, or even the new and truly ludicrous post-partisan, your heart thrills with warmth and affection, just as it would if you were a racist and you heard the words Nordic, Anglo-Saxon, or amelanistic. And as it does when you hear the word democracy. You certainly would never say that George W. Bush democratized the Justice Department.
Let’s probe a little deeper into this mystery. If the actions of our democratic governments are not to be ascribed to the venal machinations of politicians, who is responsible for them? Who, in the ideal apolitical, nonpartisan, or post-partisan state, calls the shots? We are back to the basic question of power, which Lenin once summarized as “Who? Whom?” (This made more sense in English when we still used the word “whom.” What Lenin meant was: who rules whom?)

So if politicians should not rule, who — dear progressive — should? If we continue our pattern of two-word answers, the answer is: public policy.

To the progressive — rather ironically, considering the history — Lenin’s question is completely inappropriate. You reject the idea that government means that “who” must “rule” “whom.” Rather, you believe that government, when conducted properly in the public interest, is an objective discipline — like physics, or geology, or mathematics.

It does not matter “who” the physicists, geologists, or mathematicians are. There is no German physics, liberal geology, or Catholic mathematics. There is only correct physics, correct geology, and correct mathematics. The process and criteria by which physicists separate correct from incorrect physics is quite different from that for geology or mathematics, and none of these processes is perfect or works instantaneously. But all have an obvious tendency to progress from error and ignorance to truth and knowledge.

Needless to say, if the United States were blessed with a Department of Mathematics — honestly I’m not sure why it isn’t, but we can rest assured that if this wrong is ever righted, it will stay righted — it would be thoroughly inappropriate and irresponsible for George W. Bush to “politicize” the Department’s deliberations on topology, computability, game theory, etc.

Public policy, of course, must not contradict physics, geology or mathematics. But these are not its main linchpins. When we look inside the magic box of public policy, we see fields such as law and economics and ethics and sociology and psychology and public health and foreign policy and journalism and education and…

And when we look at the history of these fields, we tend to see one of two things. Either (a) the field was more or less invented in the 20th century (sociology, psychology), or (b) its 20th-century principles bear very little relation to those of its 19th-century predecessor (law, economics). We saw this two weeks ago, for example, with international law. But again, I am getting ahead of myself.

As a progressive, you regard the fields of public policy as more or less scientific. The 20th century is the century of scientific public policy. And just as there is no German physics or Catholic mathematics, there is no German public policy or Catholic public policy. There is only public policy. There is no “who.” There is no rule. There is no world domination. There is only global governance.

So we see why it’s inappropriate for George W. Bush to “politicize” the Justice Department. It is because the Justice Department is staffed with legal scholars. Is George W. Bush a legal scholar? Is a boar hog an F-16? When politics intrudes on the realm of science, it’s more than just a violation. It’s a kind of rape. One is instantly reminded of the Nazi stormtroopers, dancing around their flaming piles of books. One, if one is an American, is also reminded of the mindless jockery that ruled one’s high-school years. Do you, dear progressive, have any hesitation about picking a side in this dispute? Of course not.

Thus we see the fate of representative, political democracy, which survives as a sort of vestigial reptile brain or fetal gill-slit in the era of scientific government. In classic Machiavellian style, the form democracy has been redefined. It no longer means that the public’s elected representatives control the government. It means that the government implements scientific public policy in the public interest. (Public policy is in the public interest by definition.)

Leave a Reply