philosophy Politics

On Reviving Authoritarianism

In a crowded world, a more authoritarian system becomes necessary.  Liberty and loose rules are privileges of those who have plenty of space and resources.  It comes as little surprise that America prides itself as the world champion of freedoms for the average person.  It is of course the nation that had an entire continent to grow into.  However, America’s days as a frontier society are over.  Always before, the problems that arise from society’s natural injustices could be deferred.  There was always a safety valve.
Now for the first time in about 400 years, the North American settlers have to deal with the same problems everyone else on earth has to deal with, vast masses of poor and disenfranchised with nowhere to go.
For the last few decades, American society has been in petulant denial like a toddler used to getting candy on demand. The tantrum has been especially stubborn and intense because there was a final big binge of halloween candy after WW2 with all the world’s demand to satisfy and all the other great competing economies burnt to the ground.  Now the holiday is over and life is back to normal.

I have read writings by those who call themselves neo-reactionaries, some of whom believe we should return to monarchy. I find there are many merits in their arguments.  Historically, there have been powerful rulers in most places most of the time. Republics and democracies have been few and far between and the best of them have been far shorter lived than even mediocre kingdoms. Even those representative governments that have existed have been oligarchic with most people as slaves and the voting citizenry a limited elite.
On its founding, even the American republic was intended to have suffrage limited to owners of substantial land and property.
The form that the USA eventually assumed, a large representative republic with nearly universal adult suffrage was unprecedented in history. These extraordinary freedoms were made possible by control of a large, sparsely populated, resource rich area surrounded by weak neighbors separated from everyone else by vast oceans. Crowded European states have adopted the trappings of US democracy since they’ve had nukes and/or weak neighbors but they have always by necessity had far more rules and taxes. Americans can kick, scream, and gnash their teeth all they like, but the system will continue to drift towards tighter order and stricter rules. There will be a steady push towards a new authoritarianism as serious problems fester and it becomes painfully clear that a democracy that’s indecisive by design is incapable of dealing with them. The Roman Republic in its twilight was forced to bend the rules more and more to deal with crisis situations until the old precedents became meaningless. Perhaps the facade of a republic remains for awhile, as it did in Ancient Rome, but eventually there is no need to pretend anymore.

Neo-reactionary monarchists have many good points and they understand correctly where things are headed. However, going back to monarchs as they were is impossible.  Too many people have too much information. Justifying the King’s power by divine right worked when most people were illiterate and ignorant. Mass literacy seriously damaged the power of monarchy and a host of other new information technologies finished it off. Today too many people are able to see that Frank next door might be smarter and more competent than a monarch whose every tic and nose pick is known to all. There would be no way to sustain the illusion of divinity when people know too much. An example is Emperor Hirohito of Japan, a mostly ceremonial monarch who was built up as a divinity and kept out of the public eye. When he personally announced the Japanese surrender on radio millions were astonished that he sounded just like an ordinary man. Worse, the occupying Americans had no qualms about using him for photo-ops and one picture with a 6 foot tall MacArthur towering over him became especially famous. A divine ruler was possible before mass literacy, photos, and videos because it was possible to cultivate an awe-inspiring air of mystery about him. In the modern world, only North Korea is committed to the information blackout necessary to support their own king as a divine ruler just as if the ancient kingdom of Koguryo had never ended.

There will be a return to authoritarianism, but not with the same foundations as before. Legitimacy for a successful oligarchy, will have to be secured by some form of meritocracy.
The average person must be convinced that they couldn’t step up and do a better job.
Neo-reactionaries understand correctly that post-enlightened rulers can’t coast on hype. They will have to become worthy to rule and then stay worthy. Being on top will mean being the best.
Rather than Divine Right rulers of the future must be backed by Divine Justice or else lose the mandate of heaven.

See also: Only Young Societies Are Egalitarian

By Giovanni Dannato

In 1547 I was burnt at the stake in Rome for my pernicious pamphlet proclaiming that the heavens were not filled with a profusion of aether, but rather an extensive vacuum.
Now, the phlogiston that composed my being has re-manifested centuries in the future so that I may continue the task that was inconveniently disrupted so long ago.
Now, I live in Rome on the very street where I (and others) were publicly burnt. To this day, the street is known as what I would translate as 'Heretic's Way'. My charming residence is number 6 on this old road. Please, do come inside and pay me a visit; I should be delighted to spew out endless pedagoguery to one and all...

11 replies on “On Reviving Authoritarianism”

I dont believe the masses will every consider their rulers to be above them and capable of doing a better job. I point to you the masses of wage slaves who constantly complain about management, yet wouldnt know their tail from their head in any position of authority in an organization.

Of course, some level of competency will be necessary for the future authoritarian elite, but for the most part, the justification will be “we rule you because we rule you” and economic handouts would be used as the new safety valve to defure revolutionnary tension.

There is always gnawing resentment for “the man” though I think that is mainly directed at the middle management. That’s why when the peasants are turned loose, they focus their rage on the Kulaks, not the rulers.

Rulers can invite the contempt of the ruled when they show clear ineptitude.
When, for example, a W Bush appoints incompetent cronies in charge of disaster relief, starts a war for no reason it is very damaging to the credibility of the regime.
These are very basic failures of judgment that even a clever peasant could have avoided. When judgment is this bad in what are supposed to be the halls of high excellence, the system loses its legitimacy.
This is what aristocrats discovered after WW1. They had been exposed as totally inept and callous with the lives of their troops.
In this kind of situation, the peasantry starts thinking of their ruler as just another nasty middle manager.

The ruled are dazzled by capable rulers. Just as they don’t think they could outplay their favorite basketball and football players, they don’t see themselves on the same plane as successful statesmen and victorious generals.

Very interesting, thanks for your reply. How to ensure that the rulers are the best of the meritocracy? You could say we have that now. Those best able to fill out scantron sheets and perform “extra curricular” hoop jumping are those who are given authority. Thats not working out to well, so maybe the meritocracy would have to be based on something else, but what? And the constant question, how?

A meritocracy is only as good as the merits it selects for. We could choose our rulers with scrabble tournaments and it would be a meritocracy.
If the rulers can show they are competent and honest, though, no one will care if they were highschool dropouts.
It speaks for itself that scantron sheets and status signalling activities are the first things that come to mind when we mention the word ‘merit.’
As for the what, Plato already proposed having rulers who are like trained brain surgeons or commercial pilots, the best in their field in charge of society thousands of years ago.
The how of actually implementing it is a lot harder. Getting into power and using power well seem like they’re two different skills.
However, I have noticed that the information age is making it increasingly difficult for incompetent rulers to keep power over an ignorant, powerless mass.
There’s a lot of new tools available that are changing the balance.

“…The ruled are dazzled by capable rulers. Just as they don’t think they could outplay their favorite basketball and football players, they don’t see themselves on the same plane as successful statesmen and victorious generals…”

That’s a really great point. I really like that statement. Unfortunately our rulers have become extremely incompetent. Romney is a fine example that bought companies, loaded them with debt, while paying himself and his friends large fees. Some the companies he did this to survived. Some did not not. No one can say that this short term enrichment of himself made the American economy stronger.. The companies that before paid taxes now pay none while all the profits go into his pocket. Destroying the companies and the greater welfare while enriching the few.

Yes, but that system is steadily dwindling in legitimacy. As access to information continues to increase even ordinary people can see the worst ineptitude at the top and recognize there’s only the illusion of choice. And as that illusion fades, no divine principle of “consent” supports that system’s existence or encourages people to follow its authorities and their laws.
Governments that rely on force alone are common, but without some legitimizing principle, they’re only as good as the next coups.

There is only one example of an authoritarian society in modern history is Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore. I therefor assume that neo-reactionaries advocate some version of it.

According to wikipedia, Singapore actually has a parliament with a popularly elected president. So not really authoritarian politically, but their legal system has no trial by jury with punishments decided by appointed judges.
It’s an interesting case study—a successful nation with low levels of corruption and a government with an 84% approval rate. They have a formula that works with a multicultural population.
It seems at first glance that they,
1) Have competent, honest rulers with the divine justice on their side. Their subjects are awed by them rather than contemptuous.
2) Strict legal system with punishments like beating and executions allows them to viscerally out-alpha troublemakers before the masses and nip the broken windows effect in the bud.

Would Hungary under Victor Orban be a sign of things to come? He has what is called an “illiberal democracy”. And the media is also tightly controlled.

The people pushing Kings are idiots. I’ve asked them frequently how having a bunch of guys with fuzzy hats is going to solve all problems. No answer. I’ve also pointed out that we had a perfectly reasonable sound system to get qualified people into office. The voters must be qualified in some way. I suggest test on the Federalist and anti-Federalist papers and maybe a small poll tax. Just enough to be affordable for the average 100 IQ citizen. If this happened then the pols would have to start giving much more reasonable answers during their campaigns. I think more effort would be put into position papers than mass advertising and negative ads. That being said I’m for Trump who’s the master at the ass blowhard campaign. He does this on purpose to get the rowdy bunch, stir up trouble and publicity. I enjoy his taunting of the Oligarchs a great deal! After all they’re not going to do anything for me and maybe Trump will pull a rabbit out of a hat. Could happen. They talk about Hitler so much but if they read of how Hitler actually pulled the Germany economy out of the grave and advanced it so fast they might shut up about Hitler. I bet Trump knows about it.

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