The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies

I"m just getting into this, so here’s the blurb that caught my attention:

“The book is about how liberal democracy tends to develop the qualities that were characteristic of communism: pervasive politicization, ideological zeal, aggressive social engineering, vulgarity, a belief in inevitability of progress, destruction of family, the omnipresent rule of ideological correctness, severe restriction of intellectual inquiry, etc. . . . The paradox is that in today’s liberal democracy there are more thought crimes than in communism: racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, ageism, binarism, Eurocentrism, white supremacy, and many others which a person like myself long ceased to keep up with. They give the latter-day Bolsheviks enormous power and countless instruments to silence all opponents.”

Author: Ryszard Legutko lived and suffered under communism for decades—and he fought with the Polish ant-communist movement to abolish it. Having lived for two decades under a liberal democracy, however, he has discovered that these two political systems have a lot more in common than one might think. They both stem from the same historical roots in early modernity, and accept similar presuppositions about history, society, religion, politics, culture, and human nature.

I find the mixture of liberal and democracy as a category odd.
Liberalism is a political philosophy whereas democracy is a political mechanism. There are democracies all over the world and within them are both liberal and conservative philosophies vying for dominance by way of the democratic system. Democracy is the tennis court and philosophies are the players.
The fact that progressivism has taken over liberalism and is on a trajectory towards communism is well established. There is a culture of communism spreading like cancer in that people are being shamed, silenced, demonized and ostracized in order to silence dissent against the new order they desire.
But this isn’t all that new. The fruit of oppression has been around for thousands of years, its just that liberalism seems to be a kind of pied piper phenomenon whereby people are led away by the promises of greater justice and equality. In fact its simply a ruse that intends to merely turn the tables and the balance of power not so much to create equality but reverse the oppression.

1 Like

I understand. I noticed that the wording in the blurb did say

and the use of the word ‘tends’ is no doubt important; it is not a necessity that lib dem develops those qualities, only that they have tended that way, and therefore are an object lesson as to what can happen.

Liberal and conservative both have oppressive potential.

Liberalism is tempted to oppress those who are standing in the way of progress and conservatism is tempted to oppress those who threaten what they are trying to conserve.

1 Like

Agreed. At the present moment, the excesses of the liberal far left are far and away, imo, a greater threat to civilization, and must be opposed. At other moments, the Right must be opposed.

1 Like

I think of the political spectrum not as a line from far left to far right but as a circle with far left and far right joined together at the top as authoritarianism as in practice their result is the same. Democracy has been eroded over the last few decades because each person’s voice is not equally heard. In practice those with money can and do buy influence through lobbying, media and news ownership etc. so their voices are listened to more. Also non proportional voting systems skew the value of each person’s vote which is undemocratic. The US and UK for example resemble oligarchies more than democracies.

2 Likes

It occurred to me that a state owned monopoly in an authoritarian regime and a privatised monopoly or oligopoly in a democracy are functionally similar. Both benefit the few not the many and both are inefficient. In the end too many monopolies and oligopolies leads to the erosion of democracy through corruption.

What is needed are plenty of small to medium sized companies with strict enforcement of laws to prevent anticompetitive behaviour and to break up large companies that have too great market dominance. This requires that companies not be able to buy politicians to protect themselves.

True. As well, those are not the only forms of government that are corrupt; the ‘form’ has little to do with it, as human greed, insecurity, and fallen-ness in general do the actual steering of the boat no matter the form.

Allowing a government (people, just ordinary people) to determine business size and that sort of thing for the rest of us, is centralized and at least as corruptible as any other centralization.
The only answer to a just society is a just and virtuous people. Trying to replace that justness and virtue with a particular form of government may work in the short term only.

Any system can be corrupted but some are less prone to being corrupted than others. The most common way in which corruption occurs is bribery (direct or indirect), so a good way to reduce it is to remove the money out of politics thus removing a major temptation.

As for changing people to be just and virtuous, that is a good ambition but difficult to achieve if they witness corruption in government, see those at the top not being just and virtuous and feel powerless to do anything about it.

Maybe. But who is going to remove money from politics? And if money is removed, power and greed and lust remain. Even in socialism, there must be a very wealthy elite at the center - and those espousing it here in the US fully intend to BE that elite - they will NOT want to be out here with us trying to live under that system. I think we all know this.
If we really want representation - and I don’t think democracy gives us that, a republic is more likely to - then the government must be an expression of the citizens, who pledge allegiance to, say, a constitution. But the citizens, according to the NT as I read it, are no better intrinsically than the people they elect. Thus we rely on systems rather than virtue, which is somewhat realistic but only a concession to our weakness as human beings in revolt against God.
Liberals as a whole, I understand, believe rather in the inherent goodness of mankind and of each individual. The fight over that stance and the more realistic (imo) that human nature must be curbed, bounded, restrained by the willing allegiance to a social contract - that fight has always, like the poor, been with us.

This social contract that you mention - that is a foundation of democratic socialism. The social contract sets boundaries such as limiting the rich’s capacity to exploit the poor.

True, among other things.
Being rich - so I hear, having not ever been cursed with riches personally :slight_smile: - is not good nor bad. I don’t begrudge rich folks their riches, nor do I think that I have less because they have more. Wealth is not fixed as to amount - it is CREATED by free economies - that is something the socialists will not acknowledge, and I think it is a big fault in their worldview.

Here I go again - another damned link to another damned article. Will I never learn? Well, I’m NOT asking for comments (!!) just doing my linking thing for those interested. Really. :slight_smile:
https://mises.org/library/it-started-plato

It’s an interesting article but the author uses socialism interchangeably to refer to both communism and national socialism (fascism) which reduces the impact of his otherwise insightful observations.

He puts socialism and democracy as opposites, the former as a kind of enforced social contract and the latter as freedom, but democracy and freedom on its own does not, as you’ve observed, automatically result in responsibility. This is why it makes sense to combine them into democratic socialism - a social contract decided democratically.

Not a perfect article to be sure; thanks for reading it and commenting!!

1 Like

These are real problems…

Tocqueville:
Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?
Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Hey, many will read this and not have an iota of what it represents…

And that is sad.

I don’t see how it could be mis-understood; disagreed with no doubt, but clear enough.
I get what you’re saying.

Sounds like a description of an oligarchy controlled market economy.

Professors Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern, analysed 1,799 policy issues before Congress and found that “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy”.

A recent analysis of a Federal Reserve report found that the wealthiest 1% of Americans saw their net worth grow by $21tn over the past 30 years, while the wealth of the bottom 50% fell by $900bn.

There is some very fine print under those graphs. As well, I don’t know how to assess the methodology he used to make HIS assessments.Like:
“To derive this, I initially take …” - these are HIS derivations, based on how HE chooses to make the assessment that leads to the graph. Of course the graph is HUGE and colorful and carries more weight than his words - even though it may not be sound.
If on the other hand you are just wanting to poke at America, there are plenty of other targets.

OTOH:

How ‘Democratic Socialism’ Wreaked Havoc On My Native Sweden

“The one period when Sweden practiced what may be considered “democratic socialism” was between 1960 and 1980. During this period, the country nationalized industry and massively expanded the welfare state financed by tax increases and currency devaluations, and it paid a high price. Sweden fell from the top of the list of wealthiest countries in the world to the middle of the pack of industrialized nations, bringing it to the brink of ruin in the 1990s.”

ALSO:
Sweden stood as the world’s fourth wealthiest country nearly five decades ago. Its taxes were lower than most western countries, including the United States. The economy was deregulated, and public spending was hardly above 10 percent gross domestic product (GDP).

But Sweden was soon teetering on the brink of collapse from its experiment with socialism.

“Free markets and small government made Sweden rich,” said Swedish economist and Cato Institute fellow Johan Norberg. “The experiment with socialism crashed us.”
from https://thefederalist.com/2019/06/25/socialism-didnt-work-in-sweden-and-it-wont-work-in-america/