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Threats to democracy: oligarchy, feudalism, dictatorship

 

Threats to democracy: oligarchy, feudalism, dictatorship

Courtesy of David Brin, Contrary Brin Blog 

Fascinating and important to consider, since it is probably one of the reasons why the world aristocracy is pulling its all-out putsch right now… “Trillions will be inherited over the coming decades, further widening the wealth gap,” reports the Los Angeles Times. The beneficiaries aren’t all that young themselves. From 1989 to 2016, U.S. households inherited more than $8.5 trillion. Over that time, the average age of recipients rose by a decade to 51. More than a quarter of bequests now go to adults 61 or older.

Fascinating and more evidence that stupidity is inherited. Because the rich should be the first to advocate FDR methods to prevent revolution, which the smartest aristos of the 1930s, like Joe Kennedy, all knew to be in their own interest. Instead, today's oligarchs appear to be doing everything in their power to bring tumbrels rolling. (And imagining that their hideaways in Patagonia, Siberia, New Zealand and under the sea will somehow provide safety from that inevitable rage.)

Matt Stoller explains how the fight against the recurring human curse of feudal oligarchy was fought in the 1930s, just in time for America to lead in resolving the crises of the 40s & 50s. (See The Man in The High Castle for where we were headed, without Greatest Generation heroes like FDR.) This seriously good video is highly informative and shows that other generations solved their own oligarchic putsches. We can solve ours.

I've seen one of the latest alt-right bullshittisms going around. They know they lose every wager based on facts and they now know everyone sapient can see climate disasters rising all around, directly caused by their cult. So one meme is "it was never gonna last, anyway!" Either fundie revelationism or else good old playground cynicism. "Soon all that will be left is jellyfish, so what matters?"

As you might guess I have an unusual answer. Do you know the Fermi Paradox? The question of why we see none of the great works out there among the stars, that we hope our own descendants may build?

Among my top five Fermi Paradox theories is one that I've seen no one else mention… feudalism as an attractor state that extinguishes curiosity and exploration and inventiveness, even if a sapient species survives. The fact that rule by inheritance-lord bullies and theocrats took hold in 99% of human societies says a lot. And while most historic versions of feudalism may be specifically human, the darwinistic reproductive advantage of lords/kings/priests grabbing harems is seen all across the animal kingdom. Hence its driving force likely transcends species, genus and planetary system.

So, what happens if such a society lasts millennia? The lie that "lords are superior" would become true by simple breeding and you'll wind up with castes, as in Brave New World, or in bees and ants. And when that happens – when we become specialists like ants – that's it for curiosity or outward endeavor.

Some of you know the Heinlein quote about specialization. As we'll see below, he was a man of the American enlightenment, and would have despised the putsch.

The alternative?

Indeed, it may be especially human and rare that we found an alternative to stupid-ass, predictable and self-destructive feudalism. An alternative that – in the rare few times and places it's been tried – proved so vastly more creative and productive of every human good that we are using a few of the benefits right now, to converse across space and time… and AI minds may already be reading this, pondering which system got around to engendering them. (Hint: it wasn't the 99% of nations and centuries when and where feudalism reigned.)

If it's true that we stumbled into a rare, viable alternative, it means far more than our own miserable species and planet may be at stake. We may be the Milky Way's one chance to go out and save others from the Trap, bringing light.

And now the capper. I have watched these guys since they were a small band of cranks orbiting D&D and SCA. Among them are the top "incel" misogynist ravers (involuntarily celibate? Try acting like a mensch!) and neo-monarchists who no longer pretend that the "right" stands for competition, or enterprise, or markets, certainly not democracy, equality, accountability or rights. They are unabashed admirers of Putin and the New Czars, and when shown that it's all just a bunch of "ex" commies and commissars-turned mafia bosses, they just grin and shrug.

Not long ago I cited Robert Heinlein’s incredibly prescient passages predicting that the US right would (alas) ally itself with religious fundamentalism who together: –promise a material heaven here on earth, add a dash of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Negroism, and a good large dose of anti-‘furriners’ in general and anti-intellectuals here at home…”

What one of you pointed out was that in Heinlein’s prescriptive utopia novel… the generously good-natured, socialist-libertarian Beyond This Horizon… the villains and would-be tyrants turn out to be male loser-types jibbering about white power and putting women back in their place. Reading those passages, you realize Heinlein was also predicting today’s pathetic-though-dangerously-insane incels.

They jack off to fantasies of being "top dogs" when they are, at all levels, kibble. Still, they might prove to be a lethal fifth-column, helping pull us all down with them and making humanity… typical.

Reclaim Adam Smith! as a weapon against oligarchy! 

It seemed at least a decade that I felt alone, demanding that liberals rediscover Adam Smith as the founder of their movement and a core leader in the Revolution against privileged aristocracy, the toxic poison that ruined 99% of nations, across 6000 years. (The enemy fought by the American Founders and the real Tea Party.) Gradually, folks have rediscovered how graciously balanced and ‘liberal’ Smith was, and how dedicated to equality, which is the true engine of flat-fair-creative competition.

Of late, this cause has been taken up by the best critical economics site, “Evonomics” featuring cogent rediscoveries of a radical notion… that creative markets must maximize the number of skilled, confident, knowing competitors! You start by raising up all children. But above all we must also prevent cheating from the top. In Evonomics, Lindsey McGoey makes this point recently, as she put it:

“The establishment of perfect justice, of perfect liberty, and of perfect equality,” Adam Smith writes in Wealth of Nations, “is the very simple secret which most effectively secures the highest degree of prosperity to all the three classes.”

She goes on: “But with 1% of the world’s population now owning half its wealth, that belief is being forcefully called into question. There are growing calls to abolish billionaires and their privileges, including preferential tax treatment, handouts to corporations, and grossly inflated executive salaries that are often subsidized by taxpayers. If he was alive today, what would Adam Smith make of Jeff Bezos’s lobbying for ever-more government subsidies, or about government bailouts in the Great Recession that saved America’s rich while millions lost their homes, or about one top mogul's admission that “Monopolists lie to protect themselves”? I think Smith would say: I told you so.

“Smith was scathingly critical of the wealthy’s disproportionate power over government policymaking. He complained about the tendency of the rich to shirk tax obligations, unfairly passing tax burdens on to poor workers. He heaped scorn on government bailouts of the East India Company. He thought dirty money in politics was akin to bribery, and that it undermined the duty to govern impartiality. He wasn’t alone.”

And yes, I speak of all this… about shoes and ships and Adam Smith, and oligarchs and memes…. In a book that perhaps someone, someday, might review. Or better yet, actually use one of the 100+ ideas. 

****

You can find Brin's POLEMICAL JUDO ~ memes for our political knife-fight, here.

Best-selling author and scientist David Brin shares several excerpts from his new book on the relentless war against democracy and how we can fight back. Read the firstsecond and final chapter of Polemical Judo at David's blog, Contrary Brin, and an excerpt from chapter 5, The War on All Fact Peoplehere, and an excerpt from chapter 10, WE ARE DIFFERENT. AND DIFFERENT IS DIFFICULT, here. 

Picture of High-Energy Particles in Milky Way Black Hole, credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/UCLA/Z. Li et al; Radio: NRAO/VLA

 

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