This post originally appeared on XYZ.
Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn recently dropped a grenade on my brain, and now my thoughts are all a-jumble. I believe I can now say, with conviction, that I can understand how Alice felt while falling into that hole. I’m as confused as the ABC’s ‘election computer’. Perhaps after reading this, you’ll be similarly discombobulated. I happen to have the grenade right here, so I’m happy to oblige. Right now, I have the pin in my teeth and I’m now hurling the grenade at your frontal cortex…
Democracy and liberalism are incompatible. Boom!
Now sometimes this grenade is slow-release, so give it some time. In the meantime, let’s examine this heresy.
Democracy and liberalism are so firmly interconnected in our 21st century minds that I suspect most people think they’re the same thing. I’ve often heard the mainstream media (MSM) propagandists use the phrase ‘liberal democracy’. They might even say that phrase in universities, which means it must be a sensible phrase, right? But what if it’s an oxymoron? The first step toward the rabbit hole begins with the insight that the philosophical premises of liberalism and democracy are quite distinct from each other. Now I’m no expert on these two political philosophies, and right now the political section of my neural network resembles a Baghdad marketplace after Friday prayers. I know I’m not going to do this topic justice, but it’s too important to not speak up. Let me know in the comments if you see any glaring errors in the following analysis. It might help me put my brain back together again.
The foundations of democracy rest in the belief, indeed the worship, of equality. One man, one vote. Then one woman, one vote. Now it’s one cis-or-non-cis-trans-whatever, one vote. See how the logic of equality works itself out? It’s a great flattener. It flattens distinctions. It flattens discernment. It flattens discrimination (which used to be considered a good thing). But what if nature is not flat, but comprised of complex systems that are perhaps hierarchical? What if civilisation requires hierarchy to function optimally? What if the dogmatic belief in political equality doesn’t correspond to reality? Then I guess one of them will have to go. If we wish to maintain the sacrosanctity of equality, then I guess we’re going to have to use some of that State power that democracy has captured to obliterate pesky reality. We’re right to do so, because we’re doing it for the highest of goods – to make everyone equal. What could go wrong?
Our own systems of government in the West are not formally democratic, they are republics or constitutional monarchies. Many of those slave-beating, patriarchal Founding Fathers that Americans make statues of detested democracy, and warned against it repeatedly. It wasn’t until Jackson in the 1830’s that the term ‘democracy’ came to be used to describe the US Constitutional system at all. In the march of democracy through our own political systems, we see a historical pattern that repeats over and again. Once the equality genie is out of the bottle, the logic of egalitarianism works itself out in the steady flattening of anything that stands in the way of democracy.
Ancient Rome descended steadily into despotism as democracy gained ground. Rome established its republican system of government in 509BC. Over time, the political trend (with only temporarily effective pushback by the elites) was toward greater and greater political equality. First the Gracchi came along demanding redistribution of conquered lands to the lower orders. They got thumped (to death) by the Senate for their efforts, but became martyrs to the cause of equality forever afterwards. They even got statues. The great political dialectic of the Roman Republican period was between the Populares, who demanded greater and greater equality, and the Optimates, who defended the status quo. Does that sound familiar? Just like in our civilisation, the conservatives lost. And lost. And lost. By the 1st century BC Rome’s republican system had become so thoroughly democratic that it led to the rise of Caesar and the first emperors. Plato and Aristotle had both asserted that democracies always end with a dictatorship. The history of Athens and Rome had borne them out, at least in ancient times. Does their theory still apply in the modern era?
Post-revolutionary France descended into despotism quite quickly after the equalitarian mob screeched, “Off with their heads!” If you ask any high school history teacher, they’ll tell you what they teach every kid when teaching the French Revolution – that Napoleon’s troops spread revolutionary ideas about democracy and equality across Europe, and this led to the era of revolutions in the 19th century. Let’s think about that for a second – a despot conquers Europe, and in doing so spreads democratic ideals. Does that strike anyone else as, well, weird? Either it’s not true, or our ideas on democracy aren’t quite aligned with reality. Perhaps the problem with our confusion regarding equalitarian democracy is that we equate it with voting. It’s quite reasonable, however, to have democracy without the ritual of voting. You can have voting without democracy, too. Elective monarchy was practiced in the Holy Roman Empire, Scandinavia and Poland, as well as in other places. Even the Great Khan had to be voted in by his council of khans. I wonder what Genghis’ how-to-vote cards looked like?
It’s a bedrock understanding of most Westerners that communism is the opposite of democracy. It must be, or else what was the Cold War about? Nazism falls into the same category. Surely World War II was a war between opposites – good and evil. We’re good, they were bad. National socialism is the opposite of democracy, right? Well, not really. The international and national forms of socialism both believe in equality. What they don’t believe in is liberty. The totalitarian regimes of 20th century all claimed to be democratic, and there was truth to this. None of them were ever liberal, however. Equality is not thought-crime in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Start advocating for liberty, however, and Jong-Un Kim might eat you for lunch. This insight that equality and democracy are incompatible with the free exercise of liberty is not new. William Lecky wrote in 1896:
A tendency to democracy does not mean a tendency to parliamentary government, or even a tendency towards greater liberty. On the contrary, strong arguments may be adduced, both from history and from the nature of things, to show that democracy may often prove the direct opposite of liberty. In ancient Rome the old aristocratic republic was gradually transformed into a democracy, and it then passed speedily into an imperial despotism. In France a corresponding change has more than once taken place. A despotism resting on a plebiscite is quite as natural a form of democracy as a republic, and some of the strongest democratic tendencies are distinctly adverse to liberty. Equality is the idol of democracy, but, with the infinitely various capacities and energies of man, this can only be attained by a constant, systematic, stringent repression of their natural development…
Does this, then, account for the complete and utter failure of ‘conservatives’ to conserve anything at all? Could it be that while right-thinking men and women have been fuming at those Cultural Marxist rodents nibbling away at our civilisational seed-corn, that the barn we put our faith in to protect it was faulty from the beginning? Is democracy the reason we keep losing out in the battle for liberty? Which is more germane to the West – equality or liberty? Let me answer my rhetorical question: liberty. Liberty built the West. When the Vikings sailed out in those shallow little ships to sow their oats across Europe, they weren’t exercising their equality. They were exercising their liberty. And although they weren’t concerned with anyone else’s, we can forgive them. They hadn’t discovered Christian universal brotherhood yet. We have though, and we’ve applied it equality. In doing so, are we destroying our liberty?
If von Kuehnelt-Leddihn is right, and you’ve probably guessed where I sit on the matter by now, then there’s only one thing to do. We’ve got to kill democracy. If liberty is the political value we esteem most, then it’s the only thing we can do if we’re serious about saving it. Although it might take us through the looking-glass, Western civilisation itself could die if we don’t. Perhaps we need all the king’s horses and all the king’s men to put the West together again?
Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Erik von. (1952). Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of our Time. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers.
Lecky, W. E. H. (1896). Democracy and Liberty. New York: Longmans, Green & Co, pp.256-57.