There seem to be only two broadly viewed mechanisms of control of populaces by elites: government by force and government by fraud. In either case, the ruling elites always take care of their own interest and perpetuation first, regardless of long-term interests of their polities, well-being of their subjects or any notion of allegiance to their own stated ideologies. With the latter method — as it is practiced in much of the world — it would be dissembling, hypocrisy, and division of natural allies by carefully rationed patronage that are the most important tools of the elites’ perpetuation. In the rare instances when ideologies trump interests, the elites in question merely self-destruct, and all too often take their polities along into perdition.
It is a curious feature of the trajectory of American political discourse that the more permissive the society becomes the more both ends of the spectrum pine for authoritarianism — naturally, on their own respective terms — as if sensing the increasing centripetal effect of small-l liberalism upon continued vitality of the Union.
A maxim for a prudent statesman may well be to “yield not to the temptation to achieve your heart’s desire, especially when a tempting chance seems close within reach, lest it is none but your enemy seeking to entrap you.” Thus was Bush 43 inveigled to crush Iran’s great foe, doing Iran’s heavy lifting for them. Thus also Obama was led to lend succor to the “Arab Spring” rebellions, aiding in the end only his nation’s enemies. This was Stalin brought to ignore the mounting war clouds. Thus also was Hitler guided to declare was on the US, despite knowing full well that it was not to Germany’s advantage. Let us pray then that our leaders yield no more to such temptations, however unlikely it appears that this outcome, so devoutly to be wish’d, may in actuality come to pass.
The less certain the route to power the more vicious is the struggle to reach it. Only a privileged class that is very well established can afford the luxury of gentility and honor in its dealings. This is not to say that such gentle players need not be ruthless once in position, but rather that they will be expected to never place their own rise above that of their polity.
In looking forward at the shape of history to come it is difficult to be sanguine about continuing world peace, even such as it has prevailed in the first years of this century. No bloviatings about end of history or violence reduction can hide the fact that the laws our interrelations have not been repealed and that the age-old patterns of rise and fall of empires are more than likely to recur. Continue reading
All the hand-wringing about the expanding income disparities in this country blithely ignores the fact that the Great Compression of the standard of living of the 1940s and 50s was a unique anomaly in the history if economic phenomena, and was only possible because the US was the only nation capable of supplying the global demand for goods and all possible competitors either lying in ruins or locked behind the Iron Curtain.
One often hears the oft-repeated saw that poverty and lack of opportunity drive rebellion and terrorism, but the facts do not support this notion. Of revolutionaries and terrorists, past and present, the vast majority have been a mixture of bourgeois ideologues, nationalist or religious fanatics and common criminals. Foot soldiers of rebellion who come from the working classes have historically been either paid or compelled to join, and usually only after the rebellion had gathered a great head of steam, even if they do, sometimes, when drunk on alcohol or preaching, arise in bloody jacquerie. Continue reading
Widespread cultural sophistication in class or nation is more a sign of decadence than vigor. It appears to inevitably follow great surges of new development in art and music, which, in turn, appear to depend of strife and disaster on one hand and the need of tyrants to show off their wealth and culture on the other.