March 2023
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The ‘de-democratisation’ of the West

Monday/Tuesday blog

Were we living in an historical aberration?

I read somewhere recently about the idea of the ‘de-democratisation’ of the West. Having the attention span of an on-heat newt, I didn’t read the article. But I imagine the thesis may have been something like this:

Let’s assume for the sake of simplicity that the first advanced human civilisation emerged about 12,000 years ago. Let’s further assume that any semblance of what we would recognise as representative democracy started in the West about 1900. This would mean that only about 10% of the world’s population (the West) have had anything like democracy for just about 1% of the time we lived in civilisations. Even today, most of the world’s population live in brutal, oppressive, corrupt dictatorships and/or kleptocracies.

So, most of us have lived in what could be seen as an historical aberration – relatively free, democratic societies. Curiously, we take these for granted when, in fact, they are the exception as most of human life throughout history in most countries has been nasty, brutal, short and oppressed.

The start of de-democratisation

Now let’s look at Western democracy – Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

But how do you measure the degree of democracy? I have taken as a proxy the distribution of wealth. I have assumed (you may or may not agree with this) that the greater the share of national wealth owned by the wealthiest, the lower is the level of wealth distribution and thus the level of effective democracy and the higher the amount of wealth owned by the lowest 90% of families, the higher is the level of effective democracy. I’ve used the charts below as a basis for my assumption. The first one shows the share of the US’s wealth owned by the top 0.1% (the light blue line) and the bottom 90% (the dark blue line) of families:

The picture for the UK is fairly similar:

What you’ll see is that the share of wealth owned by the richest in society declined from around 1900 till the 1980s. After that, the rich have been getting much richer at the expense of the rest of us.

There are obviously many reasons for the 1900 to 1980s more equitable distribution of wealth. I suspect this was partly driven by the two world wars. After the sacrifices made by ordinary people in the unnecessary and avoidable slaughter of WWI, the elites were so terrified of the Bolshevik communist revolution spreading throughout Europe that they conceded a limited amount of their power and wealth to us lesser mortals – in the UK we were promised “a land fit for heroes”. Similarly, after WW2 our rulers wanted to enrol us in the fight against communism, so they again allowed ordinary people a slightly larger share of the wealth our countries produced. In the UK, for example, the post-WW2 period gave us the NHS and the state pension

The rise of the internationalists

But over the last half century we ‘ve seen the rise of transnational organisations. Here’s someone much smarter than myself explaining what happens when transnational organisations subvert nation states:

Joining the EU transforms a nation-state into a member state. Whereas a nation state is a vertical unit, with elites gaining legitimacy through representing the citizens (and enjoying a social connection with a wider section of society that is much deeper and richer than mere electoral superiority), a member state is a horizontal unit, in which elites seek legitimacy and policy direction from their interactions with the elites of other member states and officials in international institutions. This transformation involves a move to post-political, technocratic forms of governance.

There is no denying that this project has been a success, resulting in a near-complete curtailment of democratic participation — understood, in most basic terms, as the ability of citizens to have a collective say on the direction of society.

However, as economic policies have become tailored to the interests of a handful of immensely powerful mega-corporations, any sense of the collective or national interest was lost. A small elite was allowed to accrue immense wealth and power, while laying waste to our societies’ workforce, industrial capacity, public services and vital infrastructures, leaving our countries poorer, weaker and dependent on foreign (and increasingly hostile) nations for the supply of everything from energy to food to basic medical supplies.

The interests of this small financial-corporate elite were always at odds with those of the rest of us. And we have now reached the point where they have become so divorced from the latter that they threaten the very survival of society itself

The power grab by the elites

It seems that by the 1980s, the elites saw no need for further sharing of wealth and power. So they began the process of accumulating more power and wealth for themselves while gradually impoverishing us in the process. As George Orwell wrote:

“They (the Proles)… had reverted to a style of life that appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern…Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.”
-George Orwell, 1984

The lockdowns were partly about fighting a previously-unknown disease. But they were also about the consolidation of control – and thus power and wealth – by the elites:

Similarly all the nonsense about supposed catastrophic man-made climate change is actually a power- and wealth-grab by the ruling elites at our expense – increasing energy prices and restrictions on our freedom to choose what we want to eat, were we want to travel, how we heat our homes, the kind of cars we are allowed to drive etc etc.

It’s true that the lockdowns and vaxx mandates got the richest people and industries richer. But what they really did, in the final analysis, was further transfer power out of the  hands of the dwindling middle class and of the increasing impoverished classes and into those of the elites:

The elites already have more money than they could spend in a hundred lifetimes. But what they really crave is power – absolute power over us. Power begets power. Once they’ve a taste, people tend to crave more power. Given the opportunity, they’ll go to great, and often immoral, lengths to acquire and stockpile it.

Will we revolt?

The big question facing us is whether ordinary people will compliantly accept their reduced lifestyles while the elites ridicule our obsequious stupidity or whether, like the Dutch farmers and Canadian truckers, we will revolt at the new oppression. Personally, I’m beginning to believe that a general strike in the UK against our economic and spiritual immiseration might be the only way to stymie the elites’ latest power grab.

8 comments to The ‘de-democratisation’ of the West

  • Paul Chambers

    I feel this is a story of asset appreciation driven by lax monetary policy whilst fiscal policy runs ultra tight to pay for the huge state. The wealthy generally pay a far lower proportion of their income in taxes than the prols who are completely hammered unless they are part of the ever increasing underclass of benefit recipients.

    The huge state awash with money endlessly expands and eventually grows to hate the people funding it. The reason their heaven on earth is so corrupt and dis-functional is all the fault of the prols. Nothing to do with the underlying ideology being just plain wrong and a castle built on sand.

    It seems though that once the prols take notice the parasite class withdraw and regroup. But lowering taxes and increasing interest rates will start to reverse the asset bubble and with less funds in the state coffers and less ability to borrow then belts have to tighten.

  • A Thorpe

    This is an excellent piece on issues we should all be concerned about. I was born in 1944 and I feel I have lived in the best period in history. It wasn’t a good start but that makes me appreciate the life I have had, but I am now concerned about whether it will continue.

    I place no importance on democracy. It is just an illusion designed to make us believe that we have representatives who are looking after our interests. The political parties are all the same, but they create a false image of offering something different. They deny us freedom and personal responsibility for our lives and live off our efforts. We will be free when we keep the benefits of our efforts, which means no income tax and no property tax. Taxation is just another form of slavery.

    Unfortunately, there is now a large number of people who are willing to give up their freedom for the false promises of the state to protect us from everything, including viruses. Some anthropologists say humans were at their best when they were hunter gatherers because after they had found enough food the rest of the day was their own. They lived in small groups and could agree what they wanted to do. It is not a life anybody today would want to go back to. I think you are right to focus on 12,000 years ago, the agricultural revolution. We became more settled and as farming developed, we got more efficient and produced more than we needed. This is the time when some people realised it was easier to control the excess production than do the hard work of producing it, and it allowed cities to become established which was about 7,000 years ago, so it was a slow process, but it created “elites” controlling the masses and it has never left us. What was it that allowed this to happen? I haven’t got an answer, and as you say life for most people was utterly miserable, and still is in many parts of the world.

    I would go back to the American Constitution, 1787, for the start of democracy. My view is that it essentially tried to limit the power of the state and give people freedom. Washington was not a member of a political party, and he knew that they would work to destroy the aims of the constitution because they want power. He was right and this is why all political parties should be abolished.

    I am less concerned about the wealth accumulated by the rich of today. Look at the other side of it and see how many people have been brought out of poverty and those still in poverty are held there by corrupt politicians. When you look at the wealth of some of the landed gentry it is small in comparison and a lot of them have vanished along with their properties and estates. The wealth of some of the rich might seem obscene but they have it because of the businesses that they created, and we willingly handed over our money for their products and services and we work in the businesses they have created. None of them are going to take their wealth with them and much of it is tied up in their businesses and investments in other businesses. Taking away their excess wealth I suspect would do nothing. I think as well that they had the money to buy new expensive products such as video recorders, colour TVs and flat screens. They provided a test bed and as a result prices dropped and were affordable to many more. The most important factor is the influence these large corporations have on the governments and that is another reason that democracy is meaningless. We should have free, competitive trade but governments and corporations have created state-controlled capitalism to benefit the wealthy, all supported by the corrupt central banking system. Worthless money has been printed that has resulted in the rich getting the benefit of it, which they have converted into fixed assets, and we have ended up with the debt.

    I think you are right to focus on the end of WWII. I think there had to be a relaxation in control to get us to work to recover from the damage the polticians had created with their war. But a big factor was the development of electronics during the war which created a new industry. I wish I had paid more attention to what my parent said about their early life, but it was one of poverty and it was even worse for everybody born before them. Life for most people did not change over their lifetime. Since WWII we have seen huge improvements and people now expect that to continue. It is an unusual period in human history, and I am at a point where I have difficulty accepting continued improvement will be the case. The WEF and especial Schwab have been justifiably criticised and also recently Yuval Harari but I think Harari is looking at how the future will develop and somebody must do this. Technology has reduced the number of jobs needed and the population has increased rapidly over the same period, and I think he is right to draw attention to this mismatch. This seems to relate to Mattias Desmet’s remarks about people in meaningless jobs. These have been created as a way of paying people, but there is no wealth generation associate with them.

    The climate crisis was created by environmentalists, and I think it was Al Gore who first got on the bandwagon and saw how he could make money from promoting it. But why did we allow him and others to get away with it? I listened to a podcast interview of Prof Sunetra Gupta (Alan Miller interviews Professor Sunetra Gupta – #Together Talks Podcast with Alan Miller #togethertalks | Podcast on Spotify) which I recommend. She made the point that everybody should be able to understand science (but making the point that some of it we don’t need to understand – relativity and string theory). I believe this is correct, but scientists must be able to explain the science to make it understandable, but they cannot be trusted anymore. We must also ensure that we look at all sides of the argument and look at the evidence. Your book does exactly this and there are many more. It seems that people don’t want to see the truth, in which case there is no hope.

    We have seen a massive transfer of our taxes and debt in subsiding renewable energy and then a bigger transfer with the pandemic and the huge cost of closing down the economy with more debt paying people to stay at home and supporting business such as the pointless eat out funding. But we agreed to it all and complied like sheep. Hitler told the Germans “Everything I am, I am through you alone.” We created the monster that is controlling us.

    I did read that there is no point in trying to change a broken system that is not working. We need to create a new system. That for me is the end of the political parties but it will not happen because people do not want to think or take responsibility for themselves.

  • Carolyn Hill

    Perhaps we should do away with political parties and only allow independents to stand for parliament? Each candidate would have to stand on their own merits. As I have mentioned before my constituency is a very safe seat and whoever stands for the conservative party is guaranteed to win it.

    Having said that I am seriously concerned about the mental state of parliamentary candidates in 10 years time! They will have been thoroughly brainwashed by their woke universities. If we think the current incumbents are incompetent morons just wait!

  • Bad Brian

    All of the above ,,brlliant.

    However, I feel we have come to a sorry day when someone as bright as David closes his essay by suggestig that the way forward might be for us all to go on a general strike…..
    and someone like me,,,,,,,,who has worked like a donkey all my life,,,,,,,nods to myself and agrees with him.

    If this really is the best we can all do then we are past the point of reistance and semi aware that we are being wrapped as a cocoon, for future storage and harvesting, and frankly, secretly glad of the feeling of rest the anasthesia being pumped into us brings.

  • Jan

    Oh Wow I lost my comment. I do wish you lot would shut up, and, perhaps come up with a solution.
    Okay, let’s go, if no one voted in the next election, what would happen?
    There is a lot of people in the UK, from other countries, different religions, that are for freedom, are not of the other lot.
    I think we could be on the winning side. Unfortunately no one dare say anymore. What has happened to this great country

  • Carolyn Hill

    Trouble is Jan you’d never get absolutely everyone to abstain from voting. One vote per constituency and that candidate would win the seat with a majority of one. There’s no minimum vote for someone to win a seat.

  • Stillreading

    Great blog and great comments, with much food for thought. In reality, short of a Revolution a la France circa 1780, when all the erstwhile rich powerful had their heads lopped off by Madame la Guillotine while the plebs cheered with joy, there’s not a lot the working population of the UK can do other than “withdraw their labour” – aka strike – which would bring the whole country down. As a lifelong Conservative (big and small C) the only time I have ever voted otherwise was when I supported UKIP to get us out of the deeply undemocratic EU. Now I find myself supporting the notion of a General Strike for those of working age and there’s nothing at all oldies like me can do other than demonstrate in the streets. I can’t see that happening. I know some very pleasant people of my generation pretty well, but I can’t identify any single one who would venture forth to demonstrate. In reality, although I have no wish to appear elitist, I doubt the majority truly appreciate what is going on right now economically and where it will lead. A couple of times in my rebellious past I have tried to rally supporters to causes – very valid causes in both cases – only to find that people say they are in agreement, they will happily sign petitions, but when it comes to the hard stuff they withdraw from sheer fright aided and abetted by indolence. In neither of the instances I am thinking of was anything required other than showing up one Saturday, getting on a coach, enjoying (enduring?) a 3 hour oach journey to the demonstration location, formally handing over the petition at Downing Street, then getting on a return coach home. No one was willing to turn up. The fact is that as a nation we pride ourselves on being law abiding, but too often this means apathetic. Regarding power costs, in reality, old people who don’t really understand the power consumption of various domestic essentials relative to another will switch everything off, become cold and malnourished or consume rotten food, fall over in the dark, injure themselves and die. Pubs and restaurants will be unable to keep their premises warmed to acceptable levels won’t be able to afford to cook food (or even to buy it in the first place) and will close. There will be widespread unemployment. Many pubs in particular will never re-open. They will eventually be converted for residential use and the entire character of villages will be irreversibly altered to their detriment. And we ain’t seen nothing yet. Nigel Farage pointed out yesterday evening something I certainly hadn’t been aware of- the rate at which the £1 is declining in value against the US Dollar, a reserve currency. If/when UK interest rates are hiked to try to deal with the consequent financial crisis, the housing market will collapse. For first-time buyers home ownership will become an impossible aspiration. Many will have become unemployed anyway so will lose all prospect of being granted a loan. Those already saddled with variable-rate mortgages or whose fixes are coming to an end will find themselves unable to fund the enormous monthly payment increases and will be re-possessed. I recall the last time this happened. It didn’t fortunately effect me, but certainly heard of people who just walked into their banks or building societies, put the keys to their homes on the counter, and walked out. “You will own nothing and you will be happy.”!! Build Back Better? You’re ‘aving a larf, Herr Schwab! Well, you and Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and Meegain and Harry and Boris and the rest of those who have no money worries may “Build back Better” but for Jo and Joanna Bloggs times ain’t good. Democracy? In reality, it is no more than an ineffectual dream turning reality nightmare.

  • A Thorpe

    Be careful about thinking a revolution is the answer. The French Revolution started as a fairly peaceful affair but revolutionaries never seem to be satisfied and it became increasingly radical. This has resulted in the expression that revolutions always eat their own children. It finally produced the dictator Napoleon. Some think the problems in Europe today relate back to that period but I have never seen a detailed analysis.

    Can we afford a general strike? It would be like putting the final nail in our own coffin. I don’t think that demonstrations achieve a lot except to show objection to something. They don’t offer an a solution to a problem that has already been created. The Poll Tax riots reversed the tax but it cannot produce new reliable power stations. Thatcher believed in personal responsibility and there is no point in strikes or revolutions when people don’t accept responsibility for themselves and that is the problem today. The majority want the state to provide for them and the west has become increasingly socialist, and this is increasingly obvious in the USA which Trump exposed.

    I saw predictions of 22% inflation next year and since every estimate seems to be low we can expect higher. That will be the end of the good life and we could see riots with property being destroyed and it will be by people who do not own property. This is what Thatcher understood. Property ownership handed down the generations creates wealth and a stable society. Everything we have could be destroyed, our property burnt and our savings made worthless.

    Mattis Desmet believes the way out of group think is to constantly challenge its views and this discussion has certainly done that. Let’s hope more have read then than have made comments.

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