America’s sneaky despotism

(The PanAm Post, where I found this interesting piece, describes the writer, José Azel, as a “scholar and author.” It’s about Democratic Despotism, a phrase that I like and which I think applies not only to the United States now but to most of Western Europe.

(Azel makes the point that in Democratic Despotisms one finds “armed forces, securities agencies or administrative agencies [that evolve] beyond the effective control of the civilian political leadership.” Of these three, I believe it’s administrative agencies that are the biggest peril today to individual freedom in the United States. They constantly grow and spit out endless rules to keep themselves in business and you hog-tied.)

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The idea of democratic despotism appears to be an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms. But, in “Democracy in America” (1835-1840) Alexis de Tocqueville offered a powerful description of democratic despotism as “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.”

Under Tocqueville’s democratic or soft despotism, “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.”

Democratic despotism “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 flow of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”

Soft despotism is not as obvious as hard despotism. It gives us the illusion of being in control; it degrades us rather than persecutes us. It often takes the form of a state within a state (imperium in imperio) where an internal organization, such as the armed forces, securities agencies or administrative agencies, evolves beyond the effective control of the civilian political leadership.

Regulatory policy should be viewed with extraordinary suspicion and used frugally.

For example, historically, efforts to separate Church and State were anchored on the perception that the Church could turn into an imperium in imperio undermining civilian leadership. In other examples, in the Soviet Union, the secret police (KGB) was considered a State within a State. The same is true of its successor, The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB).  And, in the United States, the government’s bureaucracy is often portrayed as a modern-day example of an imperium in imperio.

The modern definition of bureaucracies comes from German sociologist Max Weber who, in the 1920s, defined bureaucracies as any system of administration conducted by trained professionals according to fixed rules. And, although Weber considered bureaucracies necessary in a modern world, he also warned that bureaucratization was a threat to individual freedoms where individuals would be trapped in a soulless “iron cage” of rule-based controls.

Bureaucracies are also characterized by unrelenting growth. In the United States, the original bureaucracy of the federal government consisted of only the employees of three small departments; State, Treasury, and War. Today the federal branch employs nearly 3 million people. The old Soviet KGB employed one officer for every 428 citizens. In today’s “freer” Russia the FSB employs one officer for every 297 citizens.

Tocqueville forewarned, back in 1835, of a degrading despotic democracy of “small complicated rules.” Imagine what he would say today. During the last few years of the George W. Bush administration regulations increased dramatically, and in the first seven years of the Obama Administration over 20,600 new regulations were added for an estimated regulatory cost burden in excess of $100 billion annually.

Conceptually, government regulations represent a way for people to give up managing their own affairs and turn those affairs over to a government agency.

According to Tocqueville, a byproduct of turning over the management of our affairs to a government institution is that we become incompetent to choose good leaders. Thus, government regulations would ruin the American experiment by combining the vices of those who govern with the weaknesses of the governed.

This regulatory paternalism embodies the philosophy that people cannot be trusted to make good decisions, requiring government to impose its judgment over the voluntary decisions that represent our needs and preferences. Yes, some regulations are necessary and inherent to the rule of law. Regulations to protect children and those unable to make reasonable judgments are essential. But regulatory policy should be viewed with extraordinary suspicion and used frugally.

Fortunately, we seem to have finally understood that the soft despotism of regulations undermines the very concept of personal responsibility.

New ImageIn January 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order requiring government agencies to slash two regulations for every new regulation put in place. The President has now reported a success ratio of 22 regulations eliminated for every new one enacted.

The measure is being touted as an economic success. It is much more than that. It is a restoration of personal freedoms.

An incredible story

New Image
The author peeks up from behind her mother’s back around 1980.

I READ A LOT because I’m smart, or maybe it’s the other way around.

Aside from my frequent mentions here that I often read a spell during the late afternoons down on the plaza, accompanied by a café Americano negro, I don’t do book reviews nor do I plug them, usually. But I’m gonna make an exception.

The Girl With the Seven Names.

girlIt’s written, along with a Welsh ghost writer named David John, by Hyeonseo Lee. I believe all Koreans are named either Lee or Park. That’s not the name she was given at birth but one of the seven she picked up along the escape route.

She fled North Korea. It’s not the first book I’ve read by North Korean defectors. It’s the second or third. But it’s by far the best, the most gripping, the most incredible.

This book was on the New York Times Best Seller List in 2015, so you may know of it. I pay no mind to best-seller lists anywhere, so it was new to me.

Kindle recommended it.

Something I did not know was that although North Korea’s southern border, the one with South Korea, is heavily guarded and difficult to pass through, the northern border with China is a walk in the park to cross. The problem with escaping that way is that the Chinese will send you right back if you’re caught.

Lee was just 19 years old when she crossed into China. The years-long, often harrowing tale of her trek to South Korea and then the added, equally gripping, story of how she managed to get her mother and brother to South Korea too is something you don’t want to miss. It’s a story of terror, love, deceit, cunning and sheer luck.

It takes you through China, Laotian prisons, Vietnam and tense bus journeys.

North Korea is usually referred to as communist, but it’s about as communist as I am. It’s an old-school Oriental despotism that’s totally misplaced in today’s world. A bit more communist, but not all that much, was Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s Red China.

These facts support the common leftist claim the communism has never really been implemented, and that is quite correct. When the pie-in-the-sky notion of communism is tried, human nature swiftly comes into play, and despotism follows.

This is a wonderful book. It ends happily, and Lee is beautiful. How has this not been made into a movie? She’s in her late 30s now and lives in South Korea.

A good drubbing

TO THE EVERLASTING shame of the United States and the clueless electorate that returned him to the White House in 2012, a blatant anti-Semite now rules from the Oval Office.

In this video Marco Rubio takes him, and — by extension — his starry-eyed fans, to the woodshed, verbally speaking. Barry has a reputation for eloquence, something that’s long mystified me (he’s actually quite wooden), but he pales in comparison to the senator from Florida.

I am a fan of Jews and Israel, the only democracy in its region, a place where women can walk free and all religions can be practiced, a place where you will not be stoned to death or beheaded or thrown from a high building for being gay, expressing a contrary opinion about faith, or murdered for marital infidelity if you’re female.

If you’re a man, well, that’s okay.

Most of the Middle East is a despotic Hellhole.

American university campuses in particular are infested with anti-Semites, both students and faculty, and so is much of Europe, a continent with a short memory. It’s pathetic. Let’s give a hand to Marco Rubio today.

The wisdom of Winston

Winston Churchill was one of the greatest and wisest men of the 20th century, a master of war and politics.

A passionate defender of liberty.

He was fortunate to perish before the mind poison called Political Correctness warped Western culture, imperiling all that is positive and civilized.

WinstonOne of the countless evil things Political Correctness embraces is the Mohammedan religion. It is embraced for no other reason than it is anti-Christian and anti-Jewish.

Political Correctness is also anti-American, anti-capitalism, anti-white, against most people and things that brought us modernity, comfort, health and liberty.

In 1899, Churchill published his book The River War, an account of British and Mohammedan fighting in the Sudan.

Here are some prescient excerpts:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.

The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.

The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property — either as a child, a wife, or a concubine.*

No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.

Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith . . . and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.

And over a century later, little has changed. What Churchill didn’t mention was the Mohammedan’s preferred government: “royalty” or religious fanaticism.

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* Mention this particular nasty detail to a PC person, and watch the subject quickly change.

(Thanks to Canadian reader Bob for bringing this to my attention, and you’re welcome for my bringing it to yours.)