By Larry Romanoff
Americans often fervently and unquestioningly attribute a kind of divine origin for their treasured democracy with claims that it originated centuries ago in Greece, promoted by some of the world’s greatest thinkers like Plato and Socrates, and is the natural and permanent state of man. But once again the Americans are simply displaying their ignorance, with sound bytes taken out of context and substituted for knowledge. There is no evidence whatever that multi-party anything is natural, and even less evidence that it’s permanent, and belief in a nonsense does not make it true. A form of representative government did indeed appear in ancient Greece, but it was entirely bereft of the cloak of reverence with which Americans have since clothed it. Here is Socrates’ judgment of democracy, as reported by Plato in his ‘Republic’:
“The excess of liberty, whether in States or individuals, seems only to pass into excess of slavery. And so, tyranny naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme form of liberty.”
Plato wrote that democracy was not the zenith of government but only just above the nadir of complete anarchy. He wrote that democracy would inevitably degenerate into oligarchy and, finally, tyranny – a fascist police state. These identical sentiments have persisted throughout history to the present day: Willy Brandt, former German Chancellor, was quoted as saying that “Western Europe has only 20 or 30 more years of democracy left in it; after that it will slide, engineless and rudderless, under the surrounding sea of dictatorship, and whether the dictation comes from a politburo or a junta will not make that much difference.”
Contained in notes attributed to Scottish judge and historian Alexander Tytler, was the profound observation that:
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can exist only until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury.“ The passage continued on to say that a democracy would always collapse from the eventual wholesale looting, always to be followed by a dictatorship. The point was that democracy is always temporary in nature and prima facie cannot exist as a permanent form of government because a democracy naturally evolves into kleptocracy, two coyotes and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. In a book on John Adams, David McCullough wrote of Adams’ deep concerns that the American electoral process would degenerate into a two-party system where each “gang” would put its interests above the interests of the American people. It is difficult to argue against the thesis that the US has already travelled most of this path. That isn’t quite the same thing as the highest form of government system, or fulfilling the yearnings of all mankind. And in fact, Socrates’ words reflect precisely the same observations and conclusions echoed much later by Tytler, that democracy as a form of government is self-terminating because it is the only system open to the kind of insidious corruption that will permit the rich and powerful, those with a lust for power, to eventually arrogate all power to themselves and usurp the throne. Both these men, and others, are saying the same thing: democracy deteriorates into a fascist dictatorship. We will see there is much evidence this is already occurring.
Similarly, in his book ‘Sorrows of Empire’, Chalmers Johnson wrote that four sorrows were certain to be visited on the US, with the cumulative effect of destroying any semblance of ‘democracy’ and replacing it with a fascist military police state. His ‘four sorrows’ were: (1) a state of perpetual war, leading to more terrorism against Americans everywhere, (2) a loss of democracy and rights as the presidency eclipses Congress and transforms the ‘executive branch’ into a military junta (a fascist dictatorship), (3) the replacement of truth by propaganda, disinformation, and the glorification of war, and (4) bankruptcy, as the United States pours its economic resources into ever more grandiose military projects. The first three of these have already been fulfilled, while the fourth may be only a matter of time.
Tytler completely dismissed optimistic, fairy-tale visions of democracy as “nothing better than a Utopian theory, a splendid chimera, descriptive of a state of society that never did, and never could exist; a republic not of men, but of angels“. And he is of course correct. The version of democracy that Americans promulgate so freely is indeed a chimera, which was originally a mythical animal with parts taken from various other animals, but today is used to mean a thing that is hoped or wished for but in fact is illusory or impossible to achieve. The concept of democracy that exists in unthinking American minds, is a fiction, a utopian delusion that quickly crumbles under examination but is never openly examined due to the existential threats such an examination would contain. In an article in USA Today, Jonathan Turley wrote, “An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them. If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.” This is precisely what we have in the US today, and is precisely what we call a dictatorship.
Americans have been taught from birth that Western nations are wealthy due to their multi-party democracies but, as we have already seen, their wealth was produced by colonisation, plunder and slaughter, and unrelated to their political system. For decades, Americans boasted of the natural superiority of their multi-party political system, evidenced by the great material wealth and other successes. However, in recent decades and certainly since 2008, this evidence of superiority has largely evaporated with wealth having dissipated in inverse proportion to the rapidly increasing civil strife. We have also seen that the world has many examples, other than the major Western countries, where these ‘democracies’ have largely failed to produce anything other than chaos.
To counter this increasingly damning evidence of the Western democratic model, and desperate to shore up the increasing body of evidence that democracies are far from a road to success, Americans are once again moving the goalposts. It is no longer ‘democracy’ that guarantees wealth, but ‘substantive‘ or ‘direct‘ or ‘liberal‘ democracies, or some other such re-categorisation, which are successful. We are therefore presented with a convenient trash bin into which we can toss all data that contradicts our premise. The failures are simply re-defined out of consideration, no longer being ‘real‘ democracies but some disfigured cousin that didn’t get it right – most likely due to an absence of American ‘values‘.
In another tribute to Bernays and his propaganda, one Jewish writer made a typical claim that “great and successful democracies emerge from a confluence of (1) an educated citizenry, (2) secular social values, (3) safeguards against the ‘tyranny of the majority’, (4) a high level of tolerance and respect for minorities and divergent opinions, (5) a dependable rule of law and, of course, (6) unlimited but undefined ‘freedoms”. He went on to write that “China is severely lacking in these categories and would therefore be a poor candidate for conversion to a Western-style multi-party system.” We could dismiss all this as childish babble if the matter were not so serious. It is a shock to the system to contemplate the despairing depth of ignorance (or, more likely, duplicity) necessary to write such words. Consider:
(1) Of all the nations in the world, the US is the outstanding leader in possessing a citizenry that is the opposite of educated, if that word is used in the sense of possessing factual knowledge and being informed. It isn’t the Chinese with a 25% illiteracy rate who believe the sun revolves around an earth that is only 6,000 years old. The level of education of China’s citizens owes no apologies in any comparison with the US.
(2) “Jesusland” is in America, not in China. The US compares favorably with theocracies like Saudi Arabia in having the precise opposite of ‘secular values’, the entire nation polluted beyond redemption with twisted and sacrilegious evangelical religious influences. It is China, unpolluted by Western religions, that has secular social values.
(3) In a diligent search for safeguards against a tyranny of the majority, the only item that comes to mind is some corporate legislation pretending to protect minority shareholders of corporations, but I am aware of none in the political or social realms. The US political system is, by definition, a tyranny of the majority, as are all other democracies, claims to the contrary not sufficing as proof. In American society generally, ‘the majority rules’, with no specified or even recognised safeguards. Here, as in so many other areas, stated claims are treated as equivalent to irrefutable evidence.
(4) Similarly, for Americans to claim a high level of respect for minorities or other cultures, or tolerance for any kind of intellectual divergence, is simply insane. The US is one of the most hatefully racist nations in the world, never in its history having demonstrated tolerance or respect of any kind. Is it China that kills innocent children and refers to them as ‘bug splats’? Is it the Chinese or Americans who watch a deranged sniper movie then to a man want to pick up a gun and “kill ragheads for Jesus”? Is it China that practiced slavery for hundreds of years or exterminated 20 million of its native minorities? No. China so jealously guards and protects its minority groups, to keep them whole and prevent their assimilation and disappearance, that it created provinces as autonomous regions precisely to give its minorities an increased measure of self-rule as a matter of self-protection. It is China that demonstrates tolerance for diversity of races and attitudes, with no evidence whatever of the pathological racism infecting the US.
(5) I have addressed elsewhere at length the fictious claims about any existence of, or respect for, a rule of law.
(6) Lastly, so-called freedoms are evaporating in America by the day, certainly including privacy, freedom of speech and of the press, and freedom of assembly. These persistent American references to “freedoms” are not only irritating but so empty of substantive documentation as to indicate yet another mass hysteria. ‘Freedom’ of course is a general word almost without limitation in meaning, a word to which few people could object in the abstract, but this unlimited generality forms the entire substance of the American argument. Americans have captured this word, appropriated it with all its meanings, and applied it to themselves alone, claiming an entirely imaginary moral superiority from possessing the highest imaginary degree of entirely imaginary freedoms. This is just clever and disingenuous marketing for the ignorant, not political science for the intelligent. And it needs to be said firmly that in almost everything that touches normal daily life, there is more ‘freedom’ in China than in the US or most other Western nations with the possible exception of Italy.
John Wenders wrote an article some time back in which he wrote, “Freedom is not measured by the ability to vote. It is measured by the breadth of those things on which we do not vote. Democracy addresses how affairs in the public sector will be conducted. On the other hand, freedom is concerned with the relationship among people in the private sector.” He then added a gem of wisdom that unfortunately few will take the time to ponder, being that “Freedom must be protected from democracy.” It is this issue that requires addressing, the problem being that Americans monopolise the bully pulpit to prevent us from realising that the real issue is not ‘freedom’ in the abstract but rather how freedom is framed in relation to life, in terms of the narrative. As with education and so much else, Americans frame issues in glittering generalities and deny any voice to opposing specifics.
The American boastful claim of their right to ‘free speech‘ is one of these generalities that seldom permit addressing of the specifics. Aside from the clear evidence that this so-called freedom is quickly evaporating, it is important to know that Americans have never had any particular excess of freedom in this area when compared to most other nations. And in fact, nations have no constitutional protection in this area. And even within the US, Americans are generally free, as are individuals in virtually every nation, to say whatever they want – to each other, with the freedom often ending there.
The entire picture of democracy is heavily fogged by Americans shoring up their simple multi-party political system with the inclusion of a thousand or more totally unrelated items, in what is really a pathetic attempt to enshrine in theology what would be ridiculous in political science. We have typical comments like “Democracy generally means the guaranty of a set of individual rights such as freedom of speech, rule of law, political participation …”, and of course it means no such thing. We are rewriting the dictionary here. It is pure fantasy to equate ‘democracy’ – a form of public selection of governors – with other things we call ‘freedoms’. Democracy is of course unrelated to any of these aspects.
Even more to the point, why do politicians in all Western countries rank so low in terms of admiration, respect, and simple trustworthiness? According to numerous polls on the opinions of Americans toward their own government, their elected Senators and Congressmen are “less popular than cockroaches, lice, root canals, colonoscopies, traffic jams, used car salesmen and Genghis Khan.” Few Western democracies would produce different results. On this particular issue, Americans seem to have two brains which are unconnected and unable to communicate with each other. With one brain, they will tell us, firmly and often vehemently, that their elected representatives are all slimy and dishonest, while the other brain simultaneously claims the US is s shining mansion on a hill and democracy is a universal value reflecting the yearnings of all mankind. Yet the two brains and their owner see no inconsistency.
A website that calls itself ‘truth-out.org‘ produced some interesting observations I will share with you here in condensed form. It began by asking, “Over the past 40 years, income inequality in the United States has exploded … What kind of democracy exists under these circumstances?” Here below is an edited composite of the answer:
“A governmental system that includes widespread voter franchise and competitive elections, but the elections are managed so that no matter what candidate(s) are elected, the elites win. The role of citizens in government is to choose between two pre-selected candidates, neither of whom will represent the people’s interests and both of whom will represent the elites’ interests. Chris Hedges refers to this as “political theater”. A low-intensity democracy that veils the rule of elites and allows citizens to think they are participating in power through contested elections that do not change the elite power structure. A government that serves the interests of transnational capital devoid of any real connection to the people of the nation. The globalized state rules through economic structures such as trade agreements, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization and through international military actions. A powerful government that partners with business interests in a security state. It is the coming of age of corporate power, maintained through a security state working in tandem with corporate propaganda that permeates influential institutions such as the media, education, popular culture and evangelical religion.”
It went on to describe American Capitalist Neoliberalism as follows: “The dominant economic ideology of the last three decades which insists upon an extreme separation of government and capital so that the market can operate “freely“. The market operates only in the interests of individuals without allegiance to the collective society. Government exists solely to provide basics such as standards for weights and measures, laws and courts to protect property and infrastructure for the market. Neoliberalism welcomes state intervention only when that intervention is to corporate advantage as in trade agreements, bailouts or corporate welfare. Under neoliberalism, state resources and public programs are decreasingly funded and increasingly privatized.” US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said it well when he stated, “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
Someone accurately called the US a “mirage democracy”, with elections that are tightly controlled and rigged by a two-party elite and a mass media who decide outcomes in advance. Moreover, only half the US public are registered as voters, and only half of registered voters vote, so these ‘mirage elections’ provide a less than legitimate government by any standard of measure. In fact, it is widely known that more Americans vote on ‘American Idol’ than in any election. John Pilger wrote in 2008, “What struck me, living and working in the United States, was that presidential campaigns were a parody, entertaining and often grotesque. They are a ritual danse macabre of flags, balloons and bullshit, designed to camouflage a venal system based on money, power, human division and a culture of permanent war.”
A House of Cards on a Foundation of Sand
David Brooks: “Americans have lost faith in the credibility of their political system, which is the one resource the entire regime is predicated upon. This loss of faith has contributed to a complex but dark national mood. The people are anxious, pessimistic, ashamed, helpless and defensive.”
Americans, in their ignorance and simple-mindedness, and functioning in their rather frightening evangelical mode, have conflated their Christianity-based American Exceptionalism, racism and bigotry, and their alarming propensity for war-mongering, with their form of politics, capitalism, and every ‘freedom’ and ‘right’ imaginable, into a single disturbing theology called “democracy“. And that may have been a mistake. As David Brooks pointed out, it is “the one resource the entire regime is predicated upon”. This theology has been so over-saturated by propaganda and brainwashing that it is now at the core of what it means to be American. In effect, Americans have transfigured a badly-corrupted form of party politics into a team-sport old-time-religion, basing the entire foundation of their national psyche on its presumed overwhelming legitimacy in the eyes of God and man. But sadly, it is no such thing, as Americans are now learning, most especially those with no job, no home, and who are sleeping in tent cities and in their little cardboard boxes under the overpass. It is no wonder we have “a dark national mood”.
William John Cox: “U.S. voters appear to be increasingly powerless to fight the plutocracy which runs their government. As a result, Americans are living in an ever more repressive police state that is illegally committing acts of violent aggression around the world. The only thing that can possibly transform the U.S. government to one that cares for the voters who elect it, rather than for the plutocracy that controls it, is a unified opposition by all of the People, irrespective of their social class or political beliefs.”
John Adams said, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
Alexander Tytler: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can exist only until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury.” Democracy evolves into kleptocracy.
Unknown: “Democracy is the absolute ideal of tyrannical and criminal ruling class establishments.”
“What is much more disturbing, because it is more surprising, is the extent to which it appears that the process of reconsideration must extend not only to these familiar arenas of governmental policy but also to the basic institutional framework through which governments govern. What are in doubt today are not just the economic and military policies but also the political institutions inherited from the past. Is political democracy, as it exists today, a viable form of government for the industrialized countries of Europe, North America, and Asia? In recent years, acute observers on all three continents have seen a bleak future for democratic government.” (Samuel Huntington; The Crisis of Democracy)
A national survey of 18-to 29-year-old Americans shows more than half believe US democracy has either “failed” or is “in trouble,” and a significant portion also sees the potential for civil war. Of the 52% polled who said they’ve lost or are losing faith in America’s democratic system, 39% described the country as a “democracy in trouble.” Another 13% of respondents called it a “failed democracy,” according to research released on Wednesday by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School. Of the more than 2,100 young Americans surveyed for the poll, only 7% said they believe the US is a “healthy democracy,” while another 27% consider it a “somewhat functioning democracy.”
Mr. Romanoff’s writing has been translated into 32 languages and his articles posted on more than 150 foreign-language news and politics websites in more than 30 countries, as well as more than 100 English language platforms. Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West. He is one of the contributing authors to Cynthia McKinney’s new anthology ‘When China Sneezes’. (Chapt. 2 — Dealing with Demons).
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 The Crisis Of Democracy
 H. L. Mencken. Notes on Democracy
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Copyright © Larry Romanoff, Blue Moon of Shanghai, Moon of Shanghai, 2022