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The Most Viable Form of Government?

Recently, one of my occasional debating partners put this question to me: “Keith: What, in your worldview, would be the most viable form of government…or do you have an absolute ideal?”

My response:

Well, all systems end up being oligarchies. There really is no other kind of system, regardless of the specifics of its institutional structures and formal characteristics. Elite theory demonstrates that pretty well. I think the biggest question is the matter of scale. The larger political units become, the harder they are to manage and keep under control. I’m generally a micro-nationalist, which means I’d see smaller nations like Luxemborg, Iceland, Switzerland, Singapore, or Liechtenstein, as being of the most viable scale. In terms of internal structures, I don’t really have an absolute ideal. Swiss direct democracy works pretty well, so does the monarchy of Liechtenstein. I’m interested in older systems as well, like the Allthing of the classical Icelandic Commonwealth. I generally have a more favorable view of the common law traditions of the Anglo countries that of the Roman or Napoleanic civil law tradition. Common law is more flexible and rooted in informal custom. In terms of political economy, I’m interested in syndicalism, mutualism and council communism from the far Left and ideas like distributism from the far Right.

The case of Joe Arpaio illustrates pretty well the differences between my approach and that of the Left. I’ve been following Arpaio’s career since the mid-90s, and it wasn’t until his immigration enforcement stunts started getting publicized that I noticed any real criticism of him. Before that, he was sort of a folk character and considered a comedic figure. It was the same thing that happened with the issue of prisoner medical neglect. That had been going on for years, even decades, but it wasn’t until the press started publicizing the issue of medical neglect of immigrant detainees that it received any notice. The same is true of the War on Drugs, which liberals and the Left rarely criticize in any serious way unless they can get some racial mileage out of it.

The reason for this is that the Left really doesn’t see the state, the cops, the law, the prison system, etc. as the enemy, but, at most, considers these things to have been corrupted by the usual laundry list of Isms, Archies, and Phobias that the Left regards as rooted in “white male hegemony” and all that. My approach is a precise inversion of that. The enemy is the state, the “ruling class,” and state-allied institutions, the legal caste, police state, prison/military industrial complex, etc. The Left opposes these things only when they pick on their favorite groups. I on the other hand would argue that the usual Isms and Phobias are no big deal without the state to back them up.

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  1. “Well, all systems end up being oligarchies. There really is no other kind of system, regardless of the specifics of its institutional structures and formal characteristics. Elite theory demonstrates that pretty well. ”

    That fact is one of several reasons why I think that democracy is a stupid idea in that it legitimates the reign of oligarchies under the idea that there are no rulers and ruled, but rather that the government is simply the people themselves, in other words it is the modern version of the divine right of kings. One thing I would say that would be good about an ascendancy of warlords should the current system collapse is that people would if nothing else, have a realistic attitude about the powers that controlled them.

    Even if it were possible to establish a truly participatory democracy of the kind that some left-libertarians desire, it’s not clear to me that such a system would be desirable at all. I think Joe Arpaio is exhibit A for my contention that democracy and liberty do not mix well together, that guy has been elected I don’t know how many times and from what I understand, he is quite popular. I think thought, that some civil liberties organizations were critical of him before the immigration issue, I remember hearing about him on the news back in 2000.

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