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  1. The God that failed? What about the direct democracy of the Spanish anarchists? I would agree on the issue of Parliamentary/Representative democracy, but I’m surprised to see NA bite on this stuff. Many of us are for democratically controlled factories and communities.

  2. “I would agree on the issue of Parliamentary/Representative democracy,”

    That’s obviously what they’re attacking. Notice how Bowden and Spencer speak positively of Swiss federal democracy in this interview.

  3. I don’t get this opposition to democracy by “elitists”. Surely in a (real) democracy those best able to make decisions about society will gain influence by the force of their argument and their standing among their peers. (And if this is not the case then an educational period of mis-governance will make sure it is fairly swiftly or alternatively cause that society to fail. A society which can’t be brought to a functional degree of political competence can not be, ultimately, protected from itself by any force and nor does it deserve to be). Therefore those who can win the support of the populace in a functional democracy must be the elite, if not them then who?

    The problem with conventional elitism is that it isn’t elitism in that it does not want the most able people to administer society but some favoured class identified as the “elite”. Elitists then argue that this class should be fortified against potential successors, usually by the power of the state. However an elite which requires such fortifications in order to maintain its position can not be said to be an elite. The natural and logical position for the true elitist is to have some system which makes it easy for old elites which have degenerated to be succeeded by new vigorous groups, not to have a permanently enthroned selected group. An actual functioning democracy would be such a system.

    The main problem we have as a society is that our elite have been able to indulge in a collective senility protected by the state and the defences constructed to maintain their power by a previous age. This is not so much a problem generated by the actual elite themselves but by the system itself which has allowed this to happen and prevents anyone doing anything about it. If the current elite were swapped out for a new one the problem would recur in the future as the new elite were corrupted by power and disconnected from reality within the state apparatus.

    Trotsky was right, permanent revolution is the only way to ensure that the elite are the elite and the only way to prevent the formation of a ruling class of idiots, probably malevolent ones, who can only be removed by some horrific social/political convulsion. Democracy allows us to have the benefit of a permanent revolution minus the hassle of having to seize the hotel de ville every six months. In a functioning democracy violent revolution would be totally unnecessary. As JFK said in one of his few lucid moments “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”

  4. RJ, that’s a valid point. I think you’re right that there is a split between the Hoppians and the National Anarchists, though they have much in common. I’ve been influenced by them both but more by Hoppe, especially as far as a systematic understanding of humanity, society, government and the world. In fact, I don’t know many political movements apart from the communists who have such complete and systematic understanding of the world as does Hoppe. I would love to see Hoppe interviewed by Keith on ATS radio.

  5. “I haven’t seen much debate on this matter but there exists an AltRight split between the two”

    Well that might be fun, for a group that promotes ultimate diversity there is a worrying degree of polite consensus around here (it quite offends my discordian sensibilities at times.).

    So as I understand it the terms of the debate are this. “Elitists” believe that the benefit conferred by the long term “ownership” of a community by an individual or group motivates them to “steward” that community as best they can. This interest in the long term future of that community outweighs the drawbacks of a feudal/ Aristocratic /monarchical system. Those drawbacks are:

    A. The disenfranchisement of everyone else.

    B. The strong probability that this entrenched elite will degenerate into total incompetence.

    C. The high probability that this elite will monopolise for themselves those resources they do not destroy or otherwise misallocate.

    We can therefore be pretty certain that this entrenched and institutionalised elite we have constructed will both fail to secure material wealth for the community and suppress the intellectual development of the members of that community. So whether you are a materialist or are interested in the personal, spiritual and intellectual development of members of society this type of aristocratic elitism is guaranteed to have an adverse outcome.

    On the other hand democratic systems create the problem that those charged with controlling community resources are exposed to the temptation of stealing them in the knowledge they are mere temporary caretakers and the opportunity will soon be gone. Else they have a vested interest in maintaining their power by populist short term expedients in the interests of maintaining control over said resources for a longer length of time.

    However are there other solutions to this problem than making community resources, and the actual members of that community, the personal and private property of an individual or group of individuals? How about the prospect of serious consequences for misappropriating community resources or negligence or even simple incompetence in the highly likely event that the leadership group lose power within a democratic system?

    The solution to the problem is the constant vigilance of the population and their empowerment to act on that vigilance; more democracy not less.

    Sure that’s an onerous duty to place on the citizenry, maybe even one they can not discharge. However we have to ask ourselves what are we trying to achieve as “political engineers”? The democratic principle offers us the possibility of societies in which intelligence, civic and communal responsibility and political engagement are demanded by the environment. I suggest that societies with those virtues are likely to be interesting and civilised places and the alternative is infantilised, economically and intellectually impoverished populations.

    Incidentally this is another critical argument in the debate between the “new” and “reactionary” right. If the objective is to secure the health and vitality of the nation, is that best achieved through a paternalistic “benevolent” dictatorship in which the nation is “protected” and “nurtured” by the state? (until such a time as the state can no longer contain the internal and external forces which threaten the nation. These forces having grown stronger as the pernicious effects of state protection have allowed them to avoid opposition from the nation and as that nation has grown weaker for the same reason.) Or is it one in which the nation is exposed to forces which challenge it and force it to maintain those characteristics that make it strong; an active, informed and collectively minded population?

    I present Exhibit A: “The West, 2012”. I rest my case.

    NB. Such is my argument for democracy. However, as a pluralist anarchist, I have no wish to impose it on those who really want a paternal Big Man to tell them what to think and do.

  6. In the context of some tribes the “elite” were (and to some extent continue to be) decentralized clan leadership. In one particular tribe’s case, rather than monopolizing resources this leadership severely restricted individualism and focused on cultural and religious hegemony in the tribe. Everything, down to economic management, which continues to be highly egalitarian, was done via a strict moral code. So management of the economy was secondary to management of morals, values and behaviors. They curtailed resource extraction (and therefore curtailed growth,) but ensured a well managed base of natural resources in the territory the tribe controlled. This makes sense because their well known predecessor’s grossly mismanaged what they had and ceased to exist. Meanwhile, small scale manufacture of pottery, jewelry and garments made from imported materials was allowed and such trade was unrestricted.

    Basically, what I’m arguing for is communal control of non renewable resources (or long term ownership/control of resources by an elite, however you define it, at the smallest scale possible given the scope of the resource) and free enterprise (Democracy of the townhall variety, common law, market anarchy, etc) in development industries like computer programming, small scale manufacturing, tech, etc.

  7. I suppose you might (gasp) include a corporation as a long term owner/controller of resources. The thing is, without a fully formed state behind them, corporations would behave much differently. A village corporation, for instance. Or a regional co-operative to run a hydro-plant, manage a timber forest, maintain electrical infrastructure etc. We have many of these in operation today and they don’t always operate like economic vampires of the type that you find dominating global trade.

  8. S E Pearson wrote, “As I understand it the terms of the debate are this. “Elitists” believe that the benefit conferred by the long term “ownership” of a community by an individual or group motivates them to “steward” that community as best they can. This interest in the long term future of that community outweighs the drawbacks of a feudal/ Aristocratic /monarchical system.”

    In a society where natural elites are allowed to rise and fall [and I’ll refer to the Old South as an imperfect example of this (imperfect obviously because 1) there was the state as an institution though it was much more limited than now and 2) because of African slavery and other denials of the right of self-determination, for example, for the American Indians) that nevertheless does work fairly well, as least with the White Southern population, as an example] this does not mean that one person or group will always rule. If we look at the Old South certain families (like the Hamptons in South Carolina and the Lees in Virginia) did display extraordinary leadership over multiple generations. For this reason, they were rewarded in a semi-aristocratic culture of honour (as opposed to the New England Neo-Puritan culture of guilt). However, other families did not sustain power and influence over multiple generations for various reasons, including the poor performance of later generations. As Dr Hoppe has written and spoken, when kings in a monarchical system became tyrannical they were at risk of being killed off by their own family members so as not to bring down the dynasty. There is a long tradition in the Western world of tyrannicide (Virginia’s seal depicts this, in fact, and their state motto refers to it: “Thus always to tyrants”). As well, as Dr Hoppe has also noted, there was a somewhat adviserial relationship between the ruled and rulers in a monarchical system because the ruled understood they could never be the monarch themselves. Now, in the South we never had a monarch. And Dr Hoppe does not advance the notion of a monarch as an ideal system, he merely advances it a system which not as bad as democracy. In the South we had an artistocratic republican system with a limited franchise. This resulted in a civilisation which was among the wealthiest in the world. It also produced some of the greatest military leaders in history as well as great architecture and art. Again, I’m not defending everything about the Old South but I do like many things about it and am inspired by it.

    In response to the “drawbacks” you list I will address them one by one.

    1) The disenfranchisement of everyone else. As the franchise has been expanded in the US so has statism and war-mongering. In the old days a man rarely had contact with the state. Today everything he does is regulated by the state. He is not free at all. I don’t see enfranchisement as a good thing. I see it as a problem – especially the enfranchisement of less able or noble people. The elites of the Old South, for example, concerned themselves with the big picture. They left the ordinary people alone for the most part. Similarly, under traditional monarchies the ordinary people were left alone for the most part. As the the people have assumed ownership of the government it has intervened more and more in society, expanded the scope of wars (from limited conflicts over territorial disputes to all-out democratic total war) and greatly increased the level of taxation. For one more example, look at South Africa. What once was a thriving First World country has been all but destroyed. One-man-one-vote has been a disaster. Again, I’m not defending everything about the former system, but civilisation did thrive there then and now is being destroyed.

    2) The strong probability that this entrenched elite will degenerate into total incompetence. I addressed this in my first paragraph. There are certain restraints on the aristocracy/monarchy which generally prevent this.

    3) The high probability that this elite will monopolise for themselves those resources they do not destroy or otherwise misallocate. I suppose this is always a danger but I don’t see it as a high probability. The elites want a wealthier society as well and if they destroy resources that will certainly not enrich society. I don’t see many examples from history of such a thing happening. As well, in a society like the Old South where most all the land was privately owned, it would be hard to monopolise resources. A second or third son of a wealthy family might not inherit the family plantation but he would expect (and be allowed) opportunities to gain wealth of his own. In the case of the South he might move Westward to settle un-used land or he might make money working in the city and use it to buy a failing plantation or part of someone else’s plantation. You can see how over generations it would be very difficult for a set group of elites to monopolise resources under such a system. In fact, many people (especially in the western Southern States) moved up the social ladder and made vast fortunes. About 10 miles from where I live is a large plantation home of a man who came from humble beginnings but married well, made a fortune and eventually became governor of South Carolina. So, you can see the aristocracy was not set in stone. And no one I know is arguing for it to be so. Ideally, there would be room for natural elites to rise and for those not gifted to fall.

  9. “I would love to see Hoppe interviewed by Keith on ATS radio.”

    I’ve got a long list of people I want to have on. Hoppe is definitely one of them. Tom Naylor is going to be on this Thurs. I’m scheduled to record an interview with Sean Gabb over the weekend. I want to have Welf Herfurth on at some point. An important leftist writer has agreed to an interview. There’s going to be plenty of others.

  10. The great thing about concepts like pan-secession or pluralist anarchism is that in the post-empire civilization there can be territories organized along Hoppean aristocratic proprietarian lines, N-A or New Right populist-democratic lines, Native American tribalist lines, or Bookchinite “libertarian municipalist” lines. May the best team win.

  11. Palmetto, first I’d like to say that I totally concur with Keith. If a community wants to set itself up with some sort of Feudalist system, and they don’t impose that on anyone else I have no objection. (It would be fascinating to see which social and political arrangements worked when thousands of experiments were run. This is the same argument, of course, for real elitism on a macro scale as I’m making here for elitism via democracy on the micro.)

    Moreover I can see why you, and others, find aspects of the popular view of the antebellum South attractive. Certainly in comparison to the North and in comparison what the Union’s victory would bring about it doesn’t look all bad.

    The point I’m trying to make is not against elitism. I do not advocate that the eighth or twentieth best qualified group/individual should wield the executive power of a community or its economy. My argument is how do we discover that elite? My point is that true elite should see no need to give itself an advantage in the contest for power over rival groups whether that be an economic or political advantage. Nor, if it professes elitism, should it be certain that it is the elite or object to other groups beating it on a level playing field. There is a distinction between supporting elitism and considering oneself the elite, in theory if not very often in practice.

    To answer the objections you raised in reply to my advocation of democracy as a system which is elitist to its core.

    1. “As the franchise has been expanded in the US so has statism and war-mongering.”

    Sure, however we can not say that the cause of the advance of Statism was democracy. Indeed the most obvious factor in the development of the modern state was industrialisation which created the resources which allowed the development of the modern state and demanded a sophisticated state to facilitate its own penetration of society. Not that we can say that the system which calls itself “democracy” in the USA (and West more generally) has any relationship to the principles embodied in that concept.

    2. “As Dr Hoppe has written and spoken, when kings in a monarchical system became tyrannical they were at risk of being killed off by their own family members so as not to bring down the dynasty. There is a long tradition in the Western world of tyrannicide (Virginia’s seal depicts this, in fact, and their state motto refers to it: “Thus always to tyrants”). As well, as Dr Hoppe has also noted, there was a somewhat adviserial relationship between the ruled and rulers in a monarchical system because the ruled understood they could never be the monarch themselves.”

    OK, we have to distinguish here between monarchy and aristocracy. Under a (theoretical) monarchical system it is entirely possible that the individual in whom power is vested, or at least who has responsibility for the failure of the state, to drop the ball. This is not always the result of incompetence or stupidity (although it can be), luck plays a part. Medieval and Early Modern political theorists feared regency as much as an idiot king.

    At a systematic level, this doesn’t much matter since it’s easy enough to replace that monarch. In English Medieval/Early Modern history Edwards II and V, Richards II and III, Henry VI, James II and Charles I all were removed from power one way or another. Although protecting the dynasty was not the motivation for many of these events.

    What is far more of a problem is aristocracy of which monarchy is merely an administrative form. A poorly performing monarch can be replaced by an alternative of which there will be dozens available. However an entire ruling class can not be so easily swapped out because there are no alternatives and the process is so much more difficult. It’s the difference between changing a fuse in your car and replacing the chassis. If a ruling class is able to weigh the odds of its survival sufficiently using the power at its command then it can afford to indulge itself in some less than optimal performance. Indeed protected from competition by raw power it is bound to degenerate rapidly. History shows us this pattern endlessly repeating; frequently it is responsible for the destruction of entire civilisations. One only has to look at the state of the aristocracy of the late Roman Period or of Europe on the eve of the French Revolution to see this phenomenon reach absurd proportions.

    And of course it is exactly this ability to entrench which has allowed our own contemporary elite to lose touch with reality to the extent it has, which may be unprecedented in the historical record.

    We can then say that aristocracy is actually opposed to elitism.

    3. “In the case of the South he might move Westward to settle un-used land or he might make money working in the city and use it to buy a failing plantation or part of someone else’s plantation. You can see how over generations it would be very difficult for a set group of elites to monopolise resources under such a system.”

    Here in the UK it is commonly estimated that 20% of the nation’s land remain in the ownership of decedents of William the Conqueror (or Bastard depending on whose side you are on) and his knights. William and his boys took control of these Islands getting on for 1000 years ago. With the kind of advantages control of economic and military resources gives you it’s much easier to succeed than it is for the disposed. Sure there will always be wastrels who manage to flush the product of a few centuries robbery, but this will be relatively rare. Sure there will be those that gain admittance to the elite by astonishing success and raw ability. However neither of these events will seriously damage the ruling class itself, this class will assimilate incomers to replenish its ranks. The system itself continues on its trajectory regardless.

  12. S E Pearson, first I want to thank you for taking my points seriously. It’s not common these days for people to take arguments in favour of inquality and aristocracy seriously. Generally, such arguments are merely mocked. Allow me to reply to to your responses.

    ‘We can not say that the cause of the advance of Statism was democracy. Indeed the most obvious factor in the development of the modern state was industrialisation which created the resources which allowed the development of the modern state and demanded a sophisticated state to facilitate its own penetration of society. Not that we can say that the system which calls itself “democracy” in the USA (and West more generally) has any relationship to the principles embodied in that concept.’

    I think you’re right that industrialism is clearly a contributing factor to the advancement of statism. I’m not sure that a sophisticated state is necessary for industrialism to penetrate society though. The Classical Liberals of the early 1800s in the UK and France were all for industrliam (in fact, some of the French Classical Liberals called their ideology exactly this with a capital ‘I’) but wanted a minimal, almost non-existent state (in fact, Gustave de Molinari took this argument to its logical conclusion in arguing for the elimination of the state). And they basically prevailed for several decades during which time industrialism expanded greatly. But you may be right that the forces industrialism released were bound to create a larger, more active state. It’s hard to say. I think other factors such as the Second Great Awakening in the US and European competition for empires in Africa and Asia played an important role in this as well.

    ‘We have to distinguish here between monarchy and aristocracy.’

    You’re right that I did conflate the two to a large degree.

    ‘What is far more of a problem is aristocracy of which monarchy is merely an administrative form.’

    Yes, I would agree in at least some instances. Russian history is a good example of this, I think. The Russian peasants were pro-monarchy because they hated the exploitative aristocracy. When the monarchy was weak, the native suffered. However, there were periods in Western Europe such as the period of Salutary Neglect when the state in general did little (including both the monarchy and aristocracy) and the people prospered. Surely, the aristocracy prospered as well. So, I don’t know if we can make a strong statement about this applying the same everywhere.

    ‘We can then say that aristocracy is actually opposed to elitism.’

    This is an interesting take on the subject. My instinct is to disagree with you but I should probably give it some more thought first. It’s the first time I’ve heard such an argument. My initial response would be that here in the South our society was not a formal aristocracy. It was aristocratic but not formalised. Therefore, there was a great deal of meritocracy in the system as well. I think having some flexibility, some room for people to rise and fall, even within an aristocratic system, is important.

    ‘Here in the UK it is commonly estimated that 20% of the nation’s land remain in the ownership of decedents of William the Conqueror (or Bastard depending on whose side you are on) and his knights.’

    That’s pretty different from here. Then again, we’ve had several wars fought on our own territory and a very deep depression. These sorts of things cause land to change hands.

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