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How to defeat the Chinese Communists

How can the HongKongers defeat the Chinese Communists (hereinafter termed ChiComs), and preserve their HongKonger way of life approximately as it now is? In the short run, they probably can’t. During the next few months, the ChiCom repression in Hong Kong will surely get ever nastier, and the bigger plan, to just gobble it up and digest it into ChiCom China will surely bash onwards.

But then again, I thought that these Hong Kong demonstrations would all be snuffed out months ago. So what the hell do I know? I thought they’d just send in the tanks, and to hell with “world opinion”. But the ChiComs, it turned out, didn’t want to just kill everyone who dared to disobey, plus anyone else who happened to be standing about nearby. That would not be a good look for them. What are they? Russians? Far too unsophisticated. Instead the plan has been to divide and conquer, and it presumably still is. By putting violent agent provovateurs in among the demonstrators, and by ramping up the violence simultaneously perpetrated by the police, the plan was, and is, to turn the peaceful and hugely well attended demonstrations into far smaller, far more violent street battles of the sort that would disgust regular people. Who would then turn around and support law and order, increased spending on public housing, blah blah. So far, this has not worked.

And for as long as any ChiCom plan for Hong Kong continues not to work, “world opinion” has that much more time to shake itself free from the sneer quotes and get itself organised, to try to help Hong Kong to stay semi-free.

Those district rat-catcher (or whatever) elections last Sunday came at just the wrong time for the ChiComs, because they gave peaceful HongKongers the chance to make their opinions known, about creatures of a far more significant sort than rats, and at just the time when the ChiCom plan should have started seriously shutting the HongKongers up. These elections were a landslide.

The ChiComs are very keen to exude indifference to world opinion, but they clearly do care about it, because if they truly didn’t care about it, those tanks would have gone in months ago, just as I had assumed they would. So, since world opinion clearly has some effect, the first thing the rest of us can do to help the HongKongers is to keep our eyeballs on Hong Kong.

As I say, I continue to be pessimistic about the medium-term future in Hong Kong. But in the longer run, if the HongKongers can’t have a local victory, they can set about getting their revenge. And all of the rest of us who care can join in and help them.

We, the HongKongers and all their supporters around the world, can start talking seriously about toppling the ChiComs, not just by continuing to contest Hong Kong, but also by talking about China as a whole.

If the ChiComs won’t let Hong Kong be, then the HongKongers have a perfect right to start talking about China as a whole, since that’s what is now trying to swallow them up. If they aren’t allowed the distinct and distinctly better system that they were promised, then the only system they are allowed becomes fair game for their complaints and for their recommendations. That’s a claim that will make sense to anyone able to think for themselves. It won’t persuade the ChiComs, but persuading everyone else in the world with a clutch of honest brain cells to rub together is a fine start.

What needs to happen is some re-framing.

At present, the question the rest of us ask about China is: How can we get along with China, as it is? How do we defend ourselves against the ChiComs, as they are? That needs to change to: How does China become the sort of place we can much more easily get along with?

Strategically, and politically, China now resembles Germany during the early twentieth century. Economically, China now, like Germany then, had been on the up-and-up.

Chinese grand strategy, like Germany’s then, is, from where we sit, confused. Are the ChiComs trying to spread the ChiCom model to the entire planet? Or do they merely want us to refrain from interfering in their version of China? (By the way, and to anticipate potential commenters, I have always believed that the impression you convey to the world, in world affairs, is at least as important as whatever you are “really” planning and plotting, in secret, to do. A strategy is massively more potent if it can be persuasively proclaimed and explained in public.)

Trouble is, ChiCom despotism in China and the rest of us not criticising, already feels like the ChiComs being on the offensive. It includes, for instance, any important personage outside China who makes any loud noises against ChiCom rule of China being told by the ChiComs to shut up and stop meddling, even if he has never set foot in China. It involves all kinds of creepy propaganda offensives in universities outside China, telling any students or academics inclined to complain about the ChiComs also to zip it. It means non-Chinese business enterprises having to be fronted by ChiCom-tolerant stooges, if they want to do any business with China.

And as for Chinese people temporarily or even permanently living outside China, nothing but loyalty to the ChiComs is expected of them, which again points up the similarity between early twentieth century Germany and China now. Are the rest of us supposed to do nothing, while Chinese people outside China are terrorised into becoming a fifth column in our midst, right in front of our noses, by ChiCom spooks and gangsters? Even if the ChiCom line is that they are only defending themselves against the imperialists, blah blah, such “defence” can only end when we imperialists are utterly defeated. Utterly imperialised.

To use another historical analogy, Abraham Lincoln famously said that the United States of America couldn’t remain united unless it either allowed slavery in all its states, or else in none of them. Now, the technology of modern communication being what it is and what it is becoming, something similar applies to the entire world. The question is not: Will the world become more united? The question is: How will the world become more united? Even the Anglo-German fight to the death of the early twentieth century was a sort of global ideological civil war. Ditto the Cold War that saw off the USSR. Ditto this new Cold War.

I am absolutely not recommending another hot war, such as the one Abraham Lincoln presided over, and such as Germany got itself into, twice. No, the model is the Cold War that followed the defeat of Germany. Cold, and never hotting up too disastrously. And, come the endgame: We Win, They Lose.

By which I do not mean that China loses. China wins, along with the rest of us. The ChiComs lose. They lose their grip on China. They lose the future.

That’s the key. You start toppling tyrants by taking the future out of their hands. Which you do by simply talking about a different and better future, without them and their tyrannical assumptions. A different and better future even for most of them, all but the very top dogs.

If the HongKongers want to have a world-changing revenge on their current tormentors and probable tyrannical rulers in the nearish future, this is the conversation they must grab hold of and amplify, in addition to the defensive one they are having now.

There is mountains more that could be said about all this. Just as a for-instance, there is the way that Chinese people outside Communist China need to be turned, from being a fifth column inside the freer world, into a conduit for anti ChiCom propaganda into China. That should happen. The crown princes of Chinese Communism, now soaking up the joys of life beyond China, should be named and shamed.

But that’s mere tactics. At the heart of the operation stands the grand strategic device, of talking about democracy not just in Hong Kong (keeping it), but in China as a whole (unleashing it). Crank up that conversation, within the Chinese ex-pat world (where I presume it is already happening (in the various versions of Chinese)) but also in every other language of the world and especially in the new Latin of the world, English. Every time the ChiCom thugs do something seriously evil, which they now seem determined to keep on doing, they will turn up the volume of this discussion and draw more people into it. ChiCom crown princes will even join in, and it almost doesn’t matter on which side because either would be a great help. They will either self-identify as public friends of freedomandemocracy, which is good, or as public enemies of it, ditto.

The Chinese Communists need to have the future of China taken out of their hands, to the point where even most of them start thinking that this alternative future that everyone’s talking about would be better for them than the one they are supposed still to be worshipping.

Likewise major non-Chinese politicians need to be prodded into taking sides. Yes, this may cost them Chinese business, when the ChiComs threaten them with their own version of economic sanctions, but the ChiComs can’t cut the whole world off from the Chinese economy without inflicting economic sanctions upon themselves, for they now rely heavily on foreign business. And if the ChiComs don’t punish heavyweight non-Chinese criticism, good again, because that will encourage it.

Here is a story about a big non-Chinese personage who is already having a go at the ChiComs. Lech Walesa, no less. Remember him? I certainly do. If the ChiComs have a go at him back, that will be news. If they don’t, that will also encourage more to join in.

Wouldn’t it be great if the world got itself a big new dose of virtue signalling, virtue signalling that actually is virtuous?

So, let’s see. What fake elections now held in China could be turned into real ones? Should they make a start by having regular national elections to choose their head of state, to replace their current bastard-in-chief? Or would it be better to start locally, with elections not unlike the recent ones in Hong Kong? What rules about what you have to think before you can stand for election could be relaxed? What is the true state of public opinion in China, insofar as such a thing can even be said to exist? In plainer English, what issues could be stirred up, of the sort that will cause maximum embarrassment to the ChiCom thugocracy, and flag up the attraction of having elections, so that Chinese people can say what they think about whatever issues most concern them, and replace the ChiCom thugs with nicer people, who allow their voters to speak their minds and who listen more politely to them?

I could go on about this at vastly greater length, and have every intention of doing so in the months and years to come, but not now. I have a meeting on this very topic of Hong Kong at my home tomorrow evening (brian @ brianmicklethwait dot com if you want to come but haven’t yet been invited), which will be addressed by a young woman who lives and works in London now, having studied here, but who was raised in Hong Kong. I wanted to bash out something on all this stuff now, before that meeting, rather than do the perfect posting about all this, in who the hell knows how many months or years time.

I know, I know. I’m a libertarian and I’m not supposed to use a phrase like “freedomandemocracy” approvingly. But in Hong Kong I think freedomandemocracy is a real thing. Expanding on that whole liberty versus democracy angle is one of many related topics I hope to get around to writing about, any year now.

Meanwhile I will welcome comments, from grumpy libertarian purists, and from those pointing out grammatical errors caused by the haste with which this was all written. (I hereby award myself the right to do the necessary correcting in the hours and days that follow.) However, I will especially welcome comments from people who are already saying and doing what I have here merely got around to recommending.

77 comments to How to defeat the Chinese Communists

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Back in the late 40s George Kennan write a famous memo setting out a doctrine to contain the Soviet Union. That sort of thinking is needed now.

    And at the same time the process of spreading the case for freedom and the open society, as happened when the West did the same to undermine the Russkies, must happen now. We need some new “Cold War Warriors”.

    The Cold War has its novels and films. By contrast, it seems Hollywood is bankrolled by China to some extent: the new Tom Cruise film “Maverick” has been changed so as to not upset Beijing.

    China is the centre of modern techno-totalitarianism, with its “smart cities” and all the rest of it. To fight against it, people are going to have to get serious. Worrying about hurt feelings and Dead White Males is a sign of how pathetic so many contemporary “intellectuals” are when set against the horror China with its organ harvesting and re-education camps.

    Hong Kong reminds us to get serious again. It’s our West Berlin.

  • Shan Zhen Li

    The ChiComs will be around in 100 years, and so will Hindu India. Whether the USA and the UK will still exist in a form which looks recognizable is doubtful. The “west” has largely abandoned the belief in truth (see transgender mania), and patriotism, and really any hope for the future (see birth rates for native born English and Americans and the global warming doom-mongers). In stark contrast, Chinese are patriotic, still believe in scientific truth, and with 1.4 billion Chinese today, there will be about 1 billion of them in the year 2120. China’s growth rate is slowing, but even now, when it has tied the US economy in size (based on PPP) its growth rate is double that of the US. China has lots of problems but the “west” is in much worse shape in just about every way that matters. We are a decadent society, our academics no longer believe that the men who built our culture over the last 2,000 years were right about anything. The Chinese, by contrast, have embraced their past. The “cultural revolution” is over in China, but here, it has just begun. I predict that Hong Kong will be a part of China, so will Taiwan, and most of South East Asia will become client states of China. It would take a massive revival in the belief in the VALUE of European culture and history to reverse this trend. Ironicaly, the protestors in Hong Kong seem to believe in western ideals more than we do. I see no sign that this will change anytime soon.

  • Julie near Chicago

    (While we’re at it, supporting the protestors in Iran….)

    (While we’re at it, figuring out how to do better some version of our own democracy…. Which I think means teaching people not to be afraid of their neighbors’ freedom, even if it means the trash next door propose to grow tomatoes, eggplant, and ornamental cabbage in their front yard….)

    .

    But this is a very good posting, Brian. Thanks for it. And I wish I hadn’t packed away my bikini for the winter, so I could come tomorrow. S/B an excellent meeting.

    Johnathan, good point also. But I’m not so sure the West, or at least we Provincials, were as solidly anti-Soviet anti-Communist as one could have wished, especially during the last 20-25 years of the Cold War. In that regard, Pres. Reagan must have had a backbone made of titanium.

  • bobby b

    If your national health service declines to treat you because you have spoken supposedly racist words and then you die, are you more dead or less dead than someone who has been killed for their organs?

  • bobby b

    As an American in his sixties, I was raised to believe that the populaces of the huge Communist blocs were (mostly) downtrodden, whipped prisoners cowering from the all-powerful despots, and that it was our duty as a free country to work towards rescuing those poor wretches from their fate by helping them in overthrowing their evil overlords.

    Shan Zhen Li says, above, that Chinese are patriotic, and this comports with what knowledge I have gained about China over the last decade.

    Obviously, these two outlooks are completely at odds with each other.

    Mr. Micklethwaite speaks of how we can ” . . . start talking seriously about toppling the ChiComs . . . ” above, and it makes me wonder, in the face of my changing view of China, who we think we’d be serving in doing so.

    We can abhor China’s expansionist tendencies, but, here in America, there’s a “glass houses” problem that needs to be dealt with first. We can hate communism itself, but its existence in China would seem to be a question that should be addressed by the Chinese – and they’ve never appeared to want to change it. If they’re truly patriotic, they’re patriotic to a communist state.

    If “toppling the ChiComms” means working at the margins – trying to help the Uighurs, and other poorly-treated minorities – well, there’s merit to that, but I doubt we’d react well (here in the US) if China decided to work for the benefit of some of our underloved populations.

    In short (too late!), I wonder if I and most people my age have been working off of an incorrect paradigm of China all of our lives. If the majority of Chinese support their government, my old view is clearly wrong.

  • lucklucky

    Chinese Government is afraid of Chinese people. They are afraid that if they go in they can unleash something they can’t control.
    I also suspect that who will do a bloodbath is afraid of being made a regime scapegoat or worse.

    If we look at Chinese society today it is clear that the power is much more distributed because technology needs forces that. Many people is important run thousands of companies necessary for well being, that people that need to move freely, make millions decisions everyday.
    Since society input are much more complex they are in doubt of what they can do without paying a big price.

  • bobby b (November 28, 2019 at 11:57 pm), Hitler’s Germany should have taught you that Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China, though never possessing the strength of support in adversity that Nazi Germany did, were obviously able to control and deploy their populations. Unlike the Nazis, the communists could never win mass elections under even moderately free conditions and the recent election in HongKong demonstrates this (by contrast, the Nazis always won the 1930s elections in Danzig). The ChiComs would be quite able to lose an election to a HongKong-backed party even today were any such election holdable, never mind after a few years of truly open un-fearful access to information.

    We do indeed have a huge problem in the west that we no longer present a confident and above-all free-speech-endorsing society towards the Chinese. Cleaning up our own act is needful here – but immensely needful anyway.

    Shan Zhen Li (November 28, 2019 at 7:40 pm) should remember the fun Conquest had in the 90s with those who mocked him decades earlier for expecting the in-print-ness of Dr Zhivago to outlive Russian communism. In 1922 or 1925 (depending how you date it and assuming Niall mathematics-degree Kilmartin can count – Einstein famously couldn’t) the ChiComs will have ruled longer than the RussComs. I daresay they’ll make it – but Xi may not).

  • bobby b

    Niall Kilmartin
    November 29, 2019 at 9:44 am

    ” . . . Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China, though never possessing the strength of support in adversity that Nazi Germany did, were obviously able to control and deploy their populations.”

    I admit that my reading of the situation is entirely dependent on the meaning of the term “patriotic” in Shan Zhen Li’s comment.

    One version of this term calls forth the picture of a people wholly invested in the character and principles that their nation-state currently serves, in ways commonly associated with how a nation can pull together in times of war. This is, for lack of a better term, flag-waving patriotism.

    The other version is the nationalistic one, in which the people love and respect their own history and traditions and character as a people. In this version, there is no implication that they love their current leaders or government – it’s mostly that they simply love themselves as a people.

    Given the remainder of Shan Zhen Li’s comment, I interpreted his use of “patriotic” in the first sense – which leaves me thinking that the Chinese people are more invested in their current path than a people who were simply (in your words) controlled and deployed. “Patriotic”, in this sense, can not mean cowed, or even ignored. It has an active, willing, enthusiastic flavor.

    I’d be happier if Shan Zhen Li actually meant patriotic in the nationalistic sense – a sort of “we’re the great and noble Middle Kingdom, the oldest and highest civilization of people” way with no particular love for the CPC, because those people would be people to whom we could talk. If they’re not, then I can’t see us having much to say to each other, nor can I see any moral duty for us to “rescue” them from their (desired) fate.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Given the remainder of Shan Zhen Li’s comment, I interpreted his use of “patriotic” in the first sense”

    Dunno. I read it as an attempt to claim that China was more right-wing/conservative/traditionalist than the West. Like you, I’m unclear on whether he’s referring to the people or the elite ruling it. On the one hand, in talking about the West’s academics he seems to be referring to the elite. But if he’s saying the same about China, that the Communist Chinese leadership are more right-wing/conservative than Western elites, even lefty ones, then I find that… umm… a bit hard to believe. But if he’s talking about the people, as the bit about birth rates might suggest, then it would appear he’s saying they’re the same as us – a left-wing elite ruling over a right-wing people. Only they’re better, because they haven’t surrendered to their elites, or dropped their birth-rate at the elite’s direction…

    If patriotism is compulsory and their public behaviour constantly monitored, how can you tell what somebody really thinks about their own country? As secret right-wingers, do they approve of what their country is doing to places like Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or propping up the Norks?

    I’m not sure what to make of it. It looks a bit like a stitched-together collection of comforting right-wing tropes being wrapped around an expansionist, brutally authoritarian, still-nominally-Communist China.

    And because most of us don’t know many non-elite Chinese, what with them not being allowed to come out and play with the other kids here on the internet to tell us what it’s really like, it’s hard to say whether there’s anything in it. And maybe if the Chinese are actually traditionalist conservative right-wingers in leftist disguise, maybe we should support their takeover of the world? Hmm.

    Well, I try to keep an open mind, and it’s true that China are a lot less Communist and Authoritarian than they used to be. They care about world opinion, they care about trade, they want Western living standards. But then, I think that sort of implies that Chinese culture is rapidly changing, too, and thus in a hundred years their culture won’t be recognisably the same, either. It will have a family resemblance, just as our European-originated culture has a family resemblance to our own colonialist, expansionist, slave-trading, somewhat-authoritarian history. But no, it won’t be the same. Change is constant.

  • neonsnake

    If the majority of Chinese support their government, my old view is clearly wrong.

    Goddamit. My laptop just died halfway through very long comment.

    And it was an uncharacteristically brilliant comment where I argued persuasively, and unassailably, that that statement is indeed true, due to the resurgence of Neo-Confucianism since Xi Jinping took over, focusing on pride in traditional Chinese history, a faith in hierarchy and a national-collectivism (the two being complimentary in this case), based on extolling the virtues of revering your elders and superiors (ie. your betters), and subsuming your individual desires in order to better serve the state.

    And that this focus is deliberate, fostering a nationalism and pride based in traditional values (what? you don’t respect your parents?) set against the decadence of the west, what with our rock-and-roll music and our miniskirts (although I don’t have the legs for them anymore).

    I also proposed that, directionally, they might be better off, nowadays, referred to as state-capitalism (oxymoron?), or perhaps even *gasp* quasi-fascist rather than Communist.

    Anyway, it was a brilliant comment *grumble*, and now I’m just going to have to offer the above summary, while consoling myself with prodding Mr. Kilmartin for this:

    In 1922 or 1925 (depending how you date it and assuming Niall mathematics-degree Kilmartin can count – Einstein famously couldn’t)

    (Especially since I have form for also being wrong by an entire century when commenting)

  • neonsnake

    how can you tell what somebody really thinks about their own country?

    Very small sample size alert, but my experience is that those who were educated in the West, or who have worked/lived in the West (including Australia, obvs) have very different views than those who have only ever known China, or who only know the west through movies or even through vacations. But they’re nervous about speaking too brashly about it.

    if the Chinese are actually traditionalist conservative right-wingers in leftist disguise

    I’d suggest that it depends on your definitions. Socially conservative? Very much. Optimistic free-marketeers in favour of decentralised decision-making and light-touch regulation? Not so much.

    (Again, I’ll stress that I’m basing that on small-sample-sizes, general impressions and anecdotal personal experience. I’m not an expert nor a scholar on the subject)

  • Anyway, it was a brilliant comment *grumble*, and now I’m just going to have to offer the above summary, while consoling myself with prodding Mr. Kilmartin for this:

    In 1922 or 1925 (depending how you date it and assuming Niall mathematics-degree Kilmartin can count – Einstein famously couldn’t) neonsnake (November 29, 2019 at 2:19 pm)

    Glad I offer consolation. 🙂 I could pretend the 19/20 mixup was a clever riff on my not-count joke – but I was in fact focussed (evidently rather too focussed) on getting the decades right. A case where the old saw “Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves” didn’t work out.

    I read it as an attempt to claim that .. they’re better, because they haven’t surrendered to their elites, or dropped their birth-rate at the elite’s direction… (Nullius in Verba, November 29, 2019 at 2:08 pm)

    Bit of a strange claim given the history of the one-child policy.

  • China has historically been ruled by emperors and emperor Xi* is no exception. The economic advances under Emperor Deng* have greatly advanced the average Chinese but they also understand that every emperor rules with a “mandate from heaven” which may be withdrawn if the dynasty doesn’t uphold its end of the deal. Economic disengagement right now severely undermines Xi’s standing and with him that of the Communist party. Banks are already failing across China and news of the happenings in Hong Kong will get around sooner or later.

    Keep the economic pressure up and heaven’s mandate will evaporate.

    *It is of course, the emperors prerogative to call himself anything he wants.

  • Paul Marks

    O.K. – it seems this particular browser works, even on this old machine.

    I do not know if liberty will win or lose in Hong Kong – I think it will lose, but then I am depressive (what used to be called someone subject to melancholia).

    But I do believe that liberty can not exist in Hong Kong alone – either liberty will be crushed in Hong Kong, or the dictatorship in the rest of China will fall. And its “Social Credit” totalitarianism along with it.

    Astonishingly and horribly – much of Western Big Business (including almost all of Silicon Valley) will be very upset if the totalitarian regime in China falls. They, the Western “liberal” Corporations, want to crush freedom all over the world – because they are run by the “educated”, people educated in school and university to hate and despise liberty – especially the liberty of ordinary people.

  • JohnB

    Shan Zhen Li (Shan Zhen Li November 28, 2019 at 7:40 pm) is correct in that western civilisation’s lack of faith in the rationale behind its own existence could spell its doom.
    However, his faith in the self confidence of the current civilisation in China might well be misplaced.
    China’s current energy and survival is largely based on its sales to, and gain from, the “decadent” West.
    What would happen if the West ceased to exist(as he foresees) and there is no longer anyone to buy slave-labour goods from China?

  • Mr Ed

    In the UK we need to root out and defeat and de-fund our own Communists, and those who cringe before them, first. To stop the Chicoms, first buy as little from China as possible, no easy task. Second, tell it as it is about China, like the wonderful China Uncensored YT channel.

    Shan Zhen Li above says that

    The Chinese, by contrast, have embraced their past. The “cultural revolution” is over in China, but here, it has just begun.

    I’d say that’s fairly accurate, but the Chicoms ‘cherry-pick’ what suits them from the past and use it to big up the present, perhaps a bit like Stalin’s ‘patriotic revival’ once the Wehrmacht crossed his borders, but certainly they seem to have been to their nadir and are rising up, whereas the West hasn’t even opened its parachute yet. The Maoist simplification of characters has, I’m told, left many Chinese unable to read some old characters, concealing a lot of the past from many at present, and it has the demographic aftermath of the one-child policy to contend with as that works its way through to a fertility crash.

    I suppose the issue is whether the many faults of China’s economic system and its huge State sector overwhelm the impressively-growing ‘private’ sector, in which there is no security of property rights

  • neonsnake

    Bit of a strange claim given the history of the one-child policy.

    I assumed dry wit 😉

    It is of course, the emperors prerogative to call himself anything he wants.

    You’re bob-on with that. The current regime is not enormously dissimilar to that of, say, a hundred and fifty years ago (different to one hundred years ago, though, I think, as in the circumstances that allowed Mao to come to power).

    They just have better technology.

  • neonsnake

    To stop the Chicoms, first buy as little from China as possible, no easy task.

    Genuine question, Mr Ed: if I can source a product from China cheaper than I can from elsewhere (I used to be a retail buyer), should I not?

    (Ignore any implications for my job security!)

    I’ve been in sectors where I’ve had 20% market share in the UK (one in five of you lot are currently sitting on a sofa or chair that I bought. Now say thank you 😀 ), so that’s an awful lot of people that would have had to spend more money.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Shan Zhen Li (Shan Zhen Li November 28, 2019 at 7:40 pm) is correct in that western civilisation’s lack of faith in the rationale behind its own existence could spell its doom.”

    What *is* the rationale behind our own existence?

    “Because it’s *us*”?

    Or because we follow principles that are morally superior?

    And what happens to that rationale when we forget or ignore those moral principles in our attempt to win?

    “In the UK we need to root out and defeat and de-fund our own Communists, and those who cringe before them, first.”

    Because this is how we can best defend the principles of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Belief that make us better than them?

    “I assumed dry wit 😉”

    Quite so!

    “Genuine question, Mr Ed: if I can source a product from China cheaper than I can from elsewhere (I used to be a retail buyer), should I not?”

    You should source as much as possible from China, but insist on extensive and expensive evidence that human rights were granted in their production. Make it clear that getting a reputation for complying with human rights will make it much easier and much more profitable for them. Sympathise with their difficulties in producing credible evidence, when their government forbids open and honest speech. Point out all the obstacles that repressive government puts in the way of more profitable trade. But explain that there’s nothing you can do about it – if you was discovered to have been selling goods made by immoral forms of labour or by people not granted their rights, you’d rightly lose business here in the West, and so would they. Worse, if they got caught faking the evidence, it would make future trade twice as expensive because of the need to prove the new evidence hadn’t been faked. Explain all the extra difficulties and costs and risks that China’s reputation imposes, and how much profit that is costing them.

    That said, it’s probably not necessary. Economic development will inevitably eventually run out of people with the skills to do what you need doing, which will mean they need to offer better conditions to get workers. We in the West did not get better working conditions and political freedom because the ruling elite here took pity on us out of the kindness of their loving hearts. They did so because they had to, because economic development forced them to. Simply doing business with them funds the education, training, experience and then the specialisation and division of labour that drives the need for political freedom. Markets cannot work under centralised control, and the marketplace of ideas is no different. If you want your people to innovate as fast as the West does, to develop new technology, they need freedom to do so. And you need their cooperation – you can no longer just order them around.

    Those who would force compliance with their own will by erecting barriers to trade, by cutting off funding, by banning and regulating, exclude the competition that is the wellspring of their own advancement and fitness for survival. You beat the competition by being visibly *better* than them, and giving people the free choice.

    A Dodo lives on an island with no predators, surrounded by the ‘impregnable walls’ of miles of open ocean. Gazelles have to continually compete to evade the lions. Gazelles are fast and graceful. Dodos are wiped out the moment their walls are breached. Competition produces continual progress. Walls and barriers are the coffin in which the corpse of progress is buried.

  • Nullius in Verba

    There’s another nice example of defeating the authoritarians here.

    China is obviously a much bigger job than that, but it’s not all doom and gloom.

  • Mr Ed

    Genuine question, Mr Ed: if I can source a product from China cheaper than I can from elsewhere (I used to be a retail buyer), should I not?

    The facile answer would be that the true price of Chicom goods is much higher as it comes at the cost of feeding the Red Tyrants. My view is that it is a matter of personal choice for the consumer, so do what your contract with your employer or client requires and, if you wish, point out the costs.

    When I have rejected goods made in Red China on that basis alone, I have not infrequenrtly been told by shop assistants that they understand and that a lot pf people take that view. Clearly most don’t.

    And when the final reckoning comes, where will you hide? 😮

  • neonsnake

    Make it clear that getting a reputation for complying with human rights will make it much easier and much more profitable for them.

    Essentially my approach. But, y’know, small cog and all that.

    And when the final reckoning comes, where will you hide? 😮

    What will that look like? This “final reckoning” of yours?

    Describe it. In detail.

    What, there’s going to be some mass reckoning against Tesco, Sainsburys, Argos, Dixons for daring to buy from Teh China!!n111one!n!!?

    ROFL!

    I dunno. Where should I hide? You tell me. Panama? The Cayman Islands?

  • neonsnake

    There’s another nice example of defeating the authoritarians here.

    *Nods quietly*

    Good post.

  • Mr Ed

    ns,

    Perhaps the final reckoning might take the form of the Chicoms finding that you are a tissue match…

  • Adam Maas

    The Chicoms far more closely resemble early 20th century Japan than they do Germany.

    Germany, with a few relatively nearby located exceptions, did not expect the loyalty of its diaspora, Japan most certainly did (it’s forgotten that the persecution of the Nisei in the US and Canada during WW2 was in large part a reaction to the actions of some Nisei in Hawaii after Pearl Harbor)

    Germany had a deep economy that was robust on its own and could be maintained largely on internal markets, Japan was an industrial up & comer but had no depth and was largely limited by a lack of access to resources, and they pursued a neocolonial plan to get the resources they needed (similar to China’s current African strategy). Japan was overwhelmingly dependent on trade (albeit for the opposite reason to China today)

    Germany was reacting to real military threats from their neighbours (largely France) as fallout of the Franco-Prussian war. Japan (and China) were the military threat.

    Germany is not a great model to understand China, Imperial Japan is much closer.

  • Mr Black

    We should encourage 500 million immigrants from poor areas surrounding China to illegally cross the border and settle there. Within a couple of generations there won’t be a “China”, just a giant refugee camp fighting over who gets to take the greatest spoils from the locals.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Meanwhile I will welcome comments, from grumpy libertarian purists, and from those pointing out grammatical errors caused by the haste with which this was all written. (I hereby award myself the right to do the necessary correcting in the hours and days that follow.) However, I will especially welcome comments from people who are already saying and doing what I have here merely got around to recommending.

    Not interested in comments from those who disagree with you?

    The group-think is strong.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    The ChiComs will be around in 100 years, and so will Hindu India. Whether the USA and the UK will still exist in a form which looks recognizable is doubtful. The “west” has largely abandoned the belief in truth (see transgender mania), and patriotism, and really any hope for the future (see birth rates for native born English and Americans and the global warming doom-mongers). In stark contrast, Chinese are patriotic, still believe in scientific truth, and with 1.4 billion Chinese today, there will be about 1 billion of them in the year 2120. China’s growth rate is slowing, but even now, when it has tied the US economy in size (based on PPP) its growth rate is double that of the US. China has lots of problems but the “west” is in much worse shape in just about every way that matters. We are a decadent society, our academics no longer believe that the men who built our culture over the last 2,000 years were right about anything. The Chinese, by contrast, have embraced their past. The “cultural revolution” is over in China, but here, it has just begun. I predict that Hong Kong will be a part of China, so will Taiwan, and most of South East Asia will become client states of China. It would take a massive revival in the belief in the VALUE of European culture and history to reverse this trend. Ironicaly, the protestors in Hong Kong seem to believe in western ideals more than we do. I see no sign that this will change anytime soon.

    Thread Winner.

  • bobby b

    Emperor-envy.

    😈

  • ROBERT SYKES

    “If the ChiComs won’t let Hong Kong be…”

    Can there be a more delusional statement? Hong Kong is an integral part of China, and aside from the colonial interlude, has been for centuries. And the Chicoms are the legitimate rulers of China, even without elections.

    And this,

    “Those district rat-catcher (or whatever) elections..”

    That is a statement of contempt for the voters of Hong Kong and for democracy itself. And the “rat catcher” vote is the real story, not the rioters, who are by and large an American astroturf operation. The riots and rioters have no popular support.

    Hong Kong has many problems. The main problem is that it is now a second tier city in China. Several mainland cities, like Shanghai, offer much higher wages and a higher standards of living than does Hong Kong. Young people in Hong Kong have no real future. There are few well-paying jobs, and housing is priced out of reach. Hong Kong is not the Chinese economic doorway to the world. Its financial markets are secondary to Shanghai. And the One Belt One Road initiative bypasses Hong Kong entirely.

    The real hope for Hong Kong and China lies in the people for voted for the rat-catchers.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Hong Kong is an integral part of China, and aside from the colonial interlude, has been for centuries. And the Chicoms are the legitimate rulers of China, even without elections.”

    I think you’ll find that on a historical basis the hereditary Emperors are the legitimate rulers of China, aside from the ChiCom interlude. The ChiComs declared the People’s Republic of China, on 1 October 1949. Hong Kong was ceded to Britain in pieces over 1842-1898. The British were in Hong Kong first. 🙂

    Of course, most of this comes down to the question of how you define ‘legitimate government’. Libertarians have a somewhat different definition to authoritarians.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

    The basic problem is the ChiComs rule without consent. It’s not about history, or who was there first, or who was there earlier, or who invaded who, or who lost the last war, or who you are closest to geographically. The legitimacy of rulers is based entirely on the free and informed consent of the ruled. Or at the very least, their freely given tolerance.

    If you have to use tanks and guns and the threat of horrific prison camps to maintain your rule, you don’t have any right to rule. You’re a usurper, a thief, a tyrant. The occupying enemy of your own nation.

  • The occupying enemy of your own nation. (Nullius in Verba, November 30, 2019 at 3:18 pm)

    Kravchenko, describing the impact of Stalin’s great purge, said it was as if a foreign conqueror had taken over Russia, in scale and cruelty. There is evidence of Stalin ordering from the centre that all civilian casualty estimates in areas the Nazis had occupied be doubled. Having had to suppress and then fake the late 30a census, he appears to have felt that doubling Hitler’s kill-total was a good guess at what would be needed to hide his own in the post-war census – in other words, he seems to have agreed with Kravchenko. (To be precise, I note that, Stalin was comparing Hitler’s 4-years of killing Russian civilians with the effect of his own late-20s to late-30s killings, two or three times as long. The issue still pollutes discussion of Russian WWII losses today.)

    Kravchenko’s statement is quoted by Hannah Arendt after she deduces on other grounds that totalitarians such as Stalin and Mao will rule the countries they have gained by revolution as if they were foreign invaders, using nationalism strictly for propaganda.

    (There are of course more simple errors in Sykes’ comment than the one Nullius refutes. If the ‘rioters’ lacked mass support, the ‘rat catchers’ would not have won the election.)

  • Mr Black

    If you have to use tanks and guns and the threat of horrific prison camps to maintain your rule, you don’t have any right to rule. You’re a usurper, a thief, a tyrant. The occupying enemy of your own nation.

    A curious theory, that has never been true at any point in human history.

  • bobby b

    “If you have to use tanks and guns and the threat of horrific prison camps to maintain your rule, you don’t have any right to rule.”

    Here’s the query that I have, that I wouldn’t have even voiced five years ago, but the answer to which I’m no longer certain:

    Every society, no matter how free (or even because of its freedom) has a certain percentage of dissidents amongst its population. I was speaking to my cop relative a few days ago, and he was describing how his department (a large metro area sheriff’s department) now has automatic weapons, big crowd control tools, and armored personnel carriers. APC’s!

    All of these tools are for the purpose of controlling dissident rioters who might one day pop up. The other 95% + of us don’t consider these tools to be aimed at us, and we’ve for the most part never even seen them. We certainly don’t feel “controlled” by them.

    So, the fact that these tools also exist in China doesn’t necessarily mean a controlled cowed populace kept under a despot’s thumb.

    My query is, then, what percentage of the Chinese people now feel controlled and cowed by their government, versus what percentage support it? Is it a general feeling of subjugation – as I was raised to believe it was? Or does China merely control and cow its dissident population?

    Five years ago, I was sure I knew the answer to this. Now, I’m not so sure.

  • Slartibartfarst

    I reckon Shan Zhen Li’s comment (above) outlines a reasonable possible future scenario in terms of the cultures and races in China, “The West” and Hindu India, but that’s arguably only looking at one or two facets of the many-faceted polygon dice of history, and over a relatively short timescale (i.e., 100 years or so).

    It has often been postulated that the potential for civilization to come about was probably enabled by the discovery/invention of farming (the agricultural revolution), which would have freed people from the daily hunter-gatherer state – it gave them the freedom of time necessary to do other things. Which eventually led to the invention of philosophy and the development of RPID (Religio-Political Ideology/Dogma), which was used to set rules for control and government of the people in the societies that developed.

    There have been many, but the strongest RPIDs would seem to be those that meet certain main criteria:
    * they are systemic and have stood the test of time (old) and are still with us today;
    * the RPID is dictated by a benevolent and good higher spiritual authority (a god) which communicates through its chosen human representatives (priests) on earth;
    * DEATH: the god requires that the lives of ALL non-believers must be sacrificed (killed and banished to purgatory), leaving just the believers to enjoy life, here and in the hereafter;
    * the RPIDs tend to be intrinsically self-reinforcing and self-regenerating to a greater or lesser extent, based on fear of violence/punishment for breaking the rules/dogma – violence/punishment which might variously pose a violent spiritual, economic or existential threat.

    Examples of the latter: in most (all?) western democracies which were originally founded in the context of the Judeo-Christian RPID, the State officers can commit a form of violence (economic punishment) towards people who commit theft against the State (e.g., do not pay, or who fiddle their taxes), according to the accepted and published rules for such punishment. As regards moral behaviours, for example, homosexuality was previously an offence punishable by imprisonment.

    Similarly, in many Muslim societies (where the RPID is Islam), theft could be punished by chopping off a hand, and adultery or perceived immorality, or homosexuality (or whatever contravenes the prevailing RPID regarding correct moral behaviours) can result in death by the proper and appropriate prescribed method, whether it is by (say) a public stoning, or by being hung from a crane in a public hanging, or by being publicly thrown off a high place (such as a building or cliff). Public punishment events are enforcement of the “law” and a very effective way of communicating and reinforcing the results of breaking the rules, to the general public.

    One of the oldest and strongest RPIDs is Judeo-Christianity, especially in the original form of RC (Roman Catholicism), which the Romans cannily invented and used as an independent systemic control and government tool which has lasted for 2,000 years. This came about – somewhat hypocritically – some time after they had finished horribly torturing and murdering an innocent and peaceful Jewish prophet of God called Jesus Christ, eventually nailing him alive to a wooden cross (as a common criminal) in a public crucifixion, at the earnest behest of his community’s wise Jewish religious leaders. The RC Church is still a powerful force today – 2,000 years later – with its power centre in its own territory called the Vatican, though its global influence and membership demographically seems to be gradually waning, because of creeping secularism from democracy and socialism/fascism.

    However RC led to the invention in about 300 AD of the Nicene Creed (the Holy Trinity), which was apparently a vitally necessary dogma to shore up some cracks and make the RPID more cohesive and prevent/avoid a threatened schism of RC into sects. About 1,200 years later, after the RC had caused the killing/torture/imprisonment of incalculable numbers of people who just couldn’t seem to adhere to the RC RPID for some reason, or who – like Galileo Galilei – might have been harbouring “wrong” or unauthorised thoughts about the RPID, the stranglehold of RC was progressively broken after October 31, 1517, when the priest and religious scholar Martin Luther apparently approached the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and nailed a piece of paper to it containing the 95 revolutionary opinions that would begin the Protestant Reformation (“The Reformation”) in Europe. Though Luther’s paper was merely criticising the papal indulgence process, it had far-reaching repercussions. The indulgences were effectively a clever figment for a fiduciary instrument, sold by the RC Church for cash to people and which promised them a withdrawal of their temporal punishment in purgatory for sins committed. This is similar to the fiduciary instrument of carbon credits of today, which allow the purchaser to produce as much carbon dioxide (CO2) as they have paid for – CO2 being a harmless trace gas in the atmosphere which is vitally important to sustaining all life on the planet. The fact that the papal indulgences (part of the RC RPID) had been publicly criticised led to a bursting-out of previously pent-up and unauthorised/illegal freedom of thought and expression and which, over the next three centuries revolutionised Western civilization. Despite this, the RC remained intact.

    However, the strongest RPID yet invented by man would seem to be, indisputably Islam – now some 1,400 years old and progressively outstripping RC demographically as the major global membership RPID – as I have suggested in separate posts on this forum. Islam is a rock-solid RPID, not only meeting the main criteria above, but also embracing – as it does – basic Judeo-Christian beliefs (e.g., the Old Testament) and aspects of Hinduism and Buddhism. Anyone can become a Muslim, if they accept and submit to the Koran as the absolute and infallible word of Allah (which it apparently is; no other RPID has such a powerful bible) and renounce other heretical beliefs (e.g., for Christians, the Nicene Creed has to be renounced). More and more we find that Jews and Christians are realising that Judaism and Christianity are lights along the path leading to Islam here on earth and Paradise in the hereafter.

    By comparison to such solid historical RPIDs as these, communism, fascism, democracy – in all their various guises – are relatively Johnny-come-lately ideologies that do not meet the above main criteria – in particular, persistence and sustainability over time.

    Democracy is pretty harmless and doesn’t cut the mustard, and as for communism/fascism, sure, one could argue that they score very highly against the criteria of DEATH – the late, great and eminent father of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong, for example, scoring second place in the death toll league tables with an estimated death toll of 40 million Chinese (from mostly famine) in the 20th century. Kind old father Mao though was a relatively poor second to the first place which was for an estimated 63 million deaths from WW2, which was kicked off by that eminent fascist, the late, great Austrian/German artist and Nazi Führer who is so fondly remembered by his admirers even today for the exemplary model that he set.

    BUT, that’s just for one criteria. Only time will tell whether the Chinese communist RPID qualifies as persistent/sustainable.
    If one looks at other achievements on the death toll scale, we can find communism again with Joseph Stalin (20C) tied in 6th place with the Taiping Rebellion (19C). In this case, Stalin wiped out an estimated 20 million of his fellow Russians, in the process of apparently merely faithfully operating according to the playbook provided by the eminent late, great German communist thinker Karl Marx, who basically recommended that anyone who was even remotely suspected of being potentially intellectually opposed to the RPID should be expunged, regardless. Stalin – bless him – apparently had a high regard for Karl’s keen critical thinking and perceptive strategic thinking skills. But look what happened to Russian communism. FAIL
    .
    Whichever way one looks at it, Islam arguably still leads on all counts (criteria), head and shoulders above the rest. For example, between 11C to 18C, the Muslim conquest of India racked up an estimated 13 million deaths. When one considers how much smaller the global population would have been then, that must have been proportionately relatively one heck of a big percentage slice out of the total,. That’s no mean achievement and that kind of performance has apparently been persistently sustained over 1,400 years (e.g., including across Europe and to the gates of Vienna), right up to this century, even scoring the deaths of 3,000 souls in one hit, in a single day in the commercial heart of the US on 9/11 in 2001.
    AND THE CHINESE KNOW THIS RPID IS A THREAT TO CHINA! It was Karl Marx who wrote “Die Religion… ist das Opium des Volkes”, but it was the Chinese who knew what to do about that. They carried out a pogrom on Christians, in some cases not killing them, but simply putting them in chokey for life and throwing away the key – e.g., Watchman Née, sentenced in 1952 for 20 years imprisonment, but was never released after 20 years and died later, still in prison.
    And for some years now, with seemingly nary a murmur of protest from anyone until more recently, the Chinese have been committing what Scott Adams refers to as “the 4th Holocaust”, with the Uighur Muslims being the luckless victims. This could be rather revealing of an inherent Chinese fear and insecurity regarding what they must know is probably a superior RPID.

    Happy days.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    If you have to use tanks and guns and the threat of horrific prison camps to maintain your rule, you don’t have any right to rule.

    Sadly, reality disagrees. Not most of reality. All of reality – across all of human history.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    I think that many commenters in this thread suffer under the delusion that most Chinese people who actually live in China care about “liberty”, “individual rights”, “democracy” and “personal freedoms”. Obviously, the population of Hong Kong is wildly misrepresentative of the population of China overall in terms of its culture, values, identity, and political views. Ask the common man in China what should be done with Hong Kong – the % of responses that Samizdata would find acceptable (if not desirable) is probably under 5%.

    Every time the west interferes abroad to bring “liberty” and “democracy” and “freedom” to oppressed people overseas, the eventual result is far less liberty, freedom, democracy for those people. See Iraq for one example. Libya for another.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Hong Kong is an integral part of China, and aside from the colonial interlude, has been for centuries. And the Chicoms are the legitimate rulers of China, even without elections.

    True but libertarians rarely permit reality to get in the way of imposing their beliefs about how other people should live on those people.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    If you have to use tanks and guns and the threat of horrific prison camps to maintain your rule, you don’t have any right to rule. You’re a usurper, a thief, a tyrant. The occupying enemy of your own nation.

    It’s amazing how fundamentally out of touch westerners are with reality. It’s this kind of brilliant thinking that causes the west to create havoc around the world by dropping bombs, invading countries, and causing disorder around the world in order to bring “democracy” and “liberty” to those countries. The end result is inevitably less liberty, less freedom, and less order.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “It’s amazing how fundamentally out of touch westerners are with reality.”

    Isn’t it, though?

    Tyrants rely on the “I just want a quiet life” tendency to stay in power. All the hassle and conflict of overthrowing them and setting up something better is just too much trouble, too much personal risk. It’s always easier to submit to tyranny than to fight it. Surrender means Peace.

    Which is why there have always been tyrants, and why there always will. “Across all of human history” we have been ruled by tyrants, kings, emperors, priests, and ruling elites, who all rely on the “quiet life” principle to maintain their power. Life under their rule is bad, but the process of overthrowing them would be worse, and if you don’t fundamentally change your whole approach to defending liberty, is generally replaced by another set of rulers just as bad.

    Authoritarians always only want freedom for themselves. They don’t care about anyone else. So when authoritarians who are under the boot of an authoritarian of a different tribe rise up and overthrow him, they inevitably replace him with a different sort of authoritarian. He’s “one of us”, not “one of them”, so that’s OK, right? If your goal is simply “get rid of the tyrant” and not “build a society run on liberal principles” this will always be so. Revolutions run by authoritarians always result in tyranny. Revolutions conducted by well-meaning liberals who, as soon as the tyrant is gone, run away, likewise.

    It’s like the way abused children often grow up to be abusers. They learn how the world works from the environment they live in, from all the people they meet. If their experiences are entirely of the strong bossing around the weak, of the strongest group imposing its norms on the rest of society, that’s how they’ll behave themselves. It’s not inbuilt. It’s not unavoidable. It’s learned behaviour. And it’s possible to learn something else.

    Thanks to our ancestors, we in the West have learnt something else. There’s an alternative to authoritarianism and tyranny by the ‘Strong Man’ leader. Stamping on all dissent is not the only way to get a peaceful and happy society. It’s passed on in our culture. But we don’t understand this at a conscious level, and so we are in constant danger of forgetting it.

    We assume societies are the way they are, and that this is immutable. Our society is fairly liberal, and we believe this can never change. Their societies are authoritarian, and they can never change. And in the short-term, that is to some extent true. Cultural transmission takes decades to take place. It’s no use overthrowing the tyrant, because society springs back into the shape it’s always been. You have to overthrow the tyrant and then maintain the peace so that an entire generation can grow up under the new system, and learn it ‘in their bones’ as the way things are, as the natural order of things. We fail because we always run away before the job’s half finished.

    It’s no use just jailing the abusive parent, you also have to repair the damage they’ve done, or you just get another generation of the same.

    But we only want freedom for ourselves. We want only to live a quiet life, free of difficulty. We will only fight for *our own* liberty, not anyone else’s, and certainly not for Liberty generally. And so, gradually, we lose sight of the principle, and slip back into our old authoritarian ways, until we suddenly find, when we are targeted for suppression by some other faction, that it is already too late. Nobody is going to help us overthrow *our* tyrants, because that’s the way we’ve taught the world that the world works.

    First they came for the [X], but I was not an [X], so I did not give a phuck. Why on Earth should I spend *my* blood and gold fighting for freedom for [X]?! But when they came for me, there was nobody left willing to help. It’s amazing how fundamentally out of touch westerners are with reality.

  • neonsnake

    My query is, then, what percentage of the Chinese people now feel controlled and cowed by their government, versus what percentage support it?

    I think that’s probably impossible to answer, bobby b. I suspect a larger percentage support it than we might imagine, but I’ve got no compelling evidence.

    I think even if we could answer it, they’d still be a nagging doubt about autonomy, which would still leave me feeling that they’re not truly free in the sense that we understand it – when you’re trapped inside the Great Firewall, and a majority of media is pushing state-propaganda, you’re not really able to access information unless sanctioned by the state, can you truly be said to have enough autonomy to be free?

    It sounds terribly paternalistic (on my part), and I think it probably depends on how high up in one’s personal values the concepts of autonomy (and privacy) are on how much it would bother one.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Our society is fairly liberal, and we believe this can never change

    I believe this can and is changing. The more people vote the less liberal our society is becoming. Individual rights, free markets, liberty are all going away. President Obama is going to look like a small-government libertarian compared to what is coming down the pipe in America the “Land of the Free” in the next few decades.

    Consider healthcare as just one example. Obamacare was bad for free markets and liberty, but what Elizabeth warren and Bernie Sanders want to do with healthcare makes Obama look like Ronald Reagan. And Sanders and Elizabeth warren are just the beginning. Thanks to democracy, Republicans will be fighting for Obamacare in just a few years from now. Oh, the irony.

    Democracy is where liberty goes to die, ladies.

  • Slartibartfarst (December 1, 2019 at 2:22 am), China – fairly uniquely amongst civilised societies (but arguably it is one of but few afferents for all such), has always been largely without the ‘R’ aspect of your RIPDs – which strongly relates to why it has always been easy pray for the “I just want a quiet life” that “tyrants rely on” (Nullius in Verba, December 1, 2019 at 10:31 am) – and so to the question we are discussing.

    Contrast the lesser ability of our own culture ever to settle so well or so long into this “anything for a quiet life” pattern:

    Politics and ethics have been through a series of marriages and divorces since the beginning of recorded history. Machiavelli happened to live at a time and in a country where this divorce appeared to be absolute; his observations rested on this assumption. … He had calculated with resignation on the natural depravity of man but he had also calculated that man would act on the whole as a reasonable being. … Very shortly after his death, European politics entered upon one of the most intensely religious phases through which they have ever been. …. Individual princes [dissenting groups and] whole societies were found ready to run impossible risks and to make preposterous sacrifices in order to preserve or restore certain religious observances. (from Christine Wedgewood’s essay on Nicolo Machiavelli)

    The point about ‘preposterous sacrifices’ can be seen much more recently in this interesting article on how the gulag converted Solzhenitsyn to Christianity.

    a group of semi-literate believers refused to go out to work on Easter Sunday. In the Siberian cold, they were made to stand barefoot on an ice-covered pond, where they continued to chant their prayers. Later that night, the rest of us argued about the believers’ behavior. “Was this fanaticism, or fortitude in defense of the rights of conscience? Were we to admire or regard them as mad? And, most troubling of all, should we have had the courage to act as they did?”

    Lastly, I like these paragraphs of mine from the end of a long earlier thread quite enough to repeat them here, where they are relevant.

    Shortly before the English civil way started, an MP was arrested by the house of commons for referring to the two factions that existed within it. We, living centuries later, know that these two factions were to become the Tories and Whigs, then Tories and Labour of the later UK, and the Tories and Liberals of Canada, the Democrats and Whigs then Democrats and Republicans of the US, the Liberal and Labour parties of Australia, and so on. But you cannot understand the events of 1640-42 if you do not understand how shocking, how outrageous it seemed to the men of that time that there should be two factions in the commons. Everyone could see – blatantly! – that there were two factions in the house. As 1641 gave way to 1642, everyone could see that Pym, Hampden and Cromwell were, as we would later say ‘whipping’ sternly to secure their increasingly narrow majorities, while King Charles wrote to the remaining (almost all royalist) MPs who had not yet returned to London to hurry up. But to the people of that time, the commons represented the nation and the nation should be of one mind: one of the factions had to be, as the insult of the time had it, ‘factious’ (the modern PC would say ‘divisive’) – had to be wrong, not entitled to exist, guilty of dividing the seamless robe of the nation’s parliament. They disagreed on which side was guilty of all these crimes, but they agreed absolutely that there should be no factions in the house of commons.

    After a civil war, and the experience of having an army enforce Cromwell’s will even when “Not one in twenty Englishman will give you thanks for it”, the restoration spread the idea that having two factions wasn’t so bad, and this was an important adjunct to its more obvious lessons – that having civil peace and avoiding revolutions was good, but that having a large army was bad. By forgiving everyone who had opposed and even fought his father, but had refused to be involved in putting him to death and had accepted the restoration, Charles II took an important step towards explicitly legalising “his majesty’s loyal opposition”. The ‘glorious revolution’ set the seal on things.

    Summary: in any culture, persuading rulers that they should endure “his majesty’s loyal opposition”, not their subjects endure their rule however unreasonable, for the sake of a quiet life begins as a very ‘unreasonable’ thing to attempt. Chinese culture lacked one way of persuading subjects to be that unreasonable.

  • neonsnake

    Democracy is where liberty goes to die, ladies.

    What’s your alternative, my love?

  • neonsnake

    Wait, hold on. Maistre? Joseph de?

    ROFL!

    The guy who needed a King/his betters to tell him how to live his life because he didn’t have the ‘nads to work it out for himself?

    Well, uh, sure. I’ll defend your right to say it, and all that. Am unclear how libertarian it is, but y’know. Am prepared to learn.

  • neonsnake

    has largely abandoned the belief in truth (see transgender mania)

    I occasionally wonder.

    We are the Bulldog Breed, over here in the UK, apparently. If we are so petrified if a vanishingly small percentage of people that would be happier if they were X rather than Y, and vice versa, I’m not really sure what right we have to pretend we’re some kind of 300-style line in the sand.

    Strikes me that is that’s what scares us, we’re a bunch of pussies.

  • Julie near Chicago

    neon —

    Not so much that de Maistre didn’t have the ‘nads, as that he lacked the organ normally located farther north.

    😆 😆 😆

    .

    SNARK! — I just couldn’t resist. The truth is, all I know about the man is the 1/4 tsp. of knowledge I’ve made out of Shlomo’s comments. Neither Shlomo nor de Maistre’s shade should feel too insulted. :>))

    .

    But he (they!) don’ sound like no libertarian to me. :>)

  • Shlomo Maistre

    The guy who needed a King/his betters to tell him how to live his life because he didn’t have the ‘nads to work it out for himself?

    Yes, yes – he didn’t have the ‘nads to figure it out himself. Excellent point.

    Well, uh, sure. I’ll defend your right to say it, and all that. Am unclear how libertarian it is, but y’know. Am prepared to learn.

    Ah, you appear to suffer under the delusion that anyone who values liberty must be a libertarian. I also was young once.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    What’s your alternative, my love?

    My young grasshopper, I’ve been reading Samizdata quite regularly for about 15 years. Several books, a couple smart friends, Samizdata, and a few other blogs converted me to libertarianism about 15 years ago. I was a libertarian for many, many years. I’ve read my Hayek, Bastiat, Rand, Rothbard, Heinlein, Mises etc.

    Some years after becoming a libertarian I stumbled upon Mencius Moldbug. A few dozen redpill books later and I found myself incapable of believing in libertarianism or thinking that democracy is a wise or beneficial form of government.

    Democracy is where liberty goes to die. I still do value liberty very much, but I also know where it comes from.

    In dozens of Samizdata posts in years past I have elucidated my views on politics and political philosophy.

    I don’t like labels for a variety of reasons but if I had to give myself one I would say that I am a Reactionary.

    I know, I know. There’s nothing you haven’t read about that could possibly change your mind about libertarianism or democracy. I’m just some crank on the internet. Move along now.

    https://www.unqualified-reservations.org/2009/01/gentle-introduction-to-unqualified/

  • Slartibartfarst

    @Niall Kilmartin (Stirling)
    December 1, 2019 at 5:24 pm:

    China – fairly uniquely amongst civilised societies (but arguably it is one of but few afferents for all such), has always been largely without the ‘R’ aspect of your RIPDs – which strongly relates to why it has always been easy pray for the “I just want a quiet life” that “tyrants rely on” (Nullius in Verba, December 1, 2019 at 10:31 am)

    ________________________
    Yes, precisely my point. The Chinese don’t seem to have had sufficient of the “R” component of the RPID and their RPID is thus unlikely to stand the test of time – it’s not really likely to be a sustainable RPID without the “R”. Sorry, but that’s what I thought I was communicating (not very well, it seems) by the list of main criteria for a strong and sustainable RPID. Assuming that list is more or less correct in theory, at least, then history would seem to suggest that the Chinese have had the DEATH bit for a while, but not the Religious aspect.

    The importance of the “R” component was clearly well-understood by the Americans in the war against Japan. The Japanese understood it and pretty much had the “R” down pat – which was why MacArthur gave orders for the end of Shinto as the Japanese state (and hate) religion, because it had been deliberately developed into a mainstay of the Japanese religio-political ideology and used to control/brainwash the minds/beliefs of the Japanese population:

    … On this day [September 2, 1945], General Douglas MacArthur, in his capacity as Supreme Commander of Allied Powers in the Pacific, [i][b]brings an end to Shintoism as Japan’s established religion. The Shinto system included the belief that the emperor, in this case Hirohito, was divine.

    On September 2, 1945 aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, when MacArthur signed the instrument of Japanese surrender on behalf of the victorious Allies, getting rid of the “R” was not sufficient of itself to ensure that Japan would become peaceful and non-aggressive. Before the economic and political reforms the Allies had devised for Japan’s future could be enacted, the country had to have its teeth pulled – i.e., t had to be demilitarized. Step one in the plan to reform Japan entailed the demobilization of Japan’s armed forces, and the return of all troops from abroad. Japan had had a long history of its foreign policy being dominated by the military, as evidenced by Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoye’s failed attempts to reform his government and being virtually pushed out of power by career army officer Hideki Tojo.
    Furthermore, Japan – like communist Russia – seems to have been hegemonic, which would always be likely to pose a threat to other countries. Fortunately for the rest of us, the Allies mandated reform plans for Japan (helped along by a government statistician named W.E. Deming) were very successful and Japan today is a good neighbour to have and a consistently positive contributor to world freedom and peace.

    So, how does this help us to understand how to “defeat the Chinese communists”?
    Well, the point I also tried to make was that the Chinese must already be only too well aware that their weakness is the strength of the RPIDs of Christianity and especially Islamism, which is why the Chinese government is obliged (QED) to variously persecute them, or subject them to a pogrom, or otherwise “re-educate” them (Russian style) with a Gulag system. It’s a natural matter of survival for the cuckoo State that it must not tolerate having anything else in its nest.

    But what they don’t seem to have realised is that the strong RPIDs – especially Islamism (which is by far the strongest), having infected them HIV-like (bypassing their cultural auto-immune system), are likely become systemic and aren’t actually going to go away – as you too seem to have been suggesting with your note about:

    “…how the gulag converted Solzhenitsyn to Christianity.”

    I think it was Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who first described Islamism as a “cancer” and said:
    “I have no religion, and at times I wish all religions at the bottom of the sea. He is a weak ruler who needs religion to uphold his government; it is as if he would catch his people in a trap. My people are going to learn the teachings of science. Let them worship as they will; every man can follow his own conscience, provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him act against the liberty of his fellow man.”
    – extract from “Thoughts on Islam” by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern secular Turkey (though these thoughts seem to be progressively getting airbrushed out of online sources.)

    If one looks at Turkey today, however, we find we are authorised to read:

    “Islam is the largest religion in Turkey according to the state, with 98% of the population being automatically registered by the state as Muslim, for anyone whose parents are not of any other officially recognised religion and remaining 1% are not religious, 0.2% are Christians and 0.8% are Others religion affiliation.[8] Due to the nature of this method, the official number of Muslims include people with no religion; converted Christians/Jews; people who are of a different religion than Islam, Christianity or Judaism; and anyone who is of a different religion than their parents, but has not applied for a change of their individual records. The state currently does not allow the individual records to be changed to anything other than Islam, Christianity or Judaism, and the latter two are only accepted with a document of recognition released by an officially recognised church or synagogue. In 2016 Islam was the major religion in Turkey comprising 98.3%[4] of the total population, and Christianity with 0.2%. …

    “…Turkey is officially a secular country with no official religion since the constitutional amendment in 1928 and later strengthened by Atatürk’s Reforms and the appliance of laicism by the country’s founder and first president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk at the end of 1937. However, currently all public schools from elementary to high school hold mandatory religion classes which mostly focus on the Sunni sect of Islam. …”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Turkey

    I think that’s amazing. A quiet revolution. So, it’s been 2019 – 1928 = 91 years since that constitutional amendment, during which time (probably around the 60 or 70 year point) Ataturk’s objectives have been pretty much turned upside down as regards Islam, and Turkey seems to be much the better for it. Islam can do that. It has to. It’s part of the RPID’s strength. All Muslims are obliged by Allah to make Islam dominant in any culture where they find themselves. Jihad (Holy War in the name of Allah) is part and parcel of what it means to be a Muslim. That doesn’t necessarily mean violence either – it can be simply conversion of unbelievers. It’s an incredibly powerful RPID. Thus the global Caliphate grows – it’s a kind of hegemonic acculturation – and it works. 1,400 years of persistent growth to its current dominant global position (QED) can’t be ignored.

    My hypothesis is that arguably the best thing that could happen to the Chinese people is for them to overcome their tyrants themselves, and escape from their tyranny with more and more Islamism – because Islam protects Muslims (especially where they are all properly the same right-thinking kind of Muslim) and is benevolent and charitable to Muslims first and foremost and no-one else – Islam draws a clear distinction between the world of Islam (Dar al-Islam) and the world of heresy (Dar al-Harb) – they are antithetical. Islam/Allah looks after all Muslims. All it takes is to submit to Islam and the path forwards to some kind of a decent human existence and a blessed life is cleared. With Islam comes protection, safety and reduced crime (harsh capital punishment for committing crimes against other Muslims). People can get on with their lives, having essentially given their freedom into Allah’s custody.

    An Islamic state is a theocratic democracy, with well-defined laws and rules to live by (based on the Koran And Sharia law), which have worked well thus far, for 1,400 years. The Chinese people could take hope from the model of Iran, where there was a revolution to escape from the benevolent Shah of Iran’s monarchy to a democratic theocracy (the Shah was the last King of Iran from 16 September 1941 until his overthrow by the Iranian Revolution on 11 February 1979). People who were active in that relatively peaceful coup have told me that even now it can be seen to have been the best thing for Iran that could have happened, that finally, the Iranian people were able to operate their country for their own existence, rather than at the whim of other more powerful countries who manipulated the Shah like a puppet.

    The Iranians are mostly Shia Muslims, the Turks are mostly Sunni. Sure, they don’t get on well together because the Sunni are more orthodox (think Wahabis) and don’t approve of the different/less orthodox dogma of the Shia, but both countries seem to be doing fine for their people and within each country their respective governments are not killing their own people off like kind old father Mao did to the Chinese and which is apparently still occurring at the behest of the governing council.

    For the Chinese then, Islam could mean having a normal human life, with the right and the responsibility for having families and however many children they wanted (“Go forth and be fruitful”), protected and in peace.
    This would be one of the key differences between carrying on trying to exist living godless in the straightjacket of an unsustainable, godless and inhumane communist state, versus living like a normal human as a servant of Allah in a sustainable God-fearing state.

    So I don’t think Ataturk was correct in calling Islam a cancer. It can have a decidedly good healing quality, and not at all deadly, for Muslims. I used the term HIV-like above because it bypasses the cultural auto-immune system.

    If anything is more sinister and parasitic on people than Chinese communism, it is arguably the state apparatus in secular democracies, where, as Sir Roger Scruton commented (about his book on the cancerous state):

    “The expansion of the state to absorb more and more of civil society has happened everywhere…All that free association which made the English-speaking countries what they are still exists. It’s just that there’s a tax on it of roughly half of what you earn which goes to maintain a sort of a shadow community of parasites whose only justification is that they pretend to be governing…we belong in an organism which is accompanied by a cancerous version of itself. That’s the way it is. All you can do is every now and then diminish it – to cut off this or that bit of it, but it will always be there.”

  • bobby

    “Wait, hold on. Maistre? Joseph de?”

    Why did you think I said “Emperor envy” above?

  • neonsnake

    I know, I know. There’s nothing you haven’t read about that could possibly change your mind about libertarianism or democracy. I’m just some crank on the internet. Move along now.

    I’ve come across Moldbug before. He’s…well, he’s not my cup of tea, nor are the NRx lot.

    They’re kind of the opposite to me, really, in that they’ve started with “democracy doesn’t always work out well if the majority votes for something you don’t like”, and then went in the completely opposite direction to me in terms of both causes and conclusion.

  • bobby

    neonsnake
    December 1, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    ” . . . when you’re trapped inside the Great Firewall, and a majority of media is pushing state-propaganda, you’re not really able to access information unless sanctioned by the state, can you truly be said to have enough autonomy to be free?”

    We might not actually be trapped inside, but if you consider the market share of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., in their respective markets, the practical effects are the same. And, it takes a special kind of woke – on our side – for people to look outside of progressive media for their news.

    I won’t say we’re as bad at it as China is, but it’s just a matter of degree, not a difference in species.

  • neonsnake

    Why did you think I said “Emperor envy” above?

    Aaah, now I see!

  • I used the term HIV-like above because it [islam] bypasses the cultural auto-immune system. (Slartibartfarst, December 2, 2019 at 5:58 am)

    Around here, the HIV-analogy is usually used not of Islam but of the west, to characterise our absurd self-induced vulnerability to an Islam that of itself is weak and needs our help to be able to harm us.

    1,400 years of persistent growth to its current dominant global position (QED) can’t be ignored.

    I certainly wouldn’t ignore that, but happily observe that after its first near-century of rapid advance, Islam’s history would be better titled ‘advances and retreats’. The British empire ruled a large part of the Islamic world while resisting Hitler. The Islamic immigration that has characterised the first decades of the new millennium would not have happened if Blair, Merkel et al had intended it not happen. Islam is not innately that strong.

    In a very general sense I see that China, broadly tracking the Soviet Union a few decades behind, is now socially (economics is another matter) at the point where their ideology feels very weak. But China does not have ill-controlled immigration and its small Muslim population is victimised because it has little strength to resist today.

  • I don’t like labels for a variety of reasons but if I had to give myself one I would say that I am a Reactionary. (Shlomo Maistre, December 1, 2019 at 11:33 pm)

    That is indeed the correct label for an admirer of de Maistre. As a 15-years-reader, you know I’m a Burke man myself. Left-leaning intellectuals often can’t tell the difference of course. Even some old-style liberal intellectuals with intellects can struggle – Isaiah Berlin, for example, who can tell the difference when pushed and thinking about it. To me – and to you, I suppose – there’s a great gulf fixed.

    Democracy is where liberty goes to die.

    was believed by a great many people in the 1930s and early 1940s, some of them rather reluctantly. But Churchill’s

    Democracy is the worst form of government in the world – except for all the other forms that have been tried.

    proved the way to bet in the end. Although a lot of PC intellectuals are working on it, the very quarrelsome alliance between democracy and liberty in the English-speaking world is not dead yet.

  • neonsnake

    I won’t say we’re as bad at it as China is, but it’s just a matter of degree, not a difference in species.

    I think the degree is currently quite large; but I do very much agree, and I think our heading is not a good one.

    It’s not just media (although I’ve enormous concerns when our print newspapers here in the UK are owned by a very small amount of people); I’ve no small amount of unease about increasing police state and surveillance (a long term concern in the UK!) – the police owning APCs would certainly cause me to raise an eyebrow and make a strong cup of tea.

    Still, compared to other countries, I count my blessings.

    often can’t tell the difference of course

    Wow. I have only the most cursory knowledge of either, and they struck me as somewhat opposite (in approach, at the very least) to each other, de Maistre being of the Chinese approach to liberty, I think.

    …and, I’m back on topic!

  • Shlomo Maistre

    de Maistre being of the Chinese approach to liberty

    LOL

    Such a facile understanding, lacking even the pretense of depth.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    proved the way to bet in the end

    History isn’t over yet, Niall, despite what whig historians claim.

    And yes, I know you are a Burke man yourself. Oh well.

  • HK protestors come from young and would be middle class people who can’t handle the economic conditions of HK. High prices and limited available property. The wealthy in HK can weather the situation because their property appreciates. But the would be middle class is shut out.
    The core problem doesn’t get fixed by protesting China, or demanding democracy. What are they going to do? Use democracy for theft?
    China backed down because it’s playing a game with a longer time horizon. They want to take over America’s position in the world, not merely subjugate this little island across the river.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    The core problem doesn’t get fixed by protesting China, or demanding democracy. What are they going to do? Use democracy for theft?

    Democracy is used all over the world for theft. One might even say that acquiring the wealth of other groups – by voting for changes in spending, taxes, regulations, subsidies, etc – is one of the primary purposes of democracy.

    China backed down because it’s playing a game with a longer time horizon. They want to take over America’s position in the world, not merely subjugate this little island across the river.

    Quite true.

  • neonsnake

    Such a facile understanding, lacking even the pretense of depth

    Oh, very possibly. That’s why I appended my statement with an “I think”, to indicate uncertainty. On the face of it, arguing for hierarchical state organisation and installing an absolute monarch/emperor/president with no term limits does at least hold a passing resemblance to NeoConfucianism, though.

    I’m unsure that I could draw such parallels between the rulership of China of today and Burke, but undoubtedly Mr. Kilmartin could correct me if I’m wrong.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Oh, very possibly. That’s why I appended my statement with an “I think”, to indicate uncertainty. On the face of it, arguing for hierarchical state organisation and installing an absolute monarch/emperor/president with no term limits does at least hold a passing resemblance to NeoConfucianism, though.

    Among the many nuances that escape your notice is a basic aspect of hereditary monarchy that distinguishes it from other systems of government such as dictatorship, one-party rule, oligarchy, whatever China has (one-party oligarchic communist republic?) that is fundamental to the DEFINITION of hereditary monarchy. That basic aspect of monarchy is the succession: becoming the monarch is a right earned by birth – quite literally. This changes everything.

    I am friends with a first-generation immigrant from China. Most of his family still lives in China. One of his relatives and one of his childhood friends made it into “the party” at low level. He tells me about how people climb the ladder within the ruling Communist regime. Let me assure you that President Xi’s right to rule was earned by doing a lot of dirty, corrupt things to a lot of people. In this respect, at least, communist China has far more in common with democracy (or “constitutional republic”) in America than a hereditary monarchy like that which produced Louis XIV.

  • neonsnake

    Among the many nuances that escape your notice

    As I said – I appended my sentence with an “I think.”

    That basic aspect of monarchy is the succession: becoming the monarch is a right earned by birth – quite literally. This changes everything.

    Acknowledged.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of rating people by the quality of their biological father’s cum. I’m not sure it’s a good enough indicator of the quality of the child, and I’m unsure that history bears out the idea that monarchs have been better overall for their country than imperfect democracy.

    I also have some friends of, um, Chinese origin. What with them being Chinese and living in China, and me spending a couple months per year there.

    I’m not entirely unfamiliar with President Xi and how he “earned” his “right to rule”. It’s not what one would call “democracy” in any meaningful sense. It has more in common with a monarchy.

  • neonsnake (December 2, 2019 at 7:11 pm), Shlomo is (in a somewhat talking-down manner, as you understandably remark – but I suppose one could say his stye fits his argument 🙂 ) pointing out the specific similarity (between Xi and a democratic leader) that he is focussing on – both are people who wanted to rule, and as we all know, people who want to rule are unfit for it.

    In a true monarchy (not a bastard monarchy such as the Roman Empire was and arguably such as the Chinese empire and Ottoman empire, with their harems, also were), a powerful hereditary custom would frequently cause the King or Queen to be someone who did not want to rule (and whose parent monarch may not have been that keen on their ruling either) but who from family duty would make some effort to do so.

    Inevitably of course, from time to time, monarchs so idle they wholly pass the job of ruling to a favourite, who will be just such an eager-to-rule guy, will occur, and while it may well be rarer in people born to power than in others, monarchs who chance to love power will also sometimes occur. The argument is only to contrast those odds with the certainty that a very high proportion of leaders in non-true-monarchies (whether dictatorial, oligarchic or democratic) will be people who crave power.

    Obviously, as a way of providing present help to the Hong-Kongers or the Uighers, these discussions, though interesting, seem to me a good deal less immediately useful even than encouraging all I can not to buy Huawei devices for Christmas – and alas, that won’t help much.

  • Neonsnake

    monarchs who chance to love power will sometimes occur.

    At which point, we’re hoping that we’re not first against the wall.

    This is not comforting to me.

    We have a long and proud history, going back to what? 1215? Wat Tyler? The Levellers?

  • neonsnake

    I’ve read enough Moldbug. If these guys win, I’m the next guy next against the wall.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “I know, I know. There’s nothing you haven’t read about that could possibly change your mind about libertarianism or democracy. I’m just some crank on the internet. Move along now.”

    Thanks for the link. I found it amusing. Not convincing, though.

    “That basic aspect of monarchy is the succession: becoming the monarch is a right earned by birth – quite literally.”

    Quite often, it’s earned by disposing of all the claimants ahead of you in the line of succession.

    “Shlomo is (in a somewhat talking-down manner, as you understandably remark – but I suppose one could say his stye fits his argument 🙂 ) pointing out the specific similarity (between Xi and a democratic leader) that he is focussing on – both are people who wanted to rule, and as we all know, people who want to rule are unfit for it.”

    I thought the similarity he was pointing out was that both earned power by getting the support of the Party hierarchy. In the case of a democrat, this means all the business of sitting on influential committees, knowing powerful people, selling influence, doing favours, promoting the careers and ideas of the likeminded, raising funds for one’s campaigns from political donors, and so on. The difference is that the authoritarian only has to win the favour of his fellow-authoritarian Party members, while the democrat also has to get the support of the voters.

    The problem with kings is that they are pretty randomly-selected, and often heavily inbred, *humans*, and most humans are mildly unpleasant idiots stuffed full of stupid beliefs and ideas. (And many wise and good ideas too, of course, but completely incapable of telling the difference.) Error correction requires redundancy, not a single point of failure. The more people you have to persuade of the merit of your ideas, the more likely it is that someone will point out the flaws in the stupid ones.

    Kings very often want to rule. If you try to take over and replace them, they are amongst the first to object. And they make up laws like “treason” and “sedition” with entertainingly protracted methods of public execution attached to express their extreme disappointment with people who want to relieve them of the burden of ruling.

    If ever there was a king who didn’t want to rule, they always had the power to abdicate. You can judge how many there were by how the number who did so.

    “I’ve read enough Moldbug. If these guys win, I’m the next guy next against the wall.”

    These guys are the same as all the other guys. (And also the same as them in believing themselves to be different.) They’re an even more vanishingly tiny minority than the libertarians. I don’t think you need to worry.

  • Sam

    The West and its many mutations of democracy has generated wealth and a standard of living better than any other form of human organization yet seen. It’s been so efficient in this regard that it leapt past the other empires of the world and now concerns itself almost entirely on the smallest details of its funeral proceedings, this thread being no exception.

    We westerners are all the spoiled children of great men, idly discussing how best to squander our inheritance rather than building one for our children. A society composed of many, many aristocratic second sons and their lackey friends, in essence.

    Other powers, like China, might and probably will reach the levels of wealth and comfort we’ve recently secured, and then they too will be spoiled beyond human capability and struggle with the consequences. By which time the next hungry power will take the initiative and repeat the cycle.

    This is the best case scenario for our species, mind. Because there is no higher purpose, no divine will, no prize at the end for discovering the “best” political system. Only the constant search for less pain, less work, less unhappiness.

    Cheers and may you live your best life. Epstein didn’t kill himself.

  • The problem with kings is that they are pretty randomly-selected (Nullius in Verba, December 2, 2019 at 9:11 pm)

    Though that can be a problem, one may note it is also the point of Shlomo’s argument we’re debating – randomly-selected versus ravenous-ambition-selected.

    and often heavily inbred

    and often not. The French and English royal families avoided that issue. No-one could say Louis XIV showed signs of inbreeding, and Charles II, who lived a long time and then apologised for being “an unconscionable time a-dying”, showed no signs either. Of course, many ancient Egyptian dynasties – not all – had customs that massively failed to avoid it. And it is fair enough to remind a supporter of Habsburg adviser de Maistre that the Habsburg method of ensuring that marriage always grew and never shrank their holdings caused a serious problem in that line.

    Kings very often want to rule.

    Usually not as much as Xi does.

    Almost everyone has some inclination to rule, just as most people watching Wimbledon or the olympics think it would be something to be an athlete – but they don’t spend every day from early in life practicing long tiring hours, putting in the sheer effort required to reach that level. If any of us were by some strange legitimate chance able easilyto become prime minister, would we all instantly turn it down, so it could go back to being Boris or Corbyn? Yet, how many have even joined a political party – just like those who wish vaguely they were champions but have never joined a gym.

    I don’t think not-abdicating is strong evidence, any more than not deserting is strong evidence that a conscripted soldier really longs to spend his days shooting people and being shot at.

    The more people you have to persuade of the merit of your ideas, the more likely it is that someone will point out the flaws in the stupid ones.

    With that I would agree – as would Burke, who took it as a truism that any monarchy not under the reasonably-frequent inspection of a parliament would over time accumulate abuses.

    And of course I would agree that it’s far from being the most probable issue to concern us in the immediate future.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Though that can be a problem, one may note it is also the point of Shlomo’s argument we’re debating – randomly-selected versus ravenous-ambition-selected.”

    Yes, but the point of my argument that it’s not just ambition that decides who gets to the top – whether in a totalitarian one-Party state or a democracy. As you say, that people “don’t spend every day from early in life practicing long tiring hours, putting in the sheer effort required to reach that level” implies that more skills and achievements than just ‘wanting it a lot’ are required. People only reach the top with the support of others – a leader is nothing without followers, who have to be persuaded to follow.

    An absolute monarch only needs to persuade one person it’s a good idea. An authoritarian only needs to persuade fellow members of their ruling elite. A democrat needs to persuade thousands or millions.

    Authoritarians always figure that the problem with our current rulers is the particular rules they apply. If only you could get a ruler who had the *right* plans for society – which by an uncanny coincidence often look very similar to the beliefs of the particular authoritarian telling you this – and if they only had the power to impose them without all this messy and inefficient and unreliable need for consensus and persuasion, then all would be right with the world and we could just get on with life.

    Absolute monarchs are better than totalitarians are better than democrats, because the more people are involved and have influence over the decision, the more their beautiful policies are corrupted and watered down. The more society can be led astray by enemies outside and within. It just has to be the *right* absolute monarch.

    This is like saying that a centralised command economy works best, just so long as all the *right* allocations of resources to needs are made at the centre. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem. The problem isn’t that the rulers are implementing the wrong rules; it is that it is impossible for any one person to gather all the information needed to determine what the right rules actually are. Individuals can only ever see a small part of the picture.

    And the big problem with the ambitious is that they have their own goals and are inclined to ignore or circumvent the goals and opinions of others in their single-minded pursuit. Either they are ambitious for power to achieve a particular narrow personal goal, or they are willing to use the most unscrupulous methods to get and maintain their hold on power.

    If someone like Xi truly thought their ideas and policies were best, they’d allow free discussion of them because they would be confident of winning the debate. (Or in the event they lost the debate, would have the consolation of having discovered and avoided an error.) People who build walls to keep out the competition only do so because they fear that they are wrong and the competition is actually better, and if given the choice people would choose someone else. That Xi denies people their political freedom tells you that even he knows he’s wrong – that he cannot persuade anyone of the merit of his policies, and must therefore use force. He will of course tell you that the reason they are not persuaded is that the ordinary people are not as intelligent and well-educated as he is, and have been cruelly deceived by the enemies of society, and he must therefore impose his wise rules on people for their own good, and for the good of society. But the truth is that the greatest fear of every dictator is the mob – that they will one day Tear Down The Walls. They live every day in terror of it. They know very well how they will be judged.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Maybe there are other examples extant today, but the only monarchical rule-by-inheritance* that I know of and that has lasted into the third generation is that of our pals the Kims, who continue to run North Korea.

    *With a little help from their [such rulers’] friends (and a parent), usually. Help, that is, of a more forthright, unrestrained type than we usually see in today’s Western democracies.

    (Not, however, of the Latin-American subspecies — if it can be classed as such.)

    My point is solely and specifically that I don’t see in what way their track record for maintaining a society in which people flourish (in any meaningful sense) is hardly up there with almost any other country in the world. Even, maybe, the PRC, and certainly any Western-style “democracy.”

    If the people are singularly lucky, they may get a run of 3 absolute monarchs who rule by inheritance and who really are committed to ruling in a way that doesn’t treat the people as serfs or slaves. (Or, maybe more likely, rule lightly save for muzzling their more rabid underlings because frankly they’re not that committed to doing the work required to dictate who does what when, how, and to whom?)

    I say singularly lucky. Present-day N. Korea is the outstanding counterexample to the theory that rule-by-inheritance yields best political system.

    .

    Of course, it all depends on what you mean by “best.”

    .

    neon,

    I can’t resist mentioning that I too remain unimpressed by Mr. Yarvin’s (Moldbug) political theories. Nor the rest of the NRx fans either, from what I’ve seen of them.

  • neonsnake

    These guys are the same as all the other guys. (And also the same as them in believing themselves to be different.) They’re an even more vanishingly tiny minority than the libertarians. I don’t think you need to worry.

    I find it a useful thing to remember and to remind myself of. Most importantly, to note that if I was to sketch my own absolute utopia, it must include the possibility of “these guys” being able to live in it. Otherwise, I’m advocating putting them against said wall – which would not be something to be proud of, and something I have to watch for. Like anyone, I’m utterly convinced that if I was in charge, my authoritarianism would be utterly benevolent, and this would be the one time things would be different 😉

    Present-day N. Korea is the outstanding counterexample to the theory that rule-by-inheritance yields best political system.

    It’s a cracking example. It also allows for a sort-a control method. What if you took a country, split it down the middle, and put an absolute monarch in charge of one half, and a democracy in charge of the other.

    Now, I’ve never been to South Korea, but still: I’m fairly confident in saying which place has been more successful. Even allowing for Gangnam Style.

    The idea that a monarch does not have to worry about being voted out has merit. But it also points to the idea that the only thing he has to worry about is an armed revolution, since he obviously can be deposed (I’m sure history has at least one or two examples of that…).

    So he (or her, I’ll have you know that I’m no sexist pig!) prepares for that eventuality – instead of preparing against disgruntled voters by crafting “better” policies, he prepares against possible revolution by, I dunno, disposing of dissenters via the liberty-enhancing method of shooting them with anti-aircraft guns.

    I read the link that Mr Micklethwait provided where he discusses “freedomandemocracy”. It’s really a very good piece, and I think we all agree that democracy isn’t perfect, because it sometimes ends up with results we don’t, personally, like.

    And yet it remains the best thing we’ve come up with, since it ends up with results that other people like. And maybe I’m not actually more important, or more right, than those other people.

    Also, we have a remarkable amount of freedom, compared to other countries and other periods. We have so much freedom that our biggest threat now are the people pushing back against what we’ve achieved! The NRx, alt-right (in my usage of the word) and associated types pushing back against women, ethnic minorities, etc being allowed equality of opportunity, and the ctrl-left (the madder type of SJW/Woke) pushing back against freedom of speech/association.

    If that’s the biggest threat, and NIV calmly points out that they’re a loud minority, then I think we have a lot to be proud of. Now we’re just tinkering with the edges.

    I can’t resist mentioning that I too remain unimpressed…

    Take this as the understated and badly worded compliment it’s meant as – “Well, that’s a sentence that’s utterly redundant given what I already know about you!”

    😉 😀

  • Julie near Chicago

    😎

  • This article (h/t instapundit) suggests Hong Kong protestors are inspiring protests in Guangdong. The ChiComs violent suppression of the protests is reported in The Guardian.

    Further means of suppression are being trialled on Uighurs – so I hope the experiment’s results are not too encouraging.

  • Jorb

    Democracy is mob rule. There’s nothing inherently good about using a popularity contest to choose your ruler. You only need to look at some of the democratically elected ones we’ve had – Blair, Cameron, May, Corbyn (at least to head of the labour party). The idea that “everyone gets a say” is a good idea is demonstrably foolish. You only have to look at the fact that the majority of the population are either stupid or even stark staring bonkers (I dont exclude myself from that definition either). The US constitution (and esp the bill of rights) is a PROTECTION against democracy. The only positive thing about democracy, the only thing that makes it better than all the others, is that there is a way to remove the ruler without blood on the streets. In this, it is similar to our other holy concepts. Capitalism/free markets work well because those things which dont work/are not desired fail – bankruptcy/going out of business etc. That’s how competition works – elimination of the unfit. It’s what bought us to where we are now. The same explanation can also be applied to evolution and the scientific method. Try anything, take away what doesnt work, or at least doesnt work as well.

    Ultimately China, or at least the ChiCom’s current regime will fall for the same reason. It doesnt work very well and will be weeded out. The chinese economy is far less robust than advertised and is currently balanced on an asset bubble the like of which the world has never seen. The ChiCom compact with the people of China is based upon increasing prosperity. If that goes away, or even stutters significantly, things will get interesting quickly.

    The exact mechanism by which they will fall is unclear, although I think Brian’s original suggestion is a good place to start. Whether the west is around to see it is also a relevant question – although I see some reassuring signs of pushback coming from sources as diverse ;o) as Dave Chappelle and Jordan Peterson.

    Oh, and you missed out, probably the biggest name who is currently taking a stand against China. Trump.
    You didnt really think this trade war was about bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US?

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