Rethinking Democracy

Just like video killed the radio star, HBD killed democracy.

Democracy, representative government, (classical) republicanism, whatever you want to call it (hereafter, “democracy”) is the best form of government, not because it leads to the best results — look around you! — but because it’s the most legitimate form of government.  A modern nation-state requires significant buy-in from the majority of its population in order to defend itself, because modern nation-states require mass armies.

The feudal system worked fine with a small, decentralized, agricultural population.  When sixty miles a day was the absolute max speed of a courier and knights were the effective fighting arm, you could defend “France” with a retinue of a few thousand men-at-arms.  Which was good for them, because in an without mass communication (and with illiteracy near-universal), nobody outside of Paris knew what “France” was in the first place.  One might theoretically trace his feudal dues all the way up the pyramid, but in practice, very few people knew or cared who their lord’s lord was.  Why would it matter, when the next village over had a different lord, a different system of measurement, and probably spoke a different dialect?

And then the Renaissance happened (as my students would say), and communication got much faster.  Literacy was more widespread.  Most important, effective firearms made knights useless in battle, and with that, the whole feudal system lost its justification for existing.  An Early Modern army was a mass army, an infantry army, and would need to be in the field year-round.  It would need to be paid and supplied by the State (no mean feat, and itself a driver of all kinds of other changes), and, most importantly, it would need motivation.  You can keep a small retinue of archers and pikemen in the field for a campaign season or two if you promise them lots of plunder and a discharge by harvest time.  Modern armies stay in the field full time — something has to hold them there.

Democracy fits the bill.  It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that modern representative government came out of the Putney Debates in Cromwell’s New Model Army during the English Civil Wars.  “One man, one vote” is the bedrock principle.  Only a government that respects its people’s interests in peacetime will have their loyalty in wartime.

Fast forward a few hundred years.  It’s no slander on the New Model Army to say that just about any old peasant could be trained to use an arquebus, and it’s no slander on that peasant to say that the issues he’d be voting on weren’t much more complex than his weapon.  “One man, one vote” presumes rough equality between all men, and in the England of the 1640s this was true enough.  Modern life, though, is as complicated as modern weapons.  Very few of us have the brainpower (or the free time!) to cast an informed vote on just about anything.

That’s an argument for disenfranchising the dummies, BUT: By what right, then, do we send them off to war?  Remember, the key is legitimacy.  Why fight and die for a country in which you have no stake?  Unless you’re willing to limit military service  to +2SD IQs (or whatever the figure is), you’ve essentially turned the American military into a giant mercenary company (read Machiavelli if you want to know how that works out, if it isn’t incandescently obvious).

The tl;dr: If aristocracy is illegitimate because such a government by definition doesn’t respect the interests of the people, then any “democracy” that acknowledges the reality of HBD is likewise illegitimate.  Modern political science — the whole schmear, from Thomas Hobbes and John Locke down to now, whether absolute monarchist or absolute libertarian — presumes that all men are roughly equal.  But they just aren’t, and the more we know about HBD, the more we realize just how UNequal we all are.

Democracy or HBD.  Pick one.

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5 thoughts on “Rethinking Democracy

    1. Andy-in-Japan

      https://thezman.com/wordpress/?p=6402

      “The other day, the great HBD blogger Jayman posed a question on twitter. Can you have democracy and a universal acceptance of Human BioDiversity?

      For those unfamiliar with the concept, Human BioDiversity is a catch-all term for the observed biological differences between groups of humans that are most likely tied to genetics.”

      Reply
      1. Severian

        Thanks for the explanatory link.

        Z Man doesn’t go nearly far enough, though. It’s not just “vote your culture” that’s the problem. Democracy assumes that

        1) all men are basically rational (or can be rational in the voting both); and
        2) all men can see (or be taught) their rational self-interest; and
        3) all men are basically equal in their capacity for 1 and 2.

        Freud disproved 1 back at the turn of the 20th century. 2 and 3 are destroyed by HBD. We’re not even close to equal, and some people are so unequal that 2 will never apply. As society gets more and more complex, in fact, the number of folks to whom 2 applies gets smaller and smaller.

        Democracy as traditionally understood cannot survive unless all 3 apply. They don’t, and the more we learn about HBD, the more obvious it is that they don’t, and CAN’T.

        HBD or democracy. Pick one.

        Reply

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