The Tyranny of Race

There are a limited number of ways to govern a multi-ethnic or multi-racial society. As much as modern elites believe they are wrestling with new problems, the issues the West faces today are common throughout history. The very first settled human societies were multi-ethnic. The “cradle of civilization” was full of tribal people with identities different from one another, often with different languages. One tribe would come to dominate the others, but the subjugated people maintained their identities. They just paid tribute to the dominant tribe.

One way humans have met this challenge is through hard segregation. This is when areas are carved out for specific groups of people and only those people. The governing authority helps the groups defend their turf from any encroachment from the others. One group is dominant, but a big part of how they maintain their dominance is by keeping the peace between the rest of the groups. The Arab world still functions under this model for the most part. One tribe dominates, but the other tribes run their own turf for the most part.

The opposite of this is compulsory assimilation, where everyone is blended into one identity. The English banning Welsh and other local languages from government is an example of how the ruling group can force assimilation. The Romans would settle barbarians in the Empire with the goal of assimilation. This meant sprinkling them around in small groups so they would adopt the local language and customs and lose their native identity. Their inability to do this with the Goths is often held up as one of the causes of the collapse.

The third most common method for confronting the problems of diversity is soft segregation where you end up with a multi-tier social order. The dominant group gets all the privileges and benefits of society. The lower orders are barred from positions of authority and perhaps have fewer legal rights. Muslims prefer this model. Europeans used to treat the Jews as a guest race of people, with limited legal rights. In America, this was the mode employed after the Civil War to manage blacks. In the North it was implicit and in the South it was explicit.

None of these models are seen as legitimate or moral by modern Western leaders. America still maintains reservations for Indians, but that’s only because no one knows how to get rid of them. The Europeans still have a gypsy problem, but like the Indian problem, no one knows what to do about it so it is ignored. Otherwise, the West has no interest in segregation or compulsory assimilation when it comes to the challenges of diversity. In fact, diversity is viewed as an unalloyed good so any attempt to temper it is forbidden.

That has resulted in the current way of meeting the challenge of diversity in the West, which is Proportionalism. This is where the costs of violating liberal principles are weighed against the perceived benefits from violating the principles. For instance, legal discrimination is wrong as a principle, but quotas and set asides allegedly have benefits that are too valuable to pass up, so the state engages in active racism in hiring. Because the scales are entirely subjective based on one’s point of view and the moment in time, there can be no fixed rules, just a mindset.

A good recent example is the Freddy Gray case in Baltimore. The city charged every cop involved with the highest possible count, even though little evidence suggested they did anything wrong, much less deliberately criminal. The victim was black so the city violated the rights of the cops and ruined their lives because the city thought the benefits outweighed the rights of the cops. In other words, naked racism to counter the consequences of perceived racism was justified based on expected outcomes in this particular case.

The result of this mode of thought, this philosophical outlook, is a thicket of rules and precedents that are incoherent in isolation because they exist only in the moment. America is a land where you can be sued for discriminating against blacks in favor of whites, while simultaneously being sued for discriminating against whites in favor of blacks. Since there are no set rules that apply all the time, you could lose both cases in the same courthouse. It all depends upon the judge and the circumstances.

There’s a word for arbitrary application of the law. It’s called tyranny. That is the inevitable end of Proportionalism because benefits and costs are always subjective. The City of Baltimore looked at the lives of six police officers and said they were not worth another riot. The family of the police officers had a very different valuation of these things. The dozens of dead black guys would probably have a different calculation, but the police went on a silent strike so those black guys got killed and no longer have a say.

The reason tyranny eventually collapses is it devolves into a recursive use of resources in order to maintain itself. Once the law becomes arbitrary, the violations of the law, and the willingness to flaunt flout the law, increase exponentially. The only thing everyone knows is that voluntary compliance has no benefit. This requires an exponential growth of authority to maintain order. Eventually, the cost of order exceeds the resources available to the authority and collapse ensues. It’s why authoritarian regimes tend not to live long past their founder.

27 thoughts on “The Tyranny of Race

    • They settled with the family after they charged the cops. That’s another example of how this works. They fast tracked this settlement hoping it could help in their court case. By settling, the said in court that the city was liable for the death.

  1. “Flout” the law, not “flaunt”, pardon my pickiness.

    Strong argument, as usual.

    This further reinforces the CS Lewis quote about the tyranny of do-gooders

  2. One of the most striking sections of Andrew Mango’s excellent bio of Kemal Ataturk was the recount of how, as a young Ottoman army officer he was assigned to the Levant. Most of this time was spent maintaining ‘hard segregation” among the various warring factions in modern day Lebanon and Syria. Funny thing, you’d recognize the sects today–Druze, various versions of Sunni and Shia Islam, Orthodox…some things never change.

    Lawlessness is the one that is going to get us. We have the example of Baltimore. Here in NY we are simply ruled by criminals. Two of the top three elected officials in the state went to jail this year. The governor would go to but he controls the investigative process. Ditto down the food chain. We have a candidate for President who simply flouts the law. If Middle America defects from their belief that “this is bowling, there are rules”, it all comes apart quickly.

    • Corruption and Lawlessness are Signs of the Times. In the Good Ole Days, movements grew via grass roots rejoinders to fundamental moral injustices. In the Advertising Age however, only the Narrative and Black Lives Matter and come pre-packaged complete with “new and improved” taglines such as: “Hands up! Don’t Shoot!”.

      • Check out the alt-right, which is a grassroots movement that challenges many modern assumptions

  3. If the governments we elect are so hell-bent on making unpopular and unworkable laws forcing us into one big, happy family (which strangely doesn’t seem to make anyone happy in the slightest, other than the lawmakers who can find ways to excuse themselves from their own laws), all we Plain People can do is slip quietly away and try to live as anonymously as possible. Concomitant with this slow slipping away is to stop voting for these people; the hustlers and fraudsters will be voting in plenty anyway, or find ways to twist the election and bend the laws to their financial advantage, so we have to let them get on with it.

    Sad it is coming to this, but so it goes.

    • That’s the optimistic view. The pessimistic view is toward a future based on either the old Soviet Union or the new Red China. In other words, a police state where only party members and/or cronie capitalists and government elites live well. The rest will live by leave of the state, kept in line by fear of imprisonment or death.

    • To ‘stop voting for these people’ is what frustration sounds like. When everyone running for office wears a black hat and thus there are no white hats to vote for, we, the people, are summarily screwed.

  4. Authoritarian regimes may not live long past their founder, but there certainly can be a great deal of misery and destruction along the way. North Korea is a current example, I would say.

    • North Korea is a great example of the exception every generalization. They not only have outlived the founder, they are onto the grandson.

      • It is not clear to me that the North Korean case is really an exception. Isn’t the key point of the post that an authoritarian regime collapses when the cost to maintain its repressive apparatus exceeds the resources available to the controlling authority? It is notoriously difficult to know much about either in North Korea.

        • I read a story by a journalist who had visited with North Korea’s army. She was riding in a truck that soldiers had retrofitted wit a wood burning stove in back, and that provided the energy to drive the truck. Talk about a combustion engine! They apparently devote a lot of resources to the military, but if they can’t even keep gas in the trucks, that’s a bad sign. I keep waiting for North Korea to collapse, but their system is like the cockroach of governments.

      • North Korea is maintained by China. Jung Chang, in her biography of Mao points out that the Korean war was provoked by Mao and was a test to see how much the West would tolerate before capitulation in battle. The Chinese army was sent south to fight when the North Koreans had enough of the fight and wished to quit. In the present time (according to my inside source), North Korea is kept intact by China as a buffer against South Korea. Chinese party leadership are desperately afraid of having a free and prosperous neighbor a border-hop away. This same source tells me that the central idea in governing China is not maximizing benefits for the people of China, but rather keeping order, order at any price. A unified, free Korean border state would completely destabilize China.

    • NoKo existed because the Chinese and Soviets wanted it too, and when the Russians bowed out it was still a proxy for Chinese mischief. But one is left to wonder why the Chinese mandarins have not yet ended this abomination. They may fear any unraveling of power as too suggestive upon their own.

      • NoKo exists as a buffer between a U.S. Ally, South Korea and the Chinese border. China is worried about the outcome of unification of the two Koreas. In addition, it may become a source of wives for all the boys born under the one child doctrine

        • South Korea is worried about unification, though they won’t say as much in public. Can you imagine getting an estimated 25 million charity cases, all suffering the effects of malnutrition and with limited skills for an advance economy, dumped on you overnight? East Germany is still stagnant compared to the West and it was under communism for half as long.

  5. “tend not to live long past their founder.”

    So, who is the founder of our Tyranny? And how is the North Korean ‘Heredity Communist Dictatorship’ an exception?

    • North Korea is exceptional for a lot of reasons. One reason they have hung on as a family business for so long is China and to a lesser degree South Korea. Into the 80’s, the Chinese were willing to prop up the North as a client state. Today, neither China or South Korea wants anything to do with North Korean collapse. That would be a nightmare for all concerned, plus no one knows if the Kim family will go out quietly or with a mushroom cloud. The North Koreans are clever and they have worked hard to make it in the best interest of all involved to maintain the Kim family dynasty.

  6. “That has resulted in the current way of meeting the challenge of diversity in the West, which is Proportionalism. This is where the costs of violating liberal principles are weighed against the perceived benefits from violating the principles.”

    Eh, maybe at some level. At the top though, it’s all “divide and conquer”. Programs like Affirmative Action and other forms of welfare exist only to keep the racial pot stirred up, and as a jobs program for the bureaucrats who run the show and keep the rulers in place (someone, maybe Buppert, called them “remoras”). Complete assimilation would not serve the interests of the ruling class. That’s why the decisions have to be arbitrary.

    Anyway, nobody in government is going to be motivated by principles of any sort.

  7. when I was an undergrad 25 years ago “Federalism” as an aspect of political theory was big in our political science circles. We’re even more obsessed with the concept in Canada than you guys are, and at that time our government actively promoted it to other countries like we were used concept dealers.

    One of my professors was a fan of a Dutch sociologist [I think] Arend Lijphart. Lijphart promoted the idea of “consociationalism” as a kind of non-territorial form of federalism. Think of it as a kind of constitutional, rule of law, internally democratic version of traditional hard segregation. More modern institutions than the Ottoman millets or the Habsburgs’ devolution of local territories to local elites, but basically the same. His models were the Dutch and Belgian systems, in which Catholics and Protestants had separate parties, schools, labor unions, and all. Basically, common institutions were only at the top and were operated on the basis of daily bargaining among elites. The formalization of where diversity is now leading us, in effect.

    Of course it broke down as the Dutch secularized, and as the Belgians started to also segregate more along linguistic/ethnic and territorial as well as religious lines. The Belgians are still running things in a more complicated, multisided version, but it’s working less and less well.

    Once a classic example of consociationalism was Lebanon. It works poorly when the top level institutions are also divided communally and the numbers change.

    A nightmare solution to a nightmare problem, offered by its partisans as an enlightened way forward.

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