A popular line from libertarianism is that the state is violence. Another way of stating this is the state has a monopoly on violence. The implication is that the state imposes order, the order of those who control the state, with the threat of violence or through actual violence, in the case of law enforcement. It is a Hobbesian view of society, in which order is imposed, but an inaccurate one. Society, even authoritarian ones, rely on consent and a shared set of rituals and symbols to perpetuate consent.
Even the most authoritarian of societies, the prison, where the members have no control over their bodies, relies on consent and ritual to maintain order. The regularization of prison life, along with predictable symbols of authority, keep the prisoners from revolting against the guards. Without cooperation from the inmates, a prison would be ungovernable. The cost of housing and feeding humans in perpetual revolt against their captors would be prohibitive. A prison requires consent.
In a western liberal democracy, order tilts in the other direction, where the state relies more on ritual and symbol to encourage the consent of the governed. Elections are a big part of the ritual, where the people are made to believe their concerns are considered by the office holders. Every western nation has symbols and rituals to remind the voters that they live in a democracy. In America, patriotism is used to manipulate the people into supporting the system, despite their misgivings and distrust.
Order in America relies on the balance between the state’s monopoly of violence, the consent of the people and the maintenance of symbols and rituals that are the physical manifestation of the American creed. As long as the people trust and respect those symbols and rituals, they will support the current order. More precisely, as long as they believe those rituals, like elections and civic participation, support the American creed, they will respect the institutions of the state that maintain order.
Most likely, the process by which a liberal democracy moves from order to disorder, is like walking through a submarine. The people start in the compartment of high trust, but events lead them to leave that compartment and move to the next compartment called doubt or distrust. Once there, the door closes behind them. This is where the people begin losing faith in the office holders. The next compartment from there is cynicism, where the people have lost all trust in the system and the ruling class.
In this phase of social evolution in a liberal democracy, there is some remnant of consent and some tug of patriotism. The emotional connection between the citizens and the state is vestigial. It is a memory and a sadness at the onset of political cynicism, but then slowly builds to an anger at what has been lost. This is what Darren Beattie fears is right around the corner for America, if Trump’s agenda fails due the deliberate thwarting of the public will, by the people controlling the state.
It is safe to assume that the marginalized supporters who came out to vote for Trump will be forever divorced from the shared consent of the people. They will stop voting and stop thinking their future lies with democratic solutions. Just how many of Trump’s voters will fall into this state is hard to calculate. On the other hand, the coalition of the ascendant will be energized by this, so the general level of cynicism will be offset to some degree by enthusiasm from the coalition of the ascendant.
The truth never mentioned in the Beattie column, because it is forbidden, is populism is just code for white. What Trump represents is the white population, who think it is still possible to hold onto heritage America. If we just get immigration under control and fix some of the trade deals, things will slowly get back to normal. Oddly, this is the one thing the Left gets right about Trump. He does want to make America white again, if not demographically, certainly culturally and institutionally.
There is no question that many whites in America have moved from the compartment of distrust to the compartment of cynicism. Beattie is wrong to assume this process is not already underway. It started a long time ago as a trickle on the Right and now the pace is accelerating. This is evident in the growth and persistence of the dissident right, which has thrived despite the authoritarian tactics of the ruling class. Despite having more political prisoners than ever, we have more dissidents than ever too.
Still, Beattie is not wrong to assert that the failure of popular causes, like immigration controls, will push many more people into the cynicism compartment. The result will be an America where consent begins to fade and is replaced by coercion. White people will continue to follow the rules, not because they respect those rules, but because they fear reprisals from the state. The authority of the ruling class will no longer be based in their legitimacy to rule, but their control of the monopoly of violence.
In the trenches, soldiers will fight and die for their comrades, despite the rotten conditions their leaders create for them. In human society, the people will tolerate great deprivations in support of their neighbors. That social capital, upon which authority relies, will help maintain order, even when the rulers have failed in their duties. In a land where everyone’s neighbor is a stranger, there can be no foundation of social capital upon which to rest authority. The people must trust and respect their rulers.
That’s the next compartment after cynicism. When Trump’s agenda fails, as it sure will, white cynicism toward the system will grow. It will reach a point where the ruling class can only maintain order through coercion. They will live in fear of crisis, as the people will have no reason to sacrifice and no trust in the system to see them through the difficult times. The relationship between ruler and ruled will be like an old married couple hanging on until the kids are grown. The divorce is inevitable.
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