Note: The weekly Taki post is up. I will now be remembered as the first dissident to denounce Charles Murray. Someone has to be the first. There is also a new Sunday Thoughts podcast up behind the green door for those interested.
Liberal democracy is both an ideology and a form of government. In the former case it is generally defined as a democracy constrained by the principles of liberalism, which are individual rights, secularism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and a market-based economy. The underlying assumption of liberal democracy is that all members have a stake in society and therefore have a right and a duty to participate in the political life of the society.
As a practical matter, this means elections between multiple distinct political parties able to participate equally in elections. It means power is diffused through multiple branches of government by assigning distinct powers to each branch. Most important, it means the rule of law in everyday life. That law is bound by a set of principles, usually codified in a written constitution, that spell out the limits of government. It also defines private property, equal protection before the law and civil liberties.
This is the very general definition of western political systems. Children in the West are taught this in school. These things are repeated by politicians in various ways and echoed by the mass media. Whenever there is a need to a bad buy on the world stage, western leaders, which usually means American leaders, point at the accused, and claim he is violating the principles of liberal democracy. Putin, for example, is the arch-villain because Russia is not a liberal democracy.
Because the West assumes that liberal democracy is the best political system ever created, no one bothers to ask what sort of people is necessary for a liberal democracy to function as expected. This was the lesson of communism. It required things of people that are not present in sufficient quantities to make communism work as communist ideology promised. Even after murdering millions that did not fit in, the Soviet system never accomplished what the creators promised.
Similarly, fascism made assumptions about the population. For a fascists society to function in the long term it required a people who were homogenous. A system built on the nation must be controlled by the nation. A diverse, heterogenous population cannot make a system based on ethnic solidarity work. That is supposed to be the lesson of the last century. Fascism could not work, because such a system excludes certain people from the political process, which is always wrong.
The short life of communist and fascist systems would seem to prove that point about matching the system to the people. What about liberal democracy? The relatively short run of this ideology suggests is requires massively diverse populations. Every western democracy quickly committed itself to overwhelming its native population with people from around the world. Even societies with no experience with immigration quickly embraced open borders and multiculturalism.
The trouble here is we actually know something about the internal dynamics of highly diverse societies. Empires since the bronze age have struggled with how to organize populations of people with little in common, beyond their ruler. This is always the challenge of maintaining an empire. More recently, the United States was founded with a highly diverse population. While the majority were of English stock, the cultural diversity was pronounced, predating settlement.
There are four ways to manage a diverse society. The most common solution is the use of hard segregation. This is the preferred method of empires. The various tribes are sequestered into their areas. The ruler makes sure that the tribes respect the boundaries of one another. Even ancient cities had separate quarters for separate peoples of the empire. In America, this was the common way northern parts of the country dealt with the black-white issue.
In the South, another form of segregation was used, a soft segregation that accepted the math of the racial problem. The black population was simply too large to sequester them in their own physical space. Instead, a soft-segregation based on separate logical spaces was developed. The races had separate spaces within the public space, that reinforced that the two groups were operating in different spheres. Southern segregation was a cultural phenomenon, rather than a physical one.
Both of these approaches were deemed in violation of liberal democracy in the last century, so both have been banned. The soft segregation of the South was eliminated by force and the hard discrimination of the North, while tolerated, is condemned as an artifact of the worst of times. The most highly segregated parts of the country are in the areas most obsessed with racial equality. These are also the areas that embrace the ideals of liberal democracy with the greatest enthusiasm.
This conflict has resulted in a new way to manage diversity. There is the loud and constant repetition of the ideals of liberal democracy, coupled with equally loud demands for racial, ethnic, and sexual equality. To reconcile the conflicts, we get a growing list of exceptions to liberalism and democracy in order to rectify the fact that diverse people have diverse life outcomes. Proportionality is now the operating synthesis of egalitarianism and liberal democracy.
Equality before the law, for example, must give way to racial policies that discriminate against whites, in order to get blacks caught up in some area. Often, past violations in the pre-liberal democratic age are used as justification. South Asians in America will get special privileges, because the British were not always nice to their subjects when India was her colony. Equality before the law has given way to a honeycomb of exceptions and carveouts to achieve a desired proportionality.
What we know thus far about this approach is it creates social conflict and slowly undermines the very basics of the liberal society. Put another way, what this effort to make liberal democracy work in a diverse population tells us is you can have one or the other, but not both. A liberal democracy can work if the population is fairly uniform, with a clear majority operating in its interest. Diversity, on the other hand, seems to only work with an authoritarian government or no government.
This is another lesson of history. The Balkans could work as a highly diverse society, just as the North of America worked as a multiracial society. It required hard segregation and a very firm hand to enforce it. On the other hand, early America made a multicultural and multiracial society work by leaving the people to sort out their own local arrangements with regards to diversity. People self-segregated and evolved rules to maintain the peace, based on their local conditions.
Neither approach fits into liberalism very well. The segregation required to keep the peace in a diverse society not only violates the basic rules of liberal democracy, but it also violates the morality of the liberal democrat. In other words, the required morality within liberal democratic system prevents the system from doing what is required to maintain order in a diverse population. The ideals of the system come into conflict with the natural realty of the human condition.
If liberal democracy demands maximum diversity of the population, but you cannot have liberal democracy with a diverse population, then we are back to the same problem posed by communism and fascism. Liberal democracy, at least as currently defined, requires a population incompatible with it and a ruling elite embracing a morality that prevents them from doing the basics required of a ruling class. As with other political ideologies of the last century, this one violates nature.
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