A little over a century ago, September 16, 1920, to be exact, a horse-drawn wagon packed with 500-pounds of dynamite exploded outside the headquarters of the J.P. Morgan & Co. bank on Wall Street. Thirty people were killed instantly and another ten died from their wounds. Over 100 other people were injured. The bombing was never solved, but everyone assumed it was done by anarchists. Anarchist terrorism was becoming common over the prior decade.
One consequence of the bombing was the federal government got serious about the communists and anarchists in the country. They rounded them up and deported them even though they could not pin the crime on them. The elites also gained a new perspective on immigration after this bombing. All of a sudden, letting anyone walk into the country was not so popular with rich people. Not long after, immigration was sharply curtailed, especially from Southern and Eastern Europe.
The incident is a good reminder of the reality of politics. Things that vex the people will be ignored until they begin to threaten the rich people. The bombing of the Los Angeles Times building in 1910 did not register with the ruling class, because the people running the country lived on the East Coast. The terrible impact of immigration on the working classes was considered a feature by the wealthy. When the reality of immigration landed on their doorstep, their attitudes quickly changed.
Another example from the last century was medicine. For most of human history the best medicine was money. Rich people avoided the general fifth of society and they could avoid what passed for medicine. More people were probably killed by doctors than disease as hospitals were disgusting and until the 20th century, germ theory was unknown to doctors. Avoiding hospitals and having a private doctor, along with better food and sanitation was what kept rich people healthy.
The 20th century started to change that reality. The rich and poor packed into cities which meant that disease loads were much higher. The Spanish flu, for example, hit all classes of people, not just the poor. It also struck young people, which made it even more frightening. Polio was another scary disease. It had been around since forever, but urbanization made it more common. Numerous urban polio epidemics began to appear starting in the 20th century.
All of a sudden, polio was causing panic and civil unrest, as epidemics in major cities were reported by the mass media. Despite the fact most infections were mild and only a tiny number of people suffered long term effects, polio became a scary thing. One big reason for that is rich people were getting sick with polio. Unlike most plagues, this was not just a disease for the rabble. Polio was not sparing the wealthy. Just like that, finding a solution to polio became a top priority.
Public health is another good example of how the ruling class acts only when it serves their interests. Industrialization brought urbanization which brought disease to the doorstep of the rich. Unlike in the feudal order, the rich needed to be around the poor, who worked their factories and maintained their cities. Being near filthy poor people living in their own slop was dangerous, so the ruling classes set about improving public health and sanitation in the urban areas.
Politically, the ruling class of any society operates as Jeremy Bentham imagined all people would act if permitted. That is, the rich are motivated by the desire for pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Discharging their duties is avoided until not doing so promises more pain than pleasure. They are only ever moved to act on behalf of the greater good when they feel pain. This is especially true in liberal societies, which select for sociopathy in the political class.
Counterintuitively, it means that the only real way for people in a liberal democracy to get the attention of the political class is to threaten their lives. We saw this last January when a very peaceful group toured the Capitol. Within hours the city was turned into an armed camp. The same people who claim drug crimes are impossible to police and make excuses for black violence were suddenly able to find every last protestor and lock down the city for months.
This is something to keep in mind when wondering when the lunacy of the Covid panic will come to an end. Right now, it is great fun for rich people who are not required to play along with the loons. The politicians have to participate in Covid theater, but in private they think it is just a big goof. They take pleasure in mocking the crazies and their ornamental face gear. They think it is hilarious that the masses just go along with the ridiculous measures that serve no purpose beyond humiliation.
This nonsense ends when the ruling class decides it ends and that happens when the cost to them gets serious. Economic trouble is one obvious way the cost quickly becomes intolerable. That may be what lies ahead in 2022, as another round of Covidian theater craters a struggling economy. Someone taking a shot at one of these provincial politicians is another possible wakeup call. Organized resistance is unlikely, but a localized “event” is certainly possible.
Regardless, reason and reality are not going to end this lunacy. For the rich it is just an amusing game of human chess. For their servants in political office, it is a way to pretend their lives have meaning. Of course, there are plenty of stupid people willing to degrade themselves in order to feel like they are part of something. What puts the brakes on this dynamic is when the war comes home to the rich people. Until they start to feel the pain, Covid mania is a feature of life in the West.
It is an interesting lesson in the reality of democracy. Since democratic government selects for sociopathy, the result is a government that is far less responsive than allegedly autocratic systems. The dictator or king can be motivated by a sense of duty to his office or his legacy. Elected officials are motivated purely by pleasure and pain and they are extremely low in empathy. It turns out that democracy works only when the people are prepared to use violence.
This may be why democratic systems precede autocratic ones. It is not that mob rule becomes unreasonable, but that violent mob action becomes the only reasonable response to the indifference of democratic rule. The mob hangs their elected officials and the rich are suddenly moved to act by installing a dictator who will address the concerns of the masses. In other words, democracy is not mob rule but rule by sociopath, which is remedied by the strong hand of leadership.
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