Democracy

The Truth About Socialism: It Doesn’t Care About the Middle Class.

Q: What did socialists use before candles? A: Electricity.

It’s an old joke, sure. But it’s no laughing matter. Just ask the people of Venezuela.

The socialist regime there nationalized the electricity sector a dozen years ago. Today, blackouts in the once-prosperous Latin American nation have become routine. Electricity isn’t all that’s in short supply. Gasoline is scarce in the oil-rich nation, as are food and medicine.

Meanwhile, the regime concentrates on violently repressing protests and burning humanitarian aid as it approaches its borders.

After 20 years of socialism, Venezuela is a failed state.

And that should surprise no one. Socialism is a rigid ideology that always ends in tyranny.

The prime example is the Soviet Union. Lenin and Stalin’s iron rule brought death to 20-25 million victims. “Enemies of the state” were executed by firing squads, sent to forced labor camps in the Gulag, perished in country-wide forced famines, experimented on in “psychiatric” hospitals, and summarily deported from their homes to the distant steppes of Russia.

No less totalitarian in their practices were the Castro brothers, who promised freedom and democracy when they came to power in Cuba. Six decades later, the Cuban people are still waiting for the first free election.

Socialism always promises progress, but it inevitably delivers scarcity, corruption and decay.

Eastern Europe under communism became a monument to bureaucratic inefficiency and waste. Throughout the Soviet bloc, life expectancy declined dramatically and infant mortality soared.

Upon gaining independence, India trod a socialist path for 40 years. It led to a never-ending cycle of poverty and economic deterioration. Finally, Indian leaders began looking to Adam Smith rather than Karl Marx to guide their economy. Today, it boasts the largest middle class in the free world.

Socialism has little regard for the middle class. It’s all about securing and maintaining power for the ruling class.

Consider the People’s Republic of China. Mired in Maoist revolutionary rhetoric, it was one of the world’s poorest countries for its first three decades. Then, Deng Xiaoping introduced “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

Forty years later, the PRC boasts the world’s second largest economy, but its citizens remain deprived of basic human rights and civil liberties.

The Communist Party does not allow a free press or free speech, competitive elections, an independent judiciary, free travel or a representative parliament. Instead, President Xi Jinping has instituted a cult of personality that rivals the one-time worship of the so-called Great Helmsman, Mao Zedung.

Nicaragua’s Marxist leader Daniel Ortega is another example of the lust for power and control that characterizes socialism. His under-reported reign of terror has resulted in the deaths of more than 300 dissidents in just the last few years.

All of these horrors are inevitable because socialism is built on a fatal conceit.

Modern socialists believe that the world has become so complicated, so complex, so globalized, that regular citizens just can’t manage things. We, and only we (say the socialists) are equipped to run things. Hence, for example, it’s imperative to nationalize health care, since “the little people” can’t be trusted to make intelligent, informed decisions about their health care.

Rather than empower the common man, socialists believe in empowering bureaucracy. In their minds, bureaucrats will always make decisions based on science and dispassionate reason – and make sure those decisions are implemented and enforced efficiently.

It’s an elitist, intellectually arrogant belief, and it’s dangerous. As Ronald Reagan noted in a long-ago campaign speech for Barry Goldwater: “Either we accept the responsibility for our own destiny, or we abandon the American Revolution and confess that an intellectual [elite] in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”

In “The Road to Serfdom,” the Nobel Laureate F. A. Hayek dismissed the utopian dream of “democratic socialism” as “unachievable.” Why? Because it is based on the fatal conceit that a galaxy of bureaucrats can collect, analyze and direct the individual actions of 300 million Americans.

“America will never be a socialist country!” So President Trump declared last month in his rousing State of the Union speech. That should be the fervent prayer of all Americans who prize liberty and wish to live our lives our way.


About the Author

Lee Edwards, Ph.D., is a Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought with The Heritage Foundation. He is a leading historian of American conservatism and the author or editor of 25 books.

The Preferred Form of Populism

We hear a lot about “populism” these days. Conservatives often praise it, while liberals call it a threat to democracy.

This debate presupposes a common definition, but is there one? In fact, throughout our history, populism has surfaced in two very different forms.

Today, there is the populism of the Tea Party Movement — generally right and center-right, supporting Donald Trump. It is a populism that rebels against big government. “Leave us alone so that we can succeed (or fail) on our own” is its rallying cry.

The second form of contemporary populism is the populism of the Occupy Wall Street movement and Bernie Sanders voters. It stresses the equality of outcomes, rather than equality of opportunity. It is a populism that looks for handouts, whether it is forgiveness for college loans or reverse discrimination in the form of quotas and set-asides.

Neither of these strains is new, of course. Victor Davis Hanson of Stanford traces both forms back to ancient Greece, then down through the American Revolution (Tea Party) and the French Revolution (Occupy). The question is, why has their age-old clash been sharpened so much of late?

Largely, I believe, because of the vacuum created by the crumbing of the “Liberal International Order.”

And what is the “Liberal International Order?” It was a governing philosophy defined largely by the United States with a broad bipartisan consensus in the years following World War II. It helped guide the U.S. use of power in the broad service of freedom for Americans and for our allies. We shared a common adversary with our allies, a fact that held us together and even enabled others to jointly claim the patrimony of the Liberal International Order.

By 1989, however, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, the old world came apart. The binding of Allies by the shared enemies of the Cold War disappeared. It was the “end of history.” Within a decade, we could “make the world safe for democracy.”

Alas, it did not turn out that way, at least not all the time: Rwanda (1994) still haunts those who clamor for interventions despite our inability and our unwillingness to intervene in all of them. And when we refused to intervene in any one of them, we were seen as disappointing and disrupting our shared commitment to the Liberal International Order.

Few bothered to examine the real effect of this new version of the Order on the safety and prosperity of America, our allies, and those who wanted to be our allies. At the same time, we were encouraged to “engage” with our adversaries, as if bringing them to the table would automatically cause them to adopt our system and beliefs.

Today, we are seeing the limits of the Liberal International Order which the world has outgrown. Not every nation nor every political entity is ready for admission to this club.

Should we talk with a resurgent Russia? Yes, but we should also realize the role of Russia in territorial expansion beyond its borders (Ukraine), and in areas outside its traditional interests (Syria). And we should recognize what Russia truly is: an economy the size of Spain based on an increasingly competitive international market for energy supplies, with a declining population, a powerful military and a large stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Must we deal with China, an emerging power that is certainly a disrupter to the old Order? Yes, even as we eye warily its “belt and road” efforts to achieve worldwide strategic expansion in economic terms, and as we denounce its bullying claims to the South China Sea as territorial waters in violation of international treaties and obligations of prudent, serious members of the international community, and as we and our ally in Taiwan confront a resurgent PLA Navy in the Taiwan Straits.

In short, the Liberal International Order has outlived its purpose. The world is thrashing around to figure out what will replace it. Small wonder, then, that we find big-thinking, disruptive, unconventional President Trump at the center of these debates.

The question is, whose form of populism will prevail? Judging by the alarm bells being sounded on the left, my bet is on the Tea Party.


About the Author

Edwin J. Feulner is the founder and former president of The Heritage Foundation.

Austria threatens to repeat history with its latest condemnation of Millennial patriots

Across Europe, the post-World War II consensus is breaking down as evidence of the European Union’s ineffectual coalition leads to the public’s increasingly clear and growing rejection of globalism. Yet the efforts of Europe’s political leaders to prevent a repeat of the catastrophic wars of the twentieth century are exactly what may cause conflict to return.

In 2017, the Austrian government came to power in the wake of the illegal migrant crisis. Despite being part of the previous government, the pro-EU Sebastian Kurz presented himself during the election as an engine of change for voters disenchanted with the political status quo. Mr. Kurz and his right-wing People’s Party (ÖVP), as well as his coalition government partner the conservative Freedom Party (FPÖ), were elected on a platform of defending Europe's outer borders, tougher immigration controls, quickly deporting asylum-seekers whose requests are denied, and cracking down on radical Islam. The ÖVP received 31.4 percent of the vote, a gain of more than 7 percentage points from the 2013 election, which Mr. Kurz described as the biggest jump in support in the party’s history.

At the informal Salzburg summit of European Union leaders in September 2018, Brexit and migration dominated the discussion. Austria emerged as one of the hard-line voices, rejecting a continental solution to migration as dictated by Brussels. Along with the Visegrád group and several other countries, Austria refused to sign the United Nations’ Global Migrant Compact last year in Marrakesh, which creates open borders and lack of immigration controls among signatory states.

Now, Chancellor Kurz is courting dangerous consequences with his authoritarian response and conflation of a donation made from the New Zealand terrorist to a pan-European, pro-European, and non-violent youth movement Generation Identity (GI). The Identitarian Movement is concerned with the rapid demographic replacement of ethnic Europeans in European nations by Islamic migrants from Africa and the Middle East. Chancellor Kurz doubled down after his public condemnation and a legally questionable search of the home and belongings of the leader of GI’s Austrian branch, Martin Sellner, when he demanded his Freedom Party coalition partners cut all ties they may have with GI and then announced any member or supporter of the Identitarian Movement is prohibited from employment with the civil service, including the military.

If his proposal is successful, entire occupational fields for supporters of the patriotic group would be impossible. For example, a career path in the public teaching profession, as a medical doctor, or in the government’s administration would be denied. Additionally, associations that are suspected of supporting or hosting the Identitarian Movement would receive no funding from the government. A reporting obligation of the state police to the state government is considered a guarantee. Previously, liberal federal Ministers had announced the creation of so-called blocking notices in security-related occupations. A few days ago, Interior Minister Herbert Kickl (FPÖ) announced he wants a closer look at the police to determine whether any members are sympathizers of the Identitarian Movement.

In a letter, Defense Minister Mario Kunasek (FPÖ) wrote that "political and religious extremism, no matter which side" has no place in the army, thus painting the patriotic Identitarian Movement without evidence or justification into the extremist corner. Yet beforehand, federal spokesman Michael Bauer said, "If someone belongs to a criminal organization, criminal offenses sets, then you can set measures. If this is not the case, then there is no legal basis." 

President Alexander van der Bellen, who hails from Austria’s Green Party, said a ban on the Identitarian Movement would not do much if it were even possible and one could only challenge Identitarians through political discussion. Mayor of Graz Mario Eustacchio (FPÖ) said he will only distance himself from the Identitarians "if criminally relevant facts exist". Upon Chancellor Kurz’s insistence, high-ranking FPÖ politicians distanced themselves from the movement and its activists, but Mayor Eustacchio emphasized that he saw "no reason to distance himself" and that the current accusations have "no basis" and therefore he rejects the ubiquitous "hysteria". In particular, he notes, there are no convictions against the group and the "basis of the rule of law" should be respected. The Identitarians were acquitted by the Court of Appeal of Graz in January of the charge of "formation of a criminal organization" so the "legal basis has been eliminated. No reason to distance yourself from something,” said Mr. Bauer.

For years Chancellor Kurz has openly expressed his views that Islam is incompatible with European civilization and his concerns regarding the demographic impact of mass illegal immigration from vastly differing societies in European nations. His latest attacks on a patriotic youth movement that is solely concerned with the preservation of its heritage and culture is a cheap tactic to gain easy favour from a collapsing and undemocratic European Union bureaucracy while ignoring the legitimate concerns of the citizens who elected him.

Chancellor Kurz has wrongly pointed to Identitarians as the villain responsible for the consequences of bad government policy and it has strategically backfired on him. By drawing attention to the Identitarians and their concerns, Generation Identity has now become well-known across Europe and beyond and garnered increased support. Identitarians should be the Chancellor’s natural allies on the migration issue and by attempting to unjustifiably criminalize and marginalize those who voice valid criticisms will only sow further frustration and discontent among Austrians. A conservative politician who showed great promise upon his election should know better than to play the failing censorship games of the left.

Netherland's Baudet says “there's a proper reawakening across Europe going on”

In an interview with German newspaper Die Weltwoche on March 25 in Amsterdam, Urs Gehriger spoke with Millennial leader Thierry Baudet who rose to victory in Dutch regional elections last week.

36-year-old Thierry Baudet is the founder and political leader of the “Forum for Democracy” (FVD, Forum voor Democratie). In the general elections of 2017 his newly founded party won two seats in the House of Representatives, with Mr. Baudet being one of the elected. In the provincial elections on March, held on March 20, 2019, FVD became the strongest party in the Netherlands. Mr. Baudet holds a Ph.D. degree in Law and has authored ten books, among them “The Significance of Borders” (2012), two novels, an introduction into Classical Music, and several collections of essays.


The Interview, Translated

Die Weltwoche: Thierry Baudet, you and your “Forum for Democracy” scored a great victory in the Dutch regional elections. Many media and politicians across Europe were taken by suprise. Did you expect that?

Thierry Baudet: Yes, absolutely! (laughs) I've always known that we were going to win!

DW: Were you expecting to win that big?

Baudet: Yes. I've always had faith in the Dutch people. I'm not surprised!

DW: What were the indications you would end up as the strongest political force?

Baudet: Well, we have of course maintained a leading position in the polls for a year and a half. We were basically already projected to win significantly. With a multiparty system, obviously, the success is always dependent on what the other parties do. You can either have one big competitor or several smaller ones. But to me, fundamentally, it doesn't really matter because I consider all the established parties as representatives of the same ideology.

DW: I don't see a fundamental difference between the classical Liberal Party (or whatever they call themselves), the Christian Democratic Party, the Labor Party, the Socialist Party and the Green Left Party. To me, all are basically the same. They are all representatives of the "liberal" or "liberalist" philosophy where emancipation of the individual is the ultimate aim. Maximum equality, maximum individual liberty. So, in one sense, we won. We're now the largest party. But if you add all the numbers of votes that all the other parties received, we're not largest, yet.

DW: Your party joined regional elections for the first time, and you won 13 seats.

Baudet: Yes. We've got 15%, now. But that's not the majority.

DW: Premier Mark Rutte needs to form a new coalition. Does he try everything to exclude you from the government?

Baudet: We don't know that, yet. I think they might try to encapsulate us, to control us by offering us some favors, some positions. And I think what they hope to do is gradually soften our viewpoints, our fundamentally different approach. That is at least what we're probably going to see in the coming weeks and months.

DW: Are you willing, under certain conditions, for a merger?

Baudet: We are willing to compromise for influence. We are very aware that we have a majoritarian system with proportional representation which demands a certain willingness to compromise. We've always said that we are willing to do so. But our position with regards to all the major questions of our time is not gradually different. It's fundamentally different. We represent a political philosophy that is fundamentally different. We want things that are contradictory to the political spectrum that has dominated the West since the French Revolution.

DW: Most of the media portrays you as the shooting star of populism, as a poster boy of right-wing extremism. What can you say about the program that you are promoting?

Baudet: We further what one can call an ‘Australian’ immigration model. By that we mean a fundamentally different approach to immigration. No longer are we going to look at how needy possible immigrants are of our support; we are going to ask ourselves if they are likely to contribute in a positive way to our country. We are very willing in terms of aid programs to support refugee shelters wherever in the world. We're very happy to help them there. But when it comes to immigration, to handing out passports to people, that is something that we're no longer going to make dependent on whether or not the person in question comes from a terrible situation at home, but from the answer to the question what he or she is going to bring to us. We have a fundamentally different approach to immigration from what was dominant in the West for the past several decades. We value the nation, our national identity, as a very important and very positive value that we need to protect.

DW: How do you want to implement this new immigration policy while you're a member of the EU?

Baudet: Well, that's why we want to leave the EU.

DW: After the elections, you said you won a battle. What does it mean for you to win the war?

Baudet: There's much more to it. I believe that aesthetically, for example, we've chosen the entirely wrong direction in the West. We've left tonal music behind. We've left realist or mimetic painting behind. We've left traditional architecture behind. I'm deeply opposed to the fundamental philosophical principles of modern architecture. I think it's fundamentally wrong.

DW: You want to turn the clock back?

Baudet: Absolutely.

DW: When did this train fall off the rail?

Baudet: I think one has to go back to the principles of the French Revolution which are equality, liberty, and fraternity. They have led to the two major emancipation movements — socialism and liberalism — and both are fundamentally flawed. The derailment, in turn, has come in waves. Modernism, a renewal of the radical elements in the French Revolution, which kicked in right after the First World War, set in motion yet another wave of mistakes. And then came the '60s. So, there have been several moments in the past two centuries.

DW: Socialism, liberalism... Where do you see conservatism in play?

Baudet: It’s the philosophy that starts from the understanding that we are paradoxical beings. We want to be free and, at the same time, we want to be embedded. We want to be individuals, but we also want to be members of a group. In a proper society, there's an equilibrium there, a delicate balance that has culminated in what we might call “the individual properly understood.” This reached its apex, I believe, in the eighteenth century, and was venerated in that great “swan song of aristocracy”, the nineteenth century. But now the individual has, of course, been “liberated” to an extent that we feel deeply atomized and unhappy. We don't know how to get back to the community anymore.

DW: The topic that shaped your world view is “oikophobia.” It is a term coined by your mentor, the conservative philosopher Roger Scruton: denying or hating your own culture. Is this what ‘oikophobia’ means?

Baudet: Yes. I think that under the influence of cultural Marxism, which started in the 1920s and became dominant in the 60s, intellectuals, politicians, artists, academics, journalists and, as such, the entire elite of our society have been bewitched by that idea. They came to believe that what stands in the way of utopia — whether a communist utopia or a liberal utopia — is bourgeois society, bourgeois traditions, the bourgeois way of life of ordinary people. That is why Le Corbusier wanted to destroy the entire Rive Droite of Paris. That is why all who opposed mass-immigration where denounced in the most vile ways. And that is why national identities had to be resolved into a “European Union.” Because, if you remember the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels considered those to be part of a bourgeois reality that hindered the formation of “true” loyalties between the laborers all around the world.

DW: “Oikophobia”: Is that a scientific term? Is there scientific research it is based on?

Baudet: It's a sociological term. I don't think that quantitative empirical research is very meaningful in the social sciences.

DW: You call yourself “the leading intellectual in the Netherlands”.

Baudet: (Laughs) I've said that many times!

DW: You're fighting the elite, and, at the same time, you are a crown jewel of the elite?

Baudet: Yes.

DW: How do you break a sophisticated philosophical content down to the common people, your electors, your voters? Do they understand what you mean to say?

Baudet: I think they understand that.

DW: They understand what you just said? That is pretty sophisticated.

Baudet: Yes. I think they instinctively understand that.

DW: When you speak to the people, how do you bring your message across?

Baudet: The same way that I'm now bringing it across to you. Of course, the exact wording and focus depends on the kind of audience that I have in front of me and on the kind of questions they ask. But I think, in general, people are very capable to get the point that someone is trying to make. And I don't think that all the misunderstandings that the newspapers fabricate resonate very strongly with the general people. Theirs is a kind of scholasticism. In the 13th century, monks would debate for years on end how many angels would fit on a needlepoint. These scholastic debates, that's what we have in the newspapers today. Like, “Is the speech that Mr. Baudet gave an echo of Italian fascism, or is it more like Francoism, or is it rather Germany in the 30s?” That kind of thing. The general public is like, "What?" They understand that all such comparisons are just ridiculous. They're making it up to show their fellow journalists how ‘righteous’ they are. The general people, they see someone who cares about their country, who has the intellectual inventory to fight the people currently in power.

DW: Before the interview, you said that you gave a speech in November 2016 praising Donald Trump.

Baudet: Yes. That was two and a half years ago. I met my fiancée on that day. It was just a week after he was elected.

DW: Donald Trump is known for very sharp and abrupt rhetoric. He's very repetitive. He's hitting the nail several times. When I listen to you, you are pretty much the opposite the way you are talking, the way you are expressing yourself.

Baudet: Despite that, I hope I'll be successful too. (Laughs)

DW: Well, you just have been amazingly successful.

Baudet: But I have been very repetitive too, my friend. Don't overestimate me. On our campaign trail I've been saying pretty much the same things, and I’ve been using the same examples over and over again for more than a year and a half now.

DW: Which are?

Baudet: The main themes of our campaign for the past elections were stopping uncontrolled immigration, fighting climate mysticism, and restoring purchasing power. Of course, we're going to have slightly different topics for the upcoming European elections. But, again, the main philosophy, and the main arguments, will remain the same.

DW: How did you succeed against this current hype of green environment politics?

Baudet: By just speaking the truth. I don't know how to answer this question in any other way. I simply declared I didn't believe in it. The green faith, in my view, is a heresy, it's a classical heresy, an immanent political theology. Mind you, it all comes down basically to a retelling of the Ark of Noah with an upcoming flood because of our sins, which we can then prevent by repenting. I believe that around the year 1000 we were caught up in similar fantasies.

DW: In general, conservative parties don't dare to say this. They go with the green wave.

Baudet: They are dhimmis. They submit to the parameters the left has set for acceptable discussion, for acceptable opinion. They succumb to the 'grand narrative' of their opponents. That's never a very smart thing to do. We, on the contrary, openly say that we are fundamentally opposed not just to their policy proposals, but also to their underlying assumptions. That's also why I don't say I want EU reform. and by the way I believe such reform to be impossible in the first place - David Cameron has clearly shown that. But we are not just against this or that aspect of the EU, this or that directive, we think the very philosophy that underlies it is wrong. The very idea that we should go beyond national identities and have some kind of “European” bureaucracy that manages our lives. Everything that is pertaining to the EU must therefore, in the end, be unraveled. The euro, the open borders, the common policies regarding fishing. The same is true for the whole climate change thing.

DW: You mean that the climate change is man-made, for instance?

Baudet: Yes. The whole thing is wrong. The whole thing about immigration is wrong, too. The parameters of the current political debate are fundamentally wrong.

DW: What exactly is wrong with immigration?

Baudet: The idea that we're all travelers, that we're all migrants, that we all come from Africa in the end and that therefore it doesn’t really matter how many of people we are now letting in to our countries. Or, take the idea that we have to admit people on the basis of some UN Refugee Treaty. That's just wrong. The whole idea is wrong. Someone obtains a right to be my fellow citizen because he or she is in a bad situation somewhere? I don’t feel that. I don’t think it’s true. I don’t want it.

DW: I've observed from the distance that you are on the offensive with a tremendous amount of energy and will. Where do you take your energy from?

Baudet: Classical music.

DW: Which one?

Baudet: Quite simply the entire classical tradition, from Bach and Mozart and Beethoven all the way to Brahms and Strauss and Wagner.

DW: Is there a certain type of music you listen to when you go in a debate?

Baudet: No, not particularly. But classical music has shaped my identity in a decisive way. It has shaped my aesthetic sensibilities, my philosophical outlook. I don't think it's possible to understand Europe and to understand the intimacies, the incredibly subtleties of the European spirit, without a deep understanding of European art. It's exemplary of the wickedness of the left and of the European Union, of liberal philosophy and globalist views, that they are so supportive of modern art and modern architecture, that they listen to pop music and propagate 'ghetto' lifestyles.

DW: You don't listen to pop music?

Baudet: Of course not. (laughs) It's impossible to listen to it!

DW: Not even Rolling Stones or Beatles?

Baudet: Well, I make an exception for the Beatles, but not for the Rolling Stones. The Beatles are the best fast food we have, let's say. But, still, it’s like a McDonald's burger compared to an actual meal.

DW: Aren't you fighting windmills with this attitude?

Baudet: Absolutely. I'm very much against windmills. I want all the windmills out of the Netherlands. Except for the old ones, of course. (laughs).

DW: But more to the point…

Baudet: Well, it's obviously true that the general public has always had folklore, and I don't expect 17 million people in the Netherlands to be able to reproduce the finer harmonic intricacies of Schumann's Piano Concerto. But society needs an elite that leads the way.

DW: Can you tell me what is at stake right now?

Baudet: Civilization.

DW: Western, Judeo Christian civilization?

Baudet: I'm not sure it's very relevant to add the adjective “western.” It's just civilization we’re fighting for. The good, the true, and the beautiful.

DW: But what are the pillars of civilization?

Baudet: Well, I think ultimately the aesthetic is the highest criterion. Our movement, like every political movement, is therefore also an aesthetic one. And true beauty, in my view, recognizes both the uniqueness of the individual, of every single individual in his or her individual life story, yet it also offers a language, a musical language or a grammatical language, or indeed a visual language, that implies a common frame of reference. So the problem of embeddedness, the problem of the modern world, you could say, is implied in the approach one takes to the arts.

The point of the several arts and crafts movements that arose in response to the industrialization in the second part of the 19th century, was that despite mass-production, and mass-society, and urbanization, and so on, we still need to feel embedded. That is why ornaments and facades, as well as the use of natural materials, were considered so important: they helped engender a proper sense of home for the spiritually homeless. The problem with modern architecture is that it emphasizes the ordinariness in such a way that it completely atomizes people. You can’t tell the difference between the modernist buildings in Brussels from those in Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang. Nor can you spot a difference between the individual apartments or offices in each of those buildings: they are all completely interchangeable and that makes people very unhappy, I believe, because they become completely interchangeable individuals in their mass apartment blocks. People want to have a house that is theirs. Even though such a house may not be very specific, or very grand, it is still their house, their place on earth, ideally with a little piece of land around it, with a neighbourhood they connect with — in short, something that makes them feel that they belong somewhere, that they have a certain place of origin and are part of a certain destiny.

DW: How were you brought up?

Baudet: I grew up in an entirely 19th century manner. I grew up in a very old fashioned family.

DW: Normally, teenagers will rebel against their parents. Have you ever gone through that rebellious phase?

Baudet: No. And I don't agree that that's normal. I simply don't think it's true. All this “rebellion” has been a very specific historical phenomenon that occurred in the '60s and '70s and was induced by teachers from a very specific philosophical school — the Frankfurt School that disseminated Cultural Marxism — and I think it will be regarded by future generation with great suspicion. In my view, it is entirely normal for children to love their parents, to be excited at the prospect of taking up responsibilities and to have pride in being part of a long chain of ancestry and offspring. So, I don't think it's normal for youngsters to be “rebels without a cause” and listen to Bob Marley while cursing their parents. And what I think has happened is that the current generation — i.e. my generation — has copied (entirely in line with my view) their parent’s ideas, in this case, their flawed ideas about the necessity to rebel. But finding nothing to rebel against they ended up with nihilistic pursuits. Wanting to be loyal to their parents by rebelling they just started smoking marijuana.

DW: Can I perhaps raise a topic you haven't mentioned? I think there’s something your readers want to hear about.

Baudet: Please.

DW: We are witnessing now, throughout the West, so not just in Europe but also in the United States, the development of a new vocabulary of political discourse. The names or the labels that people are trying to find for it are populism, or conservatism, or nationalism, or whatever.

Baudet: In each country we see politicians and writers and pundits that are trying to develop a new approach to politics and society which includes the cultural narrative, which includes the national traditions and recognizes the shared heritage of our shared civilization, our shared Western world.

And the great thing about this is that the people are so happy about these new leaders who are speaking about completely different values, who are forcing the establishment to have a debate on completely different terms. That's what Donald Trump did by bringing up issues a pollster would say, “Don't go there. Don't go there.” And that’s what we did in the Netherlands by making opposition to climate policies our main electoral theme. The winning ticket is bluntly to say that we don't believe in their stuff anymore. That we want something completely different.

DW: It's a paradigm shift.

Baudet: Exactly. A paradigm shift. That's what's we’re in for. Whether we are going to win these elections or the next, we see it everywhere in Europe now and that's very encouraging. Also, that is why I am looking forward so much to cooperating with other European parties. I think there's a movement going on across European countries, across individual party-lines. Rather like Romanticism, or the Reformation. A proper European movement.

DW: What is it called?

Baudet: If someone would have told Voltaire that he was considered a leading figure of the Enlightenment, he would have laughed. He would have said, “Enlightenment? What are you talking about?”

DW: Can you define that movement a little bit?

Baudet: I have proposed to call it Renaissancism. That's the label that I sometimes use in the Netherlands. It's the belief in a reawakening of the European spirit.

DW: But what is the common ground of us in Switzerland, you in the Netherlands, and for example the Swedes. What are the elements that bind us together?

Baudet: Well, that's a very interesting question, of course. Is our behavior explained by nature or nurture? It’s an ongoing debate between social scientists and biologists. Is it because of genetic material or is it because of culture that we tend to respond to the outside world in our typical manner? The last word has not been said about this. What explains behavior? It's an interesting question, but I'm not a Nobel Laureate.

DW: What I'm looking for is a common source. Is it a way of looking at life? Is it an outlook? Is it a source that we all drink from? Is it an ancient culture?

Baudet: You seem to be looking for a simple answer, like saying it must be the Bible, or, it must be Plato, or, it must be Beethoven.”

DW: That's too simple for you?

Baudet: I know that a certain way of life has developed somewhere and I wish to protect it.

DW: Finally, let’s focus on the May elections. Will you change anything in your agenda and your campaign?

Baudet: I think the most important thing for the upcoming elections is to formulate our position as a positive one. We’re not merely against the EU; we are also for European values, European culture, and European cooperation.

DW: The European elections are about sending members to the European parliament. Why do you try to get elected to a parliament that you are actually against? Shouldn’t you boycott the elections altogether?

Baudet: Yes. [Laughs and looks to his assistant.] What should we answer to that question? (Then serious again:) What I like about the thing that's going on right now is this: because a new political discourse is emerging, we see radical changes in the political establishment in almost every European country. I feel deeply European, but not supportive of the EU. So, I see the EU platform, now, as a meeting ground for allies. I'm very excited that we are going to work together with people from France, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, et cetera.

DW: Have you already made contact?

Baudet: Yes. I've been in touch with people from those countries for years. It's not that we're anti-cooperation or anti-European. It's just that we don't think that we need a continental bureaucracy to manage our lives in every detail. And one of the most exciting and hopeful developments that I've witnessed in my entire life is this European spring that's going on. There's something new emerging and it's broader than just Europe. It's the West. We also see it in America, in Brazil, in Australia.

That's what I call a renaissance, or an awakening, or a gathering. Whatever term historians may find for it, I believe that we are part of a movement in the entire Western world that is going to change the direction that all our countries are going to take in the coming two generations.

DW: What makes you so sure about that?

Baudet: It's a hope.

DW: How do you get the maximum attention? Is there a strategy?

Baudet: No. I'm just being myself. I speak the truth, or even better: we are honest in our search for the truth. Our electorate understands that. We have identified a direction. We're pretty clear about certain parameters of it. We're very convinced that continental governance from Brussels is not the way forward. That mass immigration from Africa is not the way to improve our societies. And when it comes to something you asked about — what the defining characteristics of European aesthetics are, for example — we are happy to enter into an open discussion with others.

I think movements that have attempted to pin down aesthetic principles and have tried to force them on the outside world — like Fascism, for example — have totally failed. I mean, fascist architecture, to me, is very obviously missing the point, right? It shows that fascism is, at heart, a modernist movement. It's an oikophobic futurism, not a traditionalism. But all of this can be part of a conversation. And I think our voters feel that we are willing to enter into that conversation with them. To make a final point about Switzerland, what I admire about Switzerland is that, through the referendum system, it has maintained an ongoing conversation between the elites and the people. And that’s just great. That’s what I want for my country, too.

The Strange Death of Europe

The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray

The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray

First published in 2017, Douglas Murray’s elegant, coolly penetrating and devastatingly accurate portrayal of a continent committing suicide, The Strange Death of Europe, has become a huge bestseller. It is now required reading for anyone who wishes to think seriously about the future of our British and European homeland – and to begin to fight for its survival.

Douglas Murray himself has created many enemies among the liberal elite through his honesty and truthfulness, and they would love to dismiss him as a far-right crank, or even a ‘fascist’ or a ‘neo-Nazi’ – the usual way for the intellectually lazy Establishment to silence dissenters. But this is quite impossible – which is why he is such a powerful voice.

Educated at Eton and Oxford, the author of a distinguished biography of Oscar Wilde’s amour, Lord Alfred Douglas, and now a regular contributor to mainstream publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the Sunday Times and the Spectator (where he is Associate Editor), Murray is far too prominent a figure to be ignored, or silenced with slander. And his book, with its calm analysis, its pages of footnotes and scrupulously accurate facts and figures, is impossible for the cultural nihilists on the left to refute.

“Europe is committing suicide,” begins the book, “Or at least its leaders have decided to commit suicide. Whether the European people choose to go along with this is, naturally, another matter.

The critical seriousness of our situation is placed before us from the very start. Murray understand the European Disaster in all its complexities, and yet some simple, key themes emerge again and again. Europe has experienced a calamitous fall in native birth rates, at the same time as trying to ‘make up’ that population loss by the import of immigrants, largely from Africa and Asia, and largely from cultures so different to that of Europe – especially Islamic cultures – that they cannot possibly continue the Culture of the West. Rather they will, as immigrant peoples and assertive colonizers always do, bring their own culture in its stead, and destroy ours in the process. This is already happening, whether it is Europe’s new settlers demanding an end to free speech with a mixture of wounded feelings and violent threats, or actively pulling down the statues and monuments of our own ancestral heroes: Cecil Rhodes at Oxford, or even Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, as the African leftist Afua Hirsch has demanded.

Meanwhile other advanced countries have also experienced sudden contractions of population due to falling birth rates – most notably Japan – yet have managed things quite differently, without recourse to culture-changing, and finally culture-eradicating, immigration. There is nothing ‘natural’ or ‘inevitable’ about immigration to the West, as Leftists like to pretend.

Another key point that Murray makes repeatedly, is that this colossal change in European society has taken place against the will of the native people, whose rights and interests have been utterly ignored: a colossal, historic injustice, still barely discussed in public.

Well, Murray discusses it. He cites numerous polls from across the continent in which the clear majority of people asked, declare their opposition to mass immigration, Islamification, and to the idea that Islam can ever be ‘compatible’ with the values of the Western values. In 2011 and YouGov poll “found that 67 percent of the British public believed that immigration over the past decade has been ‘a bad thing for Britain.’” Only 11 percent believed it had been “‘a good thing.”’

On the other hand it would be quite impossible for pro-immigrationists, no matter how hard they searched, to find a single poll from the past sixty years in which a nation of European people ever once said, ‘Yes, we would like our culture and our people to become a minority in our own country.’

The very idea is preposterous. And yet it is happening. In London, Leicester, Luton and Slough, the white British are already a minority. Birmingham will follow very soon. It’s as if, says Murray, Britain’s politicians have said to the white British, ‘Get over it. It’s nothing new. You were terrible. Now you are nothing.’

The same story is being repeated across Western Europe. No wonder the electorate are so profoundly disillusioned with establishment politicians, and looking for new ones to support, who will actually do what they want. No wonder democracy is in crisis. Unwanted immigration itself, says Murray, has been ‘one of the key causes of the breakdown in trust between the electorate and their political representatives.’

Finally Murray is acute on the way in which in one sense – and it is painful but essential to admit it – those who despise today’s Europe, and seek to colonize it for the Empire of Islam, are not wholly wrong. Many aspects of Western popular culture aredespicable and decadent, having nothing to do with the West’s glorious heritage and greatness, and everything to do with self-indulgence, shallow hedonism and consumerist pornification.

‘To immerse oneself in popular culture for any length of time is to wallow in an almost unbearable shallowness.’ (A few minutes of watching Love Island will soon show this.) As an aside, Murray greatly admires the French novelist Michel Houellebecq, whose scathing, depressing but sometimes bitterly funny analyses of Western moral collapse have no equal among today’s novelists.

Had mass immigration from the Third World taken place to the West at some high watermark of our confidence and achievements – in late Victorian times, say – things might have gone differently. But the Victorians would never have permitted it, of course. Only weak, self-doubting nations permit such things. And it is a part of the tragedy of post-war immigration that it has taken place just at a time when so much of our most garish and most noticeable native culture is so contemptible.

But of course it is also true that many aspects of our new immigrant culture are also disgusting. When an 11 year old white girl is branded with the letter ‘M’ on her forehead to show who her owner is – by a man called Mohammed – and the British court hears that the branding was done “to make her his property and to ensure others knew about it,” then we are quite right to question the benefits of diversity.

This happened, says Murray, not in some Saudi or Pakistani backwater, but in Oxfordshire. The British Establishment then spent years ignoring it or covering up this hideous child abuse, and dozens more cases like it – while often preaching about gender equality and women’s rights. Meanwhile in 2009, Norway’s police announced that ‘all reported rapes’ in Oslo that year had been committed by immigrants. Every single one.

Celebrate diversity? To do so is, literally, to celebrate the rape of one’s own people.

This not of course to say that all immigrants are rapists: but in Oslo in 2009, it is a sobering thought, that all rapists were immigrants. If the culture of non-European immigrants runs along these lines, if women are regarded as mere chattels and objects of male ownership – as indeed they are – then why would we even countenance such immigration? No one’s rights are being trampled upon if we prevent it happening, if we say: ‘No more. You do not have a right to come and settle permanently in Europe, and we do not wish it.’ But many rights, our rights, are trampled upon if this catastrophic movement of peoples is permitted to continue.

Quite apart from wholesale cultural and then population replacement, there is terrorism, about which so many lies and obfuscations have been peddled by the complicit mainstream media. Murray reminds us that after the dreadful Paris bombings, 90 percent of the Muslim students in Brussels rejoiced and called the terrorists ‘heroes.’

In Britain, just after the terrible Charlie Hebdo massacre, a quarter of Muslims polled said they approved of violence against those who depict Mohammed (ComRes poll, 2015). The BBC then reported that three-quarters of Muslims ‘oppose’ such violence: typical of the way in which the corrupt mainstream media spins its fake news. The real news story here is that a disastrous one quarter of Britain’s Muslim population has so little regard for British law and ancient traditions of free speech, that they support the killing of anyone who departs from the rules of their religion. ‘The religion of peace,’ as we are so often told.

While Europe’s immigrant population grows increasingly and violently hostile to the host culture, the native people are gradually becoming more disillusioned. The foolish utopian dream of a happy rainbow Europe retreats ever further our beloved continent grows daily more ‘chaotic, fractured and unrecognisable.’

Europe’s political leaders, as Murray notes astutely, are currently reacting to this growing and disastrous gulf opening up across Europe, by treating not the primary but the secondary cause: ‘Their priority has been not to clamp down on the thing to which the public are objecting but, rather, to the objecting public.’

One sees this in action every day.

Toward the end of his superb book, Murray holds out some faint hope that, somehow, Europe may yet re-assert itself. For the West – that is, Europe and her successor states in Canada and the USA, Australia and New Zealand – is still great. Its heritage is quite unparalleled, its resources are there for anyone to draw on: its incomparable wealth of artistic treasures, great literature, its science and philosophy and glorious history – not to mention its generally under-rated economic and military power. The problem remains our leaders and their grip on power, so sunk in barely believable levels of intellectual dishonesty and moral cowardice, pathological self-hatred and a will to death.

For those who are ‘enlightened,’ who have as the saying is ‘taken the Red Pill,’ the world that Murray reveals, only confirms in superb detail and with brilliant clarity, the seriousness of our situation. Today’s identitarian activists are serious already – but still they should read, mark and inwardly digest this tremendous book, and pass it on to their friends with urgent recommendations.

We have already recognized that our contemporary culture is base and despicable, which is why more and more young Identitarians and Patriots are committed to the values of self-cultivation, self-improvement, and trying to make themselves worthy of the achievements of their honoured European ancestors – whether it’s throwing weights around in the gym, running up mountains, or reading and pondering Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

As Murray shows, we live in critical, dangerous and yet strangely thrilling times – one of those periods in history when there is everything to fight for.


About the Author

Benjamin Jones is Leader of Generation Identity United Kingdom.

Why the Berlin Wall Finally Came Down 30 Years Ago

The fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago was one of the most consequential events of the 20th century, exposing the Soviet Union as a corrupt, weak “empire” and effectively ending the Cold War. But it did not happen overnight.

The fall of the wall was preceded by decades of political tyranny and economic backwardness. By January 1989, there was scarcely a ruble’s worth of difference between a Third World nation and a member of the Warsaw Pact, the group of Eastern and Central European nations that served at Moscow’s pleasure.

While the West enjoyed prosperity and personal freedom, the East had fallen into an economic and political morass. Eastern Europe’s industrial sector was a monument to bureaucratic inefficiency and waste.

The once impregnable Iron Curtain was breached by modern communications and technology, allowing the people of Eastern Europe to see how the other half of Europe lived. Increasingly, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, East Germans and other peoples demanded reform, not only in the marketplace but in the realm of human rights and civil liberties.

Described as a “year of miracles,” 1989 began with the dissident Czech playwright Vaclav Havel in jail and ended with him as the president of Czechoslovakia. But at the start of the year, Soviet influence from Prague to Warsaw to Budapest seemed secure. The East German communist boss Erich Honecker boasted that the Berlin Wall would stand for an additional 100 years.

Just 10 months later, on November 9, a tidal wave of East Germans poured across the West Berlin border when travel restrictions were lifted, and the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.

Part of the reason lay in geography. Although separate and distinct countries, Poland, Hungary, East Germany and Czechoslovakia formed a tight little region. Resentment, frustration and hope were all inevitable in this cluster of states with the deepest cultural ties with Western Europe.

Another reason was the abandonment of communism by communists. The communist leaders of Eastern Europe candidly acknowledged, “We no longer believe in Marxism-Leninism.” Without the glue of ideology, the communist façade of power and authority cracked and the people’s natural desire for freedom, dammed up for more than 40 years, burst forth.

A further reason for the slide of Soviet communism into oblivion was its inability to deliver the goods. When Mikhail Gorbachev was named the general secretary of the Soviet communist party in 1985, he took command of “a totally stagnant state dominated by a corrupt totalitarian party.”

Gorbachev must be credited for his decision not to interfere in the affairs of other communist regimes. The Soviet leader announced that he rejected the (Leonid) Brezhnev Doctrine, under which Moscow would take action if necessary to ensure that a communist state remained a communist state.

The leader most responsible for the fall of the Wall of course was President Ronald Reagan, who stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate in June 1987 and issued a direct challenge to the Soviets, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Barely two years later, it collapsed because of the Reagan Doctrine, which applied economic, political and strategic pressure (including the Strategic Defense Initiative) on Moscow. Democracy triumphed in the Cold War, Reagan wrote in his autobiography, because it was a battle of ideas — “between one system that gave preeminence to the state and another that gave preeminence to the individual and freedom.”

Lech Walesa, the founder of the Polish trade union movement that challenged the communist government of Poland and prepared the way for the end of communism throughout Eastern and Central Europe, put his feelings about President Reagan simply, “We in Poland … owe him our liberty.” As do the tens of millions behind the Iron Curtain caught up in one of the longest conflicts in history — the Cold War.


About the Author

Lee Edwards, Ph.D. is a Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought with The Heritage Foundation. He is a leading historian of American conservatism and the author or editor of 25 books.

Ideological Blindness on the Right and Left

Murray Rothbard had a law: intellectuals specialize in what they are worst at.

We’ve all known them: the learned historian who knows no economics but proclaims fealty to socialism; the economist who is brilliant at math but can’t stop writing about theology; the philosopher who has subtle views about Heidegger and Derrida but mainly spends class time haranguing students about the solution to climate change.

What is true for intellectuals is doubly so for politicians. Many people on the right side of the political spectrum have solidly reasonable views on property rights, judicial restraint, and cutting domestic spending. But these days, many of these same people are obsessed with fomenting trade wars, making immigration hard, propping up foreign dictators, and stepping up the drug war. They are specializing in their worst features.

It’s the same on the left. Many of these people can be great on civil liberties, corporate welfare, and prison reform, but they spend the bulk of their energies on socializing medicine, raising the minimum wage, and pushing bad ideas like job guarantees. They too are specializing in pushing their worst ideas.

Why does Rothbard’s law pertain so often? It’s because people fall in love with their own heterodoxies and double down when their wrong ideas come under attack. Ideology begins to replace reality, and their focus gets ever more distorted. Once that ideology is lodged deeply in the mind, it takes control of all perceptions.

There is a scene in the movie Inception that explains how this works. Inception involves planting an idea in someone’s head, via an externally managed dream, in a way that misleads a person into thinking that he or she originated it. That’s when it becomes the most powerful guide to action.

“If you're going to perform inception, you need imagination,” explains a character. “You need the simplest version of the idea — the one that will grow naturally in the subject's mind. Subtle art.”

Once that idea has grown and mutated into a political ideology, to the point that it seems to explain events, it becomes almost impossible to dislodge. A crisis of faith becomes necessary before a shift happens. And that is not easy to achieve. The world can come crashing down around you and still the true believer will stick to their story.

We are surrounded by examples of this from both the right and left.

Protectionism

“I am a Tariff Man,” wrote the president in a now-famous recent tweet. The remainder of the tweet contained utterly false information about who pays. He believes foreigners are paying, when in fact a tariff acts as a domestic sales tax paid by producers and consumers.

What’s more striking is that this brazen declaration of loyalty to mercantilism comes after a year of utter failure in policy. Every prediction has turned out to be false. The trade war is not an easy win. We are stuck now with falling financials, suffering American companies, rising prices, broken trade relationships, falling exports, factory closings, rising trade deficits, and angry buyers of taxed products.

Cause and effect are notoriously difficult to trace in social science, but, at the very least, it should be obvious that the policy hasn’t worked to achieve its aims. Yet the more the evidence of failure mounts, the more the president doubles down on his mercantilist dreams.

And Rothbard’s law has kicked in. The president’s views are not all terrible. He has many of the right enemies. His 2017 efforts at tax cuts and deregulation buoyed markets. His judicial appointments have exhibited a much-welcome attention to constitutional principles. But where is his heart? What is his passion? It is all about disrupting international commerce through tariff walls and national economic planning. He talks and thinks about his trade war more than any other subject by far.

You might think that the events of the last year would shake loose one’s attachment to the protectionist ideology. You would be wrong. When the story of Trumpian economic policy is written, it will be about how great promise was shattered through fanatical attachment to mercantilist ideology, even in the face of unrelenting failure.

Climate Change

The same problem afflicts the left with its dogmatic attachment to the pop aspect of climate-change politics. If you read the scientific papers, you find what you would expect: a great deal of uncertainty on many aspects of theory, and certainly tremendous hedging on political implementation. Among true believers, however, there can be no dissent, even from the most implausible aspects of the idea.

Pretend you have spent the better part of 10 years at an island resort ignoring all news. You come back and pick up the New York Times. The news is terrible — or ridiculous. It’s hard to say. The editorial page says the following.

Governments are "pulling the world back from the cliff’s edge of catastrophic climate change.” That’s quite the job for governments that have yet to prove they can deliver mail better than the private sector. Now they are going to manage the global climate and stop the whole world from being delivered from a fiery hell into which industrial technology otherwise would plunge us? Indeed.

How is this marvelous and astounding achievement by government going to take place? Governments must "try to wean their citizens from fossil fuels," which would be a monumental achievement. Currently, 82 percent of all energy use derives from fossil fuels. By “energy use,” we literally mean everything in our lives: manufacturing all our food, giving us lighting, transportation, and communication. The whole of life as we know it.

How will governments of the world manage to change this? The Times says that governments should impose "measures that could help people of modest means transition to less-polluting transportation."

Let them ride bikes, in other words, as in Mao's China.

The agenda as stated here is so extreme and disruptive that many people dismiss it as typical political claptrap, not a real threat to our way of life. It is certainly true that even if we knew 100 percent that the science could prove that a climate catastrophe was in store, it does not follow that climate scientists (or journalists or English professors or even economists) know the way to fix it through government — or that it is even possible.

Still, the true believers are willing to act on their theories through state power, with no plan in place to measure costs relative to benefits. The dogma has become: industrial civilization must go one way or another. The first attempts to implement the grand agenda have gone horribly wrong.

The gas tax in France resulted in the worst riots in decades. The government was shocked. The culture of the climate-change clerisy had become so internally reinforcing that it had failed even to consider that regular people do not want to be pillaged in the name of controlling global temperature patterns, even if such control were possible.

These true believers have lost connection to reason and political reality, all in the name of an ideological commitment to some of the least plausible propositions to come from the left in many decades.

Both the center and far left have fallen victim to Rothbard’s law, as much as people on the Trumpian right. The rest of us are caught between two brands of ideological fanaticism that begin in a bad idea, deploy government power to realize the goal, and end as a grave threat to liberty and property.


About the Author

Jeffrey A. Tucker is Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and eight books in 5 languages. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

The Problem of Democracy

In his essay ‘Politics and the English Language’, George Orwell had this to say about democracy…

In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy…

This is the ‘problem’ of democracy that Alain de Benoist attempts to unravel in his work ‘The Problem of Democracy.’ What exactly is this elusive form of government that everyone claims to endorse and in so many differing ways? In many respects no man is better qualified to answer this question. de Benoist is the seminal thinker of the so-called European New Right (a name conjured up by the media), an intellectual movement that originated in the late sixties. A prolific writer of articles, books and journals, his interests have stretched from ethno-cultural identity and environmentalism, to Indo-European religion and a critique of capitalism. His intellectual rigour, respect for a free-exchange of ideas and disinterest in censorship has won him admiration from those on both the traditional Left and Right of politics.

de Benoist begins by suggesting that there are two fundamental ways of defining ‘democracy.’ The first uses an etymological approach. As many people are aware, the term stems from demos (the people) and -kratia (power, rule). In other words, it’s a form of government in which power lies with ‘the people.’ This is the prevailing approach throughout much of the world and, as a cursory consideration of the matter will reveal, it’s a hopelessly vague one. Instead, de Benoist suggests an alternative approach; an historical one. He contends that as the Greeks of Antiquity gave us the term (and the corresponding idea) we should look to them for answers.

Greek democracy had three principle features: isonomy (equality before the law, isotimy (equal rights to access all public offices), and isegory (freedom of expression). It was a direct form of democracy, in which all citizens could take part in the ekklesia or assembly. Citizens didn’t rely on ‘representatives’, they fully participated in the political discourse. Indeed, they were expected to as a part of their citizenship. Already, then, we see a stark difference between Greek democracy and the representative democracies of today in the likes of the Western world. The very term ‘demos’, which is of Doric origin, refers to people who reside in a given territory. This is the next crucial observation made by de Benoist. Greek democracy rested on the notion of citizenship which, in turn, rested upon shared ancestry, shared institutions and shared cultural practices. As de Benoist writes, ‘to be a citizen meant, in the fullest sense of the word, to belong to a homeland – that is, to a homeland and a past.’

With an almost ruthless and tidal analysis, de Benoist also confronts the notion that liberalism (understood in the classical sense) has no direct relationship with democracy understood in an historically. More than this, he challenges the notion that democracy is inevitable (as a product of linear history) or inferior or superior to any other form of government. He acknowledges that, whilst forms of direct democracy have always had a place in the European experience, it’s alien to other people and civilisations around the globe. He cites Moses I. Finley who wrote “It was that sense of community, fortified by the state religion, by their myths, and their traditions, which was an essential element in the pragmatic success of Athenian democracy.”’ He added, “in Greece, freedom meant the rule of law and participation in the decision-making progress, not the possession of inalienable rights.”

What ‘The Problem of Democracy’ really exposes is that the so-called ‘democracies’ of today share nothing in common with the democratic tradition of those who produced it; the ancient Greeks. But why should this matter? After all, the Greeks were organising themselves in small city-states in a radically different epoch with radically different challenges. It matters because human nature doesn’t change, regardless of the externals. Despite the romantic, melioristic ramblings of the classical liberals’ human beings aren’t simply ‘Individuals.’ We’re the product of an evolutionary discourse stretching back millions upon millions of years. A social species, we’re defined by our physical and cultural characteristics and a role and a place within an historic collective. This is why direct forms of democracy are so powerful. They’re predicated on participation. By participating in the political, in institutions and the culture that shapes them, we cease to be a social atom and find our place in the historical project that is our people.

Liberal democracies simply depoliticise society by creating a society of rootless, atomised ‘individuals’ driven solely by economic impulses. Our ‘participation’ is reduced to appointing alleged experts who then proceed to pursue self-interest uncontested until the next election. If the Greeks were right, the answer is simply a question of learning to govern ourselves as a people. No representatives, only delegates appointed by an ethno-cultural group cognizant of its roots and identity. This short book, or perhaps lengthy essay, is a must read for critics of the prevailing order, liberalism and globalism.

To conclude, a particularly powerful passage from its finale…

Democracy means the power of the people, which is to say the power of an organic community that has historically developed in the context of one or more given political structures – for instance a city, nation, or empire. Where there is no folk but only a collection of individual social atoms, there can be no democracy. Every political system which requires the disintegration or levelling of peoples in order to operate – or the erosion of individuals’ awareness of belonging to an organic folk community – is to be regarded as undemocratic.


About the Author

Benjamin Jones is Leader of Generation Identity United Kingdom.

On the Politics of ‘Demographic Bombs’: A Review of Kelly Greenhill’s Weapons of Mass Migration

Tomorrow Europe might no longer be European, and even black, as there are millions who want to come in” — so warned the former Libyan statesman, Muammar al-Qaddafi, during an official visit to Italy in 2010. Uttered as no idle reflection, Qaddafi’s statement contained, in fact, a not-so-veiled threat: unless receiving €5 billion per year from the European Union, the Libyan state would cease to prevent the crossing of illegal migrants from Africa. Europe, in his words, would run the risk of turning “black.”[i] Such instances, in which state actors seek to capitalize upon the potential or actual movements of populations, form the subject of Kelly Greenhill’s monograph, Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion, and Foreign Policy, a worthwhile study for anyone concerned with the constitution and causes of migration patterns in the West.[ii]

With examples ranging from Honduras to Vietnam, Greenhill examines more than fifty cases in which “coercive engineered migration” was used as a means of achieving national ends, from diplomatic recognition and military assistance to monetary payoffs and debt relief.[iii] She finds that threats to detonate such “demographic bombs” occur at an average rate of about one per year—at least since the ratification of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which, through its “rules and norms regarding the protection of those fleeing violence and persecution,” incentivized the employment of weapons of mass migration (WMMs).[iv] Adopting stringent measures of evaluation, Greenhill finds further that the brandishing of WMMs yield successful outcomes in over half the analysed cases. Interestingly, democratic states are judged to be particularly vulnerable, not least due to their professed commitment to “universal norms and legal structures”:

Target states disposed to respond to a threatened influx with promises to forcibly repatriate unwelcome asylum seekers or simply turn migrants back at the border, for instance, may find themselves facing significant hypocrisy costs if they attempt to undertake such actions after having previously made rhetorical and/or juridical commitments to protect and defend those fleeing violence, persecution, or privation. Such moral contradictions are well recognized—and often quite deliberately exploited—by those who engage in this kind of coercion.[v]

In addition, Greenhill calculates that democratic states may be destabilized by the potential or actual use of WMMs through exploitation of their pluralistic institutions:

Not only do opposition parties in democracies tend to have strong incentives to criticize and publicize missteps by sitting governments, but they also face powerful political incentives to adopt positions that run counter to those embraced by incumbents, whether or not those policies are currently viewed as problematic…For instance, the opposition may contend that the government is “betraying a just cause and sabotaging the political rights” of a group of migrants or refugees or they may equally well claim the government “has sold out to the refugees [or migrants] at the expense of the nation itself.”[vi]

 Published in 2010, Greenhill’s book nonetheless may be used to shed light on more recent European events. More than three years after Qaddafi’s demise, ISIS forces in Libya reportedly threatened to send 500,000 migrants across the Mediterranean into Europe should the country come under attack.[vii] Just over a year later, the administration of Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, struck a deal with the European Union to prevent migrants from crossing the Aegean in exchange for a €3 billion aid package, the prospect of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens, and resumption of talks for EU accession.[viii] Migration was thence brought to a halt, at least until the following fall, when migrant flows to Greece surged, accompanied by threats from Erdoğan that EU member states had fallen short of their promises.[ix]    

Responses to threats of demographic warfare range from actual concessions—as in the case of Turkey—to counterstrategies of various types. Of the latter, Greenhill shows rightful reluctance regarding intervention in the internal affairs of foreign states, up to and including a changing of regime—witness the collapse of the Libyan state (and ensuing migrant chaos) following the murder of Qaddafi in 2011. She shows reluctance as well concerning the erection and bolstering of physical barriers to migration—a more questionable stance considering the relative imperviousness of the Hungarian border fence erected by Victor Orbán’s government in 2015.[x] A final option entails the actual acceptance of migrants, which, as outlined in a 2016 presentation by Greenhill, effectively says to the aggressor, “do your worst. Our people recognize the virtues of immigration over the longer term. We’re willing to pay some adjustment costs. Bring it on.[xi] This was, in effect, Britain’s response to the Ugandan president, Idi Amin, who in 1972 threatened the expulsion of Asian Ugandans while at the same time petitioning for military aid.[xii]

Although not addressed by Greenhill, one may note that Britain accepted over 20,000 of these migrants, the majority of whom settled in Leicester—a city in which they form, to this day, the dominant sub-group of a still-growing Asian community.[xiii] Over the same period, the “white British” portion of the population has shrunk, becoming, by the tally of the 2011 census, a minority in the city.[xiv]


About the Author

Christopher Franke is a London-based researcher and writer.


[i] Nick Squires, “Gaddafi: Europe will ‘turn black’ unless EU pays Libya £4bn a year,” The Telegraph, August 31, 2010, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/7973649/Gaddafi-Europe-will-turn-black-unless-EU-pays-Libya-4bn-a-year.html. According to The Christian Science Monitor, Qaddafi’s threat had yielded, if not €5 billion, than “a more modest €50 million deal.” Dan Murphy, “How the fall of Qaddafi gave rise to Europe’s migrant crisis,” The Christian Science Monitor, April 21, 2015, https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/Backchannels/2015/0421/How-the-fall-of-Qaddafi-gave-rise-to-Europe-s-migrant-crisis.

[ii] Kelly M. Greenhill, Weapons of Mass Migration: Forced Displacement, Coercion, and Foreign Policy (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2010).

[iii] Greenhill, ibid., 2.

[iv] Ibid., 3, 15.

[v] Ibid., 4.

[vi] Ibid., 61-62.

[vii] Hannah Roberts, “ISIS threatens to send 500,000 migrants to Europe as a ‘psychological weapon’ in chilling echo of Gaddafi’s prophecy that the Mediterranean ‘will become a sea of chaos’,” The Daily Mail, February 18, 2015, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2958517/The-Mediterranean-sea-chaos-Gaddafi-s-chilling-prophecy-interview-ISIS-threatens-send-500-000-migrants-Europe-psychological-weapon-bombed.html.

[viii] James Kanter, “European Union Reaches Deal With Turkey to Return New Asylum Seekers,” New York Times, March 18, 2016.

[ix] Ceylan Yeginsu, “Refugees Pour Out of Turkey Once More as Deal With Europe Falters,” New York Times, September 14, 2016.

[x] Kelly Greenhill, “Kelly Greenhill on Refugees, R2P, and Weapons of Mass Migration,” interview by Aroop Mukharji, Belfer Center, https://soundcloud.com/belfercenter/office-hours-kelly-greenhill-on-refugees-r2p-and-weapons-of-mass-migration?in=belfercenter/sets/office-hours. On Orbán’s border fence and the (grudging) acknowledgment of its success by Western media outlets, see, for example, Jim Yardley, “Has Europe Reached the Breaking Point?” New York Times, December 15, 2015.

[xi] Kelly Greenhill, “The weaponization of migration: implications for the EU and beyond,” a/simmetrie conference presentation, November 12, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FN52gOzD24.

[xii] Greenhill (2010), 298.

[xiii] See, for example, Janna Herbert, Negotiating Boundaries in the City: Migration, Ethnicity, and Gender in Britain (Alderhot, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2008), Chapter 1; Stephen Butt, Leicester in the 1960s: Ten Years that Changed a City, (Gloucestershire: Amberley, 2015), Chapter 7; “Uganda | Idi Amin | Asian Expulsion | 1972,” ThamesTv documentary, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-i0JVip9N4; and “Don’t Come To Leicester,” The Midlands Report documentary, 1992, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyopnoeWMvg.   

[xiv] See Stephen Jivraj and Nissa Finney, “Geographies of diversity in Leicestershire,” Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE), The University of Manchester, October, 2013, http://hummedia.manchester.ac.uk/institutes/code/briefings/localdynamicsofdiversity/geographies-of-diversity-in-leicestershire.pdf.

Government Is the Main Problem, Say a Record Number of Americans

Think of all the troubles in the world. Climate change. Student debt. Terrorism. Job insecurity. What’s the number one most mentioned problem, according to a recent Gallup poll? Government itself. Thirty-five percent of Americans put that concern above all others. It’s a record number, according to the pollsters who have been tracking this since 2001.

Not only that: there have only been a handful of times when any number one issue clocked in with this level of intensity: terrorism after 9/11, Iraq after the war began, and the economy after 2008.

When I saw the numbers, my first thought was that Democrats made up the margin of change. They don’t like the president. He drives them crazy. So it makes sense that they would more quickly name government as the leading problem — which in turn raises the question of why they would push so hard for government to exercise more power over our lives.

It turns out, however, that it is not movement among Democrats but among Republicans that is the most noticeable on the graphs.

Having Trump as their president in office, then, has not increased confidence in government. If anything, it has had the opposite effect, turning Republicans themselves against government as never before. But notice that the loathing is nonpartisan.

Other polls such as Pew Research report similar results, with only 18 percent showing confidence in government at all. This is down from 78 percent half a century ago.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that government is getting worse. It suggests instead a kind of rising consciousness about a problem that has been there all along, from Woodrow Wilson to Donald Trump. Government is the least effective way to solve any social problem. It overrides the capacity of people to deal with their lives and problems in a way that is manageable and adaptable. It creates bureaucracies instead of solutions, wastes resources while everyone else is trying to conserve them, and entrenches rules that do not pertain in a world of fast-paced technological development.

What these two years of political wrangling have shown us is something that will be unavoidable in the coming years. There will never be unified government, operating with a single goal, whether that proposed goal is a restoration of nationalism or the elimination of fossil fuels supposedly to save the planet. The vast gulf that separates the two parties, with extremes driving the ideological debate on either side, is what government now has to offer us. Which is to say: more division, more vituperation, more politics of dogs eating dogs.

Why not give up on the whole failed project?

And this makes it all the more strange that the no-confidence position is not being well represented in the intellectual sphere. Just this week, Russ Douthat writes about the new trend among those on the political right to come to terms with a big state and assign it the job of managing society toward correct ends. He calls them “state-power conservatives”:

If we assume that people tend to seek power, and devise justifications for seeking power, where it can be plausibly exercised and won, then the state-power conservatives may not need the strongest intellectual arguments to change the way the right thinks about the state. Instead limited government conservatism may give way to an attempt to improve on Trumpism with clearer blueprints and smarter cadres for the same reason that changes often happen in political ideology — because the people whose thinking is changing feel that they don’t have any other choice.

All told, it’s a pretty strange time for conservatives suddenly to decide they like government, and the worst imaginable time for the Left to celebrate the state as never before. Based on the attitudes of the public alone, we ought to be seeing the opposite from both sides. Here we have a measure of another problem, the alienation of the intellectual class from the problems as understood by ordinary people.


About the Author

Jeffrey A. Tucker is Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and eight books in 5 languages. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

Power of Bad Ideas: Why We Keep Choosing Failed Policies

It is not easy to change the economic direction of a nation state. Sometimes, like in former East Germany and present-day North Korea, a switch from central planning to the free market is held back by the brute force of the state. The people might know or “suspect” that life is better in neighboring capitalist countries, but are powerless to affect change.

But, what explains repeated experimentation with discredited economic policies in countries with a relatively high degree of political freedom? What, for example, accounts for Argentina’s periodic bouts of populism and the concomitant lack of curiosity about the success of free market reforms in Chile? And why do many South Africans favor catastrophic economic policies of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe rather than trying to emulate the meteoric rise of free-market Botswana?

Bad ideas have a remarkable staying power. Statism, for example, keeps on reappearing – in different forms, but with similarly disastrous consequences.

To begin with, consider the examples of Argentina and Venezuela. The voters in both countries have recently rejected statist economic policies by voting for a market-friendly presidential candidate in Argentina and an anti-Chavez parliamentary majority in Venezuela. The electoral outcomes in the two Latin American countries were not completely unexpected. Peronism and Chavism have benefited from high commodity prices and shady electoral practices throughout the 2000s. In recent years, however, both countries suffered serious economic reversals and saw an up-swell in popular opposition.

But high commodity prices and intimidation do not explain all of Hugo Chavez’s and Cristina Kirchner’s popularity. These leaders had a true following and reached beyond those who benefited economically or were threatened politically. Who, after all, can forget Sean Penn’s, Michael Moore’s and Oliver Stone’s infatuation with the chubby Venezuelan?

Remarkably, the latest bouts of Peronism in Argentina (2001-2015) and socialist policies in Venezuela (1999-2015) came after the success of the Chilean economic model of development became apparent. Beginning in the 1970s, Chile has introduced many market-friendly policies, becoming the economically freest country in Latin America. As a consequence, Chile grew.

Consider that in 1960, Chilean per capita income was 66 percent that of Argentina and 42 percent that of Venezuela. In 2014, the Chileans were 24 percent richer than the Argentines and 63 percent richer than the Venezuelans. What was once a very poor country became Latin America’s richest.

I have spoken to a number of Latin American specialists who have noted that the Chilean experience appears to be of very little interest to the voters in Argentina and Venezuela.

In a similar vein, I have observed a curious lack of interest in the success of Botswana while living in South Africa and travelling to Zimbabwe. The three countries are immediate neighbors. For decades, Botswana had been economically freer than other African countries and became relatively wealthy as a consequence. Its rise from one of Africa’s poorest countries to one of Africa’s most prosperous has been meteoric. Yet South Africans remain unimpressed.

Since 1994, South Africa has been governed by a tri-partite coalition of the African National Congress, trade union COSATU and the South African Communist Party. The economic results have been deeply disappointing, though not outright disastrous.

The dissatisfaction with the ANC-led government has increased in recent years. Very few people, however, point to Botswana as an example to follow. The main beneficiary of South Africa’s economic woes appears to be a deceptively-named Maoist party called the Economic Freedom Fighters, which is led by a well-fed former ANC firebrand Julius Malema.

Malema’s heroes include the late Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwe’s nonagenarian dictator Robert Mugabe. Mugabe took over one of the better-run African countries and ruined it. By expropriating agricultural land and majority stakes many privately-owned enterprises, he presided over the second highest hyperinflation in recorded history and economic contraction that erased 50 years of economic progress.

Zimbabweans ought to be very interested in Botswana’s experience. South Africa has always been the region’s economic powerhouse, which imbued its citizens with a sense of superiority. Botswana and Zimbabwe, in contrast, started at the very bottom. But, while Botswana has prospered, Zimbabwe has stagnated. Between 1960 and 2014, Botswana’s GDP per person increased by an astonishing 1,935 percent. In Zimbabwe it shrunk by 3 percent.

It is true that Zimbabwe is no longer a politically-free country, but most Zimbabwe specialists would agree that Mugabe continues to enjoy considerable support in rural areas. Yet, in my travels to Zimbabwe, I have never encountered much interest in the actual policies that brought the Botswanan miracle about – even among those Zimbabweans who were forced by acute shortages to do their shopping in neighboring Botswana.

For decades, free market policies have been vilified and statist policies promoted by parts of the media and intelligentsia, and many politicians, in Argentina, Venezuela, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Ideas have consequences. One of the most consequential outcomes of the anti-free market propaganda seems to be the willingness of some people to ignore reality – at least for a time.


About the Author

Marian L. Tupy is a senior policy analyst at the Cato Institute and editor of HumanProgress.org

Europe Tried It's Own "Green New Deal" — It Was a Disaster

What happens when politicians see that their monster stimuli have not delivered? They bring the next rabbit out of a hat. They need a new name and a new magic solution to make citizens believe in the magic of demand-side policies despite the constant failure of those same plans.

The Eurozone Example

A huge stimulus in 2008 in a “growth and employment plan”. A stimulus of 1.5% of GDP to create “millions of jobs in infrastructure, civil works, interconnections, and strategic sectors”. 4.5 million jobs were destroyed and the deficit nearly doubled. That was after the crisis because between 2001 and 2008, money supply in the Eurozone doubled. The Eurozone has been a chain of stimuli since day one.

The so-called “Juncker Plan” or  “Investment Plan for Europe” hailed as the “solution” to the European Union lack of growth was the same. It raised 360 billion euros, many for white elephants.  Eurozone growth estimates were slashed, productivity growth stalled and industrial production fell in December 2018 to three-year low levels.

The Eurozone’s massive “green” policy plan has made the European Union countries suffer electricity and natural gas bills for households that are more than double those of the US, and unemployment is still twice that of the United States, while growth stagnates. In 2016 household electricity prices averaged 26.6 c/kWh in the Euro area and 12.7 c/kWh in the US.

Let us start debunking some myths about this last rabbit out of the interventionists’ hat.

No, It Is Not a New Deal, and It Should Not Be

When FDR launched the New Deal the size of government, public spending and debt were nowhere close to today’s elevated levels.

At the height of the New Deal, federal spending never went above the 1934 level of 10.7%.  Even considering the extraordinary cost of the Second World War period, public sending went from a maximum of 43.6% down to 11.6% by 1948.

Not just that. The public sector had very little debt, a maximum of 45% of GDP.  Compare that with an already unsustainable annual deficit that does not fall below half a trillion dollars, and debt to GDP of close to 100%.

In an insightful study titled “New Deal Policies and the Persistence of the Great Depression: A General Equilibrium Analysis”, two economics professors from UCLA, Harold L Cole and vice chair of the Economics Department Lee Ohanian determined that the anti-competition and supposedly pro-employment policies of the New Deal destroyed the possibilities for economic recovery. The two economists concluded that if these policies had not been enacted the depression would have ended in 1936 instead of 1943.
In the 1930s, the unemployment rate never fell below 15%. Five years after starting his “New Deal”, Roosevelt’s economic policies had caused one in five active Americans to be without a job. In 1937 there were 6 million unemployed and by 1938 that figure was 10 million people. In the end, it was the Second World War that “ended “unemployment. How? By forcibly recruiting 20% of the active population to work in the war industry, and by spending the equivalent of 42% of GDP on the entire effort. One significant problem was that during those years inflation which rose to almost 20% and even with 1% unemployment there was rationing of basic consumer goods. The US truly emerged from the depression when, at the end of the war, it abruptly cut taxes by one-third and began paying off the debt.

This may begin to sound familiar to you. The New Deal was yet another example of promising freedom and delivering repression.

It Is Not “Green”

The US is already the second top market for renewable investment according to EY.

Renewable and green investments are already flourishing without the need for politicians to interfere. In fact,  the US is investing more than $40 billion per annum in renewables, and if we add infrastructure and energy efficiency, the US is still the top global destination of productive investment in green energy, technology, and infrastructure.

The US has been able to reduce CO2 emissions while the European Union with the largest subsidy plans and high tax on CO2 increased them.  The US has achieved more in developing renewables, technology and energy efficiency without massive tax and bill increases. There is nothing “green” on a central planner’s decision to inflate GDP via public spending. it is the opposite. It artificially increases energy and capital utilization to create false demand signals that end up being bubbles that hurt the economy and make it less dynamic.

There is no need for a Green New Deal. We are already living a  period of rising government spending, too high deficits, and debt. Innovation and technology disruption are reducing the energy intensity of GDP faster than any government can ever decide.

Why? Because politicians and governments do not have more or better information about the needs of the economy, consumers or about the pace of innovation and technology implementation. In fact, governments havce every incentive to inflate GDP at any cost, pass the bill to consumers and the debt to taxpayers.

Governments of any colour or ideology do not benefit from technology innovation, energy efficiency, and substitution. Why? Because those are disinflationary factors and the short-term effect is always of creative destruction of obsolete industries… Those that they aim to preserve at any cost. If governments truly cared about the climate and environment they would shut down the most polluting industries, which are all state-owned or government concessions.

There is only one way in which governments benefit from massive stimuli: Inflating GDP building massive construction projects. Increasing inflation by artificially pumping more capital spending and energy use. That is and has never been green, innovative or disruptive. Just plain old interventionism.

This will not be the first or last time that we question the merits of enormous government plans. As we have shown on so many occasions, huge spending on white elephants is partially responsible for global stagnation and excessive debt. Huge pharaonic works that promise billions of dollars of growth, jobs, and benefits that, subsequently, are not achieved, leaving a trail of debt and massive operating costs.

Proponents of the mega-stimulus plans ignore the importance of real economic returns in favor of “inflating GDP” in any possible way. A study by Deepak Lal , UCLA professor of international development, discusses the devastating impact on potential growth and debt of stimulus plans in China, and Edward Glaeser’s ” If You Build ” analysis destroys the myth repeated by many of the multiplier effects of public infrastructure. Advocates of infrastructure spending at any cost ignore the most basic cost-benefit analysis, underestimating the cost and magnifying the estimated benefit through science-fiction-multipliers.

Professors Ansar and Flyvbjerg have also devoted a great deal of effort to analyzing the negative effect of large “stimulus” plans from hydraulic megaprojects to the organization of the Olympic Games.

Deepak Lal’s study citing Professors Ansar and Flyvbjerg shows that the actual cost-benefit analysis compared to the “estimated returns” when projects are approved, proves to be disastrous. Fifty-five percent of the analyzed projects generated a profit-to-cost ratio of less than one, that is, they created real losses. But, of the rest, only six projects of those analyzed showed positive returns. The rest, nothing. The economy does not grow more, it makes the economy weaker.

The only Green New Deal that works is governments stepping aside and letting the private sector deliver the technology and innovation required. It is already happening.

Of course, there are infrastructure, technology and green economy investments that make sense. They are being implemented as you read this article. The rest is just plain old white elephants for the glory of politicians… with your money.

And no, this time will not be different.


About the Author

Daniel Lacalle is a PhD Economist and Fund Manager and is author of Escape from the Central Bank Trap, Life In The Financial Markets and The Energy World Is Flat. He holds the CIIA (Certified International Investment Analyst) and masters in Economic Investigation and IESE.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Green Great Leap Forward

In what its supporters have claimed is “visionary,” the congressional media darling, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) has released her short-awaited Green New Deal , and she has called for nothing short of destruction of life as we have known it: “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she has no qualms about acknowledging a so-called “Green New Deal” will mean unprecedented governmental intrusion into the private sector. Appearing on NPR, she was asked if she’s prepared to tell Americans outright that her plans involve “massive government intervention.”

On one level, AOC is being honest; such a plan would be unprecedented, at least in the United States, but it hardly would be the first government-led massive intrusion into a nation’s economy. The 20th Century was full of such intervention, beginning with World War I, and continuing through the years of communist governments. The century was full of intervention, and the earth was full of the dead bodies to prove it. What AOC and her political allies, including most Democrats that have declared they will run for the U.S. Presidency, are demanding is the U.S. version of Mao’s utterly-disastrous Great Leap Forward.

For all of the so-called specifics, the Green New Deal (GND) reads like a socialist website which is full of rhetoric, promises, and statements that assume a bunch of planners sitting around tables can replicate a complex economy that feeds, transports, and houses hundreds of millions of people. The New York Times declares the plan to give “ substance to an idea that had been a mostly vague rallying cry for a stimulus package around climate change, but its prospects are uncertain.”

Actually, there is nothing we can call “substance” in this proposal if we mean “substance” to be a realistic understanding that it would be impossible to re-direct via central planning nearly every factor of production in the U.S. economy from one set of uses to another, since that is what the proposed legislation actually requires. For example, the following is what AOC and others call the “scope” of the proposed law:

(A) The Plan for a Green New Deal (and the draft legislation) shall be developed with the objective of reaching the following outcomes within the target window of 10 years from the start of execution of the Plan:

  1.  Dramatically expand existing renewable power sources and deploy new production capacity with the goal of meeting 100% of national power demand through renewable sources;

  2.  Building a national, energy-efficient, “smart” grid;

  3. Upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety;

  4. Eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries, including by investing in local-scale agriculture in communities across the country;

  5. Eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from, repairing and improving transportation and other infrastructure, and upgrading water infrastructure to ensure universal access to clean water;

  6. Funding massive investment in the drawdown of greenhouse gases;

  7. Making “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States, with the aim of becoming the undisputed international leader in helping other countries transition to completely greenhouse gas neutral economies and bringing about a global Green New Deal.

It is hard to know where to begin in analyzing such an ambitious plan, especially when one understands the ramifications of what is in this bill. No doubt, many will believe it to be bold and long overdue. The CNN website breathlessly declares:

Public investments should prioritize what the resolution calls "frontline and vulnerable communities," which include people in rural and de-industrialized areas as well as those that depend on carbon-intensive industries like oil and gas extraction.

And in a move that may draw support from a broad range of advocacy groups, the resolution sweeps in the full range of progressive policy priorities: Providing universal healthcare and affordable housing, ensuring that all jobs have union protections and family-sustaining wages, and keeping the business environment free of monopolistic competition.

However, CNN adds that the specifics – paying for the whole thing – are not included, at least not yet. In addition, the news organization adds the following for those worried that the entire operation might prove to be prohibitively costly:

… the New Dealers argue that a federally funded energy transition would stimulate growth by providing jobs, improving public health, and reducing waste. In addition, they argue that the government could capture more return on investment by retaining equity stakes in the projects they build.

In other words, this whole operation allegedly will generate so much new wealth that it will pay for itself, lift millions from poverty, and transform the entire U.S. economy. The plan is so generous that it promises an income even to people, according to the Democrat’s press release, who refuse to work still will be provided a “living wage” income.

The plan also is famous not only for what it purports to create (out right utopia) but what it also calls to be banned: cows and airlines. The plan calls for phasing out air travel within a decade to be replaced by a network of high-speed rail, as though this were even feasible. Cows, as the released document acknowledges, have flatulence, so they must be totally eliminated from the earth and meat from the U.S. diet, but there is nothing to address the massive disruption to life as we know it in order to implement such a plan.

Not surprisingly, The Atlantic is nearly breathless with praise for this monstrosity, but even that publication admits that the scale of AOC’s “vision” is beyond anything we ever have seen before:

Yet even in broad language, the resolution clearly describes a transformation that would leave virtually no sector of the economy untouched. A Green New Deal would direct new solar farms to bloom in the desert, new high-speed rail lines to crisscross the Plains, and squadrons of construction workers to insulate and weatherize buildings from Florida to Alaska. It would guarantee every American a job that pays a “family-sustaining wage,” codify paid family leave, and strengthen union law nationwide.

To be honest, “untouched” is not the appropriate term here, as “smashed” or “destroyed” is much more accurate and descriptive. We are not speaking of ordinary government intervention that marks most of the U.S. economy, but does allow for something of a price system to continue to exist. Instead, something of this magnitude would require a complete government takeover with central planning on a scale so huge that it would have to surpass the grandest dreams of the old Soviet Gosplan.

One of the most-asked questions, of course, is: “How do we pay for this?” Perhaps it is natural to ask such things, but we are not speaking of a particular project for which we have to purchase materials and pay those who create it. Instead, this plan would simply redirect nearly every resource, almost all labor, and every other factor of production away from current uses to something as determined by government planners and overlords. There is no other accurate way to describe what we are seeing.

The resolution naively assumes that all that needs to be done is for government to “finance” these projects through huge increases in taxes, borrowing, and (of course) printing money, and that such infusions of money will enable the government to “pay” for all of these new projects as though one were building a new skyscraper in Manhattan:

  • Many will say, “Massive government investment! How in the world can we pay for this?” The answer is: in the same ways that we paid for the 2008 bank bailout and extended quantitative easing programs, the same ways we paid for World War II and many other wars. The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments, new public banks can be created (as in WWII) to extend credit and a combination of various taxation tools (including taxes on carbon and other emissions and progressive wealth taxes) can be employed.

  • In addition to traditional debt tools, there is also a space for the government to take an equity role in projects, as several government and government-affiliated institutions already do.

Such statements demonstrate a profound ignorance of even basic economic concepts. The authors and supporters of this document believe that all it will take is for the government to direct massive amounts of money toward these new projects, and everything else will fall into line. But that is not even close to reality, as the only way to redirect such massive amounts of money would be to use force, and deadly force at that.

First, and most important, much of the present capital in the USA is geared toward the kind of economy that AOC and the Democrats demand be made illegal, so huge swaths of the capital stock would have to be abandoned, as little of it could be redirected elsewhere. One cannot overestimate the kind of financial damage that would cause, and it would impoverish much of the country almost overnight.

Second, the entire economy would be required to pivot toward capital development that would not be possible, given current technologies and opportunity costs, to create, especially in the 10-year time frame that the Democrats are demanding. Diverting new streams of finance toward such projects would be useless and even counterproductive, as the system simply would be overwhelmed. It would not be long before scarcity itself would mean that entire projects either would be stalled (like what we see with the infamous “Bullet Train” in California) or even abandoned. The human cost alone would be staggering.

As pointed out at the beginning of this article, for all of the “grand vision” rhetoric that accompanies the rollout of the AOC plan, this is nothing less than an attempt to re-implement Mao’s Great Leap Forward, albeit with high-speed rail instead of backyard steel mills. One cannot overestimate the disaster that would follow if this were forced upon the American economy.

So-called political visionaries rarely are willing to be truthful about the destruction that follows their schemes. When Baby Boomers were in college a half-century ago, many saw Mao as their political hero, a man with great vision who had the political will to do what was necessary to advance the fortunes of his own people. That he was a murderous tyrant who presided over mass death that exceeded even the killings of World War II was irrelevant or even ignored.

Today, we are told by her adoring press that Alexandria Occasio-Cortez is the New Visionary, a person who is far-seeing and knows what we have to do in order to survive the coming consequences of climate change. That her grand vision is little more than a mass-depopulation scheme is ignored, and we ignore it at our peril.

Read the Democrat’s Briefing


About the Author

William L. Anderson is a Fellow of the Mises Institute and professor of economics at Frostburg State University. He earned his MA in economics from Clemson University and his PhD in economics from Auburn University, where he was a Mises Research Fellow.

The Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies

The Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) is a non-profit, non-governmental, international network, oriented to educational work related to strategic nonviolent conflict.

CANVAS produces a weekly report on several countries where nonviolent resistance can play an important role in confronting challenges to democracy.

The core of CANVAS’s work is rather to spread the word of “people power” to the world than to achieve victories against one dictator or another. Their next big mission should obviously be to explain to the world what a powerful tool nonviolent struggle is when it comes to achieving freedom, democracy and human rights.

The Organization

Headquartered in Belgrade, CANVAS is run by Slobodan Djinovic and Srdja Popovic. It operates a network of international trainers and consultants with experience of successful democratic movements. CANVAS is a non-profit institution which relies solely on private funding; there is no charge for workshops and revolutionary know-how can be downloaded for free on the Internet.

CANVAS was founded in 2003 by Srdja Popovic and Slobodan Dinovic as an organization that advocates for the use of nonviolent resistance to promote human rights and democracy. Since then, CANVAS has worked with pro-democracy activists from more than 50 countries, including Iran, Zimbabwe, Burma, Venezuela, Ukraine, Georgia, Palestine, Western Sahara, West Papua, Eritrea, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Tonga, Tunisia and Egypt. CANVAS works only in response to requests for assistance and offers free trainings to activists.

CANVAS disseminates its knowledge through a variety of media, including workshops, books, DVDs and specialized courses. Members regularly teach and present an academic version of their Core Curriculum, and hold workshops on strategy and organization of nonviolent struggle at variety of educational institutions worldwide, including at Harvard (Kennedy School Of Law), the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (TUFTS, Boston, MA), Johns Hopkins (SAIS), Columbia University, Rutgers (NJ), Colorado College (CO), and Georgetown University (DC).

In 2006, Popovic and two other CANVAS members – Slobodan Dinovic and Andrej Milivojevic – authored a book called Nonviolent Struggle: 50 Crucial Points, a how-to guide for nonviolent struggle. Srdja Popovic and CANVAS won several awards, including the Paul Lauitzen Award for Human Rights (November 2010) and the Jean Mayers Award by Tufts University (February 2016).

Srdja Popovic

Srdja Popovic was one of the founders of the Serbian nonviolent resistance group Otpor! Otpor!’s campaign against Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was successful in October 2000 when thousands of protesters took over the Serbian Parliament. After the revolution, Popovic served a term as a member of the Serbian National Assembly. In 2003, Popovic and others started the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS). CANVAS has worked with activists from 46 different countries, including Zimbabwe, Burma, Iran, and Venezuela, spreading knowledge of the nonviolent strategies and tactics used by Otpor! In November 2011, Foreign Policy Magazine listed Srdja Popovic as one of the “Top 100 Global Thinkers” of 2011 for inspiring the Arab Spring protesters.  In 2012 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2014 he was listed as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum in Davos. “Srdja is also the author of the recent book Blueprint for Revolution, a fun and humorous look at nonviolent activism worldwide.”

Slobodan Djinovic

Slobodan Djinovic became one of the co-founders of the Serbian resistance movement OTPOR! while he was a student at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Belgrade in 1998. OTPOR! went on to topple Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic through a mass nonviolent campaign. Subsequently, Slobodan went on to found one of the first internet companies in Serbia, and currently serves as CEO of Orion Telecom. He also serves as co-founder and Chairman of CANVAS, the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies, an educational organization that trains activists from around the world in the strategies and tactics on nonviolent struggle. He has co-authored two CANVAS publications: Nonviolent Struggle: 50 Crucial Points and The CANVAS Core Curriculum. Slobodan also has a certificate from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Visit the CANVAS website

The Banking Bailout Business

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The financial crisis of 2007-2008 was the worst since the Great Depression. It was triggered in the United States due to the collapse of the subprime mortgage market, and its effects spilled across the global banking system, resulting in many governments bailing out the private banks that had caused the crisis, in an attempt to prevent the collapse of the global financial system. This bailout means private debt is now public debt, and the consequences of this will be carried for decades to come, if not the entirety of the Millennial generation’s lifetime and beyond.

The financial crisis was the nail in the coffin in terms of Millennials’ trust in government and banking. Trillions of dollars of additional debt are now the responsibility of the taxpayer, at a time when Western economies are not as robust as they could be or have been, Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce and no longer contributing to the tax base, and the easiest response by most governments will be to increase taxes. People are progressively burdened by their personal debt, government debt that now includes these extra trillions, and publicly-funded pensions for older generations – a luxury many Millennials will never have. Eventually, the well runs dry, and Millennials have barely had the opportunity to fill the well to begin with.

 

Was it necessary to bailout the banks that created the mess in the first place?

In early 2017, Sol Trumbo Vila and Matthijs Peters published a report, The Bailout Business, exposing the private companies that made huge profits from the bailout packages implemented in the European Union at the expense of taxpayers, citing more than €1.5 trillion of taxpayer money that has been spent to bail European banks. Between 2008 and 2015, EU member states, with the approval and encouragement of EU institutions, have spent €747 billion on different forms of rescue packages or bailouts, plus another €1,188 billion made available in guarantees on liabilities. Despite these sizeable and growing numbers, bailout packages have a further hidden cost: the massive fees charged by financial experts for giving advice to governments and EU institutions about how to rescue the banks.

Vila’s and Peters’ research shows the bailout business is made up of, firstly, the audit firms that audited the banks before the crisis and who have continued to service them after the crisis, dominated by the so-called Big Four: Ernest & Young, KMPG, Deloitte, and Price Waterhouse Cooper. In addition to providing auditing services, many of these firms also provided financial advice to the same banks. Secondly, it includes financial consultancy firms that assessed the banking sector’s financial state and risks for both debtor governments and the European Commission and have also advised on how to structure and carry out the bailout programmes (such as Lazard, Rothschild, Oliver Wyman, BlackRock, and Marsh and McLennan).

 

What does the report show?

  • Bail outs in the EU have a hidden cost for taxpayers. Contracts worth hundreds of millions of euro have been given to financial consultants to advise member states and EU institutions on how to rescue failed banks;

  • The Big Four audit firms, which operate as a de facto oligopoly, together with a small coterie of financial advisory firms, have designed the most important rescue packages. Combined with their roles as consultants and auditors, the concentration of this work in just a few firms often leads to conflicts of interest. In cases where the bailout consultants gave poor or inaccurate advice on the allocation of state aid there have been few consequences, even when state losses actually increased as a result. Bailout consultants have often been rewarded with new contracts despite their repeated failures;

  • The firms responsible for assuring investors and regulators that EU banks were stable, the Big Four audit firms, maintain their market dominance despite grave failures in their assessment of the EU banking sector’s lending risks. Failed banks were systematically audited by one of the Big Four before being rescued. In every case, another Big Four firm took over the audit of the saved bank. Up to June 2016, the Big Four also provided non-auditing services to their clients, leading to repeated conflicts of interest, which have so far had little or no legal consequence. The Big Four are still receiving massive contracts from EU member states and institutions for advisory and auditing work;

  • Current EU legislation does not tackle the influence of the Bail Out Business. New audit regulations tackle the worst practices and conflicts of interest of the Big Four: the provision of advisory and auditing services to the same clients. However, such regulations do not tackle the dependency of governments and EU institutions on the Big Four. The effectiveness of the Banking Union in reducing the burden of future bailouts on taxpayers remains to be seen. However, it institutionalises the use of taxpayers’ money to save failed banks upon the decision of the European Central Bank (ECB). This centralisation is likely to deepen further the influence of the Bail Out Business as a result of the ECB’s practice of outsourcing its mandated supervisory activities.

 

What if the banks had not been bailed out?

Iceland did not bailout its three largest banks, despite having the largest banking system collapse in the economic history of any country. As a result, Iceland experienced a severe economic depression from 2007 to 2010, but by 2011 saw what has become increasingly positive GDP growth and rapidly declining unemployment. Its economy is now one of the strongest among developed countries. Over a dozen bank executives faced criminal charges and were imprisoned, unlike those in the United States who faced no such consequences. This Black Swan event may have pushed Iceland to its knees in a surprisingly very short-term period, but the country has emerged as much more robust and antifragile than economists and politicians believed was possible.

Einstein, Gandhi, and Dr. Gene Sharp: the Politics of Nonviolence

How can we hold our established democracies to account, and how can we ensure the change we want is long-lasting?

You’re likely familiar with the names Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, leaders who advocated for and led their movements by the philosophy of nonviolence. At least as equally deserving of widespread recognition is a man named Dr. Gene Sharp.

Dr. Sharp, who passed away in 2018 at the age of ninety, had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize four times during his career for articulating and advancing the cause of nonviolent action for change. His first book, Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power, was published in 1960 and included a Foreword by Albert Einstein, with whom Dr. Sharp corresponded with during his nine-month imprisonment in New York, having been arrested for civil disobedience against military conscription during the Korean War. Dr. Sharp’s books and publications on nonviolent struggle, power, political problems, liberation struggle, dictatorships, and defense policy have been published in over forty languages, most notably his 1973 three-volume The Politics of Nonviolent Action, a pragmatic political analysis of nonviolent action as a method for applying power in a conflict, and his 1993 handbook, From Dictatorship to Democracy, which has influenced resistance movements across the world.

In 1983, Dr. Sharp founded the Albert Einstein Institution, a non-profit organization that continues to support research and policy studies on strategic nonviolent action, and is committed to the defense of freedom, democracy, and the reduction of political violence through the use of nonviolent action. The Institution has consulted with resistance and pro-democracy groups across the world, from Asia to Eastern Europe to the Middle East. Dr. Sharp’s works are the ideological underpinning of the work for the Serbian-based nonviolent conflict training group, the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), which helped to train key activists in youth movements in the Eastern European color revolutions and the protest movement that toppled President Mubarak of Egypt in 2011.

Once people decide to be free, nothing can stop them.
— Desmond Tutu
Dr. Gene Sharp with Jamila Raqib, Executive Director of the Albert Einstein Institution

Dr. Gene Sharp with Jamila Raqib, Executive Director of the Albert Einstein Institution

How Nonviolent Action Works

It’s important for Millennials to have the tangible tools and tactics needed to design and execute our plans for lasting, positive change. When we understand how the game is played, we are equipped to rewrite the rules and change the game.

The following information are key highlights from Dr. Sharp’s book, How Nonviolent Struggle Works, to understand the dynamic between the grassroots and government.

In Dr. Sharp's view, all effective power structures have systems by which they encourage or extract obedience from the people they rule, and states, in particular, have complex systems for keeping people obedient. These complex systems include specific institutions, such as the police, courts, and regulatory bodies. They can also include cultural dimensions that inspire obedience by implying that power is monolithic, such as the dignity of a political office, or moral or ethical norms and taboos. Through these systems, people are presented with a system of sanctions, including imprisonment, fines, and ostracism, and rewards including titles, wealth, and fame, which influence the extent of their obedience.

Yet, a great strength can transmute into a great point of weakness in the face of contextual change. Dr. Sharp’s basic political assumption of nonviolent action is when people refuse to cooperate, withhold help or participation, and persist in their disobedience and defiance, they deny their opponents the basic human assistance and cooperation which any government or hierarchical system requires. When people do this in large enough numbers for a long enough period of time, that government or hierarchical system will no longer have power.

Where traditionally people have believed their options as either passive submission or violent action, Dr. Sharp presents a third alternative – struggle by means of nonviolent action, resting on the belief that the exercise of power depends on the consent of the ruled who, by withdrawing that consent, can control, and even destroy the power of their opponents.

Throughout his research, Dr. Sharp has observed the following demonstrable features of nonviolent action: as a technique, it occurs despite the absence of attention to the development of the technique itself; its practice is part spontaneous, part intuitive, and part vaguely patterned after a known case; it is usually practiced under highly unfavorable conditions; it is usually practiced with a lack of experienced leaders or participants; there are almost always no advance preparations, training, or consideration of strategy and tactics; and, its practitioners usually have little understanding of the technique or its history as there were no sources of information available to them to consult.

 

Why Nonviolence

A 2011 study by American researchers Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan found that out of 323 civil resistance campaigns around the world, between 1900 to 2006, 53 percent of nonviolent campaigns were successful, whereas only 26 percent of violent campaigns were. Of regime changes that resulted in a functioning democracy, 42 percent came from nonviolent campaigns, and only 4 percent from violent ones.

Opponents prefer violence. Resistance violence is seen to “legitimize” violent oppression. The opponents may provoke violence by very severe repression, or they may employ spies and agents provocateurs. If it is publicly revealed that the opponents have acted in these ways, the news could disastrously undermine some of their usual support and power position. Disciplined nonviolent resistance will help to expose any such agents.

The requirement that movement supporters maintain nonviolent discipline is rooted in the dynamics of the technique of nonviolent action. Without nonviolent behaviour, the opponents’ repression will not rebound to undermine their power through political jiu-jitsu and the mechanisms of change will not operate. Nonviolent behaviour is likely to contribute to achieving a variety of positive accomplishments. Four of these are: winning sympathy and support; reducing casualties; inducing disaffection and even mutiny of the opponents’ troops; and, attracting maximum participation in the nonviolent struggle.

The introduction of violence by resisters will reverse the process which produces strength in nonviolent action, and will increase the effectiveness of the opponents’ control measures. Violence by resisters shifts attention to the violence itself, away from the issues, and away from the courage of the resisters and the opponents’ own, usually much greater, violence. The introduction of violence into a nonviolent struggle movement may weaken nonviolent discipline, contribute to a shift to violence, and even lead to the collapse of the movement. The use of violence by the grievance group tends to unleash disproportionately severe repression by the opponents and to reverse any sympathy for the resisters which may be developing inside the opponents’ group. Success requires that only nonviolent “weapons” be used.

Understanding Political Power

 

Importance of power

  • Power is inherent in practically all social and political relationships.

  • Its control is the basic problem between political theory and political reality.

  • It is necessary to wield power in order to control the power of threatening adversaries.

  • Social power is the totality of all influences and pressures which can be used by and applied to groups of people, either to attempt to control the behaviour of others directly or indirectly, or to accomplish a group objective or group action.

  • Political power is that kind of social power which is wielded for political objectives, especially by governmental institutions or by people in opposition to or in support of such institutions. Political power this refers to total authority, influence, pressure, and coercion which may be applied to achieve or prevent the implementation of the wishes of the power-holder.

Nature of political power

  • The monolithic view of power sees people as dependent upon the goodwill, the decisions, and the support of their government or of any other hierarchical system. It perceives power as emanating from the few who stand at the pinnacle of command. It considers powers to be self-perpetuating, durable, not easily or quickly controlled or destroyed.

  • The social view of power sees governments or other systems to be dependent on the people’s goodwill, decisions, and support. It sees that power as continually rising from many parts of the society. It views political power as fragile, always dependent for its strength and existence upon a replenishment of its sources by the cooperation of a multitude of institutions and people – cooperation which may or may not continue. Therefore, political power can most efficiently be controlled at its sources.

  • Established democracies function on the premise of the social nature of power. Yet, in practice, elites and bureaucracies have entrenched their spectrums and silos of power to levels of reduced transparency and accountability. In all democratic nations, people power is decreasing, and monolithic power is increasing, most clearly demonstrated in the European Union. People in established democracies have fewer options and decreased ability to exercise social power.

Therefore, it’s important to discern what your opinion is of the role of government, and why the translation of this belief has created “left-wing” and “right-wing” politics. The political left favours greater government involvement, and the political right favours less. Libertarians favour managing the basics. Millennials favour the basics led by community consciousness.

Sources of political power

  • Authority, voluntarily accepted by the people and therefore is present without the imposition of sanctions.

  • Human resources, the number of people who obey them, cooperate with them, or provide them with assistance.

  • Skills, knowledge, and abilities of these people, in relation to the skills, knowledge, and abilities the opponent needs.

  • Intangible factors, the psychological and ideological habits and attitudes, and the presence or absence of a common faith, ideology, or sense of mission.

  • Material resources, the degree to which the opponent controls property, natural resources, financial resources, the economic system, communication, transportation, and so on, that helps determine the limits of their power.

  • Sanctions, the enforcement of obedience, which may be violent or not.

Why do people obey

 Obedience is the heart of political power, and all government is based upon consent. The explanation for why people obey are multiple, complex, and interrelated:

  • Habit

  • Fear of sanctions

  • Moral obligation

  • Self-interest

  • Psychological identification with rulers

  • Indifference

  • Absence of self-confidence

Freedom is not something which opponents “give” their subjects. It is something achieved in the interaction between society and government. Pacifism doesn’t work, for this reason, because freedom is dependent on this relationship, this interplay. Freedom requires action for its own existence. Without it, dictatorships, communist, and fascist governments take hold because of the default consent they’ve been allowed by the people.

Structure of resistance

Withdrawal of consent becomes politically significant, and the opponents’ will is thwarted, in proportion to the number of disobedient subjects and the degree of the opponents’ dependence upon them. The key question then becomes how to implement this insight into political power. While individual acts may at times be scarcely noticed, the defiance of organizations and institutions – churches, trade unions, business organizations, the bureaucracy, neighborhoods, villages, cities, regions, and the like – may be pivotal. The ability of the population to wield effective power and to control that of its opponents will be highly influenced by the condition of these non-state organizations and institutions. It is these “places” where power operates that provide the structural basis for the control of the opponents. Where these independent bodies are strong, the capacity to control the opponents will be strong. When these are weak, so will be the controls over the opponents’ power. It is through these bodies that people can collectively offer noncooperation and disobedience.

Are You Really Conservative or Liberal?

When I read about clashes around the world – political clashes, economic clashes, cultural clashes – I am reminded that it is within our power to build a bridge to be crossed. Even if my neighbor doesn’t understand my religion or understand my politics, he can understand my story. If he can understand my story, then he’s never too far from me. It is always within my power to build a bridge. There is always a chance for reconciliation, a chance that one day he and I will sit around a table together and put an end to our history of clashes. And on this day, he will tell me his story and I will tell him mine.
— Paulo Coelho

Humanity is a polarity existence and we exist in a polarized world, but we all contain an imperfect balance within ourselves of seemingly opposing forces. The most contentious of forces that divides humanity is morality.

Our personal moral foundations cause the greatest struggles for balance between individual liberty and social order. There are three factors that determine our moral foundations and why we are, or think we are, either conservative or liberal: biology, psychology, and our worldview.

A Divided Brain

Why is the brain divided? This is what psychiatrist Dr. Iain McGilchrist has sought to understand in over twenty years of research. He aims to prove there is a growing imbalance in our brains and help us understand how this makes us increasingly unable to grapple with critical economic, environmental and social issues; ones that shape our very future as a species. He believes that one half of our brain – the left hemisphere – is slowly taking power, and we in the Western world are simultaneously feeding its ambitions. This half of the brain is very proficient at creating technologies, procedures and systems, but it cannot understand the implications of these on the people and the world around it.

The right hemisphere understands the world. It sees the big picture of an interconnected world, understands relationships and body language. It is sustained, broad, open, vigilant, and alert, and creates art, intuition, interest, and imagination. The left hemisphere manipulates the world. It cannot make connections and sees the world as separate parts where details are important but not relationships, things and people are not unique and individual, and groups can organize the world into rules and bureaucracy. It is narrow, sharply focused, attention to detail, and sorts and files things into a system, perceiving people as body parts and can’t see how it all fits together. As human beings, we could not exist independently of either hemisphere, we need both perspectives through which to view and understand the world.

Dr. Helen Fisher’s research led her to understand how brain chemistry determines our personality and politics. Serotonin is more abundant in conservatives with traits including familiarity, being cautious but not fearful, calm and controlled, structured and orderly, fact-oriented and precise, having more close friends, networks, community, and an importance of belonging, being respectful, following the rules, conscientiousness, loyalty, and dependability. Dopamine is more abundant in liberals with novelty seeking and risk-taking behaviour, curiosity, restlessness, independence and self-reliance, impulsiveness, spontaneous decisions, physical and mental exploration, idea generation, mental flexibility and open-mindedness. Estrogen is the liberal with economic regulation and personal freedom, where Testosterone is the conservative with economic freedom and personal regulation. As we know, we all have these hormones in our bodies and imbalances create physical, mental, and emotional health issues.

 

Five Moral Foundations

Dr. Jonathan Haidt and a group of social and cultural psychologists sought to understand why morality varies so much across cultures yet still shows so many similarities and recurrent themes. Their theory, the five moral foundations, proposes that several innate and universally available psychological systems are the foundations of “intuitive ethics.” Each culture then constructs virtues, narratives, and institutions on top of these foundations, thereby creating the unique moralities we see around the world, and conflicting within nations too.

  1. Care/Harm: our mammalian evolution for empathy, attachment, kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.

  2. Fairness/Cheating: the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism, justice, rights, autonomy, and proportionality.

  3. Loyalty/Betrayal: our tribal history in forming shifting coalitions, patriotism, and self-sacrifice.

  4. Authority/Subversion: our primate history of hierarchical social interactions, leadership, followership, deference to legitimate authority, and respect for traditions.

  5. Sanctity/Degradation: shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination, underlying religious notions of living in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way, the body is a temple that can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants.

Dr. Haidt and his colleagues’ research applied this theory to political "cultures" of liberals and conservatives. They discovered the current American culture war can be viewed as arising from the fact that liberals try to create a morality relying primarily on the Care/Harm foundation supported by the Fairness/Cheating and Liberty/Oppression foundations. Conservatives, especially religious conservatives, determine morality using all six foundations.

 

Your Worldview

In his 1987 book, A Conflict of Visions, economist Thomas Sowell argues that the opposing moral values of conservatives and liberals are intimately linked to the vision a person holds about human nature, either as constrained (conservative) or unconstrained (liberal). Sowell argues that controversies over seemingly unrelated social issues such as taxes, welfare, social security, health care, criminal justice, and war repeatedly reveal a consistent ideological dividing line along these two conflicting visions, the Constrained Vision and the Unconstrained Vision. Depending on which view of human nature you believe to be true will largely determine how you believe issues should be addressed:

If human options are not inherently constrained, then the presence of such repugnant and disastrous phenomena virtually cries out for explanation—and for solutions. But if the limitations and passions of man himself are at the heart of these painful phenomena, then what requires explanation are the ways in which they have been avoided or minimized… In the unconstrained vision, there are no intractable reasons for social evils and therefore no reason why they cannot be solved, with sufficient moral commitment. But in the constrained vision, whatever artifices or strategies restrain or ameliorate inherent human evils will themselves have costs, some in the form of other social ills created by these civilizing institutions, so that all that is possible is a prudent trade-off.

Balance in a Complex World

Essentially, we are born predisposed to being either liberal or conservative at an intuitive and instinctual level, with our moral values predetermined by our brain structure, mix of hormones, moral emotions and reactions, and temperament. This explains why people can be predictably partisan about a range of issues that are seemingly unconnected. Yet both sides of the equation are valid, necessary, and true and can complement and balance out the negative extremes of the other.

As human beings, we have far more in common than what differentiates and divides us. We are all somewhat liberal and somewhat conservative and a person must no longer be both an economic and social liberal or conservative. All humans hold multiple contradictory beliefs and opinions at once, even when we recognize this inherent hypocrisy within ourselves.

Traditional partisan lines are changing in an increasingly polarized political arena. Most people, and likewise most Millennials, are broadly libertarian-minded progressive conservatives, where they do not necessarily feel compelled to hold others to the same value system they hold for themselves, they just want to live their lives and allow others to live theirs so long as harm does not cross the bough. When we can understand where the other person is coming from with respect to consideration of moral foundations, we are more likely to find a path forward that is more effective in dealing with the issues in a fact-based manner that can actually lead to positive developments and results.

Millennials: Saving Democracy by Changing the Game

Often by circumstance, generations of young adults propel our societies forward, with optimism, perhaps naiveté, and a refusal to abscond hope for a better future. The Millennial generation is increasingly disillusioned and distrustful of our democratic institutions, not because the institutions themselves are the problem, but because the people operating within them are. From politics and government to the mainstream news media, free speech and our justice system, we are facing a crisis of the legitimacy of our western democracies.

Lack of leadership, political dogma, entrenched and incompetent elites, and abdicating our responsibility to ourselves and each other has grown out of a sense of complacency and is leading us down a dangerous path. The stable foundation of our established, first-world, democratic societies is beginning to crack, not because of a lack of merit but because these institutions have been neglected and abused by decades of largely uninspiring, incompetent individuals in leadership positions, aggravating the same major issues they created. We have allowed, by inattention and inaction, special interests – whether they be politics, government, lobbyists, post-secondary classrooms, the legal system, or the mainstream news media – to determine our frame of reference for too long. The credibility of these institutions is crumbling fast, providing a new opportunity to determine what we think for ourselves, outside of their elitist narrow lens and scope of interest.

We must think outside of the box, at a time in human history when so much information and opportunity is available with the potential to improve our quality of life through innovative thinking and intelligent-risk approach. We cannot afford to allow our societies to decline further into weakness and susceptibility to the benefit of elitists whose mission is to control all of us for the gain of their personal, narrow agendas. The lack of leadership has led to a rise of fundamentalism across our societies, Western and otherwise, and is one of our greatest threats because so many problems are stemming from it: fundamentalism, or dogma, is the strict adherence to the fundamental principles of any set of beliefs. It is a central tactic of elites whose mentality is to control the rest of us and force us to conform to their agenda and worldview.

Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

The overwhelming success of Canadian psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson’s messages to Millennials of pursuing meaning and personal responsibility in our lives are indicative of a generation eager and even desperate to live a life of value, created in what we positively do for the benefit of ourselves and others

Capitalism and democracy offer the field of potential for this positive benefit through individual effort to occur. In his 1992 book The End of History, Francis Fukuyama speculated that once we reached the end of history, where humanity had delineated a single, final form of the best political, social, and economic system – democracy and capitalism – that people may begin to fight against this system as a struggle “against the just cause” and “struggle for the sake of struggle” because there is no longer anything significant left to struggle against: democracy triumphed over authoritarianism and capitalism triumphed over socialism. Fukuyama warned that “if the greater part of the world in which they live is characterized by peaceful and prosperous liberal democracy, then they will struggle against that peace and prosperity, and against democracy”.

Most Millennials are live-and-let-live libertarians who see possibility in the diversity of humanity, not socialists who desire to live and force others to live by the choking, bland yolk of conformity. Postmodernists see the world inside out, as they seek to continually inwardly break apart every aspect of a human being into separate parts that are meaningless on their own, instead of recognizing their comprised value as a complex and unique human identity. The gullible and uninformed will soon wake up to realize they have been duped by militant postmodernists and socialist glorifiers who are attempting to implement their failed ideals on a next generation of assumed suckers.

The prosperity and abundance of opportunity the first world offers are currently being met with a fear-based attitude in the postmodernists and politically far-left, who need the struggle for the sake of struggle Fukuyama posited, their inner fear projected outward. In their own aimlessness, they seek to pull everyone else down into their confusion rather than grasp the liberating risk of charting their own individual path. They will not succeed; the end of history marks the beginning of personal actualization, which brings us full circle to pursuing and achieving meaning. Therefore, Dr. Peterson’s message is so powerful because Millennials are a generation in this point in history and time receptive to responding to what we know in our souls to be necessary and true.

 

Critical Issues Lacking Leadership

The European Union is one of the wealthiest regions in the world. Over a third of well-educated Millennials across Europe as a whole, and nearly half in countries such as Greece and Spain, are unemployed with limited prospects. Historically, Europe leans left politically, yet Millennial anger and frustration is fueling the rise of populist sentiment and nationalist movements across Europe. They see the EU and the establishment elites as creating and perpetuating the conditions resulting in their unemployment, compounded by the migrant crisis provoking an "us versus them" mentality as they watch their governments welcome outsiders while ignoring their own stagnant prospects for an independent life.

Regional ideological and political games threaten Canadian’s energy security and therefore economic prosperity and quality of life. Both governments and professional environmental agitators in British Columbia on the west coast and Quebec on the east coast repeatedly attempt to stall and block federally approved pipelines to transport Alberta oil and natural gas across the country for Canadian use and export, requiring import of the same from non-democratic and non-environmentally responsible countries such as Saudi Arabia. Prior to the discovery of oil and gas reserves in Alberta in the 1930s, the province had been one of the most destitute in the country. Today, Quebec, a province that refuses to concede new pipelines from Alberta to access its coast, does not contribute its weight economically to the country compared to its political influence but is the primary beneficiary of billions of dollars in annual transfer payments from Alberta, even while Albertans continue to struggle through a recession.

University campuses are increasingly ground for radical left militants threatening to shut down free speech and free thought in the juvenile name of toleration, equality, and “safe spaces”. By employing political tactics honed forty years ago, ideological veterans inside and outside of faculties are using Millennial students as – to use the term oft-attributed to Vladimir Lenin – useful idiots. The counterculture of students in the 1960s promoted dissent, challenge, and “dangerous” ideas on campus, but today these same tactics are causing violent riots to protest invited speakers, shouting down and silencing professors and academic staff, and calling everyone who disagrees with their platform “racist,” “transphobic,” or whatever other categorization suits the identity politicians that day.

The United States have the highest rates of conviction and incarceration in the world, particularly of African Americans and Hispanics. Many of those arrested are too poor to afford legal counsel or bail, so they’re represented by overworked public defenders, and prosecutors offer them terms whereby they plead guilty to serve a lesser sentence than the potentially harsher sentence resulting from trial – a no win situation that presumes their guilt rather than innocence first. The scenario contributes to and perpetuates systemic poverty, violence, crime, and the devastation of these families and communities, and worsens tensions between police (often over-worked and under-resourced) and the neighbourhoods they serve.

The greatest polluters in the world are developing and emerging countries, such as China and India, yet left-wing politicians in the West have taken the torch of reducing harm to our natural environments to an ideological and unsustainable extreme by punishing taxpayers with punitive fees and forcing industry toward predetermined end results rather than supporting an innovative process toward end goals. At this point in time, renewable energy is in nearly every case more polluting than fossil fuels. German Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly scolded American President Donald Trump for pulling out of the Paris Accord, while the actions of Germany and the other signatories have scarcely come close to meeting their own targets. In Canada, carbon taxes (whether by that name or another) are imposed on citizens at all levels of government, whereby a citizen pays more on their electricity bill in taxes (including a federal goods and sales tax charged on top of the carbon levy itself) than for the actual electricity.

 

Toppling the Establishment Elite

In his latest book, Skin in the Game, Nassim Nicholas Taleb asked, “how do you own people? First, by conditioning and psychological manipulation; second, by tweaking them to have some skin in the game, forcing them to have something significant to lose if they disobey authority.”

According to Aristotle:

A man should live as he likes. This, they say, is the privilege of a freeman, since, on the other hand, not to live as a man likes is the mark of a slave. This is the second characteristic of democracy, whence has arisen the claim of men to be ruled by none, if possible, or, if this is impossible, to rule and be ruled in turns; and so it contributes to the freedom based upon equality.”

“These are, (1) the humiliation of his subjects; he knows that a mean-spirited man will not conspire against anybody; (2) the creation of mistrust among them; for a tyrant is not overthrown until men begin to have confidence in one another; … (3) the tyrant desires that his subjects shall be incapable of action, for no one attempts what is impossible, and they will not attempt to overthrow a tyranny, if they are powerless ... Another practice of tyrants is to multiply taxes, after the manner of Dionysius at Syracuse, who contrived that within five years his subjects should bring into the treasury their whole property … The people, having to keep hard at work, are prevented from conspiring. The Pyramids of Egypt afford an example of this policy … all these works were alike intended to occupy the people and keep them poor. The tyrant is also fond of making war in order that his subjects may have something to do and be always in want of a leader.

Democracy, transparency, and accountability are being undermined by the increasing scope and size of government and unelected bureaucracies, filled with self-serving people, not “civil servants”. Bureaucrats ignore the decisions of elected representatives if it suits them, because they know there’s another election coming up when that representative will be voted out for unfulfilled campaign promises, by the bureaucrats who refused to fulfill them, but keep their taxpayer-funded, pension-collecting jobs with no consequence. With perhaps the exception of Switzerland, the balance of power does not lie where it should, in the decisions of citizens, but increasingly with politicians, politicos, bureaucrats – the elites.

This is the bureaucrats’ game. They behave as though they are untouchable, which breeds arrogance and stupidity among their ranks. They are unelected and know they have (often union) job security, while politicians and their politico staff cycle through every election cycle, if they even last that long. Bureaucrats know the public will blame the politicians for not getting things done, and because we continue to elect increasingly less competent politicians (with equally less competent politicos “strategizing” and advising them), we perpetuate this attitude among those who actually decide how our tax dollars are spent, and how many more of them they need to fund what are often pet projects. There are no consequences for these people, who get rich at our expense, off their exorbitant taxpayer-funded salaries, whining when they don’t get raises (completely ungrateful for their job security while the rest of the citizenry suffers in economic downturns), and contributing nothing of value because if they were our democracies wouldn’t be in the early stages of death. They are parasites. They need complicity of the masses to continue their authoritarian ways. Their goal, through never ending tax increases, carbon levies, and red tape, is to redirect the responsibility and blame by turning us against each other (the middle class versus the 1%) instead of solidifying against them and keeping us preoccupied with the daily stress and struggle of financial lack so they can continue along their merry way, unaccountable for their failures.

Entrenched elites believe they are entitled to carry on as they always have and dig their heels in deeper when met with resistance. Politicians, government officials, and bureaucrats are increasingly unrepresentative of and unresponsive to the grassroots of society. Corporations put profit ahead of what is right for a human life and what is right for our environment – people deserve to be compensated in a way that is commensurate for a healthy livelihood, not just the bare minimum of human rights or legislation.  Our “justice” system increasingly allows defendants to play the system for their benefit, delaying or even preventing justice for those who deserve it. The mainstream news media and Hollywood have become special interest groups, knowing when you control information you can more easily, and increasingly, manipulate the masses.

We believe that most people in governance and leadership positions – the elites, the politicos, and the bureaucrats – are not interested in bettering life for us and have proven they are in fact incapable or unwilling to do so. How many elections have gone by where you either haven’t voted, or at least considered not voting, because you felt the result would make no difference, even if a new government were formed with a new political party? The game is set, you don’t like the rules, so you choose not to play. The problem is, the players are the last people you want in these powerful, influential positions. Former UK Member of Parliament Douglas Carswell aptly labeled these oligarchical elites as parasites. 

Shine Out the Dark

Democracy is under threat, not because Millennials don’t value it, but because democratic institutions have lost credibility having been abused by the people who run them. Millennials believe government has the potential to create a lot of good and positive impact on society yet is failing to do so because of the people running the show. Neither do we necessarily think government has a lot, or should have a lot, of influence in society. We care deeply about freedom of choice, whether we choose to exercise those choices personally or not.

We cannot afford to lose our democratic rights and freedoms, yet we are: freedom of speech, freedom of thought and religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, personal privacy, the right to justice and equality before the law. These rights and freedoms are meant to ensure equal opportunity, but they and the strength of our democracies are now threatened by significant, growing problems that, if not addressed, will destroy our free societies. Stating this is not an exaggeration; most of the world does not live the way we take for granted. Generations before us fought and died to establish, preserve, and protect our rights and freedoms, and if we don’t pay attention, Millennials will be forced to make the same sacrifices. Now there are students on campuses spitting on the memories and memorials of the youth from generations ago, projecting their present-day privileged values on another era. In the twentieth century, war defined the generations protecting our right to freedom. Think about Europe at the start of the Second World War – how many people thought their democratic rights were secure, only to wake up one morning and see military tanks rolling down their streets? The loss of our democratic rights does not happen immediately, it’s like a frog in a pot of water being heated, slowly boiling to death. Many dictators and tyrants have used democratic means to gain power to govern antidemocratically. We are now at the simmer point.

We have elected ideologues instead of leaders, chosen fundamentalist doctrine instead of pragmatism and respect, resulting in less choice and flexibility for in our everyday lives. The elites treat tax dollars with little, if any, regard for the people from whom that money came. They don’t care about the poor, the middle class, or the 1%, they care only for themselves and the system that enables them. They force us to become more dependent on the state, leaving us helpless and unable to determine the best course for our lives, and unable and unwilling to protest in response, which creates societies that are unstable and susceptible to polarized influence and action. Millennials in socialist and communist countries (economic systems that have repeatedly proven throughout history to be failures) are the least interested, broadly speaking, of contributing to the positive improvement of their societies, likely because they feel limited or unable to catalyze change within the intensely controlled government structure. Over governance has choked financial independence from our citizens and burdened the Millennial and future generations with enormous debt. This is unsustainable, individually and societally, and must change.

To begin with, we need nuance. The elites who drive the conversation rely on outdated political ideologies because they don’t have any new ideas to bring to the table, which is why our problems get compounded. These elites don’t have the interest or backbone to allow necessary evolutions to take place, and narrowly believe from a closed-minded perspective that they can control every outcome with more regulation and more money.

Existing political parties, partisan organizations, and messaging do not resonate with Millennials. Across the globe we are witnessing political and governmental disorder because the people no longer believe and trust what the elites are saying and doing. Politicians including Millennial Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, American President Donald Trump, and French President Emmanuel Macron are a few examples of the “independent candidate” response from citizens to the challenges our democratic, capitalist societies are facing. Millennials will increasingly be at the front of the evolution of representation and governance going forward and will use democratic means against political, economic, and societal elites to achieve actual democratic ends.

How Millennials Can Create Political Change, Now

Serbia and Otpor!

The former Yugoslavia was a country created in 1918. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, and during the 1990s, Yugoslavia fell apart due to corruption, brutal war, multi-ethnic tensions, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, and ultimately independence declarations by Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia.

Former Yugoslav President and Serbian communist leader Slobodan Milosevic became President of Serbia, and his regime was marked by corruption and violence. He refused to acknowledge the clear, democratic victory of an opposition coalition in the 1996 municipal elections, which defeated Milosevic’s party, and for the next 88 days, nonviolent protests brought Serbia to a standstill. Eventually, Milosevic capitulated to internal and international pressures. Yet, many coalition members turned out to be as corrupt as the communists, and the coalition fell apart, returning free rein to Milosevic.

In 1998, Milosevic introduced new laws restricting autonomy and freedom of expression at universities, and threatened independent news media. Outraged, a group of students led by Srdja Popovic founded the organization Otpor, meaning resistance, calling for the removal of Milosevic and the establishment of democracy and the rule of law. “Our ambition is to change the political consciousness of the Serbian populace,” said Popovic of Otpor’s goal to ultimately achieve transformation of political culture, by focusing on their primary objective first – removing Milosevic at the ballot box.

Otpor learned from the failures of other resistance movements, such as Tiananmen Square's democracy movement, which demonstrated you can’t win against military and police might. Like all dictators and tyrants, Milosevic maintained control of the populace through fear – the status quo of oppressive and corrupt societies. So Otpor employed the tactic of what they called “laughtivism” – enthusiasm and humor to combat fear and apathy. With irony and sarcasm, Otpor methodically mocked Milosevic’s power, from Jorge Luis Borges’ fundamental belief that "violence is the last sanctuary of the weak." Use humor to mock the oppressor, and mock their method of trying to discredit you.

Steve York, Bringing Down A Dictator documentary filmmaker, said of Otpor, "Every nonviolent movement has as its first obstacle the problem of overcoming fear. The Otpor kids were brave. They expected to be arrested, but they prepared for arrest with all sorts of publicity stunts and by training their activists how to behave when interrogated, by recruiting lawyers to help, by building solidarity. They calculated that their arrests, combined with their use of humor and ridicule, if sustained long enough, would persuade ordinary people to overcome their fear."

Otpor studied Dr. Sharp’s strategies for nonviolence and used them for the basis of their training manuals. Instead of protest marches and occupying plazas, Otpor used street theatrics – rock concerts, a lunar eclipse event featuring the eclipse of Milosevic's face, a New Year's Eve party in 2000 where the new year was rung in with the names and pictures of those who were killed in Milosevic's wars, and giving passersby’s on a busy downtown street a baseball bat to hit a wooden barrel with Milosevic’s face painted on it. They used lighthearted, low-risk tactics, to minimize the risk of violence, such as chasing officials while banging pots and pans, and offering police flowers to encourage defections. They tried a tactic used in Chile against military dictator General Pinochet, where people drove at half speed to slow the whole country down.

Srdja Popovich, one of the founders of Otpor! and the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS)

Srdja Popovich, one of the founders of Otpor! and the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS)

Not aligning with any political parties, Otpor organized a grassroots campaign against Milosevic for the 2000 election. Shamed by Otpor’s widespread grassroots support, the opposition coalesced around a law professor candidate, Vojislav Kostunica. On election night, Otpor and other independent groups had 30,000 trained volunteers at polling stations across the country to prevent fraudulent election results. Kostunica won, but Milosevic demanded a runoff vote, in an attempt to buy time and manipulate the outcome. Kostunica called for a general strike, and Otpor organized road blockades that brought the country to another standstill. Hundreds of thousands of Serbs gathered outside the Parliament building, and the police, whom Otpor convinced were Serbian citizens first, ignored orders to respond to the crowd. Milosevic admitted his defeat.

For over a year, thousands of Serbs had supported Otpor in their calculated strategy to undermine Milosevic’s legitimacy, turn the police and army against him, and force him to call an election. After the revolution, Otpor held the new government to account in its role as a watch dog, launching campaigns on government accountability, democratic reform, and fighting corruption. Otpor’s movement then turned into a political party, and eventually merged with the Democratic Party, with many of Otpor’s members elected to Parliament.

Otpor became a model for other youth-led movements across Eastern Europe, providing training in Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. In 2002, Popovic and other Otpor members founded The Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS). This non-profit, non-governmental, international network provides educational work related to strategic nonviolent conflict, and has been instrumental in training groups beyond Europe.

 

Tunisia and the Dignity Revolution

The term Arab Spring was coined in 2011, following the successful Dignity Revolution in Tunisia, to describe the wave of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across the Middle East. Unlike revolutions in other nations in the region, only Tunisia was successful in overthrowing their dictator and transitioning to a functional, democratically elected government.

Over the past few decades, the population of the Middle East has exploded, with two-thirds of people currently under the age of 30. Tunisians, like many in the Middle East, face high and increasing levels of poverty and unemployment, with political corruption and repression. The Dignity Revolution began when a 26-year old street vendor lit himself on fire, later dying of his injuries, in a public square in response to police harassment, sparking nationwide protests. Like many young Tunisians, his university degree was not enough for him to find a job in a country with high youth unemployment, so Mohamed Bou'aziz began selling fruit to support his family, when police demanded bribes and then confiscated his vending cart.

In the initial protests, armed forces fought back and dozens of protestors were killed. As protests spread, however, they became more difficult to control, and despite President Ben Ali giving concessions to protestors, clashes and protestor deaths continued. After a month, a state of emergency was declared and President Ben Ali fled the country when armed forces refused to crack down on the nationwide pro-democracy protests. Protestors did not support the interim government, which disbanded Tunisia’s secret police force several months later before a Tunisian court dissolved Ben Ali’s political party, liquidating their assets and banning them from running in future elections.

After nearly a year of interim government, the first parliamentary elections were held in late 2011 to select a new assembly and draft a new constitution.  At nearly 70% voter turnout, a moderate Islamist party and their coalition with two secular parties won more than 40% of the vote.

Tunisians demanded employment, freedom, and dignity. Six years later, young Tunisians are still waiting for poverty relief, job creation, and improved economic conditions, and a fresh wave of protests have begun against the democratically elected government leaders’ failure to implement tangible improvements. Unlike the spontaneous initial protests of 2010-2011, these protests are organized by mainly university graduates facing long-term unemployment. Protestors are camping outside of the governor’s office and main intersections in a southern region of Tunisia, where they have shut down a key oil pipeline. They demand a quota for jobs filled by locals at the oil companies drilling in the region, the creation of jobs at an environmental agency, and an investment fund for job creation programs.

Like Millennials everywhere, the protestors of this “Second Revolution,” as they’re calling their leaderless, democratic movement, distrust the mainstream media, and are utilizing social media to organize. They reject involvement and alignment with any political party.

 

Hong Kong and Demosisto

Hong Kong became a British colony in 1842, and the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed between the People’s Republic of China and the United Kingdom in 1984 led to the transfer of Hong Kong’s sovereignty back to China in 1997. Due to the vast cultural differences that had developed over 155 years, Hong Kong, in theory, exists under the principle of “one country, two systems,” whereby Hong Kong maintains political and economic independence from mainland China. This arrangement to maintain the existing way of life will continue for fifty years, until 2047. In practice, however, the Chinese government has been incrementally exerting its influence in Hong Kong.

Joshua Wong was fourteen years old when he started the student organization Scholarism in 2012 to protest the National Education curriculum the Chinese government wanted introduced in Hong Kong public schools, which Scholarism viewed as an attempt at brainwashing. After ten days of protests, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive announced schools would hold autonomy over the decision whether to implement the new curriculum or not. Scholarism had won the battle.

In 2014, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council was engaged with the Chinese government in an electoral reform consultation process, where the Chinese government decided its Nominating Committee would pre-screen and determine who the final slates of eligible candidates would be in Hong Kong elections. By the fall of that year, Scholarism was leading protests and strikes against the decision. Hong Kong citizens did not want to see the development of incremental conditions that had led to the Chinese military killing thousands of peacefully protesting students in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

What became known as the Umbrella Revolution later that year, named for the movement’s supporters using umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas, was an impromptu merging of Scholarism with Occupy Central, who were organizing in response to the Chinese government’s decision. For nearly three months, upwards of over 100,000 protestors peacefully occupied the city’s main financial and business district, including the main roads. Initially, the movement had the support of a huge proportion of Hong Kong citizens, but as time passed, with transportation blocked and businesses in the area losing revenue, support gradually slipped. People wanted to know what the movement was accomplishing, and the Chinese government knew they only needed to wait out the situation. Scholarism had won an early battle, but ultimately lost the war against the Chinese government when police cleared the protestors and their encampments.

Regardless of the outcome, Scholarism had applied the principles of nonviolence in their movement successfully. Wong and his fellow activists announced Scholarism was folding, and in its place, the launch of their Millennial-led, pro-democracy political party called Demosisto. In the 2016 Legislative Council election, 23-year old Nathan Law, one of the founders of Scholarism, was elected. He is Hong Kong’s youngest ever legislator. Like Otpor in Serbia, Demosisto realized societal change occurs through the political system, not occupying streets. Demosisto is calling for a referendum to take place in 2047, to determine Hong Kong’s future.

 

Nonviolence in Established Democracies

There are issues in this world bigger than ourselves and our opinions about them, bigger than the circle of people and corner of the world we identify with. Everyone who supported Otpor, the Dignity Revolution, and Demosisto is as varied within their nation as they are compared across regional lines. Political polarization, partisan bickering, and ideological hatred is antiquated and, frankly, boring. This is not what humanity is meant to be or to be focusing on. Millennials have so much potential available to us to create the future, not destroy and divide. Variety and diversity of thought, opinion, and experience is an invaluable element of humanity. When we first unite in what we share, then the differences among us are much more understandable and can be addressed in a positive way.

The mainstream media often reports revolutions as spontaneous uprisings, but successful movements only occur after years of a shift in societal consciousness and organization behind the scenes.

Building a movement takes time and must have the buy-in and support from all segments of society. Successful social movements appear to be, and often are, led by youth. But success only comes when the rest of society supports those youth, because essentially youth leaders are the face of a society’s sentiment, and have the energy, and even at times naivete, to take on threats older generations have fought before or didn’t have the opportunity to. The people of a society must be capable of engaging in the movement, not too busy just trying to survive to be able to mobilize. Revolution itself is also not enough, we must be prepared for the work that comes afterward to retain the gains and continue to move forward, toward new goals.

What do these successful examples of nonviolence movements in Serbia, Tunisia, and Hong Kong have in common?

  • Internal resistance, not external intervention, is the best driver for political change.

  • The core principles of nonviolence are unity, planning, and nonviolent discipline.

  • Don’t be predictable or confrontational.

  • Have a vision and clear plan of action, with tangible goals for supporters to build a strategy around.

  • Target the right pillars of support – the turning point in every successful nonviolent movement is flipping certain key institutions in your favour.

  • Expand the battlefield and pull third parties toward your goals.

  • Join forces with religious institutions – the church has been an important pillar in many successful movements.

 

When Nonviolence Fails

The leaders and supporters of the nonviolence movements in Serbia, Tunisia, and Hong Kong, and many others, made their decisions to organize with the expectation they would meet a violent response. There is no guarantee of success, or that there won’t be arrest, torture, or death. Dictators don’t give up without a fight, especially in societies where democracy and personal freedoms are not the cultural norm.

In the case of terrorist movements, research by political scientists Audrey Cronin and Max Abrahms shows these almost always die off without achieving any of their strategic aims, such as the failed independence movements in Puerto Rico, Ulster, Quebec, Basque Country, Kurdistan, and Tamil Eelam.

You have the choice to accept continuing to live in a system that does not meet your democratic expectations and needs, or you can do something to change it. What options for change do you have – meet violence with violence, guaranteeing violence, or meet violence with nonviolence, reducing the chance of violence?

Assuming the World Health Organization’s definition of violence as "the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation," it could also be argued that our democratic government and capitalist societies are already nonviolent, so if we don’t like the way things are, what use is more nonviolence?

Abuse and neglect are also forms of violence, and the non-physical psychological application of violence also aims to exert power and control, whether intentional or as result of incompetence, which leads to both mental health and physical health problems. The impact of psychological violence can be just as significant as that of physical forms of violence, where the actions humiliate and degrade, limit or monitor access to things or people, and threaten or exploit vulnerabilities, leading to anxiety, stress and stress-related physical pain and illness, and depression. If you’re underemployed or unemployed, possibly for an extended period of time, with limited or no future prospects despite your best efforts, you’re likely to criticize the negligence of your government in creating those poor economic conditions. Even moreso if you question the abuse of power by politicians and bureaucrats who continue to benefit while you continue to suffer. 

In their book based on their 2011 study, Chenoweth and Stephan found almost three-quarters of nonviolent movements get either some or all of what they demanded, compared with only a third of the violent ones. They also show that the success rate of nonviolent protest movements has steadily climbed since the 1940s, while that of violent movements has fallen since the 1980s.

There are no guarantees in life, about anything. At least the odds with nonviolence are in your favor.

Syria's Monster of Fear, Part 4

The Identity of Victory

Salafist identity was set apart from all of the other identities in play within the country as it not only drew universal condemnation from all but also forced a choice on outside actors.  The inability for the West to find a group not corrupted by Salafists allowed the Assad regime room to act; defying a “Red Line” set by the Obama administration, the regime went on to consolidated its holdings, secured allies, and Assad declared to the world that Assad was vindicated in his initial claims of Salafist infiltration. While it would have been hard to predict the rapid rise of the Islamic State, even by Assad, there are those who argue that even the fall of Palmyra and Deir ez-Zor played into Assad’s narrative at great loss of life to the regime.

Whether it came in the form of the Islamic State, or Jabhat al-Nursa, the non-negotiable identity of Salafist Islamist’s conviction towards jihad and traditionalist Islam proved to be the deathblow of the 2011’s uprising initial goals of reform and freedom. When used in conjunction with the latent fear of sectarian violence in Syrian society following the Hama Massacre and the observation of the Iraq Insurgency, the wielding and application of this identity would be the hallmark of the Assad regimes success in holding onto power. One only has to look at regimes in Tunisia or at Ghaddafi to see what a possible result would be had Salafism not been allowed to spread.

The Assad regime utilized the well documented and historically relevant identity of Salafism as a weapon, by not only allowing it to foster, but facilitating it’s spread throughout his political opponents, by orchestrating a narrative of fear. Salafist groups were portrayed as the core of the uprising from the start, and manufactured so this would come to fruition. The success of this tactic proved to not only divide and conquer the opposition, but prevent significant foreign opposition against Assad’s reign. Salafism once again had proved that it could be counted on for its fanaticism, violence and an unshakeable belief of its righteous goals. The once hopeful revolution that formed around democracy and reform was soon driven by terror and sectarian motivations. By 2014, and with the rise to dominance of the Islamic State, there was little trace left of the uprising. Assad had successfully corrupted his opponents with an identity he knew would see his country - and the world - accept him out of fear as the better of the two ideological options. While the war in Syria is far from over, and far from decided, his skillful manipulations in 2011/12 of Salafist Jihadist non-negotiable identity would be the moment Bashar al-Assad defeated the uprising.

“Simply put, the regime let loose the monster of fear…

— Rasha Omran


About the Author

Gavin Bryan John is a freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer. He is currently pursuing a degree in Middle Eastern studies at the University of Calgary, and has a Journalism diploma with a major in Photojournalism.

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