K. J. Pedersen
“DEMOCRACY FAILS BECAUSE it is prone to the corrupting influences of demagogues. We have all heard this said before, have we not?” Herra Eadweardson, our history teacher, said. “Nevertheless, history has proven it true. The history of the 20th Century, above all else, proves democracy is the impractical — no, impossible — dream of democratic-republicans, social democrats, and certain addle-headed liberals. European civilization’s experiment in democratic-republicanism was a failure.”
Shane’s eyes flashed. “So, Herra Eadweardson, logic follows then that this Republic was the product of demagoguery!”
I couldn’t help it, I laughed out loud. Shane had a quick mind and sharp tongue. Wulfric, Shane, and I often talked about politics, philosophy, and history when we got together. We often sat on the lawn in the city park, and talked well into the night, always half-drunk, but the discussion and arguments were always lucid, vibrant, engaging. When I first met Shane, he was bitter, grief-stricken, and he talked little, but as he came to grips with the death of his father, I noticed a change. Indeed, there were moments of bitterness, and outbursts of pent of up rage, but he was passionate, and argued very well. And for that, I must admit, I admired him. I leaned forward in my chair. This was going to be interesting.
“Then you misinterpret the events of last century,” the teacher said.
“No, I understand what occurred perfectly well,” Shane said. “But you are right, Herra Eadweardson, demagoguery played a substantial role in the subversion of democratic-republicanism in the AFR. Nevertheless, I stand by my assertion: It also played a significant role in the creation of this new global, republican order.”
Herra Eadweardson stood up from behind his desk, came around front, and sat on the edge. He looked at Shane for a long moment. “As I said, democracy was a failure.” Then he looked out to the class. “So how did the democratic state come apart? What was the process?”
“That’s easy,” I said before Shane could. “It truly started in 1979 when a law was passed in Liberia which charged a fairly substantial fee to those individuals who ran for the Senate and Landsthing. In 1980, a similar bill was submitted and passed regarding those seeking federal offices.” I leaned forward, and went on, “At first the political parties simply paid the fees for their candidates, and because the AFR had, and has, a ‘winner-takes-all’ — majoritarian — electoral process, the smaller parties, which seldom won seats anyway, were the only voices to protest.”
“But there were legal challenges against the law, weren’t there?” the teacher said.
Ælfred Wurthingas spoke up. “True, there were numerous attempts to strike down the new law, but the Federal Court deemed the law constitutional, citing precedents set in the 18th Century with the founding of the Republic of Nova Anglia. At that time, property requirements and fees were well established. The men who founded the country knew what they were doing,” he said. “It was only later when democrats and socialists entered the political arena that the republic was destabilized by their endless demands in the name of ‘fairness.’”
Markus Eiriksson concurred: “From there it was all downhill.”
“Oh, yes,” Shane said. “All down hill, Markus. All down hill indeed. The workweek was reduced to forty hours; there was money in the pockets of the working-classes; open, universal public education was established; universities and colleges flourished in every city from coast to coast; literacy was wide-spread; cheap, efficient public utilities served the people; and almost 70% of families occupied their own homes. What a horrible era that was.”
“It was unsustainable,” Ælfred said simply. “And what of the tax burden? The State had no right to tax income at all. Much less did the State have the right to enact a progressive income tax. Taxation is theft.”
“What right does it have to charge sales taxes then?” Shane replied. “And what right does Capital have to tax the working-classes in the form of labor?”
“Hold on,” the teacher said. “We’re getting off track. What was the next step taken to end universal suffrage?”
“Property requirements were then passed into law for those seeking a seat with the Landsthing. Soon all federal offices had associated property and/or income requirements. Challenges in the courts met failure because of earlier precedents, just as Ælfred said,” Shane said. “The electorate was disgusted with whole thing. It was all just ‘politics as usual’ in their eyes, and even though only half of them ever voted, the assault on the general public’s rights to run for office was still not enough to rouse them to take action at the ballot box. After all, many thought, it wasn’t such a huge change considering the Conservatives and Liberals alike were already the lap-dogs of corporate lobbyists, and only the wealthy and well-to-do were ever elected anyway.”
Ælfred rolled his eyes.
“And then, in 1986, the Voter Registration and Responsibilities Act was passed, which established a poll tax,” Shane said. “Of course, this poll tax was called a ‘fee’ as taxation had become synonymous with theft.” He glared at Ælfred, and said, “The fee was enough to discourage lower-income individuals from voting. By that time though, a significant portion of lower-income individuals didn’t bother to vote at all because they had become skeptical of the political process anyway.”
“The public was apathetic then?” the teacher pressed.
“That’s another reason democracies fail,” Markus said. “Voter apathy.”
“Voter apathy? Or was it voter contempt for the way moneyed-interests had insinuated themselves so deeply into the political machinery of the State? Both political parties, the Conservatives and Liberals alike, were — and are — heavily influenced by the banks, law firms, and the military-industrial complex,” Shane said. “The base of support for the abolition of universal suffrage was Liberian, primarily among the upper-middle class which, though they enjoyed a lifestyle of prosperity unsurpassed — to that point — in human history, they still believed themselves to be too heavily taxed. They rallied the media to their cause in the name of getting ‘the federal government off their back.’ They didn’t propose the abolition of the State, they simply wanted the burden shifted, from their shoulders, and placed entirely upon the shoulders of the ‘lazy, hedonistic, pampered, and ill-educated horde.’
“By 1998 property requirements had been introduced in order to register to vote at all. The franchise was limited and the property and income requirements steadily increased with each passing year and in tandem with the free movement of capital — that is, capital flight — an increasingly ‘service-oriented’ job-market, and the steadily deteriorating wages of the working-classes. With that, universal suffrage, and thus the democratic-republic, was abolished.
“By 2016 the so-called ‘welfare-state’ had been completely dismantled, along with public education, the regulation of industry and commerce, labor laws — including child labor laws — and the gulf between the poorest working members of society, and the wealthiest ten percent, steadily increased from an income ratio of 5-1 in 1998 to 10-1 in 2024. It stayed relatively steady, but now, for the last ten years, it has begun to increase yet again.”
Ælfred mocked Shane: “You have the left-wing explanation worked out to a science.”
“Oh, I know the right-wing explanation just as well. I’ll give it to you in a nutshell: The ‘human-herd’ — hoi polloi — is too stupid to concern itself with res publica; leave it to those who understand politics.”
“Herra Mac Cormac!” the teacher warned.
“First, let’s be clear on this: The AFR was a democratic-republic,” Shane said. “And that is not the same thing as a democracy.”
“Well, Shane, if you’re going to be pedantic,” Herra Eadweardson said to a few chuckles from the class, “then you’re correct in the sense that laws were passed by representatives elected by the people rather than enacted by the people themselves. Except in a few cases where plebiscites were called for.”
“Nevertheless, the differences between representative government and participatory democracy are significant, and the distinction must be made. Like I said, the AFR was never a democracy,” Shane said. “And as far as representative government was concerned, it was hardly democratic either, considering the absence of proportional representation. Without proportional representation, the government was never truly representative, merely majoritarian.”
“But proportional representation permits authoritarian, even totalitarian, political parties to participate in the political process,” Markus said.
“First off, the abolition of universal suffrage in and of itself was an authoritarian action. It concentrated political power totally in the hands of a minority. In this respect, I dare say it was totalitarian! It was proposed by the Conservatives, and ratified by Liberals, and therefore, as far as I’m concerned, both are authoritarian, even totalitarian, political parties,” Shane said. “In those nations which had proportional representation, the decline and abolition of universal suffrage only occurred after the formation of the Terran Republic.”
“Shane’s right,” I said. “In the United Republics of Scandia, for example, there were many different parties represented, and most of those parties stood firm against any inroads against universal suffrage. It wasn’t until a right-wing coalition government — formed between the Hójra, Folke-Kristelig, and Fædrelands parties — came to power, that the people’s democratic rights were whittled away. And even that was largely the result of economic pressures placed on those democracies by the Terran Republic — dominated by the AFR, Sinæ, and the Rus — with its legal insistence upon ‘Free Trade,’ and subsequent capital flight away from those nations which insisted upon maintaining democratic and public economic institutions.”
Shane looked at the teacher. “Isn’t that true? Isn’t it true that it was much more difficult for anti-democratic ‘populist’ forces to rally the public in those nations which had a pluralistic political system than those which were simply majoritarian?”
Herra Eadweardson scratched his forehead. “Yes, Shane. That is true.”
Markus Eiriksson said, “Nevertheless, democracy was subverted by demagoguery.”
“Yes, indeed! But, as I said, the present form of republican government was what those demagogues called for!” Shane said. “Plutocrats, aristocrats, oligarches — all of these were the demagogues which denounced democracy right from the very beginning.”
“And rightly so! Democracy isn’t just a system of government that is easily subverted, it is a corrupting — immoral — form of government in the first place!” Ælfred said. “The founders of the Republic of Nova Anglia put it best three-hundred years ago in their treatise Federal Republicanism and the Modern State: ‘The primary purpose of the State is to protect the Property and Wealth of the wisest and most judicious castes of Men. Because the age of Monarchs and the titular Nobility has passed, we therefore advocate Republicanism as a bulwark against the democratic inclinations of the Masses, and the chaotic ruin such a Government would bring down upon Humanity.’ In other words, Shane: Allow the people to vote, allow them access to the State apparatus, and they will inevitably make inroads against private property.”
“Yes, indeed, Ælfred, that quote says it all,” Shane said slyly.
“Look at what the unions are doing right now!” Markus interjected. “They are trying to override the sanctity of private property rights.”
“And what is the precondition for slavery, Ælfred? Markus?” Shane demanded. “Private property! Slaves are the private human property of others! The Republic of Nova Anglia established chattel slavery in its very constitution!”
“It permitted it,” Ælfred said.
“It established private property as an ‘inviolable right,’” Shane said. “It recognized African slaves as the private property of their masters, and provided for the return of slaves to their masters should they run away. It didn’t merely permit slavery at all, Ælfred: It established slavery as a fundamental right.”
“Nevertheless, chattel slavery was abolished,” Markus said. “African slavery in the New World was ended one-hundred-seventy years ago.”
“Only after the abolitionist Christian Law Society of Nova Anglia and Red Republicans from Francia Nova not-so-secretly supplied arms to escaped slaves, men still in bondage, willing freemen, and agitated for insurrection,” Shane said.
“And what do you propose, ultimately? That the State should own and govern property instead?” Ælfred retorted.
“It required State action to put an end to chattel slavery!” I interjected.
“And such action damn near started a civil war which would have destroyed our nation,” Markus replied quickly.
I said, “But it was the democratic process which overturned slavery. It was regulated, and mitigated, and ultimately abolished.”
“That’s just the way it works. The State regulates, taxes, ‘mitigates abuses,’ and abolishes. Step by step, like a predator, the State moves forward,” Ælfred said. “Private property is the greatest defense against the encroaching powers of the State.”
Shane laughed. “Listen to yourself! The State exists now, but do you call for its abolition? No. Of course not. Why? Because the State is now solely the domain of the propertied classes. That was the point in limiting the franchise, Ælfred! The ‘encroaching powers of the State’ only cause you alarm when they encroach upon your privilege! Never mind that those powers now encroach upon the rights of the working-classes!”
“So, you are a state socialist,” Ælfred said.
“Absolutely not! With Statism, the root of the evil remains: The concentration of social, political, and economic powers in the hands of a few,” Shane said. “The State is the vehicle of class rule, the means by which one group of men dominate the whole of society by means of physical coercion!”
“Then you are an anarchist!” Ælfred said,
Shane ignored him and pressed on: “Consider the aristocratic nonsense you just recited, Ælfred, and then tell me with a straight face that you object to the powers and authority of the State. Shall I repeat your quote? ‘The primary purpose of the State is to protect the Property and Wealth of the wisest and most judicious castes of Men.’”
Ælfred didn’t reply to that. His eyes locked with Shane’s.
Shane went on, “You are telling me that in order to prevent the plebeians from expropriating the property of the patricians — the ‘wisest and most judicious’ caste — that this ‘enlightened’ body must expropriate the people of their right to participate in res publica — the public matter!”
Again Ælfred said nothing.
I got again into the verbal melee, and said, “With the formation of the Terran Republic, we see a worldwide super-state, and a worldwide ruling-class. Four-hundred-fifty families own 22% of the world’s wealth, another one and a quarter million families own an additional 36% percent of the wealth. Fully 95% of world’s wealth is owned by only 20% of its population.” I was angry. “Is that fair, Ælfred? Is that just? The situation has become almost as severe as it was in Francia before the Great Republican Revolution, or under the Tsar of the Rus. The tremendous capacity of industry does not serve the public generally, but produces luxuries — yachts, ‘sports submarines,’ palatial estates, Lunar vacations, and luxury hotels in orbit. But on the other hand, diseases which were conquered in the 20th Century in this country returned in the first years of the 21st Century, and they are still with us to this day.”
“The market is the only efficient means of regulating production and distribution,” Ælfred said. “History proves that over and over again.”
“History proves the market is only efficient when there is broad public access to it! You say efficient, do you? Today? As the market is now constituted? You have got to be blind, deaf, and/or crazy, Ælfred!” I said. “Did you just not hear what I said? The nation’s infrastructure is falling apart! But I don’t suppose you care. After all, it isn’t happening in your neighborhood!”
“Capitalism and the market allocate resources to the efficient,” Ælfred replied. “It is as simple as that, Toby, and your emotionalism undermines your arguments.”
“Capitalism allocates resources to the willful, wealthy, and powerful! As I said, a free market is valueless unless one has access to that market in the first place! Why? Because the market only responds to demands which have been registered,” I said. “And how are demands registered? With money! And who dispenses and regulates the value of that money? Those who hold private property — the means of production, distribution, and finance — of course. There is a reason the entire science is called political-economy, after all. Because economics is but one of many political matters!”
“Absolutely,” Shane said. “Even apart from the State, it is still a political matter. And the market is nothing more than an aggregate of those institutions which deal with matters of political-economy. They are political institutions and as with all such institutions, they are used to advance the goals of their directors.
“As for capitalism, if defined as broadly as ‘the market’ is, it is simply any system which deals with the utilization of capital, be it natural capital, money capital, or ‘human capital.’ Thus socialism is ‘social-property capitalism,’ and communism is ‘common-property capitalism.’ But by capitalism, Ælfred, you mean exclusively ‘private-property capitalism,’ and that ultimately amounts to nothing more than the feudalism of movable property!”
“You’re a fucking socialist, Shane,” Markus said. “And what you said is not true!”
“Herra Eiriksson,” the teacher said, “please watch your language.”
Shane ignored Markus’ profanity. “What of the word feudalism? Feodum, fee, fief — they are all related. They all refer to Property! But whose property? Liberals — like Ælfred here — insist property is the precondition for Liberty. If that’s true, then our society is only twenty percent free, and eighty percent serf. If property is, in fact, Liberty’s guarantor, then only if every member of society has access, ownership, and the power to participate in the governance of property, would a society be truly free.”
“That is the contention of socialists,” Herra Eadweardson said, “whether they be right-wing statists, or left-wing anarchists.”
“We put this debate to bed a hundred years ago,” Markus said.
“Quite right,” Ælfred said.
“It was put to sleep,” Shane replied. “‘Strangled in its cradle,’ I believe was the expression.”
Herra Eadweardson stood up. “Well, the bitterness of this debate reminds me of democracy’s other primary fault,” he said, “namely, factionalism.”
To be continued....