Giving Up On The Masses

In 2012, during Ron Paul’s second presidential candidacy as a Republican, I felt deflated with the masses again. Again, the masses were not going to vote a libertarian into office. It was the same year in which I read Murray Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty and Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Democracy: The God That Failed. What struck me at that time was the realization that democracy is actually an extremely poor political system to make society become more libertarian. Democracy is not even a guarantee whatsoever for political and economic freedoms. Its success is dependent on the uprightness of the masses, but where are the masses to stand up against war, bank bailouts, taxation, police aggression etc? If the government is truly a gang of thieves and murderers, as I believe it is, then the voting masses are advocates of theft, harassment, assault, and murder.

I do not believe that the masses are ready for freedom, because freedom means taking responsibility for one’s life and actions – a frightening prospect for the masses who lack the strength to face insecurities in life. Ingrained with fear of their own and their neighbours’ incapability to live a ‘responsible’ life, they are attracted to masters who can arrange their lives for them. The masses have also never thirsted for truth. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master, and whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim. They want to be comfortable and cuddled to death. Thinking is too much hassle for the mass-man. The masses have moreover a love for egalitarianism and a disdain for those who are different, who are more successful and more beautiful. They hate freedom, because in freedom man naturally maintains his distance from his fellow human beings.

Being discontent with the masses and deflated in my philosophical views on politics and economics, I took Peter Thiel’s following dictum to heart: “The masses have given up on unregulated capitalism, so those who still support unregulated capitalism should give up on the masses.” Instead, I have put my hope on such technological advances of decentralization as cryptocurrencies, seasteading, 3D-printing, and localized energy conservation and production.

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10 thoughts on “Giving Up On The Masses

  1. Another great, if depressing, post Chhay Lin.

    My question, though, is this: Who is Mass Man? If we are to take your writings seriously, and I certainly do, then isn’t Mass Man just an individual? And don’t individuals deserve to flourish in freedom, simply because they are individuals?

    I would argue that your critique is less about Mass Man, an ambiguous phrase on par with Social Justice Warrior, and more about democracy. On this point, I think you and other anarchists have some excellent points but at times y’all get the fundamentals wrong.

    For instance, you argue that democracy’s “success is dependent on the uprightness of the masses,” but this strikes me as completely wrong. Democracy’s success is dependent on whether or not citizens of a state are able to vote and (and) have that vote counted towards something in a free and open election. That’s a successful democracy. Nothing more, nothing less. If you think I am simplifying democracy, as yourself in how many places around the world does my definition of democracy happen.

    In order to really critique democracy I think you have to resist the urge to bemoan the morons who don’t think like you and start critiquing institutions and the incentives they produce, for those are responsible for bad decisions made by democracies, and not the freedom to participate in one’s government.

    • Semantics. You interpreted the phrase literally, and focused on the definition of democracy. I read the phrase as: (the success of a society based on democracy) is dependent on the uprightness of the masses. Which is true, even if uprightness is a bit stilted. Let’s call that values. In which case, if you want to change the governance of a democratic society, you need to change the values of the voters. Otherwise they will continue electing the same kinds of people with the same kinds of results.

    • I do not think that the post is pessimistic at all. Investing my energy to convince the masses is enervating. Giving up on the masses however, and focusing on technologies that decentralize political power has brought me much more peace of mind and excitement in life.

      With the phrase that democracy’s “success is dependent on the uprightness of the masses”, I meant to say that “the success of a society based on democracy is dependent on the uprightness of the masses” (like AI Most has interpreted). The masses, I believe, are not ready to embrace libertarian principles and values. I think they never will, unless a libertarian society somehow will emerge and lead the world by example or unless technology that makes centralized government more obsolete has become unquestioningly embedded into our lives.

      My critique is not only aimed at democracy, but also at the Mass Man. The Mass Man, as I have applied the term, is a person who values collectivity over individuality and who believes that he – as part of a larger group – has the right to impose his values and way of life on others. The Mass Men are large in number, unsophisticated and eager to pronounce quick judgements. They are easily swayed by popular speech, and do not think too much overall. The Mass Man is indeed an individual, and I do believe that all individuals should live in freedom. However, I do not believe that all individuals can flourish in freedom. Freedom is inextricably linked with a will to take responsibility over one’s life and fate. Not everyone can cope with that. The instinctive urge to freedom is a tremendous power that not everyone posesses. It is more like a privilege for those who are brave enough.

      Why should we try to convince the Mass Man who are dull? Most people don’t care about politics or truth. I don’t want to give them, and anyone else, the freedom to participate in government if that government has the power to strip me from all freedoms.

    • @Chhay Lin and @Al Most,

      I’m glad I could be of service in helping you to reinterpret what Chhay Lin initially argued in regards to democracy’s requirements for success.

      So now we’ve shifted from democracy itself to values within a society, right?

      If this is the case, the anti-democratic wing of the libertarian political quadrant still doesn’t have much of a case. If I am interpreting your arguments correctly, you’re essentially saying that you don’t like what other people value and therefore want nothing to do with them, correct? So far, so good. You’re also arguing that, because you don’t have the same values as them, their preferred method of solving problems pertaining to so-called public goods (“democracy”) should be…abolished? Ignored?

      I am confused.

      I am also aware of the fact that your new argument – “the success of a society based on democracy is dependent on the uprightness of the masses” – has yet to grapple with the notion that citizens of today’s democracies have much higher standards of living than anybody else in the world. Is it possible that anti-democratic libertarians have the whole situation back asswards, and that democracies appear where people have come to respect individualism as a creed to such an extent that they want it enshrined in their constitutions?

      • Be fair to Chhay Lin. His argument isn’t new, but is right in his first paragraph: “Its [democracy’s] success is dependent on the uprightness of the masses, but where are the masses to stand up against war, bank bailouts, taxation, police aggression etc?” Wherein he argues not about how democracy functions, but whether it functions to deliver desirable political outcomes, which are libertarian. Because libertarian philosophies, according to CL, require a different outlook on the nature of politics, of man, of the proper interactions between market and government, government and man, and man and market, and so on – an outlook which he defines as opposite to that of the “Mass Man” – and because these philosophies are unpopular, then a democratic system will fail to deliver libertarian policies.

        Chhay Lin responds with a feeling of ennui because he feels hopeless and defeated. How to change the system within the system, when it is dependent on a voting bloc that does not value the things he values? What value is there in critiquing the system, your suggestion, when it is hopeless to make it change? The current insurgents of the American electorate clamor for closing borders, expelling migrants, raising taxes, instituting protectionist economic policies, and retrenching our foreign policy from R2P to isolationism (there must be at least one positive development). Even the youth movements that embody the future of libertarianism are full of preeners who prefer going to conferences and blowing hot air about their own righteousness.

        Is there value in showing that democratic institutions stifle competition, enshrine elitist hierarchies, and are themselves, in many ways, anti-democratic (see the shenanigans the DNC is up to with the Sanders campaign, for example)? Is there any value in exploring how the creation of modern-day tribes in the form of political parties creates the conditions for the perpetuation of our condition? Is there any value in exploring how democracy creates a perverse incentive, whereby a man is forced to inflict his will on his fellows through democratic institutions because it is his only means of legitimate political expression, and his only possible protection from being savaged in turn?

        Perhaps I am being rhetorical, or perhaps not, because I don’t know what the answer is. Despair and withdrawal are certainly rational choices, considering the situation we find ourselves in.

      • You give a good defense of Chhay Lin, Matthew, but I remain unconvinced.

        My general point has to do with this anti-democratic argument:

        […] where are the masses to stand up against war, bank bailouts, taxation, police aggression etc?

        These are all Bad Things that democratic governments do, but they are also Bad Things that all governments do. And, in turn, these Bad Things are much less prevalent in democratic societies than they are in non-democratic societies.

        In fact, it is only in democratic societies that you can complain about these Bad Things. It is only in democratic societies that you can do something about these Bad Things (even if it’s just blog-ranting).

        This simple observation leads me to conclude that anti-democratic libertarians have it back asswards when it comes to democracy. Democracy is a byproduct of liberty. Maybe anarchy would lead to even less “war, bank bailouts, taxation, police aggression etc,” but as of now it is in democracies that these Bad Things have been made less prevalent.

        Anti-democratic libertarians aren’t thinking on the margin when it comes to democracy. (Hence the dogmatism you find in certain anarcho-capitalist circles.)

      • The reason why I am ultimately against democracy is that it violates the individual right to self-determination. I agree with you that “war, bank bailouts, taxation, police aggression etc” are bad things that all governments do, however I’m not sure whether democracy is a byproduct of liberty although it is often sold as such. Are you not comparing ‘successful’ cases of democracy with ‘unsuccessful’ non-democratic governments? Many of the meritocratic aspects of Chinese or Singaporean authoritarian rule are, I believe, much better than western democracy. The best argument against democracy is that a ‘publicly owned government’ doesn’t take a long-term perspective in running the country. The person in power, for 4-5 years, is incentivized to run the treasuries empty in the short span of his rule. In that sense, it may not be surprising that so many democracies including the ‘sucessful’ ones like much of Europe and the USA are deeply in debt. I recall a footnote of Hoppe’s ‘Democracy the God that failed’ in which he maintains that during monarchical rules (with private ownership of governments) in Europe, governments rarely drew more than 5-8% of the national income.

        Ideally, I would like to see a thousand different governmental systems and that everyone is free to move to the one he likes though.

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