Is Democracy redundant in the post Brexit & Trump era?

November 13, 2016

Q: Many people have described the advent of Brexit, Trump and Duterte as a populist movement – do you think this trend will grow to such an extent where we will see more of it?

A: See more of it? We are already in the thick of it. People who choose to use the term populist are being presentist – they show no inclination whatsoever to come to terms or to even understand the shortcomings of globalization – and providing this attitude of denial persist. We are likely to see more Brexit’s along with Trump’s.

Q: What would be the quick antidote to this irrational wave?

A: You know the words one chooses to describe this turn of events often betrays one’s attitude along with vantage and possibly beliefs – for example you see fit to describe it prosaically as ‘irrational’ – but I prefer to see all this, in simple terms of cause and effect.

Solution – give a diploma holder and below only one vote and no more. A degree holder two votes, a master’s level three and a doctoral four votes.

Q: Surely you are not serious!

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A: I am perfectly serious. As when you choose to term all these developments under the aegis of ‘irrationality’ – then what I just mentioned can really be the only suggested solution.

And this goes back to what I mentioned earlier – we cannot be presentist or so lazy that we don’t even bother to look back at history and trace out chronologically where it all went so very wrong – not if we are serious about formulating an effective prescriptive solution.

The way I see it – for globalization and free trade to remain sustainable and robust along with possibly the precepts of meritocracy – custodians of power not only in the West, but also in Singapore as well have to ensure that it produces benefit all and not just a select few. That in a nutshell is the only solution to reversing this trend.

There however a moral dilemma to this suggested solution.

Q: What is the moral dilemma?

A: The upwardly mobile and financially independent didn’t just walk over the knoll – these category of individuals were diligent, took risk and whatever benefits they enjoy today from globalization is really an accretion of their hard work, dexterity and willingness to adapt to change.

Those who lost out you could say didn’t bother to study very hard and missed out on many opportunities in life and they really have nothing to offer to the rest of the world to benefit from globalization.

So if one decides to redistribute the benefits of globalization equally – then what you’re really doing is dismantling the whole credo of capitalism and possibly even reviving socialism.

The problem here is even the communist these days don’t believe in socialism any longer – there lies part of the dilemma.

So the real question is how does one go about intelligently ensuring the principles of capitalism in the shape of globalization continues to produce benefits for all without running into the danger of evolving into socialism and welfarism.

As you can see it’s very circular; so have no doubt this is not an easy nut to crack. Now if you say tax the shit out the rich – then I say, it’s a Sunday today and as you can see I am working. But if 90% of what I earn goes to people who are picnicking on Sunday – then what incentive is there for me to break sweat. I much rather tinker with stuff like how to make cheap beer out of turnips or potatoes instead of working on a Sunday.

That’s really the dilemma.

Q: Why do you see it in terms of a dilemma?

A: It’s a very long story.

Q: Do Share.

A: Brexit is not new to the world. It’s really just old dressed up as new – during the 30’s when Hitler became Reich Chancellor by winning the GE. Many Europeans then echoed the same sentiments today. Eventually after a war that left Europe completely ravaged, though Hitler and his motley crew disappeared.

Many European thinkers began to ask themselves only one question – how can we stop this from ever happening again. I know it seems odd today that they should even ask such a question – but you really have to get up to speed on what was the prevailing challenges of that tumultuous period. The war was cut and dried. But a new menace loomed in Europe in the form of Bolshevism. Britain had more or less bankrupted herself in a Phyric victory. Many Europeans still remembered the First World War and the second and the prospects of a third – this time waged with atomics was very real.

To cut to the chase – one of vein of thinkers managed to beacon out the fog. There were of course many other thinkers – such a Brandeis, Hayek, Popper et al. But the linchpin of a new Global order was based on the works of John Maynard Keynes. The crux of Keynesian logic was based on the assumption – all economies if left to their own would ultimately end up so unstable that people would eventually lose faith in governments and nominate a radical such as Hitler. Keynes was not alone in his belief – many other thinkers supported him. As the failed Weimar Republic following WW1 was still fresh – there was certainly a nexus of causation between failed economies and radicalism.

And Keynesianism which advocated regular government interventionist policy seemed sensible in order to combat excessive boom and bust cycles in a nation’s economy.

This marked a significant paradigm shift among economists and sociologist at the time – now this was where the whole idea of the welfare state emerged from – while it took some time for Keynes’ ideas to take hold, it really only gained traction when it was coupled with the works of William Beveridge which was then known as universalism or what is today called welfarism.

Now this was the bedrock of how post war Europe would be reconstructed – and even today when we look at the rationale behind the EU, it’s really just an accretion of this logic specifically it’s predecessor the EEC – the problem with the welfare state was not dissimilar with what eventually brought down the Soviet Union – it could not be sustained at a macroeconomic level. Not at least without having to put up regularly with workers striking, non existent quality or for that matter customer service – as since the profit motive was secondary to the principles of egalitarims which required wealth to be distributed – there was no incentive for trains to run on time or for that matter even oligrachies to balance their accounts. It would not be an exaggeration to say by the late seventies the whole of Europe resembled the caricature of the soviet era carrier Aeroflot.

Now Aeroflot was really the carrier that all destitute students of my era dreaded – it was also the metaphor that summed up succinctly what was so wrong about welfarism, though in this case we are talking about communism, but my point is the welfare state was ideologically not so far from Marxist Leninist precepts – the only good thing about Aeroflot was they were dead cheap. But it came devoid of any known form of customer service that every traveller comes to expect as de riguer today – for example, it wasn’t unusual for one to be sleeping only to be jolted violently out of the seat. As the plane had landed without the pilot even bothering to announce, please fasten your seat belts blah blah blah. The food was like cardboard chicken and rock hard potatoes, if it ever came. The air stewardess all resembled stern matrons who got promoted from their previous jobs in the gulags – it was just a nightmare carrier where by the end of the trip. Everyone would breathe a sign of relief and say, we are so lucky we didn’t die!

That was what welfare state produced…trains that didn’t run on time, crummy products and services where if one wanted quality it usually came at a premium under the sales tag deluxe which was code for, what did you expect, didn’t you know we awe living in a welfare state. Businesses in Europe began to fossilize. There was no innovation to speak of, not at least the variety that any entrepreneur would ever consider putting his own money in as the prospects of a good return from investments was virtually nil. Soon everything in the juggernaut of the welfare state began to either fall apart or fail – the prescriptive cure for this macroeconomic state of decay came only in the mid eighties in the form of Thatcherism and Reaganomics.

Today with Trump in the White House again – it’s like that movie back to the future. It’s a déjà vu moment for me.

Like I said, today is a Sunday. I have my No.4 on. It’s another working day in the plantation and the only reason why I am doing this is because of the profit motive.

That’s why I choose to see this conundrum in terms of a dilemma – as this Brexit or Trump moment is hardly new. And my fear is history will repeat itself again and attempt to make progress by going backwards by opting for the welfare state.

That would be nightmarish. There has to be a better way. There has to be.

Q: Do you think Brexit and Trump presages the end of democracy as we know it?

A: It may sound very strange. But democracy has always been unstable since recorded history. The Romans flip flopped between the republic and Caesar countless times – and some thinkers even theorize today had it not been ideological war between capitalism and communism – it’s unlikely democracy would have lasted as long as it did thru out the entire second half of the twentieth century in the West.

I think it was Walter Lippman who first wrote about how people can’t be depended to always make the right decisions. His works was especially influential in coloring American politics.

You should consider watching it here and draw your own conclusions. As for me I really haven’t got around to thinking about it.

Only I have to warn you. Some things in life it’s best not to know about. Only because ignorance can indeed be bliss. I much rather remain stupid when it comes to such questions. After all I am just a simple farmer smack in the middle of the wild living on just two hours of electricity a day….what do you really expect me to know about the rest of the world?

That’s a question best left to some of my regular readers.


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