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Imperialistic Democracy – A Threat To Localism?

June 24, 2009

IOZ says:

As various western factions debate whether Iran is or is not a democracy, or is or is not in the process of becoming one, or mired forever as some sort of mishmashed autocratic theocracy or theocratic autocracy or theo-oligarchic dictatorship or military oligocracy or or or . . . it does us well to bear in mind that not one of these various régimes, Hitlers, enemies-of-order, terrorists, failed states, nemeses, adversaries, competitors, ad inf. exhibits anywhere near the hegemonizing, evangelical zeal of the club of Western democracies when it comes to their political institutions and variously scorned or vaunted ways of life.

Our various scardeycats prattle fearfully about Islamofascism and its expansionist impulses, but while one can certainly find radical voices calling for the unification of the Ummah, even the wildest dreams of some new caliphate stop short of Cordoba, let alone Vienna, despite the fever dreams of The Internet’s more entertaining madmen. Occasionally you will hear some American rightwinger or British nationalist averring that the Muslims are overrunning London, Paris, Marseilles, but even this doomsday is more a worry about displacement than conquest, a vaguely held fear that white folk are being outbred. There is no sense or evidence that Osama bin Laden wishes for America to convert and embrace the religion of the Prophet. The Taliban have no designs on Topeka. Yet you cannot say the US Congress has no plans for Karachi.

This democratic imperialism will be a future issue for our movement of diversity and local autonomy.  As I blogged earlier, because democracy is a freer, better political system (if institutions and appropriate culture are present), the spread of democracy is making the world freer.  Yet within each democracy, true to Mancur Olson’s analysis of the accumulation of special interests, things are getting worse.

So for the present, it may still be the case that democratic imperalism is increasing freedom by recruiting more democracies.  But the narrow-minded obsession with this single political system does not bode well for the experimentation required to come up with the next brilliant idea in social organization.  All Thousand Nations will not be and should not be democracies.

Much like free speech involves defending your right to speak, even if I do not like your words, we should defend local autonomy and diverse governance, even for regimes we don’t like.  The localist approach is that revolution must come from within, not be imposed from without.  Thus we should decry democratic imperialism and arrogance, and let each local populace find their own way to a better society.

  1. Eelco Hoogendoorn permalink
    June 26, 2009 8:57 am

    I would also like to stress the difference between a non-democratic, voluntary society that you might find distastefull, and a nation like Iran.

    I dont have much of an opinion on Iran either way, but would i think intervention is a horrible thing? In practice, most likely yes, but in theory, I could support it. With some governments, anything is an improvement. Not if the Iranian government was a voluntary institution though.

    That leaves the question: does the world at large have any appreciation for that distinction? Not as much as they should, i fear, and that is what we should aim to change, in my opinion. There is little point trying to convince a majority of people religous/racial isolationism, communism, anarcho capitalism, whatever, is something they should approve of. It has been tried before, and it has failed, for good or bad reasons.

    The question any voluntary association of seasteads should present a would-be benevolent liberator with: why dont you poll us first, see how eager we are to be liberated? No guarantee they will care, but at least it would give them somewhat of a PR problem, if there isnt a single local cheering on the marching troops.

  2. Anek permalink
    June 25, 2009 6:51 pm

    “There is no sense or evidence that Osama bin Laden wishes for America to convert and embrace the religion of the Prophet. The Taliban have no designs on Topeka.”

    It’s often amazing how falsities are stated with such arrogance. Bin Laden has called in various videos for Americans to convert to Islam, and the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the largest and oldest Islamist group and the forerunner to al Qaeda, has literally written documents detailing their plans for the conquest of Europe (“The Project”) and North America (“General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America”).

    From the latter: “The process of settlement is a ‘Civilization-Jihadist Process’ with all the word means. The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”

  3. June 25, 2009 8:34 am

    I mainly agree – with a reservation involving restricted-exit societies, democratic or otherwise – but democrats get worked up about both non-democracy and democracy abused, and I think it’s wise to avoid conflating the two.

    The current internal dispute in Iran is not explicitly about democracy-vs.-autocracy, but about a perception of massive abuse of the democratic component of the system by force and fraud. There’s a real distinction between, “These people have an icky constitution,” and “Icky characters have used these people’s constitution for toilet paper.”

    In the latter case, we don’t always need to go looking for trouble to find some. Suppose the government of Seastead One is abruptly and unconstitutionally replaced by Mr Biggus Gunnus, and the legal entity of Seastead One holds assets within our jurisdiction. Which claim to them should we uphold – the claim of the hapless via law, or the claim of the lawless via force?

    Either is a foreign judgement about legitimate sovereignty, with all the unpleasant consequences that entails.

    • June 25, 2009 7:41 pm

      The internal dispute in Iran is about the perception of electoral fraud and a despotic crackdown. But the debate in America seems to be largely based on anger that the slightly more Western candidate didn’t win. Would this have been anywhere near as big a news story in the US if the challenger had won by fraud, and then cracked down on the old regime’s supporters?

      Agreed that the question of legitimate sovereignty is not always straightforward.

  4. Mathieu Helie permalink
    June 25, 2009 3:14 am

    People in the West have allowed themselves to be duped into believing that electoral politics is the beginning and end of democracy, while the truth is that democracy is popular control of the government. When the government starts to manipulate and rig how the people control them, it is no longer democracy, it is oligarchy, and that’s when things start getting worse.

    There is nothing to be gained for the people by concentrating power in far off capitals, but there is plenty to be gained for the politicians. In much the same way, it is good for a chief executive of a corporation to merge with as many other corporations as possible in order to pay himself the biggest bonus possible, but that is not good for the shareholders. The moment the shareholders lose control of the business, it is no longer capitalism.

  5. Pope permalink
    June 25, 2009 2:52 am

    The IOZ/Henley strand of leftism is utterly mystifying in its ability to point the finger back at America no matter what the issue. “Yeah, those mullahs are shooting people dead in the streets, but at least they ain’t trying to spread democracy like those imperialist Americans!”

    I simply have to shake my head at statements like, “There is no sense or evidence that Osama bin Laden wishes for America to convert and embrace the religion of the Prophet. The Taliban have no designs on Topeka. Yet you cannot say the US Congress has no plans for Karachi.” What universe of self-loathing does IOZ call home?

    • June 25, 2009 7:33 pm

      America has done lots of shooting people dead in the streets. And one can make a pretty strong argument that we have had our presidential election affected by fraud within the last decade. That is not to say our government isn’t better than the mullahs – it’s way better – but it is plenty bad.

      Anyway, the issue from my perspective is imperialism vs. localism, not mullahs vs. democracy. I want to see a world in which people are free to choose their political systems. Getting there will be hampered much more by imperialism and arrogance about democracy than it will by local religious leaders.

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