Greedy Goblin

Monday, June 29, 2015

The refugees of democracy

Real world post incoming. You probably heard that unmatched refugee swarm reached Europe. From Libya and sub-Sahara they dare the Mediterranean sea in things that don't deserve the name "ship". On land they mostly come from Syria and Iraq, on the Turkey-Greece-Serbia-Hungary-Austria way.

There were always refugees from conflict zones. However this is fundamentally different. There is no formal war between countries and there is no genocidal dictatorship in the countries they come from. Quite the opposite: Iraq under Saddam, Libya under Gaddafi and Syria under Assad were free of such swarm. Sure, these weren't the happiest places in the planet and these dictators were known for their antics, but the ordinary people could mind their own life.

Not anymore. Since the democratic countries removed or seriously weakened them in the name of "freedom", the countries turned into failed states, ravaged by the madmen of the Islamic State. "Shut up and mind your own business" was no longer possible for the locals. If you aren't a "true" Sunni Muslim (by their definitions), you run, or you die. So they run, in millions.

There is a fourth country that got to the edge of this fate: Egypt. After the "evil dictator" Mubarak was removed by "democratic movement", the Islamic Radical Mohamed Morsi was elected democratically. Under his "rule", fundamental systems starting to fall apart while he was busy rebuilding the legal system under Sharia. He denied the right of Israel to exist which threatened with a new war in the Middle East. The total collapse was averted by a military coup.

It's impossible to ignore the running theme here: "bad dictator" could keep the population content, while "good freedom" lead to bloodshed and mass exodus. After these obvious results, the "dictatorship = bad, democracy = good" philosophy must be rejected. It seems to be happening behind the curtains as the USA and the EU stopped fighting against Assad. But it's not good enough, as we can judge by the swarm of refugees.

If I say that these lands can only be safely ruled by tyrants, while I do not wish a tyrant to rule my country (a sort-of-one already does), I have to explain why I'm better than a Syrian. I'm not. All countries have two kind of people: the first kind is able to make intelligent decisions, both it their personal life and politically, therefore in a democratic system his vote will support proper leaders. The other kind of people are making decisions based on superstitions, fanatic belief and random feelings, leading to electing murderous madmen into power. It's simply that Syria has too many of the second kind of people, so their voice surpass the first group, helping the madmen into power (note: it doesn't need formal elections, as protests or volunteering to militias are also form of free political choices a person can make). This means that the few people who could make a democracy work are better off living under a tyrant than under a leader elected by them... and 10x more fanatics. On the other hand the USA can work perfectly with every drooling moron being able to vote, as their votes are shadowed by the bigger number of "proper" voters.

What is the defining criteria of "democracy-ready person"? The automatic response would be "smart", which has a problem: trouble is often made by (relatively) intelligent, educated and culturally advanced men. The Taliban was formed by students and not illiterate shepherds. Lenin went to university when most people in contemporary Russia were peasants without education. Hitler was an artist and not a factory worker like most of his countrymen. Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran was literally reading Plato. Even Pol Pot whose movement tried to eradicate educated men and praised the peasants was educated abroad. It seems that being "smart" doesn't stop someone from being a genocidal madmen.

The proper criteria of a "democracy-incompatible person" is "poor". Not only it's easier to measure (for example by tax payments in the last 4 years), it's almost impossible to fake being rich (the cheater or someone on his behalf must pay tax), but it reflects directly to the ability of decision making. Citing Plato can be done by a tape recorder, but keeping a household afloat needs properly reacting to the World around us. Someone who can make the ends meet at home will likely support someone who'll do the same at the country scale, while someone living on welfare and spending his mental capacity rationalizing why it's not his fault will likely support someone who claim that the problems of the country is not the fault of the countrymen and can be solved by killing some group of people.

I've always told that people who are unable to lead their life should not lead the country, it became obvious now. We brought freedom to the Middle East and it turned into a hell that we can't just turn away from as the people from there are now literally banging on our doors. As they are running for their lives, we can't stop them without fixing their countries and we can't fix them without installing dictatorships. A decade ago just talking against dictators and trading with them behind the curtain was an option. We could therefore upkeep the peace and claim that democracy would be better. But after the Islamic State has risen, we don't have a luxury anymore as without serious acts they will rule these lands and keep sending refugees. We must actively remove them and install dictators or colonial administration. This can't be done silently as they outgrow the scope of covert ops. We must send armies with the open declaration to not bring democracy. But doing so is impossible without explaining why do we treat them differently than ourselves. And there is no other explanation than what I just gave: these countries are full of poor people and poor+free is a bad combination.


tweell said...

Poor is one issue, but IMHO the issue is more because of their society. They are tribal and low-trust, call it amoral familism. We in the West are national and high-trust.

A dictator in the Middle East must have a large tribe to depend on, he can trust no one else to do the right thing. His tribe gets all the good government positions and acts as an extension of his will. If another tribe manages to overthrow him, they do the same thing (like the Sassanids were overthrown by the Saudis). These aren't nations, they have barely advanced to early feudalism.

The problem is that the dictator naturally does away with any competing tribes, and then we did away with him and his tribe. Power vacuum, with no tribe able to take over, and the answer is an imposed rule from outside. ISIS/Taliban/Al Qaeda becomes the ruler.

Gevlon said...

@Tweel: true for Iraq and Syria, maybe to Libya but absolutely not for Egypt and Iran or Turkey at the time of Ataturk. In these countries the dictator was/is national.

I see it backwards: among poor people it's common to identify not as an individual, but as a member of a family and sharing their little resources with even dumber and lazier family members.

Also, even under a familist dictator (feudal king), the people weren't mistreated enough to flee the countries in swarms.

Anonymous said...

the modern problems are caused by nuclear weapons.

for millennia if a ruler did a bad job the better ruler next door took his land and installed himself or his cronies. empires grew or fell. conquered peoples became slaves which were just another resource. even free men were just a resource for the ruling class.

for nearly a century the great nations of the world have been afraid of nuclear holocaust. they have to rely on covert operations because any open aggression could lead to annihilation of the planet. the national borders of the world have been pretty much fixed (except for the break up of USSR) since shortly after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

and so when nations fail their borders remain but their people disperse. the greatest thing the USA could do to stop illegals crossing their southern border would be to economically stimulate Mexico. the EU should militarily take the north coast of Africa and create a new economic zone that welcomes all immigrants. let the Greek military defend it and put their pay into the loans. use Belgian politicians, German engineers and British economists. give amnesty to all illegals currently in EU countries initially if they move to the new country but after the amnesty round them up and send them as mortgagees (slaves).

Anonymous said...

I do not think any governing party in Europe would speak in favor of colonial administration or installing dictatorships in other countries. It would be the perfect attacking point for the opposing party at the next election. Very few EU citizens would vote for a party that tries to solve the problem in the Middle East and Africa this way. Democracy sounds fair and good, while dictatorship is evil and bad. Do you actually believe that the average voter in the EU would give it even a minute of thought of supporting a party which openly speaks in favor of dictatorship? Or do you think that whole governments with both major parties will support this idea? Why would the opposing parties skip the goalrunner campaign of "poor immigrants, vote for democracy in the Middle East"?
Just look at the media in Hungary, the most voiced opinion is the critic of the leading party not accepting the poor immigrants.

Anonymous said...

@anon of nuclear weapons:
Well Ede Teller received the first Ig Nobel prize of peace for the hydrogen bomb:
"for his lifelong efforts to change the meaning of peace as we know it"

Luke said...

One need also to remember the kind of mindset you have in those "poorer" countries"

Whole middle east is mentally deep into X century, just with better toys. You can be really educated, but still be mentally at that level - it's a matter of belief system that can be separated from knowledge structure.

Actually the marrying of beliefs and knowledge is what made industrial revolution possible. Most countries/areas in the world never made that transition. They are still tribal mentally, just with toys and trappings of "modern society".

It is similar problem that we have here in central/eastern Europe. Even countries that had proper "enlightenment" period has been bogged down by separation of logic and belief in "communist" times. If you have ruling class, for which logic and consistency are optional, then you really can only hope for a semi-sane tyrant capable of forcing his will upon them.

Moreso, if you observe what is happening in western Europe, you see that fully developed societies devolve, because it is easier to succeed as a leecher than as a productive person. Entitlement groups become new tribes. To top it, the transplanted refugee groups thrive in such environment, as it becomes even more like what they are used to.

Also, voting matters little if all the people you can vote on are part of some kind of feudal group on another.

Now look at proportion of working population and voting population in each country.

Gevlon said...

@Anonymous: voters are already supporting communists and right-wing extremists in growing number (Le Pen party, Syriza, Podemos). The mentioned "no immigrants" policy in Hungary is skyrocketing the leading party popularity, despite it's indeed condemned by even modest members of that party.

The thing is that democracy was always only supported by entellectuels, the "common people" always preferred the "Good King"

Anonymous said...

I always wonder how in these countries islamic parties ever get a majority vote as 50% of the population (the women) should never vote for them. I know that probably not all women get to actually vote, that they might vote what their husbands want them to and so on. But still, if all women and all liberal minded men voted according to their preference there would be no islamist government anywere (discounting rigged elections of course).

Gevlon said...

This is extremely sort-sighted thinking. Thousands of women from the western countries rush to Syria to join the Islamic State where their opportunities are "n-th wife of some fighter" and "suicide bomber".

Being a woman doesn't stop anyone from being an extremist. They don't see the obvious woman-oppression of radical Islam as oppression, but as a wonderful way to Heaven.

Anonymous said...

thanks gevlon. these kind of posts are why i - as a non eve player - keep coming back. even if i don't agree with you it usually takes a few minutes to figure out why.

In this case, you again seem to reflect the misconception that being poor is a choice of being lazy or simply being dumb.
you can just google 'poor myth' to find some research. here are just two of the first page.

i agree with your sentiment that stability is one of the most underrated political virtues (even if done by a regime in which you might not share the real power but at least can arrange to survive with your family).

as an example for deteriorating states, i give you an analysis for the conflict in isreael/palestine.

another example that might be interesting for you and a few of your other commentators is the ted talk about empathy with an example of a rational person in iraq.

Luobote Kong said...

A great post and I struggle to know whether to agree or disagree. Then on the one hand I see India and on the other China. Both are successful nation states. Both were subject to colonial oppression. The process that led to their current stability required a lot of bloodshed.

Gevlon said...

@Anon: these articles are interesting but offtopic. They merely state that "poor people DO NOT share more or less monolithic and predictable beliefs, values, and behaviors", which is irrelevant here.

I merely say that poor people failed in their personal life for some reason and I believe it means that they will fail in their political life too.

Luke said...

How about the fact that bureaucracy and politics are two giant magnets for people that are: 1) business failures 2) like to mess with other people's lives

The whole point of "good king" mythos is simple fact of country being de facto private property of one man. So you need one sane individual with grasp of politics.

Whole democracy can be meritocracy, but as we see devolves into "group of interest" infigting, as it is neither private property nor there are methods of holding "director board" accountable.

The difference of first world and other "worlds" is that first world still has a wealth buffer to chew through. The bureaucracy and political class is as unaccountable and moronic everywhere, reason being sane people are not welcome in this bunch (beliefs > logic)

Benidictus said...

im sure life in africa/middle east is hard and dangerous and wanting a beter safer life is what most want for them and there family, so the leave and head too europa,

but the sad truth is, when the arive in europa the get every thing for 'free" housing/benifits and so on and alot of them will never find work for the simple reason the dont have too, if you can life of 50 euro's a month in africa/middle east, you can have a great life living of 600/800 euro's a month+ free food+ extra benifits if you have children, that in it self works like a magnet,

there is a simple solution to the crisis, and that is stop offering free food/housing and benefits and force them that have followd the proper path of immigrantion rules to get a job and have a good life,
and the ones that cross over is boats loads force them back to africa/middle east and give them food and clothing but do not let them in, if we fail to do this
le pen/wilders and so on, will get even more votes and in time will rule there nation for the people dont want mass immigration, the dont want the vast numbers of poor africans/middle eastern people living among them leeching benefits and uping the crime rate.

Anonymous said...

"I merely say that poor people failed in their personal life for some reason and I believe it means that they will fail in their political life too"

The biggest indicator of where you end up is what you start out with.

Yes, there are outliers, and these become big stories.
If it was the norm, they would not make headlines. We all love the story of the poor kid turned billionaire, or of the homeless drug addict now studying a PhD, and we tell ourselves that it is just because they worked hard, and not because of taking advantage of unusual opportunities.

Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton and Britney Spears are phenomenally wealthy, your claim is that they are successes because they succeed in their personal lives, and everyone else could too if they worked harder?

Social mobility is complex, free higher education goes a long way towards assisting it, as does a good basic education, but, free higher education is now not on the table in several countries that previously had it, or close to free (The USA & the UK particularly), and the mantra is now the opposite, with the effect of growing anti-intellectualism.
Not all basic schools are created equal either, unless you think a school in a poor district is equal in quality to one in a wealthy district(There are other issues involving access to higher education from poor schools as well).

It is easier to believe that poor people are somehow less smart, less disciplined than the wealthy, while oddly, we lionise the individual spending 40 years working 2 full-time jobs to pay the bills who barely breaks even.....whilst large corporations pay their workers so little that they qualify for government benefits.

Anonymous said...

"I merely say that poor people failed in their personal life for some reason and I believe it means that they will fail in their political life too."
True but that's exactly the issue.
you say that being poor is a direct failure of the one that is poor. you seem to think that economic mobility is a 'mindset' issue or failure of the individual and not a systemic problem. the reason why different countries - even in the 1st world countries - have different economic mobility and percentages of people being poor is not primarily the value of the individual but simple economic policy and regulations.

meritocracy is a nice idea - in a hypothetical world where at least the upbringing is comparable and equal. like in the nordic countries with mandatory, equal schooling instead of bullshit priced private run (or even home-schooling). or a world where no privileges exist (no inheritance, no 'you get a job because i know your father', etc).

that's why people vote differently. because they choose rationally but have different things they hope for and promises they think will help them.

as another example: think about working poor people. you know, the ones that work fulltime but can't pay their living because the wage is - objectively - too small. they don't want freebies but they want to live from a job. so they vote for people that promise them a higher minimum wage and food on their plate.
if that's called 'communism' or 'christian party of switzerland' (muslim in other countries), then that's what they do. that's why religious parties might get voted for. not because people are stupid and want to suppress women, but because they might be the only ones that promise you enough food on the plate for your work.

Gevlon said...

@Benidictus: Europe was always more lucrative than Africa or the Middle East. There were always immigrants. But nothing like this swarm.

@Last 2 Anonymous: offtopic! I just say that they've failed their personal life and they would fail in politics too. I did not claim HERE that being poor is their fault. For example having Down syndrome is clearly not the fault of the person, but I still don't want him to have a word in politics.

Provi Miner said...

The question is tolerance: Can you tolerate one person raping women, shooting kids, murdering intellectuals (on a small but highly personable scale) or do you prefer mass raps, mass shooting of children, and the absolute slaughter of the intellectual elite.

When it is one person it is easy to focus hate and energy, but when its a formless blob of violence then the focus gets lost.

Better the strong man you know than that which replaces him.

Anonymous said...

This post is actually a fairly cogent statement of what is widely held to be axiomatic in western political science. Democracy can only exist where this is a robust middle class. This does not exist in the Middle East, North Africa or (still emerging) in China.

Rohan said...

I'm not really sure that "poor" is enough. On an absolute scale, are the poor of the third world really worse off than the average/poor American or British citizen of the 18th Century?

What about South Korea, Taiwan, or even Botswana? Why are those countries successful democracies, while other similar countries failed?

Gevlon said...

@Rohan: I'd define "too poor to vote" as someone who can't support himself. The American settlers didn't have much, but they provided that little to themselves.

So Rearden said...

Alright, firstly you are equivocating democracy with republics. There is a vast difference between majority rules and a constitutionally limited democracy, who doesn't have a say in many areas of politics. These countries that are having democracy brought to them are not having constitutions imposed on them. They are given the go ahead to elect the next tyrant. That is why etymologically democracy means "the tyranny of the majority."

Second off the defining criteria of a person ready for freedom is rationality, not "smart." Freedom and reason are corollaries. As with wealth it is the result of reason, with the freedom to act on it, put to the problem of survival; that is production in actuality.

What the West should do is leave these regions alone unless they are taking active measures to bring violence and force to our countries. If they are fighting amongst themselves that is their own problem. Large scale change for the better requires a move towards reason. A republic form of government allows a rational minority the best chance of holding back these "fanatics" as you call them.

Unknown said...

The problem with your analysis is that you ignore a lot of factors.

First, after the french revolution, we had a few years of bad bad political turmoils (lots of political killing and mass killings) then we had a relatively rapid succession of regime ranging from republics to monarchies. It took about a hundred years before getting stable.

So all the recent attempts at democracies may need more time to succeed as democracies.

You may also want to consider the fact that these revolutions were in some cases at least heavily piloted from outside. In the case of Lybia, there is a lot of reasons that pushed some western countries to kill Khadafi and his regime. Some recent leaked mails show how Sarkozy's France (alomg with the UK iirc) was financing, training, advising and equiping the rebels well before the revolution. In the meantime they were making the rebels sign accords about favoring France for economics contracts and oil control.

Khadafi's Lybia was far from the best country in the world, but it was not the hell most europeans think it was. Khadafi was a nationalist and an africanist. He wanted to keep his resource for him and this was a reason for western countries to dislike him. Better have a chaotic country were you can control oil fields than a country were people are safer but you cant make big dollars on their natural resources, from a western point of view.

The reason why these democracies are failing is not because the people are too dumb for democracy. Its because it is not real spontaneous democracies. When the western countries bomb libya, invest heavily in a revolution, they do not want to see an election 2 years later that will give the power to someone saying "lets nationalize oil!".

You say we should install dictatorships there, but the truth is we should not have kick the previous one. Some people wanted a piece of the economic cake there and now they have it. The fact that europe now has to deal with refugees is of no concern to them.

Also for the Islamic State, have you consider where they money comes from? Apparently they captured a lot of oil riggs. Who is buying this oil? Why are we not destroying them? If we let them do what they do, while we could prevent it, its because western countries do not want this region to be stable. Nothing to do with the people not being political adults.

maxim said...

I agree with Gevlon's analysis of "democracies" cs "dictatorhips".

I disagree on his assertion that people are split in two kinds, one that deserves the right to decide the country's policies and one that doesn't. In my mind, when it comes to basic human rights, there is no difference between an multi-billionaire and a hobo. The argument that multi-billionaire deserves more power is moot, because he already does have more power - both in terms of sheer money, and in terms of how much people listen when he speaks. What Gevlon is trying to say here is that multi-billionaire needs to have the power to deny the less successful their basic human rights.

I maintain that if you start denying basic human rights, you throw the notion of basic humanity out of the window altogether.

However, i am willing to accept the said division on more and less worthy humans as a talking point. The most interesting part here is how exactly you are measuring worth.

Specifically, should i consider a lying, murderous, corrupt and corrupting individual, who happened to come into significant riches through his largely unproductive activities a more or less worthy human being than a basic construction worker, who does simple productive work? How do they both stand in relation to someone who got his wealth through inheritance or through other means? How do all three stand in relation to someone who doesn't have personal wealth, but manages somebody else's (for example, someone who manages a charity that accepts donations from people who don't want to give anyone inheritance for ideological reasons).

My point is - if you really want to measure people's worth mechanically, then just money (and just income) is not a sufficient metric, because there are both ways to come into wealth (and income) that are harmful to a person's worth, not conducive to it, and ways to become responsible for wealth without actually owning it, making the concept of person's worth dubious.

Unknown said...

Well, I totally agree with Gevlons arguments and even with his conclusions.
Yes, I know that he has simplified matters, that he has not taken into account a lot of potential other factors, but basically it comes down to what Gevlon has pointed out.
Poor choices are made by poor people, poor meaning not only economically poor, but also poorly educated so that they rather cling to superstitions, and medieval type of thinking.
All these factors result in societies that have absolutely no "democratic culture", meaning that elections will not result in installing a democratic government, but in the first step of a demagogue who will then try to change the system to perpetuate his rule or the rule of his family/clan/tribe/party...

Many people have not understood the one fundamental point that defines democracy. Democracy is not a political system where "the people" can vote for a government, but where "the people" can legally get rid of a government they are not happy with via the next election for the future term.
Which explains why i.e. Wet Germany was a democracy an East Germany wasn't!

Political education is still very poor, even in the "western world". Only a few people who have the right to vote actually know how laws are made, what the function of parliaments and the government are and what differences there are between them.

Driving a car requires a license/passing a test, voting and having children unfortunately do not...

Gevlon said...

@maxim: the multi-billionaire already has more power than others.
The problem is that the simple worker who supports himself, his family and the country with tax has no more power than a hobo. This legal distinction should be introduced for him. Also, this change would decrease the power of the billionaire, since his power comes from controlling "hobos" via media.

maxim said...

Simple worker who supports his family, country and tax has more power than the hobo. Evidenced (among other things) in his superior (compared to hobo) ability to resist the influence of billionaire-controlled media machine.

I am not especially interested in decreasing the billionaire's power. Especially not through denying unfortunate people their basic human rights (even if they brought their lack of fortune on themselves).

maxim said...


I actually wouldn't mind a formal political aptitude test being the gateway to voting rights.
I just don't like money being this gateway.