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Liberalism vs. Democracy: Which is the more entropic force?

Mike from Imperium Press is one person whose articles I read without fail: he’s always interesting, seldom wrong, and more often than not I agree with him. You should subscribe to him. However, recently, he wrote a piece with which I disagree, or at least which is at odds with my own recent article on ‘MAGA as fulfilment of Kali Yuga’. Mike takes a line in which the chief entropic force of recent history is liberalism, which he views as having reached something approaching its final form, ‘truer to itself’, in intersectional wokeness. This force he views as pure acid, dissolving social bonds and local traditions, and converting every population around the world – who are simply powerless to resist – to a dysgenic and secularised LGBT-worshipping blob of falling birth rates. In his own words:

The relationship between liberalization and sterility is well known. By exporting liberal ideology, the West is exporting its own demographic timebomb. Third world peoples have tried to resist, sometimes even by pointing out that this is a new form of colonialism and the white man’s burden. All of them quail before the progressive logic of liberalism which can brook no opposition. You will bake the cake and eat the bugs and have 0.78 children, because progress.

In this view, conservatives who push back are the perennial pro-wrestling jobbers whose role it is ultimately to lose and be on the ‘wrong side of history’. He uses Matt Walsh on the transgender issue – one which he also sees as central to the liberal project – as an example. Let’s quote more Mike, and at length, because he’s a great prose stylist:

Liberalism will continue to lean further into transgenderism; this is its natural evolution. Conservatives, fundamentally buying into the logic of liberalism, are only a speedbump. Matt Walsh, for all his valiant efforts, will not get his way. His job is to lose gracefully. He will be brought to heel and later will be denounced by his own movement – and he will have learned nothing. The left will eat him, and this is a good thing. Conservatism of this kind serves only one purpose: to stabilize the system and provide the illusion of debate. As long as it exists, there is no solution.

Transgenderism is the flagship movement of intersectionality, its most coherent expression. Whereas trans rights, racial justice, and women’s rights were once seen as separate issues, progressivism now collapses them into the all-encompassing black hole of ‘decolonization’. The prospects of racial justice are now fully entangled with the prospects of gay and trans acceptance. Whiteness must be extirpated from indigenous peoples; this means cleansing them of the white colonial legacy, which means ‘returning’ them to their ‘native’ folkways of butt stuff and matriarchy. Reactionary elements of these societies will be flattened by the awful majesty of universalist totalization, with anti-white racial animus hitched to gender confusion, and thus to fertility collapse.

How and why do I disagree with this? Isn’t most of this ‘dissident right’ received wisdom which anyone who has read Curtis Yarvin would co-sign? This, I’m afraid, goes back to some of my core disagreements with Yarvin (among others). Not to rehearse them at too much length but: he believes a priestly caste are in power while I believe a merchant caste are. He believes the actions of people in power are downstream from their ideology, while I believe that ideology is downstream of power. However, there is a second – more hidden and almost never articulated – disagreement: he believes liberalism is the prime force of entropy, while I believe it is democracy. It seems that, at least in this, Mike is with Yarvin and not with me. This is important and it’s worth hashing out. My ‘final conclusions’ on ideology did not fully take shape until after The Populist Delusion came out, and only really consolidated in my mind when I was writing the forthcoming Prophets of Doom. Looking at history from a 10,000-feet remove in civilisational and cyclical terms – for me at least – put beyond doubt the idea that ideology is the plaything of power and not vice versa.

Let us define some terms. ‘Democracy’ is a system of government in which ‘the will of the people’ is held to be sovereign’. ‘Liberalism’ is not that, partly because liberalism is not a system of government at all but an ideology. The tensions between liberalism and democracy are well established and known to any reader of actual liberals from Hans Hermann Hoppe on one extreme end to someone like Tony Blair on the other. So, if liberalism is not simply another name for ‘democracy’, how would I define it? Liberalism is the ideology of the merchant caste; when merchants are in power, their ruling ideas (whatever they may be) are said to be ‘liberalism’. This may seem tautological, but recall, I do not see any ideology as a fixed set of ideas, but simply downstream of the interests of those in power. And I say: merchants are in power.

To give an extremely brief sketch of recent history, merchants rose to prominence in the 1500s and allied with the old aristocracy until they were able to dislodge them fully during the nineteenth century. What is called ‘classical liberalism’ was the ideology of industrialists, representing their interests against the interests of the old vestiges of the feudal agricultural sector, which is to say tenant farmers and their aristocratic landlords (I cover this process, symbolised by the Repeal of the Corn Laws, in my book The Defenders of Liberty, pp. 139-74). However, as noted by, among others, Brooks Adams and Oswald Spengler, industrialists themselves came to be dislodged by financial capitalists, a more rapacious rentier class (aka ‘the money-power’), who maintain power to this day. One way of understanding Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, General Franco and other such mid-century figures was as a revolt against this rentier class in alliance with manufacturing capitalists and other older disaffected elites from the aristocratic and priestly castes. They lost, as we all know, and the rentier class of merchants stayed in power and their ideology – liberalism – spread to every part of the globe as outlined by Mike in the article.

Everything Mike outlines in his article demonstrably happened, so where do I disagree? Virtually all cyclical versions of history from Polybius to Evola maintain some version of the regression of the castes. The cycle does not go from warrior-priests to princes to merchants only for merchants to stay in power indefinitely. No, there is one yet further regression! The merchants must (according to the laws of entropy) at some point give way to the plebs, especially after the point where everyone recognises that the merchants have become an oligarchy, which virtually everyone now does. The plebs, of course, as any reader of The Populist Delusion knows, cannot rule, so instead they elect a Caesar-figure who does so on their behalf. I recall distinctly when Trump was elected, the BBC ran their own version of this citing Plato, in a video that was way more kickass than they intended. While it seems unlikely that Trump himself will be the populist Caesar that a lot of people hoped for or feared (still possible, but unlikely), the movement he spawned, and ‘populism’, it seems to me, will be here to stay for the foreseeable future until the merchants have been replaced, in the end, by the true representatives of the plebs. As per my earlier formula: Populism is the ideology of the pleb caste; when plebs are in power, their ruling ideas (whatever they may be) are said to be ‘populism’. This is why the elites genuinely fear it. This is ultimately why I expect to see woke get ‘put away’, because the logic of entropy is against the liberal elites; paradoxically ‘democracy’ is the stronger force. We have seen this in practice in microcosm many times in the Middle East and its various ‘Arab Springs’, and we have seen it in Russia. The reason Putin terrifies the West is because Putin represents the next stage of entropy. As various Ukraine supporters never tire of telling us, Putin has his fair share of ‘diversity is our strength’ slogans, egalitarian doctrines and so on. He is, in fact, truer to democracy than are the Western liberals. And, to an extent, he started his legacy by clearing out the oligarchs and merchants. No doubt, there are still merchants and oligarchs in Russia, but no one beyond a few crazed conspiracy theorists claims these are ‘really in power’ and Putin is their puppet. Rather, Putin has resisted the logic of liberalism and shown that sneaky ‘merchant tactics’ are not going to oust him from power. Russia is his (and by extension the people of Russia’s, who vote for him in large numbers), not the merchant’s. Anxiety about this is why constant nonsensical comparisons between Putin and Trump have persisted. Liberal elites see in Trump the potential for an American Putin.

While I believe that liberal elites will be able to put woke away to cling onto a few more decades of power, I do not believe that they will be able to put populism away fully. In the end, the will of the people is not represented by the will of a few billionaires and enterprising counter-elites with a true will to power must eventually seize the open opportunity. Populism is a revolt of ‘the people’ against ‘the elites’, ‘the many’ against ‘the few’, the ‘haves’ against the ‘have nots’, the sneering Hunger Games­­ city patrician class against the unwashed and downtrodden mass of peasants. Populism is the same force ‘from below’ that Thomas Carlyle discusses so often; as he put it in ‘The Present Time’ (1850): ‘a bottomless volcano, or universal powder-mine of most inflammable mutinous chaotic elements’. At that time, Carlyle with his usual mixture of despondence and contempt bet on the ‘bottomless volcano’ defeating the merchant elites of his day. He also argued, counter-intuitively, for concessions to the volcano lest it end up destroying everyone – the Carlylean version of containment. In a strange way, Carlyle’s arguments for the Repeal of the Corn Laws read a little bit like Tony Blair’s arguments for putting the woke away. Obviously, Carlyle would have loathed Blair, it goes without saying, but you understand the point. The establishment does not fear ‘woke’ because it is entirely a tool of their creation for their own purposes; once that tool is no longer useful, it will be put away. Transgenderism is means, not end. Matt Walsh and JK Rowling and so on are not being propped up this time as regime jobbers, they are being given a megaphone to help tame liberalism’s excesses. Mike – and many, most in fact, other friends maintain that ‘there are no breaks on this thing’ – I disagree, and any honest and dispassionate assessment of the past 200 years will spot many ‘breaks’. Power if it wants to remain in power, must pull back from its own worst excesses, contain its own subversion, or a Bolingbroke will usurp Richard II. Unlike ‘woke’, which is its own tool, the establishment does fear populism because it cannot be controlled as easily, it is as combustible as the chartists and other working-men’s groups that Carlyle was writing about in 1850.

However, it is worth me reiterating that just because populism may win out over liberalism and plebs may win out over merchants in the long run, does not mean that these forces of history are ‘right-wing’ or ‘reactionary’. Liberalism frames itself as the left-wing progressive prime mover in history, but this simply is not true and does not become somehow truer through repetition. It is not true because ‘mere ideology’ is never the prime mover in history. Liberalism is at best a set of self-justifying verbal tricks to post-hoc rationalise merchant power. Jouvenelian high-low middle mechanisms, the formation of client groups and so on, are all tried and tested techniques of power to sustain itself, but in the end no ruling class can withstand the forces of entropy and history. ‘Entropy’ does not mean, necessarily, declining birth-rates, more ‘back sex’, and so on, what it means is that the levelling forces of democracy push ever further downwards towards the undifferentiated mass man. I maintain that – despite every appearance to the contrary – current liberal and ‘woke’ elites are fighting a rear-guard action against democracy on behalf of an outgoing ruling class. The future will not belong to the troon of today’s news cycle, it will, in the end, belong to people like Dr Steve Turley and Pedro Gonzalez, but not at all for the reasons either of them might think. That world will be more truly egalitarian, more truly democratic, more truly ‘post-racial’ even than the one we inhabit today. It will involve an involution downwards. It will probably suck worse than 2023 – and one-day people might have ‘2023 nostalgia’ just as I have ‘1998 nostalgia’ and Pat Buchanan has ‘1958 nostalgia’. Maybe there will be a time when people think to themselves that life under the merchants was not so bad after all, but all this is baked into the cake of entropy.