September 28, 2017 by John Bruce Leonard
The Democratic Mirage, Part III
MOST ANYONE WHO WINDS UP at the vertices of capitalistic wealth in our day will almost necessarily display certain traits, by which characteristics alone he is able to “rise” in the system to such “dizzying heights” (it would be well for us to maintain a degree of skepticism about the real direction he is going). Such traits include, for instance, extreme organization capacities, quantities of energy, keen analytic and practical cleverness, an overbearing greed, and a total willingness to transgress all moral constraints, which amounts to moral numbness when it does not in fact indicate precisely a kind of schadenfreude and ruthless delight in exerting power and causing suffering. If such men are not cruel they will be numb; but because the former is more “positive” a characteristic than the latter, insofar as it establishes a kind of goal in the human soul, it is to be expected that the former will be more prevalent than the latter. Put plainly, it is more likely to find hot monsters in those ranks, than cold ones.
All of this for the simple reason that in any large-scale money-getting venture you please—and the greater the sums involved, the more probable this becomes—there will necessarily be consequences which affect the lives of other human beings. (The capitalist nicely passes such results off as externalities and collateral damage—being, as he is, forever perfectly frank in moral matters.) That capitalist who hesitates at the prospect of damaging his fellow man or of bringing about the suffering of individuals he does not know—that wealth-seeker who spends time, energy, perhaps even resources, toward limiting the harm he brings to others, as much as he is able—this kind of man will naturally fall behind. He will be out-maneuvered, out-played, over-mastered by the ruthless soul that trembles not a moment before such scruples, but perhaps even derives pleasure in venting his power over unknown souls. The economic game, all of capitalism itself, is but a system organized toward sifting out the human and selecting for the most mechanically inhuman of human beings, and then rewarding these grossly with the most improbable quantities of material wealth. The recipients of these great advantages surely believe themselves superior for their arrival at such exclusive positions—but one should never for a moment forget that anyone who sets out in life with the singular aim of making himself rich, is activated and actuated by one of the lowest and most bestial of all human motivations, which he holds perfectly in common with rodents, beavers, and bower birds; the very fact that he has been so “successful” is in and of itself reason to suspect his caliber. It really is the case to hold all such men guilty until proven innocent.
It would of course be neither just nor rational to claim that all wealthy men are wicked—as is the tendency, for instance, in some Marxist or crypto-Marxist circles—for of course it might be the case that some basically decent men seek wealth from out of any number of more or less decent motives, and furthermore good men may always be born to rich families. What one must diagnose is the tendency in a class, not the status of each of its individual members. And there is reason to believe that the wealthy class in the modern world, just as the political class, is built to facilitate moral disease; for the “free economy” is nothing but a hierarchy stood upon its head, dedicated to bringing to the top those human beings who are quite literally monsters of greed. Put fitter to the truth: the world in which we live is nothing but the adulator of the mindless power of gravity; and because the psychotically avaricious are the heaviest among us, best capable of dwelling airlessly in the lightless deeps, we mindlessly follow their suction down.
And these men, in the day and the world in which we are living, are the true “power behind the throne.”
Indeed, the mere politicians in the main can get nowhere without the economic blessings of such men. They are as puppets in the hands of much more powerful masters, and all their craving after power or influence, be it good or bad, reveals itself finally for what it is: a miscalculation. The democratic politician is that man who has sought all his life to attain something which can be only attained elsewhere than where he seeks it. Politics in democracy is the ideal manifestation of human vainglory.
What then will be the role of these politicians as the political serfs of the super-affluent? Or put otherwise, and more usefully to anyone who wishes to understand the true mechanisms of power in our day—what will the super-affluent seek to extract from politics?
First and most obviously, they will seek conditions such as favor their wealth-getting—laws which grant them “freedom” when this “freedom” favors their investments; laws which impose “regulation” where they are the beneficiaries; judicial reprieves or limited sentences when they are found to have broken the law; etc. From which it becomes evident that while the meta-society composed of the super-affluent in certain respects can be considered a unified class with unified interests (even as Marxism considered them, for they often act in precisely such a way), in other respects it is in fact a warring encampment of diverse and fundamentally hostile economic interests. For some laws which favor one group will work to the detriment of others, and he who profits from regulations will do so only at the expense of that man who is regulated against. The super-affluent thus form at once a more or less unified group with identical interests (which they are capable of preserving in unison when there is need) as well as a kind of hidden society of smaller groups which struggle against each other behind the curtain of that grand theatrical performance which is charmingly named “democratic politics.” And because that theatrical performance is precisely their cover and their secrecy, the one interest which most consistently unifies them is in seeing that no man enters the higher echelons of rule, who has not first knelt at the alter of their wealth and power. Whenever a “foreign element” strays into the democratic system, then, the super-wealthy are most likely to act in unison to liquidate that threat in whatever manner they may.
The collusion of our democratic politicasters with such men as these, the more or less universal extent of this kind of corrupting in the most powerful offices (where the low nature of the politician is certain to bow eventually to the imposing influence of the wealthy), will sooner or later neutralize those republican mechanisms, like checks and balances, by containing them in a wider system yet. Because the super-affluent are, given the natural growth of capitalism, bound to become “international” figures with global interests (as much to escape particular laws as to consolidate their greater realm of influence and money), they will eventually “transcend” the limits of those particular political mechanisms which have been designed to restrain their influence. They will form, for example, greater and greater corporations or secret “societies” until the size and scope of these coorporations and “societies” exceed the natural borders of any given country; at which point it is but a matter of course that such coorporations and “societies” will come, amoeba like, to absorb entire governments by standing precisely around them. Then all particular republican legal protections and specific power-limiting mechanisms will become but tools in the hands of men who stand beyond their reach, and who therefore can use, toward the attainment of their ends, precisely those governmental and social functions which were designed to constrict that attainment. All of thise is only a question of time—which is the one ingredient lacking for the complete ubiquity of such corruption throughout the democratic system. By this path, every “republican” system arrives at its natural, if totally unconscious and undesired, end. The movement is so inevitable that, looking back, it almost seems that these systems have been built for nothing else.
There is no external or higher principle which can correct this perverted course. No morality can aid in a state which posits the “equality of human beings” and thus tacitly denies the existence of human excellence. No divine law can neutralize this venom in the “secular state” (and all democracies are necessarily “secular”) which essentially denies the divinity of the divine law and thus decapitates its power from the start. Democracy is built upon the swamp, and into the swamp it duly sinks, either all at once or slowly. The excellence of republican safeguards can retard, but not halt, this course. And once it has fallen in, not the combined powers of man and god can drag it out again.
One might hope for the salutary intervention of some unbiased and external power, such as the “Fourth Estate” (or the “Fifth Estate,” depending on how one likes to count these continually propagating powers) of the “free press”—another of our great modern prides—or better say, our modern vanities. To some extent, the hope one puts in this press is not ill-founded. The problem of course returns us to the simple question of “economies of scale”—for everything in democracy must return to the question of mass and matter, of “economy and science,” it itself being the government of mass and matter par excellence. That portion of the press which enjoys real sway, and which therefore might be able to combat the overwhelming potency of the super-affluent and their dark spheres of influence, can only be that portion of the press which we like to call “mainstream.” The mainstream press is characterized by the breadth of its audience; it is that portion of the press which has obtained the greatest number of ears and eyes in the widest possible range within our enormous and multifaceted societies. Two points follow from this: first, that such a press will tend to be theatrical, and to put up “stagings,” being accustomed to manipulating the emotions and the opinions of the many; and second, that it will be the most sympathetic to the interest in wealth. For such a press could not arrive in the mainstream without enormous quantities of financial aid, and it would not arrive there without the will to improve its “earnings.”
These particular traits of the mainstream press make it the natural bedfellow of the corruption of a society. It will be sought out precisely by the super-affluent for its ability to reach into the personal lives of millions and to deceive these citizens by its chicanery and subterfuge—and so the super-affluent will have every reason to spare no expense and to cut no corners in persuading the owners and directors of the press to represent them, in as subtle and insidious a way as possible. It is difficult if not impossible to imagine that such press on the whole can long remain free of that influence, and particularly not over the course of generations.
Those elements of the “free press” which really remain to some extent “free,” it is needless to say, will never enjoy the mass appeal of the mainstream. They cannot purchase that appeal, lacking the means and the backers to do so, they cannot hope to win it by substituting ugly and difficult truths for pleasant and cheerful lies, and they have absolutely no power substantial enough to counter the herd-instinct of the mass. They will remain forever “alternative,” and their message will be equivalently limited.
The press, or any other “Estate” extrinsic to the power structure of democratic society, cannot be counted on to protect the purity and moral mettle of that society, nor to begin to counter the enormously potent influences which press that society toward innermost decay.
This then is the necessary character of “the representatives of democracy,” their inevitable final stage. We are permitted to call this the final stage, because whatever will issue from their generalized corruption will not be “democratic” in any sense of the word, no matter what form it takes. No matter what one might say or believe about our public men, no matter what pleasant words one might use to dress them and costume them, one cannot avoid perceiving the true quality of the wielders of power in democracy. This and this alone is what “representative democracy” most generally means, so far as the rulers go: the vainest of human beings working at the secret behest of the cruelest.