What Separatism Means

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Ivan Daraktchiev sent me several of his papers in appreciation of my work which he views as expressing many ideas similar to his. There’s good thinking and insights in his work. Naturally, one may not agree with all of his ideas. There are ideas of my own that I’ve expressed over the years that I may now disagree with.

The strength of his analysis is to take a broad view across many countries in order to understand events. Having lived through Communism in Bulgaria before leaving for Belgium, he is familiar with the devastation caused by a bureaucratic class of parasites, the nomenklatura, that destroys a society, both morally and economically. This idea aligns with the Austrian analysis. After years in Belgium, he realized that the EU was similar to the Communist system in being taken over by a nomenklatura. In fact, many western democracies are in the same position. He calls this parasitic and destructive political system “nomenklaturocracy” and says Orwell was right about it. So have been Mises and Rothbard and Rockwell and many others in the intellectual movement toward freedom, better societies and better political arrangements.

With this idea in mind, that all governments are controlled by ruling classes that attempt to insulate themselves from their subjects, the differences between communism, fascism, and representative democracy become only matters of degree. Lengthy disputes between democrats and republicans become trivial. Notions that a republic will outdo a democracy become off target since both involve constitutions and representatives, and these lead to party control and nomenklaturae. The key question is always the extent to which a nomenklatura has turned government into a nomenklaturoracy. The key question is the extent to which a government has been captured by those in the government so that the people have lost control of it.

In America we all can recognize that professional bureaucracies have huge power, that the same sorts of people and ideas run Washington no matter what party is in power, and that policies are enacted that follow their ideas, not the preferences of the voting public. This gulf between what people want and what their elected leaders choose to do is getting noticeably wider. This is a sign of a government that is not controlled by the people even though they vote and choose representatives. This is because the nomenklatura and party bigwigs vet most all candidates and shape their voting once they get to Washington.

After years and decades in which these controllers exercise their preferences, which, being unaccountable, frequently are crazy, stupid and folly to the broad masses whom they rule, they destroy the moral character of society and its economy. These ruling classes indulge in extravagant and useless spending, such as hugely expensive wars in Vietnam and Iraq, or space programs, or attempts to turn an economy into a workers’ communist paradise, or to turn a society into a politically correct group, or to produce a cooler climate, or to produce a Europe with fixed borders, or to produce a just welfare state, or to reduce income inequality, or to end the business cycle, or to produce a fair society in which no trace of discrimination is allowed. The menu of possible quixotic projects is infinite. In the end, no society can survive the diversion of its resources into projects that cost far more than the gains they produce. The controllers of government wreck the society and economy. If government was doing any good or had a system that might have done some good, they wreck that too. In other words, if the constitution ever did have some good features, they destroy it too.

As people at large become disillusioned with the deterioration going on, with the immense debts being generated, with the static or declining living standards, with the injustice and corruption when government diverts from its basic announced duties, in other words as the abuses grow into a long train of abuses, the idea of separatism grows. This is when secession movements, breakaway movements and separatist movements arise. It is because of the thwarting of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which is the by-product and sometimes even the aim of the ruling class bureaucracies and nomenklaturae. Cruelty, wickedness, folly, waste, stupidity, injustice, extravagance, inefficiency, idiocy –  all stemming from government by an insulated ruling class or a nomenklatura that controls the levers of power, give rise to separatism, rebellions, riots, and revolutions.

Separatism means that a group of people are frustrated and unhappy with the existing political arrangements. The reasons for the unhappiness vary. The cause for these reasons, whatever they are, is typically that a government is working badly because it is unaccountable to the people. In turn, the cause of that failing of government is that a ruling class, a set of bureaucracies, or a nomenklatura has taken hold of the power to make the laws, tax the people and decide how to spend the resources, regardless of the preferences of the people. At that point, the people have no option but to end that form of government and choose new arrangements. Sounds like Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence, doesn’t it? It is also possible that some of the smarter members of the ruling class will attempt to ameliorate the situation by altering what the government is doing. And, unfortunately, it is also possible that the ruling class will move toward a tougher police state and repression. It may try to suppress dissent and jail possible leaders of dissent.

Separatism means that people are trying to overcome the state’s injustices.

Ukraine is an example, having been ruled badly and having a much lower living standard than Russia. The Venice secession is an example. Scotland wants to separate from Great Britain. Greeks and Italians want out from the EU, but the EU has installed new governors despite their preferences. All over the world, there is revolution in the air and for good reason. The nature of the existing political arrangements is unsatisfactory. The control of thought, vocabulary and propaganda by the ruling classes is breaking down in the face of worldwide internet communication. A struggle with many local differences is emerging. The details differ enough to obscure the commonality, but there is a core that’s recognizable. It was recognized in the movie “Network” in 1976. Remember the line? “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

The future remains unclear, even when we understand the present. We do not know what sorts of revolutions are going to occur. How complete will they be? Will they be bloodless or bloody? Will they give rise to even worse repression as in Egypt? What forms of government will take the place of those we have now? How long will this overturning process take? Revolutions typically take at least a decade or two from start to finish. Who will win the battles of mind, will and muscle that are going to occur?

I’ve consistently advocated non-violence and still do. The Soviet Union fell with very little violence. What’s most important is understanding, getting the ideas right and knowing what to replace the current dysfunctional system with. In my opinion, this most importantly involves replacing corrupt moral ideas, corrupt and unaccountable systems, and futile quests with ethical ideas and human relationships that consistently respect human beings and their freedoms or rights. The more people that understand deeply and the more people that arrive at a peaceful consensus of basic ideas, the easier these transitions can go.

But since ideas differ on such basic matters as ethical ideas and human beings are imperfect creatures, there is bound to be disagreement on the numerous details. For one thing, there are acute differences in religions. Any religion or quasi-religion whose proponents conceive of themselves as having the one and only truth can cause immense problems if they attempt to impose their version of truth on non-believers in their religion. Any proponents of a political ideology who attempt to impose their ways upon others likewise can cause great suffering. Utopia is not going to break out anytime soon. The size and scope of a new set of societies and polities are unknown. The truth is always an unknown. Anyone who thinks he knows the truth so well as to impose it on other people against their will is mistaken and bound to create misery.

I see no option except to live and let live, to mind one’s own business, to respect the rights of others to live as they see fit, and to allow for a friendly competition of many different social groups and arrangements; and if this view is mistaken and leads to worse outcomes, to seek how to correct it. Let each man freely choose his own society and government.

In my opinion, the least we can do is to recognize the faults and errors of the past, acknowledge them openly and learn from them. We will do better if we acknowledge, for example, that America has gone wrong in important ways under the U.S. government system and if we understand why it has gone wrong and what false assumptions it has been built upon. At the same time, we should recognize where Americans went right and what they did right that enabled living standards to rise, for example. All of these matters that involve basic social and political arrangements are exceedingly difficult to work out. There is no blueprint. History is one such struggle after another.

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