Champions of Democracy Are Wrong

"What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government."

~ Francis Fukuyama, "The End of History?" a 1989 essay published in The National Interest

Self-styled "champions of democracy," Western and Chinese alike, insist that "Communist" China ought to look to democratic Taiwan for guidance on how to reform its political system. They insist that "Communist" China ought to adopt Taiwanese style democracy as practiced by Taiwan independence fascists Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shiu-bian.

Champions of democracy need to think again. Democracy is the breeding ground for fascism. Democracy provides all the necessary conditions for fascism to take root and mature. Unless for some perverse, indecipherable reason champions of democracy want mainland China, with its 1.3 billion people, to march down the same fascist path as Taiwan’s Quisling nomenklatura, they had better check their premises and revise their recommendations.

Democracy incorporates a variety of legal constraints against the abuse of power. In theory, these constraints prevent the dangerous concentration of power in any single branch of government, particularly the executive. In practice, they merely legitimize state violence against defenseless citizens struggling to lead their own lives and follow their own dreams. In theory, democracy is government of the people, by the people, and for the people. In practice, democracy is government of an elective dictator, by an elective dictator, and for an elective dictator.

Fortunately for mankind, Frances Fukuyama and his fellow champions of democracy are wrong. History has not ended. Mankind’s ideological evolution has not reached its end point. Western liberal democracy is not the final form of human government. Otherwise mankind would be trapped within a Kafkaesque nightmare world from which there is "No Exit."

Communism doesn’t Work. Neither does Democracy

"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is."

~ Yogi Berra

Communism was destined to fail even before it was implemented, because it was based on a fundamentally flawed assumption about human nature. The assumption was that human beings would behave "unselfishly," as defined by Marxist-Leninists, if only political leaders with determination held guns to peoples’ heads and forced them to act "unselfishly." Communism failed because human beings can’t be psychologically browbeaten or physically coerced into behaving "unselfishly." People who want to coerce others into behaving "unselfishly" will themselves behave according to their fundamental human nature. They will impose their own selfish values of "unselfishness" upon others, and refer to it as "selfless service."

What champions of democracy don’t realize, or realize but refuse to admit, is that the same holds true for democracy. Democracy was also destined to fail even before it was implemented, because it too was based on a fundamentally flawed assumption about human nature. The assumption was that "democratically elected" officials would miraculously behave "unselfishly" by virtue of "the democratic process." Democracy has failed because elected officials don’t behave unselfishly merely because they promised to do so during their election campaigns. Elected officials, once in office, will behave according to their fundamental human nature. They will abuse the powers delegated to them by "the democratic process" to further their own selfish interests, then glorify their despotic behavior as "selfless service."

Like Warsaw Pact victims of the Communist delusion, champions of democracy are victims of their own delusions about how democracy ought to work in theory, as opposed to how it actually works in practice.

Both Communism and democracy failed miserably as political systems because they are predicated upon wishful thinking about human nature. Communism and democracy are both predicated on the hypothetical premise that "If pigs had wings, they could fly." Unfortunately for both Communists and champions of democracy, pigs don’t have wings, they can’t fly, and all the wishing in the world won’t make them.

The only politico-economic system, or to be more precise, metasystem, grounded in the fundamental reality of human nature, is the spontaneously generated free marketplace.

Democracy, Breeding Ground for Fascism

"Nothing matters more than winning. Not even what you believe in."

~ Tagline for The Candidate (1972, directed by Michael Ritchie, written by Jeremy Larner, former speechwriter for Eugene McCarthy)

Remember The Candidate, the biting political satire starring Robert Redford? The Internet Movie DataBase summarizes the plot: "Californian lawyer Bill McKay fights for the little man. His charisma and integrity get him noticed by the Democratic Party machine and he is persuaded to run for the Senate against an apparently unassailable incumbent. It’s agreed he can handle it his own way, on his own terms. But once he’s in the race and his prospects begin to improve, the deal starts to change."

Why does the deal start to change?

The deal starts to change because democracy is inherently corrupting. Democracy incorporates certain perverse incentives. Democracy’s holiest sacrament is popular elections. Popular elections compel candidates for political office to resort to populist demagoguery, i.e., "impassioned appeals to the prejudices and emotions of the populace." Popular elections compel candidates to sacrifice reason to passion, substance to image, and principle to expediency.

As the tagline for The Candidate reminds us, under democracy’s system of popular elections, "Nothing matters more than winning. Not even what you believe in."

No wonder Thomas Jefferson, author of the Bill of Rights, complained that "Democracy is nothing more than mob rule." No wonder James Madison, Father of the Constitution, concluded that "Democracies have … been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property."

Austrian School economist Friedrich von Hayek’s landmark book, The Road to Serfdom, includes a chapter on populism and fascism entitled, "Why the Worst Get on Top." The title of the chapter says it all.

Why do the worst get on top? The worst get on top because democracy’s defining institution, popular elections, do not work as advertised. In theory, democratic elections ensure that only the most farsighted leaders offering the most rational policies get on top. In practice, democratic elections ensure that only the most shameless demagogues, for whom nothing matters more than winning, who are willing to betray what they believe in, will get on top.

Adolf Hitler, democratically elected Chancellor of Germany understood this better than anyone. As Der Fhrer himself observed, "I know perfectly well that in the scientific sense there is no such thing as race. As a politician [however] I need an idea which enables the order which has hitherto existed on a historic basis to be abolished and an entirely new order enforced and given an intellectual basis. And for this purpose the idea of race serves me well."

Democracy, an Object Lesson for China

"You can observe a lot just by watching."

~ Yogi Berra

Self-styled champions of democracy insist that "Communist" China ought to look to democratic Taiwan for guidance on how to reform its political system. Ironically, many political reformers agree, but not in the sense that champions of democracy mean. By observing real-life political developments on mainland China during the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and on Taiwan from the 80s till today, political reformers on both mainland China and Taiwan have learned two enormously valuable political lessons:

Lesson One: Communism doesn’t work. This lesson was learned watching desperately as Mao Zedong’s economically suicidal, coercive egalitarian policies destroyed mainland China’s economy and society.

Lesson Two: Democracy doesn’t work. This lesson was learned watching incredulously as Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian’s economically suicidal, pro-independence policies destroyed Taiwan’s economy and society.

Taiwan’s ill-fated experiment in democracy has provided Chinese political reformers on both sides of the Taiwan Strait with an unmistakable lesson. Taiwan has shown them that democracy is as much a recipe for social, economic, and political disaster as Communism.

These two important lessons will stand the Chinese nation in good stead as the coming century unfolds, because the adoption of Communism and democracy are the two most catastrophic blunders committed by developing nations in the late 20th and early 21st century.

Chinese political reformers, like Yogi Berra, observed a lot just by watching.

Democracy is structurally defective. The defects of democracy, its ineffectual constraints against the expansion of power, its predisposition to reward fascist demagoguery, are defects in its incentive structure. Such defects were unwittingly designed into the system from its inception. Such defects cannot be "fixed" by "reformers" waving brooms in the air and promising to sweep out the cobwebs of the previous administration. The only solution to the insoluble problems of democracy, is to jettison the system altogether start over with a clean slate.

The mainland region of China tried Communism and discovered it didn’t work. The Taiwan region of China tried democracy and discovered it doesn’t work either. A future, reunified China has an unprecedented opportunity, one that seldom arises in history, to try a radically different political system that does work, that genuinely ensures human beings’ natural rights and individual liberty. That system is known as "market anarchism" or "anarcho-capitalism."

Ironically, if China were to move boldly forward and adopt such a system, it would actually be returning to its historical roots, to the great Daoist philosopher Laozi’s "wu wei er zi" (govern by doing nothing).

For an introduction to "anarcho-capitalism, see: Anarcho-capitalism, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

For parallels between Chinese Daoism and Western anarchism, see: Taoism and Anarchism.

November 14, 2005

Bevin Chu [send him mail] is an American architect of Chinese descent registered to practice in Texas. Currently living and working in Taiwan, Chu is the son of a retired high-ranking diplomat with the ROC (Taiwan) government. His column, “The Strait Scoop” is published on his website, The China Desk.