A STUDY OF POWERS

MAREK CHLEBUS

 

 

 

WHAT ABOUT DEMOCRACY?

 

The quality of European democracies is a reason for increasing distaste among the remains of the politically disengaged elites, and the so-called simple people openly criticise the dishonesty, incompetence, and degeneration of politicians on the one hand, but on the other, continuously prolong their mandate.

The solidarity of politicians has created a hopeless situation in which any election seems unimportant, because the options and candidates differ to a small extent and co-operate rather with their alleged competitors than with the electorate, which they perceive as an easily-duped hoi polloi.

Decades of peace and improving European co-operation have decreased selective pressure in politics to an unimportant level. The degeneration of authorities is progressive, and many think that it cannot develop any further – either because of the growing dysfunction and cost of authorities, or because of social rejection. This belief turns out to be an illusion after a closer look. The internal evolution of European democracy can be interpreted as a logical, natural, and quite stable process. It can continue for a very long time, at least until the external disturbances are weak and irrelevant. The natural consequence of democracy – autocracy – still seems to be quite distant.

 

 

THE POWER OF REPRESENTATIVES

The tenure of democratic authority establishes a short horizon of activity and a not-much-further horizon of consciousness. A certain continuity of democratic authority is secured by the coexisting oligarchies and meritocracies: expert, education, media, religious, financial, judiciary, police, military, administrative, and others. Their independence from democracy is sometimes significant, and their coexistence sometimes turns into competition.

If a meritocracy is in any way dependent on the political authority, then it is in its best interest to keep the members of the democratic authority in the dark, or provide them with false consciousness. It is obvious that an MP, councillor, minister, or governor, who understands how the office operates, becomes a dangerous controller or an inconvenient supervisor. It is clear that the officials strive to weaken the danger, and since they usually function longer than an MP, councillor, minister, or governor, and there are usually more of them, they mostly win. The results of long-term cultivation of incompetence of the democratic authorities in different countries are obvious and clear. One might risk saying that the more mature a democracy is, the less the quality of representatives should be.

The dependence of political authority on meritocracy can be significant, and is usually stronger than the converse. Meritocracies are capable of managing all the matters of the authorities while their representatives are absent. And sometimes they do so. From their point of view, democracy is a benign cancerous growth, which it is better not to try to remove, because it could become a malignant one. Indeed, any change of system, or even a lack of “the cancer” – anarchy – usually decreases the safety of a meritocracy.

Oligarchies and meritocracies should, therefore, be the greatest champions of democracy, and usually are. Rare examples of juntas or theocracies are rather just warnings to all meritocrats and oligarchs. A well-practised democracy provides them with more personal security and profits.

Democratic authorities arise from a selection which requires a political campaign. Since campaigns are run with the help of expensive media, members of the political authorities have to become clients of at least the media and financial elites. Dependence on other meritocratic and oligarchic elites varies: in religious countries, the role of priests grows, in a police country – that of policemen, in an institutionalised country – of bureaucrats, and so on. But the power of the financial and media world seems to be universal.

Everyone who has had contact with authority or business knows that authority can make almost any economic activity easier or harder. Economic elites are therefore very interested in achieving an influence on democratic authority. And they gain it, especially by sponsoring political campaigns and the activities of parties or single politicians.

The heaven of all elites, to which they go when they achieve success, is the high financial circles. This is where all the most gifted and most ruthless meritocrats, oligarchs, and representatives go. Therefore, this elite has to be the strongest. And it is this elite that catches democratic authority with the most ease, and makes it a façade for its activities. In specific cases, it is possible for other elites to seize power, but it is only a transitional phase, since they go to the same heaven if successful.

THE SPACE FOR POLITICAL POWER

In a televised democracy, political powers do not need to formulate programmes. If their aim is to seize power, it is not the programme that brings them closer to it, but rather advertisement. According to the specialists, one can advertise everything and the effectiveness of advertisement does not rely on the features of the product, but on its presentation. There is a wide knowledge of how to seduce or even misinform the buyer without any risk of being responsible for it. Advertising companies, which endorse beverages, sanitary pads, washing powder, parties and politicians, possess that knowledge.

Life has shown that neither a political party nor a politician need a programme, but they do need advertisement. The lack of advertisement is disastrous, the lack of a programme is not. Having a programme can give rise to unnecessary risk. A programme can be criticised by the competition, by those who wish one bad luck, or by the envious. A programme can oblige one to perform certain actions, the realisation of which may be assessed later; a programme limits the way in which power is exercised, one has to learn a programme... then remember it... it is nothing but trouble [1].

The lack of a programme is linked with only one risk – the accusation of not having a programme. But this accusation may only be made by someone having their own programme. Such a critic does not gain much, however, and by having his own programme, he risks a lot himself. Theoretically, not having a programme is an optimal campaign strategy; in practice, everyone knows how things are.

I will now list three tautologies regarding political authority. They are nobody’s opinions, but equivalent elaborations of a definition. Those who do not agree with them are either mistaken or use a different language.

- The authorities realising a good programme are relatively good.

- The authorities realising a bad programme are relatively bad.

- The authorities not realising any programme are relatively superfluous.

The authorities realising a good programme can be simultaneously inefficient or corrupt. They can even be worse than the authorities ineffectively realising a bad programme. Also, the authorities not realising any programme can be better then the two former ones. However, if we compare three types of authorities with similar moral and professional standards, then the first one is better than the other ones, and the third one is better than the second.

Accepting at face value the declarations of practically all politicians and parties, that they strive for good, and noting their common lack of programme, we reach the inevitable conclusion that political authority is superfluous. Brownian movements do not need a steersman. The Sun rises without a bugle call.

The only function effectively performed by political authorities is blocking space, filling the vacuum, which could be entered by an even worse authority. Authorities without programmes or even ideas, even though formally superfluous, protect us from authorities realising a bad programme. Politicians without ideas guard the status quo. They guard us from both the good and the bad authorities. But since the good ones occur so rarely, they can be omitted in these deliberations without adding to error.

CORRUPTION AND EFFECTIVENESS OF AUTHORITY

Authority usually has many aims: c1 – can for example be a budget surplus, c2 – the quality of education, c3 – victory in war, c4 – common morality, c5 – extermination of chosen minorities, c6 – setting animals free, etc. The effectiveness in different aims can vary depending on which services realise them. The level of corruption can vary for the same reason. The difficulty in comparing aims lies in their origins being different, and often disproportionate orders. However, using e.g. von Neumann – Morgenstern’s theory of value, one can relatively unambiguously bring the aims to a common appellation. And since, with a certain approximation, one can expect that the levels of corruption for different areas will be similar, the model can be simplified by introducing just one effectiveness coefficient (s) and one corruption coefficient (k) for all aims. Then the value of authority is the product of the sum of aims (C), of the efficiency coefficient, and of a complement of 100% of the corruption coefficient:

C · s · (1-k).

Note that if the aims cancel each other out in terms of value and their balance equals zero, neither efficiency nor corruption can affect the results of exercising authority. This could seem to be a paradox and evidence that the formula is wrong, but is not: C is the sum of all aims, so if the positives and negatives balance each other out, society loses as much on corruption and inefficiency with the realisation of positive aims, as it gains on corruption and inefficiency with the realisation of negative aims [2]. This is actually quite obvious: a person moving a pile of bricks from one place to another and back gains as much as an inefficient person or a person not doing anything neglecting the issue of entropy).

The weakness of this formula is the necessity to evaluate aims. Comparing the issues of health or morality with budget balance is always a little grotesque. But since today it is common to do such things while performing various analyses and projects, we are somewhat accustomed to it. An additional difficulty is the possibility that the authorities realise some hidden or unconscious aims, such as privileging or underprivileging some social groups. However, since in a modern democracy most of the political forces consist of individuals with similar education and who are similarly selected, and are subdued by similar pressures – the input of non-verbal aims into their strategies will also be similar most of the time.

Therefore, comparing different authorities requires comparing their aims, efficiency, and corruption. After a detailed analysis it can turn out that out of all the forces competing for power, it would be optimal for the society to prefer an inefficient or corrupt force.

If we assume a positive sum of aims, corruption is less dangerous than inefficiency because, first: corrupt authorities work for the people, at least within the scope for which the people pay, and second what is wasted is gone for ever, and what is stolen does remain – in wrong hands, but is not lost, and sometimes can be won back.

It can turn out that for the electorate the safest choice strategy during election can sometimes be entrusting power to the hands of rather backward, corrupted losers. And the fact that this happens often can be rather a symbol of the maturity of a democracy and not of its weakness.

RECRUITMENT OF AUTHORITIES

Power is in the hands of various centres. According to the constitution, we have legislative, executive, and judicial powers. In practice one has to add the media, the army, finance, bureaucracy, and a couple of others. Legislative power comes from common elections – the executive, from more or less limited elections. Bureaucracy and judicial power are meritocracies, in which recruitment and promotion happens through co-opting. The media, and rather journalists, regenerate in a similar way, because the ownership of the media can be bought, and concessions, if they cannot be bought, can be gained politically.

Meritocracy recruits and promotes such candidates as it sees valuable. Most of the changes within a meritocracy can be performed by its own internal forces. External forces (political authority, capital) can influence mainly the highest levels of meritocracy.

Elections are a game, in which power is the prize, and the competition is to gain the most popularity. It is no wonder that if power is gained in such a way, it is often taken by those proficient in the art of being liked. Intelligence tests are, somewhat amusingly, more often used in beauty competitions than in elections to parliament or a city council. Of course, one cannot hinder access to power to the less intelligent, because it is illegal since everyone has equal election rights, and anyway we cannot measure intelligence well (tests assess the ability to do tests, their other meaning is solely hypothetical). If we want honest, competent, or efficient authorities, we should force the candidates into some form of competition, which prefers the required features in a better way than a popularity poll.

Confucian China elected most of its levels of power through common exams. Something similar, although not common recruitment, was present in the British colonial service. Those who think that this was better than a popularity poll should know that, in China test-takers wrote poems and dissertations on various elegant topics, and in the UK mainly knowledge of dead languages, such as Latin and classical Greek was tested [3].

Is it possible that, within the frames of a democratic country, those features of the candidates are privileged, which we expect from the future authorities? The media claim that there is only one way: control of the politicians through the media, and then reminding them of their sins during the next campaign. Let us note that this way Germany would not have elected Hitler... for the second term. Let me remind you that only one, and incompletely won, election was enough for him.

People in the street promote another way: put the corrupt politicians in prison and employ honest people. In a morally-ravaged society one could run out of prisons. Besides, how to select the honest ones? And anyway, can one be sure that an honest politician is better than a corrupt one? Maybe they would not steal anything, but oh, how much they could waste! So the selection of candidates should also start from recognizing their competences. And this is something that a prosecutor will not do.

A better way is common education, developing social resources, among others honesty, diligence, co-operativeness, and responsibility. As these features become common, the possibility that those gaining popularity will also have them, grows. However, education is work- and time-consuming. The results come rather slowly and are not very effective at first, which means that they have a low political value.

Another way requires the co-operation of the media, not in stigmatizing the sins of the current authorities, but in promoting certain attitudes and abilities. The candidates cannot be forced to take obligatory exams or tests, but they themselves may want to take them. The media could introduce special game shows for the candidates, promote the winners, and publicise the fact of avoiding such tests by some. Taking the number and quality of candidates into consideration, such a marathon would be tedious, costly and surely pathetic. But maybe less pathetic and costly than the later results of the work of parliament and government?

EDUCATION OF POLITICIANS

Despite their weakness, politicians sometimes make important decisions – of course not independently because they are dependent on not only the media, business, bureaucracy, and other services, but also on ideology, both a great one, stemming from great minds, and from the everyday ideology expressed through stereotypes and superstitions. In times of a fetish-like approach to public opinion polls, “folk” ideology may even have a decisive influence on the attitudes of politicians, and even though initially it influences more the verbal part of their activity, it is quite hard for a normal human being to remain in a state of schizophrenia of split ideas and actions, if not for any other reason than for the fact that it is not a comfortable stance when honesty works alongside laziness and calculation: gradually what the politicians say “on air” reaches them, even against their own intentions.

Anthropologically, politics can be rooted in “the pecking order”, determining the hierarchy in a group of social birds or mammals. Both among animals and humans this is a very absorbing action. Practically nothing that an alpha male does remains without influence on his position. Basically, his whole activity must revolve around maintaining power, which, in the hierarchy of aims, dominates even over the consumption of this power. A lazy or obese ruler is usually replaced by a diligent challenger, who is more concentrated on power than on consumption. That is why politicians are very busy people. Those who devote little time and attention to politics, don’t last long.

Politics is an interpersonal area. One has to frighten somebody, impress somebody, be useful to somebody, be ignored by somebody, and valued highly by somebody else. The substance of politics is the word, and rather spoken than written. The action of the politician is personal contact, even if it is just a greeting or a handshake. A phone conversation, or even a video conference, barely replaces direct contact, at least in the most important area of conspiracies and coalitions. A politician reads little, and if he does, mainly bulletins, headlines, and sometimes press reviews. Reading has a lesser selective value than chats, speeches, or meetings. The articles and books which are useful to a politician deal with gossip, latest trends, and current affairs. They allow making an impression of being well-informed. Philosophy is not in unnecessary, and can even be harmful, because, when exposed, it creates an image of an intellectual under the influence of strange and impractical values.

The general education of a typical politician ends with his entering politics. That is when professional education starts. Most often it is apprenticeship with some patron, or having a position with some accessible interest group. From this moment on, general education is limited to those ideas which have selective value, e.g. help him get closer to new patrons or new circles, or help improve his position in current circles. Ideas usually move from top to bottom of the social ladder, like gossip. In almost any environment there is someone who has a licence for wisdom and for spreading fashions, sayings, superstitions, catchphrases; in other words – mems. Usually this someone is empirically open to somebody else’s standing, but in time gains the ability to independently gain ideas from outside the social hierarchy, e.g. from books or own thoughts. Often it is a columnist, who, formally remaining outside the circles of power, has great influence over them, educating them.

The influence of such authorities on our reality is difficult to overrate. The elite created by them is largely meritocratic and one basically enters by co-opting (as in church, bureaucratic, and judicial hierarchies), but simultaneously, an important measure of standing is the aggressiveness of the mems, their ability to infect, their epidemic nature. And this is already a gift. Not everyone has it. Not everyone can be made into an authority.

One has to invest in social standing. It is cheaper to care for the quality of a narrow opinion-creating group, than for all parties. It is easier to strengthen a couple of valuable and convincing columnists, than re-educate the whole political class.

Ergo: current authorities have to be respected. Societies devoid of this will be ruled by dunces.

IDENTITY OF THOSE IN POWER

In the analysis of relations of power, much is explained if one includes the factors of memory and time.

An ideal democratic authority lasts one term of office in one composition. In a new term, a new make-up appears, partially coinciding with the previous one. Continuity usually varies between 20 and 80%. At a low rate of continuity, democratic authority loses most of its memory, and needs to gather the necessary knowledge and experience every term. At a high percentage, the authority is stable, but essentially loses its democratic character, becoming, so to speak, an oligarchy by definition.

An individual exercising democratic power for several terms inevitably loses touch with the electorate. This politician better understands the issues concerning power, but understands the voters worse. He is no longer a representative and becomes a professional politician. Election itself does not change this status; the media campaign is a directed show, in which the candidate is the lead actor. He speaks, not listens, and dialogue with the voters is superfluous.

A truly democratic authority, in order not to become an oligarchy, should “refresh” itself to a significant degree. This is directly ensured by some legal solutions for authorities which are not elected for terms, in which the make-up is renewed periodically. This way a compromise is kept between being representative and being competent, and also between an oligarchic and democratic character of power. However, usually the competence of democratic power is limited, and if it grows, a democracy becomes an oligarchy. Either competence, or democracy.

The role of an individual or of a group can be shaped and stabilised with various “characteristic times”. The actions of an individual are limited by its changing identity, the actions of a family by family bonds, the actions of a clan by family bonds passing generations, the actions of a tribe, association, or a religious group by the stability of a common tradition.

The characteristic time for an individual is between several to a few tens of years, for a family it is several tens of years, for clans from several tens to a few hundred years, and for tribes and nations it can reach ages.

Social planning can rarely surpass periods in which the planning entity retains its identity. Of course, idealistic actions are attempted for the good of the future, abstract generations are possible, but they rather concern spiritual matters and not directly political ones. Besides, after the planner has gone, the possibility to correct the plan and perform other actions required to finish it disappears. As a simplification, we can accept that effective social planning can have a time horizon more or less the same as the planning person.

Because of changes in technology and civilisation, social planning loses its sense if it is done for periods of time longer than several tens or over a hundred years. Unforeseen changes can be too great and surprising in such a period of time for anybody to be able to include them in the calculations. Causative actions can cover only those areas of human life which are not affected by epochal changes, some natural and non-invented community: family, clan, tribe, nation. The aims can be permanent attributes, which are not affected by fashion or re-interpretations: wealth, strength, social position, etc.

Therefore, it seems that that a relatively stable and historically significant identity may be kept rather by families and clans than by associations, parties, countries, or companies [4]. Even if their influences were slight at any given moment, through their stability, they could turn out to be significant and causative in the long run.

Democratic institutions, devoid of long-term memory, rather become instruments of power. Subjects are usually entities, families, clans, and tribes capable of maintaining their identity for longer, upholding stable values, and equipped with will. So, if someone really acts causatively, he should rather have a name than a position; rather a family than an office or a party.

RULE OF LAW

Democratic power works through law, which is constituted by the legislative power and introduced by the executive. How does law really work? Does one need great regulations to organise and connect the work of a farmer, miller, and a baker? Did nobody sow cereals, harvest them, mill them to flour, and bake bread out of the flour before the creation of law, accounting, states, and taxes? What is the actual role of law in human life?

Contemporary organisation of human groups has formalised many behaviour patterns and interactions, which used to be natural, and created jobs out of them. That is why many succumb to the feeling that it is not them but the laws and regulations that create social relations. Obviously, this is not true. Regulation can shape the lives of entities and of societies, but is not capable of creating it. Children are born and the elderly die independent of the will of the parliament. People give each other gifts, exchange goods, steal from each other, co-operate and fight one another, not as a result of their knowledge of the law, but because of their internal motivations.

Another issue is that people wise enough to foresee the problems and write down instructions on how to solve them in future appear very rarely, if ever. How much less can we expect such wisdom from legislators elected democratically. Nor can we expect this from professional lawyers, because they are taught to understand law and not the world, which this law regulates.

The law and lesser rules are created at such a pace that a single person is not able to read everything that is an order or prohibition, or has any other influence over his life. For that reason, in our everyday lives it is still customs, the natural law that function, just as before they were encoded. That is why particular offices, or even individual bureaucrats, can use their own mutations of the law, and sometimes even have to.

The twentieth-century omnipotence of the state and grotesquely detailed regulations have created a situation of over-regulation. It has two dangerous consequences. First, regulation can be an illusion, and steering actions often bring unwanted consequences or even consequences opposite to those planned. Society is a complex system, and steering it would require knowledge much surpassing that which is available today in universities or in parliaments. The growing complexity of the law is a sign of impotence of the lawmakers or a conscious creation of a situation in which everyone is formally guilty. In such case, the legal system contradicts its own aims and starts serving the untamed will of the authorities; punishing or rewarding all those who are selected [5].

Second, over-regulation or unskilled regulation can cause various reactions: either self-organisation of the society against or in stead of this regulation, or apathy. Self-organisation can have the character of refusal, objection, or substitution. In the first two cases, the society rejects the unwanted authority. In the third case, it works instead of an unskilled authority. The objection movements can be seen in the areas of group aspirations, pacifism, ecology, religion, or anti-globalism. The substitution movements constitute “underground” or “grey” medical care, security, education, social care, and other areas of the state’s disability.

Apathy is the worst option. Groups affected by it are paralysed with faith in the omnipotence of the authorities. As a result of this, they resign from independent activity, and even from any initiative in the areas in which the authorities are responsible, want to be responsible, or should be responsible. In the case of inefficiency of the authorities, the apathised group is sucked in by a social vacuum, and the potential leader of the herd, even if there is one, has to base on low emotions.

APPROPRIATION OF STATE

The democratic state does not have any particular protections to prevent appropriation of public devices by various interest groups, and is exceptionally susceptible to such appropriation. As a result of this, cancerous regulations and pathological institutions protect the interests of small groups, and become a burden to the rest. Particular pieces of the state start serving different interest groups in an unco-ordinated, irrational, and always costly way.

It works like this: a given group, e.g. astrologists, referring, of course, to the common good and vital interests of the state, force a law, according to which each employee must have a horoscope done annually. This way he can protect himself, his employers, his family, and the whole country from the effects of accidents at work, most of which could be avoided thanks to the horoscopes. As justification for the law, they present the scale of accidents happening, estimate their social cost, and the promised advantages of common, astrological work protection.

In order to guarantee the quality of this protection, its authors usually propose creation of a new office, which they would obviously fill themselves, or point to an existing chamber, guild, or other organisation which will care for this quality and which they control. This institution will sponge off the astrologists, charging them for their right to exercise their profession, off the employees and the employers by forcing them to finance the horoscopes, and off state controllers by adding to their work in new controls.

The actual benefits achieved by those behind such an idea, in this case the payment of the astrologists for their certificates, usually constitute a small percentage of the full social cost, which are not smaller than the price of all the horoscopes written. It would be cheaper for the state to pay the clever authors of the law a life-long, or even hereditary, salary amounting to twice or even five times as much as they would make on selling the certificates – a kind of ransom for abstaining from legislative initiative. But there are many innovators, and paying ransom by the state is difficult to justify; it is somehow easier to agree to mandatory Health and Safety training, medical examinations, chimney-sweeping or fire-hazard inspections, as well as financial, social, ecological audits, inspections, controls, etc.

The creation and stability of pathological social devices thrives on the superstition of professionalism, according to which specialists, say a doctors, are more competent and appropriate for shaping the state within the scope of healthcare than the patients. And they do, but having more of their own interest in mind than the interest of the patients, which is hardly a surprise.

As a consequence, we have hospitals and clinics for doctors, schools for teachers, universities for scholars, bureaus for bureaucrats, roads for road builders, newspapers for journalists, agriculture for farmers, law for lawyers, accounting for accountants, and by the way we have a parliament for MPs and a government for ministers. This system obviously serves the regular specialists or bureaucrats to a small extent, they are just an army, which the elites of their professions lead to a fight with other elites for the size of their piece of the country. Also they are the losers, not just their clients. As a matter of fact, they are usually not conscious participants in the parasitism, nor do they actually succumb to the stupefying indoctrination within the so-called professional ethics.

It is hard to point out un-infected areas of the state. The more difficult it is to find a centre which would see the whole and somehow harmonise the specialised areas. The whole is visible, but only rarely, in public finances, in which the costs of parasitism may be well hidden, but their sum appears in the end as a budget deficit. The second area in which the symptoms of the illness are clear is the fall in the quality of living of society, and mostly in its wealth, showing through from under the make-up of statistical indicators.

The parasitic elites are little interested in the state and rarely notice all issues connected with it. This creates some hope for the future, that the state appropriated by them will become so costly and dysfunctional, that it will have to either shake the parasites off, or die. In the face of such arguments authority becomes deaf to the arguments of the so-called milieus and the rhetoric of the elites.

PUBLIC ACCOUNTS

The state functions on the wealth of its citizens, burdening them with taxes and other duties. An effective state can get a significant effect from small burdens, an ineffective state – the other way around – can strip its subjects of everything, not gaining anything. A dramatic example of injustice in the modern state is the tax system based on the progressive income tax, multi-level VAT, and common property taxes. It is an extremely costly system, because it requires omnipresent records of all economic occurrences and many social occurrences, and also assets, as well as supporting a complex system of control and of compulsion.

The gigantic costs of these records and the complexity of the tax formulas set the minimal tax rates, at which the state income is above zero, at a high level. The sum of taxes paid in such a case determines the cost of the tax system. Since the public accounts are run in such a way that such costs are not disclosed, one can only guess how big they are. The known estimates point to the costs being around 2/3, which means that the budget only receives a third of the means which the tax system takes away from the society.

This would mean that the ineffectiveness of the state is almost twice as expensive as its greed. Where does it stem from? It stems exactly from the fact that usually nobody is able to see and harmonize the whole spectrum of public finances, and even if he is, democracy makes it impossible to perform any greater reform. Because, if it were clear and one-time, it would disrupt too many interests at once and would never receive enough support in the parliament. And if somebody tried to introduce a reform silently and gradually, agreeing with accountants and the authors of the reform to limit the privileges of the farmers, and then with the farmers and accountants the privileges of the authors, such a process would have to take many terms, too many to maintain the continuity of reforms.

Practically any rule has a group which supports it for egoistic purposes, conscious or not; after all, it is enough for the group to force its point of view on a piece of the state, and to understand its interest better than the interest of other groups. Almost every rule will be defended by somebody. And he will find enough time and strength to discourage the reformer from disturbing the status quo [6]. An undefended rule is usually harmless, and unfortunately, only such rules are easy to change.

The effectiveness of the tax system estimated at 1/3 does not fully present the scale of the tragedy. Society is burdened with many non-tax rules which also affect it financially and are difficult to calculate, and are not at all included in public accounts. A simple detour sign makes the route of a million cars a mile longer, carrying economic consequences, because it makes the drivers carry more costs, above all of petrol. Hardly any rule does not create social costs. And rules are created at a terrifying rate, a couple of thousand pages a year. There is somebody's interest behind almost every rule. Almost every law serves the purpose of appropriating a piece of the state. Because of the necessity of surrounding it with state-making façades, crucial compromises and coalitions, and also because of the simple incompetence of their authors, each law must impoverish the society much more than it enriches the originating interest group.

The 2/3 seems to be a minimal estimate of the scale of parasitism and ineffectiveness of the elites of modern democracy; the actual level is probably higher. Different countries deal with this burden either by transferring it over to other countries as a result of political and economic games, or by falling in debt. Debt relates to the distant past when the fruit of labour of the previous generations is sold to pay it off, and to a more and more distant future, when future generations will be forced to pay it off. Since the sum of debt and liability must in its nature equal a global zero, common compensation of debt will always be possible, but most probably only after a greater shock, and in a situation when democracy comes to the end of its cycle and dictatorship or at least a state of emergency rules in most countries.

In the extreme case of a fully effective tax system, the society could pay half as much taxes, and the state would receive half as much money. Is such a system possible? Of course. It would be enough to retain the natural monopoly on energy and its carriers in the hands of the state, and let it finance all other activities with the proceeds from them. The price of energy would rise but all other prices would fall by more or less half. The cost of such a system equals practically to zero, because the role of the tax offices would be taken over by the accountants of the energy companies.

Who would lose on this? Transitionally, many bureaucrats, accountants, lawyers, tax advisers, controllers, professors, columnists, people from the “grey area”, the mafia, the police, from the judiciary and penitentiary systems, etc. But their potential could be included in many useful projects, serving the economy and raising the quality of life. In the transition process, even if it lasted for decades, it would be more profitable to pay them the equivalent of their salaries in exchange for not destroying the country.

The introduction of an effective system is probably impossible in democratic conditions, because it is difficult to frame it within the rhetoric of social justice. Such rhetoric, even if primitive and false, turns out to be necessary in a democracy. How easy it is to talk the residents into raising the taxes on their landlords, and how difficult is it to explain to them that this burden will come back to them in the rent prices, correct?

THE HONORABLE COMMONERS

It is natural that politicians, whose mandate comes from elections, have to love the people. A demonstration is given by political campaigns, during which politicians show their honest adoration of the plebs, which gives them authority, wealth, privilege, and other pleasures. But the commoners are not only a source of power, they are its victim and provider at the same time; the elected are full of gratitude and show it at every official occasion.

Usually the commoners do not fully understand that they are being robbed, oppressed, or cheated by the same people whom they chose, because they chose those people to improve their own lives and not to be oppressed. The love of authorities is easy to notice, on the other hand. The plebs are praised, enchanted, cared for, imitated, politicians participate in a race to guess the wishes of the commoners. Generally speaking: the plebs are great!

Who could stay normal for long, experiencing unconditional and common acceptance of any rubbish he says, of his infallibility and power, of his central role in the system of power and world order? Surrounded by flunkeys, flatterers, and worshippers, the commoners suffer from psychic damage, and, as democracy evolves, they become more and more stupid and rotten.

Sacrifice, self-restraint, the primacy of the common good are civic virtues seen only in young democracies; in the mature phase, they are pushed out even from mythology as naive and useless [7]. As said, both the ruling and the ruled become demoralised. Both the former and the latter are responsible for the decline of democracy, even though they suffer different punishments.

The stupefied people entrust more and more of their affairs in those, who can promise more. Since the promises usually exceed the capabilities of the people, personal activity becomes ineffective, and the plebs become more and more inactive. More and more affairs require the involvement of the authorities, and their powers take more and more of them upon themselves, regardless of their sensibility or feasibility. As democracy evolves, the people become more atomised and apathised, and their childishness becomes a great fuel for various demagogues, miracle-makers, and, in time, dictators. The natural consequence of democracy is autocracy, and it also sets in from the will of the almighty commoners.

2002/2003

 

 

[1] One cannot mistake a political programme, which requires some knowledge and a vision, with a collection of catchphrases and stereotypes, put together based on the results of opinion polls. The latter communicate only one thing: “I'm your type of guy, I think like you do”.

[2] Corruption in the SS and Gestapo was a huge benefit to the nations conquered by Hitler’s state, because it limited the potential of extermination.

[3] One prominent lord rejected the accusations as to the uselessness of Greek and Latin in the colonial service, by saying that it was impossible to say what skills would be necessary for the candidate, so it was more important to show that one could learn rather than what one knew at that point. Mastering Greek and Latin proved that one had the skill of learning, even if useless things.

[4] Churches create a certain problem, because their status is between a family community and a substantive cultural community, and could be assigned to one as well as the other group.

[5] Tax laws are the best example; on the one hand they criminalise even serving candy to somebody a couple of times, on the other, they create a tax paradise for the chosen ones.

[6] Expressive examples can be found in the history of pathological and criminogenic funds, agencies, and concessioning or rationing systems, and especially their permanence and immunity to any attempt at reforms.

[7] Some propagandists try to prove the redundancy of virtues by citing the rule of the “invisible hand”, known from economics. According to this rule, the market optimises itself, because it turns the personal greed of all its participants into a common interest. However, egotism is a virtue only in the zero-sum games. Neither social life, nor common-goods management, can be included in such games.