Review: Christophe Buffin de Chosal, The End of Democracy, Translated by Ryan P. Plummer. Printed in the U.S.A.: Tumblar House, 2017.
One cannot speak too highly of Christophe Buffin de Chosal’s The End of Democracy. In a fast paced, readable, yet scholarly fashion, Professor Buffin de Chosal* demolishes the ideological justification in which modern democracy rests while he describes the disastrous effects that democratic rule has had on Western societies. He explodes the myth of Democracy as a protector of individual liberty, a prerequisite for economic progress, and a promoter of the higher arts. Once Democracy is seen in this light, a far more accurate interpretation of modern history can be undertaken. The book is a very suitable companion to Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s iconoclastic take down of democracy in Democracy: The God That Failed, released at the beginning of this century. Buffin de Chosal has spoken of a follow up which will be eagerly awaited for.
The idea of rule by the people is a scam, one perpetuated by those who, in actuality, are in control of the government. Through the “democratic process” of voting and elections, a small, determined minority can impose its will despite majority opposition:
We often hear it said that ‘in a democracy, it is the people who rule. . . .’ Rule by the people is a myth which loses all substance once confronted with the real practice in democracy.
Quoting from a Russian philosopher, Buffin de Chosal continues his criticism:
The best definition [of democracy] was given by the Russian philosopher Vasily Rozanov. ‘Democracy is the system by which an organized minority governs an unorganized majority.’ This ‘unorganized majority’ is the people, aggregated and individualistic, incapable of reaction because disjointed.
He expands upon Rozanov’s theme:
. . . [C]ontrary to what [democracy’s] principles proclaim: one can say that the majority almost never wins. Democracy is not the system of the majority, but that of the most powerful minority, and it has this power not simply due to its numbers, but also and above all due to its organization.
Power does not reside in “the people” and certainly not in the individual. In democracy, the only way to express one’s preference or protect one’s rights is through the ballot box every so often. “Each voter,” writes Buffin de Chosal, “in a democracy, is the depositary of a tiny particle of sovereignty, in itself unusable. His sole power consists in dropping a ballot into a box, whereby he is immediately dispossessed of his particle of sovereignty at the profit of those who are going to represent him.” [Ibid.]
Popular democracy has always been condemned and feared by most thinkers since the beginning of human societies. It was not until intellectuals saw democracy as a way they could attain power that they began to advocate it as a system of social order. Prior to the democratic age, most of the learned understood that democracy would result in mob rule and the displacement of natural authority with demagogues. In short, the worst would rise to the top as the author describes the characteristics of a contemporary politician:
The ideal politician, on the other hand, is pliable, convincing, and a liar by instinct. He is not attached to any platform and has no ideological objective. The single thing to which he is truly committed is power. He wants its prestige and advantages, and seeks above all to be personally enriched by it. Any politician who presents this aspect is recognized as fit for power in a democracy. . . . It is therefore not surprising that democratically elected assemblies are almost exclusively comprised of these kinds of men and women. Elected heads of state almost always fit this profile, and international institutions, such as the European Union, consider it the only acceptable profile. . . .
Democracy and the State
Since the advent of modern democracy, the principle benefactor of its rule has been the State and the politically-connected financial elites who are in actuality the true rulers of societies. Instead of putting an end to the supposedly despotic rule of the Ancien Régime, which Democracy’s proponents claim to have existed throughout the monarchial and aristocratic age, governance by the people, has instead witnessed an increase in state power and control of individual lives to an unprecedented level in human history. Few, if any, pope, emperor, king, prince, or duke have ever possessed such suzerainty.
In contrast to what has been taught in classrooms, on university campuses, and espoused throughout the media, individual rights and freedoms were far better guarded in the age prior to Democracy’s ascendancy. Pre-revolutionary Europe had social structures which insulated individuals from State power far more effectively than under modern democracy:
The concept of an organic society was abolished at the time of the French Revolution. The corps and orders were suppressed, the privileges were abolished, and everything which allowed the people to protect themselves from the power of the state was banished in the name of liberty.
And in return for giving up the order that protected them from state depredations, the people received “sovereignty:”
They were given the false promise that they would no longer need to defend themselves from the state since they themselves were the state. But if a people organized into corps and orders are incapable of exercising sovereignty, how much more so a people comprising a formless mass of individuals! [Ibid.]
Historically, all of the democratic movements which supposedly stemmed from the people were, in fact, a falsehood, perpetuated largely by revolutionaries who sought to replace the established order with themselves. While legislatures, congresses, and democratic bodies of all sorts have been interpreted as the fruition of the masses’ desire for representation, the reality was quite different:
Democracy is not, in its origin, a system of the people. In England with the advent of the parliamentary system just as in France during the Revolution, it was not the people who were seen at work. Even the Russian Revolution was not a phenomenon of the people. To regard the people or what the communist elegantly call the ‘masses’ as the agent of change or political upheaval is purely a theoretical view, a historical myth, of which one sees no trace in reality. The ‘people’ were the pretext, the dupes, and almost always the victims of the revolutions, not the engines.
Not only was propagation of the myth of popular support for democratic ideals propounded for the survival of the new social order, but putting these tenets into practice was accomplished, in large part, by the role of the “intellectual” an often neglected feature of standard historical analysis and the reason behind much social transformation:
The ‘nation’ met the desires of the philosophers who wanted to transfer power from the monarch to an enlightened, philosophical, and philanthropic class who, moreover, ought to be financially comfortable. The educated bourgeoisie of the time were the protagonists of this idea, and a portion of the nobility formed their audience. [13-14]
The intellectuals promoted Democracy because it would open up for them considerable opportunities for position and income in the nation state. It must be remembered that it was the intellectuals who justified the idea of Absolutism. Later, the intellectuals turned on the monarchies and sided with the emerging republican classes rightly believing that democratic governance would give them greater opportunities for power in the emerging nation states.
Democracy and Modern History
While most historians see the advancement of democracy and the development of legislative bodies over the course of the last centuries as an advancement in the human condition and one that has emanated from the people’s desire for greater political representation, Buffin de Chosal presents a far different and more accurate interpretation. “Democracy,” he asserts, “is not, in its origin a system of the people.” All of the social movements which eventually led to the destruction of Christendom did not come from the people seeking a greater “voice” in their governance.
“The ‘people,’” he argues, “were the pretext, the dupes, and almost always the victims of the revolutions, not the engines.” [Ibid.] Liberty, Equality and Fraternity was not a popular cry, but one coined and used by the “enlightened” classes to mobilize and justify their overthrow of the French monarchy and with it the destruction of the Church.
The French Revolution was built on the idea of the ‘nation,’ which claimed to bring together the intellectual, social, and financial elite of the country. It was on this foundation that democracy was established and that it functioned during almost all of the nineteenth century. [Ibid.]
A similar historical narrative can be seen in England.
The rise and eventual triumph of representative democracy in England was not one that percolated from the masses itching for more freedom. “The appearance of the parliamentary system in England,” Buffin de Chosal contends, “was tied to the great movement of Church property confiscation begun under Henry VIII and continuing until the coming of the Stuarts.”
After Henry gorged himself on the Church’s wealth, he sought to bribe as much of the nobility as possible with his ill-gotten gains to insure his power. An envious Parliament, however, wanted its cut of the loot which led to the great internecine struggle between Crown and Parliament which eventually ended in the suzerainty of the latter with the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The real power from then on rested with an oligarchical legislative branch:
The families who had thus helped themselves to the Church’s goods, morally justified by Protestant ethics, formed the gentry, the class of landowners who sat in Parliament. Parliament was not then, as one might believe today, an organ of poplar representation. It was an instrument in the hands of the gentry to defend its own class interests. [16-17]
That Parliament and the monarchy would become the two dominant ruling structures was the result of the breakdown of the feudal structure which was taking place not only in England, but across Europe. European monarchs continued to gain more and more power at the expense of the feudal landed elite. The gentry’s power and wealth was also on the wane with the rise of commercial centers which most of the time aligned themselves first with the kings and then later with Parliament. The eventual triumph of Parliament, however, did not mean greater democracy for the people:
The financial incentives for England’s adoption of the Protestant Reformation are therefore intimately connected with the bolstering of Parliamentary power. The Parliament in England was used to put the monarchy in check and to replace it with an oligarchic class of wealthy Protestants to whom the kings were required to submit. This is why the overthrow of James II in 1688 was a true revolution. It was not a popular revolution or the overthrowing of a tyranny, but it was the rebellion of a class implementing the transfer of sovereign power for its own profit.
The Market Economy
The author takes a refreshing look at the market economy that sets straight the inaccurate and often times hostile analysis of it that frequently comes from conservative circles. He distinguishes and rightly points out that “pure capitalism” or the “unhampered market” is an “excellent thing”. The free market is intimately tied with private property which is a prerequisite for a just society:
[Capitalism] proceeds from respect for private property. As capitalism is the reinvestment or saved money for the purpose of making new profits, it presupposes respect for property rights and free enterprise. It has existed in Europe since the Middle Ages and has contributed significantly to the development of Western society. [Ibid.]
He insightfully notes that “bad capitalism” often gets lumped in with its “good form” while the latter gets the blame for the baneful excesses of the former. “Monopoly capitalism,” “corporatism,” “the mixed economy,” and “crony capitalism” are not the result of the market process, but stem from “intervention” brought about by the State in favor of its business favorites through participatory democracy. In a truly free market, entrenched wealth is rarely maintained but is constantly subjected to challenges by competitors:
But what one ought to designate as bad capitalism is the concentration of wealth and power this wealth procures. This danger does not stem from capitalism itself but rather from parliamentary democracy, for it is democracy that enables money powers to dominate the political realm. [Ibid.]
The “monied interest” did not exist under “traditional monarchy,” but was a product of Democracy and the protection and extension of the “bad capitalistic” paradigm that came into being and was expanded by the rise of popular representative bodies. Assemblies, legislatures, and congresses, which emerged, became aligned with the banking and financial interests to bring about the downfall of the monarchies.
The concentration of political power could only be attained after the control of money and credit were centralized in the form of central banking and the gold standard was eliminated. Central banks have been an instrumental part of the democratic age, funding the nation state’s initiatives and enriching the politically- tied financial elites at the expense of everyone else.
Wealth concentration is not a by-product of the free market. Rarely are firms able to maintain their dominance for long periods of time. Many turn to the State to get protection and monopoly grants to ensure their position in the economy:
. . . capitalism only becomes harmful when it grants political power to the money powers. This was only made possible thanks to the advent of parliamentary democracy, which was an invention of liberalism. It is therefore the foundational principles of political liberalism (equality before the law, suppression of privileges, centralization of political power, censitary suffrage, and the accountability of ministers to the legislative houses) which have enabled the rise of a wealthy class and its power over society.
Such sound economic analysis abounds throughout his tome.
The author rightly sees that because of its nature and the type of personalities that it attracts, modern democracy cannot reform itself, but will eventually collapse from financial stress, war, and/or civil strife:
Parliamentary democracy rarely produces true statesmen, as its party system more often promotes ambitious and self-interested persons, demagogues, and even communication experts. These are generally superficial and egocentric individuals with a very limited understanding of society and man. These politicians do not have the makings of statesmen. They are adventurers who use the state to satiate their hunger for power and money or to benefit their party.
Efforts to reform it, however, should not be totally dismissed since they could lead to more fundamental change and ultimately the creation of a new political paradigm for Western governance. Populism and the various movements around the globe which fall into that category should be encouraged. Populism, because of is lack of definite ideological underpinnings, has meant different things at different times to different people. Most populists, however, do not want to get rid of democratic forms of government, but want the system to be more “responsive” of its constituents instead of favoring entrenched political elites. Populism is a symptom of the growing failure of modern democracy’s inability to “deliver the goods” that it promises to a now growing dependency class.
As a means of getting rid of totalitarian democracy, populist movements and themes should always be encouraged:
In Europe, the only political forces today which could, in the more extreme of circumstances assume this rescue role are found on the side of populism. Conservative in its values, sometimes classically liberal when it is a matter of opposing the stifling interventionism of the state, and yet ready to defend social gains . . . populism is the only political current which comes to the defense of those interests of the population denied or ignored by the parties in power.
Populist parties, from the simple fact that they can bring together voters from both the left and the right, have a chance of coming to power in the near enough future. The deterioration of security conditions in Europe due to mass immigration plays in their favor. [148-49]
While he does not explicitly discuss it, a more concrete and ideological coherent idea and one of historical precedent, is that of secession. For all those who oppose the democratic order, secession is the most justifiable, logical, and practical strategy for the dissolution of the nation state. Secession movements, therefore, whether they do not outwardly condemn parliamentary democracy and only seek to establish a “better run” system, should always be supported.
The most likely scenario if there is to be a change in Western democratic life will be from a world-wide economic crisis and collapse of the financial system which will render the nation states unable to meet their financial obligations to their citizens. All economies are hopelessly indebted from their welfare state excesses and can never hope to meet their promises which now runs in the trillions. What will emerge in the aftermath of a collapse is hard to predict, but some form of authoritarianism is likely which will be centered on a one-world state with a single, irredeemable currency.
While the financial demise of Western-styled democracy will be evident for all to see, its ideological underpinnings which have justified its existence needs to be extirpated. Any hope of it being reconstituted to better serve “the people” needs to be shot down. There is no better place to start the de-mystification of Democracy than with Christophe Buffin de Chosal’s magnificent, The End of Democracy.
*Professor Christophe Buffin de Chosal teaches economic history at the United Business Institutes.