Monday, August 24, 2020

COVID-19 Pandemic Will Trigger Collapse of the Global Political Left’s Soft Totalitarianism

Soft totalitarianism is an unstable mix of anarchy, democracy, and totalitarianism. The good news is that it will not survive the COVID-19 pandemic. The bad news is what will likely replace it.

Updated October 18, 2021

The political left in Western countries has transitioned since the 1960s from a movement primarily promoting the interests of the working class to a strange mix of disparate elements. On the one hand, there continues to be the traditional leftist redistribution advocacy, including support for higher taxes, increased minimum wage, unions, regulation, etc. But the 1960s added social liberalism and identity politics. Social liberalism is the belief in unrestricted personal freedom, including collapse of the traditional family and traditional gender roles, fighting for the rights of sexual nonconformists like LGBT, psychotropic drug use, and extreme anti-authoritarianism, including handcuffing law enforcement while extending the rights of criminals. Identity politics is viewing all public policy from the lens of one’s group, rather than the general public interest. Feminism and black advocacy are examples of identity politics.

Since the 1960s, social liberalism has resulted in a condition of semi-anarchy in regions of many Western countries. In the U.S., this began with the 1960s and 1970s explosion of crime and drug use in the big cities. As people escaped to the suburbs, crime and drug use migrated there. Crime was successfully reduced beginning in the 1990s with a combination of more effective policing, mass incarceration, and legalized abortion. All three of these crime-reduction tactics were controversial, with the left opposing policing and mass incarceration, and the right opposing legalized abortion. Mass incarceration, especially, has been both extremely expensive and partly self-defeating, as it is enabling future crime by expanding the number of fatherless children in minority neighborhoods.

The explosion of drug use and addiction, on the other hand, has never been successfully managed, and it has only gotten worse with prescription drug abuse and deadly synthetic opioids like fentanyl. A recent partial surrender to the war on drugs by legalizing cannabis will help with states’ revenues and redirect law enforcement to more serious drugs, but will probably have little impact on the overall drug problem.

Identity politics has produced a condition of warring groups, which fight each other to the death, while the general public interest is ignored. The U.S. in the new millennium is an extreme example of this trend.

The recent George Floyd protests and riots demonstrate how social liberalism and identity politics combine to promote the indefensible notion that the police are the enemy, and black men who defy the police and resist arrest, and who are subsequently killed, are heroes. This is an ideology of anarchy, which does nothing to address the real economic and social problems in the black community. Seattle’s autonomous zone was a recent example of a failed attempt to create a small region of anarchy in a big city.

While the left has been in favor of participatory democracy, including a universal franchise (e.g. the Voting Rights Act of 1965), and mass protests, on the intellectual side there has been a soft totalitarianism. Unlike the old-fashioned totalitarian tactics of arresting, jailing, torturing, and sometimes executing dissidents, soft totalitarianism uses more subtle tactics to ensure intellectual conformity. These tactics include gaining near-total control of major institutions which employ artists and intellectuals, including academia, the media, art and cultural institutions, think tanks, publishing, etc. That resulted in most dissidents without a way to financially support themselves, forced to work in non-intellectual fields. For the few dissidents who remained employed by these institutions, the leftist soft totalitarians utilized social pressure, protests, boycotts, and other means to force them out, or at least keep them silent (e.g. preventing Charles Murray from speaking at Middlebury College). Even dissidents working in non-intellectual careers such as technology weren’t immune from this pressure to conform, finding themselves fired from their jobs for speaking out (e.g. at Google and Cisco).

Anarchy is inherently unstable. There is no known stable anarchic society in history. The extreme social and intellectual control of totalitarianism requires extreme restrictions on liberty and democracy. There is no known stable soft totalitarian society in history. This instability implies that soft totalitarianism is destined to be a fad, to be swept away in a major crisis. COVID-19 is the crisis that will end soft totalitarianism.

While the leftists in Western societies were able to gain near monolithic control of intellectual life, they have not been able to maintain totalitarian control of economic and political life. As long as they stayed in the intellectual realm, they were probably reasonably safe. But the COVID-19 pandemic has extended their control in unprecedented ways. Mass lockdowns are a totalitarian tactic learned from China, which have no precedent in the U.S. or other democratic societies, even for the far-worse Spanish flu of 1918 - 1919. The business restrictions are driving many small and medium-sized businesses to bankruptcy, and also are without precedent in democratic societies.

There are three types of totalitarianism in history:

  1. Communism, e.g. Soviet Russia and Red China.
  2. Fascism, e.g. Nazi Germany.
  3. Religious Theocracy, e.g. post-revolutionary Iran.

Communism is the most economically destructive of the three. Businesses are mass-expropriated in the name of the proletariat, and the economy is centrally planned by the state. Beginning with the 1917 Russian Revolution, communist revolutions have cratered their countries’ economies. This economic destructiveness has been protective, as there is no example in history of a successful communist revolution, or communists being voted into power, in a major world economy. Russia during World War I, China after World War II, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, etc. were all basket-case economies. The only times that major, advanced economies have gone communist is after a military invasion, e.g. Eastern Europe after World War II.

Our contemporary soft totalitarians have made a major tactical error in destroying their countries’ economies in the name of public health. They have crossed a line, going beyond the intellectual realm to affect daily life. That will be their undoing.

The similarities between the COVID-19 response and a communist takeover are uncanny. In both cases, you have “idealists” who claim that economic devastation is justified by a higher purpose. For communists, it’s Marxist-Leninist ideology, which promotes the ideal of a classless society. For contemporary leftists, it’s saving lives. Both share a blithe disregard for the economic destruction their ideals engender, and for the “selfish” capitalists whose businesses are expropriated (communism) or killed via regulation (contemporary leftists).

In both cases, they make an appeal to science. Marxism-Leninism is supposed to be a scientific way to run a country (religion is outlawed, for example). Contemporary leftists say that they are following scientific guidance from epidemiologists. But this scientific justification is a sham. Marxism-Leninism was a pseudoscientific political-economic theory that was one of the greatest failures in world history. Epidemiology can assert that if you shut everything down and force people to stay at home, you will have fewer infections. But epidemiology doesn’t take into account other factors that should also be considered in political decision making, such as the effects of shutdowns on the economy and individual liberty, the destructive mental and physical consequences of social isolation, the detrimental effects on child development of not going to school, etc.

While clueless leftists call for a second major U.S. lockdown  (if it didn’t work the first time, why do they think it will work the second time?), and say that the economy won’t come back until the virus is “crushed,” I argue for the opposite extreme of ending all U.S. COVID-19 restrictions. The COVID-19 pandemic is not unprecedented historically, and is not comparable to the deadly 1918 – 1919 Spanish flu, contrary to what the leftists keep telling us. It is instead comparable to milder flu pandemics of the 1950s and 1960s, which most people alive at the time don’t remember because there weren’t any economically-destructive public health measures. COVID-19 is hard to control in democratic countries because it is so mild, with many infected people experiencing either no symptoms or minor symptoms, especially the young and the healthy. It is not in the public interest to sacrifice the young and the healthy to the old, the sick, and the fat, as we are doing with these idiotic restrictions.

Regardless of what other dissenters and I argue, the leftist soft totalitarian establishment has determined that we need to respond to COVID-19 as if it were the second coming of the Spanish flu, with even more extreme measures than were taken a hundred years ago. They have, true to form, silenced dissenters by utilizing their usual tactics. They have forced every Western country (except Sweden) to follow the harsh Chinese lockdown tactics and economically destructive restrictions.

The fact that supposedly conservative governments like those in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Israel went along with the totalitarian lockdowns reveals the intellectual bankruptcy of modern conservatism. When faced with a crisis, the conservative leaders of these countries were unable to resist the monolithic advice of people with MD or PhD degrees to lockdown. Sweden’s more laid-back approach came not from a conservative government (Sweden is run by Social Democrats), but from a nonconformist state epidemiologist named Anders Tegnell. “Once you get into a lockdown, it’s difficult to get out of it,” he said. “How do you reopen? When?” As other countries have reopened, cases have increased, forcing more lockdowns.

Major world economies will not fall to communism, and will not fall to the neo-communism of contemporary leftists. At some point in the near future, there will be a reaction. This reaction will depend on a country’s individual circumstances, including its history, strength of democratic institutions, how quickly an effective COVID-19 vaccine or treatment is invented and made widely available, and how rapidly the country’s economy is brought down by shutdowns and other COVID-19 restrictions. This reaction will spell the doom of soft totalitarianism, to be replaced by something different. This replacement most likely will be worse, sometimes much worse.

In most countries, soft totalitarianism will be replaced by either authoritarianism or (hard) totalitarianism. The U.S. will most likely turn authoritarian, and eventually become a Christian religious theocracy. This will mean that the three most powerful countries in the world (the U.S., China, and Russia) will be either authoritarian or totalitarian. Unlike during the bipolar Cold War, when the U.S. promoted liberal capitalistic democracy, and the Soviet Union Marxist-Leninist communism, the tripolar post-COVID-19 world will have three powerful countries promoting their political-economic systems to smaller countries. China will promote its unique type of totalitarian quasi-capitalistic communism to smaller countries in East Asia. Russia will promote its brand of Putin-type authoritarianism to smaller countries in Eastern Europe, and possibly Western Europe. The U.S. will promote its version of capitalistic authoritarianism to countries in Latin America. Africa and the Middle East will be a free-for-all, with all three major powers competing. India will be the major authoritarian power in South Asia, and will likely be a lesser superpower competing with the big three.

Liberal capitalistic democracy will live on in smaller Western countries, but unlike during the Cold War, they won’t have the backing of a superpower, and will be impotent to affect world events. Eventually, their number will shrink as one or more superpowers use persuasion or coercion to bring them into their fold.

Why such pessimism? After all, things were looking so bright after the end of the Cold War, with the U.S. liberal capitalistic model seemingly victorious. The reason has to do with the creative intellectual vacuum of our age, which I talk about here. Liberal capitalistic democracy was born in the U.S. in the late eighteenth century during one of the greatest Western intellectual movements in history, the Enlightenment. The modernist movement that began at the turn of the 20th Century has become an anti-Enlightenment, reversing a 500-year glorious history of Western progress in the arts and culture. Science continues, but global progress is held back by lack of individual accomplishment. COVID-19 is an example of this lack of accomplishment, as this pandemic could have been prevented if we had responded appropriately to the threat that SARS revealed to the world in 2002 – 2003. This response should have been using the past 18 years to develop panviral (i.e. universal) coronavirus vaccines and treatments. Such an effort would have required a combination of political long-term, strategic planning along with scientific genius, which are globally lacking in today’s world thanks to the anti-Enlightenment.

As I indicate here, there is some hope for the future. The cause of the modernist movement has to do with the interaction of modern technology with the human magnetic sense, which has led to an explosion of drug abuse and mental illness. We are starting to make progress in understanding human magnetoreception, which will take some time. This understanding will lead to both better treatments for mental illness, and fewer people being affected. Eventually there will appear creative geniuses who will lead a future major intellectual movement that will replace modernism. This movement will also lead to a restoration of liberal capitalistic democracy.

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