Tag Archive | Catalans

The Fall of Democracy

While I’m not particularly a fan of any state, as Winston Churchill rightly observed, “Democracy is the worst form of government–except for all the others.” While I’d nitpick a bit and point out that we don’t (and have never had) a democracy–we have a republic with universal suffrage–I’m going to use the terms interchangeably, incorrect though it is. This is because most people think we have a democracy, and I don’t want to confuse them unnecessarily. Because it doesn’t matter the nuances of what they consider “democracy” as much as it matters that, regardless of their definition, it’s being undermined across the world.

Take this recent passage from (I think) the Guardian:

The Madrid government sacked Catalonia’s president and dismissed its parliament on Friday, hours after the region declared itself an independent nation in Spain’s gravest political crisis since the return of democracy four decades ago.

A country where the government can dismiss elected officials on a whim is hardly a democracy, or even a democratic republic. The people of a given territorial area, if they have a government, are indisputably the ones in control of their government. It doesn’t matter whether a group of people whose lives are not vested in that area don’t much care for how the people in that area direct their government–the people of Barcelona don’t govern the Catalans; the Catalans govern the Catalans. The politicians in Madrid don’t govern Catalonia; the Catalan politicians govern Catalonia.

We should be as appalled and disgusted by the efforts of Madrid to govern Catalonia from a distance as we are when we look back on the imperialism of the British in India, because there is no difference except that the imperialized territory happens to be closer to the central government that denies them the exercise of their right to self-governance. Instead, we’ve found alarming condemnation of the Catalans right to independence from the same people who have generally been the loudest voices of anti-imperialist sentiments: the modern left.

That a people have the right to choose their government, to abolish existing political ties, and to eject foreign powers from their soil is washed away in a tide of addiction to political power. We see this addiction in the United States, as well, with the regular shift of power from Republicans and Democrats that precede a series of power abuses from one side of the aisle to the other. At any time after seizing power, either one could end the cycle of abuses, but they don’t. Democrats abuse Republicans, and are unable to see their actions as abuse, and are so vengeful upon seizing power, after suffering similar abuses by Republicans that Republicans also do not recognize as abuses, that they immediately do everything possible to use the power structure that had done them wrong mere months before, instead of dismantling it.

It’s difficult to explain this behavior. It’s very much like a marriage where the partners beat each order and periodically take turns on who is the abuser and who is the victim. When one has the upper hand as the abuser, it would be a simple matter for them to declare “No more hitting” (a rule that, for the sake of our analogy, would be obeyed). However, rather than taking that obvious measure, the abuser instead uses their momentum to pay back the other for their own abuses.

It would even be fair to say, “These lunatics deserve each other,” were it not for the spillover of their fighting, reminiscent of an Andy Capp-style scuffle that catches up innocent bystanders.

As indictments loom over the anti-Russian hysteria, it’s worth remembering that the charge, as I pointed out last night on The Call to Freedom, is not that Russians influenced the election. The accusation is that Russians influenced voters. The difference is supremely important: as I’ve pointed out before, what factors a particular voter uses when making their decision is no one’s concern but their own. Whether the person votes for Trump because Russians influenced him, because his dog told him to, because Trump had an R next to his name, because he thinks Hillary is “the devil in a pantsuit,” or because of some other reason, it’s nothing to us. That person has the unalienable right to vote based on whatever facts, emotions, and lies they want.

It’s not stated so bluntly, of course. The assertion is always that Russians “influenced the election.” This statement should be challenged any time it is said. It’s a lie and a euphemism. The contention is actually that Russians influenced voters, which caused the voters to vote in a way the speaker doesn’t like for reasons the speaker disapproves of. This should never be allowed to stand uncontested. Even if all allegations are true, the argument is that Russians influenced voters, and voters then influenced the election (by voting).

It’s an insidious way of challenging the legitimacy of the election by discarding whatever votes the person thinks were cast for reasons they don’t like. At the end of the day, the argument is that “If you are influenced by Russians, your vote shouldn’t count.” It shouldn’t be necessary to stop to point out this horrific violation of universal suffrage. It would also be amusing coming from the Democrat Party if it wasn’t so dangerous. I’d venture the statement that I haven’t seen such widespread attempts to undermine democracy, now that it has produced results that one side doesn’t like, in my life. We now effectively have a checklist of Legitimate Reasons You Can Vote For Non-Democrats, and anyone who has spent much time around Democrats knows there is no such thing as a legitimate reason to not vote for them. This is a blind spot Republicans also have, though they decry democrats’ reasons as illegitimate in different ways.

Let’s return to the bizarre continuation of events in Catalonia:

Violence has broken out on the streets of Barcelona as Nazi-saluting fascists draped in Spanish flags clashed with Catalan police wielding batons. Spanish officials organised a unionist march through central Barcelona today in which they claimed more than a million people took part to resoundingly reject Catalonia’s declaration of independence.

More thwarting of democracy, as more than a million people failed to grasp the basic idea that they don’t get to rule over Catalonia with all the subtlety of the British Empire in India. In fact, to demonstrate the horror of this position, let’s swap a few words.

Violence has broken out on the streets of London as Nazi-saluting fascists draped in British flags clashed with Catalan police wielding batons. British officials organised a unionist march through central London today in which they claimed more than a million people took part to resoundingly reject India’s declaration of independence.

There’s no way around that, though if the imagery of Nazis taking the side of the Spanish government to continue this imperialist governance from a distance isn’t clear enough, then it’s unlikely that parallels to the British Empire in India (especially after Catalan officials called for peaceful resistance–like Mohandas himself resisted British imperialism, in fact) will make it clear. The truth, however, is that even though the modern left in the United States has been successful in the public eye at presenting itself opposed to fascism, powerful central governments and state supremacy, even if that means dismissing elected officials (like another Nazi did…), are the key components of fascism. It is a shock to no libertarian that the modern left has found itself on the same side as Nazis, resisting self-governance, thwarting democracy, and attempting to impose colonial rule on who they consider to be subjects.

It’s conjectural on my part to say that the modern left is vehemently anti-independence, at least in regard to Catalonia, though they seemingly don’t mind invoking the sentiment when it’s their own independence and “right to not be ruled by a government with which they disagree,” such as with the Californian secession talk. They were opposed to Brexit, after all, and made the claim that Brexit advocates were motivated by xenophobia and, thus, their votes weren’t as valuable as Remain votes.

That seems to be an underlying thread–that a vote’s value is determined by the reasons for which it was cast. How valueless the vote becomes varies from one person to the next, but I’d venture the guess that most modern leftists would say that your vote should be thrown out if you voted for Trump simply because he’s white. We should never allow the mindset that a vote derives its value not from being cast but from the reasons for which it was cast to propagate, but it appears to be too late–there are already millions who say that Trump’s victory is illegitimate because racists voted for him, and that Catalonia’s independence vote is illegitimate because the other side stupidly opted not to vote, and therefore the votes cast shouldn’t count.

As I pointed out in the linked article, this is yet another method of thwarting democracy, by conscripting the uninterested and apathetic into the ranks of the “No” camp, shifting the focus away from the actual vote results and instead onto voter turnout. With the apathetic added to their numbers, those on the “No” side who refuse to vote (because they don’t want “Yes” to win, remarkably) outnumber the “Yes” votes. In this way, Yes Votes don’t merely have to outnumber the No Votes; they must also outnumber the apathetic, the No Votes, and  the No supporters who hid among the apathetic to mask their actual support level. It raises the bar so high (by automatically adding at least 20% of the population to their side) that it’s nearly impossible for Yes to have legitimacy by those standards. Considering that votes are not often landslides and are most often split around 45-45, it is obvious that adding 20 to one of those makes it almost insurmountable in any realistic terms.

The initially posted quote has the brazen audacity to describe Spain as a democracy in the very same paragraph where it talks of a central government dismissing elected officials. It is well known that Spain intends to send police and officials to replace the elected Catalan government. “Democracy.”

Not for Catalonia, clearly. The absurdity is highlighted by calling India a democracy because the parliament of the British Empire was elected democratically. Imagine the British Empire dismissing Mohandas (or whoever was in charge at the time they began calling for independence) and Indian officials, and then people having the ignorant nerve to refer to India as “a democracy” in those tyrannical conditions.

Independence and secession attempts are never recognized as valid by the ruling powers, or by its flunkies. Even as such people recognize that the American colonies, India, and South Korea had the right to independence, they fiercely rebuke Catalonia’s calls for independence. And as someone reminded me on my last article, the independence attempts of the southern states were also rejected. This led to the War For Southern Independence (then, as now, the reasons for independence were dismissed as racist, disregarding the many other grievances), which the secessionists lost. As a result, it was determined, in flagrant violation of the foundation of the very nation that crushed the independence attempt, that states do not have the right to independence. Despite the bulk of Americans saying today the the south didn’t have the right to independence, and that California doesn’t (and, naturally, there are those who say the south didn’t have the right, but California does), they recognize the legitimacy of India’s independence, and the United States’ independence from the UK.

What scares me most is the possibility that the American left’s attempts to thwart democracy will be successful, that Trump and Pence will be removed, and that they’ll do some kind of tyrannical thing to install a Democrat as president. This isn’t as far-fetched as one might think. It’s happened many times in history, and there’s no reason to believe the United States is immune. Such a turn of events would give political parties the ability to use political power (instead of votes) to remove people in another political party from office, setting up an actual tyranny.

It’s not that I like democracy or Democratic republics. I don’t. However, I certainly prefer them to unilateral despotism by a powerful political party that decides to remove elected officials from office over reasons that are basically fabricated and that, even if true, ultimately boil down to nothing more than “We don’t recognize the validity of your votes because we don’t recognize the legitimacy of your reasons.”

That being the case, I really think the Democratic Party should change their name. Republicans, too, but at least they aren’t quite as extremely unrepublican as Democrats are undemocratic.

Regardless, the question of our era is no different from ages past: “Who do we want to be?”

While we can certainly answer that question by hungrily proclaiming “Tyrants!” and using a democratic majority to seize total and unrelenting control of the political process, to rule barbarically over others, it wouldn’t be advisable, and I would bet my Litecoin that no ordinary reader finds that idea palatable. So why do we see so much of it? Why are people who consider themselves morally superior and righteous so giddily asserting that India has no right to declare independence from the British Empire?

Confusion.

Just behold the very first passage I quoted from a “reputable” news source. There’s no self-awareness at all, and no critical thinking. It is obvious that dismissing elected officials and sending in authorities to reassert control is antithetical to democracy; it is a violation of democracy every bit as much as Hitler’s (who was elected democratically) dismissal of the German Parliament. It is similarly obvious that removing Trump for things that aren’t in any sense an actual problem is the same sort of violation (As I’ve grown fond of asking, even if Trump and Putin meet up once a month to have sex, why is that a problem?).

If the modern left wants to demolish democracy (and the modern right would, too, if it was convenient for them; it’s simply not convenient for them right now), they should be honest about it. Stop calling this tyranny “democracy.” It blatantly isn’t democracy. Discarding the will of the voters, challenging the legitimacy of voters’ reasons, imposing rule from a far, violating the tenet of self-governance, and a McCarthyist witch hunt over Dem Russians! are directly counter to democracy.

As a method of allowing the people of a territory to quantify their will and enact it collectively, the Democratic Republic is the least evil. That is why I defend it. I’d similarly prefer not to be murdered, but if it’s going to happen, I’d prefer it to be a gunshot to the head, not some slow and torturous death. I’d like to have no state at all (and work toward that), but if we’re going to have a state, then it should be the least destructive and least tyrannical. This is the Constitutional Democratic Republic.

And it’s under attack by tyranny and fascism.

Protesting Votes

Of all the stupid things to come from the modern left (as opposed to libertarians, the true left), this recent trend of opposing a vote by protesting it and not voting at all may be the most stupid. Congratulations to Catalonia for its declaration of independence (given the foundation of the United States, if you request international assistance, the U.S. should have your backs). We won’t, because we’re too busy fighting in countries like Niger without any declaration of war while simultaneously starting fights with Syria, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, and because, despite living in a country that was literally founded by a declaration of independence, many Americans seem to think that “declaring independence” is a right that no longer exists.

It’s worth reminding people that turnout doesn’t really matter in a democracy and that refusing to vote is like saying, “I know we’re going to drive somewhere one way or another, but I’m not going to express any desire about where we should go.” It’s stupid on its face. If one guy shows up to vote “Yes” and thirty million stay home to protest the vote, do you know who wins?

The one guy.

Because that’s how democracy works. Yes, it’s bad, and yes, it’s stupid, but it’s the system that’s in place, and until that system is dismantled, it’s counterproductive to protest it. Can you imagine in the United States if people protested Trump’s campaign by not voting? It’s pretty obvious what happens then, isn’t it? Only the people who support the Trump campaign vote, resulting in a landslide victory. Just like in Catalonia, where (primarily) only the people who wanted independence voted, which predictably resulted in a landslide victory.

So why do people do it, if it so obviously and directly causes them to lose the vote?

For one, because the modern left has this weird thing where they don’t believe that actions have consequences. I’m not even kidding–just look at their support for price controls (in relation to Hurricane Harvey), in full disregard of the long, failed history of price controls. And their support for socialism, despite its body count in the hundreds of millions and history of economic collapse. The modern left has a somewhat tenuous relationship with reality. And then, of course, there’s this absolutely bizarre inability to notice that “not voting because you’d vote ‘no'” is basically helping “Yes” win.

The actual heart of the matter is, unsurprisingly for the modern left, more insidious and deceitful. While it’s true that they’re generally confused about actions and consequences (and a total lack of awareness of Defensive Voting), there’s a deeper, almost masterful masquerade being played here: it becomes impossible to distinguish the “would-be No votes” from general voter apathy. And they use this to great effect.

Indeed, the primary contention people had against the Catalan referendum was that “the no voters protested it by not voting at all, so the support for it isn’t sure what it appears.” This is almost an open admittance of their attempt to obfuscate their numbers by hiding among the people who didn’t give a shit either way. Regarding Catalonia, 45% of the population voted, with a 90% vote for “Yes.”

Their idea is that a large portion of each country is genuinely apathetic about results, usually between 25% and 40%. If forced to vote, there’s absolutely no way of knowing how these people would vote. They can be claimed for neither side, because their disinterest makes it impossible to, you know, gauge their interest.

However, if a “No” camp refuses to vote, then they’re immediately mixed in with these apathetic voters, inflating and conflating their numbers. Instead of the actual vote results, the turnout itself becomes the measurement of success or failure. The number of “Yes” votes becomes irrelevant, because the number of “non-votes” exceeds the number of votes. The vote becomes illegitimate in their minds because less than 51% voted, so the “majority” doesn’t exist.

This overlooks the obvious fact that only people who actually voted have their votes counted and that people who don’t vote don’t have their votes counted.

The modern left has a desire to undermine democracy–or, to be more precise, the established and hitherto agreed upon rules by which we’re playing the game. Gary Johnson did this, too, by crying about the unfair debate restrictions, despite having no objection to following them until it became clear that he wouldn’t win the privilege of being on the debate stage. It was only then that accusations of unfairness came about.

Hillary Clinton, of course, basically wrote a book crying about the rules, not to mention the widespread attempts to decry the entire election as illegitimate because of magical 1337 Russian HaXorZ. When this failed due to an unfortunate and inconvenient lack of any evidence at all, they shifted to bizarre hopes that the electoral college would discard the actual will of voters and install Hillary anyway. When that failed, they decided to target the voters themselves by alleging that the portion of the population that elected Trump is too stupid to think for themselves and were manipulated by Russians into voting for someone the left didn’t want them to vote for.

The rules of universal suffrage as a method are pretty simple: every adult has one vote, and can use it as they wish. There are essentially three positions on any given Yes/No issue: Yes, No, and Indifferent. Indifferent voters are indifferent and therefore their “votes” aren’t counted–which is fair, because their votes aren’t cast. Not voting isn’t a vote for “No.” It’s a vote for “I don’t particularly care what the result is, and therefore I will do nothing to sway the decision toward one outcome or the other.”

A true Protest Vote can, in fact, be found among the electoral college. The Texan elector who voted for Ron Paul comes to mind. The two in Maine who refused to vote for Hillary also come to mind. A Protest Vote is actually cast. I cast my Protest Vote for John McAfee. Not voting isn’t a Protest Vote; it’s just not voting.

One would expect elected officials to be capable of making this gargantuan step of logic, but it evidently “takes in a field too vast for their narrowness of view and proceeds with mightiness of reason they cannot keep pace with.” In the Democratic method, votes are only counted when they actually exist. Votes are what matter. It doesn’t matter if that takes the form of direct democracy or an electoral college where each state has allotted votes proportional to their population and the direct democracy merely determines how the state uses its allotted votes. Despite this, a reported ten of eighty Catalan officials “protested the vote” by leaving during the session.

This is not a vote for “No.”

It’s an abstinence. It’s abstaining from the vote. Their reason for doing so may be important to them, but it’s not important to the actual vote results. The only way a democracy can find out what people want is by polling them (there’s a reason voting locations are called “polling places”). For all intents and purposes, refusing to vote because you don’t want “Yes” to win, in addition to being counterproductive and silly, is, from the point of view of the democratic system, no different from not voting simply because a person doesn’t care.

So what we really had in Catalonia was some 39.5% of the population voting “Yes” and 59.5% of the population abstaining from the vote. The reason that “No” advocates chose not to vote is that they saw the results of Brexit and the 2016 American election and knew that, if they voted, then their numbers would be clearly known, and if their numbers are clearly known then they can be easily compared to other known numbers. The solution they’ve found, instead of risking losing the election fairly and squarely, is to blend in with the 20-40% of any given population that doesn’t vote at all. If you assume even that 80% of the population wasn’t apathetic, and if you assume that everyone who didn’t vote but… would have?… would have voted “No,” then, at best, we get a tie of 39.5% to 39.5%. And keep in mind that this assumes a relatively low degree of apathy; the turnout of the Spanish general election in 2011 was only 68.9%, and 66.5% in 2016. The turnout for the UK in 2010 was about even with this, at 65.1%. Given that Brexit saw a turnout of 72.2%, which is an increase of 7.1%, we can assume the same turnout increase would have accord in Catalonia, given the importance and divisiveness of the issue.

Even if we assume a turnout increase of 10%, we’re only looking at 76.5% turnout, which is certainly below the threshold needed to overturn the 39.5% Yes vote. We’d need roughly 90% turnout with 90% of those people voting “No,” which certainly wouldn’t be the case.

And none of these assumptions hold water anyway–they’re full of holes. Turnout for the Catalan referendum was not 76.5%; it was 45%. It’s true that the Spanish central government told “No” advocates to not vote, and that should serve as a warning to all future people that “not voting” is not equivalent to “voting no.” In a Democracy, The Vote is supreme. I’m not a particular fan of that, but it’s the rules we’ve agreed to. Until we actually change those rules (by getting rid of the state, preferably), it doesn’t make any sense at all to ignore those rules and pretend like there won’t be any consequences.

There will be.

You’ll lose the vote.