(part of) You Are Here: Explorations in Search of Current Reality

My Blogs Why write 4 different blogs? Good question, but it seemed to make sense at the time. Most energy is going into The Real Truth Project

The Eisenhower Socialist ; The Real Truth Project ; What Was the Cold War? ; The Ontological Comedian

See also Tales of the Early Republic, a resource for trying to make some sense of early nineteenth century America.

(Just to clarify things a little, Eisenhower wasn't really a socialist though he could easily get labeled one today, as could Abraham Lincoln or most every other Republic president until recently. And I'm not really a socialist either.)


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Imagined Slippery Slope to Totalitarianism

It has troubled and puzzled me for the last couple of years that many people seem terrified that any movement towards any new role of government, or even the recovery of roles it played in the recent past, and believe that any such moves will lead straight to the Stalinist world of torture and vast prison camps.

Millions of people have at times seemed obsessed with serial killers, and have devoured books (mostly novels) on the subject and flocked to movies as if their lives depended on understanding the serial killer mind. I think this is rooted in our minds' instinctual drive to try to understand threats. But the drive isn't working very well in the modern world. For one thing, once upon a time, stories were all we had -- stories told by elders, passed down by word of mouth. We could do better than that today, but our minds have been shaped by evolution to attend to well told stories. Besides being drawn to the wrong sort of material, we seem to focus on monstrous individuals, which we can easily imagine, rather than historic trends, which we can't.

The "Comic Book" version of Hayek's Road to Serfdom which I introduced in "What was the Cold War" is just one version of a popular horror story that, as far as I can tell, resembles nothing that ever really occurred in the history of the world. Other versions include Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. The story is that of creeping liberalism that evolved into socialism and then totalitarianism during a time of peace.

So far, I've been unable to think of any totalitarian nation that just grew due to the efforts of idealists gone wrong; rather, they were born out of violent anarchy and very weak governments, or governments in severe crisis. The French revolution began with widespread starvation and a government unable to raise money, went from crisis to crisis until it seemed that each faction that came into power would try to annihilate its rivals. Finally Napoleon put an end to violent factional struggles but went on to show the world slaughter on a new scale.

The Soviet Union was midwifed by the slaughter of World War I, along with the fanaticism of ideologues who, having observed plenty of Dickensian squalor and grinding poverty and death, developed a theory that only a revolution could prevent this process of virtual enslavement from intensifying. In addition, Russia, which had never come to terms with the civilization of the last 100 or so years, was coming apart at the seams. So a particularly ruthless group managed to seize a power base, and then prevail through several years of civil war. As in so many cases, the sense of life or death struggle, of threat from all sides facilitated the weeding out of all but single minded fanatics, or at least fatally weakened the appeal of the more moderate and humane members of the Bolshevik party.

Communist China was the end product of a century of disintegration of imperial China, a breakdown into regional warlords, and a massive and vicious attempt by the Japanese Empire to enslave the Chinese. Chairman Mao then took the Marxist doctrine of class warfare to new extremes.

The "Warsaw Pact" was the result of a massive conquest. The Soviet Union was nearly wiped out by the Nazi empire, but managed to regain the momentum to overrun arout 2/3 of all the German occupied territory. The memory of having more than a tenth of their population killed combined with Stalin's pure power lust was behind the engineering of "socialist" revolutions under the watchful eye of the largest occupying force in history.

The Hitler empire itself was the outgrowth of the Weimar Republic, a weak democracy under constant threat of reoccupation by its neighbors.

[to be continued]

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