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The Illusion of Republicanism

- BROWNSTONE INSTITUTE - MICHAEL ESFELD - MAY 22, 2023 -

On May 11, 2023, the Biden administration lifted the last restrictions. We foreigners who resisted the Corona regime are finally able to travel to the US again. What is the explanation of that regime? Why could the Corona regime assert itself so easily and why can the same scheme continue with the Climate and Wokeness regimes?


The best explanation, at least from a Western European perspective, is this: It was an illusion to believe that until spring 2020 we lived in a consolidated open society and a republican constitutional state. This was only so because the anti-communist narrative that prevailed until 1989 required a relatively open society and a relatively well-functioning rule of law. With the end of this narrative consequent upon the collapse of the Soviet empire, it was therefore to be expected that a new collectivist narrative would take its place and sweep away the pillars of the open society and the rule of law that existed as a demarcation from Soviet communism.


This is the best explanation, because in its light the development since spring 2020 is not surprising but simply what was to be expected. The upshot then is that we must abandon the illusion that a republican constitutional state, characterised by the monopolies of force as well as of lawmaking and jurisdiction in the hands of central state institutions, is the appropriate means of guaranteeing people’s fundamental rights and realising an open society.


"O EIXO DO MAL LATINO AMERICANO E A NOVA ORDEM MUNDIAL"

When from February 2020 onward, politicians in Europe floated the idea of sealing off cities in response to the spread of the coronavirus, I thought that if politicians were to succumb to this temptation of gaining power, the media and the people would oust them: Chinese totalitarianism cannot be applied in Europe or the US.

When not only individual cities were locked down, but entire states in Europe and the US, I considered this to be a panic reaction. Panic was certainly deliberately stirred up, especially by those who should keep a cool head and rely on the evidence, namely scientists, civil servants, and politicians. Nevertheless, deliberate spreading of fear and panic is no explanation for what we’ve experienced since spring 2020. Panic doesn’t last for several years.


It was striking that some of the medical experts who were portrayed in the media as the mouthpieces of science had already predicted a pandemic in 2009-10 with the Swine flu – such as Anthony Fauci in the US, Neil Ferguson in the UK and Christian Drosten in Germany. Back then, they were stopped in time.


Now, they were better prepared, coordinated and had powerful allies such as Bill Gates and Klaus Schwab. However, there is nothing new and nothing secret here. It was known what these people wanted and what kind of science they promoted. If one thinks that there is a conspiracy here, then one must simply acknowledge that there always are such conspiracies.


Like any “conspiracy,” also this one goes hand-in-hand with profit interests. However, there were many more companies that were harmed by the lockdowns, the testing, quarantine and vaccination requirements than there were companies that benefited from this regime. We’ve to explain why so many went along with this regime, to their direct, obvious economic detriment and against their values and convictions in their past dealings with their fellow human beings.


The conspiracy hypothesis doesn’t even offer a correct diagnosis. It draws the attention away from the crucial fact: The same pattern of action that emerged in reaction to the coronavirus waves also appears in other issues, such as the reaction to climate change and the favouring of allegedly oppressed minorities (so-called wokeness).


The overall pattern is this one: People are placed under the general suspicion of harming others with their habitual course of life – with any form of direct social contact, one could contribute to the spread of harmful viruses; with any form of energy consumption, one could contribute to harmful climate change; with any form of social behaviour, one could in some way or other hurt members of a minority that has been oppressed in history. One cleanses oneself of this general suspicion by submitting to a total regulation not only of social relations but also of private life. This regulation is imposed by political authorities and enforced by coercion. The political authorities use alleged scientific findings to legitimise this comprehensive regulation.


The pattern is the same; but the people driving the respective issues – corona, climate, wokeness – are different, even if there is overlap. If there is a pattern of action that manifests itself in different themes, then this suggests that we are dealing with an overarching trend. The Flemish psychologist Mattias Desmet explains in part II of his book The Psychology of Totalitarianism (Chelsea Green Publishing 2022) how this trend forms a mass movement that ends in totalitarianism, also on Brownstone, 30 Aug. 22). The Oxford scholar Edward Hadas goes in the same direction in his search for an explanation on Brownstone.

Indeed, we undergo the emergence of a new, specifically postmodern totalitarianism, as I argued in an earlier piece. Totalitarianism does not necessarily imply the use of open, physical violence up to and including the extermination of entire groups of people. The core of totalitarian rule is an allegedly scientific doctrine that uses state power to regulate all social and also private life.


This is what the current trend is about that manifests itself in the handling of various issues, such as hitherto the coronavirus waves, climate change and the protection of certain minorities. These issues are contingent. They depend on what actual challenges (virus waves, climate change) arise that can be employed to drive this trend of a regime of all-encompassing social control.


The underlying trend, by contrast, is not contingent. This trend is fed by the interplay of at least the following four factors:


1) Political scientism: Scientism is the doctrine that the knowledge developed by modern natural science and its methods can cover everything, including human thought and action. Scientism is political when demands for central government control of people’s actions through coercive political measures are derived from this claim to knowledge. “Follow the science” is the slogan of political scientism. Political scientism places science above human rights: alleged science legitimises political actions that override basic rights. “Follow the science” uses alleged science as a weapon against people’s fundamental rights.


2) Intellectual postmodernism and Post-Marxism: Postmodernism is an intellectual current since the 1970s that claims that the use of reason isn’t universal, but bound to a particular culture, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc. The result of this relativisation is that in society and in the state, equal rights no longer apply to all, but certain groups are to be favoured. Similarly, in academia, it is no longer only relevant what someone says, but primarily who says it, which is the culture, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc. of the person in question. The consequence is that reason ceases to be a tool to limit the exercise of power. Reason as an instrument to limit power stands and falls with the claim of universality of the use of reason to be the same for all human beings. In its preference for certain groups against the universal use of reason with equal rights for all, intellectual postmodernism comes together with Post-Marxism (also called “cultural Marxism”), for which it is characteristic to always find new, alleged victim groups of the republican constitutional state with its principle of equal rights for all.


3) Welfare state: The legitimisation of the modern constitutional state consists in enforcing equal rights for all. This means that the political institutions guarantee security by protecting everyone on their territory from attacks on life, limb and property by other people. To this end, the state organs have (i) the monopoly of force on the respective territory (executive power) and (ii) the monopoly of lawmaking and jurisdiction (legislative, judiciary). This concentration of power, however, tempts its bearers – especially politicians – to extend the guarantee of protection further and further to protection against all kinds of life risks and recently, as we have seen, even protection against the spread of viruses, against climate change and against opinions that might hurt the feelings of some vocal groups (wokeness). In order to justify the corresponding expansion of the claims of political institutions to protection and thus power, the welfare state depends on narratives provided by political scientism and intellectual postmodernism.


4) Crony capitalism: Given the aforementioned concentration of power in the hands of central state institutions under the pretext of providing ever more protection, it is expedient for entrepreneurs to present their products as contributing to the common good and to demand state support. The result is crony capitalism: profits are private. The risks are shifted to the state and thus to those from whom the state can levy compulsory charges in the form of taxes to save companies from insolvency if necessary. If companies then adopt the respective ideology of political scientism, they can take this business model to extremes: The state not only rescues them from losses and insolvency, but also directly purchases their products at the expense of the general public, on whom these products are literally forced, without the companies being liable for possible damages. We have seen this perversion of capitalism with the corona vaccines. It repeats itself with so-called renewable energy sources.


The Corona, Climate, and Wokeness regimes are expressions of the powerful trend that results from the interplay of these four factors. More precisely, the transition into a specifically postmodern totalitarianism that we witness feeds on the alliance of the forces of the welfare state and crony capitalism on the one hand with the forces of political scientism in science and the ideology of Post-Marxist intellectual postmodernism on the other.


Exposing and analysing this trend, however, is only a diagnosis of what we see, not an explanation. The Corona, Climate, and Wokeness regimes are each driven by only a few people. Why are these few able to set a trend in motion in which so many swim along, so that the transition to a new totalitarianism takes place almost without resistance, despite all historical experience?


The Error about the Open Society and the Republican Rule of Law


This trend is unexpected and unexplainable on the premise that we’ve hitherto lived by and large in an open society and in a republican constitutional state. The open society in the sense of Karl Popper’s famous book The Open Society and its Enemies (1945) is characterised by the fact that within it different ways of life, religions, worldviews, etc. live together peacefully and enrich each other both economically (division of labour) and culturally through mutual exchange. The open society is not shaped by any shared idea of a substantive general good. There is no corresponding narrative that holds society together. Likewise, the rule of law: it enforces the moral obligation of everyone to respect the right to self-determination of all other human beings.


From an epidemiological point of view, the coronavirus waves were not worse than previous waves of respiratory viruses such as the Asian flu of 1957-58 and the Hong Kong flu of 1968-70. This was clear and transparent from the beginning when one looked at the empirical evidence. Why were no coercive political measures to combat these past virus outbreaks considered at the time? The answer is obvious: The open societies and constitutional states of the West had to distinguish themselves from the communist regimes in Eastern Europe. The contrast between West and East Berlin was visible to everyone. Reacting to a viral wave with coercive political measures wouldn’t have been compatible with what the West stood for.


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LEIA MAIS >

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