Why your democracy cannot survive

But democracy is part of what we are now. It is ingrained in our modern culture; surely we cannot revert to a time when there was no democratic system?

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Are you sure about that?

Have you considered what holds your democracy together, what keeps it strong in the face of political adversity or outright criminality?

In the coming weeks and months, various echelons of government will have to decide where their best chance of survival lies:

As I write this, the Attorney General of the United States, in collusion with the President, appears to have taken option two. How long before others roll over and take the same option and ignore the instructions of congress? Will congress then order physical intervention to enforce the law?

If they do, and there is no ‘physical intervention’, then the cascade of submission will begin. Congress will be seen as impotent; there is no mechanism in place to resist a president who simply refuses to obey the law. Where that will lead we can only guess, but it does not look good. If it is allowed to go unchecked it will become another step on the road to full dictatorship.

The President of the United States is also Commander in chief of the military. What happens when the military chiefs decide to cave and start issuing orders to lower ranks to sde with the President? Soldiers always fall in behind whoever pays their wages. Men’s minds really are that easy to understand. The shift to autocratic rule is that easy to accomplish.


If democracy collapses in the USA, it’s game over for global civilisation.

Maybe you should stop to think how democracy arose and just how fragile it really is. There is an unawareness of that fragility; a misguided certainty that the people we elect to govern us will keep it safe and always hand it on the next generation and not abuse it (too much) for their own ends.

A certainty that democracy, like prosperity, will always be there for us.

It is important to see democracy and prosperity as just two sides of the same coin, that they are co-dependent. That if one goes down, so will the other.

We might look at far right rantings from some remote part of the world, or even closer to home and think: ‘that couldn’t happen here’, or ‘the constitution would prevent it’.

Why couldn’t it happen in a supposedly democratic country? The democracy we cherish in civilised parts of the world is less than a century old. In some places it has never taken root, yet we take it for granted.

Depending on where you live, and the regime you happen to live under, democracy has existed only for about the last century or so, and even then has held together somewhat tenuously.

Before the industrial revolution of the 18th century, normality was the neo-feudal system of agriculturalism, basically where 95% of the population engaged in production of food support for the other 5%.

That ruling 5% held power through land holding, which delivered the source of primary energy: food. It was control of that prime resource that underpinned autocratic rule. Work or die was the bottom line.

Workers were bound to the land they lived on, and subject to all its laws. Government was in the hands of those who held the primary energy resource. No form of democracy could exist. The occasional mob rising and revolution didn’t alter that.

The change came with the industrial revolution of the 18th century.

That created a different environment where workers were suddenly in short supply. Colossal output of raw energy spawned the production of machines that leveraged even more energy.

Machines could not function without manpower. Machinery and men grew exponentially, each forcing growth of the other. Industries expanded exponentially and found they desperately needed workers, and those workers began to make demands.

Employers had no option but to capitulate, albeit grudgingly. (I’m skipping over the violent reactions to strikers only 100 years ago by Ford et al.)

Workers rights grew into trade unions and from there into fully representational democratic government. And you think that’s the way it’s going to be from now on.


You might think that this has been some kind of humanitarian progression. It wasn’t, it was the result of cheap surplus energy. As long as industry expanded and needed more workers, democratic demands had to be met. Democracy could be tolerated while the working environment was awash with cheap surplus energy from oil coal and gas.

We had far more energy resources than we needed to sustain ourselves, so what did we do with it? We made as much stuff as possible, as fast as possible, then sold it to each other in the name of progress. It was supposed to last forever.

It didn’t.

And robotics are replacing the labour of humans. Robots demand no wages or democratic rights, but more importantly robots don’t consume ‘stuff’, so do not contribute to the human economic system.

Plenty of oil, yes; but it is getting harder and harder to reach, so there’s less and less surplus in our pipelines. So we suddenly find ourselves with declining living standards.

Without cheap surplus energy, there can be no real industrial growth. Rid yourself of the delusion of the no-growth economy. Without growth, living standards go into decline and your promised dream evaporates into a nightmare.

So in desperation we turn to the leader who arises to lead us all back to the prosperity of a past golden era. He promises that the dreamtime can be made to return, to bring prosperity to all. But first we must rid ourselves of anyone and anything that stands in the way of his vision of utopia.

He points the finger of blame at anyone and everything, and the masses cheer him on, desperate to believe because they have nothing else to believe in.. He is seen as the solution to their problems. He is not recognised as part of the problem.

The rallying cry of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. Democratic process stood in his way, so he got rid of it as soon as he got elected to Chancellor. He was offering to dispense with democracy and a return to autocratic rule, convincing his gullible flock that is the only way to regain prosperity and only he had the means to initiate it.

It is history that’s there for us to check out. He too pointed to lesser peoples who had to be got rid of. He too employed people who would carry out orders on his whims, because their future became entwined with his.

Already the instructions of congress are being openly defied. Having faced nothing like this before, there are no established rules to deal with flagrant denial of the conventions of good government.

Those who point out that the new leader is a charlatan and fraudster are labelled ‘enemies of the people’. Another chilling phrase from the past. The fascist spectre is rising again, promising fulfilment of utopian dreams in return for subversion of human rights and fundamental decency. The cheering of the millions in response to this is being heard once again.

As the power of the new leader grows, so does fear. People just roll over. If the military becomes subverted into this madness, it’s game over for the democratic system. Soldiers of all ranks fall in behind whoever pays their wages, no matter how crazy the regime. (Look at Venezuela now).

When the dictator takes full control, the body of government does as they are told, or face the alternative. The revolving door of the White House will not always lead out onto Pennsylvania Avenue.

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co-author of The End of More, in paperback and kindle on Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00D0ADPFY email pagett.communications@blueyonder.co.uk

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