An Innocuous Case of Elite Power

Some key tenets that one must adjust themselves to when living in Europe is that rules and regulations apply only to some and not others; that rules apply universally, except when they don’t; and rules can be changed just as easily as they are made. The result fundamentally makes a mockery of the rule of law.

A perfect example of how European elites piss all over the rule of law is the recent call to change the International Monetary Fund bylaws to pick Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria as the new head. The example is rather innocuous. Who gives a fuck? – it’s just the head of the IMF. True, it’s a rather inconsequential example. But it’s a case that illustrates my point exactly.

For context, the situation is that the bylaws need to be changed so that Ms. Georgieva can be appointed because she will be 65 at the time of taking up the office where the current rules state the person must be 64 or below.

This is a classic example of how the European elite make rules, only to change them the next day. What is the point of making the rule if you are only going to change it? Do elites actually think for a second of why the rule was put there in the first place. Maybe it was to make sure that the person in charge can make it through the day without inadvertently pissing themselves. Maybe it’s so we don’t have someone with Alzheimer’s disease running the show.

The truth is that they never cared about the rule. They knew they would be able to change it as soon as it suited them. Rules and regulations serve two functions for the elite. First, laws create the illusion in the eyes of average citizen that the system is just. Second, it makes political systems complex and difficult to understand. The effect is that it excludes people who do not have the time or resources to understand the system better. Third, laws give justification for elites to exclude and reprimand those who do fundamentally challenge the system.

This situation where elites just change the rules on a whim to fit their agendas allows them to control the system for themselves whilst keeping the boot on the throat of the poor and downtrodden. A part of this is due to the elitist mindset that pervades European political circles inherited from their aristocratic ancestors. Power is, and should be, exclusively reserved for those of the right type i.e. those who look and sound the part. This is not a system based on bloodlines. In some ways it far more nefarious. It’s a system based on ideological and behavioural homogeneity.

“The peasants are to be kept apart from us.”

This elitist mindset cuts to the core of why some of the most powerful positions are not elected ones. The Presidents of the European Council, European Commission, European Parliament and European Central Bank[1] are all politically appointed by other elites. The average citizen has zero power on the outcome, and they enforce the status quo power structure.

Unfortunately, much of the elite are growing old, and so this case also shows how baby boomers can’t help themselves when it comes to entrenching their decades long power structures. This woman should be retiring along with the rest of these knuckleheads. Give the position to a younger, more vibrant, candidate who represents the vast majority of the world’s population.

Don’t give me the bullshit talking point that “we need someone with experience.” Fuck that. Experience doesn’t change anything. Trump is 73 going on 107 – the man is fucking idiot. Experience doesn’t equal to intelligence, nor does it equal performance. Most people in politically appointed positions have subpar intelligence because they were appointed by people with subpar intelligence.

Politics does not attract the demographic of society which we could describe as exceptionally gifted with intelligence (case in point: the current occupier of the White House). The best of our species are doctors, scientists, and engineers. Politics is the epicenter of mediocrity, neither cripplingly stupid, nor amazingly smart.

To be absolutely clear to those who read this, and also suffer from retardation. I am not critiquing or criticising Ms. Georgieva herself. I am pointing my finger at the power structure that is controlled by baby-boomer elites who control and manipulate power to their ends at the detriment of the rest of us.

This rather innocuous case of a political appointee to the IMF demonstrates how the European elite are willing to change rules and regulation whenever they are an inconvenience to their power. But they will insist to the ends of the earth that other rules need to be kept in place when it benefits them!

That’s why an ambitious and radical program to address climate change, for example, will never advance. It will always be ‘debated’, ‘discussed’, ‘deliberated’, ‘examined’, ‘resolved’, ‘argued’, and ‘considered’.

As Carl Schmidt describes in Political Theology “Christ or Barabbas, the liberal answers with a motion to adjourn the meeting or set up an investigative committee”.

Carl Schmitt, 1922, Political Theology, p. 78.

Governments rush to sign non-binding international agreements championing how great and magnanimous they are, but few actually follow through with tangible actions.

What is tangible is when the IMF give loans to countries on the condition that they deregulate their domestic markets, and change other public policies that ultimately entrenches economic austerity.

Elites control institutions such as the IMF. These institutions control our lives. Institutions are themselves governed formally by rules and regulations. But conveniently, elites take upon themselves to change the rules and regulations as they see fit, and for their exclusive benefit. An innocuous case of a bylaw change at the IMF is a perfect example of this thesis. For the elite rules and regulations apply only to some and not others; rules apply universally, except when they don’t; and rules can be changed just as easily as they are made. The rule of law does not apply to elite.


[1] I understand that the European Central Bank is apolitical. But who are we kidding, the choice has political implications.

[2] Carl Schmitt, 1922, Political Theology, p. 78.

Monuments of Racism – A tale of two cities

Since the founding of the European Union, and especially in the last thirty years or so, the construction of a collective sense of what it means to be European has accelerated. Thanks to the European Union, citizens of each Member State are happily also European Citizens. One feature of being European is to partake in the ritual of burying one’s head in the sand. I’m speaking of course about the millions of skeletons that Europe has in its closet that the populace continues to ignore. The skeletons are those of the millions of people who died because of European slavery, colonialism and imperialism.

It is this wilful ignorance that makes Europe a paradise for racism. While extremists like Hans Breivik shock the conscience, his existence does not result from a vacuum. Racist ideology is fomented by institutions and cultural practices. It comes in many forms such as the warped teaching of history, the representation of people outside of Europe in museums and cultural exhibitions, news reporting, public policy and a host of other mediums.

A favourite for me are museums, which Europe has in abundance. Museums have a unique function for a society. They are monuments to the cultural, scientific and social achievements of a nation. They reflect the ‘strength’ of a nation which is why they flourished so much in the 19th century when imperialism and nationalism were in their zenith. Importantly, they mirror the attitudes of the nation. Thus, when museums perpetuate colonial and racist thinking it is a natural reflection of the nation’s thinking when it comes to issues such as racism and colonialism.

Two contrasting examples illustrate the point. On a recent trip to the Netherlands, I has surprised to see that the museum I visited properly explained the context in which many of the cultural artefacts and works of art were created. A Romanticised depiction of a road construction in 19th century Dutch East Indies is captioned with the preface that thousands of local Indonesians perished building this monument of colonisation.


The Great Postal Route near Rejapolah, Auguste Antoine Joseph Payen, 1828

While it’s not a miracle, it at least acknowledges that Romanticised scenes such as this are far from the reality of what colonialism was about. But such efforts are rare in Europe. The populace by and large shows a staggering level of wilful ignorance for the actions of their ancestors. People even forget that they do not even need to go back very far. In many cases it was their grandparents who took part in national colonial projects.

By contrast a visit to the Central African Museum in Belgium is the epitome of this failure by Europe to account for its atrocities. The exhibition is controversial to say the least. The King of Belgium even refuses to visit it. It’s controversial because of Leopold II. In Belgium he is remembered as a national hero, a father of the country sort. He built magnificent buildings, created many national parks, and oversaw a flourishing of Belgian culture during the late 19th century.

Of course, such an image was built on the backs of the Congolese people whom he enslaved and butchered. Tens of millions of Congolese perished in the Congo Free State which he ruled over personally between 1885 and 1908. The reality of Leopold is that he would make good company with the likes of Hitler and Stalin.

The Central African Museum is a testament to Leopold’s legacy. Indeed, the entire museum is housed within opulent classical style buildings with large French gardens surrounding. One would think they are about to serve high tea at noon when visiting. Instead, you’re visiting a mausoleum to some of the worst crimes against humanity – lovely.

Recently the exhibition was ‘reformed’. The collection previously run by the colonial office, has since been changed to modernise the exhibition. In some limited respects it makes attempts to more accurately show what Belgium did to the Congolese people.

But based on what actually went on there, it would be like going to Auschwitz and seeing a sign that just said, “some people died here”.

But this attempt falls short because it fails to acknowledge the brutalities of King Leopold II. Here is a short list of the regime’s greatest hits. In the Congo Free State every person was required to produce a certain amount of goods for the king. If one failed to do this their hands would be cut off. If the man needed his hands for working the hands of his wife and children would be cut off.

It is estimated that in the 19th century Congo has a population of around 20 million people. By the time of the first census in 1924, that figure had dropped to 10 million. It wasn’t just hand amputations. Most of these deaths were due to mass starvation, overwork, disease (sleeping sickness, smallpox, swine influenza, and amoebic dysentery), in addition to outright mass executions of ‘rebellious’ villages.

Leopold II advertised his takeover of the Congo Free State as a civilising mission. A quintessential example of the white man’s burden. A golden statue in the central rotunda still stands of a European missionary with an African boy clutching his robes along with a plaque that reads: “Belgium bringing civilisation to Congo.”

The Central African Museum should be recommended for those who would like a class in how Europe continues to this day to perpetuate racist and colonialist ideologies. Just as the Belgian state made only cosmetic changes to the Congo Free State when they took over in 1908, so too has this museum. At its core is a message of murder and genocide. All the while you are greeted with a smile.

The Belgians were well known for setting up human zoos – the greatest irony is that they themselves have become a zoo themselves. It’s a zoo of various perverse, sick and degenerate ideologies. The hypocrisy is glaring and it’s time Europe takes its head out the sand. Oh, but they have lovely museums don’t they!

European Democracy or European Technocracy?

The European Elections took place over the course of a few days in late May 2019. Across 28 Member States, Europeans went to the ballot box to elect 751 Members of the European Parliament. But did this have any tangible outcome on who will be the President of the European Commission? If the answer is no, then does the European Union violate the fundamental principles of the Social Contact which underpins Representative Democracy?

To answer we first need to rewind slightly to explain how the European Union functions. The European Union is made up four institutions, which maps haphazardly onto our normal understanding of the three branches of government, the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. The only body to play a traditional role is the Court of Justice of the European Union, which acts as the supreme judicial authority and has the power to rule on matters of European Law.

For the other institutions though there is a weird mix of quasi executive and legislative powers that intersect with one another. For example, in the normal legislative procedure the European Commission proposes draft legislation (either regulations or directives). The Council of the European Union and the European Parliament then act as co-legislators who may propose amendments to the proposed legislation.

Yet, neither have the power to initiate legislation which is the essential role of a legislator i.e. the body which creates law. In a normal representative democracy, the legislature is easily identifiable in the form of a bicameral or unicameral parliament or house of representatives. This is not the case in the EU.

So what bearing do the European Elections have on this process. It turns out very little.

The European Parliament is made up of 751 members from across every European Member State according to a specific formula of degressive proportionality. With European Elections, the mandate of the European Commission also ends. Presidents of the European Commission, European Council, European Central Bank, and the High Representative appointed.

Unfortunately, the vote in the European Elections has zero relation to the outcome of these appointments. The most contentious of course is the role of President of the European Commission. In 2014, the European Union attempted to rectify this by proposing a Spitzenkandidaten process in which each of the political groups would nominate a candidate who would be considered by the Council for Commissioner President. The result was that Jean-Claude Juncker became the European Commission President for 2014-2019.

Following the European elections in 2019 however, the Council has completely ignored this process and nominated Ursula von der Leyen the German Minister of Defense, as President of the European Commission. This begs the question, why did European’s just go to the ballot box and vote? The result has no correlation to the result. Thus, the European Union will now be headed by someone who Europeans have never even heard of outside Germany.

The European Union claims to believe in the rule of law and democracy, but it makes a mockery of these. Liberal democracy is based on a social contract for which the Council and European elite run roughshod over. The social contract we have collectively agreed to is essentially that governments are accountable to the people.

While Europe criticizes nations like Russia for their fake elections, meanwhile the go about politics behind closed doors and in complete disregard for the election results. This is an absolute abhorrent outcome and the Council should be ashamed of itself. Many think it’s important to get out and vote. When you have outcomes like this we can see why 50 percent of people choose to stay home.

What the Council is attempting to do here is a coup d’etat against the legitimacy of the European Union and it will have negative repercussions for years to come. If there were any hope that the United Kingdom might somehow remain with the European Union, this has essentially evaporated with this nomination. The Council has essentially done the work for Brexiteers in showing the European Union to be a bureaucratic, technocratic, undemocratic behemoth.

Euroscepticism has been on the rise in Europe for the past ten years. With decisions from the Council like this, we can only expect Euroscepticism to increase. Citizens might be naïve and largely ignorant about European politics, but anyone with an ounce of reasonableness can see this for what it is, antidemocratic, which is what feeds Euroscpeticism as citizens turn away from parties and institutions which claim to be democratic and represent their interests.

If Europe had any hope of claiming the European Union is democratic, this is now as dead as the Spitzenkandidaten process. The Brexit party turned its back on the European Parliament, but now it’s time for European citizens to turn their back on the European Union. I do not mean break up the European Union, but citizens need to show that they stand for democracy not technocracy. Citizens demand that European leaders end the hypocrisy and do what is in the interests of Europe not just a group of powerful European Member States.

Boomering Boomers

Fuck old people. Baby-boomers in particular. I exclude from this critique those of the Greatest Generation (1900-1940) they killed Hitler – good work. Boomers have had custodianship over the planet for some 40-50 years now and they have done nothing but squander and fuck things up for the rest of us. It’s time for a radical redistribution of priorities. We need to be prioritizing giving these shitheads the middle finger.

Look at the state of the planet. It’s disastrous. Big thanks to the boomers on that one. We knew of climate change as far back as the 1970’s, just as the baby boomers were stepping into the halls of office and taking over the reins of control from their predecessors. With warnings as far back as the 1970’s the boomers decided to kick the can down the road for future generations, and they have continued to do so decade after decade leaving us to pick up the tab. Saying that ExxonMobil lied to you is not an excuse. Stop playing dumb. And if you are that dumb, then, well sorry, you are not fit to be in control and it’s time to move on.

Which brings me to my next point. Boomers like Joe Biden and Donald Trump. People who just won’t fuck off and retire. Guys, you are old. I bet you can’t go a day without partially pissing your pants.

Everyone gives shit to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for pissing himself on stage but at least he saw the writing on the wall is not seeking reelection.

It’s time for a reality check for these boomers, and a radical redistribution of priorities. In line with giving these fuckfaces the middle finger lets hit them where it hurts – pensions. Pensions have become a gigantic hole in the budget for almost every country. I propose we take these bludgers pensions and put that towards fixing the planet.

It seems only fair, I mean in practical terms they have taken ours. So fuck them, fair is fair. The intergenerational theft of wealth by the boomers is disgusting and is a problem that governments willfully ignore. It’s staring them in the face. As the boomers get older the situation is only going to get worse as well. The sooner we act the better.

Let’s take the boomers’ pensions and put it to good use – fixing and protecting the environment. This kills two birds with one stone. We distribute the wealth the boomers have stolen from younger generations, and we finally pick up the can the boomers insisted on kicking on down the road.

If boomers want to complain, they can sell one of their ten houses which they have accumulated over the years and leveraged against the futures of younger generations.

Boom, third problem caused by the boomers solved since it would also fix the housing crisis. A flood of houses released onto the market will drive down prices or at least keep them stable for a while so that first home buyers have a fighting chance.

Boomers, for all your complaining to younger generations needing to “make it themselves”, it’s time we apply this principle to you. And since you guys were handed an ideal situation by your parents, which you squandered and kept the benefits of for yourselves, it’s time for younger generations to wrest control away from the boomer class.

Have you noticed how the most climate skeptical generation are the boomers? They also the most homophobic and racist. Yikes! Not a good a good look there chief. I fucking guarantee you the recalcitrance of governments to act on climate change is due to the large boomer voting population who just don’t believe it’s real because they like the good weather at their summer vacation houses on the beach. “Oh, climate change disproportionality affects people in other regions of world? Na, fuck that, I enjoy my five bedroom holiday home too much to care.”

So, to redress the democratic imbalances I propose we rebalance the voting power of boomers by reducing the vote of boomers to 0.75. In other words, a boomer’s vote is worth only 0.75, whereas those between 30-50 are worth 1. And to be equitable to the young who have their vote suppressed, their votes shall be worth 1.25. This will reallocate the power distribution in our representative democracies so that the young get a fair voice. Politicians will finally be forced to tailor policies for the electorate of the future and not pander to the has-beens.

As young people it’s time we collectively raise the middle finger to the boomer class. These are the people that ask you how to send a WhatsApp message even though you just explained and showed them how to send a Facebook message (it’s the same fucking principle!). We don’t owe them shit, because they already took everything for themselves.

In sum, boomers as a group are like people who rip a silent but violent fart in the elevator, step out level two, and press the emergency button so that that the elevator is stuck, with the rest of us left to die in a makeshift gas-chamber they wish they could put migrants in. Talk about a bad aftertaste.

(for the record all of my grandparents have passed away, so I feel no remorse in writing this article)

Journey to the Centre of Life

When I started university, I picked up Karl Marx and read everything. You name it, I read it – except Capital II, I never got around to that one. I soon styled myself as a solidly left-wing kind of person. I hated the current government, I did not respect my boss at all, I voted for standard left-wing politicians. I demonstrated in the streets, the US was evil, and Lenin was just misunderstood. I didn’t go so far as to sign up for the communist party and I would not consider myself a radical, but I certainly had some sympathies.

What attracted me to this day to thinkers like Karl Marx was the answer he provides to the question of why injustice exists in the world. In an increasingly agnostic world, we can’t just use God to explain the way things are – which is a rather horrible place. Everywhere one looks there just seems to be endless suffering and injustice. Marx gives you the answer to this question – capitalism.

So, I progressed through university, reading everything I could get my hands on including a lot of books from all across the political spectrum, but I remained fairly left-wing. I saw injustices in the world and thought this was inherent to a corrupt system of exploitation and I dreamt of a world where things were just easier for myself and everyone around me.

It broke my heart once to see a group of men sleeping in the street, not because they had no job, but because they had to start work at 4.30 in the morning and this was the only way the could be on time because they had no car and public transport doesn’t run at that time. This to me was unjust, and an example of exploitative system. Now I see this as just a bunch of guys trying their best to do what they think is right.

Something that really stuck in my mind though was that things on the left just never seemed to add up. If a socialist system was superior, why were we not at least edging towards it? Surely, even the average person would be able to understand that socialism is far more attractive than exploitative capitalism? Most important of all was the question – why is the other side winning?

To answer these questions, I committed myself to read a lot more of thinkers on the right, but without my left-wing lens. In other words, I wasn’t going to read these texts any less critically, but I was going to approach them differently from what I had previously. Before they were the thinkers that justified capitalist enslavement of mankind through a corrupt political system, now I wanted to assess them for what they had originally intended their texts to be.

My first port of call was Rousseau and his Du Contrat Sociale – and boy was it an eye opener.

Rousseau’s famous line:“man is born free, yet everywhere I see him in chains”resonates with me to this day. Rousseau’s answer for the existence of justice said to me that more fundamentally that exploitation, we are held back by convention.

Then I moved onto the other heavyweights: Hobbes, Locke, Mill and Burke. The collective achievement of these writers showed me the enormous progress western philosophy has taken to lift off the shackles of superstition, deference, and servitude.

I threw in other important writers, especially those who I would describe as confused socialists, Orwell and Camus. It was important for me to understand their relationship with socialism and why they turned their backs on international communism. For me, the story of Camus particularly is the most poignant

when your ideology justifies violence against others it is broken.

I recognise now that left-wing ideology fundamentally does not work. That is not to say right-wing ideology is any better. So, I sit now in the centre. That all changed when I read Schmidt, and now I don’t sit anywhere, I’ve just left the party altogether. Basically, I’m floundering on the floor in crushing cynicism.

So, what are the lessons I have learned so far?

  1. Marx was wrong: capitalism is not coming to roaring conclusion. It’s just not going to happen.
  2. Always be sceptical: no one has the right answer, they have only an answer.
  3. I am free: my life and destiny are entirely my responsibility.
  4. Power should remain within the individual: Governments cannot be trusted – delegating power will invariably lead to worse outcomes for people.
  5. Suffering is a part of the human condition: it is what we do with it that counts.

And what I recommend for people? Two words: Marcus Aurelius.

Bring Back the Guillotine

France only got rid of the guillotine in 1989. That’s not even 30 years – so it’s not too late, we could still bring it back! And by god we need it. It’s not for you or I, it’s just for the politicians. Given the way things are evolving in politics these days, I reckon a Terror would go a long way to culling the ranks of asshole politicians and restoring a human element to politics. I mean if it’s one thing humans are good at, it’s killing each other. In fact, it’s probably one of the most human things we do. You look at the definition of human and I think you’ll find murderer in there somewhere.

We really need to get rid of these dicks. Have you noticed how they lord themselves above us as if they’re special, making rules that benefit themselves and fucking everyday people every chance they get. Beyond losing their ‘job’ (more on that later) they’re basically untouchable which seems unfair to me. The prospect of the guillotine would light the fire under their ass for them to do their ‘jobs’ properly. And by doing their ‘jobs’ I mean they actually implement the will of the people, instead of using that will to serve their own ends passing it off as that of society.

More practically we need term limits for politicians. Being a politician is not a vocation like being a doctor, a builder, or a butcher. They have the unique role of wielding the sovereign power of the people. No other ‘profession’ has this role, hence why it’s not a ‘job’ in the normal sense.

People who stay in power, get drunk on power – and they do anything to not give it up. Imagine Sméagol is a politician, and the one ring political power – this is what it’s like.

This leads politicians to lie, cheat and steal from the rest of us just like Sméagol. For the modern politician it’s: “thanks for the vote and taxes, now eat my shit and bask in my glory”.

What have politicians done to advance the prosperity of humanity? Did they invent some amazing medicine that cured millions? Have they constructed a road with the labour and toil of their own hands? Have they fed the needy and helped the poor? No, none of that. They claim they take decisions and set up programs to do these things, but it’s with your money. So really, it was the community that did those things, not politicians.

What’s also repugnant is the air of moral superiority politicians have when they take a decision that benefits people.

It’s like yeah, congratulations for being the bare minimum level of someone that is ethical.

But I’m no saint myself. Unlike politicians, the difference is that I don’t stand up pretending to be one. Murders, thieves, fraudsters, epithets that all describe politicians.

Now we want the best people to be going into politics, don’t we? Yes, and giving politicians money is not the way to get the best people. Not for politics. As I noted above, politics is not like a normal ‘job’, its unique because it has a unique role to play. If someone is going into politics for money they are exactly the wrong sort of people to be in that job. It’s like giving the keys of the vault to the thief. As Weber described almost a century ago, the state has the monopoly on the means of legitimate violence. The power to wield that power against the citizens is the terrifying prospect.

And this is why we need to bring back the guillotine. Politicians have had a free run for too long. We limit their terms, stop paying them so much with public (and private) money, we bring back the guillotine, and maybe then they’ll actually start to implement the will of the people. Until then, fuck politicians and their corrupt, good-for-nothing asses.

A Letter to Google

Dear Google,

When you get the time could you get around to finishing the Matrix. It seems to me that it’d be a hit with the people today. I mean, everyone just seems to want to always be elsewhere but here. I can tell, because they can’t put their fucking phones away for more than 3 minutes. Since they want to spend so much time in the digital world – let’s just give it to them.

Whether when it’s eating some food, going to a concert, or at home with their cat, people just cannot seem to be able to get themselves away from the digital world of make believe. So, the sooner you guys get the Matrix up and running the better, cause then the real world will just be left to those us who are content to just eat a meal, go to a concert, and sit at home with our cats, without having to tell everyone about it. For the record dickheads, your photos are fucking shit even with Instagram filters, and your mindless Facebook updates are as shallow as the Aral Sea.

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I’ve already figured out the business model for you Google, so the whole thing will be very lucrative for you. You know, since the General Data Protection Regulation came into force, companies like you have not been having a good time. But the Matrix solves all this. You can just get their explicit consent as they enter the Matrix, and use these little consumption machines as test subject for as much advertising as you want. Ads all day, every day.

You guys will be the CNN of advertising, 24/7, vacuous, but targeted.

And as we all know, all corporations have a bad side, and the Matrix covers this too – while people are in the Matrix you can harvest their organs without them knowing. In fact, you could even team up with the pharmaceutical industry and use them as test subjects for new medicines and cosmetics. Then we won’t have to use animals anymore. That’ll keep Greenpeace happy. Boom! Killing two birds with one stone (except we won’t have to kill birds anymore)

But hey, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way. I actually love you Google, cause you are intuitive to use, and when used correctly you’re a powerful tool. And perhaps I’m roping you in with other companies unfairly. But you are the only one I could trust to create the Matrix. Please Google, you’re my only hope.

My real bone to pick is with the degenerates who can’t put their fucking phones away. I just want to be able to see my favourite bands without a ocean of cameras taking photos and videos. So please, Google, invest all your money in creating the Matrix. Do this for me, and I’ll consider paying for your Youtube premium service (seriously who is paying for that, lol)

In closing, Google, I just want to say, you’re great, and please just give these people what they want. A place where they can be everywhere but here, and they can share things as much as they want with one another. In the Matrix they won’t even need phones, they could just plug into the hive mind together.

Cheers,

The Seperation of Powers

Inherent within our liberal democracies, the separation of powers doctrine is designed to ensure that no one branch of government can come to dominate the others. In simple terms, the executive cannot interpret law, the legislator cannot not enforce it, and the judiciary cannot (shouldn’t) create it. Reminding ourselves of this important doctrine could act as the basis for improving our democracies and re=empowring citizens.

This principle, widely recognised in the modern period, serves as a foundation for our political systems even today. The likes of Montesquieu, John Locke, and Rousseau pioneered the modern approach but the idea that the power of the government goes as far back as the Greeks. Herodotus, for example, noted distinctions between institutions as much as between factions within the Greek City-States,  and in the famous Constitutional Debate three Persian nobles debate the merits of government and the extent of its power. Inherent within Herodotus’ ideological scope is also the idea that political power should be limited.

Among ancient writers Polybius perhaps stands out from the rest. He famously argues that what made the Romans superior to the Greeks was their ability to harness Monarchy, Oligarchy and Democracy within one system. This was the Republic, or Res Publica to the Romans. By doing so the Romans were able to harness the benefits that each of these systems created whilst simultaneously mitigating the negative aspects of each system. Scholars to this day doubt that the system Polybius describes  ever existed and functioned as he would have us believe, but the staying power of this idea

had profound effect on later thinkers and leaders who founded our modern democracies. The Founding Fathers of the United States were particularly influenced and aimed to balance the powers of each branch of the government against one another and with the powers of the states. Indeed, among the Founding Fathers there was a fierce debate as to the balance of these powers and interests.

Some, like Thomas Jefferson fought tooth and nail to ensure that the Federal Government was not too strong, and advocated that Congress be the most important institution of the Republic. Others, like Alexander Hamilton, wanted a more centralized state lead by a strong executive represented by the President. Of course, over the centuries the balance of these powers has waxed and waned depending on the circumstance. This is true of the United States, and it is true elsewhere.

Important to understand within this concept of the separation of powers is the idea, or perhaps the recognition that power tends to accumulate and consolidate towards a single institution. This simple tenet led some political theorists in the early 20th century to turn towards fascism as the natural conclusion.

Robert Michels argued that within democratic structures there always exists an ‘Iron Law of Oligarchy’ progressively moving the democratic structures towards an oligarchical one that serves the interests of the few.

Karl Schmidt also thought that democracy created the conditions for fascism because each constitutional crisis lead to a consolidation of more powers within a single institution in order to resolve that crisis. This idea remains prevalent still today among those who believe that governments are concentrating too much power and leaving citizens feeling alienated from the political process, in turn feeding radical reactions on both sides of the political spectrum.

The separation of powers is the cornerstone of our modern liberal democracies. As our economies and societies become increasingly complex governments are struggling to maintain pace. This is turn places strains on the political system forcing governments to operate more efficiently. Unfortunately for citizens, this can mean a reduction in liberties and freedoms for the sake of efficiency. The consolidation of powers by an institution, or a group of institutions is often justified on this basis.

The democratic deficits that modern democracies are facing will not be solved by political powers who seek to “reform” institutions and make government processes more bureaucratic and obscurer for citizens.

Going back to the fundamentals of our democracies should act as the roadmap for governments and citizens alike. Personal freedom and legitimate means for citizens to control their lives outside of mere economic choices will lessen the democratic deficit and lead to less extremism on both sides of the political spectrum.

Robotic Angels of Death

The robots are coming and there is no hope for you. The automation of the workplace is set to accelerate even faster in the years to come as the world rests at the brink of a fourth industrial revolution. But, AI isn’t just coming for your job, they are also an existential threat.

As it is 6% of jobs will be lost to AI by 2021. One estimate notes a risk of up to 47% of all jobs being lost to AI.[1] This is a threat to our current social model, a model that is based on people holding jobs and creating growth. Governments recognize this. So, what are doing about it?

From the perspective of assessing the greatest danger. Nothing. If anything, they are currently exacerbating it. The greatest threat to mankind is itself. Humans have shown a consistent tendency for self-destruction. The world wars in the first half of the twenieth century are case in point. When it comes to the integration of AI to warfare, governments have given themselves free reign which everyday people are blissfully unaware of, or otherwise cynically acceptive of.

The European Commissions’ recent response to the threat of AI came in April with the release of a Communication on Artificial Intelligence. A Communication is a document that sets out how the European Commission is considering a given topic and has a basic soft-law effect. Conspicuously absent is the topic of AI and warfare.

The topics they choose to focus on are (i) the effect AI will have on the workplace, (ii) how to boost funding of AI technologies in Europe, and (iii) the ethics of AI. This last topic is perhaps with most interesting because even as the EU would like to consider the ethics of AI they do not want to discuss the use of AI in warfare.

Governments are deafeningly silent on the issue of AI being integrated into weapons systems and this should give a cause for concern.

It has often been remarked that it is expenditure in warfare that has advanced technology the most. According to this idea, technology initially developed to kill others is later found to have a conventional use that creates benefit for people. Nuclear energy is a good example of this. Beginning in 1942, the Manhattan Project’s goal was to develop a nuclear weapon before the Nazi’s as means to swiftly end the war with Germany. As it turns out this goal was not quite achieved, since the end product was used to end the war with Japan. Nowadays, 510 nuclear reactors around the world provide us with some of the most efficient and ‘clean’ sources of energy. But let’s not forget 226,000 people died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki thanks to this.

Recently, Google employees forced the company to deny renewing a contract with the US Department of Defense to build an AI system. Many lamented the fact that one of the world’s largest technology giants turned down an opportunity to help the US government advance its military capabilities. Others thought this act by the employees was commendable. What it demonstrates though is that the military is looking to use AI in their weapons systems.

It would be cynical or naive to think the military was not already looking at way to use AI systems with their weapons. Having a computer system aim a gun at someone is immensly more effecient than a human counterpart. Movies like The Terminator, and The Matrix and all to comfortably close to reality these days, when they were once thought a distant fantasy.

Our ability to engineer new technologies and realities for ourselves will never cease to amaze me, and for the negativity of this article, there is a part of me that also thinks everything will just work out. Maybe we are reaching the singlularity. Honestly, if AI is going to take over the world because it transcends human control and locks us all in the Matrix. I probably be down with that, I’d just want it to be cool; like I’d want to be able to have the powers that Neo does. Alas, I digress.

AI is coming for you, and it ain’t just for your job. Ultimately it will have many conventional uses that will make our lives as consumers better. But it will be used by the military to rain down death and destruction on us as humans. So run an hide, and for god sakes stop using social media so much.

[1] https://www.iotforall.com/impact-of-artificial-intelligence-job-losses/

The Social Contract

The 4th of July gives us time to reflect on the age-old question, do people have the right to self-determination? Many have opposed this idea, and continue to do so even today. But liberal thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau give us cause to think that perhaps we do. Indeed, Locke, Rousseau and other such contemporary thinkers were influential for the American founding fathers when they drafted the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. A reading of Locke in particular suggests that there is in fact a right for all peoples to be able to self-determine their government which entails the right to secede from a pre-established order.

From as far back as Plato and Aristotle, humankind has continually asked how to organise itself. For Aristotle, this question was fundamental to human existence – hence he defined humans as ‘political animals’ and so, according to Aristotle, it is within our nature as humans to organise ourselves into political communities. Writing much later but in constant reference to Plato and Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau also attempted to answer these same questions by using a philosophical construct known as the social contract. This has been a radically persuasive argument ever since, and the foundation for much of our modern political discourse.

The State of Nature

The social contract describes how humans move from the state of nature to form the political community. The state of nature is outside the political community. Hobbes illustrates this as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” It’s a state of war against all, where humans have absolute license to do as they wish. The expression ‘nothing is forbidden, everything is permitted’ would aptly describe the state of nature to Hobbes. Everyone in the state of nature is equal.

Locke’s state of nature is different. Whereas Hobbes thinks it is a state of war against all, Locke thinks that because all are equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in their “life, health, liberty, or possessions”. For Locke, it is a law of nature that calls for the preservation of one’s “life, liberty health or goods” and when someone violates this natural law then there is a natural right in the state of nature to execute the law of nature and seek retribution, like for like. By violating the law of nature even in the state of nature the offender declares themself outside the bounds of reason and common equity,

Equality

Liberal thinkers all believe that humans are equal. This is an important departure from Plato and Aristotle who both agreed (but particularly the latter) that some are intended for slavery and others for freedom. Hobbes writes in chapter 13 of Leviathan that “nature hath made men so equal, in the faculties of body”. We also have an equal desire to attain the same things, which due to scarcity they cannot all enjoy. This creates conflict; and from conflict war. As equals all power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one has more power than another.

Freedom and Liberty in the State of Nature

In the state of nature, humankind is free to the greatest possible extent. Liberty in this sense is “the absence of external impediments […] to do what he would” (Leviathan, Chapter 14). It is a natural law that humans are free to do as their reasons determines because in the state of nature there is no one to stop us from doing so.

Locke describes the state of nature as follows: “the perfect freedom to order their actins and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature without asking leave or depending on the will of any other man”. In the state of nature, humankind is isolated from each other – a real Robinson Crusoe (as Rousseau put it), looking on the other in hostility. Locke adds though that the state of nature has some constraints. One is not free to dispose of their body (i.e. to commit suicide). The state of nature has a law of nature that governs it and obliges everyone (The Second Treatise of Government, Chapter 2).

Leaving the State of Nature

The state of nature is governed by certain rules of nature. The first law of nature for Hobbes is that humans naturally seek peace. The second, “that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far-forth as for peace and defence of himself he shall think it necessary […] and to be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would all ow other men against himself. In this way, Hobbes is saying that reaching a state of peace requires reciprocity from all parties.

Leaving the state of nature is to set aside certain rights for the sake of peace. Agreeing to seek peace equally between parties is the initial contract. Importantly, it is a voluntary act. One cannot be compelled by force to give up their rights. Rousseau notes (On the Social Contract, Book I, chapter 3) that “force is a physical power [without] moral effect. To yield to force is an act of necessity, not of will…let us then that force does not create right.”

And so for the sake of peace humankind agrees one among another equally that they shall lay down their rights to pursue war. This forms the basis of the social contract. As Rousseau (On the Social Contract Book I chapter 6) formulates it:

“These clauses, properly understood, may be reduced to one – the total alienation of each associate, together with all his rights to the whole community, for, in the first place, as each gives himself absolutely, the conditions are the same for all; and, this being so, no one has any interest in making them burdensome to others”

Creating the Political Community

Hobbes say that the end or purpose of the political community is the preservation of the self and to exit the state of nature. It cannot be a state where the individuals would be worse off than if they had stayed in the state of nature, otherwise the parties would not agree to leave the state of nature. As noted above, the conditions of the contract are to apply universally and to not favour one over another, and I only give up only so much of my power as I would have another have over me.

In the state of nature, we each are executors of the law of nature. But since none of us are omnipotent, and all of us have a subjective reality one of the most important aspects of the social contract is that disputes between parties should be adjudicated by a third party who can apply the collectively agreed upon laws. Thus, by entering the political community, we give up our right to seek retribution when another violate the law of nature.

This alienation of one’s rights to the other parties in the form of the political community creates political power. Political power is the “right of making laws with penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties, for the regulating and preserving of property, and of employing the force of the community in the execution of the laws, and in the defence of the commonwealth from foreign injury and all this only for the public good” (The Second Treatise of Government, Chapter 1).

Hobbes writes that “covenants, without the sword, are but words, and of no strength to secure a man at all.” This is an important distinction between Hobbes and other liberal thinkers because Hobbes believes that humankind is naturally vicious (in the sense that they will always tend towards vice if left alone) and therefore, for the sake of peace, the community needs a superior being, a Leviathan, to enforce the peace in the community. Hobbes observed, as Aristotle had before him, that some animals such as ants and bees live in societies without a coercive power. The difference between these animals however is that humans are, firstly, in constant competition for honour and dignity and thus, inversely, envious and hateful towards others, and secondly, the common good is identical to private good whereas for humans, the two are distinct from one another.

The political community therefore is for the sake of preserving the life, liberty, property and health of its members. Each of the members agrees to give up some of the liberty in order to live in peace with one another. Investing the community with political power arises from the transference of that natural right to seek retribution on those who violate the law of nature. The aggregation of this right is in turn executed by the community on those who seek to harm it, whether these be foreign powers, or members of the community who act outside of the laws of nature.

The Right to Self-Determination

From the above account it follows that individual have the right to self-determine their choice of government. This can be done peacefully, qua ritualistically, via free and fair elections, or they may do so violently, by overthrowing the government if the government is deemed to have acted in violation of the natural law.

It is notable that, all but Hobbes agreed that democracy was the best form of government for this reason. The fact that one voluntarily gives up their rights in order to join the political community suggests that one is free to also retract the transference of those rights and thereby return to the state of nature.

It remains to be seen then, if once agreed, a social contract can be dissolved. On this point, Locke and Rousseau are silent. Hobbes’ answer is as outlined above. That once transferred is cannot be given back and the sovereign has the right to enforce the peace of the commonwealth. Locke and Rousseau, who were both more liberal in their beliefs do not account for situations when a group of a society wishes to secede from a commonwealth.

The American Experiment

With that said we do know that the founding father of the United States were heavily influenced by the likes of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. The founding fathers used language directly taken from Locke’s Second Treatise of Government to justify their secession from England. It is no mistake that the opening phrase of the American Declaration of Independence reads as if Locke had written it himself,

“we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The founding fathers then go to list of the grievances against King George and reason why they were to wage war against him. It is perhaps the most famous case for the self-determination of a group of people. The Founding Fathers clearly saw that the social contract had been violated by King George, just as the English Parliament had in 1649 when they cut the head off Charles I.

The power of American experiment on political discourse ever since cannot be understated enough. It has determined the course of history ever since its inception and helped to inspire other revolutions around the world at the time, and afterwards, most notably the French Revolution.

Modern Times

In the 21st century, despite its enduring influence, the social contract and the right to determination do not maintain the same ideological place it once had. This has been due in part to the rise of Communism beginning in the 19th century which offered an alternative to liberal principles. Since the American revolution we have seen the rise and fall of fascism and communism and growth of modern capitalism on the back of four industrial revolutions. This is a different world to the one of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. But this shouldn’t mean that the power of their ideas should have any less relevance for us.

Reading List

(the links will take you to pdfs of the texts)

 

Aristotle, The Politics

Jean=Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

John Locke, The Second Treatise of Government