Monday, October 02, 2006

Revolution and Evolution

I definitely agree with Wally Shedd and with Sir Churchill that nothing better then democracy was invented to make countries stable and happy for long periods of time. Still democracy is a technology and a technical model that properly works only under certain conditions. It also means that as a technology it should be developed and adjusted depending on circumstances, standards of living, culture, social diversity, etc. This process should be regarded as adjustments but not as a “right” or “wrong” way from democracy. The only criteria to keep in mind – do such adjustments make life of people better: stable, prosperous, happy. In the long run the only criteria that separates democracy from tyranny, as Karl Popper put it, is the ability of the people to change the government without bloodshed.

What I find fundamentally wrong is the view that there is one ideal model of democracy and the task of the government is to bring the country to this ideal as close as possible. Any society is an open system that develops evolutionary and the best way to bring stability to the system is to let it develop by its own laws. Self-organization is always better then forceful intervention even with the best intentions. Even if you think that your model of government is the best in the world forcing a society into this model means a system shock and every systems responds to outside shocks by chaos. Saddam was definitely a tyrant but Saddam’s Iraq was a stable system that worked by its own laws. An ant hill might be very badly and ineffectively organized and it is possible that you know a much better model of ant hill organization. What is the best way to “reform” the ant hill? By evolution or by revolution? By destroying the old ant hill and starting building a new one from scratch? Or by introducing step-by-step improvements, working by trial and error, developing improvements that work and eliminating changes that turned out to be erroneous? I believe that even bad evolution is always better then good revolution.

It’s really surprising that even today US politics is guided by the philosophy of Enlightenment – an archaic 300-years old teaching based on the notion that human society is ruled by the same rules as nature. The first grand failure of this biological approach was first demonstrated by the consequences of the French revolution.

Das sind die Folgen der Revolution
Und ihrer fatalen Doktrine;
An Allem ist Schuld Jean Jacques Rousseau,
Voltaire und die Guillotine.
Heinrich Heine “Romanzero” 1851

I also think that Jean Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire are guilty of spreading ideas that humans are nothing but thinking ants and that there are ‘organic’ laws of social development, that this development can “progressive”, that humans have “natural” rights. But above all they are guilty of discovering “immutable laws” of social development. Karl Popper was the best philosopher who exposed such social theories as basically corrupt. He called such theories ‘historicism’. Historicism is a belief that history develops inexorably and necessarily according to some principles or rules towards a determinate end (democracy, socialism, communism, national state, etc.)

Historicists cannot make a distinction between laws and trends. First, they make an inductive mistake – pointing at a chain of certain events in the past and inventing a “law” based on the discovered trend. But the number of factors that led to a certain event was almost infinite and a social “scientist” needs beforehand a theory that would help him to pick up “right” events and dismiss all others as insignificant. Second, a social “scientist” believes that he can make predictions about future events based on the social “laws”. As Popper puts it, there can be no doubt that "the habit of confusing trends with laws, together with the intuitive observation of trends such as technical progress, inspired the central doctrines of ... historicism." (The Poverty of Historicism). Popper does not, of course, dispute the existence of trends, and he doesn’t deny that the observation of trends can be of practical value - but the essential point is that a trend is something which itself ultimately stands in need of scientific explanation, and it cannot therefore function as the frame of reference in terms of which anything else can be scientifically explained or predicted.

Karl Popper explored the failure of German Nazism and Soviet Socialism – societies that were constructed in accordance with “laws”. But I think today we should add to this list Freedom in Iraq or Democracy in Russia as another example of dogmatic and irresponsible utopian engineering.


Anonymous said...

I think most people should've realised by now that there's no such thing as "Freedom in Iraq". It's a made-up slogan for manipulated Western masses that simply covers up American interests (oil, etc.?) in this region.
I agree with this post in general, but the truth is - it's not a question of democracy in a particular country, it's just a question of American external interests. And we all know that Americans are big bullsh*ters, so they'll call their actions whatever they want - "fight for democracy?", ok, let it be that, who cares?

Tim Newman said...

Saddam was definitely a tyrant but Saddam’s Iraq was a stable system that worked by its own laws.

Two suicidal wars and a million odd killed notwithstanding, of course. Where are you from again?

Tim Newman said...

What I find fundamentally wrong is the view that there is one ideal model of democracy and the task of the government is to bring the country to this ideal as close as possible.

Can you actually find anyone who believes there is one ideal model of democracy, and is on record as saying it? Certainly, the Brits and the Yanks have very different systems of democracy and don't seem to spend much time harbouring the belief that theirs is the one and only ideal.

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