The Spread of Freedom & Democracy

parthanonWhy did freedom & democracy spread so rapidly from around one third of global Nation States in 1975 to more than two thirds in 1995 ?

 OK listen up -

'What really happens is that the gene pool becomes filled with genes that influence bodies in such a way that they behave 'as if' they made complex, if unconscious, cost/benefit calculations'. The Selfish Gene, 1976.

The idea that ideas themselves evolve in a universal Darwinian process uncovers new insights into why liberal democracies are economically efficient.

The battle of ideas moved decisively during the 1980s, more and more people were learning and understanding that adaptation is the only way to survive in a hostile environment. Adaptation is fundamentally economic, 'as if' responding to change by cost/benefit analysis, exploiting the synergies of specialisation & scale.  

Unilever VietnamMore people contributing more cooperative synergies -

Deng Reforms in China 1978

Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1979

Reforms of Socialism in India 1991 ... 'A slow roll back of socialist policies has been underway since 1991. But unlike China since 1978 this shift in India has been hesitant, conflicted & furtive' ('Getting India back on Track' by Ashley J Tellis) 

out of the ashes of the Vietnam War emerged Unilever Vietnam and wealth creation 1995

the process was continuing to stir in 2010 with 'the Arab spring'  

after the 'dictator' wars in Falklands, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria, Libya ... Ukraine ... and many more ... were over ... slowly ... too slowly? ... there was an opportunity for liberal democracy ... for liberal order to emerge.
It was impossible to impose Liberal Democracy (by definition) but folk could learn as dictators were toppled or succeeded ... 'mission accomplished the rest was up to the people'.
As natural selection relentlessly juggled the genes, and differential survival, survived, all folk everywhere had a yen for cooperative synergies and avoidance of violence & crowd trouble ... Adam the Smith called this yen moral sentiments ... the Jews called it the bad conscience' ... the Christians called it the 'holy spirit' ... the Quakers called in an 'inner light' ... almost everyone called it the 'golden rule of do unto others' ... the Banjo Player called it 'worms in his head' ... and Steven Pinker gathered the evidence for the evolution of cooperation and the decline of violence in 'The Better Angels of our Nature' 2012.      

Cooperative synergies of specialisation & scale load the dice of Liberal Democracy.

Liberal Democracy is not majority rule but rather protection of minorities.  

Just examples of an ancient long term evolutionary trends of significant economic importance ... involving dramatic change in large populations ...

But don't get it wrong a trend is only a trend and the evolutionary arms race ebbs & flows over eons -

'a trend is a trend is a trend ... but the question is, will it bend? ... will it alter its course through some unforeseen force and come to a premature end?'

Was the trend holding in 2018, 10 years after the debilitating crisis in 2008 ... Covid in 2020 ... Ukraine in 2022?

At the start of the new millennium there was a remarkable ebb in the evolution of Liberal Democracies - 31st Dec 1999 Putin was elected in Russia and in 2018 Xi consolidated 'strongman power' in China both significantly led to the abolishment of term limits, checks & balances and erosion of human rights, a free press & free association ... it seemed there was an enduring appeal for a messiah who promised to solve problems from above ... and even Modi & Trump from the greatest Liberal Democracies were so labeled.

But the problems of bribery & corruption, crowd trouble, succession, technological innovation ... stubbornly persisted for all strongman power. The notions of uber alles, Xi Thought, draining the swamp, fake noos, rigged elections, broken parliaments & packed supreme courts ... strongman tactics which all failed to deliver as Joe Sixpack rumbled the soothsayers and resolutely refused to be conned ... it seemed Joe wanted his own life back and to go for longevity in his own way. Perhaps he was a social animal and just aspired to happy families, iPhones, Magnums & The Beatles rather than the grandiose schemes & scams of messiahs? Perhaps there were 'fantastical opportunities' freedom rather than the perpetual 'doom & gloom' of tyranny & oppression and bribery & corruption?    

Social institutions underpinned creative, cooperative synergies of specialisation & scale as the evolution of 'know how' was nurtured and grown - 

moral sentiments - as the golden rule of 'do unto others'

empirical science - as observation, mathematic theory, testable hypotheses, experimental validation, peer review ...

torts, trade & technology - as commercial companies and bankruptcy

... which all required constant -

hard work, honesty & thrift - the 2nd law of thermodynamics saw to that ...

due diligence - checks & balances, separation of powers, term limits on all Bishops, Princes, Generals & Bureaucrats

caveat emptor - defence systems against all parasites & predators also inevitably evolve - as soon as there are stocks there are thieves 

... without growing such institutions

tyranny & oppression, bribery & corruption ... and 

crowd trouble

... become inevitable

The Blind Watch Maker was immune from treachery otherwise he wouldn't have survived ... natural selection of 'know how' and the liberal order?

The science underpinning liberal democracy as a universal expression of biological cognitive & emotional emergent phenomena has been recently summarised by The Brights. The moral sentiments of cooperation are underpinned by biology they are universal throughout the globe & not confined to self conscious, rational, folk but also apparent in infants and animals.

Liberal democracy is an outcome of a Darwinian process where cooperation emerges from interactions in populations as synergies are discovered and accumulated, discrediting the idea of democracy as a construction of a deliberate rational purposeful intentional planned social design -

where individual preferences are aggregated into 'something' called 'society' and a 'common good' is calculated (unfortunately the maths is impossible and conclusions contradictory)

or where deliberating, discussing and persuading others to agree leads to a consensus 'common good' (unfortunately rational debate often leads to polarisation, entrenched differences and 'analysis paralysis' or 'collective fiddles while Rome burns' with tittle tattle prevailing at the expense of evolutionary science)

Evolutionary thinking reveals new insights into the democratic conundrums -

Plato's - 'mob rule and emasculation of the wise'

Plato's - 'who guards the Guardians?'

John Locke's democratic caveat - 'freedom under the law'

Thomas Hobbes' 'Leviathan' - 'the people can't be trusted to do what is right'
some of the people behave all the time, all the people behave some of the time but all the people never behave all the time 

All authoritarian elites have a impulse to command & control at the expense of the civil liberties essential for creative innovations - the ancient Greeks identified a double whammy -

Plato suggested elites could never agree as they had imperfect knowledge of reality, just opinions in the mind, mere shadows of reality. Deductive reason was a problem as there were no certain axioms.

Aristotle suggested elites could never have any authority as opinions were always challenged by sense perceptions, and the curiosity and tolerance of science. Inductive reason was a problem as 1000 white swans did not make the future certain. And the black swan had a devastating impact.

libertyOppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals and corrupt rent seeking Bureaucrats inhibit the discovery & accumulation of better alternatives -   

unknowable futures - command & control systems of 'pecking orders' are unstable and inefficient, all 'top down' design fails to cope with unintended consequences, unknowable responses of others and unexpected events 

opportunity costs - elites don't possess any infallible 'know how' for future survival, creative capacities are widely distributed amongst the population and nobody knows when or where the next good idea is coming from, nor how best to exploit it ... keep your options open

Lord Acton's insight, 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'
Always, eventually, 'the powers that be' end up running a criminal extraction machine where money flows upwards ...

Economies grow faster in liberal democratic environments where the diverse freedom to generate & test rival ideas is tolerated and can speed up the 'copy, vary, select' stages of evolution -

replication of success - ideas generating more survival value for less cost can be freely imitated and accumulated in free exchange - economies of scale

diverse participation - more folk are free to generate & test their own ideas for survival value increasing the chances of discovery - specialised contributions

competitive survival - some ideas will have more survival value than doomed alternatives and those which tend to benefit more folk in the long term will tend to spread through the population ... that's why they survive - automatic sifting  

DemocracyOppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals and corrupt bureaucratic majorities can be constrained as free democratic institutions evolve - 

constitutional checks & balances and separation of powers constrain autocratic Bishops, Princes, Generals and bureaucratic majorities, particularly Judicial Review where unelected judges can invalidate elected legislatures. The distorting effect of 'economic power' isn't resolved by majority voting - voting simply transfers the 'power' from vote losers to vote winners. Democracy is not two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat at their banquet! 51% cannot dictate to 49% there must always be a Bill of Rights to protect minorities ... otherwise government becomes an elected dictatorship as one dictator is changed for another ....

tort law and the 'duty of care' evolved from the instinctive 'moral sentiments' of Adam Smith and the 'guilty conscience of the Jews' as if to protect individual freedoms and provides some defence from parasites, predators, thieves and 'free riders', the rule of law is much more efficient than the costly alternative of bloody fighting. Liberal democracy is not laissez faire and it is not anarchy, nobody is free to harm others see UDHR article 30. There is a duty of care.

Tort Lawdiscovery & accumulation from competitive experiments as folk do deals and seek synergies of specialisation & trade which result in the increasingly visible economic growth achieved by liberal democracies where folk tend to be free to innovate and no longer waste time & energy on the zero sum distractions fighting one another

institutions evolve as folk cooperate in groups to secure the synergies of specialisations & economies of scale - markets, churches, schools, clubs, societies, pubs, teams, partnerships, companies, fraternities, communities, trusts, cliques, cabals, consortiums, councils, institutes, cooperatives, circles, networks, gangs, committees, guilds, athenaeums, unions, assemblies & associations of all manner of varied & different specialised interests seeking economies of scale

Perhaps the 'democratic traps' can be avoided by institutional checks & balances and Tort Law which inhibits 51% majorities voting to impose harms on 49% minorities.

The UDHR protects minorities from the tyranny & oppression of the majority.

Liberal Democracy requires the qualified 'liberal' to clearly distinguish policies from 'Majoritarian' mandates which lead inevitably to 51% screwing 49%.

Protection of minorities within the law is the key enabling characteristic of economic growth ... because nobody knows where the next good idea is coming from.

Liberal democratic institutions will tend to discover more survival value for the costs incurred than competing alternatives and become more prevalent in the world at the expense of elitist alternatives.

NB By definition 'we the people' are involved in the painful evolution of free democratic institutions ... there are -

always failures - the best never emerges, survivors are simply 'better than the alternatives which have been tried from time to time' - failures must be allowed to wither & die ... we read Charles Mackay, 'Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds'.

always innovations - institutions are in the business of surviving and defending themselves - institutions cannot be imposed - success must be defended & nourished ... we read Friedrich Hayek, 'The Fatal Conceit'.

stained fingerThe essential characteristic of 'free & equal' evolved democratic communities is that they evolve as economic behaviour becomes institutionalised within a legal framework. Natural selection takes place within an evolved legal environment. Ordinary folks and their mates are free to lawfully experiment ... to generate & test ... in larger & larger groups ... innovation becomes a humdrum routine ... the market is accountable human beings facing the consequences of their deals ... they are not free to harm others.

Thieves of StateThe Looting MachineBut are we in danger of misunderstanding democracy? Democracy is not a moral cop out.

Parasites & predators appeared as Demagogues offering physically impossible grandiose con schemes in exchange for votes and access to tax revenues.

Seduced by fluent patter and visions of social utopia, political correctness became a substitute for individual moral actions, and destroyed exactly what had made the innovative Western world irresistible to the peoples of foreign cultures. Hard work, honesty & thrift became unnecessary.

It was accepted & expected that government could & should carry the burden of solving social & moral problems.

A no brainer; 'don't worry government will solve the problems and get the rich to pay'.

Political moral posturing identified an increasing list of ethical causes for government action with fictitious moral authority - poverty, peace, climate change, obesity and tax avoidance ...

In 2005 Michael Goodhart in 'Democracy as Human Rights' sussed out what was on Thomas Jefferson's mind - 

'Democracy’ does not mean creating majoritarian representative institutions; it does mean creating secure institutional guarantees for human rights'.

After the 2008 financial crisis there was a gut reaction against Democracy, Markets and America of 'The Washington Concensus' which was established after the 'Fall of the Berlin Wall' in 1989 ... 'politics' was repolarised into petty gridlock.

The Washington Consensus was rubbished and rebranded as 'Structural Reforms'?

But always remember to paraphrase Winston -

'Market exchange is the worst form of social interaction for discovering & accumulating synergies of specialisation & scale ... apart from all the alternatives which have been tried from time to time' 

Cynics were everywhere and 'The Arab Spring' was cited as evidence of the the failure of Liberal Democracy ... but recent history continues to provide supporting evidence ... the institutions of Liberal Democracy in Hong Kong & Taiwan have proved to be resilient as mainland China has started to join the gravy train of emerging markets ... as the runts of the 'planned economies' in Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela feel the heat of isolation and growthless economies. 

So when all was said and done (and much more was said than done!) ... there was no evidence to challenge the fundamental insights of Smith, Darwin & Jefferson and the understanding of the synergies of specialisation & scale underpinned by Torts, Trade & Technology -

Markets of Adam Smith and Moral Sentiments which underpinned the beneficial behaviour of social animals

Liberal Democracy of Thomas Jefferson and Human Rights which helped avoid costly violence

Evolutionary Economics of Charles Darwin and genetic Cost/Benefit Analysis which helped survival

Liberal Democracy is buttressed by the principle of subsidiarity and enables & frees up folk to vote with your feet and join a club of your choice.

Bureaucracy or Liberal DemocracyNo crusades can possibly impose top down Liberal Democracy, rather democracy has to be nurtured from bottom up confrontation of bureaucratic kludge ... and all parasites & predators, tyranny & oppression, bribery & corruption present opportunities to seize to seed the growth of local cooperative institutions.

In summary we are all personally responsible for confronting the twin foul ups -

folk who in their ignorance arrogantly claim to know what is best for us and for others

folk who in their ignorance naively expect bureaucratic 'powers that be' to know what is best for us and for others ... and take decisions for us and for others  

Democratic TrendsDemocracy was holding up as Covid struck ...

But don't get it wrong ... no one said it was easy! Liberal Democracy is not the best system, just better than the alternatives which have been tried from time to time ... so far ... Liberal Democracy still evolves ...

If trade shaped the world; Why manipulate tariffs? Why barriers? Why subsidies?

... why not 'Structural Reforms'?

Read my essay notes here

Don't forget to send me your comments, corrections and critique ... here

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