Mises Wire

The West Needs Radical Political Change Towards Freedom

It should not have escaped the politically aware that the threats to freedom in Western societies are now unprecedented. This goes far beyond the interventionist pressures that over time have been slowly throttling most Western economies. The Western oligarchic elite are now dead set on implementing what one influential blogger described as “a society hermetically sealed against any form of rebellion, dissidence, or questioning of the ruling class-imposed power structure.”

This state of affairs is serious enough that it has been slowly dawning on parts of the “uninformed and disorganized majority,” to use Gaetano Mosca’s expression. It has happened in a large part thanks to the abundance of uncensored information and unbiased analysis on the internet that has accelerated the loss of credibility of mainstream news and the loss of trust in political leaders. Not surprisingly, exceptional measures are being taken by the Western ruling minority to rein in and muzzle free speech.

This tightening of the screws by a globalist elite, seemingly hellbent on implementing its authoritarian agenda of control, is both a cause and a consequence of the gradual realization by populations in the West that their already eroded rights are at risk, perhaps irreversibly. In other words, because part of the Western majority is waking up to these additional attempts to coerce it, the ruling minority is doubling down. More transparently than ever, it is trying to speed up the realization of its objectives. This is in turn reinforcing the reaction among the majority, causing a feedback loop and rising tensions.

It is becoming clear that a radical political change is urgently needed in the West in order to loosen the globalist grip on the international political agenda and national interventionist policies. What should be hoped for, at a minimum, is an eventual return to the nineteenth-century style concert of nation-states with smallish governments, which were far more respectful of individual rights.

Political Violence Is Unlikely to Work

When such radical political change is evoked, the “classic” revolution comes to mind: the violent government overthrow leading to deep political and social changes. But this is unlikely today in the West as it requires people who are determined, desperate, and idealistic enough to risk their lives for a cause. An aging and relatively well-to-do population is unlikely to turn to political violence when their rights to property and free speech are being trampled upon.

Further, not only do successful, armed revolts often lead to a reduction in freedom but they usually happen in times when the arms at the disposable of the “people” are equivalent to those used by the state, as was theorized by the historian Carroll Quigley. Today, the hyperarmed state has such superiority in the use of violence that such an avenue for radical political change seems unlikely also for this reason.

Yet, radical political change does inevitably require strong societal dissent. Though political violence is sometimes a trigger of such change, it is usually the graphic, superficial expression of a deeper, nonviolent opposition to the existing ruling minority.

Public Opinion Matters, Not Elections

The parliamentary democratic process cannot be counted on in order to reverse the coercive policies that are being imposed top-down. Firstly, the current zealous ruling minority is mostly unelected and nonpartisan. Secondly, though parliamentary elections do sometimes allow a radical antiestablishment party to slip through the corporate media watchdogs, to gain a majority or form a government is rare, and such a party then tends to quickly fall in line with the ruling establishment.

Democracy has been used by the ruling minority as a tool to give their politicians an aura of legitimacy. As Mosca noted, the few have historically sought to justify their rule over the many with a “political formula.” In a parliamentary democracy, this formula is “democracy” itself, the idealized but largely fictive “rule of the people.” As Mosca wrote in his masterpiece The Ruling Class, “The participation of the people in elections does not mean that they have control over the government and that the governed class actually chooses the members of the governing class.”

More important than suffrage for political change is public opinion, something many past thinkers have recognized. As Ludwig von Mises wrote in Human Action, “The rulers, who are always a minority, cannot lastingly remain in office if not supported by the consent of the majority of those ruled.”

All political power, even the most tyrannical, rests on the passive support of majority opinion, as the young Étienne de la Boétie recognized long ago in his famous work from 1577, On Voluntary Servitude. He wrote, “There is no need to fight [the tyrant], nor even to defend oneself from him; he is defeated by himself provided that the country does not consent to servitude. It is not a question of taking anything from him, but only of giving him nothing.”

Draining the Ruling Minority of Support

The current minority in power in the West also requires the continued passive support of the majority over which it rules with such a sense of impunity and entitlement. But this support could ebb away if the majority understood that it has been hoodwinked and fleeced for decades by this morally decadent and statist minority. As Mosca aptly wrote,

A ruling class that can get away with anything and can do anything in the name of a “sovereign” undergoes real moral degeneration. It is this degeneration, common to all men whose actions are exempt from constraints and controls, which usually imposes on them the opinion and conscience of their fellow men.

What Mosca meant is that inherent in every society is a counterintuitive but self-regulating mechanism toward moderation of political power. Tyrannies don’t last. If the ruling minority is wise enough to temper its will to power, its rule over the majority can continue but within limits. However, if it goes too far and tries to impose coercive policies that drastically reduce individual freedom, it can soon become a victim of its own “success” by turning public opinion. When that happens, the ruling minority loses that “voluntary servitude” it requires to stay in power.

Considering the authoritarian agenda that is being aggressively imposed—even somewhat desperately and foolhardily—on Western populations today, the current Western oligarchic elite have arguably lost much of the restraining wisdom and self-imposed moderation they may have once had. At the same time, what David Hume called the “implicit submission” of the Western majority is now in question, thanks to the unprecedented access to independent information and analysis. This is of course a significant threat to a ruling minority that used to control and even mold public opinion.

Thus, radical political change takes place when the ruling minority is drained of the passive support of the majority. When public opinion starts to significantly distance itself from existing leaders and established institutions, a new minority is empowered as per Vilfredo Pareto’s concept of the circulation of elites, one which is more respectful of the rights of the majority. That is the idea behind the following sentence in the United States Declaration of Independence: “Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [of freedom], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”

It is high time to put these words into practice in the West, to urgently reverse the current authoritarian agenda. This goal may not be as far-fetched as it seems, since at least in the US the majority now largely rejects the values and policies coming from the ruling minority. And the current period of unprecedented economic and geopolitical decline for the West in world affairs may open a window of opportunity. The Western ruling minority, responsible for the current decadent and illiberal times, should be discredited and disempowered by a radical political change toward freedom.

Image Source: Adobe Stock
Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
What is the Mises Institute?

The Mises Institute is a non-profit organization that exists to promote teaching and research in the Austrian School of economics, individual freedom, honest history, and international peace, in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard. 

Non-political, non-partisan, and non-PC, we advocate a radical shift in the intellectual climate, away from statism and toward a private property order. We believe that our foundational ideas are of permanent value, and oppose all efforts at compromise, sellout, and amalgamation of these ideas with fashionable political, cultural, and social doctrines inimical to their spirit.

Become a Member
Mises Institute