The Political Party Illusion

Jeff Thomas

by Jeff Thomas: Making
Sense Out of the Great Unraveling

has been said that every great nation has its rise and fall; that
its rise occurs as a result of the population (in general) becoming
determined to work hard to create a better life, and that its fall
occurs when the population becomes spoiled, then complacent and
then finally, apathetic.

of the First World has reached this latter stage, all (to varying
degrees) at the same time. Unfortunately, from a historical standpoint,
the period of apathy is almost invariably followed by a period of
bondage – a marked social and economic decline in which the people
of the nation become little more than serfs of the state that rules

most readers would agree that this describes the First World in
its present state, they would likely argue that this time around,
bondage will not be the end result. While reason might tell them
that this is exactly the predictable (and historical) outcome, the
idea of bondage is too frightful to consider as being a possibility.
While a few seem to be railing against this eventuality, the great
majority simply open a beer and turn on the TV. A very comfortable
form of apathy, but apathy just the same.

Past and Present

are there any differences this time around? I would say that there
is one major difference, and that is that the packaging is more

days of yore, the Sheriff of Nottingham and his men rode into your
village and demanded what few silver pennies you may have earned
recently. This was clearly a dictatorial government – one which
was ruled by force, so that the people were clearly serfs and had
no real say. Punishment was simple: If you did not pay, your hut
was burned, your possessions confiscated, and you were thrown in
prison to remain until the debt had been paid. (Nobles fared a bit
better: In the 15th century an ancestor of mine, Lord James of Dartmouth,
spent several months in the Tower of London until he could pay King
Henry IV a sum of 2000 pounds, literally a “King’s ransom” –
in spite of the fact that Lord James was said to have been
a favourite of the King.)

of course, things are entirely different. Today, the Sheriff does
not ride into your village demanding your money. You are required
to send it in yourself. If you fail to pay, your house is not burned.
It is confiscated, along with your other possessions, and you face
prison. Increasingly, people are ruled by force just as in the 15th
century. But in spite of this, citizens of many First World countries
still claim to have free elections – the last bastion of the democratic

Democratic Process

idea of the democratic process is that the people may elect their
leaders and thus control their destiny. However, running for office
is quite expensive, and this means finding donors. Understandably,
anyone who provides a donation does not regard it as a gift. He
seeks something in return. In national elections, this means very
large donations, translating into very large compensations. Those
who contribute the most (Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Banks, the Military
Industry, etc.) can demand quite a bit in return.

any “democracy” that has been in existence for a long enough time,
the relationship between donors and candidates has become circular;
that is, after the candidate is elected, he repays the donor, by
providing either tax dollars or rights to operate that others do
not enjoy. Once the circular relationship is fully cemented for
a period of time, the returns to the donor grow to far exceed the
donations. As a result, voters are, unwittingly, actually paying
the donors and the government to dominate their lives.

surprisingly, donors come to regard these tax dollar infusions as
a regular source of revenue and seek to have them grow regularly.
(If voters could understand this circular relationship, they would
be less surprised when their legislators – whether they be conservative
or liberal – consistently fail to diminish the government need for

we are left with the remaining advantage of democracy: the ability
to vote for those who will protect our freedoms, as we see them.

Two Party System

the majority of First World countries, there are a host of political
parties (America is a notable exception), each claiming to represent
a specific point of view. Most of the parties are fringe parties,
and voting generally comes down to the two main parties: liberal
and conservative. Liberals claim to champion the social freedoms
(gay rights, abortion, etc.) whilst trying to limit economic freedom.
Conservatives claim to champion the precise opposite.

voters seem to see the system as alternating between the two parties.
For example, first the liberals win and increase the social freedoms
of the country. Then after awhile they are voted out and the conservatives
have their turn, increasing the economic freedoms. Described in
this way, it would seem that the “two-party system” provides an
ideal balance, moving ever-forward with increased freedoms for

if this attractive image were the case, liberal voters would not
be filled with disappointment at the end of a liberal term in which
their social freedoms somehow had not increased. (Their party somehow
“needed to compromise” with the evil conservatives.) However, if
the liberal party was successful in diminishing economic freedoms,
this distraction would serve to keep these voters loyal to the party.

the end of a conservative term, it is the reverse. While their stated
objectives for regained economic freedoms somehow failed to come
to pass (again, “compromise” was somehow necessary), the leaders
still managed to limit social freedoms in some way. (The Patriot
Act in America is perhaps the most extraordinary example in recent

voters seem to miss is that, along the way, far from increasing
one type of freedom under one party, then increasing the alternate
type of freedom under the other, the net effect is the exact opposite.
Under a liberal government, economic freedom is diminished, and
under a conservative government, social freedom is diminished. Freedom,
in general, therefore, ratchets downward with each term.

does seem that voters throughout the First World are beginning to
recognize that they are getting short shrift no matter which party
is in power, and that their country is headed inexorably downward
(while the leaders seem to be doing rather well.)

the voters ultimately rebel?

the minor demonstrations of discontent evident now in the First
World escalate into something more organized and more violent?

do the politicians think is likely to happen? Whilst they are not
commenting on the subject, we should be able to guess their predictions
based upon their actions. If they plan to increase freedoms in the
future, they would be providing a calming effect to the present
frustrations. However, if their true goal is a return to a kind
of modern serfdom, they would be preparing for it by increasing
their controls, both economic and social. In much of the First World,
the latter seems to be the intended direction. Nowhere is this more
evident than in America, first with the renewal of the Patriot Act
in May of last year, and more recently with the passing of the National
Defense Authorization Act.

Day Feudalism

stated above, the main difference between the feudal system of five
hundred years ago and the feudal system that is developing in the
First World today is that the packaging is more sophisticated. Instead
of having identifiable kings whom we may all hate, we have the distraction
of two political teams that we may “choose” between. While we praise
the good guys (our preferred political party) and hope that they
will vanquish the bad guys (the opposing political party), they
are in fact one and the same, and they both work for the kings.

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from International
with permission.

26, 2012

Thomas is British and resides in the Caribbean. The son of an economist
and historian, he learned early to be distrustful of governments
as a general principle. He began his study of economics around 1990,
learning initially from Sir John Templeton, then Harry Schulz and
Doug Casey and later others of an Austrian persuasion.

© 2012 International