Sunday, November 22, 2015

On Anti-Racism

Taking note of the uptick in race-related activism at the University of Missouri and elsewhere, and still indignant over the extrajudicial murders of blacks by police officers, I finally opened a book that had been queued up on my nightstand for a while now: The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander.  It’s a better book than I’d expected (call me a cynic); and because of its many virtues, I will excuse the fact that the author has a bit of a skewed perspective on the Founding Fathers. I’m going to use this space to discuss the book briefly before moving on to what I consider to be a troubling conflation of laudable anti-racism efforts with a meretricious politics of diversity.  

Ms. Alexander offers a very compelling insight into the politics of the period immediately following the Civil War.  She points out that three factions emerged:

  1. Liberals, who said a lot of high-minded things about how a nation built on the principle of equality must take an active role in elevating African Americans, but weren’t quite so committed to the cause as to champion the kinds of legislation that were needed to address the problem,
  2. Conservatives, who pursued a racist ideology on the behalf of a “planter elite” and other oligarchs who were determined to re-create a submissive and disempowered workforce after the end of slavery,
  3. Populists, who felt that former slaves and disenfranchised whites had common cause and ought to work together to create a more just nation.  The cause?  Overturning the excessive influence of the oligarchs and preventing said oligarchs from restricting the supply of jobs and denying working people a living wage.

Ms. Alexander points to evidence that the conservatives were terrified of the populists and soon settled on a strategy of aggravating racial divisions.  This strategy worked brilliantly.  Poor whites, instead of blaming the oligarchs, started blaming black people for social ills such as poverty, unemployment, and crime.  This lays down a pattern that has lasted to this day. 

Although many in the African American community have displayed servile loyalty to the Democratic Party, as Ms. Alexander demonstrates, it was Bill Clinton who set in motion “three strikes” laws and other criminal justice policies that contributed to the phenomenon of racialized mass incarceration.  Mr. Clinton was very eager to demonstrate that no Republican could ever accuse him of being soft on crime.  Or, in other words, he chose crime as an issue to triangulate – to deny the Republicans’ advantage in the popular imagination as the law and order party – even if it meant sacrificing the African American community.  

I will suggest that the Clinton administration marks the beginning of an ever-widening separation between liberals’ and democrats’ professed concern for racial justice and the racist impact of policies and practices that liberals and democrats have allowed to go unchallenged.  What we see today is the poisonous fruit of the Clinton administration: a society of people who overflow with self-satisfaction whenever they tweet “black lives matter” but are blissfully oblivious to their complicity in a system that is rigged against economically marginalized people of color. 

I won’t review the evidence of a “racist impact” of U.S. policies and practices at length, other than to refer the reader to a report which shows, among other things, that 1 out of every 9 African American male between the ages of 20 and 34 is incarcerated (SOURCE).  And I will add that the reasons for this have very little to do with racial differences in criminal involvement, and have a great deal to do with the cumulative effect of subtle and not-so-subtle racial bias in who gets pulled over by cops, who gets asked to step outside the car, who inspires the officer to place a trembling hand on his or her weapon, who gets arrested, who gets inadequate legal representation, who gets sentenced to a term of incarceration, who runs afoul of mandatory minimum sentences, and who gets denied parole.  And it has a great deal to do with racially-motivated bias in which pedestrians are asked to submit to a stop-and-frisk.  To the extent that African Americans are involved in crime, one may consider the racial factors that determine which Americans are segregated into our decaying urban centers to face both a constant danger of becoming a victim of crime and a constant uphill battle to find legitimate employment.  People of any race who are trapped in those communities are more likely to fall into a life of crime. 

The Politics of Diversity

The true extent of the impact of racist policies and practices can only be felt if one visits communities such as Detroit, St. Louis, or Baltimore.  One may see first-hand the meaning behind statistics showing that 28% of all African Americans and more than half of all African American families experience poverty (SOURCE).  One may see first-hand what people with short life expectancies and no upward social mobility look like.  And with this imagery in mind, let’s turn to college campuses across America where well-fed, privileged students are exercised about the fact that they are victims of “everyday racism” and “micro-aggressions.”  

These students are the beneficiaries of what Michelle Alexander refers to as a trickle-down theory of affirmative action: or the implicit belief that by providing a chosen few people of color with special advantages, we may eventually solve the problem of systemic racism.  Most of them grew up in middle-class or upper-class homes.  They are adolescents, and as adolescents are wont to do, they hew to the belief that their special gifts aren’t fully appreciated by others.  And because they haven’t completely cut their apron strings yet, they want other people to take care of them.
These students have been indoctrinated by professors who may themselves be beneficiaries of affirmative action or may themselves have been indoctrinated.  They have been brought to the firmly-held conviction that, if they hear the n-word or if others falsely presume that they enjoy listening to Luther Vandross, it will trigger a traumatic psychological response that will cripple them emotionally and blight their future prospects.  Armed with this conviction, they do not hesitate to roll up their sleeves and take an active role in dismantling the First Amendment right of free expression.  They are alert for any sign of heterodoxy.  They demand the termination of faculty members and administrators who do not share their ideology.  

Diversity ideology is something to be feared and resisted for the following reasons (1) it falsely assumes that the problem of systemic racial injustice is attributable primarily to the fact that there are white people who have not fully embraced this ideology, (2) it sets up a regime of harsh sanctions – such as loss of employment – directed toward individuals who do not conform to the ideology, (3) it has a chilling effect on the free exchange of ideas, (4) it shifts attention from certain important root causes of systemic racial injustice such as the de-industrialization of the American economy and unequal protection under the law, and most importantly, (5) it maintains a system of social control that is inimical to the welfare of a vast number of marginalized Americans.   

To explain this system of social control, I will introduce an illustrative historical example.  In the former Soviet Union, political leaders encouraged ordinary citizens to write denunciations.  A denunciation is a letter addressed to the police, and a citizen would write a letter if he or she observed a co-worker or neighbor of saying things that were contrary to communist ideology.  These denunciations were investigated and many citizens lost their jobs or faced imprisonment as a result.  As scholars have pointed out, the institutionalization of the practice of denunciation caused ordinary citizens to be frightened of one another, caused citizens to engage in self-censorship, and more insidiously, diverted popular attention from the true nature of the society in which they lived.  The citizens who wrote denunciations apparently believed that the problems that their country faced could be solved if only ideologically impure persons could be purged from society.  Having arrived at this interpretation, they did not pause to think about the hidden class system that existed in the Soviet Union, and did not reflect on the significance of the fact that Soviet oligarchs enjoyed wealth beyond the wildest dreams of Croesus.  

The net effect was a society of individuals who were suspicious of one another and policed one another.  Now, if the common people felt at ease sharing their true thoughts, and through conversation arrived at a truer understanding of the nature of the society in which they lived, this would pose an existential threat to the Soviet Union.  For several decades, this system of social control operated well and helped maintain the status quo.  

I suggest that we, the American people, currently live in an oligarchy and that a powerful class system exists.  Nearly half of the American people are economically disadvantaged and are disenfranchised from the political process.  If certain injustices fall disproportionately on people of color, it is largely because of the class system.  I do not deny that racist attitudes also play a part, but as Michelle Alexander points out, racist attitudes have been actively encouraged by the ruling oligarchs, and is part of their deliberate strategy to turn disadvantaged whites and disadvantaged people of color against each other.  If this is true – if racial divisiveness has been foisted on the American people by the ruling class – let us apply this insight to the ideology of diversity.  Who benefits the most from this ideology?  A few privileged people of color, the ones who have been chosen under the trickle-down system to demonstrate that it is still possible for any American to enjoy upward social mobility, benefit from it.  But the people who benefit the most from this ideology are the ones who want the vast legions of the poor to continue to be ignored.  Perhaps it's time to return to populism.  

Friday, September 11, 2015

Remembering 9/11/2001 in 2015

The events of 9/11/2001 revealed two unalterable facts.  The first of these is the fact that the American people are capable of demonstrating a truly inspiring level of solidarity.  This lesson may be lost on those who aren’t old enough to remember 9/11, and didn’t witness first-hand the falling away of prejudices that have long divided Americans.  It didn’t matter if a victim of the terrorist atrocity was black or brown, rich or poor, documented or undocumented; our hearts went out to their families.  We shed tears for people we didn’t know personally. 

The second unalterable fact is that fire fighters and police officers are heroes.  On 9/11, 343 fire fighters and 60 police officers gave their lives to protect others, fully knowing the risks to themselves.  

Yet, a young African American male who has an encounter with a police officer probably won’t be thinking about the heroism of those who gave their lives on 9/11.  Instead, he will be afraid for his life.  
Having power, but applying compassion

The casual brutality of police officers toward African Americans is something that members of the African American community have been forced to accept for a long time.  Owing to the ease with which cellphone videos can be shared over the Internet, the problem has only recently been brought home for the rest of us.  Some of these videos show that when a police officer confronts an unarmed African American male (and sometimes, a woman or child), it only takes a few seconds for the encounter to go horribly wrong.  Not enough time for the officer to employ negotiation or de-escalation strategies.  Not enough time for the civilian to take stock of the gravity of the situation. 

One could argue that, on the anniversary of 9/11, it is most appropriate to focus one’s thoughts and prayers on the heroes who gave their lives.  But one could also argue that, by way of honoring the police officers who died, we should resolve to stand firm in our conviction that no police officer should be allowed to discredit the badge.  

What Lincoln said at Gettysburg applies equally well at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan: 

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
The forgotten foundation of American government is solidarity.  Solidarity depends on making no distinction between Americans on the basis of race or religion, nor on the basis of private beliefs and behaviors.  Solidarity depends on a shared commitment to the idea that life, liberty, and property ought to be defended, and that by “property” we mean the rule of law: because it is the law that determines whether there is a right to ownership of land or other possessions, the law that determines whether there is a right to due process, and the law that determines whether disputes can be settled peacefully.  The law is only a frail piece of paper unless the people agree to keep faith with it.  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Remembering George Orwell's Birthday, 2015.

It is customary at The New Independent Whig to honor George Orwell’s birthday by revewing the extent to which Mr. Orwell’s vision has come to pass. This year’s essay will devote some space to mass surveillance before turning to the main topic, being the problem of oligarchy. This is a suitably Orwellian topic, as the political regime described in Orwell’s beloved book 1984 took the form of an oligarchy. This essay won't be a mere recitation of society’s ills; some practical steps will be offered on how to fight back against oligarchy.


Last month, it was reported that those low-flying planes observed by Baltimore residents during the recent unrest were owned and operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Each of these airplanes was loaded with a high-tech arsenal of surveillance devices including the infamous Stingray. Briefly, this is an electronic device that imitates a cellphone tower: that is, it receives all cellphone communications and discretely passes them on. A Stingray is capable of capturing and recording all cellphone calls within its radius. This is mass surveillance. This practice is illegal. The FBI does it anyway.

The American people wouldn't know that federal agencies have been using Stingrays for several years now, had it not been for Daniel Rigmaiden. Before his arrest, Mr. Rigmaiden was a tax-fraud, filing returns for dead people, choosing to remain (as he believed) “off the grid.” When he was apprehended, he became obsessed with finding out how the authorities managed to do it.
Now, one could say that only people who have something to hide need to be protective of their privacy. The case of Mr. Rigmaiden might be viewed in this light. Yet, once he revealed that federal agencies were using this technology, journalists and civil libertarians soon discovered that federal agencies have been routinely ignoring Americans' constitutional right NOT to be kept under surveillance unless they are suspected of a crime AND a specific warrant has been issued by a judge.

The FBI cannot truthfully claim that it has nothing to hide. And until the people who hold power can live up to that standard, ordinary folk would be well-advised to defend their privacy.
Oligarchical Collectivism

In 1984, there is a text bearing the title The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. It was the blueprint, so to speak, of the totalitarian society described in the novel. The term signifies “rule by a few,” and “the few” are typically composed of astoundingly wealthy individuals who use their wealth to acquire political influence and use political influence to acquire more wealth. 

Orwell provided some detail on the structure of this oligarchy, as depicted in the image below. As you see, a vanishingly small percentage of the population enjoy outsized benefits and influence. A somewhat larger percentage benefit a little. But the large majority, about 85%, are “proles.” They lead dreary lives working long hours at unpleasant jobs with little security to receive low wages.

Orwell's Dystopian Vision

Oligarchical Individualism (Corporatism)

American society can hardly be accused of being collectivist. We Americans are fiercely individualistic and still believe in the myth of the Self-Made Man who pulls himself up by his own bootstraps and eventually, after facing various hardships, swaggers past the white picket fence and realizes the American Dream

Because of this cultural heritage, we are a little too quick to blame people if it appears that they aren’t trying hard enough to make their own way in society. Also because of this cultural heritage, we have a hard time blaming people for being rich. And it is true, not everyone who becomes rich is blameworthy. The problem is that we often fail to distinguish between (1) persons who achieve wealth honestly by their own hard work and (2) persons who are born into wealth and commit all manners of fraud and deceit to enlarge it.

American Oligarchy
Perhaps the most dangerous consequence of our shared belief in the American Dream is that this dream breeds complacency among members of the Middle Class. Once a person achieves a good-paying job with prospects for advancement, he or she is liable to believe, “I can rest easy now.” It’s very seductive, this idea that one no longer needs to struggle or feel anxious about the future.
However, on closer consideration, we know that many people who consider themselves safe against bitter hardship are mistaken. All it takes is a lay-off, or a divorce, or an expensive medical condition. As we saw at the start of the Great Depression of 2007, the frauds and deceits of great financial firms can cause countless hard-working Americans to suddenly lose their homes or their retirement savings. 

As Orwell points out in 1984, one of the cardinal features of an entrenched oligarchy is its ability to prevent the populace from seeing the obvious. The American oligarchy has been largely successful in concealing the following facts:
  1. the prevailing political order is oligarchic;
  2. the sole purpose of the oligarchy is to accumulate wealth more efficiently into the hands of the oligarchs;
  3. the result of oligarchy is the impoverishment of society as a whole (i.e., high unemployment, reduced wages, reduced public expenditures, deterioration of infrastructure). 
Granted, it is difficult to recognize American oligarchy unless one has already become attentive to the true extent of the devastation that corruption has wrought on American politics and is willing to question one’s party loyalty. Let us say that a piece of legislation is passed which enriches a small handful of wealthy individuals and impoverishes a great many Americans. Members of the Middle Class might think “it is because we live in a two-party system” (i.e., a democrat will blame republicans and vice versa). But they do not notice that these pieces of legislation are passed with bipartisan support. 

Members of the Middle Class might see these pieces of legislation and think, “If it benefits the heads of large corporations it will also benefit me.” In this instance, they are simply failing to understand that they are, in the eyes of the oligarchs, a resource that has yet to be fully exploited. Below are a couple of examples of policy positions and agendas that benefit a few and harm the many, but nonetheless enjoy the support of elected political leaders from both political parties. 

Example 1. Cutting Social Security

Social Security has very strong support among American voters – 89% of Americans believe that the program is more important than ever (source). Back in the day, politicians competed against one another to convince voters that they, and not the fellow on the other side of the aisle, would to more to protect Social Security. Nowadays, however, there is talk of making cuts.  

In their quest to accumulate wealth more efficiently, oligarchs have long fretted over the fact that the cost of employing an American worker is increased by 6.2% because, by law, this is the employer’s contribution to Social Security. Accordingly, corporations have invested in creating lobbying groups such as Fix the Debt to promulgate the false claim that Social Security contributes to the federal deficit (it DOES NOT). In 2014, President Obama floated the idea of cutting Social Security benefits, but he might have realized that the timing of his move was less than ideal and dropped the matter (source). The idea hasn’t gone away, though. During her last bid for president, Mrs. Clinton was of the opinion that Social Security cuts are necessary (source). And more troublingly, her current financial backers are of the opinion that cuts are necessary (source).

Example 2. “In-Sourcing” Low-Cost Foreign Labor

As reported in The Atlantic, “Last October, 250 IT employees at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts in Florida were told that they would be laid off as part of a reorganization. Many were surprised. And then there was another unpleasant surprise: They would be replaced by IT workers from India, whom they would train to do their jobs in order to receive severance (source).” Now, one might argue that Disney is free to hire and fire as they please, but the pertinent fact here is that Disney exploiting the H-1B visa program. Our elected leaders have created a mechanism for replacing American workers with lower-cost foreign workers. This clearly HARMS many and BENEFITS only a few – namely, corporate CEOs and stockholders. When the story broke, it raised predictable complaints among left-wing news outlets but interestingly enough, it angered conservatives as well (source).
Example 3. Trans-Pacific Partnership

Unlike schemes to schemes to cut Social Security, TPP has some popular support (despite its recent setbacks in the House of Representatives). Then again, a recent polled showed that "78% of respondents said they knew 'not much' or 'nothing at all' about it (source). And in addition, politicians have been dishonest in touting the virtues of TPP, according to some critics who lean left politically (source) and some on who lean right (source). We may then ask ourselves, first, would TPP have popular support if the American people were told the truth? And secondly, we may ask why it is that our political leaders are lying to us?
Banks and multinationals regularly ask for help. And get it.

A Short "Is this an Oligarchy?" Quiz

Thus far, I've suggested that the U.S. is an oligarchy because our elected leaders appear to prioritize the preferences of a few over the needs of the many. But there is another way to approach this line of reasoning. Back in the 1970s, scholars looked at the former U.S.S.R. and tried to predict the future. They were pretty sure that the U.S.S.R. would collapse (it did). But they also predicted that the U.S.A. would eventually assume some of the key distinguishing oligarchical features of the U.S.S.R. The interested reader can refer to Donald Kelley's 1973 article, The Soviet Debate on the Convergence of the American & Soviet Systems. The quotes in bold are his.

Item 1: "a gradual shift from the industrial to the service sector of the economy." In 1970, 46.1% of employment was in services; in 2010, the percentage has increased to 84% (source). So far so good.

Item 2: "increasing concentration of economic power into a few firms or monopolies." It has been reported that "nearly every American industry has become more concentrated and consolidated since the 1980s, such that dominance by two or three firms 'is not the exception in the United States, but increasingly the rule.' Consumers, easily misled by product labelling, often don’t even notice that products like sunglasses, pet food, or numerous others come from just a few giants. For example, while drugstores seem to offer unlimited choices in toothpaste, just two firms, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive, control more than 80% of the market (source)."

It may go without saying, but the dominance of only a few firms (oligopoly) is something that does not happen in a vacuum. Instead, the federal government favors some firms over others, and these advantaged firms use their clout to dominate the marketplace (source).

Item 3: "an increasing governmental role in the economy in a planning and supervisory capacity." The TPP draft document is several hundred pages long, and covers a wide range of intellectual property agreements that have been carefully designed to benefit a handful of American multinational corporations.

Item 4: "high levels of mass consumption for all social strata." This creates the illusion of a classless society. After all, it's our own fault for being heavily in debt, right?

Item 5: "an emphasis on 'mass culture' and 'equalitarianism' rather than class- or value-related ideologies as determinants of positive goals." This item is perhaps the most thought-provoking of them all. Here, "equalitarianism" may be understood as a manifestation of envy, leading to a preoccupation with quantifying differences in the level of privilege enjoyed by one category of human beings as opposed to another. There are authors who produce a lot of words on the subject of privilege without once mentioning the massive upward redistribution of wealth that is currently taking place in our society. 

Oligarchs aren't solely comprised of white men.

Lessons from Poland

Poland’s Solidarity movement sprang up after the country found itself in the orbit of the U.S.S.R. One member of the movement understood that Poland had become an oligarchy. Adam Michnik looked at the political leadership and said, “These people would be capable of bankrupting a country much more prosperous than ours and then calling their actions an economic miracle.” Jack Bloom, another observer of the situation in Poland, sees oligarchy as a highly-developed patronage system, where vast amounts of wealth are required simply to maintain the system of bribery that make oligarchy possible. In Poland, “Poverty was ... a result of the patronage system: the substantial resources that it required were literally stolen from the general population.” It reached the point where, “there was a lack of [public] investment in … infrastructure -- such as sewers, water, electricity and roads.”

Mr. Michnik offers a useful diagnosis of the means by which oligarchies extend control over a population. For each of these means of social control, there are counter-measures that ordinary citizens may take to wrest control back from the oligarchy. 

Step 1: Isolation. The dystopian regime presented in 1984 is described at one point as "the age of solitude." Individual citizens are distrustful of one another and there is no hope of individuals banding together to advance a reform agenda. Mr. Michnik tells us that, in the Polish oligarchy, “Workers’ organizations were dissolved … [and] the working class was transformed into an amorphous, apathetic mass devoid of political consciousness. From then on, the government had to deal with individuals and not with organizations.” Mr. Michnik goes on to describe the situation in Poland as one in which “political consciousness” ceased to exist. The rise of the labor union Solidarity and increased political consciousness among the Poles went hand-in-hand. 

Now, on the matter of “loss of political consciousness,” it isn’t difficult to make the case that this has happened in America. Time magazine and Newsweek are all but absent from the racks at grocery stores’ check-out lines – crowded out by numerous tabloids each offering a slightly different take on the same celebrity rumors, and newspapers are becoming increasingly financially unsustainable. Cable news hardly counts as news. Controversies are stirred up and disappear when people tire of them. But what is learned? What actually changes?
The importance of labor unions is controversial because, in the United States, unions have a deservedly bad reputation. The conservative pundit Nicholas Kristof sums it up well: “I disdained unions as bringing corruption, nepotism and rigid work rules to the labor market, impeding the economic growth that ultimately makes a country strong (source).” Yet, Mr. Kristof has reconsidered his view. He observes that the number of union-represented Americans has decreased and inequality of income has increased.

Mr. Kristof also writes, “I’ve ... changed my mind because, in recent years, the worst abuses by far haven’t been in the union shop but in the corporate suite. One of the things you learn as a journalist is that when there’s no accountability, we humans are capable of tremendous avarice and venality. That’s true of union bosses — and of corporate tycoons. Unions, even flawed ones, can provide checks and balances for flawed corporations.”

For American labor unions to be a meaningful force for combating oligarchy, however, they would need to re-invent themselves. The Polish Solidarity movement wasn't narrowly focused on securing benefits for its members. It championed free speech, better schools, and fairer elections.
Step 2: Disempowerment. Once individuals are isolated from one another through the systematic destruction of social and political organizations, they begin to exhibit “the psychology of captivity.” The individual may be bitter and hateful toward the government, but being “deprived of his community, his ideals, and his language” he is incapable of taking meaningful, constructive action. Occasionally, the people did manage to organize a protest against abuses by their political leaders. However, they were only protests, and not reform movements. As such, protest is merely an expression of emotions, and achieves no lasting, meaningful change in society.

Step 3: Debasement. Mr. Michnik observed that, “long-lived dictatorships engender their own characteristic subculture and their own peculiar normalcy. They create a type of man unused to freedom and truth, ignorant of dignity and autonomy.”One could say that Americans' apparent willingness to exchange freedom for security is a perfect example. It's unlikely, though, that Americans fully realize that it is a trade-off. And this goes back to the loss of political consciousness.

Of the oligarchs, Michnik wrote, “Their strength stems from their ability to release the darkest and basest instincts in ourselves.” So, as long as the people are afraid and selfish in their concerns, they will remain divided. If they see no clear-cut imminent danger to themselves, they will not oppose government policies that will harm other people. In the words of Mr. Michnik, this is "the psychology of a captive."
Deep thoughts
To resist succumbing to the psychology of a captive, it is necessary to undertake, “an unceasing struggle for reform and evolution that seeks an expansion of civil liberties and human rights.” Doing so restores dignity to the individual. This is, Mr. Michnik adds, “the only course … dissidents can take.” 

The Obsolescence of Party Lines. Mr. Michnik realized that, “the conflict between the right and the left belongs to the past.” Rather, he saw that the true conflict is between “the proponents of an open society and the proponents of a closed society. In the former, social order is based on self-government and collective agreements; in the latter, order is achieved through repression and discipline.” In an open society, “the state acts as the guardian of safety for citizens” and in a closed society, “the state is a master and overseer who determines all modes of a society’s existence.” 

Control. Even though an oligarchy can be remarkably effective at suppressing dissent and reform, the oligarchs do not rest easy. Mr. Michnik observed, “The government is afraid of rising social tensions caused by the deteriorating standard of living.” He believed that, even when the people are convinced that they have no power to effect positive social and political change, the oligarchs know better. This is because, ultimately, a “country cannot be ruled without an agreement with the people.”
For this reason, in an oligarchy, one will always see a continuing expansion of the police apparatus and mass surveillance. And for this reason, the vigorous defense of civil liberties, and personal and social freedoms, is essential.