Rise of the Emperors

Or, why the most likely government for a far-flung civilization isn’t a liberal democracy, regardless of what Roddenberry thought.

From The Fall of the Liberal Tradition:

Liberalism did not comport well with the assumptions of all the world’s civilizations, Samuel Huntington objected; it was myopic to think that the Western traditions of rights and limited government, which themselves had evolved out of Christian tradition, particularly Western Christian tradition, were universal. Right-thinking people dismissed Huntington as a know-nothing, but, twenty-five years later, his understanding has proven correct. Hardly anyone could look at world politics today and argue that liberal democracy is sweeping the globe.

Now, if the Western Democracies had kept up the pace they set in the 1940s-1960s – Roddenberry’s era – they might have pulled it off. But they didn’t, and China (and lagging India) picked up their pace.

Young people often reject the traditions of their elders; that’s nothing new. What they seem to be rejecting nowadays, though, in increasing numbers, is the tradition of liberalism itself.

For example, the percentage of people in Western Europe and the United States who say it is “essential” for them to live in a democratically-governed country has declined dramatically across generations. In the United States, less than one-third of millennials—defined as people born since 1980—say it is essential for them. Think about that: More than two-thirds of American young people say democratic government is not a crucial factor in where they would want to live.

People lose what they are not willing to fight for.

I personally don’t see this as an indictment against democratic rule, as much as the successful emasculating of democracy as a meaningful force. If all you get is Tweedledum and Tweedlede, why care?

According to Foa and Mounk, these numbers do not reflect growing indifference to liberal democracy, but growing opposition. In the surveys, young people increasingly express openness to authoritarianism—especially young people who are rich. An astonishing 35 percent of wealthy young Americans say it would be “a ‘good’ thing for the army to take over” the country! This is a profound change from prior generations, in which “affluent citizens were much more likely than people of lower income groups to defend democratic institutions.”

Democracy and liberty are not necessarily linked; the mob can violate freedom, too. Perhaps young Americans are suspicious of popular majorities but remain committed to civil rights? This, also, turns out to be doubtful. The surveys reveal that younger Americans value civil liberties, such as free speech, less than their parents did. For example, only 32 percent of millennials say that civil rights are “absolutely essential” in a democracy, a steep drop from previous generations.

Yes, the Emperors are definitely on their way.

Of course, a shrewd historian could have guessed this: but I guess that the radial advances of science and technology from ~1830 tricked everyone into a “This Time It’s Different!” mentality.

But human nature hasn’t changed, merely because we can build better tools.

Now, with CRISPR and the coming genetic revolution, human nature can possible really change: but I’d put real money that in the end, we’ll just have better memory, longer lifespans, more abilities… but our sinfulness, our self-destructiveness, will stay the same.

That requires a spiritual revolution, not a technological or genetic revolution. Not new tools and new bodies, but new hearts.







About Alvin Plummer

I'm working to build a better world, a world that blesses Christ and is blessed by Him. I hope that you're doing the same!
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