Is Oligarchy Intrinsically Evil?

Yes and no. Unjustifiable Oligarchy Is Intrinsically Evil. Unfortunately, be it in China, Russia, the USA, the EU, and nearly all states, this is what we are enjoying now. Here is a little recapitulation of why it’s deeply inhuman, and unfathomably stupid. Considering the mental crisis out there, it’s something to fix as a priority.

Oligarchy is the rule of the few (oligo in Greek). The fundamental problems of the concept of oligarchy are two:

First, the rule of the few is fundamentally anti-humanistic. Human beings evolved in smallish groups. Various experiments have shown people cannot know more than around 150 people. Beyond that human neurology cannot handle it.

Second, in these small human groups, brains were made to be used in parallel: everybody think, their thinking is considered more or less equally, and the best ideas blossom out of debates. One can see this, if one thinks carefully. Moreover, an experimental proof has recently surfaced. It has been discovered, last year, that the most important decision making in baboon societies, where to go, is made DEMOCRATICALLY.

The Problem Was Not Just With Hitler. All Present Regimes Have It, More Or Less. One People, One Kingdom, One Guide. However One Brain For Tens of Millions Proves, Unsurprisingly, Brainless

The Problem Was Not Just With Hitler. All Present Regimes Have It, More Or Less. One People, One Kingdom, One Guide. However One Brain For Tens of Millions Proves, Unsurprisingly, Brainless

Let me give a few details on research recently published. It was made possible by fitting all the 25 adults of a baboon troop with GPS receptors endowed with a precision of 30 centimeters (a “foot”), recorded every second. It is well known that alpha males often dominate the rest of the troop for acquiring food or mates (they are also prominent for defending the troop) . However, and that is stunning, the alpha males do not  monopolize the decision-making for the all-important function of determining where to go!

A new distinction has appeared in baboon society: the “INITIATORS”. Just as there are alpha males (and alpha females, often mothers of alpha males), there are baboons who specialize in showing the way.

Notice the difference with today’s human society where the alpha males (those Obama, and not just Obama, calls the “leaders”), and the “initiators” are the same who lead the way to implementing new ideas.

In all of the world’s countries, politicians dominate. Even in the USA. The USA has the world’s largest government in money spent, as it spends more, than the entire GDP of Russia. It is actually about as large as Germany’s GDP. In fiscal year 2015, the federal budget is $3.8 trillion. These trillions of dollars make up about 21 percent of the U.S. economy. Much of them are distributed at the discretion of a handful of politicians, who, in turn decide who to finance (Elon Musk’s Space X, Tesla, and Sun City being examples of firms partly financed by the state) or who not to prosecute (the various technology monopolies being another example; in another times, under other governments, they would have been broken up).

Another way to think about it is that one fifth of the U.S. economy is directly controlled by the a few politicians. (Or maybe just one, the president!) That’s about 65 million people whose livelihood depends only upon the government of the USA, at the whim of just… one man.

Instead of going into detailed examples, as I often do, squeezed between bronchitis, antibiotics and a lack of time, I will just evoke fateful choices presidents of the USA made recently. To wit: deregulating finance (Clinton), invading Iraq, without, moreover, imposing order there (Bush), letting the derivative madness and banks run amok (Clinton-Bush), a liberal killer drones policy (early Obama), dropping fuel cell research (Obama), privatizing space (Obama), cutting down taxes on the hyper rich (Bush-first term Obama) etc. Obama did just one notable positive (besides following France on Libya): breaking the incredibly disgusting practice of American health insurance companies to insurance only healthy people… (OK, that was a tiny, but decisive step.)

Instead I will wax philosophical, going back to Socrates. The executed philosopher spent a lot of his philosophical time whining that Athenian Direct Democracy could not work. Socrates’ arguments were correct: if you want a good general, you should not elect him because somebody who talked well wanted to be a general.

The Roman Empire, followed by the European Middle Ages, and especially France, the successor state of Rome, found a solution. What I call “Democratic Institutions”. Those are meritocracies of expertise, organized as oligarchies. Guilds were examples in the Middle Ages. Medical Associations, for centuries, have decided who was a medical doctor in good standing, and who was not. Similarly for masons (free or not), architects, barbers, etc.

Philippe Le Bel arrested all the Templar at daybreak on Friday, 13 October 1307. It was a beautiful, and the first, example of a national police in action. The police of a state is another democratic institution.

Direct Democracy has to work hand in hand with Democratic Institutions. One cannot just decide what is the truth, just because it happens to be popular. Otherwise Kim Kardashian’s buns would be the only truth to be had.

But one has to keep in mind that Oligarchy is intrinsically anti-human. Not just anti-humanistic. It is deeply averse not just to our species, not just to our genus, but even to the order of primates.

And why is that? Because intelligence has been the evolutive strategy which has propelled the humanoids to supremacy over the biosphere, and now made us strong enough to be the main factor influencing it. Intelligence is higher, the higher, better, more subtle, richer, more powerful the ideas it produces are. Such ideas are born from the minds of the many, because they need debates, the equivalent of sex for ideas, to advance towards greater understanding.

Direct Democracy enables initiators all over, initiators of ideas, it’s the best enabler higher civilization ever had. And believing that oligarchy is better, the greatest enemy civilization has: not only it ends up promoting plutocracy, but, first of all, and worst of all, stupidity itself.

Notice this, though: most of the world society and economy is organized along oligarchic lines (although they are often hidden in suitably dark pools). It’s time to turn politics on its head.

Patrice Ayme’

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8 Responses to “Is Oligarchy Intrinsically Evil?”

  1. Paul Handover Says:

    What strikes me is the power of cooperation of local groups of people. You touch on the very ancient history of groups of a 150, give or take, going back to our earliest evolutionary times. Take local communities and overlay them with modern social technology (as per online banking) and one could have the most wonderful direct democracy imaginable. Not a chance in the foreseeable future!


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Six countries (including France!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) allow some Internet VOTING (France for big time elections for the millions of French living in foreign countries, who lived too far from French Consulates).
      I do not see why Direct Democracy is not possible. Even in cases like Great Britain with the EU, where public opinion has been distorted by plutocratic propaganda. Direct Democracy is about learning, thus making mistakes…


  2. Paul Handover Says:

    Interesting item over on The Conversation blogsite about American democracy:

    It opens:

    Is American democracy still “by the people, for the people?”

    According to recent research, it may not be. Martin Gilens at Princeton University confirms that the wishes of the American working and middle class play essentially no role in our nation’s policy making. A BBC story rightly summarized this with the headline: US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy.

    However new research by Benjamin Radcliff and Gregory Shufeldt suggests a ray of hope.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thanks Paul! I had broncho-pneumonia in the last ten days, hence my lack of activity. I will study what you sent. I am scrambling to post a little essay relevant to tomorrow election in Iowa. Clearly, we are not in democracy. Clintons made at least one hundred millions out of politics, just telling plutocrats they deliver, and can deliver even more, again.

      OK, let me try to finish my essay, and I will read your link.


  3. ianmillerblog Says:

    The real problem with oligarchy is how the oligarchs reach that position. Advocates say cream rises to the top – I counter by saying sodas scum, and scum does it a lot quicker. They image of Putin is an interesting colour, but you cannot blame Putin for the rise of Russian oligarchs. Yeltsin was a total disaster, but I rather suspect Gorbachev was as much a villain as anybody, even if unconsciously. If one wants tor reform, it is critical the reforms are done in the right order, and in Russia, the order could hardly have been worse.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Yeltsin took the best advisers, supposedly from the world’s top university. Little did he know that it was the top PLUTOCRATIC university. Harvard.
      At that point, the Russians trusted the Americans. And they were betrayed. I do believe that much of the erroneous thinking, worldwide, comes from these plutocratic universities. Money corrupts everything, including universities, and thinking itself.


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