Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The End of Governance as We Know it

What with the great crumbling sound emerging from Tripoli, we hear more talk about how we are marking the end of despotism in our world. It's easy to dismiss this kind of jabber as  euphoria; I'm willing to venture that the euphorics just might be onto something although they may not be saying what they saying.

Consider: what with Mabarak and Ben Ali gone, and Gaddafi in undisclosed location and the Great Ophthalmologist quaking in his contacts, we certainly are seeing something like a more-than-random decline in repressive authoritarianism.  But then take a look at the non-Arab granted that plenty of other governments are noto inimical to human well-being as the realms of the fallen dictators, still the evidence on governance even in benign countries stands, at least at the  moment, depressing.  Face it: Lula is gone; Singh has grown old; Merkel is a disappointment, Cameron is a lightweight and Ob--well, you can see where this is going.   Whoever we have in the spotlight, we don't have a Roosevelt of a Churchill or a deGaulle.  Hell, we don't even have an Eisennhower or an Adenauer. Could it be, in short, that we are entering into an age of entropic limbo where the elites can't repress like they did in the old days but they can't do much of anything else either?It's certainly the lament of so many in the first world who want Washington or Brussels (or maybe Tokyo, etc.) to just do something instead of just wandering around tripping over each other's coattails. But   what if tripping over each other's coattails is the New Normal, as both autocrats and democrats find themselves both descending into the same twilight blur?

Even if I am onto something here, I concede I've still got only the dimmest idea whence and whither.  I don't want to scream "it's the internet!" but it does seem that at least for the time being, new technology has taken trump cards out of the hands of traditional leadership, for good or ill.  My pessimistic self says--bah, any day now the powers will learn out to turn technology into their own weapon and lock us all down again.  My even more pessimistic self says--maybe they won't.  Maybe will wind up all subsisting in a kind of freedom, but perhaps the freedom last seen in the reign of Pepin the Short.

I'm probably back on another of my favorite themes here: good government is a luxury, in some sense a superior good.  Grant that mob rule is a perfect horror, still a society that has lost the capacity to make informed and rational collective decisions is a society that has lost something virtually beyond price. So if this is the dawning of a dark age--if indeed  the forces of barbarism really do surround us all--then I sure hope somebody is out there pulling that sword from that stone.


Ken Houghton said...

"Maybe will wind up all subsisting in a kind of freedom, but perhaps the freedom last seen in the reign of Pepin the Short."

Gotta find my corrrrrrner/Of the Skyyyyyyyyyyy.

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

Two words:
You don't need a credible government to have a credible system of governance. But I'll admit that a credible government sure helps.