A reflection on oligarchy

Michels’s Law states that given enough time, any political system will evolve into oligarchy, no matter whether the starting point is one-man dictatorship or participatory democracy.

Oligarchy can take many outward forms, usually derived from its original form. George Orwell’s fictional 1984 had a nominal dictator “Big Brother” whose face everybody knew, but nobody had ever seen in the flesh: he was but an avatar of the Inner Party. Even the Third Reich had aspects of an oligarchy, with its fiercely competing power brokers below the Führer (y”sh).

At the other extreme, the European Union has democratic elections, and a parliament — that in actual practice is more a debating society than anything else. All true power in the EU rests with the unelected bureaucrats of the European Commission: an oligarchy if ever there were one.

Now if you live in an oligarchy that has turned dystopic, do you care whether the oligarchs lording it over you, regulating what you can and cannot say, and extracting taxes in money or kind from you “legitimize” their position as

  • hereditary nobility
  • Mandarinate
  • ideological purity and loyal service to the Party
  • religious doctrinal purity and ascent through the clerical hierarchy
  • … or being one of a handful of tech oligarchs?

Honestly, when given the choice between having my life run by

  • The Elector of Saxony
  • some Chinese mandarin
  • the CPSU chief of my raion or oblast
  • The Prince-Archbishop of Cologne
  • today’s Big Tech oligarchs

The only acceptable answer to me, in the 21st century, is “none of the above”. Despite being a small-c conservative with small-l libertarian sympathies, I see no reason why the latter option should somehow get a “pass” in the name of “free enterprise über Alles”. Never mind that monopolies and oligopolies that “pull up the ladder after they’ve made it to the top” are not free enterprise as I understand the term.

People in the US (and the West more generally) are learning the bitter lesson that speech censorship and ideological Gleichschaltung by a cabal of nominally private companies can be every bit as oppressive as its state-sponsored equivalent. I honestly do not care one whit whether the ‘guardians’ who coerce or censor me hypocritically wrap themselves in the mantle of “enlightened” free enterprise, instead of religious piety, Marxism-Leninism, or whatever. If that makes me an “opponent of free enterprise” to you, well: in the era when payphones where still a thing, I could have offered two quarters to call somebody who cares…

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