2020 and the Rise of Political Violence
Infamously, the 1968 Democratic Convention, held in Chicago, was wracked with protests — from the far left. There had been a civil war within the Democratic party, for the soul of the party, throughout much of the 1960s. The conservative southern Democrats vs. the liberal northern Democrats; Jim Crow vs. Civil Rights; hawks vs. war protestors. The more extreme leftists weren’t satisfied with mere protest. We had violent terrorist groups, ranging from the Black Panthers to the Weather Underground, rise up as well. The violence peaked in 1970, but it continued throughout the 1970s, with laggers like Ted Kaczynsky continuing their terrorism through the 1980s.
The 1960s-70s was a peak of violence centered around the development of the left and the divisions within the Democratic party. The violent fringe elements were assimilated into general society through the left-dominated institutions, like our universities, while the southern Democrats were, essentially, ejected from the Democratic Party. Left adrift, they were picked up by the Republicans, creating the contemporary Republican party with Nixon’s southern strategy. Excepting the Reagan Revolution, which only really lasted Reagan’s 8 years, the GOP is the party of Nixon — a party of Southern social conservatives and Keynesians.
Today we are seeing a return of the kind of violence we saw leading to the peak in 1970. Except this time, it seems the perpetrators are on the right. We have seen a increase in right-wing violence, ranging from the alt-right protests to the recent mass shooting at the synagogue in Pennsylvania. The illiberal racist right is on the rise, and because of that, I suspect there will be a civil war within the GOP. That war, more loosely, will be a coalition between Southern social conservatives, which sadly includes a large number of racists, and the far right against the libertarians. I predict it will be these two groups precisely because the “moderate” Keynesians don’t care what social policies they need to support to get power. It is the far right, the social conservatives, and the libertarians who have principles. That is, they care enough to fight.
We are seeing a surge in violence from the far right, with Dylan Roof targeting African-Americans at their own church, the cinema shooting in Louisiana in which the shooter seemed to be a misogynist targeting women, or the anti-Semitic synagogue shooter. The police seem to be increasingly emboldened, despite the omnipresence of cameras. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has been taken up by the libertarians and dismissed or worse by the social conservatives, who inevitably support the actions of the police no matter what they may do.
For those who don’t think that the libertarians within the GOP are strong enough to wage a civil war within the party, you have to remember exactly how weak the far left within the Democratic party was early in the 1960s. Yet, by the 1970s, they were a vital force, and now they dominate the DNC. This should be clearest from some of the Democrats who won this last election. Socialism, if almost completely misunderstood by those promoting it, is now in. Antifa — whose tactics are themselves downright fascist — have positioned themselves against anyone they imagine might disagree with them about anything.
What, then, can we expect to see? Will the Southern social conservatives be ejected yet again? Who will take them up? The Democrats? It’s not impossible.Especially if the alt-right ends up being rejected by them. Southern whites view themselves as a victim group, and in this sense they would feel at home in the DNC. Of course, if they moved into the DNC, that would be a major disruption to the coalition that now makes up the DNC. Southern conservatives have never been pro-market, so in that sense they would be right at home in the DNC.
The libertarians would then be in a position to pick up many of the people rejected by that new DNC. On many social issues, from women’s and minority rights to gay rights, there is little difference between libertarians and the modern Democrat. However, to be honest, a more conservative Democratic party would probably be even more attractive to African-Americans and Hispanics, who are really socially conservative. It depends on how racist the Southern social conservatives insist on remaining.
It is also possible that the libertarians are ejected. That would mean two Keynesian parties who only differ on social issues. Which is pretty much what we have right now. Liberalism would become a true minority view in this country, which would mean the final and complete destruction of our liberal institutions.
Cliodynamics and Political Violence
I am convinced that human social history demonstrates a variety of patterns. There is increasing evidence for this, ranging from Kondratieff waves (K-waves) to Peter Turchin’s secular cycles.
The Kondratieff wave cycle goes through four distinct phases of beneficial inflation (spring), stagflation (summer), beneficial deflation (autumn), and deflation (winter). Since, the last Kontratyev cycle ended around 1949, we have seen beneficial inflation 1949–1966, stagflation 1966–1982, beneficial deflation 1982–2000 and according to Kondratieff, we are now in the (winter) deflation cycle which should lead to depression.
By this, the depression cycle should last from 2001–2020, more or less, since all the other “winter” periods lasted about 20 years. Is it any coincidence that 2008 is close to the dead center of that range? I think not. This also implies that there will be a beneficial inflation 2020–2035/40. Given the degree of quantitive easing in which the Fed engaged, I think there is little doubt that inflation will be on the horizon. One hopes it will in fact be beneficial.
Coincidentally, Turchin’s secular cycles, when mapped onto the K-waves, give interesting patterns.
1970 was in the middle of a stagflation period.
1920 was at the end of a stagflation period.
1870 was during Reconstruction, near the end of a plateau leading to depression.
1820 was at the beginning of a plateau, during the “Era of Good Feelings” — a time, coincidentally, when there was not a peak of violence.
1770 was in a depression cycle, and of course was the lead-in to the Revolutionary War.
2020 will come at the end of our depression cycle, at the opening of an expansionary period.
It is my suspicion that 2020 will also do a number of other things. It will be the swan song of the social conservatives and of the kinds of nationalist sentiments being fostered by Trump and Sanders. It will also spell the end of our Egalitarianist society (in Gravesean terms), and the emergence of an Integrationist society. Given that this means a tier-leap, meaning an exponential leap, it would not be surprising to me if we will be facing the kind of revolutionary violence as we saw in the American and French Revolutions. The former moved the U.S. into a more liberal society (entrepreneurial level), while the latter attempted to move French society into an Egalitarian society (failing, because it attempted to skip a level).
We saw in 1920 and 1970 egalitarian upheavals, with the first one applying pretty much only to white males, with the latter expanding the franchise to minorities of all kinds.
2020, I suspect, will be an Integrationist upheaval, perhaps first only affecting the West, perhaps also including economies like China and India, with the rest of the world being included in 2070. Perhaps, though, 2070 will be a Holistic upheaval, since there is good evidence that increasing complexity evolves ever-more quickly over time.
But if 2020 is in fact an Integrationist upheaval, creating an Integrationist society to replace the Egalitarian society in which we currently reside, I suspect that 2020 will make the violence of 1970 and 1920 look like cake walks. The aftermath, however, will give us a radically different society than the one we have. We will see the final breakdown of hierarchical organization and the more widespread embrace of scale free network processes. We aren’t talking about the false kinds embraced by the egalitarians, whose flattened hierarchies are still hierarchies, but real scale free networks with nobody really in charge, just algorithms aiding smooth coordination. Think Uber applied to the entire economy, to the degree that it is possible to do so.
Such a society is more accepting of differences, heterogeneity, complexity, uncertainty, ambiguity, and change. It is more cosmopolitan, favoring diversity and movement over artificially created political boundaries. Such a society will be more interested in information and the accumulation and use of information. It will be interested in both micro and macro views of life, mind, and society, recognizing the necessary interactions between those views and among those aspects. Such a society will recognize the negative feedback dominating at the micro social level and the positive feedback dominating at the macro social level, and the bipolar feedback driving complexity of society in their necessary interactions. In other words, such a society will finally come to terms with the fact that all elements of human society are spontaneous orders.
In fact, we have to understand these interacting elements if we are going to understand the interactions of these macro-level social patterns. With a macro-only view, we would expect to just see cycle-after-cycle going on into infinity without change. But I suspect that we have seen these saves — K-waves and secular cycles — shortening over time. Why? Because these waves are taking place in societies which have different features due to emergent complexity. Greater complexity shortens the temporal experience of that process. Interacting negative and positive feedback give rise to biotic processes with the property of being able to leap into a new level of complexity. Combine the micro patterns of human interactions giving rise to negative feedback with the macro patterns giving rise to positive feedback, and you get the bipolar feedback described by Hector Sabelli.
If you want a more accurate understanding of the evolution of our social world, I think we have to combine the work of J.T. Fraser, Kondratieff, Hector Sabelli, F.A. Hayek, Clare Graves, and Peter Turchin. If this gives rise to a model of society that is insanely complex, well, that just means we’re finally on the right track.
Will 2020 Look Like 1970?
Rick Perlstein reviews the book Days of Rage, a detailed account of the revolutionary period around 1970 — the lead-in and the decade that followed it. This fits in well with Peter Turchin’s observation that revolutionary periods come every 50 years, and that the last one was 1970.
That puts us on a course for 2020. One of the things I learned from the review is that there was a great deal of revolutionary literature being read in the lead-up and during the time — something that should not be all that surprising. What I did not realize was how much of that literature was being read by prisoners. And those prisoners, upon release, often became the most violent revolutionaries.
This suggests a few things to me. If we want to understand what kind of revolution we may have in 2020, we have to take a look at the kinds of revolutionary literature being read, particularly in our prisons. Is it leftist literature? Right-wing literature? Anarchist literature? (Of course, anarchist literature comes in a variety of flavors.)
The book also points out that in revolutionary periods, there is a strong, hierarchical center to the revolution, and a periphery of “worshipful followers.” The latter are as dangerous as the former — perhaps more so, as they often feel a strong need to prove their value, to prove that they, too, are as true of believers as the center. And those in the center are always happy to have useful idiots around.
Another thing of note was the fact that it was the police that were mostly targeted. This is probably not all that surprising, as the police are the first-line enforcement arm of the government. It is the job of the police to enforce the laws of the government — the just laws as well as the unjust laws — and it is not uncommon to blame the police enforcing the laws for enforcing the laws. For whatever reason, people love to blame the enforcers, not the legislators, the game-players and not the game rule-makers. For example, people love to blame corporations for their involvement in government, but give the government a completely free ride for creating the laws, creating the regulations, creating the regulatory bodies, and generally creating the rules of the game that the businesses have to play by.
There would be no cronyism if the government did not have regulations favoring some people over others. Businesses deal with government and work to corrupt government because the government creates the conditions where the businesses have to deal with the government to get anything done. Businesses “corrupting” government is a feature, not a bug, of government regulations. So long as human beings are involved and so long as human beings have their own self-interests they will look out for (even as they lie to others — and themselves — that they are doing it for the greater good), government regulations will always result in corruption. And that corruption begins and ends with government. Only government has the ability to literally force people into these kinds of situations.
Thus, people blame the companies for the corruption of government, and the people blame the enforcers of the law (police) while letting the legislators off the hook. This is why the police and businesses were targeted in the 1970s, and why they will be targeted again in the 2020s.
This isn’t to say that each don’t do things that aren’t blameworthy. The degree to which one chooses to play the corruption game created by our governments varies. And the police do seem to have a nasty habit of targeting certain groups more than others. More, when the government acts in certain ways, we can expect the citizens to behave in kind, as the government acts as a moral model for many people. I heard someone suggest that the terrorist Dylann Roof felt encouraged by some of the recent actions of the police around the country — and I don’t doubt that to be, at least to some degree, true. The same people who recognize this connection, though, somehow fail to understand that if you make guns illegal that only the police will have guns. Somehow, the same people who want to disarm the people are the same people who complain about police brutality (and the same people who favor giving more and more power to the government are also the same people who complain that that same government enforces those laws); they fail to recognize that you cannot simultaneously be against a police state and for all of the conditions to create one.
All of these disconnects is what led to the eras of political violence in the 1920s and the 1970s. Given that, it seems, nobody ever learns anything from history, we can expect a repeat of these patterns in the 2020s. And we can also expect our legislators to create a large number of acts of legislation to appease everyone, creating the conditions for future problems as those changes work through the system, corrupting it further. They will be seen as the saviors, and the useful idiots of the revolution will be appeased by their oppressors, who they never really understood to be their oppressors in the first place. But how else would you expect a pro-government revolutionary to act when the government — who they see as the savior of all — expands its power in response to the revolutionaries’ demands? After all, leftist revolutionaries don’t actually see the government as the problem — they are revolting to get the government to do more, to expand more, to seize more power over more people. What, then, could be better for our government than a revolutionary period around 2020? Nothing is better than having a bunch of useful idiots.