The Vulgar Moralist is traveling to a continent far, far away, in a time zone long, long ago. Blogging will resume in October.
In the meantime, ponder this report, from the Boston Globe, on the retreat of democracy across the world. Culprit? The middle class:
Eventually, in many of these weak democracies, members of the middle class place their hopes in the very men they once deplored, realizing they trust the army officers, who tend to come from the same elite backgrounds, more than they trust the newly empowered poor. In Bangladesh, Fiji, Pakistan, Mauretania, Venezuela, and many other states, the military tries to step in, claiming that it must intervene to restore “order,” which usually means a return to old elite rule.
Security will always be preferred to chaos, by peasants no less than by the middle class. The decision is rarely absolute, and always wedded to the particulars of a community — and the countries listed in the Globe article have practically nothing in common. I find it hard to believe that political trends in Fiji and Venezuela are driven by identical causes.
Political life, Thomas Sowell insists, is largely about tradeoffs. More of this means less of that, and we can’t ever have it all. Morality exists to justify (or condemn) each tradeoff. Blaming the decline of democracy on a middle class whose size, composition, ideals, power, and unity are problematic, strikes me as a weak form of latter-day Marxism rather than an explanation.