Wednesday, November 16, 2016 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Totalitarianism is only resilient when it's total

Why the transitions between democracy and totalitarianism in the West are abrupt

In recent weeks, we saw lots of left-wing activists who were apparently surprised if not shocked that majorities in 60% of states of the U.S. dared to vote for a candidate such as Donald Trump. Haven't the citizens seen the endorsements of Hillary by 99% of the widely circulated media outlets? Haven't they heard that Donald Trump was unfit for the job and politically incorrect and everyone who would support him would be labeled politically incorrect as well? Hasn't one year of massive pro-Hillary, anti-Trump blackmailing and brainwashing in almost all the U.S. media been enough to destroy almost all the dissent?

Well, it apparently wasn't enough. It wasn't enough for a simple reason. The pro-Hillary fanatics haven't succeeded in cancelling the elections and some technicalities that guarantee that people decide freely – e.g. the secrecy of the ballots. Because of the secrecy of the ballots and sacredness of the polling places, the voters are simply shielded from most of the illegitimate pressures. The secrecy of the ballots was introduced exactly in order to protect the system against aßholes like you, dear left-wing bullies. So by the months of self-evidently biased coverage, you've only wasted your time, money, and energy. You've only assured most people that you are not being honest. Years of lies are simply not enough to achieve certain political goals if other conditions aren't fulfilled.

If you could have harassed the people while they're picking the candidate in the polling places, it could have been different. You could have threatened them by boycotts and dismissals – things that you love to do in the rest of your life – and almost all the people would be afraid and they would pick Hillary. Leftists, you wanted a support for Hillary Clinton that would be about as clear as the results of the elections in the communist countries. But you have failed to do the difficult job that e.g. Stalin had to do to achieve it. What a surprise that you weren't as successful as the beloved Georgian comrade of yours – because you weren't as hard-working as he was.

I ran into a similar example in Czech politics but all the details were completely different. The current finance minister Andrej Babiš is the 2nd wealthiest Czech citizen. His net worth is about $3 billion dollars. He was a former communist and an important one – a director of a corporation that did lots of foreign trade and stuff like that. When Václav Klaus and colleagues heroically resuscitated capitalism in Czechoslovakia after 1989, Babiš was skillful enough in overtaking the communist companies selling fertilizers and things like that.

After the Velvet Divorce, he escaped Slovakia where he had robbed numerous ex-friends and he became the most financially successful economic immigrant into Czechia in our history. But something was missing. He didn't have the power that the likes of him enjoyed during communism. So in 2011, he founded a political daughter company of his Agrofert Holding – the "ANO 2011" movement. And ANO, a party of the Führer type, is currently the most influential party which is expected to receive some 30% in the coming parliamentary elections. Babiš's numbers are self-evidently approaching the Hitler-like realm.

Our social democratic prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka is a shy man and the finance minister Babiš is widely considered our de facto prime minister – and the most likely de iure next prime minister. Sobotka just doesn't have the balls to show Babiš his place which makes Babiš's executive power nearly unlimited. But you know, the words "nearly unlimited" only refer to the limits imposed by a basically democratic society.

Even though the social democrats originally supported the project as well, Babiš redefined himself as the mastermind of the EET (the Electronic Evidencecollection of Therevenues), an online system to monitor every single cash payment in real time in order to "guarantee" (not really) that tax evasion will become a thing of the past.

About 10% of Czechs are self-employed or entrepreneurs of one form or another. Each of them – including the people who aren't really friends with IT technologies – will have to have a tablet or another device, a printer, a connection to the Internet, and (usually not free-of-charge) application that informs the finance minister about every payment and deals with the BKP/FIK codes that are assigned to every transaction. Every buyer will be able to verify whether a BKP/FIK code of a receipt has been reported to the ministry and cause trouble to the business that hasn't reported it. And every buyer will be encouraged to report any business that forgets to give him a receipt.

The plan is that in 2018, all businesses and self-employed people will be monitored in this way. In 2 weeks, the system is planned to be imposed on restaurants and hotels, in March 2017 on shops and any trading, in March 2018 on almost all other self-employed people and businesses, except for those that produce things and that will only start later in 2018.

OK, the urgent December 1st step affects some 50,000 owners of restaurants and hotels that are supposed to introduce this "Big Brother" into their businesses in two weeks. Those who won't may be fined up to $20,000 – and repeatedly. They may be stripped of their licenses, too. Only some 15% have already connected to the "playground" – the system has "worked" since November 1st while no sanctions will be imposed on any November transactions. About 20% of the businesses are planning to shut down. A fortunately somewhat smaller percentage will actually shut down because of this insane new policy. The survivors will need to increase the prices because of the increasing expenses – and they will be able to do so because of the reduced competition. All the entrepreneurs have to pay for the hated device themselves – the average may be $500 at the beginning and a $50 fee each month but the needs and prices vary (and no one really knows which products are the best ones yet).

I don't want to repeat these details. Instead, I want to talk about something that is analogous to the "shocked" Hillary supporters.

While a slight majority of Czechs supports this policy – especially because it doesn't affect them (most Czechs wouldn't think about becoming entrepreneurs now and it's great from most Czechs' perspective if another person is given hard time and if the neighbor's goat dies, as a Czech proverb says) – it shouldn't be surprising that an overwhelming majority of those people who are going to be harassed by this insane new Big Brother policy are negative and often very angry about the plan that threatens their basic dignity, privacy of their data, joy of doing business, and sometimes their economic existence (e.g. because they simply can't learn to work with electronic devices and apps that are resending hashed BKP/FIK codes etc.).

You may imagine that most of the press is negative these days. The journalists are reporting about the defects of the whole system, reasons why restaurant owners are upset, the unpreparedness of the rules especially in the context of the e-shops that may be hugely negatively affected because Babiš and his comrades just don't have a slightest clue about what the online payments really mean and what can be done. And there are many essays that discuss the deeper philosophical reasons why the whole way of thinking that led Babiš and his thugs to introduce EET is just fundamentally misguided. A majority of the comments in the comment sections are negative towards EET, too. That doesn't mean that most people dislike EET now. A major reason why the comments are mostly negative is that those who are going to be affected are obviously much more active in fighting for their rights than those who have nothing to do with EET. For many entrepreneurs, EET is the "biggest event of the month", to say the least, so they have increased the time they spend by fighting with it.

But what's weird is that Babiš himself is surprised – or pretends to be surprised – that his pet project (and Babiš himself) is being criticized by anybody. He should be praised instead, he says! He is going to collect up to more than half a billion dollars a year (in 2018) from the "thieves" (=entrepreneurs different from himself). And of course, those 30% of Czechs who vote for him (plus many of those who pick the social democrats or communists) are supporting him when it comes to EET, too. But what he's shocked by is the fact that some people dare to despise him and his sick ideas. That shouldn't happen in an ideal world, he seems to think!

On the server of the finance ministry, he's reacting to very many negative articles about EET. Needless to say, almost no one reads his obnoxious, uninformed, insulting rants. He gets about as much exposure as an average blogger. And that's disappointingly little for Babiš, of course, because he already considers himself the director or owner of the Czech Republic (he uses these words because they sound cooler than a "dictator").

You may see the huge difference between the articles in the press that are actually being written now; and the articles that would be appearing in a very similar situation during communism. During communism, every single journalist was basically forced to celebrate the communist elite – such as Babiš – and its ideas. If a journalist dared to write an article opposing a major new idea by the communist elite, he would cease to be a journalist very quickly. And many of those would be relocated to a prison or hanged.

But things are different today. Even though the de facto prime minister is the same kind of a hardcore commie that we used to have before 1989 – and at least when it comes to the idea that the interests of the state and the goals chosen by the rulers must be the #1 priority of all citizens, he's arguably more hardcore than most of the commies before 1989 and maybe than most of the members of NSDAP, too – the basic constitutional rules of the free society haven't been abandoned.

So surprisingly for Babiš, the journalists still have the right to point out that EET is a totalitarian counterproductive pile of cr*p. And they're doing so because EET undoubtedly is a toxic pile of cr*p.

It doesn't mean that he completely misunderstood the freedom of the media in our country. He did understand that they have some independent power. So 2 or 3 years ago, he bought 2 of the 5 most influential newspapers in the country. But something was still different than he expected. He has clearly believed that this purchase would guarantee that he would have a control over what's being written and said and the opposition would disappear. A shock for comrade Babiš is the opposition hasn't disappeared. In fact, if he were buying the media in order to influence the citizens, it was pretty much a waste of time because most of the time, the owner has to respect the independence of the journalists, anyway. And even when he doesn't respect that independence, it's no good because their dependence on him becomes very obvious very quickly and is pointed out and mocked by others whom he hasn't bought yet.

This whole outcome – that millions of Czechs are still convinced that he is a communist apparatchik (who was allowed to study abroad because of his equally apparatchik-classified father) and almost certainly a former communist secret snitch (all people with a codename were actively collaborating, a big shot of the communist police recently confirmed) and they don't hide their opinion – must come as a huge disappointment to Mr Babiš who has zero understanding for the concepts of democracy and individual freedoms. Just like the leftists in the U.S., he would prefer a certain outcome. He would like his Big Brother policies to be celebrated by every single citizen. He would probably expect them to organize regular fireworks and rallies to express their love and admiration for their greatest comrade Babiš. But something is missing. People aren't paying for fireworks and millions of people keep on openly despising the communist apparatchik.

By the way, Babiš is trying to abuse every event to grow his power and increase the number of the stupid people who support him. So he took a bizarrely ambiguous approach to the Tibet-Chinese war that recently shook the Czech political circles. It's obvious to every intelligent person that Babiš has no values or principles and he only cares about his power. But a big fraction of the Czechs are unfortunately not intelligent.

Also, his last tweet before the U.S. presidential elections was that he had nothing to do with Trump and didn't support him, despite all the lies. In his following tweet, he congratulated and praised Donald Trump. In that later tweet, he also said that he (Babiš) was surprised by Trump's victory because "everyone was against him". Clearly, majorities in most U.S. states were supporting Trump so it can't be true that "everyone was against him". But what Babiš wanted to say is obvious: He wanted to say that to buy or overtake the government and the media should be enough to hijack the political power in the country. Well, it hasn't worked in the U.S. but Babiš is still trying to do the same thing in Czechia.

This leads me to repeat the key point of this blog post:

If you want the same outcomes, namely the ideological unity, absence of opposition, guarantees that your rule will never end etc., then you need the same complete toolkit that the likes of Hitler and Stalin have arranged for themselves, too.
You simply need to take over the police and actively harass the people who dare to express an inconvenient opinion or who act like an opposition. Both pro-Hillary fanatics and Andrej Babiš would love if all the opposition evaporated and all criticisms of their policies and candidates ceased to exist. Except that the basic rules of the U.S. and Czech society are still such that they just can't possibly disappear.

I inserted a picture of the Higgs potential which has two minima. In the context of this blog post, let me call the minima "freedom and democracy" and "totalitarianism". When you are somewhere in between, you are unlikely to stay there. When your society is closer to totalitarianism than it is to democracy, the emerging rulers figure out that they need to – and already are able to – terminate the last traces of freedom and democracy because they're threatening their plans.

And whenever the society is closer to freedom and democracy than to totalitarianism, it simply views the emerging signs of totalitarianism as hostile elements and tries to expel these hostile elements. So no country can ever survive for a long time in an "equilibrium" between totalitarianism and democracy. The very point of totalitarianism is that the ruling class doesn't want to compete or share its power or be threatened – so it means that it doesn't like any would-be equilibrium, either. That's why I think that the potential looks like the Higgs potential.

That's also why every European or Western nation may rather sharply separate the eras that were democratic from those that were totalitarian. There is rarely "anything in between", epochs whose status would be highly controversial. Czechoslovak territories have lived in the totalitarian systems between 1939 and 1945; and between 1948 and 1989 (with a possible exception of a part of 1968 but this was such a short period that we can't be surprised by temporarily ill-defined labels).

So those of you – e.g. fanatical anti-Trump warriors or Andrej Babiš in Czechia – who simply can't live without the totalitarian outcomes, you may want to openly adopt the totalitarian plans, otherwise your efforts won't succeed, at least not in the long run. Unless you are willing and able to be a full-fledged Stalin or Hitler, you are just their ludicrous caricature whose influence over democracy will be temporary.

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