Spengler on Democracy: The Rule of Money

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President Camacho

"Democracy" is a phenomenon that appears in all Cultures during the transition to Civilization, which was accomplished in the Classical world at the turn of the 3rd BC, in ours at the turn of the 19th century. It involves the unadulterated victory of Money over policy, yet sows the seeds for its own destruction in this manner-- just as it did in Caesar's time. The end of Democracy is marked when the catchwords and slogans lose all meaning to the populace, when the Party loses any pretensions of fighting for "the people" and focuses only on perpetuating its own survival, and when Money cannibalizes its own success to bring the structure collapsing on itself. This opens the way to the formation of Caesarism.

At the risk of comparing our clown government to Caesar, IMO we already see the beginnings of this process... note the bizarre personality cults forming around people like Obama and Palin, the increasingly overt co-mingling of Money in politics (including billionaire politicians like Bloomberg, and the rest-- most of whom are at least multi-millionaires), and the emptiness of political programs. For example, even 20 years ago being a "fiscal conservative" had a definite political implication (balanced budgets, low government spending, etc), but now it is utterly meaningless in an era when both Parties slavishly came to the rescue of Wall Street.

From Decline, Vol II, p 484-485

Thinking in money is always, in one way or another, trade or business thinking. It presupposes the productive economy of the land, and, therefore, is always primarily acquisitive, for there is no third course. The very words "acquisition," "gain," "speculation," point to a profit tricked off from the goods en route to the consumer an intellectual plunder and for that reason are inapplicable to the early peasantry.​

He who commands this mode of thinking is the master of money.​

In all the Cultures evolution takes this road. Lysias informs us in his oration –against the corn-merchants that the speculators at the Piraeus frequently spread reports of the wreck of a grain-fleet or of the outbreak of war, in order to produce a panic. In Hellenistic-Roman times it was a widespread practice to arrange for land to go out of cultivation, or for imports to be held in bond, in order to force up prices. In the Egyptian New Empire wheat-corners in the American style were made possible by a bill-discounting that is fully comparable with the banking operations of the West. Cleomenes, Alexander the Great's administrator for Egypt, was able by book transactions to get the whole corn-supply into his own hands, thereby producing a famine far and wide in Greece and raking in immense gains for himself.​

To think economically on any terms but these is simply to become a mere pawn in the money-operations of the great city. This style of thought soon gets hold of the waking-consciousness of the entire urban population and, therefore, of everyone who plays any serious part in the conduct of economic history. "Peasant" and "burgher" stand not only for the difference of country and city, but for that of possessions and money as well.​

All highly developed economy is urban economy. World-economy itself, the characteristic economy of all Civilizations, ought properly to be called world-city-economy. The destinies even of this world-economy are now decided in a few places, the "money-markets” of the world in Babylon, Thebes, and Rome, in Byzantium and Baghdad, in London, New York, Berlin, and Paris. The residue is a starveling provincial economy that runs on in its narrow circles without being conscious of its utter dependence.​

Finally, money is the form of intellectual energy in which the ruler-will, the political and social, technical and mental, creative power, the craving for a full-sized life, are concentrated…. What is here described as Civilization, then, is the stage of a Culture at which tradition and personality have lost their immediate effectiveness, and every idea, to be actualized, has to be put into terms of money. At the beginning a man was wealthy because he was powerful; now he is powerful because he has money. Intellect reaches the throne only when money puts it there. Democracy is the completed equating of money with political power.​
President Camacho

More comprehensive excerpts analyzing the process in question:

The prime Estates are nobility and priesthood. The prime Party is that of money and mind, the liberal, the megalopolitan. Herein lies the profound justification, in all Cultures, of the ideas of Aristocracy and Democracy. Aristocracy despises the mind of the cities, Democracy despises the boor and hates the countryside. It is the difference between Estate politics and party politics, class-consciousness and party inclination, race and intellect, growth and construction. Aristocracy in the completed Culture, and Democracy in the incipient cosmopolitan Civilization, stand opposed till both are submerged in Cesarism. As surely as the nobility is the Estate (and the Tiers Etat never manages to get itself into real form in this fashion), so surely the nobility fails to feel as a party, though it may organize itself as one.​

It has in fact no choice but to do so. All modern constitutions repudiate the Estates and are built on the Party as self-evidently the basic form of politics. The nineteenth century-- correspondingly, therefore, the third century B.C. in the Classical -- is the heyday of party politics. Its democratic character compels the formation of counter-parties, and whereas formerly, as late even as the eighteenth century, the "Tiers" constituted itself in imitation of the nobility as an Estate, now there arises the defensive figure of the Conservative party, copied from the Liberal, dominated completely by the latter's forms, bourgeois-ized without being bourgeois, and obliged to fight with rules and methods that liberalism has laid down.​

It has the choice of handling these means better than its adversary or of perishing; but it is of the intimate structure of an Estate that it does not understand the situation and challenges the form instead of the foe, and is thus involved in that use of extreme methods which we see dominating the inner politics of whole states in the early phases of every Civilization, and delivering them helpless into the hands of the enemy…. A noble party in a parliament is inwardly just as spurious as a proletarian. Only the bourgeoisie is in its natural place there.​

In Rome, from the introduction of the Tribunes, in 471, to the recognition of their legislative omnipotence, in the revolution of 287 (when the tribunate secured force of law for plebiscita even without the Senate’s approval), patricians and plebeians had fought their fight essentially as Estates, classes. But thereafter these opposite terms possessed hardly more than genealogical significance, and there developed instead parties, to which the terms liberal and conservative respectively may quite reasonably be applied-- namely, the Populus, supreme in the forum, and the nobility, with its fulcrum in the Senate.​

The latter had transformed itself (about 2.87) from a family council of the old clans into a state council of the administrative aristocracy. The associations of the Populus are with the property-graded Comitia Centuriata and the big-money group of the Equites, those of the nobility with the yeomanry that was influential in the Comitia Tributa. Think on the one hand of the Gracchi and Marius, and on the other of C. Flaminius, and a little penetration will disclose the complete change in the position of the Consuls and the Tribunes.​

They are no longer the chosen trustees of the first and third Estates, with lines of conduct determined by that fact, but they represent party, and on occasion change it. There were "liberal" consuls like the Elder Cato and "conservative" Tribunes like the Octavius who opposed Ti. Gracchus. Both parties put up candidates at elections, and used every sort of demagogic operation to get them in-- and when money had failed to win an election, it got to work afterwards with (increasing) success upon the person elected.​

In England Tories and Whigs constituted themselves, from the beginning of the nineteenth century, as parties, both becoming in form bourgeois and both taking up the liberal program literally, whereby public opinion as usual was completely convinced and set at rest…. In these same years the literary freedom-movement of "young Germany" changed into a party-movement, and in America under Andrew Jackson the National-Whig and Democratic parties organized themselves as opposites, and open recognition was given to the principle that elections were a business, and state offices from top to bottom the "spoils of the victors."​

But the form of the governing minority develops steadily from that of the Estate, through that of the Party, towards that of the Individual's following . The outward sign of the end of Democracy and its transition into Caesarism is not, for example, the disappearance of the party of the Tiers Etat, the Liberal, but the disappearance of party itself as a form. The sentiments, the popular aim, the abstract ideals that characterize all genuine party politics, dissolve and arc supplanted by private politics, the unchecked will-to-power of the race-strong few. An Estate has instincts, a party has a program, but a following has a master. That was the course of events from Patricians and Plebeians, through Optimates and Populares, to Pompeians and Caesarians.​

The period of real party government covers scarcely two centuries, and in our own case is, since the World War, well on the decline. That the entire mass of the electorate, actuated by a common impulse, should send up men who are capable of managing their affairs-- which is the naive assumption in all constitutions-- is a possibility only in the first rush, and presupposes that not even the rudiments of organization by definite groups exists …..​

A tendency that has organized itself in the people, has already ipso facto become the tool of the organization, and continues steadily along the same path until the organization also becomes in turn the tool of the leader. The will-to-power is stronger than any theory. In the beginning the leading and the apparatus come into existence for the sake of the program. Then they are held on to defensively by their incumbents for the sake of power and booty-- as is already universally the case to-day, for thousands in every country live on the party and the offices and functions that it distributes. Lastly the program vanishes from memory, and the organization works for its own sake alone.​

In the beginning of a democracy the field belongs to intellect alone. History has nothing nobler and purer to show than the night session of the 4th August 1789 and the Tennis-Court Oath, or the assembly in the Frankfurt Paulskirche on the 8th May 1848-- when men, with power in their very hands, debated general truths so long that the forces of actuality were able to rally and thrust the dreamers aside. But, meantime, that other democratic quantity lost no time in making its appearance and reminding men of the fact that one can make use of constitutional rights only when one has money.​

That a franchise should work even approximately as the idealist supposes it to work presumes the absence of any organized leadership operating on the electors (in its interest) to the extent that its available money permits. As soon as such leadership does appear, the vote ceases to possess anything more than the significance of a censure applied by the multitude to the individual organizations, over whose structure it possesses in the end not the slightest positive influence. So also with the ideal thesis of Western constitutions, the fundamental right of the mass to choose its own representatives-- it remains pure theory, for in actuality every developed organization recruits itself. Finally the feeling emerges that the universal franchise contains no effective rights at all, not even that of choosing between parties.​
President Camacho


For the powerful figures that have grown up on their soil control, through money, all the intellectual machinery of speech and script, and are able, on the one hand, to guide the individual's opinions as they please above the parties, and, on the other, through their patronage, influence, and legislation, to create a firm body of whole-hearted supporters (the "Caucus") which excludes the rest and induces in it a vote-apathy which at the last it cannot shake off even for the great crises.​

The more radical the political elimination of the matured old order of Estates and callings, the more formless and feckless the electoral mass, the more completely is it delivered into the hands of the new powers, the party leaders, who dictate their will to the people through all the machinery of intellectual compulsion; fence with each other for primacy by methods which in the end the multitude can neither perceive nor comprehend; and treat public opinion merely as a weapon to be forged and used for blows at each other. But this very process, viewed from another angle, is seen as an irresistible tendency driving every democracy further and further on the road to suicide.​

The fundamental rights of a Classical people (demos, populus) extended to the holding of the highest state and judicial offices. For the exercise of these the people was "in form" in its Forum, where the Euclidean point-mass was corporeally assembled, and there it was the object of an influencing process in the Classical style; namely, by bodily, near, and sensuous means by a rhetoric that worked upon every ear and eye; by devices many of which to us would be repellent and almost intolerable, such as rehearsed sob-effects and the rending of garments 4 ; by shameless flattery of the audience, fantastic lies about opponents; by the employment of brilliant phrases and resounding cadenzas (of which there came to be a perfect repertory for this place and purpose) by games and presents; by threats and blows; but, above all, by money. We have its beginnings in the Athens of 4oo, and its appalling culmination in the Rome of Caesar and Cicero. (4: Even Caesar, at fifty years of age, was obliged to play this comedy at the Rubicon to his soldiers because they were used to it and expected it when anything was asked of them. It corresponds to the “chest-tones of deep conviction” of our political assemblies)

As everywhere, the elections, from being nominations of class-representatives, have become the battle-ground of party candidates, an arena ready for the intervention of money, and, from Zama onwards, of ever bigger and bigger money. "The greater became the wealth which was capable of concentration in the hands of individuals, the more the fight for political power developed into a question of money." It is unnecessary to say more. And yet, in a deeper sense, it would be wrong to speak of corruption. It is not a matter of degeneracy, it is the democratic ethos itself that is foredoomed of necessity to take such forms when it reaches maturity. In the reforms of the Censor Appius Claudius (310), who was beyond doubt a true Hellenist and constitutional ideologue of the type of Madame Roland's circle, there was certainly no question but that of the franchise as such, and not at all of the arts of gerrymandering-- but the effect was simply to prepare the way for those arts. Not in the scheme as such, but from the first applications of it, race-quality emerged, and very rapidly it forced its way to complete dominance. And, after all, in a dictatorship of money it is hardly fair to describe the employment of money as a sign of decadence.​

The career of office in Rome from the time when its course took form as a series of elections, required so large a capital that every politician was the debtor of his entire entourage. Especially was this so in the case of the aedileship, in which the incumbent had to outbid his predecessors in the magnificence of his public games, in order later to have the votes of the spectators. (Sulla failed in his first attempt on the praetorship precisely because he had not previously been aedile.) Then again, to flatter the crowd of loafers it was necessary to show oneself in the Forum daily with a brilliant following. A law forbade the maintenance of paid retainers, but the acquisition of persons in high society by lending them money, recommending them for official and commercial employments, and covering their litigation expenses, in return for their company in the Forum and their attendance at the daily levee, was more expensive still.​

Pompey was patronus to half the world. From the peasant of Picenum to the kings of the Orient, he represented and protected them all, and this was his political capital which he could stake against the non-interest-bearing loans of Crassus and the "gilding" of every ambitious fellow by the conqueror of Gaul. Dinners were offered to the electors of whole wards, or free seats for the gladiatorial shows, or even (as in the case of Milo) actual cash, delivered at home out of respect, Cicero says, for traditional morals. Election-capital rose to American dimensions, sometimes hundreds of millions of sesterces; vast as was the stock of cash available in Rome, the elections of 54 locked up so much of it that the rate of interest rose from four to eight per cent.​

Caesar paid out so much as aedile that Crassus had to underwrite him for twenty millions before his creditors would allow him to depart to his province, and in his candidature for the office of Pontifex Maximus he so overstrained his credit that failure would have ruined him, and his opponent Catulus could seriously offer to buy him off. But the conquest and exploitation of Gaul-- this also an undertaking motivated by finance-- made him the richest man in the world. In truth, Pharsalus was won there in advance.​

For it was for power that Caesar amassed these milliards, like Cecil Rhodes, and not because he delighted in wealth like Verres or even like Crassus, who was first and foremost a financier and only secondarily a politician. Caesar grasped the fact that on the soil of a democracy constitutional rights signify nothing without money and everything with it. When Pompey was still dreaming that he could evoke legions by stamping on the ground, Caesar had long since condensed the dream to reality with his money. It must be clearly understood, however, that he did not introduce these methods but found them in existence, that he made himself master of them but never identified himself with them. For practically a century parties grouped on principles had been dissolving into personal followings grouped upon men who pursued private political aims and were expert in handling the political weapons of their time.​
President Camacho

On the Western Press's role in "Democracy":

In France it was still in 1788 a matter of expressing private convictions, but England was already past that, and deliberately seeking to produce impressions on the reader. The war of articles, flysheets, spurious memoirs, that was waged from London on French soil against Napoleon is the first great example. The scattered sheets of the Age of Enlightenment transformed themselves into "the Press" — a term of most significant anonymity. Now the press campaign appears as the prolongation — or the preparation — of war by other means, and in the course of the nineteenth century the strategy of outpost fights, feints, surprises, assaults, is developed to such a degree that a war may be lost ere the first shot is fired — because the Press has won it meantime.

To-day we live so cowed under the bombardment of this intellectual artillery that hardly anyone can attain to the inward detachment that is required for a clear view of the monstrous drama. The will-to-power operating under a pure democratic disguise has finished off its masterpiece so well that the object's sense of freedom is actually flattered by the most thorough-going enslavement that has ever existed. The liberal bourgeois mind is proud of the abolition of censorship, the last restraint, while the dictator of the press — Northcliffe ! — keeps the slave-gang of his readers under the whip of his leading articles, telegrams, and pictures. Democracy has by its newspaper completely expelled the book from the mental life of the people. The book-world, with its profusion of standpoints that compelled thought to select and criticize, is now a real possession only for a few. The people reads the one paper, "its" paper, which forces itself through the front doors by millions daily, spellbinds the intellect from morning to night, drives the book into oblivion by its more engaging layout, and if one or another specimen of a book does emerge into visibility, forestalls and eliminates its possible effects by "reviewing" it.

What is truth? For the multitude, that which it continually reads and hears. A forlorn little drop may settle somewhere and collect grounds on which to determine "the truth" — but what it obtains is just its truth. The other, the public truth of the moment, which alone matters for effects and successes in the fact-world, is to-day a product of the Press. What the Press wills, is true. Its commanders evoke, transform, interchange truths. Three weeks of press-work, and the truth is acknowledged by everybody. Its bases are irrefutable for just so long as money is available to maintain them intact.

The Classical rhetoric, too, was designed for effect and not content — as Shakespeare brilliantly demonstrates in Antony's funeral oration — but it did limit itself to the bodily audience and the moment. W hat the dynamism of our Press wants is permanent effectiveness. It must keep men's minds continuously under its influence. Its arguments are overthrown as soon as the advantage of financial power passes over to the counter-arguments and brings these still oftener to men's eyes and ears. At that moment the needle of public opinion swings round to the stronger pole. Everybody convinces himself at once of the new truth, and regards himself awakened out of error.

With the political press is bound up the need of universal school-education, which in the Classical world was completely lacking. In this demand there is an element — quite unconscious — of desiring to shepherd the masses, as the object of party politics, into the newspaper's power-area. The idealist of the early democracy regarded popular education, without arriere pensee , as enlightenment pure and simple, and even to-day one finds here and there weak heads that become enthusiastic on the Freedom of the Press — but it is precisely this that smooths the path for the coming Caesars of the world-press. Those who have learnt to read succumb to their power, and the visionary self-determination of Late democracy issues in a thorough-going determination of the people by the powers whom the printed word obeys.

In the contests of to-day tactics consists in depriving the opponent of this weapon. In the unsophisticated infancy of its power the newspaper suffered from ofiicial censorship which the champions of tradition wielded in self- defence, and the bourgeoisie cried out that the freedom of the spirit was in danger. Now the multitude placidly goes its way; it has definitively won for itself this freedom. But in the background, unseen, the new forces are fighting one another by buying the press. Without the reader's observing it, the paper, and himself with it , changes masters. Here also money triumphs and forces the free spirits into its service. No tamer has his animals more under his power. Unleash the people as reader-mass and it will storm through the streets and hurl itself upon the target indicated, terrifying and breaking windows; a hint to the press-staff and it will become quiet and go home.

The Press to-day is an army with carefully organized arms and branches, with journalists as officers, and readers as soldiers. But here, as in every army, the soldier obeys blindly, and war-aims and operation-plans change without his knowledge. The reader neither knows, nor is allowed to know, the purposes for which he is used, nor even the role that he is to play. A more appalling caricature of freedom of thought cannot be imagined.

Formerly a man did not dare to think freely. Now he dares, but cannot; his will to think is only a willingness to think to order, and this is what he feels as his liberty. And the other side of this belated freedom — it is permitted to everyone to say what he pleases, but the Press is free to take notice of what he says or not. It can condemn any "truth" to death simply by not undertaking its communication to the world — a terrible censorship of silence, which is all the more potent in that the masses of newspaper readers are absolutely unaware that it exists.

Quote for a quote:

"The press is a machine-gun fired by an idiotic noncom. And what a number of Don Quixotes he will have killed before they get at him...or perhaps they will never get at him."

Vasily Rozanov, Solitaria