Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

January 22, 2018

Populism leads to tyranny

Filed under: Politcs,Politics — Razib Khan @ 10:08 pm

I just listened to the authors of How Democracies Die on NPR. First, the book might well have been titled “The necessity of liberalism.” Basically, democracy without liberalism is clearly not democracy in their judgment.

But second, I was struck by their emphasis on the role of elites in dampening and diminishing the passions of the masses in a functioning modern democratic system. To a great extent, the authors were simply warning about what Fareed Zakaria termed “illiberal democracy” in The Future of Freedom over ten years ago.

Without elites acting as structural guardrails on the atavistic passions of the masses charismatic figures who channel their basest impulses can arise and gain popular approval of their autocratic behavior. The ancient Greeks could have told you that. Some things never change.

April 23, 2011

American Empire, American Bankruptcy

Filed under: Politcs,Politics — Razib Khan @ 9:30 pm

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Time has a worthwhile piece up, How to Save a Trillion Dollars. One thing the author brings up in relation to our exorbitant military spending is that in certain sectors the lead of the American armed forces technologically is such that we do not to need to significantly upgrade our matériel for a generation to maintain at least a marginal level of superiority. The F-35 is clearly superior to the F-16, but is it worth it to increase the gap between our air superiority and our nearest competitors at $125 million per unit cost? Not only that, but the American military clearly “sets the curve,” so that the more we invest in our own technological superiority, the more our rivals will have to invest so as to “catch up” and keep the gap relatively constant. The reality is that basically developed nations just need to be advanced enough that they can pummel the leaders of select lesser nations, such as Libya or Ivory Coast, and, have a military beefed up enough to be respectable in the eyes of their peers. An “arms ...

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