Setting aside certain peculiar anachronisms, do not Khaldun’s words offer a striking echo of the condition of the United States today? We can summon no better words to describe America today than divided, dependent, and scared.
The Left is terrified of guns, climate change, and pandemics. The Right is terrified of immigration, crime, and terrorists. (Refer to the Pew Research Center for the latest data on priorities.) Yet while both sides are scared, neither side is generally scared of the same threats. Nevertheless, these threats share one thing in common: the solutions to them do not depend upon the opinions, judgment, or preferences of the American people. They all depend upon the opinions and judgment of unelected subject-matter experts. How much have we heard lately that we need to do whatever the experts say? Therefore, America’s fears presage a diminishing trust in the value of collective decision-making.
In other words, democracy has no role to play in resolving the risks that Americans most fear. The correct solution having been identified, the necessary path forward having been determined, all that is required of the people is for them to get out of the way. Indeed, democracy is increasingly seen as an obstacle to the resolution of crisis. When the stakes are so high, who does not believe that the most adherent disciples of either faction would gladly deprive their political opponents of political agency in order to guarantee the resolution of their greatest fears?
The world may very well end one day for mankind like it did for the dinosaurs. But at the rate we’re going, democracy will meet its fate much sooner. America’s first president George Washington anticipated the democracy-ending power of fear and faction. From his Farewell Address: