We have entered The Interregnum.
As I said before, the notion of an interregnum has classically been tied to those periods when one king has died and there is no clear successor. But for our purposes, the notion of interregnum refers to those hinges in time when the old order is dead, but the new direction has not been determined. Quite often, the general populace and many of its leaders do not understand that the transition is taking place and so a great deal of tumult arises as the birth pangs of a new social and political order.
Since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 the American political ruling ideology has been based on the twin poles of the Neoconservative philosophy first elucidated by Irving Kristol in The Public Interest in 1965: in domestic affairs the national government should shrink (by cutting taxes and business regulations) and in foreign affairs the government should grow (by becoming the world’s sole military superpower). Four kinds of business firms have done very well by this strategy: finance,oil, drugs and military. And while their shareholders and executives like our Vice President and former Secretary of Defense get very rich, the middle class is losing ground. The election of 2006 brought the neoconservative era to a close, but did not define “the new order” and so we are in an Interregnum.
Some things are clear; that the digital revolution in communications and finance has ushered in an era of globalization that cannot be contained and that the devolutionary forces of the Internet are pushing power to the edges of almost every organization. Neither top down, hierarchical business organizations or centralized government organizations are going to succeed in the networked world. But what we have also learned is that total “hands off” deregulatory schemes propounded by the neo-conservatives do not work either. For the simple reason that there are too many venal characters trying to game the system. So despite Mr. Paulson’s fake regulation, the next President will have to bring the Shadow Banking System and the drug, oil and military companies to heel. This will not be easy.
The next four months will tell the tale of whether we are in a recession or a depression. We should concentrate on what kind of society we want to live in if the crisis stresses our democracy. Never underestimate the ability of an unemployed populace to look for scapegoats. In simple terms, democracy is at risk everywhere. Robert Kaplanwrote an essay in 1999 entitled, Was Democracy Just a Moment.
I submit that the democracy we are encouraging in many poor parts of the world is an integral part of a transformation of new forms of authoritarianism; that democracy in the United States is at greater risk than ever before, and from obscure sources; and that many future regimes, ours especially, could resemble the oligarchies of ancient Athens and Sparta, more than they do the current government in Washington.