Thursday, May 22, 2014


What makes theocracy dangerous?  What -is- theocracy, truly?

The word translates as "Rule by God."  This is a curious way for an atheist to refer to a religious government - what is a more accurate way of referring to a theocracy?

Well, there is a word.  Pistocracy.  "Rule by beliefs," or perhaps "Rule by believers."  Epistocracy, "Rule by knowledge", or, as David Estlund translates, "Rule by the knowers", is just pistocracy in which the pistocrats assume they're correct.

Pistocracy, as a concept, is much more broadly applicable than theocracy; it is not limited to those governments run on beliefs written in ancient books.  It describes any government which enforces a particular belief structure on its participants - these beliefs need not be religious.  They can be philosophic - the belief that the community must come before the individual, for example.

The elements which make theocracy dangerous make a pistocracy dangerous as well - you do not need god to have heretics.  Trotsky was a heretic of the Soviet pistocracy - an individual who shared the same basic beliefs but disagreed with the orthodox interpretation of those beliefs.

The danger in a pistocracy is -in- the orthodoxy, in established beliefs the challenging of which marks one as a heretic, an apostate, or a pagan.  (We have a word for pagans even in science, which should be better than that - crank, or crackpot.  "Denier" has become part of the parlance as well, at least in more politicized sciences.)

Beliefs aren't limited to beliefs about the world-as-it-is, either.  Beliefs include the world-as-it-should-be.  Every argument for free college education, for food stamps, for welfare in the general case - these are arguments for a pistocracy based around a set of beliefs about how the world operates, and how it should operate going forward.  No concern or consideration is given for those whose beliefs differ - indeed, those who believe differently become The Enemy.  Heartless, evil, cruel, selfish - whatever invectives can stick, to label the Unbeliever a heretic whose opinion is not worth hearing.

This is an elaborate work-up to a single point: A secular government isn't a free government.  It can still fight and suppress philosophies, and indeed ours does so, on a scale that puts many theocracies to shame.  We live under a government in which certain philosophies are, for all intents and purposes, illegal to practice.  Not that I'm fond of racists, but the machinery that exists to crush them isn't limited in the scope of its application, and there has been a slow creep in that application, to the point where, today, the government attempts to crush even philosophies as basic as that it's better if workers manage their own health insurance, rather than relying on their employer to pick appropriate insurance programs -for- them.

No comments:

Post a Comment