Thoughts on the coming End of Democracy

on our overpopulated, overheated, conflicted and nuclear armed planet

   A. Nicholas Frank

Near the end of World War II in Budapest, my eight-year-old self emerged from the bomb shelter amongst the rubble asking, "Why would grownups destroy such a beautiful city and kill innocent people?" This question simmered in my unconscious and surfaced with a vengeance decades later in a frightening anxiety attack that landed me in the emergency ward in a Los Angeles hospital.

I was working on an early draft of my third book at the time, exploring possible answers to the question of that eight-year-old. I was connecting dots trying to develop a coherent picture of the world. But the picture that emerged was dark and hopeless, and it triggered such strong symptoms of panic that it felt like heart failure. 

I am still trying to complete the larger picture of the human condition as I reflect on the thoughts of great philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Marx and on the wild political experiments of the 20th century, I witnessed, from the extreme right (fascism) to the extreme left (communism) and all the shades of democracy (left, right and center) in between. All the past and existing political experiments have failed or are in the process of failing to deliver peaceful, universal quality of life.  

The eight-year-old kid is now eighty with a new and not so innocent question: Why are the greatest problem-solvers in the known universe, with countless brilliant minds credentialed by higher educational institutions, unable to answer humanity's existential challenge — creating peaceful systemic sustainability on our eminently habitable planet?

Albert Einstein's comment may provide an answer to that question: A problem cannot be solved by the same mindset that created it. In the West, that mindset is formed by reductionism, compartmentalization and high degrees of specialization, along with the resulting fragmentation and conflicts. It is beyond the capacity of our collective mindset to create peaceful civilization for an aggressive species that possesses do-as-I-please free will. When looking for a true solution, that free will and brainpower now have to factor in the new variables of climate change and sustainability. Considering there are an estimated 16,000 nuclear weapons (many in unsteady hands), a solution must be found urgently.

I managed to work myself out of that earlier dark hole through my latest and more optimistic book, Holigent RECONSTRUCT America, Europe, the World. It is an action guide to build a world of peaceful systemic sustainability — not by delegating responsibility to big governments, or by demanding with protests that governments fix problems, or by using revolutions to tear down what exists, but by building something significantly better. 

The proposed Holigent (holistic-emergent) new world is achieved through societal reconstruction — rearranging the ways we live, work, commute, produce, consume, educate and govern ourselves. This also means that the pillars of our society — capitalism and democracy — are reasonably (not radically) reformed not by political acts but rather by the cellular functioning of self-governing communities. Government is significantly reduced in size and power as the hands-on social contracts of Holigent communities take over much of the workload. 

The buzzword of “sustainability” will be replaced by "nature's building code,” by which Holigent Communities are built and function to minimize carbon and environmental footprints — doing the essential most with the least of resources without waste.    

Money will not be eliminated but will yield significantly to other means of value exchange, such as the incorruptible personal community credit earned in community service within the frame of social contract (Holigent Delta Plan). And wealth will not be redistributed by legislated confiscation, but will be generated locally for the benefit of the community. 

Peace will be secured not by balance of power, which is another term for the arms race, but rather by quality of life secured through the combination of hybrid economy and social contract. The resulting stability will in turn keep collective socioeconomic stress from rising to the flash points that ignite and fuel conflicts. 

The proposed Holigent Societal Reconstruction is not a political solution — it cannot be easily labeled with left, right or center. It is an all-in-one multi-dimensional solution for our multi-layered twenty-first century challenge to secure continued human habitation on our planet with quality of life in peaceful systemic sustainability. 

The question now is this: Will there be enough people willing to step outside old comfort zones and be brave enough to participate in a socioeconomic experiment before the window of opportunity closes forever.

Thoughts on beyond the end of democracy

The pending exhaustion of Earth's life support capacity is relatively easy to understand. Through billions of years of evolution, Earth sustained countless generations of millions of species. This would be an infinite demand on the finite resources of our planet — how did nature do it? Nature made that impossible proposition possible under one unforgiving rule: All individuals of every species must make their flesh, leavings and remains available as food and resource for other organisms without waste.

Flouting this rule, humans leave behind mountains and oceans of indigestible and toxic waste that no plants or animals can utilize. That is surely the road to extinction of life on Earth.

Understanding the end of democracy is more complicated. There are two main reasons, both has deep roots in our species development. The evolution of life from simple to complex was made possible through a mechanism by which rising complexity is accompanied by a commensurate rise in systemic self-organizational capacity (enough glue to hold all the parts together in a system). However, the rapidly rising complexity of life and society in the twenty-first century is outpacing democracy's societal organizing capacity.

Another and more technical reason sheds light onto a darker corner of democracy. Democracy works reasonably well in good times, but in bad times it doesn't work at all. That is because in bad times, people fall into bad moods in which the dominant emotion is anger — and angry people have an impulse to get into fights.

This has ancient biological roots that hardwired our neuroendocrine stress arousal mechanism to arm the body to fight (or flee) as part of our self-preservation impulse — an evolutionary legacy. This bad old habit gets worse: As stress levels rise, humans regress into the primitive "reptilian" response with diminished capacity for critical thought process. This arrangement had high survival value in the evolutionary jungle, but is now a deadly habit on our overcrowded, conflicted and nuclear-armed planet.

Under conditions of high societal stress, democracy's well-intended civilized debate between opposing parties to advance the common interest devolves into mudslinging, gridlock and dysfunction.

The combined effects of disruptions resulting from climate change as well as the exhaustion of our planet's life support capacity under human overload will most likely continue. The diminishing quality of life and the resulting rise of collective socioeconomic stress and dysfunction are predictable. Under such foreseeable conditions, society enters into a downward spiral from democracy to illiberal democracy to authoritarianism to gangsterism to terrorism to turf warfare that may lead to global war.

In an environment of high collective societal stress, democracy becomes dysfunctional and falls prey to totalitarian takeover. Today, we can conclude with a high degree of certainty that the over 7.5 billion people on our planet (with large numbers on the move as economic, war and climate refugees) will soon be without a functional societal organizing concept and find themselves ungovernable. Thus we are looking at approaching dark clouds on the horizon — the end of civilization.

A brighter scenario is optional

The bright side of the above dark observation is that the solution for humanity to survive and thrive is surprisingly not complicated. The tallest hurdle is breaking out of our old mindsets.

If democracy is dysfunctional in a complex and high stressed world, then attempting to democratize autocratic regimes around the world is an idea dead on arrival. Indeed, the spirits of millions of lives lost along history are the witnesses to the futility of ideological struggle. In any case, politics and ideology are not solutions, only means by which society wants to achieve equity. The real deal is outside ideology and politics. The equity that cuts across ideological borders is — universal quality of life.


The aim of Holigent Societal Reconstruction is a kind of nonpolitical direct delivery of quality of life unentangled with the prevailing form of governance or ideology of any society. Indeed, autocratic societies such as Russia may welcome Holigent community developments, as that would provide much needed stability without interfering with the existing governance or political system.

A Summary of thoughts

If civilized life on Earth is to continue, this living generation must urgently consider two principal thoughts.

One, to adapt and live by nature's sustainability rules to avoid depleting our planet's life support capacity: Doing the essential most with the least of resources without waste. And to do it in a way organs of living systems collaborate to sustain life: One for all and all for one all at once.

Two, consider the Peace factor. This is undeniably complicated because our evolutionary legacy is competition for food, mate and living space. That competition is directed by a highly developed neuroendocrine stress response mechanism, which perpetuates the fight (or flight) response for gains and for self-preservation.

With ever more effective weapons, humanity has perfected the slaughter of its own kind to Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). We could disrupt the cycles of war by securing universal quality of life; that would prevent the rise of collective stress, thus prevent massive conflicts leading to wars.

This cannot be accomplished within the existing techno-industrial capitalist-consumerist societal structure built on the (Western) reductionist (fragmentary) philosophical foundation. In pursuit of peaceful systemic sustainability, physical and socioeconomic reconstruction is necessary to form a new cellular/collaborative political economy. The Holigent Societal Reconstruction concept provides a guide, the essence of which can be condensed in the following:

One for all and all for one doing the essential most with the least of resources to secure universal quality of life. This may be practiced in Holigent Communities with hybrid economies and social contracts developing and securing peaceful systemic sustainability.

The two main players in the proposed societal reconstruction are the independent, nonpolitical nonprofit NGOs (constructing and managing Holigent Communities) and existing governing/political systems playing supporting/partnership roles in the grand enterprise of building a peaceful sustainable future.

In authoritarian regimes playing that supporting role is a somewhat easier proposition. In democratic systems it may be more labor intensive to form the majority required to provide the necessary funding. The construction of Holigent Communities must be funded upfront so that such communities are mortgage-free thus better prepared to secure the quality of life promise regardless of global economic conditions.

The agenda of this author is to transition from the self-developed occupation of social philosopher to builder (with some experience). As soon as private and/or public funding arrives, we at Holigent Org will start the construction of a Holigent Campus. It is to teach, experience and demonstrate a replicable model of the proposed cellular self-organized community. This community will combine a hybrid economy and social contract in a green, live/work arrangement to minimize carbon and environmental footprints while securing quality of life for all participants.

Funding permitting, we will continue to work on expanding the program on an international scale in pursuit of building a future of universal quality of life in peaceful systemic sustainability for America, Europe and beyond.