State making, in practice, is a bloody business. Britain, of which the United States may be seen as a philosophically consistent duplicate, had rough-cut the pattern of ‘separation of powers’ taken by the founding fathers as their constitutional matrix only as a result of repeated internal conflicts, of which its own seventeenth-century civil war was but the most politically explicit. For all its high-mindedness, however, the United States constitution is sprinkled with blood, not only that of the British redcoats who fought to deny the colonists their independence but also of the loyalists who opposed independence as an ideal. The reasons for which they chose to do so were complex, and by no means all were extinguished by Washington’s victory. ‘Sectionalism’ was one: the belief that the interests of any one region of settlement would not necessarily be best served by a sovereign government planted elsewhere on American soil. The dispersion of settlement, already vast in 1776, underlay that calculation. Its enormous extension during the nineteenth century lent that calculation renewed force. It was felt most strongly of all in the Southern states, bedded in their slave economies, which they were neither willing nor able to transform, which they knew were repugnant to their fellow citizens of other sections, and which they could defend only by a manipulation of the constitutional machinery which a growing majority of Americans thought alien to its informing principles. America was thus brought, in the 1860s, to confront an internal contradiction in its politics, of a sort all too familiar to the Europeans whom the New World denounced as sunk in sin, which proved to be capable of resolution only by the bad, old method of violence.
The Mask of Command: A Study of Generalship. John Keegan
Nietzsche said that the state is the “coldest of cold monsters.”
Why are people so scared of Donald Trump becoming President? And now that he has, why all the outrage, even from usually sober-minded people?
The obvious answer is that if he became President, Trump would be the most powerful man in the world. A man who literally had the power of life and death in his hands; indeed, he would have the fate of the entire human race in his hands – the fate of humanity in fact!
Nevertheless should we fear Trump? Should we fear what he might do?
Well, can anyone really be trusted with that kind of power?
More importantly, can we trust the democratic process to produce reliable leaders? And if we cannot trust this process, what can we trust?
People’s fears are not just over an nuclear exchange; it also extends to things such as “women’s rights” or “equality.”
The assumption seems to be that if the State giveth, it can taketh away.
Though this almost always false, there are one or two times a progressive reversal has occurred. Maybe one day, like in Iran, women will be forced to adopt the traditional style of clothing at the behest of the Supreme Leader. A return to this perhaps?
What we really have to confront is the Minotaur. For the power that Trump now wields, was prepared for him, incrementally, with the best of intentions and as a result of drift and mastery that no one person, or any group, is responsible for.
The Minotaur is not the State itself, though it is in part.
The Minotaur is the process by which power operates, how power grows, and why it does so.
We cannot run from the Minotaur, for it runs after you; fight it, even weaken it, and it will only grow bigger. Embrace it and you will likely be provided with comfort and ease, though never affection. Serve it, make it stronger, and you will be strong too — for a while, though the rewards of service diminish year after year.
Another way of looking at the Minotaur is that it is the ultimate system trap.
We are all slaves of the Minotaur, in other words.
We have a new boss, however.
Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential election. It was, and is, a hostile takeover. His success has energised the defeated, his Presidency will mean an expansion of the state (its military wing anyway); much of the rest of the world now, however, exists in passive terror of what will happen.
Clearly, there is some kind of fear that Trump will act like an authoritarian, or a tyrant.
However, what if he just “enslaved” everyone?
What would that look like though?
What would modern slavery look like?
What is slavery?
Slavery can be defined as the ownership and control of one human by another.
To own something means that you have a legal right to control it, and to be compensated if someone damages it. This implies, of course, that the legal authorities have a duty to protect someone’s property: i.e. a slave.
To control something means that if you desire X and you do A then X will happen and you have the means to do.
So, if the master wants his slave to dig a hole in the field he tells him to do so. If, however, verbal commands are not enough then physical means can be employed such as whipping. Of course, threats of punishment may be enough, and the threats need not be of a harsh physical kind: threating to withhold food, or other comforts and pleasures, may be sufficient to motivate.
In a master/slave relationship there is a requirement that the master provide safety, shelter and food for the slave. In return, the slave is duty bound to obey the master in all things as per the legal contract.
Modern welfare states have legal duties to their slaves such as:
1: To not kill them, unless it is necessary in order to prevent a serious imminent crime against another slave.
2: To provide food, shelter, education, healthcare and employment, pensions and end of life care.
3: To provide care and support for any children their slaves may have.
Modern states, moreover, have — or rather assert — the right to:
4: Control the education, information, and the upbringing environment of young and mature slaves.
5: Decide what kinds of things its slaves are permitted and not permitted to say and to wear in public.
6: Decide what kinds of substances, and in what quantities, a slave may consume.
7: Control what their slaves can and cannot sell, to whom, and under what conditions.
8: Decide how much money their slaves must pay the tax collector.
9: Decide what age they can work at, what time they must stop at, and what age they must retire at.
10: Decide if they can have children and if they can keep them.
11: Decide if their slaves should be committed to insane asylums (mental health hospitals).
13: Decide on various punishments for their slaves who have broken laws set forth by the masters.
14: Execute their slaves for serious offences.
15: Can sell their slaves, if they are in prison, to other parties who aim to profit from the use of their labour.
Modern states, such as the United States, the European states and China have done all of the above.
They do not call the people slaves, they call them citizens; they do not call it slavery, they call it democracy, or socialism or something.
The modern Western states have combined the worst elements of Orwell and Huxley into one, which is one of the reasons why the Western system is so much more resilient than Communism.
Nevertheless, whatever you think of the consequences, the structure is decaying, it is unstable.
Consequently, the capacity for mass murder and tyranny on a scale that dwarfs the 20th century exists. Mass conscription; total war; total control of minds and bodies.
We must understand how this monster came to be, how the process of power came to feed it, and what, if anything, can be done to stop it.
I am going to present some passages from two authors and two books that, thanks to Moldbug, have proved deeply (darkly) enlightening in understanding history, politics and democracy.
The following extracts, with some commentary, is mostly from the first chapter of On Power which is titled The Minotaur Presented.
The Progress of Power.
“The war through which we have lived has surpassed in savagery and destructive force any yet seen by the Western World.”
(Christopher Coker claims, correctly that each global war, which includes the Napoleonic war, has always been worse.)
“In this war everyone—workmen, peasants, and women alike—is in the fight, and in consequence everything, the factory, the harvest, even the dwelling-house, has turned target. As a result the enemy to be fought has been all flesh that is and all soil, and the bombing plane has striven to consummate the utter destruction of them all.”
(In a democracy, since everyone is equal, everyone is an equal target.)
“The war would have counted fewer participants, it would have wrought a less frightful havoc, had not certain passions, fiercely and unanimously felt, so transformed men’s natures that a total distortion of their normal modes of doing became possible. The task of stirring and sustaining these passions has been that of a munition of war without which the others must have proved ineffectual—propaganda. Savagery in act is sustained by savagery of feelings; this has been the work of propaganda.”
(Nazi Germany, The Allies, including the Communists, all used propaganda. Today, only the Allies exist, as does propaganda.)
“The most surprising feature of the spectacle which we now present to ourselves is that we feel so little surprise at it.”
(How telling. Just like today, with either drone strikes, operations in numerous countries, or indeed terror attacks in the homelands – nothing but apathy and indifference.)
“In like manner, the enemy who, to render its bodies more docile, mobilizes the thoughts and feelings of men, must be copied by the other side, who will otherwise fight at a disadvantage. Thus it comes about that, just as duellists follow each other’s thrusts and feints, nations at war copy each other’s “total” methods.”
(The logic of conflict and competition. The escalation trap. The Hobbesian Trap.)
“War is not necessarily, has not always been, what we see it today.”
“In the time of Napoleon only the men of military age were taken— and not all of them, for as a general rule the Emperor would call up only half a class. All the rest of the population were left, apart from having to pay war taxes of moderate size, to lead their normal lives.
In the time of Louis XIV less still was taken: conscription was unknown, and the private person lived outside the battle.”
“For an explanation, then, of the evil which besets us we must look not to the actual events which we see, but to history.)
(When you think in terms of systems, behaviour A is explained by a prior cause B; however, the behaviours usually exhibit a pattern that can be seen over time – history. Just looking at the facts is not history, however.History is interpretation and explanation. A system’s thinker explains behaviour by explaining it as a result of the structure, design, purpose, incentives and feedback mechanisms of the system – which is what De Jouvenel does, as we shall see.)
What is the continuously operative reason which has made ever wider the area of warfare? (By “area of warfare” I mean, and shall mean throughout, the extent, whether more or less complete, to which the forces of society are sucked into it.)”
“the struggle to magnify itself is of Power’s essence,”
“War in those days was always a small-scale affair—for the simple reason that Power was a small-scale affair and entirely lacked those two essential controls, the conscription of men and the imposition of taxes.”
“Only at the war’s end, when sacrifice had become second nature, was it possible to establish a levy permanently—the taille (poll-tax), as it was called—for the purpose of maintaining an army on a permanent footing in the shape of the orderly companies.”
(Appetite grows with the feeding. Soldiers need to eat, and for them to eat, they must be paid. For soldiers to be paid, there must be either taxes or plunder. However, once you have the means, because of an army, to tax, why would you ever want to get rid of it?)
“And now indeed Power had taken a big step forward.”
“How to do it? How increase the share of the national wealth which Power takes and converts into strength?
So long as it lasted, the monarchy never dared attempt the conscription of men. It always hired its soldiers for cash.
Now, its civil duties, which, by the way, it came to perform quite well, justified it in acquiring a legislative capacity—a thing unknown to the Middle Ages, but with possibilities of growth. This legislative capacity carried in its womb the right to impose taxes, though the period of gestation was to be a long one.”
“To say that the monarchy did no more than increase the size of armies would be ridiculous. That it established internal order, that it protected the weak against the strong, that it raised the community’s standard of life, that it conferred great benefits on industry, commerce, and agriculture—all that is well enough known.
But, for the very reason that it had to make itself competent in the role of benefactor, it had to set up in concrete form a governmental machine—an executive, laws, a legislature—which may fairly be compared to a power house setting the governed in motion by means of ever more powerful controls.
And it is by means of these controls, operated from this power that Power has become able, whenever war is actual or impending, to make such exactions from its people as were never conceived by a feudal monarch in his dreams.
Therefore the extension of Power, which means its ability to control ever more completely a nation’s activities, is responsible for the extension of war.”
“When the people upset the Power of kings, it was, so they thought, of just these burdens that they were ridding themselves. It was the burdens of taxation and, above all, military conscription which they hated. That being so, it is not a little surprising to see these burdens grow heavier under an up-to-date regime, and most surprising of all to see conscription instituted, not by absolute monarchy, but as the result of its fall.
Taine remarks that it was the present threat and past experience of invasion and its sufferings which won the people’s consent to conscription.
The people conceived of conscription as an accidental and temporary necessity. But it became permanent and established when, after victory and peace had been achieved, the people’s Government kept it on. Thus, Napoleon kept it on in France after the Treaties of Luneville and Amiens, and the Prussian Government kept it on in Prussia after the Treaties of Paris and Vienna.”
( The epochal moment in American history is when USG became an Empire. And it became an Empire because of war. The New Deal and the Second World War was the bitch and bastard that fathered the Modern Structure. )
“As war has followed war, the burden of conscription has grown heavier.”
“There it holds court along with the friend of its youth, its twin brother, that comes always just before or after it—with universal suffrage; both of them brought to birth at about the same time, the one bringing in its train, more or less openly and completely, the other, both of them the blind and terrible guides or masters of the future, the one placing in the hands of every adult person a voting paper, the other putting on his back a soldier’s knapsack.”
“How very strange! When their masters were kings, the peoples never stopped complaining at having to pay war. taxes. Then, when they have overthrown these masters and taken to taxing themselves, the currency in which they pay is not merely a part of their incomes but their very lives!
How do we explain this amazing somersault?”
“All that has happened is that the royal power house has been improved on: its controls, moral and material, have been made progressively more efficient so as to drive ever deeper into society and to take from it in an ever tighter clutch its goods and men.”
“This Power [said Marx] with its vast bureaucratic and military organization and its complicated and artificial mechanism, this frightful parasite which enmeshes as in a net the body of French society and obstructs all its pores, started at the time of absolute monarchy, when the feudal system, in whose overthrow it helped, was in decline. . . . The effect of overthrows of Power has been merely to improve the government machine, not to smash it. The political parties which in turn fought for Power conceived of the seizure of this vast edifice as the spoils of victory.”
“In later times its growth has continued at an accelerated pace, and its extension has brought a corresponding extension of war. And now we no longer understand the process, we no longer protest, we no longer react.”
“Power has to thank the smoke-screen in which it has wrapped itself. Formerly it could be seen, manifest in the person of the king, who did not disclaim being the master he was, and in whom human passions were discernible. Now, masked in anonymity, it claims to have no existence of its own, and to be but the impersonal and passionless instrument of the general will.
But that is clearly a fiction.
(An adaptive fiction.)
By a fiction, or, as some would say, by an abstraction, it is claimed that the General Will, which in reality emanates from the persons invested with political power, emanates from a collective being, the Nation, of which the rulers are nothing more than the instruments; and the rulers are always anxious to drive this idea into the heads of their peoples. They well understand its usefulness to them in making their power or their tyranny acceptable.
(Hence the incentive to create “formulas” or engage in “manufacturing consent”.)
Today as always Power is in the hands of a group of men who control the power house.”
(All governments are oligarchies.)
“All that has changed is that it has now been made easy for the ruled to change the personnel of the leading wielders of Power. Viewed from one angle, this weakens Power, because the wills which control a society’s life can, at the society’s pleasure, be replaced by other wills, in which it feels more confidence.
But, by opening the prospect of Power to all the ambitious talents, this arrangement makes the extension of Power much easier. Under the ancien regime, society’s moving spirits, who had, as they knew, no chance of a share of Power, were quick to denounce its smallest encroachment. Now, on the other hand, when everyone is potentially a minister, no one is concerned to cut down an office to which he aspires one day himself, or to put sand in a machine which he means to use himself when his turn comes. Hence it is that there is in the political circles of a modern society a wide complicity in the extension of Power.”
(Another adaptive feature of democracy, but in terms of good governance one that is utterly damming.)
“a Power which was at once widespread and weak. But it is of Power’s essence not to be weak. Circumstances arise which make the people themselves want to be led by a powerful will. Then comes the time when whoever has taken hold of Power, whether it be a man or a gang, can make fearless use of its controls. These users quickly demonstrate the crushing enormity of Power. They are thought to have built it, but they did not. They are only its bad tenants.”
“The power house was there before them: they do no more than make use of it. The giant was already up and about: they do no more than furnish him with a terrible spirit. The claws and talons which he then makes felt grew in the season of democracy. It is he that mobilizes the population, but the principle of conscription was founded in a democratic time. He is the despoiler of wealth, but democracy provided him with the inquisitorial mechanism of taxation which he uses. The tyrant would not derive legitimacy from the plebiscite if the general will had not already been proclaimed the sufficient source of authority.”
“Democracy, then, in the centralizing, pattern-making, absolutist shape which we have given to it is, it is clear, the time of tyranny’s incubation.”
“Can anyone doubt that a state which binds men to itself by every tie of need and feeling will be that much the better placed for devoting them all one day to the dooms of war? The more departments of life that Power takes over, the greater will be its material resources for making war; the more clearly seen the services which it renders, the readier will be the answer to its summons. And will anyone be so bold as to guarantee that this vast mechanism of state will never fall into the hands of a glutton of empire? Is not the will to Power rooted deep in human nature, and have not the outstanding qualities of leadership needed for the handling of a machine which goes ever from strength to strength often had for companion the lust of conquest?
Here is Leddhin on the consequences that democracy, nationalism and collectivism ushered in for warfare:
Nationalism was always closely allied with modern militarism, which in turn has strong totalitarian, democratic and collectivistic implications. The principle of the French Revolution that all men have equal rights and hence equal duties, introduced conscription and thus paved the way to our total wars—Foch’s “wars of unrestrained conduct” (guerres aux allures déchaînées). James Bryce, several generations ago, had warned us that “the racial or commercial antagonisms of democracies are as fertile in menaces to peace “The optimism expressed by some democrats, especially those in the thraldom of Wilsonian expectations, was bound to come to grief. Georges Sorel had no illusions about aristocratic oligarchies having the least enthusiasm for fighting long-drawn-out total wars. And Anatole France, surely no reactionary, flayed the merciless and pitiless cruelty of democratic warfare, with its innate tendency toward unconditional-surrender formulas and struggles to the bitter end. Jacob Burckhardt added cynically that the male tendency to appear brave under the eyes of women was another element adding to the great collective savagery in collective warfare.
Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. Liberty or Equality.
De Jouvenel on the future of leaders:
Now it suffices, as we have just seen and as the whole of history teaches us, for only one of the great powers of the future to produce a leader who will convert into sinews of war the powers taken for social advancement, and then all the others must follow suit. For the more complete the hold which the state gets on the resources of a nation, the higher, the more sudden, the more irresistible will be the wave in which an armed community can break on a pacific one.”
Compare that last paragraph about a “leader” with what Leddhin writes here:
Among modern authors the theme of the “charismatic leader,” as distinguished from the strictly non-democratic ruler, has been dealt with by Max Weber.Yet he was far from being alone in delineating and characterizing this contemporary phenomenon in connection with democratic demands. Others have successfully analyzed these populistic dictators, Burckhardt’s terribles simplificateurs, the “handsome fellows with the talents of non-commissioned officers”—a truly remarkable prophecy (but not quite as accurate as it seems; Hitler was never a non-commissioned officer, only a Gefreiter—lance corporal or p.f.c).
These nineteenth and early twentieth century vistas were not basically new. Aristotle knew only too well that the tyrants have to come—as stalwart defenders of the lower classes against wealthy, unpopular minorities (aristocrats, plutocrats, etc.). These tyrants have to be “regular fellows” (“ordinary, decent chaps”), and, as we have repeatedly emphasized, of the “leading” rather than the “ruling” type. In this as in many other respects they fit completely into the democratic pattern—as President Eliot of Harvard would have been forced to admit. President Wilson’s definition of a democratic leader is, actually, identical with that of a totalitarian dictator. The difference is in degree.
Not only Hitler but perhaps even Antonio Conselheiro, the half mad “counsellor” of the ecstatic backwoods revolutionaries in Brazil, were not simply personifications of the masses and hence “born leaders.” Involuntarily one is reminded of Goethe’s description of the “daimonic man” in the course of history:
The demoniacal element has the most terrifying aspects if it is strongly represented in a human being. I have had during my life-time the occasion to observe several such men, partly from a distance, partly close to. These men are not always exceptional either in intellectual capacities or in talents, and rarely in kindness. Yet they emanate a frightening magnetic force and exert an incredible power over all creatures and even over the elements. Who can tell how far such influence will extend? All the united moral forces are powerless against them, and the more intelligent part of humanity tries in vain to unmask them as simpletons or frauds; the masses are attracted by them. Seldom or never can one find several men of that type as contemporaries, and nothing is able to overpower them except the Universe itself, against which they have picked their fight. And it may well have been from such observations and remarks that that terrible sentence found its origin: Nemo contra deum nisi deus ipse.
The reference to the masses, who feel attracted to these leaders although the more intelligent people reject them, is highly revealing. Finally, especially dangerous is the influence exercised by “the demoniac” as formulated by Goethe on Burckhardt’s “awful simplifiers” preaching what Henri Hauser called fausses idées claires. The result of that is only too often Irving Babbitt’s “efficient megalomaniac” who—in the words of Burke—wants to “improve the mystery of murder.”
How prescient this reads in light of Donald Trump — who Scott Adams called the “Master Persuader” — loved by the masses and loathed by the “intelligent people”, who can, with a pen and telephone, order murder and mayhem (death by drone) anywhere in the world. Trump, nevertheless, will likely prove to be no more than a house spider compared to previous rulers of the masses.
Really, it is what is in store for the future that should truly worry people, as Peter Hitchens writes here.
If all this is a bit abstract and confusing, then it can be sharpened by asking the two questions:
How much has democracy (governments based on the idea of representing the “general will”) contributed to war, total war, and tyranny?
If Democracy had not been imposed on Germany, like it was in Iraq (in both cases by America) would we have had the Nazi movement, or the ISIS one?
Churchill, who ought to know better than most, thought this very thing:
Reflecting in 1945 on what had led to the rise of Nazi Germany, Winston Churchill wrote: “This war would never have come unless, under American and modernizing pressure, we had driven the Hapsburgs out of Austria and Hungary and the Hohenzollerns out of Germany.”
“By making these vacuums,” he went on, “we gave the opening for the Hitlerite monster to crawl out of its sewer on to the vacant thrones.”
Democracy! What have you done!
In the next part, we will see Moldbug step into the lair of the beast.