Thursday, July 23, 2009 69 Comments

Carlyle in the 20th century: fascism and socialism

I promise that UR will not turn into the Carlyle Channel - all Carlyle, all the time.

However, we have yet to seriously examine Carlyle's track record as a prophet. The true force of the mad sage emerges only when we compare his future to our past - and our present. If Carlyle's predictions are significantly more accurate than those of his more conventional peers, his reputation as a true prophet and general Sith Lord is confirmed. If not, he is just another crazy homeless person in the library.

What we'd really like is Carlyle's own history of the 20th century. Perhaps Rick Darby can help out with his ouija board. Until this channel opens, however, we are stuck with Google Books. (Question: does anyone at the Googleplex know they're serving the Occasional Discourse? Does anyone at the SPLC read UR? If so, wouldn't suing Google generate fantastic press? And say - how's it coming with that diversity effort?)

Fortunately, it is not too hard to retrospectively construct a Carlylean interpretation of the 20th century. And for those who disagree, there is UR. (I would not be surprised if I'm the only human being who read Frederick The Great this year.) Just tilt your head and slip the mollusc in your ear.

Carlyle can be quickly identified as a predictor of unusual accuracy by two major correct predictions about the 20th century. One: the 20th would be a century of democracy, in which the political center moved consistently to the left. Two: it would be a century of murder, misery, tyranny and anarchy, "enormous Megatherions, ugly as were ever born of mud."

The first prediction was pretty standard. The second was quite unusual. Their combination is distinctively Carlylean and, more broadly, Victorian and British. You will certainly have a hard time finding anyone outside these categories, except a grumpy old Mugwump or two, who believes in both these predictions. They are clearly correct, and they were on paper by 1850.

But why paraphrase? Why not go direct? For I am to Carlyle, as Saruman to Morgoth. Enter the true palace of darkness! Join in my iron oath to the Master!
Or perhaps Democracy, which we announce as now come, will itself manage it? Democracy, once modelled into suffrages, furnished with ballot-boxes and such like, will itself accomplish the salutary universal change from Delusive to Real, and make a new blessed world of us by and by? — To the great mass of men, I am aware, the matter presents itself quite on this hopeful side. Democracy they consider to be a kind of "Government." The old model, formed long since, and brought to perfection in England now two hundred years ago, has proclaimed itself to all Nations as the new healing for every woe: "Set up a Parliament," the Nations everywhere say, when the old King is detected to be a Sham-King, and hunted out or not; "set up a Parliament; let us have suffrages, universal suffrages; and all either at once or by due degrees will be right, and a real Millennium come!" Such is their way of construing the matter.

Such, alas, is by no means my way of construing the matter; if it were, I should have had the happiness of remaining silent, and been without call to speak here. It is because the contrary of all this is deeply manifest to me, and appears to be forgotten by multitudes of my contemporaries, that I have had to undertake addressing a word to them.

The contrary of all this; — and the farther I look into the roots of all this, the more hateful, ruinous and dismal does the state of mind all this could have originated in appear to me. To examine this recipe of a Parliament, how fit it is for governing Nations, nay how fit it may now be, in these new times, for governing England itself where we are used to it so long: this, too, is an alarming inquiry, to which all thinking men, and good citizens of their country, who have an ear for the small still voices and eternal intimations, across the temporary clamors and loud blaring proclamations, are now solemnly invited. Invited by the rigorous fact itself; which will one day, and that perhaps soon, demand practical decision or redecision of it from us, — with enormous penalty if we decide it wrong! I think we shall all have to consider this question, one day; better perhaps now than later, when the leisure may be less.

If a Parliament, with suffrages and universal or any conceivable kind of suffrages, is the method, then certainly let us set about discovering the kind of suffrages, and rest no moment till we have got them. But it is possible a Parliament may not be the method! Possible the inveterate notions of the English People may have settled it as the method, and the Everlasting Laws of Nature may have settled it as not the method! Not the whole method; nor the method at all, if taken as the whole? If a Parliament with never such suffrages is not the method settled by this latter authority, then it will urgently behoove us to become aware of that fact, and to quit such method; — we may depend upon it, however unanimous we be, every step taken in that direction will, by the Eternal Law of things, be a step from improvement, not towards it.

Not towards it, I say, if so! Unanimity of voting, — that will do nothing for us if so. Your ship cannot double Cape Horn by its excellent plans of voting. The ship may vote this and that, above decks and below, in the most harmonious exquisitely constitutional manner: the ship, to get round Cape Horn, will find a set of conditions already voted for, and fixed with adamantine rigor by the ancient Elemental Powers, who are entirely careless how you vote. If you can, by voting or without voting, ascertain these conditions, and valiantly conform to them, you will get round the Cape: if you cannot, the ruffian Winds will blow you ever back again; the inexorable Icebergs, dumb privy-councillors from Chaos, will nudge you with most chaotic "admonition;" you will be flung half frozen on the Patagonian cliffs, or admonished into shivers by your iceberg councillors, and sent sheer down to Davy Jones, and will never get round Cape Horn at all! Unanimity on board ship; — yes indeed, the ship's crew may be very unanimous, which doubtless, for the time being, will be very comfortable to the ship's crew, and to their Phantasm Captain if they have one: but if the tack they unanimously steer upon is guiding them into the belly of the Abyss, it will not profit them much! — Ships accordingly do not use the ballot-box at all; and they reject the Phantasm species of Captains: one wishes much some other Entities — since all entities lie under the same rigorous set of laws — could be brought to show as much wisdom, and sense at least of self-preservation, the first command of Nature. Phantasm Captains with unanimous votings: this is considered to be all the law and all the prophets, at present.

If a man could shake out of his mind the universal noise of political doctors in this generation and in the last generation or two, and consider the matter face to face, with his own sincere intelligence looking at it, I venture to say he would find this a very extraordinary method of navigating, whether in the Straits of Magellan or the undiscovered Sea of Time. To prosper in this world, to gain felicity, victory and improvement, either for a man or a nation, there is but one thing requisite, That the man or nation can discern what the true regulations of the Universe are in regard to him and his pursuit, and can faithfully and steadfastly follow these. These will lead him to victory; whoever it may be that sets him in the way of these, — were it Russian Autocrat, Chartist Parliament, Grand Lama, Force of Public Opinion, Archbishop of Canterbury, M'Croudy the Seraphic Doctor with his Last-evangel of Political Economy, — sets him in the sure way to please the Author of this Universe, and is his friend of friends. And again, whoever does the contrary is, for a like reason, his enemy of enemies. This may be taken as fixed.

And now by what method ascertain the monition of the gods in regard to our affairs? How decipher, with best fidelity, the eternal regulation of the Universe; and read, from amid such confused embroilments of human clamor and folly, what the real Divine Message to us is? A divine message, or eternal regulation of the Universe, there verily is, in regard to every conceivable procedure and affair of man: faithfully following this, said procedure or affair will prosper, and have the whole Universe to second it, and carry it, across the fluctuating contradictions, towards a victorious goal; not following this, mistaking this, disregarding this, destruction and wreck are certain for every affair. How find it?

All the world answers me, "Count heads; ask Universal Suffrage, by the ballot-boxes, and that will tell." Universal Suffrage, ballot-boxes, count of heads? Well, — I perceive we have got into strange spiritual latitudes indeed. Within the last half-century or so, either the Universe or else the heads of men must have altered very much. Half a century ago, and down from Father Adam's time till then, the Universe, wherever I could hear tell of it, was wont to be of somewhat abstruse nature; by no means carrying its secret written on its face, legible to every passer-by; on the contrary, obstinately hiding its secret from all foolish, slavish, wicked, insincere persons, and partially disclosing it to the wise and noble-minded alone, whose number was not the majority in my time!
Latter-Day Pamphlets, The Present Time, page 18.

Of course, this pair of predictions is just an example. Hindsight can easily identify correct predictions in the corpus of any essayist. We cannot consider Carlyle's actual accuracy in retrospect without counting all his correct and incorrect predictions, then comparing them to those of a contemporary peer. Perhaps this could be a useful exercise for some anomic beaver with a spreadsheet.

We can produce a more interesting effect on the modern mind, however, by presenting ways in which Carlyle understands the 20th century better, in the 1850s, than almost anyone in 2009. Specifically, we can employ Carlyle to teach you about the 20th century - and if not you, your uninitiated friends.

Only one simple demonstration is required. You see, for Carlyle the pair of prophecies described earlier - the rise of democracy in the 20th century, and the extraordinary level of political murder in the 20th century - are not independent predictions. They are causally connected. The rise of democracy is the cause of the Holocaust, etc.

While this proposition seems self-evident to Carlyle, pretty much no one believes it today. Will historians eventually conclude that he was right? If so, Carlyle beats them by 150 years - and counting. Counting for a while yet, I suspect.

To the democrat, of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, democracy appears as the cure for the 20th-century's political ills. A cure born in serendipitous synchrony to its disease, like the Monitor for the Merrimack. It reaches the scene of the crime just in time to try to save the victims. Succeeding for most, sadly failing for some. So you may see some blood on its hands or clothing.

If this alibi were not interesting enough, any exculpation of democracy leaves the tragedies of the 20th century uncaused. If the narrators of democratic history were more confident that these events were indeed causeless, random and without pattern, they might be less addicted to the passive voice. Instead you see it every day in the papers: "three people were killed today in..." Or even better, the false active: "today, violence killed three people in..." Indeed. Thus in the 20th century, which was also the century of democracy, violence killed hundreds of millions of people.

Of course, neither Carlyle nor I can deny that North America and Europe in 2009 enjoy local peace, at least in the conventional military sense. Recent political violence in these areas has been minimal. But any hegemonic conqueror can and typically does suppress political violence: democracy, or Genghis Khan. This does not help us assess the net total of political violence in a counterfactual universe in which democracy, or Genghis Khan, had decided to mind their own business.

Surely the easiest argument against Carlyle's hypothesis is that most of the atrocities of the 20th century were committed not by democracy, but by its enemies - totalitarian states of both the right and left. Again, democracy is at the scene of the crime only in its capacity as an officer of the peace. It is not just the blood of the victims which appears on its hands and clothing, but also that of the real killers.

Again, perfectly true. It is possible to construct a definition of an orthodox democracy, and possible to show that orthodox democracies have by far the cleanest hands in the 20th century's military mass murders - under 21st-century principles of "human rights" , for instance, we see only a million or so civilians incinerated by urban firebombing. A peccadillo for the age. Sure.

But clean hands do not exclude causality. The fascist and socialist totalitarian states of the 20th century - Hitler, Mao, and Stalin, basically - existed as exceptions, throwbacks, in the age of rising democracy. Hitler, Mao and Stalin committed the crimes of Hitler, Mao, and Stalin, making them the proximate causes of these events. We still may ask: what caused Hitler, Mao, and Stalin? What was the origin and nature of these regimes? If we find the fingerprints of democracy behind them, we may continue to suspect it as the ultimate cause.

The argument that democracy caused Hitler, etc, may seem an unusual and abstruse one. In the democratic narrative of the 20th century, indeed, it makes very little sense. In the Carlylean narrative it is almost so obvious as to be unworthy of mention, as we'll see.

The Carlylean explanation of Hitler, Stalin and Mao is that fascism and Communism are both, each in a very different way, democratic phenomena. They existed in the century of democracy because they could not have existed without it.

We will make this argument at length, later. It is a subtle point to explain, however. It is easily suspected of sophistry, or (as Carlyle would put it) Jesuitism. An introduction to Carlyle's 20th century can only start with a much less subtle blow to the head.

To demonstrate how easy it is to retell history without changing any of the facts, let us supply a Carlylean reinterpretation of the events by which democracy gained its hegemony - the wars of 1939-45. The result will attribute ultimate causality for the Holocaust to the democratic movement in general, and the Roosevelt administration in specific.

First we must remove the existing cloak of hagiography. Beating the Nazis (a feat in which my own grandfather participated, quite enthusiastically) is perhaps the main moral claim to fame of our present democratic overlords. The moral logic is simple. Hitler committed the Holocaust, the Holocaust was evil, FDR fought Hitler and beat him, so FDR must be good.

A saint may fight against a knave. Alternatively, two knaves may fight. A dragon may be slain by St. George, or by another dragon. In the former case you are left with St. George, who deserves a reward for slaying his dragon. In the latter case you are faced with a dragon, which did only what dragons do. He was probably the bigger of the two, and now he is even bigger than that.

Unfortunately, there is no moral system on earth which assigns any points for either (a) the unintended consequences of one's actions, especially when (b) these consequences do not actually happen. So if (a) America's war had been undertaken, either by its leaders or its masses, with the intention of saving the Jews from Hitler, and (b) any significant number of Jews had been actually saved by this policy, credit on this count would most certainly be due. And we would see what we want to see - St. George slaying the dragon.

But I am not aware of any historical school which espouses either of these propositions, neither of which has any relationship to reality. In reality, the American authorities were only slightly less eager than their German counterparts to conceal the Holocaust. As any bail bondsman can tell you, this is called being an "accessory." Not good. As for saving Jews, all contemporary claims that America was fighting a war for the Jews emanate from Berlin, not Washington. Goebbels was known to tell the truth on occasion, but not this occasion.

Moreover, the Roosevelt administration at its highest level knowingly concealed the crimes of its own Russian proxies at Katyn, an atrocity no less horrific in quality if not quantity. America in this war is just as responsible for Russian war crimes as Germany for the work of its Lithuanian special police. Total responsibility for the offenses of one's dependents, clients and proxies is a clear case of natural law, both at the individual and sovereign levels.

One layer of camouflage is seldom sufficient. Lurking beneath the mythical war to save the Jews is the equally mythical Axis plan to conquer the world. Unlike the Holocaust, this is a genuine work of living propaganda - a device of British Security Coordination, which forged the infamous map in which South America is divided into Nazi Gaue. Quite simply, no such plan existed.

Hitler most certainly had a plan to conquer Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe is not the planet, and nor was it in any sense liberated by the war. Mein Kampf's grand strategy was that Germany must expand to the East and remain at peace with the West - especially the British Empire. Hitler's geopolitical fantasy, and the perennial core of his perennial peace plans, was a world in which Germany dominated the Continent with land power, serving as an equal but not a rival to British maritime imperialism. Curiously, the Third Reich and the British Empire are now equally defunct - another coincidence.

Of course, having conquered the East, Hitler or his successors might have developed new appetites, revised said plans, and decided to conquer the West as well. Those requiring the 20th century to constitute the end of history are yet another class of automatic apologist. Of course, after the Anglo-Soviet split, the West in any case faced a ruthless, militaristic Eastern totalitarian state with clear ambitions to world domination. (And actual domination of Eastern Europe.)

We thus begin to see the outline of the foreign policy that Carlyle would propose for America and Britain in the 1930s. A Carlylean judges the quality of a government's actions by comparing them to what that government should have done, and he is not shy about using hindsight to construct this alternative.

Or, of course, the prophecies of the master himself. The Carlylean alternative being simple:
When the Continental Nations have once got to the bottom of their Augean Stable, and begun to have real enterprises based on the eternal facts again, our Foreign Office may again have extensive concerns with them. And at all times, and even now, there will remain the question to be sincerely put and wisely answered, What essential concern has the British Nation with them and their enterprises? Any concern at all, except that of handsomely keeping apart from them? If so, what are the methods of best managing it? — At present, as was said, while Red Republic but clashes with foul Bureaucracy; and Nations, sunk in blind ignavia, demand a universal-suffrage Parliament to heal their wretchedness; and wild Anarchy and Phallus-Worship struggle with Sham-Kingship and extinct or galvanized Catholicism; and in the Cave of the Winds all manner of rotten waifs and wrecks are hurled against each other, — our English interest in the controversy, however huge said controversy grow, is quite trifling; we have only in a handsome manner to say to it: "Tumble and rage along, ye rotten waifs and wrecks; clash and collide as seems fittest to you; and smite each other into annihilation at your own good pleasure. In that huge conflict, dismal but unavoidable, we, thanks to our heroic ancestors, having got so far ahead of you, have now no interest at all. Our decided notion is, the dead ought to bury their dead in such a case: and so we have the honor to be, with distinguished consideration, your entirely devoted, FLIMNAP, SEC. FOREIGN DEPARTMENT." — I really think Flimnap, till truer times come, ought to treat much of his work in this way: cautious to give offence to his neighbors; resolute not to concern himself in any of their self-annihilating operations whatsoever.
Thus the Carlylean foreign policy for USG and Britain in the 1930s is the same as the Carlylean foreign policy for USG today: abandon, disown and release all foreign protectorates, dependents, "allies," client states, puppet states, and other "little friends." Rather, each sovereign nation should just mind its own business for a while and see how that works out.

After a Carlylean reaction, there is no world policeman, no world judge, world parliament, or world anything. Even the traditional practice of exchanging permanent diplomats is obsolete. Governments often have things to say to each other, but they can get used to saying it by email.

And if Bolivia and Paraguay wish to wage war, that war is the business of Bolivia and Paraguay. Washington has no particular interest in which side may be in the wrong. It is certainly either Bolivia, Paraguay, or both. Moreover, if Spain herself does pick a side, intervenes in favor of it, and eventually uses this as a pretext for reacquiring both Bolivia and Paraguay, the Flimnaps of Foggy Bottom shall gaze serenely down on the entire affair - requesting, at most, that all sides avoid weapons which might cause global atmospheric or marine contamination.

Thus, if we imagine this principle applied to Europe in 1933, a Carlylean regime in 1933 disavows all involvement in Continental politics, including the League of Nations and the protection of the various invented states of the Little Entente. All of which were, in 1933, much better-armed than Germany.

If Germany wishes to have a war with Czechoslovakia, Poland, etc, that is the business of these nations. If Czechoslovakia and Poland wish to defend themselves from Germany, they should arm sufficiently and band themselves together for the purpose. If not, they must accept German suzerainty. In the actual event, they behaved as if they were armed, but the arms on which they counted were not their own - but those of Britain and France, which in retrospect were obviously insufficient to defend them.

Meanwhile, of course, if these wars expel valuable refugees - especially a high-value population such as the Ashkenazi Jews - Britain and America will stand ready to snap them up, just as Frederick the Great was happy to snap up French Huguenots expelled by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

Thus under this strategy, Nazi Germany (assuming the most aggressive intentions) either enlarges itself to the East, or fails to do so. If populations are displaced, for crazy Nazi reasons or otherwise, they are relocated to the Western Hemisphere. (Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, for one, wanted as many Jews as he could get.) It is possible to construct a global military disaster, genocide, etc, emerging from this counterfactual scenario. But it does not seem likely, whereas with the road taken we know it is certain. Hindsight is a bitch.

And more damningly, the Carlylean answer answers a question we didn't know we had. Remember: we have eliminated the two most frequently presumed rationales for the Allied side of the war. Roosevelt was not fighting to save the Jews, for he gives no appearance of giving a crap about the Jews. And he is not fighting to thwart the Nazi project of invading Mexico, for he knows there is no such project. What, then, is he fighting for? What is the nature of the Allied cause?

There is a three-word answer: "the United Nations." Basically, the Anglo-American coalition (which in fact called itself by that name during the war) is fighting for a vision, which vision might well be described even better by the name it now carries: "the international community." Skeptics will note that this phrase can always be replaced with the term "State Department," with negligble change to the meaning of the sentence.

More concretely, the fundamental question of the war was: if Germany and Poland disagree, whose business is it? Germany's answer was: it is the business of Germany and Poland. This answer is roughly coincident with classical international law, in which each nation is the only final judge of its interests. The Anglo-American answer was: it is the business of the international community. And so, in modern international law, it is. The Allies having defeated Germany, just as Germany defeated Poland. Might and right always converge in the end.

From the perspective of classical international law, Britain, which has been acting as the sole global hyperpower since 1815, and her new partner in crime America, are essentially asserting suzerainty over the Continent. They, and their stable of satellites, are to make the rules of international affairs henceforth. And indeed there is only one way for Germany to dispute this claim of suzerainty, which like all sovereign claims grows stronger the longer it is not disputed, and establish its status as an independent and equal country: make war, needless to say without permission, on the Anglo-American client states that after the last war were created out of its territory.

Thus, Anglo-American democracy causes the war, and its resulting terrors and destructions, because the nascent system of global suzerainty it set up in 1919 forces Germany to either accept a position which is permanently subordinate to the Anglo-American system or "international community," effectively sacrificing her independence as a nation, or demonstrate its disobedience by violently attacking that community. The dog has been backed into a corner; it must either cringe and submit, or bite. It probably should have cringed.

But military causality is always a dark and difficult point to argue. This would be Carlyle's explanation of these events, I think, but it is not his most powerful argument. Not only were Stalin, Hitler and Mao the products of bad democratic foreign policy, but their own movements could not have existed without democracy.

Rather, fascism and socialism (including the various Communisms) are inherently democratic phenomena. It is thus obvious that they came to exist in the century of democracy. This argument, too, may strike you as implausible - but wait and see.

Because first, this nasty pair suggests a cheaper, uglier, more banal explanation for Carlyle's seeming success as a prophet. As Wikipedia correctly notes:
[Carlyle's] ideas were influential on the development of Socialism, but - like the opinions of many deep thinkers of the time - are also considered to have influenced the rise of Fascism.
If Carlyle predicts that your house will burn down, and your house burns down, Carlyle is a prophet. But if he was seen on your porch with a can of kerosene, he's an arsonist. The plot thickens.

To understand the 20th century, we have to understand what socialism is and fascism was. To understand it from a Carlylean perspective, we need to understand the relationship of democracy to each - and to Carlyle himself. To Carlyle, democracy is the ultimate cause of the Holocaust; to democracy (or at least to Wikipedia), Carlyle is that ultimate cause. He is both prosecutor and defendant in the case.

The essential step in understanding socialism and fascism is understanding the difference between these Megatherions. They are both Megatherions all right, and both born in mud. Moreover, both muds contain a significant concentration of Carlyle. But they are two very different muds - and mud should not be confused with Carlyle.

While there are no qualitative distinctions in history, the difference between socialism and fascism is about as close as it comes - it's up there with virus versus bacterium. Or perhaps, for a closer medical analogy, liver cancer and lung cancer. Lung cancer can spread to your liver and/or vice versa, but the tumor is always descended from either lung or liver. Similarly, while the structure, apparatus and practices of socialism and fascism may in advanced cases converge, the origin of the malignancy is always precise and distinct.

Orthodox libertarians and, increasingly, conservatives have a particularly easy wrong answer available to them on this point. The wrong answer is that socialism and fascism are two forms, with negligible or cosmetic distinction, of one pathology of government - statism. Statism being the condition of having an enormous government which does all kinds of stupid, useless, and/or counterproductive things it doesn't do.

This clicks naturally with the theory of Carlyle as villain. Carlyle is most certainly a statist in the abstract libertarian sense of the word. Libertarianism is in fact a revival of the Manchester liberalism of Carlyle's time - whom the reader may meet as "M'Croudy, the Seraphic Doctor of Political Economy."

From Carlyle's end, Manchester liberalism is one of the principal symptoms of 19th-century democracy - the other being the philanthropism of Exeter Hall. Note that 21th-century democracy has boosted Exeter Hall to the nth degree, but retains some fragments of Manchester liberalism only grudgingly and with contempt. This too must be explained.

But here is Carlyle on M'Croudy - directly following the first passage on Democracy:
Or perhaps the chief end of man being now, in these improved epochs, to make money and spend it, his interests in the Universe have become amazingly simplified of late; capable of being voted on with effect by almost anybody? "To buy in the cheapest market, and sell in the dearest:" truly if that is the summary of his social duties, and the final divine message he has to follow, we may trust him extensively to vote upon that. But if it is not, and never was, or can be? If the Universe will not carry on its divine bosom any commonwealth of mortals that have no higher aim, — being still "a Temple and Hall of Doom," not a mere Weaving-shop and Cattle-pen? If the unfathomable Universe has decided to reject Human Beavers pretending to be Men; and will abolish, pretty rapidly perhaps, in hideous mud-deluges, their "markets" and them, unless they think of it? In that case it were better to think of it: and the Democracies and Universal Suffrages, I can observe, will require to modify themselves a good deal!
Observant readers will note that Carlyle, the prophet, errs here. He asserts that Manchester liberalism is so simple and obvious that it can be explained to voters, who can (he seems to vaguely imply) be trusted to vote for it. This may have been true in the 1850s. If so, voters have changed - alas.

But let's examine this Carlylean critique of libertarianism. Carlyle says: libertarianism is an epiphenomenon of democracy, because it is or purports to be a formula which dictates the actions of a sovereign - ie, the government must do this and must not do that. In democratic parlance - a position, platform or ideology.

Platforms are essential to the conduct of democratic government, because the only legitimate way to rule in a democracy is to construct a party which agrees on a platform. Thus, the simpler and more appealing the formula, the better. Thus the existence of libertarianism, from this skeptical and delegitimating standpoint, is explained. Thus Manchester liberalism got somewhere in mid-19th-century Britain, although libertarians with more or less the same platform got nowhere in late-20th-century America. Simpler and more appealing formulas, such as "hope" and "change," having since been invented.

Thus, Carlyle helps us explains why libertarianism was a democratic trope in the 1850s, and also why the democracy of 2009 is fundamentally un-libertarian. Anti-democratic libertarians can begin and finish their thesis here. The idea of libertarianism as a fundamental form of government, and non-libertarianism (or "statism") as an equally fundamental form, is most plausibly explained by the political needs of democracy, not any actual natural phenomenon.

That said, we will accept this category, "statist," a little longer. Before we look at socialism and fascism independently, we need to observe the shared Carlylean roots around which both are built. In the Carlylean narrative, socialism and fascism are both corruptions of the Carlylean ideal. They combine Carlylean truths with un-Carlylean shams.

Carlyle is a "statist" in that he considers the State to have absolute responsibility for the well-being of the nation it governs, and absolute authority to take any act it considers necessary to optimize that well-being. Quite simply, the Carlylean likes a strong hand at the tiller. And a strong tiller, too. This taste he shares with the socialist and the fascist - his fellow enthusiasts of government power.

Here all three part ways with the tradition of classical liberalism, under which so many American and British institutions were founded and re-founded in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and whose central motif is the belief in limited and/or divided government. One cannot be either socialist, fascist, or Carlylean, without either abandoning this belief or warping it beyond recognition. (Carlyleans and fascists abandon it. Socialists warp it.)

But at the next stop, the Carlylean parts ways with his 20th-century buddies. It is he who stays on the bus, and they who get off. Socialism and fascism produce a mix of substandard and disastrous results, for a simple reason: both originate in democracy, a precancerous growth always pregnant with some malignancy.

In almost every historical case of democracy, factions have arisen which can be arranged along a right-left axis. In the Athenian era, for example, hundreds of city-states developed a factional pattern in which a nominally demotic party competed against an nominally oligarchic party. This pattern must be a consequence of human nature, for it appears in all eras and populations without any apparent structure of transmission.

The socialist one-party state arises through the total victory of a faction, party, or movement of the Left. The fascist one-party state arises through the total victory of a faction, party, or movement of the Right. (Note that victory is victory, by means legal or illegal.)

The stable two-party democracy remains pregnant with both. And its stability is illusory: the same nominal parties remain, but their actual positions shift inexorably toward the Left. Thus we see chronic rather than acute socialism, which has the same endpoint - sclerotic emphysema of Brezhnev - but slower, and with a lot less drama. Unless it breaks down, of course.

(Note that under this definition, it is impossible to argue that "Hitler was a socialist." On the Weimar political spectrum, which was no different from ours, the NSDAP was a party of the Right. Thus its total victory can only constitute the condition of fascism. Of course you may use any definition of "socialist" or "fascist" you like, but the above will be found to closely match your intuitive sense of the matter.)

It is these democratic roots which fatally poison both socialism and fascism. Since the origin of the socialist or fascist regime is always a democratic party, achieving power at least partially through democratic tactics, the regime cannot escape democracy as a source of both external legitimacy and internal structure. The mark of Cain is always on it.

Your captain is a strong hand on a strong ship. But he is no Baptist. Will he round the Horn? Famously, if sober. Otherwise, in the belly of a fish. As an ingredient in government, even just a mixer, democracy is a deliriant - like Jimson weed. Cocaine sends you up, whisky brings you down, acid swings you around. But you never know what a man will do on Jimson weed. You might want to find another captain for the Southern Ocean.

This origin in democracy should not be confused with genuine popular sovereignty, or actual sailing of the ship by ballot-box. Such a thing is almost unheard of. It is not that socialist or fascist states actually extend significant decision-making power to the people at large. This is almost never the case, not even in working democracies with genuine contested elections.

If you look at any government of the 20th century and ask, who helms the ship around the Horn? Who tells the sailors when and how to reef the anchor, swab the mast or jibe the poop deck? Your answer will not be: the people who vote in "American Idol." Your answer will be: the pros. Public servants. The people who always do it. Which is not to say they do it right.

However, a socialist or fascist state, being by definition the descendant of a democratic movement, (a) cannot cease to adore some mythic construction of popular sovereignty, and (b) cannot afford to lose the actual adoration of its subjects. Both are central to its legitimacy.

And both, as we will see, are central to its insanity - in two very different ways. Because both socialism and fascism must maintain the sham of popular government, they have the seed of mendacity always inside them. That seed always finds fertile soil, and indeed life in a socialist or fascist state always becomes life in a jungle of lies. Which is typically the least of your problems.

Thus in socialism and fascism, we see the worst of both worlds. The state is (or at least may be) strong. But it is also mad. Thus, sometimes, often or always, its strength is wielded in the service of Chaos and not Cosmos. In short, the 800-pound gorilla is on acid. No wonder the night-watchman state seems like such a tempting idea.

The Carlylean insists: the forces of sovereignty must be mastered. There is no alternative. To limit the State to what it should do, prohibiting it from doing what it should not do, is to commit an act of tautology. Suppose you make it promise? What use are the gorilla's promises? Either you have mastered him, or not. If not, he will do as he likes. If so, you have taken his place.

Observe the fascist or socialist State again, through the eyes of the orthodox libertarian or classical liberal. We see an 800-pound gorilla on acid, whooping it up at the wheel of a running bulldozer. Your libertarian says: stop that bulldozer! Your Carlylean says: stop that gorilla!

A bulldozer, well-made, well-maintained and well-operated, is a positive force in the world. But only if it is controlled by a man and not a gorilla. If you saw a bulldozer driven by a qualified bulldozer operator, dear libertarian, would you cry: stop that bulldozer! I think not. You might be amazed at all the good works a qualified bulldozer operator can work with a bulldozer.

Of course, the world at present contains no such thing as a qualified bulldozer operator. Which is hardly the Carlylean's fault. And it still contains men, who are not gorillas, and can learn. They can also be drug-tested.

But this analogy, though picturesque, is as far as we can go with the two together. Socialism and fascism are different things. We must examine them apart, each through the Carlylean lens.

Let's do fascism first, because fascism is easy. Fascism is Carlyle, implemented by swine. Thus, you can go through Carlyle, finding Carlylean heroes, and replacing them with swine. The result will be fascism.

This exercise is exceptionally simple for those with a progressive education. Not only do you already know everything about the crimes of fascism, how to recognize it, how to fight it, etc, you cannot conceive of a Carlylean hero who is in fact a hero, and not a swine at all. Your mind rebels against the very thought.

Fortunately, history - which for you is the story of the 20th century, because progressives hate the past - demonstrates that in all cases, swine appear in the position at question. Therefore, the dispute is settled. With this assumption, proven by experience, let's see how Carlyle is a fascist. We might, for instance, choose this passage from Shooting Niagara:
I always fancy there might much be done in the way of military drill withal. Beyond all other schooling, and as supplement or even as succedaneum for all other, one often wishes the entire Population could be thoroughly drilled; into co-operative movement, into individual behaviour, correct, precise, and at once habitual and orderly as mathematics, in all or in very many points, — and ultimately in the point of actual Military Service, should such be required of it!
[...]
Soldier-Drill, for fighting purposes, as I have said, would be the last or finishing touch of all these sorts of Drilling processes; and certainly the acknowledged king would reckon it not the least important to him, but even perhaps the most so, in these peculiar times. Anarchic Parliaments and Penny Newspapers might perhaps grow jealous of him; in any case, would he have to be cautious, punctilious, severely correct, and obey to the letter whatever laws and regulations they emitted on the subject. But that done, how could the most anarchic Parliament, or Penny Editor, think of forbidding any fellow-citizen such a manifest improvement on all the human creatures round him? Our wise Hero Aristocrat, or acknowledged king in his own territory, would by no means think of employing his superlative private Field-regiment in levy of war against the most anarchic Parliament: on the contrary, might and would loyally but help said Parliament in warring down much anarchy worse than its own, and so gain steadily new favour from it. From it, and from all men and gods! And would have silently the consciousness, too, that with every new Disciplined Man, he was widening the arena of Anti-Anarchy, of God-appointed Order in this world and Nation, — and was looking forward to a day, very distant probably, but certain as Fate.

For I suppose it would in no moment be doubtful to him That, between Anarchy and Anti-ditto, it would have to come to sheer fight at last; and that nothing short of duel to the death could ever void that great quarrel. And he would have his hopes, his assurances, as to how the victory would lie. For everywhere in this universe, and in every nation that is not divorced from it and in the act of perishing forever, Anti-Anarchy is silently on the increase, at all moments: Anarchy, not, but contrariwise; having the whole universe for ever set against it; pushing it slowly at all moments towards suicide and annihilation. To Anarchy, however million-headed, there is no victory possible. Patience, silence, diligence, ye chosen of the world! Slowly or fast in the course of time you will grow to a minority that can actually step forth (sword not yet drawn, but sword ready to be drawn), and say “here are we, Sirs; we also are minded to vote, — to all lengths, as you may perceive. A company of poor men (as friend Oliver termed us) who will spend all our blood, if needful!” What are Beales and his 50,000 roughs against such; what are the noisiest anarchic Parliaments, in majority of a million to one, against such? Stubble against fire. Fear not, my friend; the issue is very certain when it comes so far as this!
Fortified by your progressive education, which is at this moment flashing the red alert, see instantly that this program, implemented by swine, is fascism. And implemented by non-swine? It has no name - for history has yet to see its like.

And where do the swine come from? In the 20th century? Gosh, in the age of democracy, why would one find a sudden effusion of swine in government? A famous Hitler campaign poster showed him with Hindenburg, "the Field Marshal and the Corporal." Traditionally, of course, any such fraternization would be a military offence.

Again, fascism is fascism because it arises out of democracy. Against the Left of intellectual consensus, universalist philosophy, bureaucratic disinterest, and bohemian disorder, it pits the forces of popular consensus, parochial tradition, vested or corrupt interests, and military order.

Each of the above has its place - both the Athenian perspective of the Left, and the Spartan judgment of the Right. A healthy society can see itself through any of these glasses, or all. But none in recent memory has combined the Athenian and Spartan virtues - it is a difficult merger. Carlylean order does not preclude the bohemian, but the combination is delicate at the least.

But to create this Spartan force in a democracy is to create, essentially, the Nazi Party. Or the Republican Party. If your party is just a theatrical production and has no actual intent of seizing power, it is the latter; if its plan, hopefully not a secret plan, is "one man, one vote, one time," it is the former. Neither is a benefit to humanity, at least as described.

When the NSDAP seized absolute power, what seized absolute power was an organization which was more or less a government in exile, whose leader was a palpable nut, and whose supporters consisted largely of the lower-middle classes - relatively ignorant and ill-informed. This was not a military coup. It was the electoral victory of a democratic political party.

Had Weimar been terminated by a military coup, perhaps under Captain Ehrhardt or the like, the order that replaced it might have been a military order - a complete renunciation of democracy, a return to the Prussian traditions of Frederick the Great. Instead, as a democratic movement, the militarism of the Nazis had a notably paramilitary quality. For instance, calling the SA the SA was rather as if Youth for Western Civilization were to name its paintball brigade the "Special Forces." It's definitely not the way to get the actual Special Forces on your side.

It is this difference - the line between military honor and tradition, and paramilitary brawling and thuggery - that separates men from swine, and Carlyle from fascism.

The trouble is that if you try to modify the Nazi path to power to remove the swine, it is not clear that you have a path to power. There were plenty of non-swinish German nationalists competing with the Nazis. Only the Nazis, however, could build an entire party of swine. And even in Germany, enough swine and friends of swine could be found - which is hardly surprising, when you see that the choice was not the Nazis or nothing, but the Nazis or Weimar.

So once the Nazis seize power: power is held by a party of swine. With Hitler at the top. Many have joined the Party because they want to help restore Germany; many have joined it because they want to get ahead; some have joined it because they want to get revenge on the Jews. It is this organization, nominally under Hitler's absolute rule but in practice more dangerous to him than he is to it, that now rules Germany. And at the bottom, below the Party, is the Deutsche Volk - whose opinions are coordinated by the propaganda techniques familiar to all, and coordinated quite successfully too. This too is a relic of democracy: popular sovereignty.

This is the outline of a Mafia state. This pyramid can impose order outside itself, but internally it is not and can never be ordered. Germany is a sea of warring acronymic agencies, increasingly corrupt. The Nazi system is still often dynamic and successful because it is so new and so young. Had it lived longer, however, the structure of bureaucracy and venality would have ossified, producing a transition not unlike that between the regimes of Louis XIV and Louis XVI. Hitler was certainly no Frederick the Great, and even Frederick's system did not fare well under his dissolute heir.

Thus what we see in fascism is the last gasp of the European ancien regime, heavily contaminated by vices implicit in the attempt to restore order by democratic means. Fortunately, the whole question of fascism is of only academic interest in the 21st century, because no such attempt could now succeed. Only the very unusual conditions of postwar Germany and Italy made it possible to construct a successful fascist party, even one constructed with generous helpings of swine. Now and for the foreseeable future, there is no practical democratic politics of the Right - moderate or extreme.

On to socialism.

It is just as easy to find the link from Carlyle to socialism. Walt Whitman will find it for us:
Then the simplicity and amid ostensible frailty the towering strength of this man -- a hardy oak knot, you could never wear out — an old farmer dressed in brown clothes, and not handsome — his very foibles fascinating. Who cares that he wrote about Dr. Francia, and "Shooting Niagara" — and "the Nigger Question," — and didn't at all admire our United States? (I doubt if he ever thought or said half as bad words about us as we deserve.) How he splashes like leviathan in the seas of modern literature and politics! Doubtless, respecting the latter, one needs first to realize, from actual observation, the squalor, vice and doggedness ingrained in the bulk-population of the British Islands, with the red tape, the fatuity, the flunkeyism everywhere, to understand the last meaning in his pages.

Accordingly, though he was no chartist or radical, I consider Carlyle's by far the most indignant comment or protest about the fruits of feudalism today in Great Britain — the increasing poverty and degradation of the homeless, landless twenty millions, while a few thousands, or rather a few hundreds, possess the entire soil, the money, and the fat berths. Trade and shipping, and clubs and culture, and prestige, and guns, and a fine select class of gentry and aristocracy, with every modern improvement, cannot begin to salve or defend such stupendous hoggishness.
Whitman is not making any of this up. You will indeed see Carlyle, especially in his early works - before he has entirely rid himself from his old group of Radical friends, to be exact - take just this tack. Much of it is still found in Chartism (1840).

Carlyle will: criticize economic inequality; mock laissez-faire economics; deplore the growing dehumanization of the new British proletariat; denounce industrial pollution; call for massive national literacy campaigns; propose that government organize unemployed workers; etc, etc, etc. All these ambitions of the muscular State are distinctively socialist.

Of course, they are not exclusively socialist aims, since we see them also under Hitler. Aims alone do not enable us to distinguish socialist and fascist regimes, which are distinguished by origin rather than result. Over the long run, the two can develop a remarkably similar structure and apparatus - I suspect the Third Reich, had it survived, would have looked rather Brezhnevian by the 1980s. But this is parallel evolution: analogy, not homology.

For a deeper connection between socialism and Carlyle, we need to understand the shared inspiration of the two. Since Carlyle was considerably under the influence of Scottish Calvinism, and the roots of socialism run through (Calvinist) Puritanism, the religious connection does not require a great leap of faith. The Carlylean imperative of the State is to discover the laws of God and implement them on earth. This is a dream easily recognized in the progressive of a century ago, a Herbert Croly or Edward Bellamy or Benjamin Franklin Trueblood, none of whom would have had any qualms in describing his utopia as a New Jerusalem.

Finally, we need to recognize perhaps the most distinctive and subtle quality of socialism, which is that socialism (again in origin, though this quality disappears in the nasty end stages) is a fundamentally aristocratic movement. Moreover, it is aristocratic in the Carlylean sense: the actual meaning of the word, rule of the best. Socialism, always in origin and perpetually in the true democratic state which still contains a competing Right, is the alliance of the smartest, the wealthiest, the most powerful, and the most beautiful.

The Left is the faction of the professors, the scientists and the scholars, the cognitive elite. It is the faction of the true ultra-rich, the old money, the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts and Fords, and their trustafarian hipster junkie grandchildren. It is the faction of the journalists and the bureaucrats, the activists and astroturfers - the wielders of power. And, of course, it is the faction of movie stars and other celebrities, who for all their flaws have climbed a long greasy pole. The closer you get to the top in a democratic society, the more pervasive socialism becomes.

So Carlyle said to his readers: England is going to the dogs. A new aristocracy is needed to replace the old, stultified, dying hereditary caste of land and title. This must be an aristocracy of merit and service - a true nobility. It must cast aside the dogmas of laissez-faire and be unafraid to govern, to garden, to intervene and improve.

And indeed, the Christian Socialism of the Fabians and Progressives, rooted not only in Carlyle but in Ruskin and Morris and Dickens, developed precisely along these lines. Its goal was to improve society, both physically and morally, through the energy and nobility of the State. And indeed it outcompeted all major competitors. There is no school of Carlyleans today, but every school that isn't a madrassa in Qom is a school of progressivism.

And the trouble was: it was all wrong. The results were exactly opposite the original intent. The poor were not morally uplifted and converted into gentlemen; they were degraded and converted into savages. A new underclass of unprecedented human degeneration appeared below the proletariat. The New Jerusalem did not arrive. New Babylons, new Haitis, new Armageddons beyond words, enormous Megatherions all, slithered up on their great bellies.

Alas, socialism can be explained in one sentence. Socialism is the last stage of democracy. The process may be fast and bloody, as in the French and Russian Revolutions, or slow and mostly peaceful, as in Britain. But it is not generally reversible by any conventional means.

By pouring their talents into the democratic movement, the new aristocracy of progressivism ensured the following results:

First, that bad ideas would blossom and good ones wither and disappear. Progressivism has become a veritable religion of quack goverment. Its policies are always counterintuitive: it preaches leniency as the cure for crime, timidity as military genius, profligacy as the acme of economics, "special education" as the heart of pedagogy, indulgence as oversight, appeasement as diplomacy. As it goes from one disaster to the next, progressivism never considers the possibility that the obvious, rather than its opposite, could be the case. Occam's Butterknife is the only tool in its kitchen.

So everywhere that socialism or communism triumphs, we see the same phenomena: hypertrophy of the bureaucracy, destruction and/or assimilation of organizations outside the State, expansion and widespread delinquency of the underclass, decimation of the working class, decay and disappearance of manufacturing industries, persecution of upper classes and successful minorities, destruction of old cities and production of hideous totalitarian architecture, ubiquitous depression both economic and psychiatric. These effects are not pleasant to anyone, progressive or otherwise. But their production does not slacken.

Except for the occasional psychopath, a man to be found in all walks of life, this is never the intent of the socialist. My own grandfather was a CPUSA member, and this was certainly not his intent. Nonetheless, they all happened. (And the CPUSA is again best friends with the White House - just as if it were 1934. Or South Africa.)

But why? What causes this pattern of repeated failure? Why, with its intellectual firepower, can progressivism not self-correct? After all, its public-policy experts are supposed to be scientists. They publish papers - with numbers. Surely this makes them scientists, and science is self-correcting, ie, always right.

Alas. Not everyone who writes papers with numbers is a scientist. The most you can say is that your subject is either a scientist, or a pseudoscientist. Also, while it is correct to note that science can be self-correcting, it is incorrect to assume that it must be, ie, is incorruptible. Nothing whatsoever is incorruptible - certainly not science.

The Platonic guardians of the socialist state - scientists, planners, bureaucrats, or whatever you call them - persistently prefer bad ideas because of the organizational structure of the socialist state. Again, democracy is the fundamental and irrecoverable flaw.

Because socialism is democratic, it distrusts, opposes and tends to destroy organizational structures which are built on (a) hierarchical command, (b) personal responsibility, and/or (c) financial interests. Your socialist state will never produce a structure in which a single planner is responsible for, say, North Carolina; can fire whomever he likes in the administration of North Carolina; and gets fired himself, if North Carolina does not blossom into a subtropical Eden. This is an organizational structure that one might find in, say, the British Raj. It is not democratic in nature, nor socialist.

Instead, the socialist state divides power and spreads it as widely as possible - within itself, of course. Its decisions are not personal, but procedural. A procedure is a better procedure if it cuts more stakeholders into the loop - if it is a more open process. Here we see clearly what the State is doing: it is building a support base from its own employee roster, and it is purchasing support by exchanging it for power. The feeling of being in the decision loop produces a remarkable effect of emotional loyalty, no matter how trivial the actual authority may be.

There is just a slight downside to this: when socialism fails, no one is responsible. No system of ideas, even, can be responsible - for a system of ideas would be an ideology, and public policy is not determined by ideology. Thus many will tell you that economics failed in the crisis of 2008, but no one can possibly do anything about it. Certainly, no producer of economic wisdom in the universities, nor consumer in Washington, need feel even slightly threatened. Tenure is tenure, and civil-service protection is civil-service protection. Our masters serve for life.

Moreover, in an environment where failure confers no punishment, we would expect bad policies to outcompete good ones. Much as islands without predators are dominated by flightless birds. Freed from the need to actually succeed, the bad policies can offer everything to everyone - permanently. But alas, no dodo is forever.

Thus the power of socialism to take a perfectly good aristocracy, and corrupt it to the service of lies, incompetence and the Devil. The trouble is that for everyone to get a tiny slice of power's pie, no one can actually do the job of ruling - a concept which conflicts with the entire idea of public policy. A government based on the principle of hierarchical rule simply does not have enough work for all the aristocrats who need to feel important. It is too damned efficient. Thus it is abhorred, and shunned, by all.

Second - and worse, to the Carlylean eye - because it embraces democracy only to contradict it completely, socialism has a permanent core of mendacity, which breeds new lies the way a clogged birdbath breeds mosquitoes. This sham aspect is at the root of all its failures. To the Carlylean, no structure built on lies can be expected to last.

For the progressive does not actually believe in the philosopher's stone of democracy, the instinctive and growing wisdom of the masses, Walt Whitman's wet-dream. He in fact despises (often, though not always, rightly) all ideas that flow from the masses up: these are "ideologies," and their electoral manifestations "politics." Nothing is so important as keeping government apolitical and non-ideological.

Or to be more precise, nothing is so important as keeping government in the hands of its Platonic guardians - the aforementioned progressive aristocracy. Who alone can round Cape Horn. For everything that the socialist state does - in Moscow then, in Washington now - there is an entire caste of scientists, exquisitely trained and rigorously selected, from whom all apolitical and non-ideological public policies flow. Not since the heyday of the Board of Rites or the Logothete of the Course has such intellectual firepower been trained on the problem of government.

The power flow of democracy is simply reversed. Rather than the sovereign People leading and directing their "public servants," it is the servants who lead and the People who follow. The function of elections and elected officials in a progressive democracy is to educate the electorate, to speak from the "bully pulpit," to help it become the progressive and enlightened People that it deserves to be. In classic astroturf style.

Thus, elections become simply another propaganda mechanism. If this mechanism fails every now and then, the progressive establishment has more than enough institutional inertia to wait out and defeat any temporary attack of the primitives. No permanent imprint on Washington can be or ever has been left by the post-progressive Right, from McCarthy through Bush. Indeed, in Europe, there is nothing at all like the Republicans, and daily life in Europe seems more or less the same for it.

So there is a sham here. To be fair, this sham is hardly a socialist invention: it is a staple of democracy in all eras. Robert Michels described it well as the Iron Law of Oligarchy, almost a century ago. It seems easy to excuse progressives for merely finding this natural tactical feature of politics, and taking advantage of it.

And in fact it is. But it is also interesting to examine the result. Lies are always interesting, and those who defend them still more so.

Those with a taste for historical scholarship of less august vintage than we usually prefer, here at UR, may enjoy Edmund S. Morgan's Inventing the People (1988). In this multi-century survey, winner of the Bancroft Prize, the author - professor emeritus at Yale - repeatedly and deliberately describes the legal and constitutional doctrines of the democratic faction in Anglo-American history as "fictions." The body of the book is quite well-composed and quite thoroughly damning, to my ear at least.

Professor Morgan, however, wants to make sure we do not take this as any kind of a criticism. Rather, he is a cold-eyed believer in what, here at UR, we call "psychological security." In his introduction, he writes:
Government requires make-believe. Make believe that the king is divine, make believe that he can do no wrong or make believe that the voice of the people is the voice of God. Make believe that the people have a voice or make believe that the representatives of the people are the people. Make believe that governors are the servants of the people. Make believe that all men are equal or make believe that they are not.

The political world of make-believe mingles with the real world in strange ways, for the make-believe world may often mold the real one. In order to be viable, in order to serve its purpose, whatever that purpose may be, a fiction must bear some resemblance to fact. If it strays too far from fact, the willing suspension of disbelief collapses. And conversely it may collapse if facts stray too far from the fiction that we want them to resemble. Because fictions are necessary, because we cannot live without them, we often take pains to prevent their collapse by moving the facts to fit the fiction, by making the world conform more closely to what we want it to be. We sometimes call it, quite appropriately, reform or reformation, when the fiction takes command and reshapes reality.

Although fictions enable the few to govern the many, it is not only the many who are constrained by them. In the strange commingling of political make-believe and reality the governing few no less than the governing many may find themselves limited — we may even say reformed — by the fictions on which their authority depends. Not only authority but liberty too may depend on fictions. Indeed liberty may depend, however deviously, on the very fictions that support authority. That, at least, has been the case in the Anglo-American world, and modern liberty, for better or for worse, was born, or perhaps we should say invented, in that world and continues to be nourished there.

Because it is a little uncomfortable to acknowledge that we rely so heavily on fictions, we generally call them by some more exalted name. We may proclaim them as self-evident truths, and that designation is not inappropriate, for it implies our commitment to them and at the same time protects them from challenge. Among the fictions we accept today as self-evident are those that Thomas Jefferson enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal and that they owe obedience to government only if it is their own agent, deriving its authority from their consent. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to demonstrate these propositions by factual evidence. It might be somewhat easier, by the kind of evidence we usually require for the proof of any debatable proposition, to demonstrate that men are not created equal and that they have not delegated authority to any government. But self-evident propositions are not debatable, and to challenge these would rend the fabric of our society.

It is not the purpose of this book to challenge them, and my use of the word fiction has no such intention. I have been troubled by the pejorative connotations attached to the word, but I have been unable to find a better one to describe the different phenomena to which I have applied it. I can only hope that the readers who persevere to the end of the book will recognize that the fictional qualities of popular sovereignty sustain rather than threaten the human values associated with it.
To which Carlyle has an answer, and a terrible one. I leave you with his words:
What is Democracy; this huge inevitable Product of the Destinies, which is everywhere the portion of our Europe in these latter days? There lies the question for us. Whence comes it, this universal big black Democracy; whither tends it; what is the meaning of it? A meaning it must have, or it would not be here. If we can find the right meaning of it, we may, wisely submitting or wisely resisting and controlling, still hope to live in the midst of it; if we cannot find the right meaning, if we find only the wrong or no meaning in it, to live will not be possible! — The whole social wisdom of the Present Time is summoned, in the name of the Giver of Wisdom, to make clear to itself, and lay deeply to heart with an eye to strenuous valiant practice and effort, what the meaning of this universal revolt of the European Populations, which calls itself Democracy, and decides to continue permanent, may be.

Certainly it is a drama full of action, event fast following event; in which curiosity finds endless scope, and there are interests at stake, enough to rivet the attention of all men, simple and wise. Whereat the idle multitude lift up their voices, gratulating, celebrating sky-high; in rhyme and prose announcement, more than plentiful, that now the New Era, and long-expected Year One of Perfect Human Felicity has come. Glorious and immortal people, sublime French citizens, heroic barricades; triumph of civil and religious liberty — O Heaven! one of the inevitablest private miseries, to an earnest man in such circumstances, is this multitudinous efflux of oratory and psalmody, from the universal foolish human throat; drowning for the moment all reflection whatsoever, except the sorrowful one that you are fallen in an evil, heavy-laden, long-eared age, and must resignedly bear your part in the same.

The front wall of your wretched old crazy dwelling, long denounced by you to no purpose, having at last fairly folded itself over, and fallen prostrate into the street, the floors, as may happen, will still hang on by the mere beam-ends, and coherency of old carpentry, though in a sloping direction, and depend there till certain poor rusty nails and worm-eaten dovetailings give way: — but is it cheering, in such circumstances, that the whole household burst forth into celebrating the new joys of light and ventilation, liberty and picturesqueness of position, and thank God that now they have got a house to their mind? My dear household, cease singing and psalmodying; lay aside your fiddles, take out your work-implements, if you have any; for I can say with confidence the laws of gravitation are still active, and rusty nails, worm-eaten dovetailings, and secret coherency of old carpentry, are not the best basis for a household! — In the lanes of Irish cities, I have heard say, the wretched people are sometimes found living, and perilously boiling their potatoes, on such swing-floors and inclined planes hanging on by the joist-ends; but I did not hear that they sang very much in celebration of such lodging. No, they slid gently about, sat near the back wall, and perilously boiled their potatoes, in silence for most part! —

High shouts of exultation, in every dialect, by every vehicle of speech and writing, rise from far and near over this last avatar of Democracy in 1848: and yet, to wise minds, the first aspect it presents seems rather to be one of boundless misery and sorrow. What can be more miserable than this universal hunting out of the high dignitaries, solemn functionaries, and potent, grave and reverend signiors of the world; this stormful rising-up of the inarticulate dumb masses everywhere, against those who pretended to be speaking for them and guiding them? These guides, then, were mere blind men only pretending to see? These rulers were not ruling at all; they had merely got on the attributes and clothes of rulers, and were surreptitiously drawing the wages, while the work remained undone? The Kings were Sham-Kings, play-acting as at Drury Lane; — and what were the people withal that took them for real?

It is probably the hugest disclosure of falsity in human things that was ever at one time made. These reverend Dignitaries that sat amid their far-shining symbols and long-sounding long-admitted professions, were mere Impostors, then? Not a true thing they were doing, but a false thing. The story they told men was a cunningly devised fable; the gospels they preached to them were not an account of man's real position in this world, but an incoherent fabrication, of dead ghosts and unborn shadows, of traditions, cants, indolences, cowardices, — a falsity of falsities, which at last ceases to stick together. Wilfully and against their will, these high units of mankind were cheats, then; and the low millions who believed in them were dupes, — a kind of inverse cheats, too, or they would not have believed in them so long. A universal Bankruptcy of Imposture; that may be the brief definition of it. Imposture everywhere declared once more to be contrary to Nature; nobody will change its word into an act any farther: — fallen insolvent; unable to keep its head up by these false pretences, or make its pot boil any more for the present! A more scandalous phenomenon, wide as Europe, never afflicted the face of the sun. Bankruptcy everywhere; foul ignominy, and the abomination of desolation, in all high places: odious to look upon, as the carnage of a battle-field on the morrow morning; — a massacre not of the innocents; we cannot call it a massacre of the innocents; but a universal tumbling of Impostors and of Impostures into the street!

Such a spectacle, can we call it joyful? There is a joy in it, to the wise man too; yes, but a joy full of awe, and as it were sadder than any sorrow, — like the vision of immortality, unattainable except through death and the grave! And yet who would not, in his heart of hearts, feel piously thankful that Imposture has fallen bankrupt? By all means let it fall bankrupt; in the name of God let it do so, with whatever misery to itself and to all of us. Imposture, be it known then, — known it must and shall be, — is hateful, unendurable to God and man. Let it understand this everywhere; and swiftly make ready for departure, wherever it yet lingers; and let it learn never to return, if possible! The eternal voices, very audibly again, are speaking to proclaim this message, from side to side of the world. Not a very cheering message, but a very indispensable one.

Alas, it is sad enough that Anarchy is here; that we are not permitted to regret its being here, — for who that had, for this divine Universe, an eye which was human at all, could wish that Shams of any kind, especially that Sham-Kings should continue? No: at all costs, it is to be prayed by all men that Shams may cease. Good Heavens, to what depths have we got, when this to many a man seems strange! Yet strange to many a man it does seem; and to many a solid Englishman, wholesomely digesting his pudding among what are called the cultivated classes, it seems strange exceedingly; a mad ignorant notion, quite heterodox, and big with mere ruin. He has been used to decent forms long since fallen empty of meaning, to plausible modes, solemnities grown ceremonial, — what you in your iconoclast humor call shams, all his life long; never heard that there was any harm in them, that there was any getting on without them. Did not cotton spin itself, beef grow, and groceries and spiceries come in from the East and the West, quite comfortably by the side of shams? Kings reigned, what they were pleased to call reigning; lawyers pleaded, bishops preached, and honorable members perorated; and to crown the whole, as if it were all real and no sham there, did not scrip continue salable, and the banker pay in bullion, or paper with a metallic basis? "The greatest sham, I have always thought, is he that would destroy shams."

Even so. To such depth have I, the poor knowing person of this epoch, got; — almost below the level of lowest humanity, and down towards the state of apehood and oxhood! For never till in quite recent generations was such a scandalous blasphemy quietly set forth among the sons of Adam; never before did the creature called man believe generally in his heart that lies were the rule in this Earth; that in deliberate long-established lying could there be help or salvation for him, could there be at length other than hindrance and destruction for him. O Heavyside, my solid friend, this is the sorrow of sorrows: what on earth can become of us till this accursed enchantment, the general summary and consecration of delusions, be cast forth from the heart and life of one and all!

Cast forth it will be; it must, or we are tending, at all moments, whitherward I do not like to name. Alas, and the casting of it out, to what heights and what depths will it lead us, in the sad universe mostly of lies and shams and hollow phantasms (grown very ghastly now), in which, as in a safe home, we have lived this century or two! To heights and depths of social and individual divorce from delusions, — of "reform" in right sacred earnest, of indispensable amendment, and stern sorrowful abrogation and order to depart, — such as cannot well be spoken at present; as dare scarcely be thought at present; which nevertheless are very inevitable, and perhaps rather imminent several of them! Truly we have a heavy task of work before us; and there is a pressing call that we should seriously begin upon it, before it tumble into an inextricable mass, in which there will be no working, but only suffering and hopelessly perishing!

69 Comments:

Blogger TGGP said...

The 20th century is only considered to be violent because people are idiots with no sense of perspective. It is much less violent than previous centuries and has been steadily getting less so, even if it has been getting more democratic. Which is not the say the latter is the cause of the former. If you click that link you will hear that homicide kills twenty times as many people as war these days and may think that this represents an explosion of homicide (although combining the two still gives fewer deaths than war alone used to), but homicide is also much lower than it was in the good old days.

People who use numbers do have more accurate beliefs than the more "literary" minded. Let us assume (and nearly all readers will agree) that progressives are wrong. Which is more progressive, the soft humanities or number crunching fields? Compare Carlyle's discipline of history to "the dismal science". The former is far leftier than the latter, because it has no core of numerical discipline to constrain its practicioners.

Half Sigma has shown that Republicans used to be the smarter party, this has changed recently. Richer people have long tended to vote for more right-wing parties (see Andrew Gelman's book), and old money is more conservative than new money. Mencius errs because he does not collect large amounts of data and make an analysis, but rather focuses on the salient but unrepresentative.

July 23, 2009 at 7:43 AM  
Anonymous Lugo said...

the Roosevelt administration at its highest level knowingly concealed the crimes of its own Russian proxies at Katyn, an atrocity no less horrific in quality if not quantity. America in this war is just as responsible for Russian war crimes as Germany for the work of its Lithuanian special police.

This is absolute rubbish. The USSR, and only the USSR, is responsible for the USSR's war crimes.

Total responsibility for the offenses of one's dependents, clients and proxies is a clear case of natural law, both at the individual and sovereign levels.

America did not own or control Stalin. Stalin was not a client or proxy of the US in WW2, Stalin was a principal, and solely responsible for his own actions.

Mein Kampf's grand strategy was that Germany must expand to the East and remain at peace with the West - especially the British Empire.

Mein Kampf's strategy required crushing France, not "peace in the West".

Of course, after the Anglo-Soviet split, the West in any case faced a ruthless, militaristic Eastern totalitarian state with clear ambitions to world domination. (And actual domination of Eastern Europe.)

Stalin on the Elbe is better than Hitler on the Channel.

the Carlylean foreign policy for USG and Britain in the 1930s is the same as the Carlylean foreign policy for USG today: abandon, disown and release all foreign protectorates, dependents, "allies," client states, puppet states, and other "little friends." Rather, each sovereign nation should just mind its own business for a while and see how that works out.

Such a policy for Britain in the 1930s would have been suicide. Come on, shouldn't the fact that this was exactly what Hitler wanted Britain to do clue you in that such a strategy was not to Britain's advantage?

if Bolivia and Paraguay wish to wage war, that war is the business of Bolivia and Paraguay.

While it is true that neither the US today nor Britain in the 1930s necessarily had "business" intervening in every quarrel, one cannot conclude that the US now or Britain then have (had) no business intervening in ANY quarrel. Bolivia vs Paraguay, who cares. Germany vs France, hmmmm, yeah, Britain should care.

If Germany wishes to have a war with Czechoslovakia, Poland, etc, that is the business of these nations.

Previously the argument was that if the US did not act to prevent a wrong (the Holocaust), then the US was morally culpable, and an accessory to the wrong. Now the argument is that if Britain did not act to prevent a wrong (the conquest of Poland or Czechoslovakia) then Britain was not morally culpable, and was not an accessory.

Needless to say, it was most definitely the business of Britain and France if Germany grew stronger through the conquest of Poland and Czechoslovakia. Increased German power impinged directly on the security interests, and national survival, of Britain and France.

If populations are displaced, for crazy Nazi reasons or otherwise, they are relocated to the Western Hemisphere.

If Britain and America have no responsibility to defend Poland or Czechoslovakia, then they unquestionably have no responsibility to accept refugees created by any wars against these countries. If Britain and the USA are minding their own business, then they have no need to accept any displaced populations from wars that aren't their business - that's none of their business either!

It is possible to construct a global military disaster, genocide, etc, emerging from this counterfactual scenario. But it does not seem likely,

Um, yes it does, inasmuch as Hitler had the positive intention of inflicting genocide on the Jews, Poles, and other Slavs regardless of what Britain and the US did. A German crusade in the East that slaughters tens of millions may not be a "global" disaster but it is one hell of a disaster regardless.

July 23, 2009 at 9:18 AM  
Anonymous Lugo said...

we have eliminated the two most frequently presumed rationales for the Allied side of the war.

Great, we have eliminated two stupid strawmen that only the naive and ignorant ever believed in anyway.

What, then, is he fighting for? What is the nature of the Allied cause?

Geopolitics and the balance of power.

More concretely, the fundamental question of the war was: if Germany and Poland disagree, whose business is it? Germany's answer was: it is the business of Germany and Poland. This answer is roughly coincident with classical international law, in which each nation is the only final judge of its interests.

When "classical" international law applied - let us say, before 1815 - European powers never regarded it as "not their business" if one European power conquered another. If country A conquered country B, then other countries paid close attention to the resulting change in the balance of power, and often demanded "compensation" of one sort or another for the increase in country A's power.

Anglo-American democracy causes the war, and its resulting terrors and destructions, because the nascent system of global suzerainty it set up in 1919 forces Germany to either accept a position which is permanently subordinate to the Anglo-American system or "international community," effectively sacrificing her independence as a nation, or demonstrate its disobedience by violently attacking that community.

Sounds to me like Germany caused the war, then, not the British or the Americans.

Could Germany have lived, peacefully and prosperously, within the system that existed from 1919 to 1933? Yes. Could Germany have adjusted the "unfair" aspects of the Versailles system without war? Yes. But Hitler did not want to revise the unfair Versailles system, he wanted to destroy the system completely, which required war, which was thus solely Hitler's fault.

Not only were Stalin, Hitler and Mao the products of bad democratic foreign policy,

Hitler, Stalin and Mao did not exist because the democracies meddled too much, but because the democracies didn't meddle enough! The basic democratic foreign policy error was the failure to strangle these monsters in the cradle.

socialism (again in origin, though this quality disappears in the nasty end stages) is a fundamentally aristocratic movement.

In the nasty end stages? As soon as any socialist regime actually takes power, the thugs and swine take charge.

And the trouble was: it was all wrong. The results were exactly opposite the original intent.

Which calls into question the intelligence of the so-called "best and brightest".

July 23, 2009 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

I'm confused. It seems to me that Hitler embodies the closest thing to your philosophy that has yet existed in a powerful leader:

- The idea that some people and some races are inherently suited to rule over others.
- The focus on order and discipline.

Aren't those the two main features in what you support?

So what was wrong with Hitler, other than some strategic blunders? Slaughtering Jews? Well, maybe you find that a little distasteful, but I don't see why the argument that the world would be better off without Jews is fundamentally different than the argument that the world is better off if some races are slaves and some countries are colonies -- is murder *that* much worse than slavery?

Others have already pointed out that the 20th century was not particularly violent, that Hitler did not have peaceful intentions towards the West, and that nobody believes the U.S. entered the war to save the Jews or to defend Mexico.

Hitler, Mao, and Stalin all were able to do what they did because they *defeated* (preemptively or not) democracy. The truth is, there is absolutely nothing stopping the ruler(s) of your desired Sovcorps from becoming Hitlers or Stalins other than their own desires. In a well-constituted Democracy, a Hitler or a Stalin would quickly be brought down by a vote or through the checks and balances.

You like to offer up weak, fledgling democracies that collapse into dictatorships as arguments against democracies, but really they're just arguments for creating democracies that can stand up to the overly ambitious sociopath and his cronies.

July 23, 2009 at 9:42 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

JA,

"So what was wrong with Hitler" could have been the subtitle to this post. I don't know if MM resolves this seeming tension, but his answer to this question is clearly found in this essay. Why not respond to that?

Another way of looking at the homicide data would be to say that the second half of the 20th century saw the reversal of a 700+ year trend in the decline in violence (I'm looking at the graph of homicides in England) and a return to 18th century levels. MM's thesis seems to be the progressive takeover of England occurred after WWI or WWII, so this would square with that. It may however, be evidence against democracy as implemented in Carlyle's time as inevitably leading to such decline. We only have one data point.

July 23, 2009 at 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Coral said...

Has Mencius resolved one of the fundamental contradictions in his writing, the claims that democracy is terrible as evidenced by the 20th century and modern day democratic US, and that the US since FDR has not been democratic at all?

If so, can someone point me to a specific post or passage?

July 23, 2009 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

As always, you're welcome to nitpick at Thiblo.com.

July 23, 2009 at 12:30 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Coral -- the US after FDR is sclerotic democracy, according to MM.

July 23, 2009 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

josh,

"So what was wrong with Hitler" could have been the subtitle to this post. I don't know if MM resolves this seeming tension, but his answer to this question is clearly found in this essay. Why not respond to that?

Well, I didn't really find an answer. He says that "fascism is Carlyle implemented by swine." So I take it that MM's only problem with Hitler was that he was "swine" but if Hitler were... "non-swine," I guess it would be ideal.

He does not explain exactly what makes him call Hitler "swine" (not that I'm disagreeing of course, but I wonder exactly what MM's disagreement is.) Is it just the Jewish thing? Is he too prole-populist?

(He also says of such a party of swine "internally it is not and can never be ordered" but doesn't elaborate.)

But hasn't this been the main objection I've been bringing to MM's ideal government all along? That it's (maybe) swell as long as it's rule by benevolent and competent philosopher kings, but that there is no mechanism to (to use MM's word here) keep out the swine?

That's not exactly a tiny detail -- it's the whole point of democracy. The people get to choose the leaders, and not just once, but repeatedly. Hitler and Stalin and Mao (and Saddam Hussein and Pinochet etc.) are what you get when the people don't have that option.

Totalitarianism is the failure or absence of democracy. That's as true of totalitarian socialism as it is of totalitarian fascism. Democracy is not in fact the problem, as MM alleges, but the solution. The only problem is it's a hard solution to get right.

But just because some democracies fail doesn't mean that democracy itself is a failure. There are many wildly successful democracies on Earth RIGHT NOW. Now they have a nasty habit of voting for things (or tolerating leaders who do things) that MM and his readers might not approve of, but that doesn't make it a failure.

I'll say it again. I'd rather live in present-day America than in any actual non-democracy that's ever lived, even if I could bring modern technology with me. I can't believe most of you wouldn't do the same.

July 23, 2009 at 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

The words fascism and fascist ceased long ago to have any objective meaning, and became mere terms of opprobrium. As an illustration, in 1938 when the American liberal philosopher and educationalist John Dewey undertook an independent investigation of Stalin's 1936-8 show trials, the Stalinist Dashiell Hammett denounced him as a "fascist agent of Leon Trotsky." Given such history it seems impossible to me to place fascism anywhere on a left-right "political spectrum" relevant to present-day politics.

As for slavery, what MM emphasizes about it deserves some consideration. It was a relationship of dependence that was not without benefit to the slave. The slaveholder provided the necessities of life for his slaves - food, clothing, shelter, and medical care - from cradle to grave. In return he of course expected them to do useful work. This stood in sharp contrast to the circumstances of free laborers, who had to find their sustenance out of wages paid them by an employer who might peremptorily dismiss them from his service at any time for any reason. The latter conditions might indeed be much more satisfactory to a person with intelligence, ambition, and transferable skills, but not all people possess such qualities.

For today's lumpenproletariat, social welfare programmes operated by government have taken over the position of the slaves' masters. They provide them with housing - not in slave cabins, but in squalid 'projects' - nourishment via food stamps, clothing and other personal needs via a welfare check, and Medicaid. It may be argued that the dependent lumpen population do no useful work in return - but they do from the standpoint of the architects of the welfare state, by voting en masse for the politicians who achieve power, prestige and wealth by running it.

July 23, 2009 at 1:43 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

duh.

Hitler was the peoples' choice.

And the people revolted to get Lenin and then Stalin.

July 23, 2009 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Astroturf revolt, correct?

July 23, 2009 at 2:58 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

JA - what is your opinion of illiberal democracies like those of Venezuela under Chavez, Bolivia under Morales, Argentina under the Péronists, and Honduras (assuming Zelaya is restored)?

These are not old-fashioned one-man-one-vote-once operations - the people who run them are a little more clever. They hold regular elections, paying lip service to the concept that people 'get to choose the leaders, and not just once, but repeatedly' - but the options they can choose are limited, and the possibility that they might make a significant difference, non-existent. Mexico had such a democracy for many years under the PRI, and although it seems to have broken the pattern recently, it's hard to tell whether that is a lasting change or just a momentary deviation from the normal course of affairs.

Madison, in Federalist no. 10, sounds almost like MM when he observes that "a pure democracy... can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction.... such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronised this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalised and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions."

Madison's suggested remedy for this set of problems was, of course, Constitutional government, in which democracy was indirect, undemocratic features were introduced (such as the apportionment of two senators to each state, regardless of its population), the powers of government were limited and divided between executive, legislative and judicial branches, and further divided between local, state, and federal levels.

The trouble with Madison's prescription is that it hasn't turned out the way he thought it would. The separation of powers has been breached by a judiciary that 'makes policy' (to quote Sonia Sotomayor), and a bureaucracy nominally part of the executive branch, but really not answerable to the elected executive, having legislative power (via publication in the Federal Register), executive power to enforce, and judicial power to try violators of its own regulations by its own administrative tribunals. The authority of local and state governments has been systematically diminished and usurped by the federal government, either by direct mandate or the threat to withhold appropriations. And thus the country drifts away from its historic premises and principles - liberty goes out, not with a bang, but with a muffled whimper.

Madison observes of faction, that

"there are again two methods of removing the causes of faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving every citizen the same opinoons, the same passions, and the same interests.

"It could never be more truly said than of the first remedy than it was worse than the disease... The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be wise."

But the second, impracticable alternative is the condition at which, willy-nilly, we have arrived. Madison perceptively noted that "the diversity in the faculties of men" is that "from which the rights of property originate" and that "the protection of these faculties is the first object of government." The increasing illiberality of democracies in Latin America, and the descent of the United States into a smothering judicial/bureaucratic dominance, seems to me to reflect the long-term inability of democracy to maintain the protection of the faculties Madison thought was government's first object. Egalitarianism always trumps liberty and reduces all, whether bright and beautiful or bungled and botched, to the lowest common denominator.

July 23, 2009 at 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Coral said...

Palmer,

That sounds like one of those "no true Scotsman" arguments.

Mencius doesn't resolve the contradiction. He just waves it away by positing that it wasn't really democracy, it's "sclerotic" democracy.

July 23, 2009 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

no, he's not waving it away -- he's saying that our current bureaucratic sham democracy is the fate of all democracies.

July 23, 2009 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Technically speaking Democracy is an internal contradiction and there has never been and cannot ever be a Democracy. Rather, an illusion consisting of the most publicly salient features resembling one half or another of the contradiction are put in place. (Thereafter, continual 'progress and 'reforms,' targeting the elements that contradict the current incarnation provide a path for power struggles behind the scenes.)

So Mencius follows his usual habit of naming things by the names they give themselves. USG calls itself democratic and thus so does MM. When he says that USG is no longer democratic he just means that it's that much less an approximation of the contradiction than it was to begin with, that they've stopped trying to live up to their own idea of Democracy, let alone the actual article. Instead, Democracy is now double-speak for something like a theocracy where the priests all have "Ph.D" after their names, and what used to be called Democracy is now described as partisan infighting. (The sacred book being 'bureaucratic process.')

MM may or may not recognize that Democracy is inherently contradictory, but the traits he ascribes to it are all typical of endeavours that begin at contradiction.

MM goes on to predict that any state attempting to implement Democracy will ultimately implement Brehznev instead, unless they get unlucky and implement massacres.

I'd like to add an example of a reform, supposedly further implementing the ideals of Democracy, that is actually just a power struggle.

Transparency. Certainly, if the citizens are to govern, or even to make an informed decision on a representative, they need to know what their rep is actually doing.

But even infinite transparency won't lead to informed decisions, because the typical person has neither the talent nor expertise to rule. Most do, however, have an excellent capacity to be lead around by the nose, ever thinking their path is their own idea.

Also, they don't have the patience to be fully informed.

Basically, this means various factions can fight to gain control of the 'transparency' initiatives, the winner gaining access to prominent and prestigious spaces to fill with facts that further their agenda, while shouldering out any harmful facts, as of course 'transparency' cannot ever be perfect. State secrets and all that.

July 23, 2009 at 4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He does not explain exactly what makes him call Hitler "swine" (not that I'm disagreeing of course, but I wonder exactly what MM's disagreement is.) Is it just the Jewish thing? Is he too prole-populist?

It is not just Hitler who was the swine but all the other low-class bourgeois types who were the swine. Basically, I suspect that the folks MM calls "Vaisyas" are pretty much all swine as far as he's concerned, and as he's noted the US government is set up to exclude any swinish Vaisya influence on government policy.

That's not exactly a tiny detail -- it's the whole point of democracy. The people get to choose the leaders, and not just once, but repeatedly.

Except they don't. The system is rigged, and "the people" only get to "choose" the candidates whom the elites have preselected for them.

Hitler and Stalin and Mao (and Saddam Hussein and Pinochet etc.) are what you get when the people don't have that option.

Need one mention that the German people democratically elected Hitler?

My view is that we have swine in charge now, and we will have swine in charge for a long time, and there is literally no way to get rid of them "democratically", i.e. via an election. (My definition of swine is rule of, by, and for the people MM calls Brahmins or the Cathedral.)

Democracy is not in fact the problem, as MM alleges, but the solution. The only problem is it's a hard solution to get right.

Can you not see that democracy is destroying this country right before your very eyes?

But just because some democracies fail doesn't mean that democracy itself is a failure.

They all reach the same end-state in time (failure).

There are many wildly successful democracies on Earth RIGHT NOW.

I hope you're not going to suggest that the USA is one of them?

I'll say it again. I'd rather live in present-day America than in any actual non-democracy that's ever lived, even if I could bring modern technology with me. I can't believe most of you wouldn't do the same.

I would absolutely live in any 19th or 18th century European or North American country if I had access to today's technology. Heck, I'd be happy to live in the USA from 1865 to 1914, which I am sure you would describe as a non-democracy.

July 23, 2009 at 6:29 PM  
Anonymous Der Juden said...

one would think that more than a few people in places like the US and Britain would not be afraid to entertain such ideas as being wary of allowing Jews into one's country.

Yawn.

The "Jewish intellectuals destroyed Western civilization" thesis is getting increasingly stale.

For the most part, Jewish intellecutals simply jumped aboard the leftist bandwagon - they did not create it.

Had Freud, and the Frankfurt School, and all the other Jewish boogeymen never existed the modern left would be no less poweful and no less malignant than it is now.

For instance, post-WWII Europe is overwhelmingly gentile run, and Europe is, at least, as leftwing as the US.

You can't blame Jews for modern day Sweden.

July 23, 2009 at 6:42 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Pax Romana,

Every day of the week and twice on Tuesdays.

The US prior to 1929.

The UK from say 1500 through 1900 or so.

The Raj.

Venice at about any point in time.

Switzerland now ('course it is a Democracy).

Anywhere in the Alps prior to 1933 or after 1945.

China before 1800.

Cuba pre-Castro.

July 23, 2009 at 6:47 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

"But why paraphrase? Why not go direct?" But that is not going direct. Internal evidence (the Americanisation of "...the temporary clamors [sic, for clamours] and loud blaring proclamations... did not scrip continue salable [sic, for saleable]...") shows that the passage has been edited. In itself that is a small thing, but I use such markers as indicators that an editor has been at work. He who is faithful in little will also be faithful in much, and unfortunately we have no reason for supposing that the editor has faithfully retained everything material.

TGGP wrote "The 20th century is only considered to be violent because people are idiots with no sense of perspective. It is much less violent than previous centuries and has been steadily getting less so..."

No, it isn't getting more or less anything; it has, in fact, ended.

July 23, 2009 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Fascism and communism do not seem to be byproducts of democracy. The nation with the longest experience with democracy is Switzerland, which has persisted with an idyllic system throughout the modern era (due, in no small part I believe, to its decentralization). MM correctly identifies England as the well-spring for today's world order, but fascist/communist parties have never attained significant presence in the national legislature of any Anglo nation as far as I'm aware. Marx was wrong to think that communism would come to the most advanced capitalist countries, instead it only seems to spring up in rather backward nations where most of the people are peasants. Fascism is characteristic of Catholic nations, not the International Protestant Conspiracy. Nazism is actually more democratic in its origins than Bolshevism. The Nazis at least won a plurality, formed a government and then grabbed extraordinary powers under the rules of the Weimar constitution. Kerensky was overthrown in a coup by a paramilitary he had bolstered in mistaken defense against Kornilov.

MM seems to flip back and forth between believing that it was a good thing the genuine (shudder) democracy of Tammany Hall era America (or perhaps under the Articles of Confederation) was replaced by the Federalists/Mugwumps/Progressives/New Dealers and lamenting what a sham and disaster it was. Personally, I'm with Adam Smith: there is much ruin in a nation.

A political theory is worthless if it depends on not having "swine" in charge but has no means of assuring they stay out. James Madison made his share of errors, but he was correct to say that we cannot depend on men being angels but must structure the system to mitigate man's natural badness.

Jewish Atheist:
is murder *that* much worse than slavery?
Do you even have to ask? Yes, I am sure virtually all slaves would greatly prefer not having their misery ended through murder.

Regarding the question of how bad chattel slavery in the American south was compared to what wages freedmen received afterward, I provided evidence in a previous thread. If like MM you distrust those awful economists and want to hear straight from the anecdotal source, an ex-slave gives his perspective here.

Hitler, Mao, and Stalin all were able to do what they did because they *defeated* (preemptively or not) democracy. [...] In a well-constituted Democracy
If democracy is unstable and tends to revert to dictatorship, that serves as a mark against democracy (though certainly not in defense of dictatorship). I discussed the fate of old democracies above, so I would not say that democracy must always end in dictatorship. I do think that some countries are unprepared for democracy and would be better off sticking with whatever stable system they currently have rather than risking a degeneration into dictatorship.

July 23, 2009 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Totalitarianism is the failure or absence of democracy.
No it isn't. If in a democratic system the people repeatedly vote for totalitarianism, the result is perfectly democratic. It is of course the case that a totalitarian government is not likely to permit its position to be in risk of failing to win election and so will pretty much always subvert democracy.

The only problem is it's a hard solution to get right.
Having your men be angels is a solution, but a hard one to get right.


Michael: compare today's lumpenproletariat in a welfare state to that of ex-slaves in the gilded age, left to the mercies of an uncaring economic/social system. Quite a big difference, which we can't blame on the lack of slavery.


G. M. Palmer:
The New Deal state is quite a bit different from communism I'd say. Both can't be attributed as the inevitable result of democracy. Between the two, FDR is light-years ahead of Stalin.


Alrenous:
Democracy may be a bad idea, but you'll have to explain how it's inherently a contradiction. Do you mean representative democracy as opposed to direct democracy or something?


Anonymous July 23, 2009 6:29 PM:
Pick a name for yourself, even if it means signing your comments "Anonymous #2" or something. With large numbers of commenters and comments, it can be difficult to carry on a conversational thread.

Can you not see that democracy is destroying this country right before your very eyes?
It's had over 200 years to destroy it, I don't foresee anything toppling any time soon.

They all reach the same end-state in time (failure).
You haven't given any time-limit that could falsify your prediction. This Turing machine must halt, I just know it!

I hope you're not going to suggest that the USA is one of them?
Extremely wealthy by the standards of the rest of the world today, and far more so by the standards of previous human history. A desirable place to live that people keep moving to. Yes, I'd say so.

I'd be happy to live in the USA from 1865 to 1914, which I am sure you would describe as a non-democracy.
Perhaps some people might say so, but I'd think it an odd way to classify political systems. Ancient Athens and Switzerland stand out to me as the the prototypical democracies, and even in greatly diluted form I'd have to say that the nature of the U.S was democratic. It certainly doesn't fit any other classification of government any better (if you quibble and say a republic is not a democracy, I'd respond that one can have a democratic republic).


Jewish Atheist:
I'll say it again. I'd rather live in present-day America than in any actual non-democracy that's ever lived, even if I could bring modern technology with me. I can't believe most of you wouldn't do the same.
Liechtenstein & Monaco are monarchies that seem quite pleasant. Singapore and Dubai (even though the latter over-invested in the real estate boom) are other common examples MM uses of good undemocratic states, and ex-pats always seem to report good things there. Democracies on average seem to be nicer places, but let's not make a shibboleth out of the system. A market economy and rule of law seem to do most of the legwork, and democracy itself without constraints can easily undermine them.

July 23, 2009 at 8:04 PM  
Anonymous joe the plumber said...

Der Juden,

"The "Jewish intellectuals destroyed Western civilization" thesis is getting increasingly stale."

We can ignore this question for the moment.

And you can set aside your chauvinism for the moment.

The point of my original comment was that Jews aren't the most desirable people you want to migrate en masse into your country, for myriad reasons. Certainly they aren't the unqualified good that Mencius implies they are.

The US got along fine without 'em.

July 23, 2009 at 8:34 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

TGGP,

I wondered why you had two posts instead of one. I see that Blogger is once again running experiments on their live servers instead of test servers.

Rather than fuck around with character counts, I'm posting my response on my blog. You can respond there, or here, I'll see it regardless. (Or even not at all! It's a 'free' country! Man, I can't even type that without laughing.) You will no doubt hate it - you've made clear your opinions of philosophy before - but since you asked so nicely I couldn't refuse.

The kickpunch:

Democracy devolves into slavery of the minority and chaos of everyone else. That is, immediately, as logical consequence. Also, voting is entirely meaningless and can be cut out. This is not rule by the people. This is not rule at all.

So the truest attempt at rule by the people ends up being a particular kind of anarchy.

July 23, 2009 at 9:32 PM  
Anonymous Devin Finbarr said...

TGGP-

The death rate stats to compare are Europe's from 1815-1871 (the era of the restoration) to 1871-1945 (the age of multi-polar democracy). 1871 is when Germany gained universal suffrage and France established the Third Republic. The Reform Bill passed in England in 1887.

Do you know the stats for these two eras? I don't myself, but I would be shocked if the 1800's turned out to be more violent.

As for homicide rates, look at the rates for these cities:

Baltimore 1911: 5.8
Baltimore 2006: 43.3

Philadelphia 1911: 4.4
Philadelphia 2006: 27.7

New York 1911: 5.9
New York 1990: 30.7
New York 2006: 7.3

Newark 1911: 4.0
Newark 2006: 37.4

Chicago 1911: 9.0
Chicago 2006: 16.4

Washington DC 1911: 7.8
Washington DC 2006: 29.1

England and Wales 1910: 0.81
England and Wales 1997: 1.41

In many of our great cities, murders increased by an order of magnitude. Only in New York, where the finance boom priced out the poor are homicide rates down ( the crime all went to Newark and other ring cities, which is the phenomena I pointed out in my original post).

The great cities of the United States collapsed into burned out, dystopian ruins, which look like something out of the late Roman empire ( see The Ruins of Detroit for a small taste - http://detroityes.com/home.htm - but it is the same story in many other cities).

It is true that recorded homicide rates for the U.S. as a whole are roughly the same in 2006 as in 1910. What happened is that progressives built housing projects in the neighborhoods of our great cities. These housing projects then filled with high crime populations that migrated from the rural south. The black population in America still has the murder rates of medieval Europe. The crime of progressivism is not increasing the statistical homicide rate of the entire country. The crime is that it moved a high crime population into our cities and allowed this population to engage in wanton destruction. Looking at raw crime rates for the country as a whole does not tell the story.


Source for 1911 stats:
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9F07E5D91E3FE...

For 2006 stats:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_cities_by_crime_r...

And stats from England:
http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp99/rp99-111....

July 23, 2009 at 9:51 PM  
Anonymous Devin Finbarr said...

JA-

The interesting part of MM's theories is that he does not require a government of angels. MM's government is not a government of benevolent dictatorship. MM's formalism is a government that acts out of its own enlightened self-interest. MM requires competence, but not benevolence. His argument is that it's better to be ruled by a competent stationary bandit (aka the British East India company) than a progressive democracy.

July 23, 2009 at 9:59 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Devin Finbarr,

Supposedly the decrease in executions and war deaths make up for the increased homicide and massacres.

I personally think this particular data point is representative but irrelevant. For MM's argument, it really doesn't matter if fewer people have died in violence overall, or not.

What we need to compare is 20th century with Democracy and one without. If you find a 20th century sans Democracy, lemme know.

July 24, 2009 at 12:08 AM  
Anonymous togo said...

For instance, post-WWII Europe is overwhelmingly gentile run, and Europe is, at least, as leftwing as the US.

But, as Mencius (and many others) have stated, (non-Soviet) Europe has been part of the American Empire since 1945 and it has no independent political or cultural existence.

July 24, 2009 at 4:30 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

a staple of democracy in all eras. Robert Michels described it well as the Iron Law of Oligarchy, almost a century ago.

A staple of democracy? Or all forms of government? Either the Jacobite restoration or a Steve Jobs-run sovcorp will run into the exact same problem. Regardless of who he is, and what formal process put him in place, the decision maker attracts bodymen, grooms of the stool, mistresses, and spiritual advisors who color the options before the decision is made; requires Sir Humphreys to carry the decision out; and has the everpresent threat of the Gracchus brothers or the Nika riots to consider.

July 24, 2009 at 7:38 AM  
Anonymous Der Juden said...

and it has no independent political or cultural existence.

Moldbug's assertion is correct only in terms of foreign policy, ie, Western Europe can't do anything geopolitically without American permission (domestic European politics is independent of US control.)

But as far as "progressive" intellectuals go, Europe influenced the US at least as much as the US influenced Europe.

Kropotkin, Proudhon, Max Weber, Sartre, Gramsci, and Foucault were not American creations.

July 24, 2009 at 7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Kropotkin, Proudhon, Max Weber, Sartre, Gramsci, and Foucault were not American creations."

Intellectually, yes they were. They were simply distilling the essence of Cathedral ideology and retransmitting it back at us and to the world. As MM says,

It is customary and understandable, though incorrect, among Americans of both political hues to consider the present European political tradition as somehow European. But "European socialism" is simply the export version of American progressivism, as installed in 1945 by the victorious bureaucrats of OWI and State. It is the thinking of Harvard in 1945 - of John Kenneth Galbraith, say. In short: our old friend, public policy.

The same applies to the post-1945 European intellectual tradition.

July 24, 2009 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Michael S:

JA - what is your opinion of illiberal democracies like those of Venezuela under Chavez, Bolivia under Morales, Argentina under the Péronists, and Honduras (assuming Zelaya is restored)?

My opinion is that they are Democracy done badly. Like Madison, I'm not a proponent of "pure" Democracy, but of a Constitutional "Democracy" with checks and balances.

These are not old-fashioned one-man-one-vote-once operations - the people who run them are a little more clever. They hold regular elections, paying lip service to the concept that people 'get to choose the leaders, and not just once, but repeatedly' - but the options they can choose are limited, and the possibility that they might make a significant difference, non-existent.

Then they are faux-democracies, not democracies.

The trouble with Madison's prescription is that it hasn't turned out the way he thought it would. The separation of powers has been breached by a judiciary that 'makes policy' (to quote Sonia Sotomayor)

I see that as a feature, not a bug. The only policies "made" by the Courts have been to increase the peoples' rights by adhering at the very least to the spirit of the Constitution. I'm thinking specifically here of the major civil rights rulings of the 60s and of more recent rulings on gay marriage, but also rulings in favor of defendants who had confessions coerced and unconstitutional searches. I get that one can look at affirmative action as an infringement on white people's rights, but come on. If that's the worst result of our system, we're doing pretty well.

and a bureaucracy nominally part of the executive branch, but really not answerable to the elected executive,

This is complicated, because obviously the President gets to nominate these people's bosses, but he is constrained in firing or hiring civil servants based on their political views. I think that's a reasonable tradeoff that has worked pretty well so far. I think it would be much worse if every Republican replaced the whole Judicial branch with the students and faculty of Liberty University.

The authority of local and state governments has been systematically diminished and usurped by the federal government, either by direct mandate or the threat to withhold appropriations.

Yeah, this one could be an issue. However, I think it's overstated by those who think the Bill of Rights doesn't apply to states.

July 24, 2009 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

And thus the country drifts away from its historic premises and principles - liberty goes out, not with a bang, but with a muffled whimper.

Au contraire. Liberty has steadily increased since the start of this nation. First it was just white male landowners, then whites, then women, then blacks... and now even gay people are getting the rights to be married and to not be discriminated against! This is of course not popular with the groups already having liberty, but it's a clear expansion nonetheless. The only serious infringement have been growing taxation, which is explicitly allowed in an Amendment, and various Prohibitions, which seem to me to be unconstitutional... although I'm sure the right would bleat about "judicial activism" if any judge dared to rule that way.

Madison perceptively noted that "the diversity in the faculties of men" is that "from which the rights of property originate" and that "the protection of these faculties is the first object of government."

Surely you can't be supporting the idea that people should need to earn their own property rather than inheriting it?! Class mobility, despite the rhetoric, is pretty damn low in America, and that is not all attributed to genetic factors.

Egalitarianism always trumps liberty and reduces all, whether bright and beautiful or bungled and botched, to the lowest common denominator.

BS. This isn't Harrison Bergenon. Yes, some people are given a hand up over marginally more qualified other people in order to (correctly or incorrectly) right some wrongs that have been made, but the degree of your overstatement is ridiculous.

July 24, 2009 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Anonymous:

It is not just Hitler who was the swine but all the other low-class bourgeois types who were the swine. Basically, I suspect that the folks MM calls "Vaisyas" are pretty much all swine as far as he's concerned, and as he's noted the US government is set up to exclude any swinish Vaisya influence on government policy.

That's my guess as well, although I think we have plenty of "Vaisya" influence in our government. The corporatist, pro-rich Republicans are totally dependent on them. And freakin' Sarah Palin was almost a sick, aging hearbeat away from being president.

Except they don't. The system is rigged, and "the people" only get to "choose" the candidates whom the elites have preselected for them.

Unless you're talking about the electoral college, in which case you have a point in theory but not really in practice, this is flatly untrue. Voters may vote for literally anybody they choose. It's true that the elites of the two parties have an incredible amount of influence, but it is in the end just influence. They cannot veto anybody. If 60% of the electorate voted for Andy Rooney, Andy Rooney would be president.

Need one mention that the German people democratically elected Hitler?

Yeah, Hitler was a little different in that most of his evils were directed outwards at other countries, so his voters could have still supported him. Even with Hitler, though, it was one vote one time.

My view is that we have swine in charge now, and we will have swine in charge for a long time, and there is literally no way to get rid of them "democratically", i.e. via an election. (My definition of swine is rule of, by, and for the people MM calls Brahmins or the Cathedral.)

The people MM calls Brahmins seem to be the set of all very smart and educated people. Obviously, such people will always have a natural advantage, but it's clearly possible to get rid of them democratically.

Say McCain/Palin won and McCain dies. President Palin picks Joe the Plumber as VP. She stacks the court with Pat Buchannan, Tom Tancredo, Steve Sailer, and Lou Dobbs. (What, there's no limit on 9 judges.)

Would it take that long until the Brahmins are gone from power?

And that's without even resorting to options like arresting Brahmins as "terrorists" and holding them indefinitely without trial.

Can you not see that democracy is destroying this country right before your very eyes?

No, I see the country getting better and better. I really do.

They all reach the same end-state in time (failure).

In the long run, we're all dead.

I would absolutely live in any 19th or 18th century European or North American country if I had access to today's technology. Heck, I'd be happy to live in the USA from 1865 to 1914, which I am sure you would describe as a non-democracy.

Oh, you're assuming you're a rich white guy? No, you're a poor black guy in 1866. A gay one. How do you like it now?

July 24, 2009 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

TGGP:

Do you even have to ask? Yes, I am sure virtually all slaves would greatly prefer not having their misery ended through murder.

Duh. My point is that if we're taking morality out of the equation -- which it seems to me we are, if we're allowing slavery -- I don't see what's fundamentally out-of-bounds about slaughtering a people alleged to be causing problems?

Regarding the question of how bad chattel slavery in the American south was compared to what wages freedmen received afterward, I provided evidence in a previous thread. If like MM you distrust those awful economists and want to hear straight from the anecdotal source, an ex-slave gives his perspective here.

I don't argue against slavery from an economic perspective. I'm arguing against it from a liberty perspective.

How is it that so many people here can *simultaneously* argue that the problem with democracy is the inevitable encroachment on liberty and that slavery is okay because slaves are cared for??

If democracy is unstable and tends to revert to dictatorship, that serves as a mark against democracy

That would serve as a mark against it. However, it doesn't "tend" to revert to dictatorship. There are many enormous democracies existing right now showing zero tendency towards dictatorship.

I do think that some countries are unprepared for democracy and would be better off sticking with whatever stable system they currently have rather than risking a degeneration into dictatorship.

I probably agree with that.

No it isn't. If in a democratic system the people repeatedly vote for totalitarianism, the result is perfectly democratic.

Not true. The cause is democratic, the result non-democratic.

Having your men be angels is a solution, but a hard one to get right.

Sigh. No, that's the whole point. In a well-constituted democracy with a Constitution and good checks and balances, we don't need angels. In MM's system, you just need to hope your government doesn't fall into the hands of the swine.

July 24, 2009 at 8:42 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Devin Finbarr:

The interesting part of MM's theories is that he does not require a government of angels. MM's government is not a government of benevolent dictatorship. MM's formalism is a government that acts out of its own enlightened self-interest. MM requires competence, but not benevolence. His argument is that it's better to be ruled by a competent stationary bandit (aka the British East India company) than a progressive democracy.

I don't see how "enlightened self-interest" is any more likely than "angels," especially if you're going to require competence as well. People are animals, not rational machines.

You might get one ruler who's in it just for the money while at the same time incomprehensibly future-oriented so that he doesn't just steal all of the citizens' money. But what about the next ruler and the one after that? Not one of them is going to decide that killing the Jews or starting a war with Russia is more fun than increasing profits? Not one is going to decide that Jesus/Allah/YHWH told him that his mission is to convert everyone or save the poor or kill the rich?

I realize that MM has some sort of check and balance in the form of "shareholders" but it's not clear to me how that could stop a motivated leader or group of leaders without becoming a full-out Constitutional democracy again.

July 24, 2009 at 8:47 AM  
Anonymous togo said...

Allow me to repost what follows from the last thread.

The late Marxist and editor of Telos Paul Piccone(in a discussion of Carl Schmitt) on the on the transformation of American democracy into the managerial state ("sclerotic democracy"):
http://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/piccone_ulmen.htm
(...)
Although defined by the Cold War, the postwar years were also characterized by an American administration attempting to fine-tune the New Deal--a collectivist project of socio-economic reconstruction that had been strengthened considerably by war mobilization, but remained unable to legitimate itself fully on the basis of those deep-rooted Protestant values of decentralized governance and local self-determination embedded in the US Constitution. Consequently, with the gradual shift from isolationism to imperialism and from classical to managerial liberalism, which had begun toward the end of the 19th century, but had stalled temporarily in the 1920s (in reaction to WWI), American historiography broke with its traditional exceptionalism. What took its place was a slight variation of the unilinear theory of history espoused by its managerial-liberal and, even more, its former communist opponents. The "pursuit of happiness," previously left to the discretion of particular communities, was redefined in terms of full and equal participation in a well-administered, professionalized society (a euphemism for socialism and social homogenization), projected as the inevitable outcome of all historical developments. As with all secularized versions of the Christian theory of history, deviations from such a path came to be seen as pathologies or breaks, rather than as legitimate alternatives.
(...)
The objective of this inflation of Schmitt's ideas as the possible juridical justification for an ever-present fascist/Nazi threat is to provide increasingly conformist Left academics with the kind of legitimation and content their "emancipatory" socialist ideology needs after bureaucratic centralism became discredited with the collapse of the USSR. Thus, anti-fascism has become the eschatological core of an otherwise vacuous Left ideology now reconfigured as the legitimating arm of the managerial state. (38) No longer able to present themselves as the vanguard of progressive forces paving the way for a bright socialist future, they have now regrouped as part of an academic rear-guard entrusted with protecting "civil society" and liberal values against the market and other forces of darkness--a kind of quixotic kathekon seeking to prevent a recurrence of the fascist experience in a context where there has never been any such threat.
(...)
Universalized out of their cultural and historical context, these traditional liberal values are no longer seen as the particular achievement of a particular people. Rather, they are viewed as absolute norms and inviolable principles derived from the kind of rationality accessible only by New Class intellectuals, experts and professionals, whose objectification in "the role of law" can override any allegedly "fascist" choice, no matter how much democratic legitimacy they may have. As in the theological critique of idolatry, the idol displaces the spirit, and precipitates the kind of reification identified so forcefully by Western Marxists and other critics as the fundamental problem of modern society. Along with any fundamentalism that refuses to regard itself as binding only for those willingly adhering to its norms, a "role of law" deduced from allegedly apodictic rational principles chokes democratic prerogatives and, because of its inescapable in determinacy, paves the way for arbitrary interpretations, instrumentalizations, and the worst possible excesses. (...)

July 24, 2009 at 8:58 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Egalitarianism always trumps liberty and reduces all, whether bright and beautiful or bungled and botched, to the lowest common denominator.

BS. This isn't Harrison Bergenon. Yes, some people are given a hand up over marginally more qualified other people in order to (correctly or incorrectly) right some wrongs that have been made, but the degree of your overstatement is ridiculous.


Spend some time in the public school system.

Also, you all seem to be obsessed with gay rights --

Um, how prosecuted were queers in 19th century America?

It's arguable that good ol' Buck liked boys -- it was certainly talked about 'back in the day' -- but he was all elected president and shit.

Leave your identity politics at the door

oh wait

you can't

as your handle is all full of identity marxism.

July 24, 2009 at 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

TGGP - you invite me to compare today's lumpenproletariat to ex-slaves in the Gilded Age - well, I would have done, except for the limits on the length of these comments.

When asked what would become of the slaves he freed, Abraham Lincoln famously remarked that they would have to "root, hog, or die." That was indeed their condition in the immediate aftermath of emancipation. Faulkner, in "The Unvanquished," portrays the aimless negroes wandering through the countryside. Then the carpetbaggers arrived and organized them into a sort of auxiliary to the occupying military; and when, in 1877, the Reconstruction ended, they were left to the mercies of resentful local whites. I have often thought that the character of race relations in the U.S. owes more to what happened during Reconstruction than it does to the blacks' previous condition of slavery.

What happened with the advent of the social welfare state to the lumpenprole element of the black population, along with other parts of the lumpenproletariat, is a sort of reversion to the dependency that slaves had on their masters. Of course there are no chains to restrain them from wandering off the welfare plantation - they aren't needed. There is a profound economic disincentive - for taking any sort of gainful employment not only subjects one who does it to taxation (at the very least, Social Security withholding) from the first dollar of income, but brings about the loss of welfare benefits. The sacrifice needed to take the first steps toward independence is too great for many to attempt. These people are dependent, after all, mainly because it is the path of least resistance.

I suspect it is hard for the upper-middle class folk who, with every good intention, support the social welfare system, to imagine why anyone should wish to live the sort of life that lumpenproletarians do. Their psychology is just too remote from the life's experience of most bien-pensant parlour pinks. Yet it is, I think, somewhat akin to that of the convict who makes an escape attempt a few weeks before he is due to be released from a term of many years in prison - in the full awareness that he'll be caught, and additional time added to his sentence. The uncertainty of freedom is less desirable to him than the dependable routine of incarceration, which at least offers the comfort - miminal though it may be - of a guaranteed subsistence.

July 24, 2009 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger AMcGuinn said...

Democracy can be either naive, in which the electorate can vote for what it wants and get it, or mature, in which the electorate only exerts slow influence on a multi-centred bureaucracy. The naive is unstable, and in the best case mutates into the mature democracy.

MM opposes both naive and mature democracy, though mature democracy (such as we live in) is by far the better of the two.

Jewish Atheist condemns the naive democracy as "weak, fledgling" and easily overthrown by the likes of Hitler. He condemns mature, stable democracy as "faux-democracies, not democracies". He supports "Constitutional 'Democracy' with checks and balances" which is possibly a perfect medium between the two, or possibly a mirage.

On my blog I have called the two forms "Young" and "Old" democracy

July 24, 2009 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Then the carpetbaggers arrived and organized them into a sort of auxiliary to the occupying military; and when, in 1877, the Reconstruction ended, they were left to the mercies of resentful local whites. I have often thought that the character of race relations in the U.S. owes more to what happened during Reconstruction than it does to the blacks' previous condition of slavery.

There you go.

July 24, 2009 at 4:13 PM  
Anonymous Devin Finbarr said...

I don't see how "enlightened self-interest" is any more likely than "angels," especially if you're going to require competence as well. People are animals, not rational machines.

The average Fortune 500 CEO counts to me as someone who acts of enlightened self-interest. All the executives and business owners I have met qualify as acting out of enlightened self-interest. They are not perfect, they make boneheaded moves sometimes, but overall they are competent and think about the long term health of the business. The average CEO matches MM's criteria - not swine, not an angel, but just a competent executive.

But what about the next ruler and the one after that? Not one of them is going to decide that killing the Jews or starting a war with Russia is more fun than increasing profits? Not one is going to decide that Jesus/Allah/YHWH told him that his mission is to convert everyone or save the poor or kill the rich?

Imagine the actual executives that you met over the course of your life. Imagine them as formalist CEO's of the San Francisco Bay Region. Can you imagine any of them deciding to kill the Jews or converting everyone in the city? Can you imagine any Fortune 500 CEO doing that? I cannot. Clearly, companies have figured out a way to promote non-crazy, relatively competent people to power. Maybe we should copy their management structure.

I realize that MM has some sort of check and balance in the form of "shareholders" but it's not clear to me how that could stop a motivated leader or group of leaders without becoming a full-out Constitutional democracy again.

It's clear to me that no corporate board in America would appoint a Hitler-like figure as CEO of a neocamerelist state. Corporate boards do not appoint crazy people. Your fear is a non-issue. Despite all the clamor about "shareholder activism" all corporate boards appoint CEO's who will increase the share price of the company. They do not appoint CEO's who will turn the company into some weird cult.

The greater challenge is that corporate boards in America only exist in the context of American law and the American court system. For neocamerlism to work, support of the corporate board and the corporate charter would have to be a stable Schelling point for the military. There would have to be an institution outside the corporate structure - perhaps a jury selected by lottery, perhaps an independent judiciary - that judges cases involving the corporate charter. That judicial institution and the overall charter would have to be backed by the military. The feasibility of a corporate charter as a military Schelling point is harder to judge because it has almost never been tried. But I don't think the idea is totally outlandish.

July 24, 2009 at 5:15 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

JA writes: "Surely you can't be supporting the idea that people should need to earn their own property rather than inheriting it?"

The underlying assumption of such an idea is that the individual is the fundamental unit of civil society or of that society's economy. This is false - the basic building block of societies and economies is the family. The ability to participate successfully in a stable familiy is predictive of economic success. It is part of the diversity of faculties of men from which the rights of property originate, and it is as deserving of reward as any other such faculty.

As for class mobility, I'd like to know where you get the idea that it is particularly low in the United States as compared to any other time or place. A Wall Street Journal reporter named Robert Frank wrote an interesting book about the sociology of wealth in the United States entitled "Richistan" (2007). He divides the wealthy into four groups: those with assets from $1-10 million, the lower rich or merely affluent; from $10 - 100 million, the middle rich; from $100 million - 1 billion, the upper rich; and billionaires. He observes that among these groups the number who derive their fortunes by inheritance drops off markedly at the low end of the middle rich group. 90% of the new rich come from middle or lower class backgrounds, and everything about their behavior is markedly different from the stereotypes of "old money." Bill Gates, who was at least at one point the world's richest man, is an example. Today's American upper class is much more porous than, say, that of most nineteenth-century European countries (in which a person's class could be identified merely by reading his name), and there is much more likelihood of mobility into it from below.

To descend from such rarefied levels, it's interesting to note how the descendants of poor immigrants from places like southeast Asia, who came to this country with little or nothing, but who had strong family structures, on average have achieved in the span of a few decades a comfortable middle-class status at the very least. By contrast we may compare the native-born American black population, which is marked by a lack of familial stability, a 70+% rate of illegitimate birth, and which has quite predictably not had nearly the success in lifting itself out of poverty as have Asians. Asians are an especially useful group to compare on this basis because, like blacks, they are also a racial minority, and have faced racial discrimination, some of it quite brutal, in American society - so the economic differences between blacks and Asians cannot be explained away by racism.

The 'claptrap of the bourgeois family' was of course objected to by Marx, and the family was quite clearly seen by Marxists as an institution giving rise to inequality. This is why so much effort on the part of the left has been devoted to subverting it. They wish to atomize civil society so that no mediating institution stands between the individual and the state, the better to bring about perfect equality. I, on the other hand, believe stable and successful families add to the happiness and prosperity not only of their members but of society as a whole. They should be supported and celebrated.

July 24, 2009 at 5:21 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Alrenous:
I'll check out your post later. For now I'll say that one may consider slavery and oppression to be undesirable, but that's not the same thing as contradictory.

If this is anarchy, why can I still get arrested, convicted and imprisoned? If there is no government, what's with those taxes taken out of my paycheck?


Devin Finbarr:
MM seems to regard the Orange Revolution as abolishing genuine monarchy for Whiggery in England, so you'll have to go further back than 1815 there. Unfortunately for his theory, as Nick Szabo has pointed out interest rates greatly went down with William's ascension, because the government was more trustworthy and forward-looking.

You seem to have handpicked your list of cities to serve as examples. I would prefer considering the nation overall, which prevent displacement from NY to Newark being a problem.

The great cities of the United States collapsed into burned out, dystopian ruins
Detroit seems to be in a class all its own. Among the "great cities of the United States" you'd have to include the most populous. New York is certainly not a ruin, nor is Chicago or L.A. Nobody has ever considered Newark to be among the "great cities of the United States". I realize that by virtue of its decline Detroit is not as populous as it once was. This page ranks the most populous U.S cities at various decades throughout the 20th century. I'd also add that much of the decline of the rustbelt is due to economic changes rather than poor governance.

Looking at raw crime rates for the country as a whole does not tell the story.
Why not? What is the reason to care in which cities crime takes place? I think that the Great Migration north into cities did increase the overall crime rate, but that's shown in those raw rates you think insufficient.

Speaking of India, Amartya Sen makes much of his claim that starvation has never occurred in a democracy (though he distinguishes that from merely "hunger"). Does anyone know much about this? I would also like to hear MM write about modern India, since it was the largest British colony and seems to be among the more successful examples of decolonization (though marred by the massacres of the partition).


Alrenous:
Irrelevant? Do you think MM would dismiss a rise in crime over a century? We know for certain he would not, because he made so much of that chart for England in the comments at GNXP. Perhaps "not determinative" would be a better phrase.

What we need to compare is 20th century with Democracy and one without. If you find a 20th century sans Democracy, lemme know.
MM is trying to overturn conventional wisdom, so the burden of proof would be on him. He does not have a 20th century without democracy to prove his point either.


togo
But, as Mencius (and many others) have stated, (non-Soviet) Europe has been part of the American Empire since 1945 and it has no independent political or cultural existence.
His reasoning has never made sense. I'd recommend reading some of Ed Glaeser's stuff (even though his POV is about what used to be called neoconservatism), who looks into many of the same questions but relies less on proof by assertion. For example, in Why Doesn't the U.S. Have a European-Style Welfare State? he notes that the U.S has had smaller government than Europe even going back to the 19th century, so the difference was not caused by the world wars. Furthermore, one of the most extreme examples of liberal Europe is Sweden, which was never occupied by either side in WW2. MM gave an ad-hoc explanation based on protestant churches, but to me Occam's Razor suggests that a different explanation should be sought than his U.S-conquered-Europe theory.

July 24, 2009 at 7:23 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Der Juden:
Quite right. Daniel Flynn's Conservative History of the American Left distinguishes between what he calls the "freedom left" and "force left". The latter tended to be of European (especially German) origin. You could see the division with Benjamin Tucker vs Jost, for instance.

Anonymous July 24, 2009 8:03 AM:
First, pick a handle. Secondly note that a number of Der Juden's names preceded 1945. You can't use 1945 to explain what happened before 1945, nor has anyone established that the U.S is the source of Cathedral ideology, rather than, I don't know, Jesus.


Jewish Atheist:
My opinion is that they are Democracy done badly
Hitler is Nazism done badly. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung, Fidel Castro and co are communism done badly.

Like Madison, I'm not a proponent of "pure" Democracy, but of a Constitutional "Democracy" with checks and balances.
In Madison's time "democracy" was often considered a somewhat bad word one wanted to avoid. I think the "constitutional" part might be doing most of the work there, rather than the democracy.

The only policies "made" by the Courts have been to increase the peoples' rights
A communist could claim that he was increasing real People's Rights rather than the sham rights of bourgeois regimes.

adhering at the very least to the spirit of the Constitution
I don't think even human beings have spirits, but ascribing that to a body of law is even more ridiculous. Judges are ignoring the actual text and its original public mean (or "Fregean sense-meaning") to get their preferred outcomes, which undermines the rule of law.

You may recall that the ultimate power of the purse was supposed to be reserved to the legislature. But courts have gone so far as to mandate tax increases in order to revamp the school system. When California tried to deny benefits to people who moved there from other states or to illegal immigrants, it was ruled unconstitutional.

those who think the Bill of Rights doesn't apply to states.
Don't those idiots know that "Congress shall make no law" doesn't actually refer to Congress? What maroons!

First it was just white male landowners, then whites, then women, then blacks
Are you referring to the expansion of suffrage? That's "liberty"?

now even gay people are getting the rights to be married
Nobody is stopping them from putting on matching white dresses and having one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence preside over a ceremony. What they're getting is state mandated benefits.

and to not be discriminated against!
An infringement on the liberty of others! How about I go rape a woman and tell her she shouldn't discriminate between me and her husband.

Speaking of class mobility, Tim Worstall noted some international comparisons here.

She stacks the court with Pat Buchannan, Tom Tancredo, Steve Sailer
You give her far too much credit!

July 24, 2009 at 7:24 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Duh. My point is that if we're taking morality out of the equation -- which it seems to me we are, if we're allowing slavery -- I don't see what's fundamentally out-of-bounds about slaughtering a people alleged to be causing problems?
By using the phrase "worse" you are introducing a normative element. I assumed the standard to be judged by is the subjective preference of prospective murder victim or slave.

I apologize for not being clear. A number of people were discussing the slavery issue, and when I introduced some evidence it was not specifically to argue against you. As said evidence shows, MM is wrong about slavery being no worse than the lot of a freedman. However, he has a point when he notes how surprised modern readers are of Slave Narratives at how the actual victims of slavery don't regard it with the same horror as we are taught to.

Not true. The cause is democratic, the result non-democratic.
Democracy is procedural, not a matter of results. Assume free and fair elections continue unabated. What policy voters choose could be "undemocratic"?


togo:
Speaking of Telos, they had an article not too long ago about leftist disdain for the boobiosie that I thought paralleled some of MM's aesthetic arguments against the modern U.S. My co-blogger has another post riffing off Telos and leftist paranoia about fascism.

Reason has been profiling some of the New Deal model communities recently.


Michael S:
I suspect it is hard for the upper-middle class folk who, with every good intention, support the social welfare system, to imagine why anyone should wish to live the sort of life that lumpenproletarians do.
That's a good point that illustrates the economist's command to think at the margin rather than holding ones' self up as representative of all society. Bryan Caplan deviates from the economist assumption of rationality to explain why people take advantage of such policies even though it makes them worse off.


AMcGuinn:
He condemns mature, stable democracy as "faux-democracies, not democracies".
It seemed like he was referring to populist-authoritarian rather than liberal/progressive-bureaucratic regimes as "faux-democracies".


Devin Finbarr:
We have an example of someone who ruled one country as a highly constrained constitutional monarch and another as his personal fiefdom from which he extracted maximum wealth. That person is King Leopold, and massive numbers of Congolese died under his rule, while Belgium fared quite well. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (who has a number of talks I highly recommend listening to) discusses his behavior and that of other rulers with differing incentives, here.


Michael S:
This is false - the basic building block of societies and economies is the family.
No, there are plenty of monastic communities that did just fine without families. Peter Leeson just released a book on pirate societies and the explicit social contracts they devised, which were certainly not based on family either. Individuals can and do form functioning societies. I agree that the state seeks to undermine the family though.

July 24, 2009 at 7:24 PM  
Anonymous Devin Finbarr said...

TGGP-

You seem to have handpicked your list of cities to serve as examples.

Look at the Times article from 1921. It lists the crime rates for the most notable cities at the time. There is no post facto selection effect. Then compare the crimes rates to the current crime rate. In about 1/4 of the cities the homicide rate is 5X-10X higher. In roughly half the cities the homicide rate is 2-5X higher. And in about a quarter of the cities the crime rate is about the same.

The destruction of our cities was not a few isolated incidients. It was very widespread. Some were completely destroyed, like Detroit. Others were only partly destroyed (like Chicago).

What is the reason to care in which cities crime takes place?

Imagine at time A there is an isolated rural population with very high crime rates. There is also a highly advanced city with very low crime rates. Now imagine the high crime population is teleported into the middle of the city. The crime now exists in a much more populated area, meaning a far greater number of people must fear violence. The city residents then flee to suburbs to escape the violence. At the end state, you now have a burned out city with an isolated high crime population, and a low crime suburban population.

In this scenario, the overall crime rates may not have changed. But there is tremendous net decrease in utility. Many families and individuals were forced to flee the city in which they grew up. Community and social bonds were destroyed. Great buildings and architecture was left to rot and decay. This is all a tremendous loss.

I'd also add that much of the decline of the rustbelt is due to economic changes rather than poor governance.

This is the myth. I don't buy it at all.

First, notice that neither population nor economic activity in the metro region declined. Detroit metro-region was still growing in population even as the central city fell apart declined.

Second, notice that even a decayed city like Detroit still has a net influx of commuters working day jobs. If people left for economic reasons, you would expect the opposite. Jobs would have left first, and the people would have followed in order to move closer to their jobs.

If central cities decayed because people preferred living in suburbs, then you would expect it show up as home prices differentials. Prices of central city would have gradually fallen as people's preferences for suburban real estate revealed itself through higher demand. Instead we see that low violence areas of city's have higher real estate prices than the suburbs, while high violence areas often have homes that cannot be sold at any price.

Finally, and most importantly, we have lots of first hand accounts giving quotes about why people left the city for the suburbs. The key factors is violence, not economics. The story of Steve Sailer's wife is typical: http://vdare.com/sailer/080203_chicago.htm You can find many more quotes and stories like it in a book like "Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn Against Liberalism".

July 24, 2009 at 8:52 PM  
Anonymous togo said...

I'd also add that much of the decline of the rustbelt is due to economic changes rather than poor governance.

Pittsburgh(the rustbelt's anti-Detroit and today the US's whitest major city) recovered quite nicely after the demise of its steel industry:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pittsburgh
(...)
While the city is historically known for its steel industry, today it is largely based on healthcare, education, technology, robotics, and financial services. The city has made great strides in redeveloping abandoned industrial sites with new housing, shopping and offices, such as the SouthSide Works. While Pittsburgh faced economic troubles in the mid 1970s as the steel industry waned, modern Pittsburgh is economically strong. The housing market is relatively stable despite a national subprime mortgage crisis, and Pittsburgh added jobs in 2008 even as the national economy entered a significant jobs recession.[10] This positive economic news is in contrast to the late 1970s, when Pittsburgh lost its manufacturing base as those jobs moved offshore.

In 2007, Forbes magazine named Pittsburgh the 10th cleanest city,[11] and in 2008 Forbes listed Pittsburgh as the 13th best city for young professionals to live.[12] The city is consistently ranked high in livability surveys. In 2007, Pittsburgh was named "America's Most Livable City" by Places Rated Almanac.[13] Furthermore, in 2009, Pittsburgh was named most livable city in the United States and 29th-most-livable city worldwide by The Economist.[14]
(...)

July 25, 2009 at 7:58 AM  
Anonymous Billare said...

The Left is the faction of the professors, the scientists and the scholars, the cognitive elite. It is the faction of the true ultra-rich, the old money, the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts and Fords, and their trustafarian hipster junkie grandchildren. It is the faction of the journalists and the bureaucrats, the activists and astroturfers - the wielders of power. And, of course, it is the faction of movie stars and other celebrities, who for all their flaws have climbed a long greasy pole. The closer you get to the top in a democratic society, the more pervasive socialism becomes.

Jesus wept.

July 25, 2009 at 3:03 PM  
Anonymous Dominion said...

It is the faction of the true ultra-rich, the old money, the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts and Fords, and their trustafarian hipster junkie grandchildren.

Mencius qualifies this, right?

Since his goal is to depart from the actual content of political beliefs labeled "Left" or "Right" throughout history and I suppose uncover the logical form of Left and Right that remains constant throughout history, would Mencius argue that the old money rich are "Left" only insofar as they are rich in a democratic society, or became rich by struggling to climb up the long greasy pole?

Because the old money rich have tended to be right rather than left throughout most of history.

July 25, 2009 at 3:39 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

TGGP - your mention of monastic communities as examples of prosperous non-family economies is an interesting one, because monastic life is about the only circumstance under which communism (with a small 'c') ever succeeded.

Of course the monastery is a sort of mock-family, in which 'brothers' or 'sisters' live respectively under the rule of an 'abbot' (derived from abbas, i.e., father) or a 'mother superior.'

Marx's failure was to suppose that large societies could succeed in holding their assets in common like monastic communities, solely on a materialistic basis. The collapse of Communist economies, and the continuing survival of monastic communities, illustrates both the limited feasible scale and the need for a common devotion to something other than the purely material that are conditions for such an experiment to succeed.

It is interesting in this connection that many fervid Communists had an almost religious zeal and idealism - a religion, as it were, without a deity - but this never spread to the mass of people who were ruled under Communism. It is hard, after all, to act as if there is a brotherhood of man without believing in the fatherhood of God.

As for pirates, there is a great deal of romance and fable about them. It is probably sufficient to note that none of their communities in the Caribbean lasted very long, and none are extant today. Similarly, pirate communities in Somalia will last only as long as the vacuum of governmental power there does. Such social organization is unstable, and, as Dr. Johnson said of dancing dogs and female preachers, it is not done well - the wonder is that it is done at all. I suppose there is some human instinct to bring order out of chaos - as Voegelin observed, the order of history is the history of order. Yet some types of order succeed better than others, and certainly the patriarchal or matriarchal families represent both the most common and the most successful of the lot.

July 26, 2009 at 3:53 PM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

I think it's probably true that fascists and socialists largely do buy into something like Carlyle's "ship" metaphor. But I think the metaphor is a total crock, that the very important differences between a society and a ship imply different organizational structures would be efficient.

First and foremost, a ship on a voyage is serving a specific external purpose, agreed upon in advance by captain and crew, in a sense that a society just isn't. Sailors have put up with a lot of crap because they knew they would be hanged upon reaching heir destination if they mutinied, and paid if they didn't. For a society, there is no "Cape Horn" to get around, no destination to be reached.

Second, size tends to work in favor of spontaneous organization and against top-down planning. In Carlyle's day, perhaps a Captain could know all his crew and have a pretty fair idea what each of them was doing. But in even a small town this would not be possible.

BTW, I sometimes listen to free audio books from librivox in my car, and some Carlyle is available, although currently not the ones Mencius recommends. I listened to his Early Kings of Norway, didn't much care for it myself, but perhaps some other readers might enjoy it.

July 26, 2009 at 4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mencius Moldbug's views on this are colored by the inveterate, congenital attraction of Jews to the big city, their natural habitat or niche if you will.

Oh those pesky rootless cosmopolites...

July 27, 2009 at 6:11 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Michael;

Monastic communities are families, though it is spiritual (not ersatz) which means that the same affections that ought be shared by siblings and parents ought to be shared by monks and nuns despite there being no biological connection. And of course, in many societies there has been the practice of calling those not directly related 'brother' or 'sister', 'mother' or 'father' because of their close relationship with someone, or because of parental connection. For instance, 'James, Brother of God' - does not mean that he was Jesus' brother, or even half-brother.

That being said, I agree largely with your comment. I would also like to note that the idea of the 'ship' seems to be an echo of the Church calling itself (herself) the 'Ark of Salvation' echoing the story of Noah's Ark as told by Moses. The church has a clear destination (to bring its members to the heavenly kingdom) while the state does not. Basically, it seems that statism in general errs in a rough equation of church and state, which then results in a pathology of 'separation of church and state' - which is a lot like 'the people's republic of north Korea' is to republican systems proper.

July 27, 2009 at 10:40 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

River Cocytus, I did not mean by 'mock-family' to indicate that monastic communities are in any sense 'ersatz' or false in their inspiration - all I meant to say is that they are made up of people not biologically related who nevertheless live as a sort of family.

The spiritual family of a group of religious believers living in common appears to have some incompatibility with the biological family. Thus the most enduring religious bodies that hold their assets in common are celibate, e.g., monks and nuns of the Roman Catholic and Buddhist faiths.

Protestant Christian groups that have attempted to combine biological families with the common life have not historically succeeded. As an example we may consider the people of the Amana communities in Iowa, which once lived under a sort of religious communism, but had to give it up - just as did the Mayflower Pilgrims in their settlement at Plymouth. The only enduring Protestant sect I know of that persists in religious communal life is that of the Hutterites - and they are careful to limit the numbers of any colony to a manageable level, hiving off excess populations into separate 'daughter' colonies that are small enough to live successfully en famille.

I should say that under secular statism, the state attempts to supplant the church (as it does all other institutions of civil society). Liberty, broadly speaking, is sustainable only when there is a separation between civil society and the state. Albert Jay Nock observed that "the practical reason for freedom is that freedom seems to be the only condition under which any kind of substantial moral fiber can be developed - we have tried law, compulsion, and authoritarianism of various kinds, and the result is nothing to be proud of."

The protagonist of Walker Percy's novel "Love in the Ruins" is a psychiatrist, Dr. Tom More, who has invented a device called a "lapsometer," intended to diagnose and treat maladies of the soul. The plot of the book revolves around his effort to keep the device out of the hands of a government research institute headed by a Dr. Immelmann (his name symbolic of inversion and sudden descent) that sees its potential for encouraging the type of behavior it was intended to remedy. This is a not-very-exaggerated satiric depiction of what, for at least the past fifty years, 'progressive' forces have sought to do in our society.

Thus, for example, the aggressive promotion of contraception and abortion has paradoxically led to the circumstance that 36% of 2008 births were illegitimate - whereas before Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade, bastardy was much rarer. By encouraging a climate of moral inversion and undermining the non-governmental sources of what Nock called 'social power,' such progressives have deliberately created an emptiness into which state power has been able to expand. Every little bastard growing up in the welfare slums has an overwhelming likelihood of becoming a dependent of the state and a voter for its architects. As John F, Kennedy said, "Things do not happen. Things are made to happen."

July 27, 2009 at 12:57 PM  
Anonymous Agbyti said...

The hard to find online Burnham classic "The Machiavellians" is available as a pdf here: http://committeeofpublicsafety.wordpress.com/2009/06/05/the-machiavellians/

Mencius has written about this work before, and I had been looking for it everywhere, so I was glad to finally find it.

Enjoy.

July 27, 2009 at 1:52 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Dear Michael,

An interesting case is that of 'Mt. Athos'. Seeing as you listed 'Roman Catholic and Buddhist' as those who have monks, I thought I might mention it.

It is - to put it bluntly - a monastic state.

July 27, 2009 at 4:02 PM  
Anonymous Rollory said...

Some texts that might interest Mr. Moldbug:

http://tinyurl.com/lcbz7x

http://tinyurl.com/lc48g8

http://tinyurl.com/l78plj

http://tinyurl.com/l2szr5

July 27, 2009 at 6:44 PM  
Anonymous Pals said...

What I find most curious about MM's writings is how when talking about libertarianism he only ever seems to refer to the Harvard-appoved Beltway-friendly minimalist night watchman state stuff of Nozick, Cato and their likes.

This is especially curious in light of MM's admiration of Rothbard, whose Anarcho-Capitalism is a far more interesting and intelligent idea than Nozick's stuff.

Personally, reading MM and Carlyle has more and more turned me away from Nozick and Cato, as well as Carlyle and formalism, and made me realize why Rothbard makes sense.

Look, MM, we get it, Will Wilkinson is deluded and we've thoroughly enjoyed you bashing him. Now, can you please address Rothbard?

I know MM likes to pretend he doesn't read his comments coz he's too cool for school. So can someone please email him this so he might reply to it?

July 27, 2009 at 10:11 PM  
Blogger mikes2653 said...

R. Cocytus, you are certainly right to recognize the monastic communities of Eastern Orthodoxy. I'm not sure about the relative importance of monasticism in Orthodoxy vis-à-vis Roman Catholicism. Is it usual, in Orthodoxy, for a parish priest to belong to the regular clergy (i.e., subject to a regula or monastic rule, as distinct from 'secular' or diocesan clergy)? It seems to me than many R.C. parish priests are, e.g., Jesuits, Franciscans, Benedictines, Dominicans, etc., and I suspect (but don't know) that the monastic influence and presence has been more prominent in Catholicism (at least of the Latin rite) than in Orthodoxy.

July 28, 2009 at 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Serie said...

"I know MM likes to pretend he doesn't read his comments coz he's too cool for school."

I think he does read the comments. I noticed that he just deleted one or two comments in this thread a few hours ago.

July 28, 2009 at 7:09 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

If possible, may I suggest your links provided should produce a new browser window. I often find myself lost on wikipedia or ordering slightly used books on amazon rather than finishing your essays.

July 30, 2009 at 12:40 AM  
Anonymous dente said...

"If possible, may I suggest your links provided should produce a new browser window."

It's called right click, douchebag.

On a Mac laptop, you can use the two finger click to open up the right click menu. Or for a Mac desktop hold the button on the mouse over the link.

July 30, 2009 at 1:56 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

@dente: it's called modifier keys, retard. alt-click on a pc, command-click on mac.

July 30, 2009 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

@Pals: dig into the archives here. Most of MM's stuff is based ultimately on von Mises, with some Rothbard, etc., thrown in.

July 30, 2009 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

For I am to Carlyle, as Saruman to Morgoth. Enter the true palace of darkness! Join in my iron oath to the Master!

ITYM Sauron. IIRC, the Istari weren't even around until well after the War of the Wrath, and it was certainly Sauron who was Melkor's[1] sidekick back when he was busy corrupting Numenor.

1: If you're going to come down on the Dark Lord's side, you should call him by his real name, not elvish propaganda.

July 30, 2009 at 11:18 AM  
Anonymous dente said...

@Aaron Davies

Eat my dick.

July 30, 2009 at 12:10 PM  
Anonymous H said...

Mencius, I used to admire you. But this is utter bilge.

States should be run by a "strong man"; a "strong hand" on the tiller? But the problem with Hitler was that he was "swine"?

"Fascism is Carlyle, implemented by swine"? Haven't you read Hayek's "Why the worst get on top"?

"Of course, the world at present contains no such thing as a qualified bulldozer operator. Which is hardly the Carlylean's fault."

Right, but it does mean that advocating Carlyleanism is stupid.


And your claim that government-funded science would not be corrupted if the government that funded it was not democratic, is stupid.


Carlyle is an awful writer, too: verbose and windy.



P.S. I don't quite see the point of trying to distinguish socialism and fascism by origin instead of result. Indeed, I think your whole approach of following currents of ideas is moronic. Why should we care that the origins of "universalism" are Protestant, unless you've got a lesson to take from this?

August 13, 2009 at 6:58 AM  
Anonymous H said...

P.S. Don't you usually consider government an engineering problem? Isn't it a major design flaw if your system of government fails as soon as "swine" get into power?

August 15, 2009 at 4:12 PM  

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