ars libertatis


A political formula is a belief that makes the ruled accept their rulers. Since the former tend to outnumber the latter, a political formula is, if not absolutely essential, an excellent way to cut down on your security costs. A political formula is adaptive because the rulers have, obviously, both motive and opportunity to promote it.

The best example of a political formula is divine-right monarchy - simply because this formula is defunct. Hardly anyone these days believes in the divine right of kings. Since at one time, most everyone did, we have incontrovertible proof that adaptive fictions can exist in human societies. Either divine-right monarchy is a fiction, and people then were systematically deluded. Or kings do rule by the grace of God, and people now are systematically deluded.

Or, of course, both.

Demotist political formulas have varied a good bit, but the phrase that expresses demotism as well as any I can think of is “self-government.” I frequently see this term used as if it meant something. In fact it does not, which is perhaps the best debunking of democracy I can offer.

Does “self-government” mean “government by yourself”? Certainly “self-employment” means “employment by yourself,” “self-abuse” means “abuse by yourself,” etc, etc. But the idea of “government by yourself” is inherently tautological. Unless you’re possessed by a demon, you govern yourself by definition. If the term means anything in this sense, it means that there is no other form of government, ie, no government at all - anarchy. But clearly this is not what the people who talk of “self-government” mean. If we are governed at all, we are governed by others - and thus “self-government” is a classic Orwellian paradox.

To a neocameralist, a state is a business which owns a country. A state should be managed, like any other large business, by dividing logical ownership into negotiable shares, each of which yields a precise fraction of the state’s profit. (A well-run state is very profitable.) Each share has one vote, and the shareholders elect a board, which hires and fires managers.

This business’s customers are its residents. A profitably-managed neocameralist state will, like any business, serve its customers efficiently and effectively. Misgovernment equals mismanagement.

Political freedom is the freedom to engage in acts whose purpose is not direct satisfaction, but indirect satisfaction obtained by influencing government policy. When you vote, demonstrate, print underground leaflets, etc, you are engaged in acts of political freedom. You do these things only because you believe they have some political effect.

Personal freedom is the freedom to engage in all other acts that satisfy you directly, and that do not infringe the rights of others.

In my ideal neocameralist state, there is no political freedom because there is no politics. Perhaps the government has a comment box where you can express your opinion. Perhaps it does customer surveys and even polls. But there is no organization and no reason to organize, because no combination of residents can influence government policy by coercion.

And precisely because of this stability, you can think, say, or write whatever you want. Because the state has no reason to care. Your freedom of thought, speech, and expression is no longer a political freedom. It is only a personal freedom.

In order to get to the reactionary theory of history, we need a reactionary theory of government. History, again, is interpretation, and interpretation requires theory. I’ve described this theory before under the name of neocameralism, but on a blog it never hurts to be a little repetitive.

First: government is not a mystical or mysterious institution. A government is simply a group of people working together for a common aim, ie, a corporation. Whether a government is good or bad is not determined by who its employees are or how they are selected. It is determined by whether the actions of the government are good or bad.

Second: the only difference between a government and a “private corporation” is that the former is sovereign: it has no higher authority to which it can appeal to protect its property. A sovereign corporation owns its territory, and maintains that ownership by demonstrating unchallenged control. It is stable if no other party, internal or external, has any incentive to attack it. Especially in the nuclear age, it is not difficult to deter prospective attackers.

Third: a good government is a well-managed sovereign corporation. Good government is efficient management. Efficient management is profitable management. A profitable government has no incentive to break its promises, abuse its citizens (who are its capital), or attack its neighbors.

Fourth: efficient management can be implemented by the same techniques in sovereign corporations as in nonsovereign ones. The company’s profit is distributed equally to holders of negotiable shares. The shareholders elect a board, which selects a CEO.

Fifth: although the full neocameralist approach has never been tried, its closest historical equivalents to this approach are the 18th-century tradition of enlightened absolutism as represented by Frederick the Great, and the 21st-century nondemocratic tradition as seen in lost fragments of the British Empire such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. These states appear to provide a very high quality of service to their citizens, with no meaningful democracy at all. They have minimal crime and high levels of personal and economic freedom. They tend to be quite prosperous. They are weak only in political freedom, and political freedom is unimportant by definition when government is stable and effective.

Sixth: the comparative success of the American and European postwar systems appears to be due to their abandonment of democratic politics as a practical mechanism of government, in favor of a civil-service Beamtenstaat in which democratic politicians are increasingly symbolic. The post-communist civil-service states, China and Russia, appear to be converging on the same system, although their stability is ensured primarily by direct military authority, rather than by a system of managed public opinion.

Seventh: the post-democratic civil-service state, while not utterly disastrous, is not the end of history. It has two problems. One, the size and complexity of its regulatory system tends to increase without bound, resulting in economic stagnation and general apathy. Two, more critically, it can neither abolish democratic politics formally, nor defend itself against changes in information flow that may destabilize public opinion. Notably, the rise of the Internet disrupts the feedback loop between public education and political power, allowing noncanonical ideas to flourish. If these ideas are both rationally compelling and politically delegitimating, the state is threatened.

Eighth: therefore, productive political efforts should focus on peacefully terminating, restructuring and decentralizing the 20th-century civil-service state along neocameralist lines. The ideal result is a planet of thousands, even tens of thousands, of independent city-states, each managed for profit by its shareholders.

Clearly, if we have some general objection to union of church and state, these objections must in some way be derived from some generic definition of the word church. But when we use words like church, religion, etc, while it is very easy to think of examples (the Catholic Church, Islam, etc, etc), it is considerably more difficult to construct a description which includes all the examples, and excludes all the non-examples. Of course one may have a perfectly reasonable prejudice against the Pope, Muslims, etc - but if so, why not just say so?> For example, it is very easy to include God or gods in one’s definition of church. In that case, we throw out Buddhism, which is surely a legitimate religion. I assume your version of separation of church and state includes separation of Buddhism and state. Mine sure does. And what about Scientology? Shouldn’t we have separation of Scientology and state? I’m guessing you’ll sign up for this one as well.

The question seems difficult. So let’s procrastinate. For a straw definition of church, though, let’s say a _church _is an organization or movement which specializes in telling people what to think. I would not inquire into this definition too closely - lest you ruin the suspense - but surely it fits Scientology, the Southern Baptists, Buddhism, etc. That’s close enough for now.

This definition of state, separation, and church gives us three interpretations of why separation of church and state is such a good idea__.

One: our definition of church might include the stipulation that a church is an organization that distributes misinformation - ie, lies, unfalsifiable hypotheses, and other bogus truths. This sounds very sensible, because we don’t want the state to distribute misinformation.

On the other hand, this is not a very useful definition. It is equivalent to a restriction that union of church and state is okay, so long as the state church teaches only the truth. Naturally, according to the church, it teaches only the truth. But it is difficult to imagine a clause in the Constitution which states: “Congress shall establish a Church, which shall Teach only the Truth.” From an engineering perspective, the restriction is more effective if it does not depend on some process for distinguishing true churches from false churches. Ya think?

Two: we might say that whether they teach the truth or not, churches are just a bad idea, period. People should think for themselves. They should not have thoughts broadcast into a little antenna in the back of the skull. Therefore, the state should separate itself from the church, just because a good state should separate itself from all evil things.> But fortunately or unfortunately, there is no kingdom of philosophers. Most people do not think for themselves, should not think for themselves, and cannot be expected to think for themselves. They do exactly what they should be doing, and trust others to work out the large philosophical truths of the world for them. This trust may be well-placed or not, but surely this mechanism of delegation is an essential aspect of human society - at least with the humans we have now.

Three: we might believe that a government should not tell its subjects what to think. Since this is the only option I have left, it is the one I follow. I’d like to think you follow it as well.

The basic security hole is this word, education. Education is defined as the inculcation of correct facts and good morals. Thus an institution which is educational and secular, such as Harvard, simply becomes a “Church, which shall Teach only the Truth.” Like the Puritans of old New England, in seeking to disestablish one state church, we have established another.

Moreover, if we broaden our focus from the university system to the entire system of “education,” from grade schools to journalism, we see this effect again and again. What, exactly, is the “mainstream media?” If we accept the ecclesiastical metaphor, the newspaper is a perfect analogue of the church proper. It is simply the latest transmission technology for your worm’s daily or weekly security update. And here again, a coordinated message - without any central agency.

Democracy is a classic case of division of authority. It purports to dole out microscopic slivers of power equally to all subjects of the government. In fact this power is simply transferred to those who form, instruct, and organize large bodies of voters, whose average thoughts are unsophisticated by definition. Carlyle and others of his ilk called these men wire-pullers, and did not regard their growing importance as a good omen for the British polity.

Nobody makes decisions anymore. At least not personal decisions. At least not in the public sector. And guns are almost obsolete. You don’t need a gun to herd sheep - much less swine. All you need is a story. (And slop for the swine.)

Who is the sovereign? Not a who but a what. The sovereign is the story. Of course, there is no story without a storyteller. There are a lot of storytellers. Professionals, even. They make a good living and they’re all quite replaceable.

When the sovereign is the story, I claim, the sovereign is he who selects the null hypothesis.

Like it or not, established religion is an essential attribute of sovereignty. Cuius regio, eius religio. Unless you’re a crazy person, you believe what the sovereign, personal or institutional, orders you to believe. Obviously there is a conflict here, or at least a potential conflict. Because even a normal, non-crazy person will experience difficulty in disbelieving his own eyes.

Which is fine. Sovereigns, though asymptotically infallible, err. They change their mind, or at least have to be thought capable of it. You can change your mind too. Maybe you’re just the first. However, the null hypothesis is what the sovereign orders you to believe, at least until evidence (which should promptly be brought to your master’s attention) convinces you otherwise.