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Samizdata quote of the day

There was a time when an element of the Labour party was Methodist in a non cocaine, stealing money, and rent boy sense.

- Paul Marks

40 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    This sounds like an extreme attack on the Labour party, but actually (in context) it was a defence of an element of Labour party history.

  • Mr Ed

    I have heard Lefties goad Conservative supporters, long ago c 1987, as ‘Harvey Proctor’s Rent Boys’. I doubt that they would say that now.

    I’d rather be ruled by bribable crackheads than socialists. You can buy off some types, but you get no peace from those who know what’s good for you.

    Putin has never shown the slightest interest, as far as I can tell, in the type of lightbulbs I can buy for my house, unlike so many in the British and Euro political class who now control that aspect of life as well.

  • Paul Marks

    Actually Russia Today (Mr Putin’s television station) is very interested in environmental stuff.

    Banning “fracking” and “GM foods” (down-with-Monsanto stuff).

    However, it has been suggested that Mr Putin’s boys and girls for their environmentalism…..

  • Paul Marks

    I missed out the words “have cynical reasons” for their environmentalism.

  • Richard Thomas

    Mr Ed, I’m sure the people of Russia are now just glad to be able to buy light bulbs of *any* description.

  • Praetyre

    Mr. Ed is right on target; I’ve long wanted to see an expansion to Hoppeanism (indeed, I’ve had this sort of theory long before ever encountering Hoppe or Austrian econ in general); basically, rulers who care only about money and their own power are far less likely to act in insane totalitarian ways than the ideological cranks Univeralism plagues the Earth with. I’d much rather live in a Singaporean corporatocracy than a Progressive theocracy.

    This isn’t the defend the bad things these people do by any means, but frankly, the majority of criticisms of these people are purely for them being insufficiently left wing and/or democratic (not that the latter isn’t a subset of the former), not from any principled philosophical opposition to their actions. Witness, for example, the hysteria over arresting riotous feminist activists versus the crickets over prosecution of non-PC crimethinkers.

    I frankly think the same thing applies to the whole Wikileaks/Snowden cases; whether or not you agree with what they did (I’m agnostic/apathetic on the issue, myself), the vast majority of their supporters are only supporters because AMERICA EVUL EMPIRE who would fully support EU monitoring of “xenophobia” and whom I seriously doubt would be critical of surveillance were it not for dem ebil raysis right wingers (as if invading foreign countries to spread left-wing democratic government is right wing) conducting it.

  • CaptDMO

    From U.S.
    OK, help me out here.,
    “Rent boys”?

  • Praetyre

    Male prostitutes, typically, from foreign countries hired by wealthy closet homosexuals. I think the term is also used more generally for male prostitutes, but that may vary by country and my knowledge of the sex industry is (thankfully) limited).

  • Mr Ed

    Praetyre, thank you for that explanation to CaptDMO, ‘Harvey Proctor’ was a Conservative MP around the time who got into some legal difficulties after meeting some young men, he became a shirtmaker.

    RichardT Indeed, but I cannot now buy lightbulbs of *any* description, only some types.

    But coming back to the Labour Party, in its long history of criminal activity it holds a perhaps unique distinction for a political party of having breached the Geneva Conventions by abusing the Red Cross symbol, having used a symbol akin to the Red Cross symbol in one of its lying claims about the National Health Service during the General Election of 1992, for which its General Secretary was prosecuted, as it is an offence to co-opt the Red Cross or anything resembling it for purposes other than its Conventional use.

  • Praetyre,

    I’ve long wanted to see an expansion to Hoppeanism (indeed, I’ve had this sort of theory long before ever encountering Hoppe or Austrian econ in general); basically, rulers who care only about money and their own power are far less likely to act in insane totalitarian ways than the ideological cranks Univeralism plagues the Earth with. I’d much rather live in a Singaporean corporatocracy than a Progressive theocracy.

    That expansion preceded Hoppe by at least a couple centuries – see Juan Donoso Cortes, Joseph de Maistre, Louis de Bonald, Jacques Benigne Bossuet, Xunzi. Mencius Moldbug’s formalism is today a modern incarnation/derivation of this school of thought – now known as monarchism/Reaction.

    What rulers care about is a function of many things but primarily how they acquired power and how secure their power is. Insofar as factors outside his control are perceived as having been decisive in his elevation to power, the more secure a ruler’s power likely is – all else equal. What one acquires by virtue of identity is always more secure than that which one acquires by virtue of action, which is why the right of heredity is a hallmark of any stable system (Bush, Kennedy, Roosevelt, Adams ring a bell?)

    But relatively stable democracies ain’t got nuthin on hereditary monarchies.

  • Paul Marks

    I support a mixed system of government – as decentralised as possible and without any element (including a monarchy) have absolute power over other elements in such a “mixed [balanced] constitution”.

    If government must have an health, education and welfare role (which libertarians dispute) then it should certainly not be in the hands (be financed) by the same level of government that controls the armed forces.

    The “Sword of State” has no place in the such things.

  • Praetyre

    @Shlomo: I was under the impression that the reactionaries (not neoreactionaries, a movement which seems to have markedly suffered from Moldbug’s absence) supported monarchy for reasons more approaching traditionalism or general epistemic conservatism (I’d call it Burkean, but Maistre makes Burke look like Robespierre, so it’s really more the other way around) or social functionalism (though the stability of sovereignity is a definite link with Moldbug) than economic arguments.

    I mean, it’s not as if there isn’t common ground between their approaches or even that they are necessarily incompatible, but they are historically and substantively distinct. I will admit little familiarity with reaction (I’d say paleoreaction, but the distance and confusion with PaleoCons would confuzzle things), though, so it’s entirely possible I’ve misunderstood these writers of old.

    In any case, what I’m speaking of is the application of these principles to modern day rulers (i.e. rulers who aren’t hereditary absolute or 19th-century-style constitutional monarchs), though there’s certainly dynastic elements among some modern rulers, such as the Yews or the Kims.

    @Marks: I don’t really think mixed government can work. The mistake I think a lot of propertarians make in their theories of government (this includes AnCaps, who should pay more heed into incremental steps to heading closer to their desired society) is to assume that it works in a manner like the market; I would in fact invert it (and I believe Hoppe hs indirectly alluded to this with his points regarding competition in the production of goods versus the production of bads); the more decentralized power is, the more competing factions and interests will jack it up to high hell.

    It’s quite similar to the Hoppean argument against democracy; a lack of a defined power center means government agents can act with greater autonomy. Imagine this model being applied to a corporation; you’d end up with Dilbertocracy quicker than I can say executive power. American propertarians are particularily bad on this; like American conservatives, they think the President is the CEO of America, rather than a primarily ceremonial figurehead rubberstamping the actions of the real power centers.

    Please note that I’m not meaning decentralization in the federal (in the true, European sense) or feudal sense; those are areas with strict definition of powers (an absolutely essential part of any propertarian program for government, in my opinion) and segments of multilateral, competing authority. An extremely rough analogy may be between the internal decentralization in the corporate model (Dilbertocracy) versus the various shareholders.

    I think it’s also important to note that the government is not one monolithic entity; in the United States; take a look at Moldbug’s Blue and Red Government/Empire to see what I mean. I think that in Britain’s case, the Armed Forces are probably not as “Red” as the Pentagon is, but they clearly have less ideological or cultural congruity with the civilian bureaucracy than, say, the education and health bureaucrats do.

  • Paul Marks

    Shlomo – I did read “The Executioner”, and I agree that force is needed to punish crime (including treason).

    However, the writer is a bit quick for me – for example he says that Russia is a young culture (in fact it is an old one – although he may be talking of the new Russia rather than traditional Orthodox Russia, but the Orthodox Russia was still there even in St Petersburg).

    Also he is too quick to see a positive rule for rulers – Bastiat (he of what is seen and what is unseen) would say that every impressive achievement (such as St Petersburg)has a cost.

    I prefer to keep the Sword of State out of such matters as planned cities (no matter how wonderful) – especially if they are built on bones.

    Praetrye.

    Well mixed(balanced)government did work – in England in the “long 18th century” (1688 to 1832) and Venice (for a thousand years – quite a long time).

    But whether it would work now…..

    Ah that (I admit) is a different question.

  • Praetyre

    In both the cases you cite, the aristocracy held power mixed with the sovereign; which is analogous to the feudal/shareholder model I mentioned earlier. Nobody owns the bureaucracies, not even their managers; certainly, the taxpayer doesn’t own them in the same way that a shareholder owns a corporation and they are far more powerful than the politicians their leaders nominally report to.

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so Mr Ed – market choices it is.

    Praetyre – yes bureaucracies are wretched things, which is why the Civil Service (a Victorian invention – but copying other nations) should never have been created.

    The gentry and aristocracy (at least of this land) did not own the state – they just wanted it to stay off their backs (and, by extension, that meant it stayed off the backs of everyone else).

    Which meant they were the right people to have some influence over the state – influence not total control.

    Without such things as the Forty Shilling Free Holders having the vote in the counties and “everyone who had a fire he could bang a pot on” having the vote in some towns, the aristocracy could simply have made a deal with the state…..

    “Do not tax us – and you can do what you like with everyone else”.

    After all that is what happened in Prussia.

  • Praetyre,

    When I said Reaction I meant the term in a quite broad sense encompassing those essential ideas that roughly unite those old thinkers, what today is called neoreaction, and even a slice of the paleocons. Nick Land, Xunzi, Mencius Moldbug, Robert Filmer, Anissimov, Joseph de Maistre, and Bossuet each have distinct solutions to the eternal problem of disorder but they all see (“understand”) disorder – and furthermore recognize it as the core, essential problem of human societies. That basically to me distinguishes Reactionaries whether of the neo, paleocon, monarchic variety as… well, all too correct.

    That Maistre makes Burke look like Robespierre – wonderfully apt.

    As far as modern day applications of these principles – I think anything that a Reactionary could even begin to call a solution will not come about as a result of argument, but of necessity/destiny. I am perhaps a hypocrite on this count but we all have our vices. Also the contours/nature of solution does not change overtime – only the particulars of its manifestation. In any case, in my view the ideal (“perfect”) Reactionary merely does as he should (mandate of heaven – power flows to the worthy).

    Neoreaction as Land has recently noted is actually alive and kicking, though it does feel somehow empty without Moldbug’s presence.

  • Paul Marks

    Robespierre believed in an active interventionist government – he just did not want a hereditary King to be the head of it. Did Maistre agree with this – as long as it was done by a hereditary (and Christian) King?

    Edmund Burks did not want an active interventionist government (regardless of the political system) – he wanted the Sword Of State to deal with violence (although even this is dangerous – very dangerous indeed).

  • Praetyre

    It’s true that the aristocracy did not own the English state in a direct shareholder (cameralist/neocameralist way), but they exerted de facto and de jure control over it to an extent where for all intents and purposes it as though they did. I have my doubts the lords would have tolerated the sort of deal you are mentioning; even if you leave aside the rivalrous nature of noble politics and assume a totally ruthless aristocracy, they didn’t exist in a vacuum from the middle and lower classes and would have suffered from any depredations visited upon them by the sovereign. This is especially true in pre-industrial economies, which stand a step closer to the Paleolithic zero-sum game than the almost unthinkable wonders industrialization has brought us.

    Incidentally, the lack of formal ownership is probably one of the largest breaks between paleo and neoreaction, likely because of the latter’s Chinese influence and more modern-rationalist bent; fittingly, earlier reactionaries viewed the art of government (in the broadest sense) as akin to a family; neoreactionaries often put it in joint stock corporate terms.

    My point regarding Burke and Robespierre was a point of left/right, rather than a point regarding interventionist government (not that there isn’t usually a relation, even if not always strictly oppositional).

    I think I’ll let Shlomo field the Maistre question, given my lack of knowledge of him, but I imagine de Maistre would have rejected the majority of interventionist programs if for no other reason than that they originated from the Salon radicals and Jacobins he detested. He wasn’t an advocate of limited government in the sense opposed to absolute government, but as Shlomo could no doubt tell you, that doesn’t necessarily imply a totalitarian government either (though France was markedly more centralist and etatist than Britain and some of its surrounding nations; ironically, the depredations of the Bourbons laid the foundation for the hypercentralist schemes and departments of their Jacobin successors).

  • Praetyre

    Also, this is something of an aside, but with the possible exception of the more HBD-conscious folks like Sailer (granted, DE/=/NRx), aren’t PaleoCons, by and large, essentially republican (in the general sense, not the party) classical liberals of a 19th century agrarian bent? I’m not referring to the post-Paleo orbit here so much as your rank and file Buchananite. Admittedly, PaleoCons have confused me in the past as far as these sorts of categorization go; they seem markedly more attracted to Third Positionist economics than their Old Right pedigree would seem to indicate.

  • Praetyre,

    It’s remarkable how similarly we appear to think. Once we clarified the semantics I actually find myself in agreement with pretty much everything you said here.

    Paul Marks,

    Glad you read “The Executioner”. Maistre is indeed quick to judge – perhaps too quick, though genius is impulsive by nature. Still, though, I have no doubt some of Maistre’s more intemperate remarks were at times off-base.

    In any case, a core tenet of Maistre is that the Sword of State is not bound by human ordinances. Mere words – even ink blots placed on paper to a form a so-called “Constitution” – do not limit the exercise of sovereignty. Only constitutions limit or, more precisely, impact the exercise of sovereignty. Kindly note that constitutions are those collections of social institutions, religious dogmas, personal prejudices, corporate privileges, spiritual beliefs, and cultural traditions that limit, extend, direct, and impact in myriad unseen manners the exercise of power in society. The American Constitution was worthless long before your grandfather was born, but your constitution prospers.

    Not sure where Maistre argued for government planned cities though perhaps he did. Regardless, any one policy preference is irrelevant and in some ways I’d maintain that Maistre certainly ascribed virtue to smaller government for its own sake (but again only in certain ways – see his demolition of the French Revolution); far more prominent in Maistrian thought is the observation that small/virtuous government is a consequence or even symptom of a worthy people – in the long run at least. In a nutshell: people get the government they deserve. With that said, Maistre certainly did not think an active interventionist government is a “good” thing – even with a King at the helm.

    But the genius of Maistre has nothing to do with what kind of government he favored but rather his analysis as to how in history (“experimental politics”) governments arise and what, really, government is (the providential nature of sovereignty). (Let’s repeat that: Maistre’s genius was about what is, not about what should be) Burke, Mises, Bastiat, Hayek, Kirk, Locke, etc all had to varying degrees less bad ideas about what government should do than most sophists in the modern era have had, but they all appear to possess that juvenile delusion that government can be improved upon in any lasting sense by argument. Adorable! This was perhaps (maybe!) once the case but arguing about the size of government these days is an exercise in sophistry and futility (but I repeat myself) – and has been since 1917, 1789, 1649, 1517, 1323, etc.. depending on how far down the rabbit hole one cares to look.

    Debate, argument, sophistry, opinion – these are prime symptoms and peripheral causes of disorder. If a thinker can be said to be right-wing insofar as his normative opinions about what should be are communicated implicitely by positive/descriptive statements of what is, then Maistre’s right-wing bonafides eclipse those of Burke by at least an order of magnitude. If Robespierre and Burke had different opinions about what should be, then Maistre had a diagnosis of what is. Maistre never claimed to have been in possession of a solution – only a correct diagnosis of the problem.

  • Paul Marks & Praetyre,

    An additional thought.

    Maistre opposed the essence of interventionist government on a more fundamental level than did Burke. While Burke capably illustrated the adverse consequences of interventionist government and eloquently defended the social institutions and cultural norms that mitigate the impact of the social forces that cause and/or constitute interventionist government, he did not see the broader picture. It’s not only that Burke did not really realize that no government can be meaningfully justified, it’s that he did not recognize that justifying government is not only itself a political act but an unwise and harmful one. Though Burke laudably sought to demonstrate the interdependence of liberty and religion, he never saw that government is religion – not only in all Catholic monarchies but in all human societies. By definition.

    Burke defended democracy and trusted the public square. That people give up their liberty only in a fit of delirium – Burke’s quote could not be more misguided. Not only is the post-Enlightenment West a history of capitulations of liberties to higher authorities, but democracy is the namesake for the process by which this occurs and the more putatively secular a democracy is the more rapidly are liberties lost to the mob. A Maistrian, of course, expects this because where religious belief does not reign, overwhelming force eventually must.

    Burke largely identified the traits of well governed societies, but he was woefully unaware that it is by the grace of blind belief, of unconditional submission that sovereignty is secured. And in the long run it is the security of sovereigns that assures the welfare of those ruled by them.

  • Paul Marks

    I think that “Burke defended democracy” is a typing error – and as I make a lot of typing errors I can not (justly) complain.

    Edmund Burke understood that no form of government is a positive good – government (the state) can only be justified in negative terms (as less bad than the alternative). The art of dealing with the Sword of State is never perfect – for the sword is (by its very nature) an instrument of violence.

    Constitutional rules (both rule based and institutional) and custom-and-tradition seeks to control that violence – but the price of liberty is eternal vigilance (which was a saying before Burke).

    In his Appeal to the Old Whigs from the New, Burke also makes clear that property (in both one’s person and in one’s possessions) and natural law, all exist before government – and if the government falls it is NOT a “Year Zero” with a new regime (such as that of the French Revolution) allowed to “redistribute” the “property of the nation” (or “the property of the people”) as “the nation” has no property and neither does “the people”. Only individuals and voluntary associations (such as Churches or trading companies) can make a claim to own property on the collapse of the state – the difficulty they face is that they can not defend their claim against aggressors.

    The late Murray Rothbard claimed that Burke was an anarchist in his “Vindication of Natural Society” and only much later pretended the work was a satire. Rothbard was wrong on both counts – “Vindication….” was a satire (Burke made that clear the very next year) and it was not even a satire of anarchism – it was a satire of “Natural Religion” (the idea that one can have religion without Scripture).

    Actually Burke got much closer to anarchism (or rather anarcho capitalism) in his old age (the 1790s) than he did in his youth in the 1750s – but Burke also maintained that anarchism (just getting rid of the government) WOULD NOT WORK (which is why Rothbard did not like the later works of Burke).

    As for “blind belief” “unconditional submission”.

    Actually Burke DID stress unthinking custom and tradition – if anything he stressed them rather too much.

    I repeat that liberty depends on eternal vigilance – and upon citizens being prepared to use armed force to defend the property of others against the mob (as Burke himself did sword-in-hand during the Gordon Riots of 1780) and against THE STATE.

    “blind belief”? “unconditional submission”.

    That is the doctrine that can only lead to slavery Shlomo.

    I am seldom more of an Old Whig (I stress OLD Whig) than I am when I hear such words as “blind belief” and “unconditional submission”.

    That is wickedness when Louis XIV demands it – and it is wickedness when Robspierre demands the same thing (in different words).

  • Praetyre

    YOur misinterpretation is quite understandable (I definitely share a fondness for provocative poeticism with the reactionaries, neo or otherwise), but it is quite another point entirely; de Maistre (and presumably Shlomo) are not talking about some kind of Kim il Sung-esque cult here; they are speaking of what is now known as a Schelling point, essentially a relatively arbitrary position agreed upon by sufficient parties to avoid conflict. The exact method of property acquisition (i.e. abandonment, how ones labor is “mixed” etc.) is one such example, a point that propertarians would either resolve by customary multilateralism (anarcho-capitalism) or codified law (minarchy).

    While I do not necessarily agree with the argument in its entirety, it essentially is thus; a king (and keep in mind that when Maistre et. al speak of government they speak particularily and exclusively of monarchical government; at the time no other alternative beyond failed Grecian democracy existed, and I would argue this is still true in some ways today) is someone everyone can agree upon as a leader and figurehead (Divine Right monarchist theology goes deeper into this, but that’s another discussion), whereas the republican schemes end up collapsing in on themselves due to their internal contradictions.

    I’d argue this is actually an extremely useful point for propertarians, even though its originators were not themselves such; one of the reasons republican governments are far worse than monarchic ones is that their true nature as coercive bodies is far more concealed from the populace and they must (per Moldbug) manage public opinion to a far greater extent than kings ever did, both to maintain popular support and the illusion of the “consent of the governed”. The divine right monarchies Maistre and Burke defended had no such problems, because they had this Schelling point. The aforementioned Moldbug has argued that this is perfectly possible to adapt sans the religious aspect; see here for more detail; http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.co.nz/2010/03/divine-right-monarchy-for-modern.html

    Now, I would argue this doesn’t necessarily apply to *all* non Divine Right monarchist system,s but it certainly covers the vast majority of them, even today, and the systems I’d say don’t fall under it were virtually unknown or untheorised in Burke/Maistre’s time. This is a very common mistake made by analysts of all stripes of these theorists; not the least due to the caricatures perpetrated about them by their leftist opponents.

  • Praetyre

    Since there’s not edit function, I might as well add this; Hoppe has, however indirectly, made similar points, particularily in Democracy: The God That Failed, and Filmer, in some ways a drier, English equivalent to Maistre, is another good source on these matters you may be familiar with, partilcularily in this interlocution with Locke.

  • I plan to post a more thorough comment tonight. For now I just want to say – I should have changed my phrasing as Burke did to his credit see great danger in democracy, but he nevertheless defended the principles of democracy (for example see his speech to the Electors of Bristol). Also Burke implored representatives not to substitute their constituencies interests for their own judgment, which is not unlike placing a tiger and baby in a cage and then proceeding to explain to the tiger that the baby has natural rights to his life liberty and property.

  • Their constituencies’ perceived interests, that should have said.

  • Paul Marks

    “the American Constitution was worthless long before your grandfather was born”.

    Schlomo – my father was born on February 2nd 1913 (you do not want to know who my grandfather was born).

    The American Constitution did not (partly) fail till the gold clause cases of 1935.

    “your constitution prospers”.

    If you mean the British “Constitution” (in the sense of the old Constitutional Club Network and the British National Rifle Association and the devotion to the old British Bill of Rights) it collapsed with the First World War.

    Customs and so on are in the end based on hard BELIEFS.

    For example religion is worthless (utterly worthless) if it just becomes empty rituals – with no actual beliefs (principles – understood and believed in). The “socially useful” view of religion leads to organisations such as “Action France” (founded and controlled by an atheist – who was passionate about the Roman Catholic Church).

    Remember the thought of the blind man (the atheist religious fanatic) – the “honour” of the army depended on keeping an innocent man on Devil’s Island (thus showing he had no more idea what honour is than he had any idea what religion is really about). And on and on – till the movement collapsed in squalid collaboration with the National Socialists.

    It is like the rituals of the House of Commons – once they meant something (they stood for real things – such as the sides being a certain number of feet apart, because that is how far one could thrust a sword, all gentleman BEING FREE carried weapons) now (sadly) they are empty.

    As for Burke and Bristol.

    Have you forgotten the issue of dispute?

    The voters of Bristol opposed free trade (specifically with Ireland), Burke supported it.

    Kings can impose taxes on imports to – and they often do.

    Still back to the central issue……

    When P.E. Moore (the tutor of T.S. Eliot) visited by Britain in the 1930s he was (at first) charmed by the place.

    No passionate struggles as in the United States – things were so peaceful in Britain.

    Then it struck him………

    Things were peaceful because they were dead – the traditions were no longer living traditions they were dead ones.

    The “Conservatives” were not going to put up an real resistance to the socialists – for they had no real principles of their own any more.

    1945 (the victory of the state under Prime Minister Atlee) was already “baked into the cake” in the 1930s.

    Individual rights and strictly limited government were already considered hopelessly “old fashioned”. No longer living traditions.

  • Praetyre

    The US Constitution failed by the time of the “Civil War”, if not earlier. Further, it was established by an illegal coup against the Articles of Confederation which almost no one supported, and the American Revolution itself was based on a series of quite frankly insane conspiracy theories regarding British politics, conducted principally through conscript-militia mob violence or Washington’s mismanaged Continental Army, and within a few decades resulted in higher taxes and more legislation than King George iII had ever imposed upon the colonies.

  • Paul Marks

    Total government spending (Federal, State and local) was less than 10% of the economy as late as 1912.

    Federal spending was about 2% of the economy.

  • CaptDMO

    Praetyre
    “…higher taxes and more legislation than King George III had ever imposed upon the colonies.”
    Yeah, but they were OUR taxes and corruption.

    “…the Labour party was Methodist in a non cocaine, stealing money, and rent boy sense”
    Oh, THAT “rent boy”.
    The US (closest equivalent) post Civil War/WW I “Labor” party was the Democrats.
    “Suddenly”, pro labor, pro civil rights, and pro Humanities-in word, but certainly not in deed.

    Old Saying in the US: The only way a sitting southern democrat can lose reelection is to be caught red handed with a dead prostitute, OR a LIVE boy.
    Of course, times have changed.

  • Paul Marks,

    Edmund Burke understood that no form of government is a positive good – government (the state) can only be justified in negative terms (as less bad than the alternative).

    Imagine, I beg you, the baffled uproar that would rightfully ensue were Chief Justice John Roberts to justify any majority SCOTUS opinion on such grounds as “well, it’s the least bad alternative”. There’s a reason, of course, that one must imagine and not observe such a catastrophe, for no farce has ever been attempted, as every ruler justifies his reign by some assumption/falsehood/belief or another, be it “social justice” or “divine-right monarchy” or “individual rights” or “original intent”. Were any such assumption truly law, of course, not only would it not need be interpreted, written, and defended – it could not be, which, Paul, leads us to where we started pre-Enlightenment: there has never been “a nation of laws not men”, since ink blots aren’t adequately conscious to safeguard the paper they were placed upon were said paper sufficiently relevant to the jackbooted thugs ignoring its dictates to pass it through a shredder.

    Constitutional rules (both rule based and institutional) and custom-and-tradition seeks to control that violence – but the price of liberty is eternal vigilance (which was a saying before Burke).

    Constitutional rules perhaps indeed seek to control the violence of the Sword of State but it’s beliefs in the virtues of constitutional rules that actually do so. That it’s written does not make a law true; that it’s obeyed, though, does. Obedience by belief (manifested faith) and obedience by submission (manifested patriotism) are the two means by which sovereignty is if not forged, perhaps in some sense upheld and at least experienced.

    And eternal vigilance I’m loath to admit is merely the cost conservatives/old whigs/classical liberals pay to recoup but a meager portion of the liberty they unwittingly surrendered by forsaking governance by obedience in a misguided quest for governance by justification (social contract theory, natural law theory, libertarian theory, checks and balances, etc ad nauseam) which is sought after in vain and in vanity, for no such government has ever existed or ever will and it’s only the presumption that one can (as Maistre put it) engineer a government as one engineers a watch that convinces anyone to the contrary.

    Only individuals and voluntary associations (such as Churches or trading companies) can make a claim to own property on the collapse of the state – the difficulty they face is that they can not defend their claim against aggressors.

    Might I gently suggest replacing the word “can” with “should”? Rinse. Repeat. If libertarians/old whigs/classical liberals/minarchists made such rinsing and repeating a personal habit and then engaged in a small dose of reflection they might accidentally stumble upon Reaction.

    I repeat that liberty depends on eternal vigilance – and upon citizens being prepared to use armed force to defend the property of others against the mob (as Burke himself did sword-in-hand during the Gordon Riots of 1780) and against THE STATE.

    Revolting against the state is a habit of that portion of the Left; the results of this practice is in polite circles usually called “progress”. Resisting the state’s progress is a habit of that portion of the Right that is sufficiently desperate and/or delusional to see light at the end of the tunnel.

    Perhaps Rousseau (yes, him!) can shed a bit of light on this most delicate matter…

    Liberty is a food easy to eat, but hard to digest; it takes very strong stomachs to stand it. I laugh at those debased peoples who, allowing themselves to be stirred up by rebels, dare to speak of liberty without having the slightest idea of its meaning, and who, with their hearts full of all the servile vices, imagine that, in order to be free, it is enough to be insubordinate.

    O proud and holy liberty! if those poor people could only know thee, if they realised at what a price thou art won and preserved; if they felt how much more austere are thy laws than the yoke of tyrants is heavy: their feeble souls, enslaved by passions that would have to be suppressed, would fear thee a hundred times more than slavery; they would flee from thee in terror, as from a burden threatening to crush them.

    Not bad.

    That is the doctrine that can only lead to slavery Shlomo.

    If by slavery you mean the practice of human ownership by humans – nope. If by slavery you mean the metaphysical condition of man that the most rigorous human reason clothed in eloquence so laconic to be mistaken for poetry will never overcome – nope again. There’s a lot that can be said on this but I’ve said enough. Some Maistre:

    We are all bound to the throne of the Supreme Being by a flexible chain which restrains without enslaving us. The most wonderful aspect of the universal scheme of things is the action of free beings under divine guidance.

  • And eternal vigilance I’m loath to admit is merely the cost conservatives/old whigs/classical liberals pay to recoup but a meager portion of the liberty they unwittingly surrendered by forsaking governance by obedience…

    Yeah because what could POSSIBLY go wrong with people being obedient because of… well, just ‘because’. The only Supreme Being I give a damn about is the one I know actually exists outside of someone’s imagination, because she just made me a rather nice cake.

  • Perry de Havilland,

    First – thank you for the hospitality and giving me a platform and bandwidth for me to indulge in my sometimes long rants. Now back to my sufficiently rude alter-ego…

    Yeah because what could POSSIBLY go wrong with people being obedient because of… well, just ‘because’. The only Supreme Being I give a damn about is the one I know actually exists outside of someone’s imagination, because she just made me a rather nice cake.

    I’m just saying how it is. Never claimed anyone should/will like it.

    People, being as they are, tend to act in their perceived interests no matter what anyone says, but the less people are supposed to rebel the less likely they tend to do so. And as sin begets sin, so rebellion begets rebellion. And so, there is more consistent order insofar as things are believed to be as they should. And order is (eventually) conserved – always – whether by belief or by submission. Belief just makes life easier because submission is a pain in the arse.

    FWIW Maistre also said:

    Sovereigns only command efficaciously and in a durable manner within the circle of things avowed by opinion; and this circle, it is not they who trace it.

    One wonders if this circle in the modern West might not constantly expand were we to have sovereigns who were putatively sovereign via genuine communal belief in divine right hereditary monarchy. Or at least I wonder – and have my suspicions. Alas, beliefs cannot be taught. But I still wonder.

  • Praetyre,

    de Maistre (and presumably Shlomo) are not talking about some kind of Kim il Sung-esque cult here; they are speaking of what is now known as a Schelling point, essentially a relatively arbitrary position agreed upon by sufficient parties to avoid conflict. The exact method of property acquisition (i.e. abandonment, how ones labor is “mixed” etc.) is one such example, a point that propertarians would either resolve by customary multilateralism (anarcho-capitalism) or codified law (minarchy).

    Absolutely, yes. I’d add the following, though.

    The whole concept of the Schelling Point is that words are not to be trusted – at all. So setting down the rules for negotiations is itself negotiation just as justifying political sovereignty is itself a political act. Many thinkers have aptly used the concept to illustrate the dynamics of negotiation without communication but I like to use it to show negotiation without negotiation. The former is the absence of communication about the negotiation; the latter is the absence of awareness of the negotiation. The latter is perhaps a touchstone of complete stability (not fully possible, but worth aspiring to). Now to give it a whirl…

    The Schelling point is likely about as stable as its participants are unaware of the margins of safety that their own positions vis-a-vis the Schelling point of society afford them and by which they afford their positions vis-a-vis the Schelling point. The former is a measure of how corruptly one may act as measured by straining the Schelling point without rupturing its balance, while the latter is basically a measure of how disorderly one may act while still retaining his position in relation to the Schelling point. Man seeks to defend that which is threatened, clarify agreements that are perceived subject to divergent interests, define rights that are perceived to have become insecure. Inasmuch as rights, agreements, interests are left unwritten, unspecified, undefined that human society/organization/business/neighborhood/family is likely stable – ceteris paribus.

    The aforementioned Moldbug has argued that this is perfectly possible to adapt sans the religious aspect; see here for more detail; http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.co.nz/2010/03/divine-right-monarchy-for-modern.html

    Moldbug is almost never wrong. He is wrong on that. Can’t be done without religion, but then he’s a Carlylean and I’m a Maistrian.

    Now, I would argue this doesn’t necessarily apply to *all* non Divine Right monarchist system,s but it certainly covers the vast majority of them, even today, and the systems I’d say don’t fall under it were virtually unknown or untheorised in Burke/Maistre’s time. This is a very common mistake made by analysts of all stripes of these theorists; not the least due to the caricatures perpetrated about them by their leftist opponents.

    Amen.

  • The “Amen” by the way was really for the idea that the Schelling point is what makes it work in vast majority of monarchies (of any sort) but I don’t accept Moldbug’s position (and I guess it’s yours as well) that there has ever been a monarchist system without religion. I pretty much concur with Maistre that government is true religion.

  • Paul Marks

    Shlomo – to confuse the worship of God with the worship of the State is just about the worst thing a thinker can do.

    As for the Supreme Court – it often (in better days) used the language of the old Whigs.

    Still I thank you – for you have reminded me of the wickedness (the word is not too strong) of ABSOLUTE monarchy (or any form of absolute power – including the “divine right of the 51%”).

  • Paul Marks

    I repeat that total government spending (Federal, State and local) was less than 10% of the economy as late as 1912 (even in 1928 it was only 12%).

    The idea that America would have been less statist had the War of Independence failed is false.

    And the idea that America has always been bad (or has been bad since the Civil War) is false.

  • Paul,

    Shlomo – to confuse the worship of God with the worship of the State is just about the worst thing a thinker can do.

    Then it’s a good thing I have not done so!

    In a hereditary monarchy there’s negligible worship of the state’s policies if any at all. And if you examine history you will find that in hereditary monarchies (where the King was really thought to be sovereign) there was typically little public fervor regarding particular policies. In a democracy, however, there is usually widespread, prolonged, and intense worship of state policies depending on one’s particular political tribe/persuasion. Trickle down economics, single payer healthcare, axing the IRS, and permitting gays to serve in the military are particular examples but the list is always growing because in a constitutional republic or democracy or any system of government where sovereignty is not believed to be vested in particular people/person even if you are not interested in politics, politics will eventually become interested in you.

    Still I thank you – for you have reminded me of the wickedness (the word is not too strong) of ABSOLUTE monarchy (or any form of absolute power – including the “divine right of the 51%”).

    Just as saying Obama is restricted by the Constitution doesn’t make it true, so does saying a King possesses absolute power not make it so. In USA at-will employees may be fired at any time for any reason – but that is mostly legal cover (effectively) as few lay-offs happen for anything but substantive issues (restructuring, poor employee performance etc)

    You assume that any government can be anything less than absolute. Since you have offered no evidence or insight to support such a fantastic claim, I must presume that you think that saying something is true makes it so, which must be quite satisfying. I’m not saying government should be absolute – I’m saying it simply is. In understanding why this must be so you might realize that self-governance is a contradiction in terms.

    When it’s opponents only point out the virtues of smaller government big government grows. It is by restricting by belief sovereignty to the few (ideally one) that small government is facilitated – for a number of reasons.

  • Mr Ed

    In USA at-will employees may be fired at any time for any reason – but that is mostly legal cover (effectively) as few lay-offs happen for anything but substantive issues (restructuring, poor employee performance etc)

    Shlomo,

    it is not ‘legal cover’, it is the absence of any legal impediment to the right of a party to a contract to terminate it upon giving the notice due, if any. The length (and existence) of a notice period may be, as in the UK, determined by law, or a matter for the parties to agree if longer, or there may be no notice due in some jurisdictions, such as a common law jurisdiction based on English law where Common Law presumptions as to notice periods are displaced.

    That few lay-off happen for anything but substantive issues is most likely indicative that most employers act with rational self-interest in mind, and firing at will may lead to your better employees seeking an exit lest they be next in the firing line.

  • Mr Ed,

    it is not ‘legal cover’, it is the absence of any legal impediment to the right of a party to a contract to terminate it upon giving the notice due, if any

    You’re right. I guess I meant what is it for/why is it desired. Many bosses will only hire most employees at-will, but those same bosses typically have no intention of firing for anything but a substantive reason – and this intention is borne out by their actions almost always. At-will employment permits bosses to trust their employees more (since there’s no doubt about who is in charge) and incentivizes a ‘perform or leave’ ethic.

    A King that has power because everyone believes he does by virtue of his identity has nothing to prove and no lobby to compensate for support. The more that one was perceived to have done to acquire power, the less stable the source of that power likely is and the more that must be done to secure it even after acquiring it.

    A smaller government is not achieved by setting down those things that the government can do – if one finds himself doing that he can bet big government is on the way! Instead small government is a result of setting down who may do (read: is effectively believed to be able to do) largely whatever he likes – there’s always at least one such person (eventually) though it may take time for a system to show/decide who that/those person(s) is/are.

    Sadly i must add – obviously nobody can do anything without expecting certain repurcussions, which is why bosses of at will employees do not ever really lay people off at-will.

    All societies must eventually answer a certain question. In answering this question at inception by identity (in hereditary monarchy) there’s less harm that comes through answering it by action (as in republican forms of government). The question is: who – whom?