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Samizdata quote of the day – the total state is all around you

What we are talking about, then, is really political reason on steroids. And it has two necessary consequences. Foucault’s assertion was that political reason was both ‘individualising and totalising’. Again, this is not difficult to understand, but worth spelling out. The state’s impulse is always to atomise the population, such that each and every individual first and foremost looks to their relationship to the state as the most important in their lives. And this is at the same time necessarily a totalising impulse, as it installs the state as the very essence of society, without which the latter simply cannot survive, let along flourish.

This is the basis of political reason, but why is it so? Regular readers will I hope forgive me for returning to Machiavelli, who made things perfectly clear: ‘[A] wise ruler…must think of a method by which his citizens will need the state and himself at all times and in every circumstance. Then they will always be loyal to him.’ Needing the state in order to address systems of patriarchal domination and toxic masculinity while ensuring everybody enjoys their right to pleasurable, satisfying and safe sex were probably not at the forefront of his mind. But the logic of CSE is impeccably ‘prince-like’ in character all the same. It is predicated on a construction of a vulnerable, benighted and ignorant populace, who simply cannot be expected to govern their own affairs, and must look to the state at every turn – even when ‘managing’ their relationships and even when having sex.

David McGrogan

19 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – the total state is all around you

  • bobby b

    The inference is clear: without the state interfering and mandating CSE for all children and young people, not only will patriarchy and toxic masculinity run riot, but everybody will be having bad sex to boot.

    The people who brought us “bonus holes” feel qualified to help us all through the thickets of sex. Instead of the promised future with flying cars, we’ll get Woody Allen’s Orgasmatrons.

    We’re really letting the wrong types jump into leadership roles. I’d rather they fight the matriarchy and toxic femininity.

  • Fraser Orr

    But I think it is good for kids to learn about sex in a responsible way in school. The problem is that terrible, terrible people get to decide the curriculum. And the solution is very straightforward. If we are to have state funded education let the state fund it not run it. Give people a tax credit of an appropriate amount (maybe $7-10k per kid) that is given for education (similar to the AOTC for college) and let parents decide which school to send their kid to. Let the schools’ curricula compete for parents’ attention, and this problem would go away within three years.

    We don’t have to shut down the public schools, just let them compete on a level playing field with private schools who are actually responsive to parents desires. I have to say, for example, that the public school my kids went to was very good, and their sex ed curriculum was also very good. If it wasn’t I am fortunate enough that I could have pulled them out and put them in private school, in fact I did exactly that for some of their education. So we can’t tar them all with one brush. However, what we can do is allow parents to have a choice when their kids aren’t as fortunate as mine both in terms of quality of their public school or options from their parents’ bank account.

    And if parents really want their kids utterly clueless about sex let them make that choice. It isn’t a good choice, but it is better than the non choice they have right now, which is often a horrifying depravity.

    If people can’t afford food the government gives them a SNAP card. It doesn’t run the farms or supermarkets. Can you imagine what that would look like — if poor people went to government supermarkets sourcing from by government farms? It would be the nutritional equivalent of what we have in the public schools.

  • Fraser Orr

    Oh, and let me add — $10k tax credit is not AT ALL high. The Chicago public school system just passed a new budget that is $30,000 per student in the district. Which isn’t much less than you pay at the very best private schools in America.

    And it is also worth pointing out that this is largely a state matter. So why very conservative states in the deep south, or even from crusader Desantis in Florida, don’t implement it, is a little beyond me.

  • Kirk

    How about we get government out of the business of things it has no business being involved in?

    I don’t see what has morphed into state-run indoctrination as a core governmental function; if anything, the reality is that there ought to be a similar ban on state involvement in education the same way there’s a ban on state involvement in religion.

    The entire paradigm is flawed: You want the state, which has a vested interest in brainwashing future citizens, to have the power to control what they’re taught? Is that a good idea, do you think? How has it proven out, over our experience?

    The other issue here is that by taking over education, the state has simultaneously relieved parents of their responsibilities and assumed all the risk involved. That’s why you have the spectacle of minority parents demanding that the schools educate their children, when they themselves do nothing to either encourage those kids to do well, or take any form of responsibility for their conduct and performance.

    State-run schools are a pernicious vice, one that I don’t think we can afford any longer. Shut that crap down, and go back to what was traditional: You want to educate your kid? Do it yourself; nobody else really has either responsibility or agency for that, and by having these supposed “high-quality” state-run schools, you have this mentality wherein no parent is responsible; it’s the fault of the schools and teachers.

    The state has taken responsibility for something it really cannot possibly manage well, and which it has no business being involved in. You want to “fix” education? Put the responsibility for it right back where it always was, and where it belongs: On the parents. You want high-quality educations? If they’re not paying the bills, it won’t happen. So long as you are using your power to tax these things, you’re enabling the general run of individual in society to slough off responsibility for their kids and themselves. You’re also making a bunch of incompetent lackwits wealthy, by creating a means for them to rent-seek and have zero responsibility for outcomes.

    Frankly, if we’re going to run things the way we are, the only rational way to do it is put these kids into creche’s where the state is totally responsible for caring for them, and educating them. The half-way house where Mom and Dad get to blame the schools for their failures as parents…? Yeah; that’s going to need to stop.

    I don’t have a brief for the current educational system, at all. You want to try and force-feed kids through these half-ass failed factory schools, wasting their time? Wasting billions of dollars on students that don’t want to be there, and who will be passed out of the schools unable to read or do basic math? What’s the damn point? Publicly-subsidized babysitting?

    State-run and state-mandated schools are a disaster. You can’t fix them, and unless you do something to get parents and students both to do the things they need to do to succeed, it’s a waste of resources from both directions. You can’t make a kid learn; they don’t want to be there? They shouldn’t be. And, let them pay the damn price for that, along with their parents.

    Nine-tenths of the issues with today’s schools boil down to simultaneous parental and student disengagement/apathy. They don’t care; they see school not as education, but as a gimme credential that is supposed to serve as a ticket to further credentials and good jobs. They don’t care about mastery of subject, or much of anything else. The grades are all that matter, and the certificates those grades get them. Never mind whether or not they can write a coherent paragraph or do basic on-the-job math; they want the things that an education gets them, absent actually doing the work and learning anything.

    This “education as a state-provided good” mentality permeates the rest of the system; “We pay taxes; our kid ought to get a diploma, no matter whether they did the work or not… Who cares if they can read or write?”

    Give you an example of how this works: In Illinois, in one of the school districts I recruited out of, they had a two-track system in place. If you were identified as “going to college”, and your parents were paying attention, you’d get tracked into classes that would likely result in your getting that qualification. If not, and your parents didn’t take an active role in your education? You’d be like dozens of kids I had who wanted to join the services, but who literally could not pass the tests to enlist. I had one young lady, who if you met her, you would think “This is a girl of average intelligence…” Test her? Oi… The minimum to enlist at that time, for a woman, was 31 out of 100. She scored in the low single digits on that test, something I thought I’d only ever see with someone who was genuinely mentally retarded. She really was trying her best, and just couldn’t do it, because she’d had zero exposure to most of the things on that test. I went back and looked at her transcript, and it was obvious that she’d been screwed by the system: It was full of fluff like “Fashion Merchandising”, which was basically how to ring up clothes in a store. No real math, no real English, no real science courses. She had a 3.4 GPA, too…

    What did we get out of subsidizing her education, pray tell? What social benefit was there, to the nation? Zero.

    BTW, her parents were appalled. But, they’d never paid a bit of attention to her education, having put it in the hands of the state, trusting the state to do its job. End result? A daughter who was effectively unemployable as anything other than a retail clerk. The young lady wasn’t stupid, either… Just ignorant and mal-educated. She could have easily been a hell of a lot more than she was, if anyone had ever bothered to actually educate her. She herself had no idea that she wasn’t getting an education, either…

  • bobby b

    OP: “[A] wise ruler…must think of a method by which his citizens will need the state and himself at all times and in every circumstance. Then they will always be loyal to him.”

    In unrelated news, the City of Chicago is exploring the concept of building state-run grocery stores as many private stores pull out of the area due to . . . stuff happening.

  • Kirk

    At this point, it is usually necessary to remind all readers that Machiavelli was almost certainly writing satire with his great work, The Prince. A point that escapes many…

    Government should remain limited in scope and power; if you give it enough powers so that it can give you everything you want, it will inevitably end by taking everything possible from you.

    The idjits who imagined that “universal state education” would be a good thing failed to work things out to the final transformation in their calculations. Given how it’s worked out, and the quality of the job performed by the state, I think it’s an easy supposition to make that perhaps, just perhaps… This ain’t the way to do it.

    You cannot impose an education on someone that does not want it. If they don’t want one, then they shouldn’t be forced into it, and should pay the commensurate price in terms of financial and personal success. Unfortunately, that’s the only way to avoid the waste of resources and the inimical influence of bad students forced to cohabitate with good ones.

    I’d be all for a system wherein you were fronted the expense of educating your kids by some non-governmental entity, at a reasonable cost, and that your kids whose educations were thus paid for were expected to reimburse the non-government entity in some form, either through work or by payment. The idea that the state is just going to pay through the nose for people to destroy state-provided facilities and run rampant through state-operated institutions, disrupting the educations of others? Ludicrous.

    I’ve an acquaintance that spent time in inner-city schools. Her experience soured her on do-gooding, and education in general; the crap she described having to endure, including threats of rape from students while in her classroom during the schoolday? Nobody should have to experience that, and that we tolerate such things going on in facilities and institutions that we pay for with tax money? Unconscionable.

    It’s also a signifier that there are hard limits on what government can do. It’s fairly obvious, from looking at situations like the one in Baltimore, that forcing education on the unwilling ain’t something government is capable of doing.

  • Paul Marks.

    Yes, we are moving towards the position that the state must be involved in all aspects of society, all aspects of life, this is now the default position – rarely challenged.

    There is a danger of there no longer being any concept of a divide between the state and civil society – when the word “society” is used, the state is what is normally meant. No longer a private sphere of conduct (the basis of both old Roman Law and English speaking Common Law – that basis, that foundation, has been undermined) – everything, every word and action, being a matter for the authorities.

    We are moving towards what is sometimes called the total state or “soft totalitarianism” – although how long it will remain “soft” is open to doubt, the iron fist is coming out from under the velvet glove (as we see with the Covid lockdowns, the “Climate Crises”, and other excuses for what the international elite want to do anyway).

    It is true that the process of creating international tyranny is NOT complete (we are NOT completely there yet) – but these is little resistance.

    Even those governments that reject international tyranny (the various international government and corporate “partnerships”) tend to do so because they want their own independent national tyranny.

    Mr Putin is an obvious example of this fake “alternative” – his defenders point out that he rejects the international agenda of tyranny, but this is only because he wants his own independent national tyranny.

    If asked for the name of a large country that has a limited government, a nation where liberty (civil society) is respected by the state, where there is the “rule of law” (in the OLD sense of that term) – I could not come up with an example.

  • Paul Marks.

    As for “sexual liberation – freedom” – undermining the family is an old tactic for undermining resistance to the total state, a very old tactic indeed as it is in Plato. So the Fabians and the Bloomsbury Set and the Frankfurt School Marxists (with their cries of “Liberation!” and their brightly coloured flags – as they prepare tyranny and slavery) are treading a very old road.

    And question any of this, as (for example) my fellow councillor King Lawal did, and you will soon find out how much liberty there really is in the modern “Free World”.

    Also notice how the sexually promiscuous are celebrated – as long as they are supporters of the total state, and are suddenly attacked if they question the total state.

    When Mr Russel Brand was “on the left”, when he was a supporter of the total state, his sexual antics were celebrated (celebrated) – but when he started to question the total state (“establishment narratives”) his sexual antics, of the past, were condemned – including by “Conservative” Members of Parliament who just follow the media line (they do not understand that the BBC, and so on, hate them) and do not have not a clue about the principles of the (old) Rule of Law.

    “Punishment now! Trial Later – if at all” – Edmund Burke would weep.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    In unrelated news, the City of Chicago is exploring the concept of building state-run grocery stores as many private stores pull out of the area due to . . . stuff happening.

    I’m not sure if that was partly in response to my comparison between state funding of schools and SNAP above. Which was meant to be a comparison to so how stupidly schools were run. But it only goes to prove my contention that the problem with a reductio ad absurdum argument is that people will often think the absurd is a damn good idea.

  • Kirk

    The question that has to be asked is “Why do people still think government solves problems?”

    Can anyone name a government program that’s actually made anything better, not worse? One which has not fallen prey to the classic issues of corruption, mendacity, and sloth?

    Government does short-term things somewhat well. Wars, moon shots, things like that. Long-term, generational issues? They screw the pooch every time, due to human factors. Every bureaucracy we establish gets taken over by careerists and apparatchik nomenklatura types, and the original noble cause gets lost in the cruft of corruption.

    Schools are a perfect example. Where we once banded together to hire teachers to educate our children, and built our own schools, today they’re virtual feudal fiefdoms, able to tax us at ridiculous rates and who show limited to no real “education” actually imparted to the students. It’s more about propagandizing and indoctrinating the kids than it is teaching them the basics of how to function in our civilization and how that civilization works.

    If you doubt me, go find a recent high school graduate, an average kid. Ask them to write you a paragraph about how our government is supposed to work, and maybe throw in a little math, too.

    If you get back a coherent, accurate description of any aspect of our governmental system, I’d be very, very shocked, and ask if the kid was homeschooled. If they got out of a state-mandated school with any sort of education at all, it’s a damn miracle these days.

    Things weren’t great when I went to high school, back during the late 1970s and early 1980s, but… Man. Observing the crap educations my nephews and niece got, along with their friends? It’s a horrid comparison. Hell, at least I got exposed to a lot of the right things; these poor kids don’t even know what they don’t know, and they’re having to pay through the nose to learn what they didn’t get in high school at “remedial” classes in college. It’s a criminal thing, this decay of the system.

  • jgh

    Kirk: Stanley Baldwin’s national electricity grid. It took until the 1990s for the engineers in control of it to be screwed by the pollies and accountants.

  • Fraser Orr

    Regarding the cost of school, if you want to know the reason why school, college, medicine, law, government and nearly every other big insitution is so expensive this photo illustrates it perfectly.

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr
    September 23, 2023 at 3:41 pm

    “But it only goes to prove my contention that the problem with a reductio ad absurdum argument is that people will often think the absurd is a damn good idea.”

    But, in the gradual move into the complete socialistic society, which is the goal of the left, it doesn’t appear to be all that absurd – in the short run, which defines the extent of their thinking. The City of Chicago is following that serious statement of Machiavelli’s as an effective way to insinuate itself into everyone’s daily and hourly life, because it works to build state power and influence.

    I put that in in response to your statement of “Can you imagine what that would look like — if poor people went to government supermarkets sourcing from by government farms?” Chicago can imagine it, clearly, and desires to get to that place. We can dismiss it as satire, but the left embraces it.

  • jgh

    The future is East Germany. How do I get a cushy job with the Stasi?

  • Phil B

    Kirk – September 23, 2023 at 12:36 am

    I disagree that Machiavelli was writing satire.

    You need to look at the condition of Italy at the time. The States were in a condition of continuous war and conflict. Machiavelli saw the destruction, disruption in normal life and the poverty caused by this.

    His “The Prince” was intended to be a handbook for any ruler or conqueror of a State or province to allow him to both retain power over the State and to rule the people under rules which were understood and not arbitrary. He desired stable rule and conditions so that people could have a future and be sure that what they worked for, they would benefit from.

    I’m pretty sure that he’d have no problem with a “cruel dictator” provided that the law was applied evenly and consistently and that the rules and traditions were known and could be relied on not to change arbitrarily.

    I have three (paper)translations of The Prince and have read them often. The Prince is often referred to but few people have read it and/or understood the context of the advice.

  • Paul Marks.

    Chicago is the only American city to be mentioned in the Marxist anthem “The Red Flag” – to celebrate the “martyrs” of 1886 (bomb throwing rioters). And Chicago was the site of the Democrat Convention of 1932 which nominated Franklin Roosevelt to be President of the United States in 1932 – HOWEVER…..

    However, in 1932 the Democrat Convention actually promised to roll-back the size and scope of government – Franklin Roosevelt did not do this, but Chicago can not be blamed for that. And the rise of statism under Herbert “The Forgotten Progressive” Hoover had been vast – for example the Income Tax (ZERO up to 1913) had gone from a top rate of 25% to a top rate of over 60% – and, for the first time in American history, the Federal Government, under the personal leadership of President Hoover, had intervened to PREVENT wages adjusting to a Credit Money bust – in every previous Credit Money bust from 1819 to 1921 wages had been allowed to adjust to the Credit Money bust, the labour market had been allowed to “clear”, but President Hoover would not allow this (and neither would President Franklin Roosevelt) – hence the mass unemployment of the 1930s.

    The old “Chicago Machine” of Democrats were indeed a gang of crooks – but they wanted the city to be sustained over time, so their children (and so on) would have a prosperous city to live in. This can be seen as late as the first Mayor Daley who was Mayor right up to the 1970s – Chicago was corrupt, but it was still a city that “worked”.

    But over time Chicago Democrats were taken over by the followers of Saul Alinsky (a Marxist – although he was careful to never openly admit that is what he was) – who included Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (even though Mr Obama never personally met Saul Alinsky – at least as far as I know), who supported unlimited Collectivism – the total state.

    We can see this in Chicago now – no one should be shocked that under the present Mayor and power structure (Alinskyite to the core) Chicago is experimenting with such things as Collectively owned grocery stores – “Social Justice” looting is destroying the city, and is MEANT to destroy the city. “We must destroy capitalist society in order to build a better society” is the thinking.

    That the Democrats are holding their 2024 Convention in Chicago is logical – they are a Saul Alinsky political party now, they support the Total State.

  • Kirk

    @Phil B

    You ever read the rest of Machiavelli’s oeuvre?

    The man was a staunch republican throughout his entire life, working to keep Florence a republic. The Prince was written while he was in exile after the Medici took over, and threw him out. I once thought it was a straightforward “manual for tyrants” myself, but then I thought to look at the rest of what Machiavelli wrote, and his life. If you can look at the man, his other works, and then presume that The Prince is anything other than a sarcastic cri-de-coeur intended as his way of venting about the state of his world… Well, I’m not sure how you could do that. It’s diametrically opposed to everything the man wrote previously, and when contrasted with his life’s work for the Republic of Florence? I’m pretty sure he meant it as satire.

    I am not the only person to read it that way, either… There’s a long history of seeing it as satire, as well as being a piece of incendiary literature intended to sabotage any tyrant taking its advice seriously… Mary Dietz saw it as “offering carefully crafted advice (such as arming the people) designed to undo the ruler if taken seriously and followed.”

    There are too many bits in that work which don’t align with it being meant as serious advice, especially when contrasted to the rest of Machiavelli’s works, and his life. I’d suggest you read his Discourses on Livy, and the rest of his papers that have been translated from the Italian. The contrast is obvious; it doesn’t even read like the same man wrote both, which is where I first really started to wonder about it all. Prior to going out and looking for more Machiavelli, I’d read The Prince straight, and just assumed that he was a typical Renaissance ass-kisser of the rich and powerful. After a bit more reading, and more research, I discovered that there were other people (most of whom are a lot smarter than I am…) who also saw it as satire.

    I first read The Prince back in high school, before the internet. All I had available to me was the text, and the usual commentary on it. When I went to re-read it in my twenties, that’s when I went looking for the rest of his works. Discourses on Livy was the first thing I found, and… It was a bit of a shock, to tell the truth.

    Nowadays, all of this is a click or two away on the ‘net. I really have to wonder what my intellectual development would have been, had I had more than a small-town library available to me, back in the day.

  • Paul Marks.

    Kirk – yes “The History of Florence” makes the real political position of the man rather clear.

    “The Prince” is ironic – showing the evil of the “Prince” whilst pretending to praise such a ruler.

    Anyway Florence is still there.

    And if I had to pick a single building that summed up the sprit of the West it would be the Cathedral of Florence – created by the genius of Brunelleschi.

  • Steven R

    Paul said:

    (even though Mr Obama never personally met Saul Alinsky – at least as far as I know),

    Obama was two months shy of turning 11 and still living in Hawaii when Alinsky finally took his dirt nap. It’s fairly unlikely that they met and if they just how much interest did a ten year old boy have in talking to some old Communist?