OL8: a reset is not a revolution
So, dear open-minded progressive, in Chapter 7 we established who runs the world: you do. Or rather, people who agree with you do. Or hopefully, people you used to agree with do.
I can hope, right? In this chapter, we’ll do a little more than hope. We’ll also look at change.
But first, let’s nail down our terms. The great power center of 2008 is the Cathedral. The Cathedral has two parts: the accredited universities and the established press. The universities formulate public policy. The press guides public opinion. In other words, the universities make decisions, for which the press manufactures consent. It’s as simple as a punch in the mouth.
The Cathedral operates as the brain of a broader power structure, the Polygon or Apparat—the permanent civil service. The Apparat is the civil service proper (all nonmilitary officials whose positions are immune to partisan politics, also known as “democracy”), plus all those formally outside government whose goal is to influence or implement public policy—i.e., NGOs. (There’s a reason NGOs have to remind themselves that they’re “non-governmental.”)
(If we did not have an existing category for the press and universities, we could easily think of them as NGOs—in particular, the system wherein journalists are nominally supervised by for-profit media corporations is purely historical. If the Times and its pseudo-competitors ever fail, as they may well, the responsibility of funding and organizing journalism will fall to the great foundations, who will certainly be happy to pick up the relatively small expense.)
I have blown a lot of pixels on the historical roots of the Cathedral. But this one-minute clip might tell you just as much: Hollywood Supports New Deal and NIRA.
That, my dear open-minded progressive, is what we call a personality cult. No, that’s not George W. Bush on the flag. If you don’t recognize the eagle, he is this friendly fellow, a symbol of the National Recovery Administration. And if you think there is anything ironic about the production (from Footlight Parade (1933)), you’re dead wrong.
And in what secret speech was this cult denounced? It never has been. All mainstream thought in the United States, Democrat and Republican alike, descends in unbroken apostolic succession from the gigantic political machine of That Man. (The last of the FDR-haters were purged by Buckley in the ’50s.) The Cathedral connection, of course, is the academic brain trust mentioned in Chapter 7.
Today’s Cathedral is not a personality cult. It is not a political party. It is something far more elegant and evolved. It is not even an organization in the conventional, hierarchical sense of the word—it has no Leader, no Central Committee, no nothing. It is a true peer-to-peer network, which makes it extraordinarily resilient. To even understand why it is so unanimous, why Harvard always agrees with Yale which is always on the same page as Berkeley which never picks any sort of a fight with the New York Times, except of course to argue that it is not progressive enough, takes quite a bit of thinking.
Yet as the video shows us, the Cathedral was born in the brutal hardball politics of the 20th century, and it is still best understood in 20th-century terms. Most historians would agree that the 20th century started in 1914—much as “the Sixties” denotes the period from 1965 to 1974—and I don’t think it can be declared dead until this last great steel machine finally gums up and keels over. I’d be surprised if this happens before 2020—or after 2050.
The 20th century prudently and definitively rejected the 19th-century idea that government policies should be formulated by democratically elected representatives (whom you know and loathe as “partisan politicians”). Unfortunately, at least in the United States and the Soviet Union, it replaced the fallacy of representative government with the far more insidious fallacy of scientific government.
Government is not a science because it is impractical to construct controlled experiments in government. Uncontrolled or “natural” experiments are not science. Any process which is not science, but claims to be science, or claims that its results exhibit the same objective robustness we ascribe to the scientific process, has surely earned the name of pseudoscience. Thus it is not at all excessive to describe 20th-century “public policy” as a pseudoscience. A good sanity check is the disparity between its predictions and its achievements.
Moreover, all the major 20th-century regimes maintained, and generally intensified, the underlying mystery of Whig government: the principle of popular sovereignty.
Even the Nazis acknowledged popular sovereignty. If the NSDAP had defined its leadership of Germany as a self-explaining proposition, it could have laid off Goebbels in 1933. Instead it went to extraordinary lengths to capture and retain the support of the German masses, and most historians agree that (at least before the war) it succeeded. If you don’t consider this an adequate refutation of the principle of vox populi, vox dei, perhaps you are a Nazi yourself.
This is the terrible contradiction in the political formula of the modern regime. Public opinion is always right, except when it’s not. It is infallible, but responsible educators must guide it toward the truth. Otherwise, it might fall prey to Nazism, racism, or other bad thoughts.
Hence the Cathedral. The basic assumption of the Cathedral is that when popular opinion and the Cathedral agree, their collective judgment is infallible. When the peasant mind stubbornly resists, as in the cases of colonization or the racial spoils system, more education is necessary. The result might be called guided popular sovereignty. It wins both coming and going.
In 1933, public opinion could still be positively impressed by group calisthenics displaying the face of the Leader, eagles shooting lightning bolts, etc., etc. By today’s standards, the public of 1933 (both German and American) was a seven-year-old boy. Today’s public is more of a thirteen-year-old girl (a smart, plucky, well-meaning girl), and guiding it demands a very different tone.
You are not a thirteen-year-old girl. So how did you fall for this bizarre circus? How can any mature, intelligent, and educated person put their faith in this gigantic festival of phoniness?
Think about it. You read the New York Times, or similar, on a regular basis. It tells you this, it tells you that, it reports that “scientists say” X or Y or Z. And there is always a name at the top of the article. It might be “Michael Luo” or “Celia Dugger” or “Heather Timmons” or “Marc Lacey” or… the list, is, of course, endless.
Do you know Michael or Celia or Heather or Marc? Are they your personal friends? How do you know that they aren’t pulling your chain? How do you know that the impression you get from reading their stories is the same impression that you would have if you, personally, saw everything that Michael or Celia or Heather or Marc saw? Why in God’s green earth do you see their “stories” as anything but an attempt to “manipulate procedural outcomes” by guiding you, dear citizen, to interpret the world in a certain way and deliver your vote accordingly?
The answer is that you do not trust them, personally. Bylines are not there for you. They are there for the journalists themselves. If the Times, like The Economist, lost its bylines and attributed all its stories to “a New York Times reporter,” your faith would not change one iota. You trust Michael and Celia and Heather and Marc, in other words, because they are speaking (quite literally) ex cathedra.
So you trust the institution, not the people. Very well. Let’s repeat the question: what is it about the New York Times that you find trustworthy? The old blackletter logo? The motto? Suppose that instead of being “reporters” of “the New York Times,” Michael and Celia and Heather and Marc were “cardinals” of “the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?” Would this render them more credible, less credible, or about as credible? Suppose, instead, they were “professors” at “Stanford University?” Would this increase or decrease your trust?
For a hardened denialist such as myself, who has completely lost his faith in all these institutions, attempting to understand the world through the reports and analysis produced by the Cathedral is like trying to watch a circus through the camera on a cell phone duct-taped to the elephant’s trunk. It can be done, but it helps to have plenty of external perspective.
And for anyone starting from a position of absolute faith in the Cathedral, there is simply no other source of information against which to test it. You are certainly not going to discredit the Times or Stanford by reading the Times or going to Stanford, any more than you will learn about the historical Jesus by attending a Latin Mass.
And as a progressive, you are no more interested in prying into these questions than the average Catholic is in explaining what makes the Church “One, Holy, and Apostolic.” You do not see yourself as a believer in anything. You don’t think of the Cathedral as a formal entity, which of course it is not. Its institutional infallibility is a matter of definition, not faith.
Rather, you focus your political energies on the enemies of the Cathedral. Perhaps the keystone of the progressive belief system is the theory that the Cathedral, far from being the boss hog, the obvious winner in all conflicts foreign or domestic, is in fact struggling desperately against the dark and overpowering forces of bigotry, religion, ignorance, corruption, militarism, etc. In a word—the Man.
We met the Man in Chapter 7 courtesy of Lincoln Steffens, whose enemies—in the form of Gilded Age blowhards such as Chauncey Depew—at least really existed, and had real power. When C. Wright Mills wrote The Power Elite, their memory could at least be reasonably invoked. By the Chomsky era, the military-corporate-financial conspiracy was approaching the plausibility, if not the maliciousness, of its international Jewish counterpart. The 20th century’s real power elite, of course, are Steffens, Mills and Chomsky themselves.
This is the classic propaganda trope in which resistance becomes oppression. Poland is always about to march into Germany. Every aggressive political or military operation in history has been painted, usually quite sincerely, by its supporters as an act of self-defense.
In reality, active resistance to the Cathedral is negligible. At most there is the Outer Party, which is completely ineffective if not counterproductive (more on this in a bit). The Outer Party can sometimes align itself with small acts of petty corruption, as in Tom DeLay’s K Street Project. This can hardly be described as a success. There are also phone-in operations, such as NumbersUSA, which attempt to mobilize the last remnants of unreconstructed public opinion. The Cathedral, which fears the masses much more than it has to, is often demure in revealing its power to just steam right over them, and so it is possible to achieve small victories such as NumbersUSA’s in maintaining the status quo. Finally, the initiative process, ironically a relic of early Progressivism itself, grants occasional laurels to a Howard Jarvis or Ward Connerly.
But most resistance is of the passive, atomized, and inertial sort. People simply tune out. If they are especially determined and wily, they may practice the Ketman of Czesław Miłosz. Or they believe, but they don’t super-believe. They are the progressive version of Jack Mormons. Naturally, even these small, private apathies enrage the fanatical.
Here is another inescapable contradiction. The average progressive, who is not open-minded (most people aren’t) and is not reading this, cannot imagine even starting to perform the exercise of imagining a world in which his side is the overdog. Yet the very word “progress” implies that his cause in general tends to advance, not retreat, and history confirms this.
If you were advising a young, amoral, ambitious and talented person to choose a political persuasion solely on the probability of personal success, you would certainly advise her to become a progressive. She should probably be as radical as possible, hopefully without acquiring any sort of a criminal record. But as the case of Bill Ayers shows, even straight-out terrorism is not necessarily a bar to the circles of power (especially if, like Ayers, you started there in the first place).
The only reason to oppose progressivism is some sincere conviction. As Edith Hamilton said to Freda Utley: “Don’t expect the material rewards of unrighteousness while engaged in the pursuit of truth.” This has to be one of the finest sentences of the twentieth century.
Any such conviction may be misguided, of course. People being what they are, and progressivism being the creed of the most intelligent and successful people in the world, most opponents of progressivism are in some way ignorant, deluded or misinformed. Often the situation is simple: progressives are right, and they are wrong. This hardly assists the pathetic, doomed cause of antiprogressivism.
In the Post, the liberal historian Rick Perlstein stumbles on (and then, of course, past) the inconvenient reality of progressive dominance:
Born myself in 1969 to pre-baby boomer parents, I’m a historian of America’s divisions who spent the age of George W. Bush reading more newspapers written when Johnson and Richard Nixon were president than current ones. And I recently had a fascinating experience scouring archives for photos of the 1960s to illustrate the book I’ve just finished based on that research. It was frustrating—and telling.
The pictures people take and save, as opposed to the ones they never take or the ones they discard, say a lot about how they understand their own times. And in our archives as much as in our mind’s eye, we still record the ’60s in hazy cliches—in the stereotype of the idealistic youngster who came through the counterculture and protest movements, then settled down to comfortable bourgeois domesticity.
What’s missing? The other side in that civil war. The right-wing populist rage of 1968 third-party presidential candidate George Wallace, who, referring to an idealistic protester who had lain down in front of Johnson’s limousine, promised that if he were elected, “the first time they lie down in front of my limousine, it’ll be the last one they’ll ever lay down in front of because their day is over!” That kind of quip helped him rise to as much as 20 percent in the polls.
It’s easy to find hundreds of pictures of the national student strike that followed Nixon’s announcement of the invasion of Cambodia in the spring of 1970. Plenty of pictures of the riots at Kent State that ended with four students shot dead by National Guardsmen. None I could find, however, of the counter-demonstrations by Kent, Ohio, townies—and even Kent State parents. Flashing four fingers and chanting “The score is four/And next time more,” they argued that the kids had it coming.
The ’60s were a trauma—two sets of contending Americans, each believing they were fighting for the future of civilization, but whose left- and right-wing visions of redemption were opposite and irreconcilable. They were a trauma the way the war of brother against brother between 1861 and 1865 was a trauma and the way the Great Depression was a trauma. Tens of millions of Americans hated tens of millions of other Americans, sometimes murderously so. The effects of such traumas linger in a society for generations.
Consider this example. The Library of Congress, which houses the photo archives of Look magazine and U.S. News & World Report, holds hundreds of images of the violent confrontation between cops and demonstrators in front of the Chicago Hilton at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and, from the summer of 1969, of Woodstock. But I could find no visual record of the National Convention on the Crisis of Education. Held two weeks after Woodstock in that selfsame Chicago Hilton, it was convened by citizens fighting the spread of sex education in the schools as if civilization itself were at stake. The issue dominated newspapers in the autumn of 1969 and is seemingly forgotten today.
’68 wasn’t a “trauma.” It was a coup. It was a classic chimp throwdown in which, using tactics that were as violent as necessary, the New Left displaced the Old Left from the positions of power. “Up against the wall, motherfucker, this is a stickup.” Truer words were never spoken. The victory of Obama, a Movement man to the core, represents the final defeat of the Stalinist wing of the American left by its Maoist wing. (By “Stalinist” and “Maoist,” all I mean is that the New Deal was allied with Stalin and the SDS was aligned with Mao. These are not controversial assertions.)
But I digress. My point is that what we can infer, by our inability to recognize any serious successor in 2008 of George Wallace, the anti-sex-education movement, or the folks who thought that the National Guard’s real mistake at Kent State was that they failed to follow up the victory by fixing bayonets and charging, is that these reactionaries lost, and their progressive enemies won. Generally in any conflict only one side can claim victory. And if after the battle we see that one side still flourishes and the other has been so thoroughly crushed that it is not only nonexistent, but actually forgotten, we sure know which is which.
The great myth of the ’60s is that the Movement, somehow, failed. Actually, its foes—not Nixon’s silent majority, who never had any real power in the first place, but the Establishment, the old Eleanor Roosevelt liberals, the Grayson Kirks and S. I. Hayakawas and McGeorge Bundys—lost almost every battle—including, of course, the Vietnam War itself. The SDSers and Alinskyites suffered hardly at all for their offenses, and moved smoothly and effectively into the positions of power they now hold, almost exactly as described in the Port Huron Statement. (Which is unbelievably windy, even by my standards—scroll to the end for Hayden’s actual tactical battle plan.)
The case of the “silent majority” illustrates the system of guided popular sovereignty. A majority of American voters opposed the student movement. Just as a majority of Germans supported Hitler. The majority does not always win. The children of the “silent majority” are far, far less likely to express the views of a George Wallace, a Spiro Agnew or an Anita Bryant than their parents. The same can be said for the grandchildren of the Nazis. The Cathedral defeated both.
(Was this a good thing? I suppose it probably was. I am not a huge fan of George Wallace, or of Hitler. But they are both dead, you know. History is not a judicial proceeding. Quite frankly, I find it amateurish to take sides in the past. We study the past so that we can take sides in the present.)
The progressive is quite satisfied with the defeat of Hitler, which short of making pyramids of skulls, Tamerlane-style, was about as complete as it gets. But Wallace is another matter.
To a progressive, progressivism is right and its opposite is wrong. Thus any survival of the “silent majority,” any sense in which the world has not yet been completely progressivized, any victory short of unconditional surrender, is a sign to progressives that the world remains dominated by their enemies. More energy is necessary, comrades.
The device of unprincipled exceptions allows this bogus, self-congratulatory legend of defeat to persist indefinitely. As we’ve seen, the progressive story can be traced back centuries, and at every moment in its history it has existed in a society which has included reactionary power structures. For example, the concepts of property, corporations, national borders, marriage, armed forces, and so on, are irredeemably unprogressive. Attacking on all these fronts simultaneously would result in nothing but defeat, real defeat.
So the continued existence of these reactionary phenomena provides evidence that progressives are struggling against dark forces of titanic and unbounded strength. You have to be a bit of a reactionary yourself to see the truth: these institutions are simply a matter of reality. So it is reality itself that progressivism attacks. Reality is the perfect enemy: it always fights back, it can never be defeated, and infinite energy can be expended in unsuccessfully resisting it.
Thus Condoleeza Rice, for example, can claim that America is only now becoming true to its principles. The Times disagrees—it claims that America is not yet there. Rather, it is treating its illegal immigrants unjustly. Is it just for America to prevent any human being from setting foot on its noble soil? Or is “no person illegal?” The Times is silent on the question. But perhaps in a decade or two the answer will be revealed in our “living constitution.” You see how cynical a response this great institution can expect, from a carping denialist such as myself, when it accuses some poor Outer Party shill of “breaking the law.”
Anyway. I think I have gone far enough in describing the Cathedral. It is basically a theocratic form of government, minus the literal theology. Its doctrines are not beliefs about the spirit world. But they rest no less on faith. I certainly cannot see any reason to believe that these people have delivered, are delivering, or will deliver government that is secure, responsible, and effective. I can see plenty of reasons to expect that, as the unprincipled exceptions rise to the surface and are carved away, things will get worse.
In case you are still undecided on whether or not to support the Cathedral, dear open-minded progressive, I offer you a simple test. The test is a little episode in ancient history. The name of the episode is Reconstruction.
The question is: who is right about Reconstruction? Team A: Eric Foner, Stephen Budiansky, and John Hope Franklin? Or Team B: Charles Nordhoff, Daniel Henry Chamberlain, and John Burgess? For extra credit, throw William Saletan in the mix. Team B has an advantage in that their books are available in one click. They have another advantage: they actually lived through the events they describe. Team A has an advantage in an extra century or so of scholarship, and the vast marketing powers of the Cathedral. You don’t actually need to buy their books—their ideas are everywhere. (Budiansky’s breathless first chapter is, however, on line.)
Note that there are no factual matters in dispute. The choice is merely one of interpretation. And all the authors linked above are, by any reasonable historical standard, liberals. Who do you find more credible, Team A or Team B? As you’ll see, you can hardly agree with both.
If you get the same results from this experiment that I did, you may want to think about strategies for change. Change can be divided into two parts: capturing power, and using it.
My answer for how to use power will not change: I believe in secure, responsible, and effective government. This is not, in my humble opinion, a difficult problem. The difficult problem is how to get from here to there.
Let’s start by looking at some ineffective strategies. In my opinion, the most common error made by antiprogressive movements is to mimic the strategies of progressivism itself. The error is in assuming that the relationship between left and right is symmetric. As we’ve seen, it is not.
The three main strategies for progressive success in the 20th century were violence, Gramscian or bureaucratic incrementalism, and Fabian or democratic incrementalism. As antiprogressive strategies, I don’t believe that any of these approaches has any chance of success. As (at the very least) distractions, they are counterproductive.
Revolutionary violence in the 20th century has such a strong track record that it’s only natural for reactionaries to think of trying it. Furthermore, in Japan, Italy and Germany, the 20th century has three cases of reactionary movements (yes, I know Hitler did not claim to be a reactionary—but he was lying) which achieved success through violence. For a while.
Before their fascist movements rose to power, these countries all had one thing in common. They were monarchies. Is your country, dear reader, a monarchy? If not, I recommend—strongly—against any kind of reactionary violence, terrorism, “civil disobedience” (such as tax protesting), or any approach that even starts to smell of the above.
Fascism was a reaction to Communism. (Thus the word “reactionary.”) It could exist because of one thing and one thing only: a political and especially judicial establishment that was fundamentally reactionary, and willing to turn a blind eye toward antirevolutionary thugs, who used Bolshevik techniques against the Bolshevists themselves. Is your country, dear reader, equipped with a reactionary judicial establishment? Are you sure? Are you really sure? Because if not, I recommend—strongly—against, etc.
In a world dominated by progressives, the fascist gate to power is closed, locked, welded shut, filled with a thousand tons of concrete, and surrounded by starving cave bears. Today’s Apparat has entire departments who do nothing but guard this door, which no one but a few pathetic dorks will even think of approaching. And this is even assuming that a regime which achieved power through fascist techniques would be superior in any way, shape, or form to the Cathedral, a proposition I consider extraordinarily dubious. Give it up, Nazis. Game over. You lose. Frankly, even the real Nazis were no prize, and few of them would regard their modern successors with anything but contempt. There is a reason for this.
We continue to Gramscian incrementalism. This is not without its merits. It even has its successes. I think the most effective arm of the modern “conservative” movement, far and away, has been the Federalist Society. The Federalists are absolutely decent and principled, they have separated themselves as far as possible from the Outer Party, and they have had a real intellectual impact. Frankly, you could do a heck of a lot worse.
On the other hand, it should not be necessary to join the Cathedral to have an intellectual impact on it, and one day it won’t be. And as an institutional power play rather than a platform for intellectualizing, the idea of Gramscian reaction is just silly. At best, the Federalists, and their economic counterparts in the George Mason School, might make the Cathedral system work a little more efficiently. But the Cathedral tends to be much better at assimilating them than they are at subverting it—an intention which, you’ll note, few of them will admit to.
Gramscian subversion works for a reason: the Gramscian progressive’s real goal is power. In order to generate free energy which he can transmute into organizational power, he is ready to push his organization toward ineffective policies, which by virtue of their very ineffectiveness are a permanent source of work for him and his friends. A Gramscian reactionary, working in the same organization as these people and nominally collaborating with them, is forced into one of two options: attacking the progressives and trying to destroy their jobs, which will result in his certain destruction, or finding a way to betray his own principles, which will result in a comfortable and permanent sinecure. There is little suspense in the decision.
Ultimately, the Gramscian reactionary is in fact a Gramscian progressive. All he is doing is to create jobs for himself and his friends. The Cathedral is happy to employ as many tame libertarians or conservatives as it can find. As LBJ used to put it, better to have them inside the tent pissing out. Hence the infamous cosmotarians. Perhaps if someone found a way to spread their dung on crops, they might have a reason to exist.
We continue to Fabian incrementalism. You can see Glenn Reynolds endorse the Fabian strategy here. I’m afraid I still have a soft spot for the Instapundit, who was perhaps my first introduction to the weird, scary world outside the Cathedral, and a gentle and pleasant introduction it was. But frankly, Reynolds doesn’t pretend to be anything but a lightweight, and I see no reason to waste much time on him.
Fabian incrementalism means supporting either the Outer Party, or a minor party such as the Libertarians. By definition, if you are going to take power using the democratic process, you have to support some party or other.
There is an immediate problem with this: as we’ve seen, modern “democracies” do not allow politicians to formulate policy. It is a violation of their unwritten constitutions, and an unwritten constitution is just as hard to violate as a written one. Therefore, even when the Outer Party manages to win the election and gain “power,” what they find in their hands is more or less the same sort of “power” that the Queen of England has.
My stepfather, a mid-level Washington insider who spent twenty years working as a staffer for Democratic senators, caviled vigorously at the idea that the Democrats are the “Inner Party” and Republicans are the “Outer Party.” He pointed out that between 2000 and 2006, the Republicans held the Presidency and both houses of Congress.
I pointed out that he was actually underplaying his hand. During this period, Republican nominees also held a majority on the Supreme Court. By the eleventh-grade civics-class “separation of powers” theory, this would have given the Grand Old Party complete domination over North America. Without breaking a single law, they could have: liquidated the State Department and transferred sole foreign-policy responsibility to the Pentagon, packed the Supreme Court with televangelists, required that all universities receiving Federal funds balance their appointments between pro-choice and pro-life professors, terminated all research in the areas of global warming, evolution and sexual lubricants, etc., etc., etc.
Whereas in fact, in all the hundreds of thousands of things Washington does, there was exactly one major policy which the Bush administration and Congress pursued, but their Democratic equivalents would not have: the invasion of Iraq. Which you may support or oppose, but whose direct effect on the government of North America is hard to see as major. Moreover, this applies only to the first term of the Bush administration. We have no strong reason to believe that a Kerry administration would not have adopted the same policies in Iraq, including the “surge.”
Why did the Republicans not use their formal control over the mechanisms of Washington to cement real control, as the Democrats did in 1933? There are many specific answers to this question, but the basic answer is that they never had real power. In theory, the Queen has just the same power over the UK, and if she tried to use it all that would happen is that she would lose it. Exactly the same is true of our own dear Outer Party, on whatever occasion it should next get into office. It may get into office again. It will never get into power. (Although it retains the power to fill many juicy sinecures.)
There is a more subtle reason that the Outer Party is a rolling disaster: conservatives and reactionaries, whose political positions must be based on principle rather than opportunism (since if they were opportunists, they would always do better as progressives), find it difficult to agree. Progressives always find it easy to agree—as you might have noticed, their disputes are almost always over either tactics or personalities, almost never over principles. There is a reason for this.
Thus progressives have the advantage of spontaneous coordination, the glue that holds the Cathedral together in the first place. Their formula is pas d’ennemis à gauche, pas d’amis à droite,1 and any unbiased observer must applaud at how smoothly they make it work. Their coalitions tend to hold, those of their enemies tend to fracture. Evil is stronger than good, because it is never worried or confused by scruples.
Third, Outer Party politicians who achieve any success are constantly tempted to succeed even more, by replacing their principles with progressive ones and allying with progressives. Since this alliance enables them to outcompete their principled competitors with ease, it takes a very determined figure to avoid it. In the ancient, grinning carapace of Senator McCain, this strategy has surely been pushed to its furthest possible extent—or so at least one would think. Then again, one would have thought the same of the original “compassionate conservative.”
We can see a more extreme version of this in the pathetic gyrations of one of the Outer Party’s outer parties, the Lew Rockwell libertarians, skewered with deadly aim at VDare and roasted to a fine crisp at VFR. I don’t really agree with the details of Auster’s analysis of libertarianism (here is mine), but our conclusion is the same: the problem with libertarianism is that libertarianism is a form of Whiggery, and the first Whig was the Devil. (Furthermore, this idea of presenting Dr. Paul, who so far as I can tell is nothing but a profoundly decent old man, as some kind of public intellectual, and putting his name on blatantly ghostwritten books, reeks of 20th-century politics.)
Fourth, there is another way to succeed in the Outer Party. This might be called the Huckabee Plan. On the Huckabee Plan, you succeed by being as stupid as possible. Not only does this attract a surprising number of voters, who may be just as stupid or even stupider—the Outer Party’s base is not exactly the cream of the crop—it also attracts the attention of the Cathedral, whose favorite sport is to promote the worst plausible Outer Party candidates. As usual with the Cathedral, this is a consequence of casual snobbery rather than malignant conspiracy, but it is effective nonetheless. It is always fun to write a human-interest story about a really wacky peasant, especially one who happens to be running for President.
And fifth, the very existence and activity of the Outer Party, this profoundly phony and thoroughly ineffective pseudo-alternative, is far and away the greatest motivator for Inner Party activists, who believe it is a monstrous danger to their entire world. Don’t say they don’t believe this. I believed in the right-wing menace, the regs gevaar as it were, for the first quarter century of my life.
Without the Outer Party, the Cathedral system is instantly recognizable as exactly what it is: a one-party state. You’ll note that when the Soviet Union collapsed, it wasn’t because someone organized an opposition party and started winning in their fake elections. In fact, many of the later Communist states (such as Poland and China) maintained bogus opposition parties, for exactly the same reason we have an Outer Party: to make the “people’s democracy” look like an actual, 19th-century political contest.
Without the Outer Party, the legions of Inner Party youth activists we see all over the place are exactly what they appear to be: Komsomol members. They are young, ambitious people who serve the State to get ahead. In fact, often their goal is not to get ahead, but just to get laid. Once it is clear that the Inner Party is just the government, all the fun disappears from this enterprise. There are other ways to get laid, most of them less boring and bureaucratic.
If the Republicans could somehow dissolve themselves permanently and irrevocably, it would be the most brutal blow ever struck against the Democrats. It would make Obi-Wan Kenobi look like Chad Vader. As I’ll explain, passive resistance is not your only option, but it is a thousand million times better than Outer Party activism. Do not support the Outer Party.
Face it: political democracy in the United States is dead. It died on March 4, 1933, when the following words were uttered:
But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis—broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.
FDR is often credited with “preserving democracy.” He “preserved democracy” in about the same way that the Russians preserved Lenin. More precisely, it was his opponents who preserved the pickled corpse of democracy, when again and again FDR made these kinds of crude threats and they failed to call his bluff. (Justice Van Devanter has a lot to answer for.)
Democracy sucks. It never worked in the first place. Pobedonostsev got it exactly right. If you read British travelers’ accounts of 19th-century American democracy, when we had the real original thing and theirs was still heavily diluted with aristocracy, the phenomenon sounds terrifying and barbaric. It sounds, in fact, distinctly Nazi. And where do you think the Nazis got their mob-management technology? By listening to Beethoven, perhaps? By reading Goethe?
And since democracy is dead, the idea of restoring it is doubly quixotic. If you have to pick something dead to restore, at least find something that everyone understands is dead. It would actually be much easier, and certainly far more productive, to restore the Stuarts.
For example, the British writer Richard North, who is not a porn star but the proprietor of EU Referendum, perhaps the world’s best blog on the reality of government today, has a fine two-part essay on the failure of the eurosceptic movement—that is, the movement to rescue the UK from assimilation into the curiously Soviet-like and thoroughly undemocratic EU.
What astounds Dr. North so much is that no one seems to care. All the Sturm und Drang of the 19th century, all the democratic foofaraw and the jingoism and the socialism and all the rest, and the British people are letting it all just be sucked away into a creepy-looking building in Belgium, from which all important decisions are handed down by transnational bureaucrats who could sign on as extras in Brazil II without the cost and inconvenience of a baby mask.
And it’s not just the US. I mean, good lord, Ireland! All the ink that was shed over Home Rule. All the blood, too. The unquenchable Celtic passion of the fiery, irrepressible Celt. And they can scarcely be bothered to give a tinker’s damn whether they are governed from Dublin or from Brussels. What in the world can be going on?
What is going on is that the voters of both Britain and Ireland, though they may not know it consciously, are perfectly aware of the game. As anyone who has read the Crossman diaries knows, their politicians handed off power to faceless bureaucrats a long, long time ago, just as ours did. The only real question is what city and office building their faceless bureaucrats work in, and what nationality they are. And why should it possibly matter?
So Dr. North concludes his entire well-reasoned discussion with this bathetic cri de coeur:
To achieve that happy outcome, though, we have to answer the question that the élites have been evading ever since they decided to take refuge in the arms of “Europe”: what is Britain’s role in the world?
On reflection, I have come to the view that it is the failure to address this question which has given rise to many of the ills in our society. As have our politicians internalised, so has the population. Lacking, if you like, a higher calling—the sense that there is something more to our nation than the pursuit of comfort, prosperity and a plasma television in the corner—we too have become self-obsessed, inwards-looking… and selfish.
In effect, therefore, we are looking for the “vision thing”—a sense of purpose as a nation, a uniting ethos which will restore our sense of pride and reinforce our national identity which the EU has been so assiduously undermining.
What bland shite. Dr. North, here’s a modest proposal for your “national identity.”
I suggest a Stuart restoration in an independent England. Through some beautiful twist of fate, the Stuart succession has become entangled with the House of Liechtenstein, who just happen to be the last working royal family in Europe. The father-son team of Hans-Adam II and Hereditary Prince Alois are not decorative abstractions. They are effectively the CEOs of Liechtenstein, which is a small country but a real one nonetheless. As you’ll see if you read the links, the last “reform” in Liechtenstein actually increased the royal executive power. Take that, 20th century!
And Prince Alois’s son, 13-year-old Prince Joseph Wenzel, just happens to be the legitimate heir to the Stuart throne—illegally overthrown in a coup based on the notorious warming-pan legend. Therefore, the structure of a restoration is obvious. The Hanoverians have failed. They have become decorative pseudo-monarchs. And as for the system of government that has grown up under them, it makes Richard Cromwell look like a smashing success. Restore the Stuarts under King Joseph I, with Prince Alois as regent, and the problem is solved.
Unrealistic? Au contraire, mon frère. What is unrealistic is “a sense of purpose as a nation, a uniting ethos which will restore our sense of pride…” Frankly, England does not deserve pride. It has gone to the dogs, and that may be an insult to dogs. If England is to restore its sense of pride, it needs to start with its sense of shame. And the first thing it should be ashamed of is the pathetic excuse for a government that afflicts it at present, and will afflict it for the indefinite future until something drastic is done.
For example, according to official statistics, between 1900 and 1992 the crime rate in Great Britain, indictable offenses per capita known to the police, increased by a factor of 46. That’s not 46%. Oh, no. That’s 4600%. Many of the offenders having been imported specially, to make England brighter and more colorful. This isn’t a government. It’s a crime syndicate.
Ideally a Stuart restoration would happen on much the same conditions as the restoration of Charles II, except perhaps with an extra caveat: a total lustration of the present administration. It has not partly, sort of, kind of, maybe, failed. It has failed utterly, irrevocably, disastrously and terminally.
Therefore, the entire present regime, politicians and civil servants and quangocrats and all, except for essential security and technical personnel, should be retired on full pay and barred from any future official employment. Why pick nits? The private sector is full of competent managers. You can import them from America if you need. Don’t make the mistake of trying to sweep out the Augean stables. Just apply the river. (If a concession must be made to modern mores, however, I think this time around there is no need to hang any corpses.)
In order to make a Stuart restoration happen, Dr. North, you have to accomplish one of the following two things. You either need to persuade a majority of the population of England (or Great Britain, if you prefer, but England as a historic jurisdiction without a present government is quite an appealing target) that it needs to happen, or you need to persuade the British Army that it needs to happen. The former is preferable. The latter is dangerous, but hardly unprecedented. Frankly, the present situation is dangerous as well.
Neither of these options involves any of the following acts: starting a new political party, recruiting a paramilitary fascist skinhead stormtroop brigade, or engaging in eternal debates about the policies and procedures of the restored polity.
All of these are crucial, but the third especially. Note the difference between organizing a royal restoration and organizing a democratic revival. The latter, simply because of the open landscape of power it must create, offers an infinite plane across which an arbitrary oil slick of random crackpot ideas can spread out indefinitely, creating a movement with less cohesion than the average pubic hair. (See under: UKIP.) The former is a single decision. It is far less complicated than voting. Either you want to restore the rightful King of England, or you’d rather take your chances with the faceless bureaucrats. Either you’re a neo-Jacobite, or you’re not. There are no factions, parties, personality conflicts, etc., etc.
What will the new England look like? You don’t even have to think about it. It is not your job to think about it. It is Prince Regent Alois’s job—the miracle of absolute monarchy, Stuart-style. If he runs the place a quarter as well as he runs Vaduz, if he can get the crime rate per hundred thousand back down to 2.4 from 109.4, historians will be kissing his ass for the next four centuries. Perhaps he can get Lee Kuan Yew in as a consultant.
You have many difficulties in making a Stuart restoration happen, but perhaps the greatest is that most Englishmen simply have no idea what living in a competently governed country would be like. Liechtenstein, while quite well-run, is too small to serve as an illustration. Singapore is definitely a better bet.
Here is a speech made last year by Lee Hsien Loong, who just, um, happens to be the son of Lee Kuan Yew. Read this speech, obviously composed by Prime Minister Lee himself (it certainly does not betray the speechwriter’s art), and imagine living in a country in which the chief administrator talks to the residents in a normal voice as if speaking to grownups. Yes, men and women of England, this is what American-style democracy has deprived you of. We’re sorry. We promise we won’t do it again.
This sort of transition in government is what, here at UR, we call a reset. It’s just like rebooting your computer, when for some reason it gets gunked up and seems to be running slowly. Are you interested in debugging it? Would you like to activate the kernel console, perhaps look at the thread table, check out some registers, see what virtual memory is doing? Is a bear Catholic? Does the Pope—anyway.
Or perhaps it’s a little more like reinstalling Windows. The gunk could be a virus, after all. Rebooting will not remove a virus. Better yet, you could replace Windows with Linux. That way, you won’t just get the same virus right away again. I think a Stuart restoration in England is about as close as it comes to replacing Windows with Linux.
There are three basic principles to any reset.
First, the existing government must be thoroughly lustrated. There is no point in trying to debug or reform it. There is certainly no need for individual purges, McCarthy-style, or for Fragebogen and Persilscheine à la 1945. Except for the security forces and essential technical personnel, all employees should be thanked for their service, asked to submit contact information so that they can be hired as temporary consultants if the new administration finds it necessary, and discharged with no hard feelings, an amnesty for any crimes they may have committed in government service, and a pension sufficient to retire.
Second, a reset is not a revolution. A revolution is a criminal conspiracy in which murderous, deranged adventurers capture a state for their arbitrary, and usually sinister, purposes. A reset is a restoration of secure, effective and responsible government. It’s true that both involve regime change, but both sex and rape involve penetration.
Of course, a failed reset can degenerate into a revolution. No doubt many involved in the rise to power of Hitler and Mussolini thought of their project as a reset. They were quite mistaken. It is a cruel irony to free a nation of democracy, only to saddle it with gangsters.
There is a simple way to distinguish the two. Just as the new permanent government must not retain employees of the old government, it must not employ or reward anyone involved in bringing the reset about. A successful reset may involve an interim administration which does have personal continuity with the reset effort, but if so this regime must be discarded as thoroughly as the old regime. This policy eliminates all meretricious motivations.
Third, and most important, a reset must happen in a single step. It is not a gradual effort in which a new party builds support by incrementally moving into positions of responsibility, as the Labour Party did in the 20th century. As we’ve seen, this Fabian approach only works from right to left. The only way for a reactionary movement to acquire power incrementally is to soil itself by participating in political democracy, a form of government it despises as much as any sensible person. Besides, since there is no such thing as a partial reset, there are no meaningful incremental policies that resetters can support. You can restore the Stuarts or not restore the Stuarts, but you can’t restore 36% of the Stuarts.
A reset is the result of a single successful operation. Ideally, the old regime simply concedes peacefully and of its own free will that it has lost the confidence of the people, and obeys all legal niceties in conveying full executive power to the new administration. This is more or less the way the Soviet satellites collapsed, for example. It can get more complicated than this, but not much more complicated. Whatever is done, there should be no security vacuum and certainly no actual fighting. Real reactionaries don’t go off half-cocked.
There is a simple way to execute a reset without falling into the dead-end trap of politics, and without the assistance of the military. Conduct your own election. Enroll supporters directly over the Internet, verifying their identity as voters. Once you have a solid and unquestionable majority, form an interim administration and request the transfer of government.
And it will happen. You may not even need an absolute majority. The modern regime is quite immune to politics, but it is tremendously sensitive to public opinion. It cannot afford to be disliked. Like every bully, it is a great coward. Especially if it is given a comfortable way out—thus the amnesty and the pension. If you have your majority and still the regime does not concede, this, and only this, is the time to turn to the official elections.
The truth about the people who work for government is that, in general, they despise it. They are demoralized and disillusioned. They have slightly more excitement and energy than your average Stasi employee circa 1988, but not much. Working for the government in 1938 was incredible, unbelievable fun. Working for the government in 2008 is soul-destroying. If you gave the entire civil service an opportunity to retire tomorrow on full pay, nine out of ten would take it, and lick your hand like golden retrievers for the offer.