Dear open-minded progressive, perhaps you were horrified by Chapter X.
I mean, I did propose the liquidation of democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law, and the transfer of absolute power to a mysterious figure known only as the Receiver, who in the process of converting Washington into a heavily-armed, ultra-profitable corporation will abolish the press, smash the universities, sell the public schools, and transfer “decivilized populations” to “secure relocation facilities” where they will be assigned to “mandatory apprenticeships.” If this doesn’t horrify you, I’m not sure what would.
And do I even mean it seriously? Or am I just ripping off Daniel Defoe? Dear open-minded progressive, perhaps you have come to realize that your narrator is not always a reliable one. He has played tricks on you in the past. He will probably do it again. The game is deep, and not for the unwatchful.
The first thing to remember is that by even reading these horrible, horrible things, you have demonstrated exactly how open your mind is. You are in the 99.99th percentile of open-minded progressives. You are certainly one of the most open-minded people in the world. Your only conceivable worry is that your mind is so open that your brain has fallen out. Obviously this is a real danger. But life is dangerous.
The second thing to remember is that no one else endorses this plan. Or even anything close. In the political world of 2008, restorationism is completely off the map. It is off the table. It is outside the room. It is outside the building. It is running stark naked and crazy through the woods. In a word, it is pure moldbuggery.
And because at present we do live in a democracy, this means it is not dangerous. At least not at present. It could become dangerous, of course—perhaps if UR was as popular as Stuff White People Like. Which it ain’t, and which it won’t be. But what better reason to keep an eye on it?
The third thing to remember is that the whole plan of restoration through national bankruptcy is predicated on the assumption that the bankruptcy administrator—the nefarious Receiver—is responsible, effective, and not least sane. Clearly, if he or she turns out to be Hitler or Stalin, we have just recreated Nazism or Stalinism. Even if you agree with me that Washington is the malignant tumor of the ages, morally, intellectually and financially bankrupt, dead in the water and drifting toward Niagara, you can’t cure cancer with cyanide and LSD.
And the fourth thing to remember, dear open-minded progressive, is that if perhaps you can be convinced that some things you used to think were good are actually evil, you can be convinced that some things you used to think were evil are actually good. After all, you do have an open mind. No sensible mind is very open on this side of the skull, though, and for good reason. If there is a crack, it is a narrow one. What hopes to fit it must fit a postcard.
So let’s swing straight at the ball: the problem of political alignment. Should you be leftist, a rightist, or a centrist? Perhaps we can answer the question from first principles.
Suppose a great wind whips us into space, and sets us down on an Earthlike planet, Urplat, which is completely foreign to us. We quickly discover that Urplat has a democratic political system just like ours. Moreover, Urplat’s political thinkers are always squabbling, just like ours. And even better, an Urplatian position in this longstanding conflict can be described usefully by a single linear dimension, just like our “left” and “right.”
However, the political axis of Urplat is transformed in some unknown way from ours. Its poles are not left and right, but M and Q. You have no way of knowing how M and Q might map to Earth terms. M–Q could be left–right, or right–left, or some other weird thing.
What you know is that M and Q are contradictory principles. Each is some fundamental understanding of human society which indisputably contradicts the other. Of course, it is possible for any person to maintain some combination of M beliefs and Q beliefs—most simply, by using the M-principle to understand one issue and the Q-principle for another. This creates the weird phenomenon of a continuous dimension between M and Q, when the question obviously has a fundamentally boolean quality.
Furthermore, M and Q can be easily misapplied. And either can be combined with any sort of venal or sadistic nastiness. Thus, evaluating the actions of individuals who claim to follow the M or Q principles is not a straightforward way to evaluate the choice between M and Q.
We know there is a choice, because we know that at most one of M and Q can be good and true. We must therefore conclude that the other is evil and wrong. Of course, both could be evil and wrong. If we find that one is evil and wrong, we should do another checkup to ensure that the other is good and true. But if we find that one is good and true, the matter is settled—the other is the dark side of the Force.
Moreover, the choice matters—because on Urplat, humans have special Jedi powers. Only we can wield the weapon of the Urplatin Jedi, the Iron Mouse. And it takes both of us—you, dear open-minded progressive, and me the closed-minded reactionary. If we can agree, we can either end the conflict permanently in favor of M or Q, or any mixture of the two. Any dissent will be promptly silenced by the Mouse.
So what criteria can we use to decide between M and Q? The many followers of each great way, of course, are lobbying us with beluga and Porsches and blondes. Or at least the Urplatin equivalent of these fine goods. Nonetheless, we are stern, and will choose only the truth.
A simple test (a) might be to take a vote. If more Urplatins prefer M, their planet will be governed for the indefinite future on the M-principle. If they favor Q, likewise.
But, frankly, this is shite. If Q is evil and the Urplatins vote for Q, we have just condemned them and their children to a world of infinite suffering. Past Q-ist movements have perhaps been tempered by a modicum of M, mere personal decency, or mitigating venality. But if we enforce Q with the Iron Mouse, there will be no escape. If Q is wrong, wrong shall result. You may not have a problem with this, but I do, and it takes both of us to move the Mouse.
And is there any way in which we can guarantee that the headcount of Urplatin supporters corresponds to the absolute truth or falsity of M or Q? Answer: no. Many, perhaps even most, of the Urplatins are dumb as rocks. Therefore, this test is not useful.
A simple way to fix the test—(b)—is to restrict the vote to Urplatins who are at least as smart as whichever of the two of us is dumber. That way we cannot possibly agree to describe any voter as “dumb as a rock.” The description is inherently insulting to one of us.
So we are only considering the view of smart Urplatins. Even better, if we see a difference between smart Urplatins and dumb Urplatins, we can penalize whichever principle, M or Q, is popular with the dumb ones. If we see that Q is generally believed by the smarter Urplatins and M is more popular with the dumb ones, we pretty much have the answer. Right?
Okay. Let’s assume Q is the smart position and M is the dumb position. We know one fact about Urplat. Does this tell us that Q is good and true, and M is wrong and evil?
At the very least, this proposition depends on the intelligence of Urplatins. If a dumb Urplatin has an IQ of 80, in Earth terms, and a smart one has an IQ of 120, we can pretty easily see that on any question on which they might disagree, the latter is more likely to be right.
Or can we? How do we know this? And is our result the same if the IQs are, say, 120 and 160 respectively? What about 160 and 250? Surely it is neurologically possible for an Urplatian to have an arbitrarily high intelligence, at least as measured by any human scale.
And if the proposition is true for stupid = 160 and smart = 250, it means that an Urplatin with an IQ of 160 can be fooled by whichever of M or Q is evil and wrong. If so, one with an IQ of 120 can surely be fooled. Since one can never be so stupid that one can’t discover the truth by throwing darts, it is therefore possible for the Urplatins of IQ 80 to be right and those of IQ 120 to be wrong, which violates the proposition. So we cannot learn that M or Q is right or wrong, just because the smart Urplatins follow Q and the stupid ones cling to M.
However, this fact does tell us something: Q is more competitive than M.
Think of Q and M as two populations of parasites, competing for a one population of hosts. Ignoring the fact that Urplatins can harbor a mixture of Q and M perspectives on different subjects, or simply not care, simplify the problem by imagining that each Urplatin has a boolean flag: Q or M.
Although neither Q nor M may have any central organizing body responsible for the propagation of Q-ism or M-ness, if there was such an intellectual central planner, it would choose the smart hosts over the less-smart ones. If you’re a sexually transmitted virus, you want to be in a promiscuous gay host, preferably an airline steward. If you’re an intellectually transmitted principle, you want to be in a smart and loquacious host, preferably a university professor.
We expect to see some corollaries of this Q–M asymmetry, and we do. If smart people are more likely to host Q, we’d expect Q to be more fashionable than M. If you want to get ahead in life, acting smart is always a good start—whether you’re smart or not. If smart people tend to host Q, hosting Q is a great way to look smart.
Q becomes a kind of social lubricant. Anywhere, any time, the best way to meet and mate with other young, fashionable people is to broadcast one’s Q-ness as loudly and proudly as possible.
Also, if Q is more competitive than M, we’d expect to see Q progressing against M over time. Again, this is exactly what we see. The M–Q conflict is at least a hundred years old, and when we exhume the frozen thoughts of century-old Q-ists from dusty old libraries, their specific beliefs would put them deep in the M range—often at extreme M levels—if they lived today.
But does any of this answer the question? It does not. At least one of Q or M is darkness. But we cannot tell which.
If Q is the dark side and M is mere sanity, we see immediately what Q is: a transmissible mental disease, which spreads by infecting education workers. If Q is mere sanity and M is the dark side, this same system is in the business of overcoming superstition and leading the people of Urplat, despite the ancient prejudices to which they stubbornly cling, toward the truth. And this is certainly how Q-ists see the matter.
And if they are both evil? But this is difficult to imagine. If both M and Q are dark, there must be some truth which contradicts them both. And it must be less successful than either M or Q.
To a Q-ist, the situation makes perfect sense. The progress toward Q is the slow and painful victory of good over evil. Evil has many advantages, because it can avail itself of evil strategies, whereas the good restrict themselves to achieving good ends by good means. However, the truth has a great advantage: it rings clear, like a bell. No lie can fake it.
There is just one small problem with this explanation. We would expect M to disappear much more quickly than it already has. If M is a lie and it is socially disadvantageous to express it, why, after 200 years, do we still have M? All the cards are stacked against it.
Whereas if Q is a lie and M is the truth, we have all the ingredients for an eternal soap opera. Q has the snaky suppleness of mendacity, its tasty apple flavor, its stylish and sinful delights. M has the rigid backbone of a truth that can be suppressed, but never quite crushed, that reappears spontaneously wherever men and women, often of the socially awkward subspecies, have the misfortune to think for themselves.
We’ve constructed what Professor Burke would call a “narrative.” But, compared to the level of tough thinking that we’d need to actually demonstrate that Q is the dark side and M is the light, our narrative has the strength of tissue paper. It is enough for suspicion, and no more.
Therefore, we need to pull the veil aside and (c) look at what M and Q actually mean.
Note that we are still on Urplat—we are not claiming that M and Q correspond to right and left, or left and right, or anything of the sort. We are just devising abstract meanings for M and Q that could, on this imaginary planet we’ve made up, correspond to the facts we’ve stipulated: M and Q can coexist, M and Q are contradictory, and Q is consistently more fashionable than M.
Our definitions of M and Q revolve around the ancient Urplatin word nomos. If you are for M, you are for the nomos, which makes you a pronomian. If you are for Q, you are against the nomos, which makes you an antinomian. The contradiction is obvious.
Let’s start by explaining the nomos and its supporters, the pronomians.
The nomos is the natural structure of formal promises around which Urplatins organize their lives. To a pronomian, any Urplatin should be free to make any promise. In return, he or she can expect to be held responsible for that promise: there is no freedom to break it. All promises are voluntary until they are made, and involuntary afterward. A pair of reciprocal promises, a common phenomenon on Urplat, is an agreement.
The details of individual promises and agreements are infinite, and constantly changing. But the high-level structure of the nomos is a consequence of reality, and it changes little. To demonstrate this point, let’s derive the nomos from pure reality.
First, Urplatians are not robots. They breed in families, just as we do. An Urplatian family is based on two agreements: one between the parents of the little Urplatian tyke, and one between the child and its parents.
To a pronomian, the relationship between parents and children is simple. The agreement has only one side. Children promise their parents everything, including complete obedience for as long as the parents require. Parents need make no promise to a newborn infant, because an infant is helpless, and cannot compel any concession. If they choose they can emancipate the child when it comes of age, but if they choose they can require it to serve them all their lives. They even hold the power of life and death over it, again until they relinquish this power. (The pronomian supports both prenatal and post-natal abortion.)
Note that this regime—which does not exactly match the family law of, say, California, but is more or less an accurate description of the situation in early Rome—is optimal for the parents. In other words, parents can have no reason to prefer a legal system which gives them less power over their children. If they want to relinquish this power or even assign it to others, nothing is stopping them.
Note also the asymmetry of the agreement between parents and child. By recognizing the helplessness of the infant, we recognize that it has no choice but to accept any definition of the relationship that its parents may propose. The agreement is a promise in one direction because the child has no power to compel any reciprocal promise.
The pronomian sees these kinds of patterns everywhere in the nomos. There is only one nomos, because there is only one reality. The parameters of parenting do not change. The power dynamics are known. The answer is final.
If men and women, not to mention children, were in all cases honest and trustworthy, they could cooperate without a structure of formal promises. Since they are not, they benefit from formal promises and mechanisms for enforcing those promises. But—to the pronomian—this structure is no more than a recognition of reality.
One of the simplest patterns of agreement is property. Property is a system in which one Urplatin claims the sole power to dominate some good—play with a toy, drive a car, fence off a plot of land—and all other Urplatins promise to respect that right. As with the relationship between parents and infants, the origin of property is the balance of power. In a world which contains no property agreements whatsoever, Urplatins can construct a property system based on the reality of current possession.
Another key pattern is the proprietorship. The marriage we saw above is a simple case of partnership. In general, however, a proprietorship exists whenever multiple Urplatins decide to work collaboratively on a shared enterprise.
There are two ingredients to a proprietorship: collective identity and fractional ownership. Collective identity allows the proprietorship to act as a unit, to make and collect promises of its own. Fractional ownership divides the enterprise into precisely-defined shares, which in an anonymous proprietorship can be traded as property. (It’s probably best not to define your marriage as an anonymous proprietorship.)
The natural structure of a proprietorship is that ownership, benefit, and control are synonymous. I.e., if you divide the enterprise into a hundred shares, each share owns a hundredth of the business, receives a hundredth of the profit, and exercises a hundredth of the decision-making power. Of course, it is possible to construct a system of agreements which does not follow this pattern, but in most cases there is no need to. Again, the nomos is not prescriptive; these structures emerge as natural patterns of agreement.
But the most important structure in the nomos is the hierarchy of protection. Protection is what makes all these promises work.
A protector is an enforcer of promises. For some promises in some contexts, protection is not necessary: the cost of breaking any promise may exceed the gain to the promisebreaker. For example, someone who has a reputation for breaking promises may have trouble forming new agreements. This is an unusual condition, however, and not to be relied on. In many contexts—e.g., “insider trading”—a broken promise can be worth all an individual’s reputation and more.
By definition, above the top level of the hierarchy of protection there is no protector. That top level, therefore, consists of unprotected authorities—typically proprietorships, but sometimes persons. These unauthorities have no authority which can settle their disputes. They must resort to war, which in Urplatin is called the ultima ratio regum—i.e., the last resort of unauthorities.
Unauthorities do, however, make promises to each other. For example, an unauthority must possess an area of land to which it maintains exclusive control—an undomain—because its operations must be somewhere. (If it lacks an undomain, it is subject to the protection of some other unauthority, and thus cannot be an unauthority itself.) The undomain of the unauthority is its property because, as described above, all others have agreed to respect it. But it has no protector other than itself.
The key to success as an unauthority is to ensure that no other unauthority has a positive incentive to violate its promises to you. For example, disrespect of property rights—invasion—is the simplest form of unprotected promise violation. To prevent such assaults, an unauthority must maintain the military and political strength to make the assailant regret the decision to attack. Any less punishment is inadequate; any more is vindictive.
An unauthority makes a crucial mistake when it relinquishes the responsibility of protecting itself to another, stronger unauthority. If unauthorities cooperate against a common threat, they should cooperate for a limited time and a specific reason, and their league should be a league of equals. For an Earth example, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Romania make a good defense league. Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and England do not make a good defense league, because the best case of the relationship is that the first three have become protectorates of the last. I.e., they are already halfway to being its property.
Every Urplatin living within an unauthority’s undomain is its client. To be the client of an undomain is to promise it absolute and unconditional obedience. No unauthority has any use for internal enemies. Moreover, an unauthority cannot be compelled to respect any promise it may make to its clients—there is no force that can compel it. Clients must rely on the desire of the unauthority to maintain its reputation for fair dealing.
Fortunately, an unauthority is a business by definition—its undomain is capital, on which it naturally desires a maximum return. Its return on the property defines the value of the business, and is defined by the value of the subrights to the same property that it concedes to its clients. If its actions decrease this valuation, the unauthority’s own stock goes down. And property in a lawless and mercurial undomain is certainly worth less than property protected by an unauthority which is careful of its reputation.
On the same principle, because an unauthority maintains exclusive control within its undomain, it can and should enforce the promises that its clients make to each other. As we saw in the case of the parents, maximum promise enforcement is optimal customer service. Since the better the customer service, the higher the value of the property, and the higher the value of the property, the higher the value of the undomain, a prudent unauthority will do its best to uphold the nomos.
So, for example, A may promise to B that he will serve B faithfully for the rest of his life, and B may have him whipped if he disobeys. In fact, since parents own their children, A may consign his child C to this same relationship, and so on through the generations. B, of course, presumably makes some promise in return for this remarkable concession.
That’s right: we have just reinvented hereditary slavery. We have also reinvented absolutist or “divine-right” monarchy, the jus gentium, and in fact a whole menagerie of blasts from the past. We start to see why not everyone wants to be a pronomian.
(It is a separate discussion, really, but while we’re talking about hereditary slavery I can’t resist mentioning A South-Side View of Slavery by Rev. Nehemiah Adams. If your knowledge of the “peculiar institution” is derived entirely from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, perhaps it’s worth reminding you that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a propaganda novel. It’s not quite like getting your views on Jews from Jud Süß, but… and if you prefer modern sources by respected academics, try this remarkably un-presentist presentation, whose agreement with the Rev. Adams is quite impressive.)
Now, let’s look at the antinomian side of the ledger.
As you may know, antinomian is actually an English word. (And nomos is Greek. Okay, I lied. But I warned you.) It is usually applied in the archaic sense of religious law, but the derivation is sound, and the word is defensible in the present day.
An antinomian is anyone who seeks, consciously or unconsciously, to disrupt or destroy the nomos. He is a breaker of oaths, a burner of deeds, a mocker of laws—at least, from the pronomian perspective. From his own perspective he is a champion of freedom and justice.
I admit it: I am a pronomian. I endorse the nomos without condition. Fortunately, I do not have to endorse hereditary slavery, because any restoration of the nomos begins with the present state of possession, and at present there are no hereditary slaves. However, if you want to sell yourself and your children into slavery, I don’t believe it is my business to object. Try and strike a hard bargain, at least. (A slightly weakened form of pronomianism, perhaps more palatable in this day and age, might include mandatory emancipation at twenty-one.)
So my idea of the antinomian perspective will be a little jaundiced. But I’ll try to be fair.
Perhaps the most refined form of modern antinomianism is libertarianism. Libertarianism is a fine example of the antinomian form, because the elements of the nomos that it attacks are specified with the elegant design sense that one would expect from the founder of modern libertarianism—probably the 20th century’s greatest political theorist, Murray Rothbard.
Rothbardian libertarianism rejects two aspects of the nomos. First, it rejects the entire concept of the unauthority—in Earth-speak, the principle of sovereignty. Rothbardians are called anarcho-capitalists for a reason: they deny the legitimacy of the state, unless operated according to strict Rothbardian principles. Note that they do not require, say, Disney to operate Disneyland according to libertarian principles. This is because, to a Rothbardian, Disney’s title to Disneyland is legitimate, whereas (say) Iceland’s title to Iceland is not.
Rothbard has an intricate system, borrowed originally from Locke, for determining whether or not a title is legitimate. To say that this system is unamenable to objective interpretation is to put it mildly. But the titles of existing unauthorities all appear to be illegitimate. This makes libertarianism a revolutionary ideology. Since its antinomianism is so restricted and its lust for blood is minimal, however, it is not an especially dangerous (or effective) one.
Antinomians who reject sovereignty have two main alternatives. Either they support private, amorphous, and even territorially overlapping “protection agencies” (a design whose military plausibility is, to put it kindly, small), or they believe that government is legitimate if and only if it obeys a set of “natural laws.” Again here we see the proximity to the pronomian. But the Rothbardian concept of natural law misses the Hobbesian fact that in the true nomos, there is no party that can enforce a state’s promises to its clients.
This matters, because legalism without sovereignty has a simple result: the personal rule of judges. The error is to imagine the existence of a superhuman legal authority which can bind a state against itself, enforcing a “government of laws, not men.” As the bizarre encrustations of precedent that history builds up around every written constitution demonstrate, this is simply a political perpetual-motion device. All governments are governments of men. If final decisions are taken by a council of nine, these nine are the nine who rule. Whether you call them a court, a junta or a politburo is irrelevant.
Since I am a bit of a geek, though, the Rothbardian interpretation that interests me most is his approach to contract law. Note how Rothbard rejects the idea of binding promises, and is forced to construct impossibly elaborate structures of property rights. If I promise to paint your house, I have really sold you a title to a paint job, and if I do not then paint your house I am guilty of theft for having stolen said paint job. I think.
The Rothbardian design breaks down completely in a frequently-mentioned exception, the case of insider trading. Here is a randomly-Googled example of the kind of Jesuitic Talmudry to which libertarians resort when confronted with this problem. To a pronomian, the answer is simple: if you are to be given material non-public information, you promise to go to jail if you disclose it. Note that this is exactly how it works now. (Note also that to anyone who has ever had a real job, the idea of legal insider trading is transparently ridiculous.)
The tactical error of the libertarian, Rothbardian or otherwise, is to believe that the state can be made smaller and simpler by making it weaker. Historically, the converse is the case: attempts to weaken an unauthority either destroy it, resulting in chaos and death, or force it to compensate by enlarging, resulting in the familiar “red-giant state.” The pronomian prefers a state that is small, simple, and very strong. It respects the rights of its clients not because it is forced to respect them, but because it has a financial incentive to respect them, and it obeys that financial incentive because it is managed responsibly and effectively.
All things considered, however, libertarianism is a mild, innocuous form of antinomianism. Let’s skip immediately to the writer who may be the most popular philosopher on earth today, Slavoj Žižek. Here we see antinomianism in an almost pure, indiscriminate form, as in this lovely passage:
The Benjaminian “divine violence” should be thus conceived as divine in the precise sense of the old Latin motto vox populi, vox dei: NOT in the perverse sense of “we are doing it as mere instruments of the People’s Will,” but as the heroic assumption of the solitude of sovereign decision. It is a decision (to kill, to risk or lose one’s own life) made in the absolute solitude, with no cover in the big Other. If it is extra-moral, it is not “immoral,” it does not give the agent the license to just kill with some kind of angelic innocence. The motto of divine violence is fiat iustitia, pereat mundus: it is JUSTICE, the point of non-distinction between justice and vengeance, in which “people” (the anonymous part of no-part) imposes its terror and makes other parts pay the price—the Judgment Day for the long history of oppression, exploitation, suffering—…
The anonymous part of no-part. The big Other. Listen to this scoundrel, this charlatan, this truly evil man. Or buy his book, with its lovely cover. You won’t be the first. If I, dear open-minded progressive, ever become as popular on America’s college campuses as Slavoj Žižek, you may feel free to expend as much concern over my “secure relocation facilities” as Professor Žižek’s rusty old guillotine, which has lost not a drop of its eternal thirst.
Did I mention that I’m not an antinomian? From Rothbard to Robespierre is a long leap, no doubt, but we can observe some commonalities.
Antinomians believe that the present state of affairs is unsatisfactory. So, of course, do I. The nomos is horribly corroded and encrusted with all sorts of gunk. However, the pronomian’s goal is to discern the real structure of order under this heap of garbage, scrape it down to the bare skeleton, replace any missing bones, and let the healthy tissue of reality grow around it.
To the pronomian, this structure is arbitrary. Weirdly-shaped borders? Leave them as they are. High taxes? All that tax revenue is paid to someone, who probably thinks of it as his property. Who am I to say it isn’t? There are some property structures, notably patent rights, which I (like most libertarians) find very unproductive. If so, the government needs to print money and buy them back. Fortunately, it has a large, high-speed intaglio press.
The pronomian seeks to restore the nomos, whose outlines are clear under the mountain of byzantine procedure, wholesale makework and vote-buying, criminal miseducation, and other horrors of the liberal-democratic state. The antinomian sees many of the same horrors. But he does not share the pronomian’s goal: minimizing the reallocation of property and authority. Where the pronomian simply wants to replace the management, reorganize the staff, and discard the inscrutable volumes of precedent that have absconded with the name of law, the antinomian wants to destroy power structures that he conceives as illegitimate.
And, of course, he wants to rebuild them according to his ideals. Unless he is a complete nihilist, which of course some are. But it is the destructive tendency that makes antinomianism so successful. The utopia is never constructed, or if it is it is not a utopia. Success is a precondition to utopia, and success involves achieving the power to destroy.
The most common species of antinomian is, of course, the simple anarchist. The most bloodthirsty and intrusive states of the 20th century were based on a philosophy—Marxism—which saw itself as fundamentally opposed to government. People really did believe that the socialist paradise would be something other than a state.
History remembers 2 kinds of people, those who kill and those who fight back.
Anarchism strives toward a social organization which will establish well-being for all.
I am flabbergasted by how revealing these slogans are. History, at least when written by honest historians, remembers one kind of people: those who kill. It also notes that those who kill always conceive of themselves as “fighting back.” As for “a social organization,” it is simply our old friend, the State.
Thus, anarchism defines itself: it is an attempt to capture the state, and its juicy revenues, through extortion, robbery and murder. When it succeeds, it will distribute the loot among its accomplices, and “establish well-being for all.” At least in theory.
As we’ve seen, the one thing an antinomian cannot abide is a formal and immutable distribution of the revenues of state. He must constantly redistribute, he must wash his hands on the stream of cash, giving to Peter and taking from Paul, or his supporters have no reason to support him. In other words, he is basically a criminal.
Why is antinomianism, this criminal ideology, so popular? Fashionable, even? Why is it such a good fit for Q? Because people love power, and any movement with the power to destroy anything, or even just “change” it, has just that: power.
Antinomianism allows young aristocrats to engage in the activity that has been the favorite sport of young aristocrats since Alcibiades was a little boy: scheming for power. According to this article, for example, there are “over 7500 nonprofits” in the Bay Area, “3800 of which deal with sustainability issues.” These appear to employ approximately half of our fair city’s jeunesse dorée, occupying the best years of their lives and paying them squat. Meanwhile, container ships full of empty boxes thunder out the Golden Gate, along with approximately two trillion dollars a year of little green pieces of paper. However, if you’re 23 and all you care about is getting laid, interning at a nonprofit is definitely the way to go.
Amidst all this appalling nonsense, productive people keep their heads down and manage to engage in a few remaining productive pursuits. The nomos endures. Nor, not even if the Good One is elected, will the guillotine and the tumbrils reappear any time soon.
But antinomianism leaves its scars nonetheless. Almost literally.
The simplicity and flexibility of the nomos creates, or should create, an endless stream of “diversity” in the best sense of the word. It’s almost impossible to imagine the variety of schools, for example, that would spring up if all parents could educate their children as they saw fit. Structures of voluntary agreement tend to rely heavily on mere personal decision, and the products and services they create tend to embody personal style. For example, one of the many reasons that Belle Époque buildings tend to be so much more attractive than postwar buildings is, I think, that signoff on the design was much more likely to be in the hands of an individual than a committee.
Antinomianism, with its love for reaching into these structures of private agreement and breaking them to serve some nominally noble purpose, has the general effect of replacing individual decisions with committee decisions, personal responsibility with process, and personal taste with official aesthetics. The final stage is the worst form of bureaucracy—litigation, an invisible tyrant whose arms wrap tighter and tighter around us every year. This is sclerosis, scar tissue, Dilbert, Brezhnev, boredom and incompetence for everyone everywhere.
Most observers interpret bureaucratic sclerosis as a sign of a government which is too powerful. In fact it is a sign of a government which is too weak. If seventeen officials need to provide signoff for you to repaint the fence in your front yard, this is not because George W. Bush, El Máximo Jefe, was so concerned about the toxicity of red paint that he wants to make seventeen-times-sure that no wandering fruit flies are spattered with the nefarious chemical. It is because a lot of people have succeeded in making work for themselves, and that work has been spread wide and well. They are thriving off tiny pinhole leaks through which power leaks out of the State. A strong unauthority would plug the leaks, and retire the officials.
Outside the Communist bloc proper, of course, the ultimate in power leakage and resulting bureaucracy was India’s infamous Permit Raj, which still to some extent exists. Needless to say, if the subcontinent was run on a profit basis, the Permit Raj would not be good business. In fact, quite amusingly and with no apparent sense of irony, our favorite newspaper recently printed an article in which the following lines appear:
Vietnam’s biggest selling point for many companies is its political stability. Like China, it has a nominally Communist one-party system that crushes dissent, keeps the military under tight control and changes government policies and leaders slowly.
“Communism means more stability,” Mr. Shu, the chief financial officer of Texhong, said, voicing a common view among Asian executives who make investment decisions. At least a few American executives agree, although they never say so on the record.
Democracies like those in Thailand and the Philippines have proved more vulnerable to military coups and instability. A military coup in Thailand in September 2006 was briefly followed by an attempt, never completed, to impose nationalistic legislation penalizing foreign companies.
“That sent the wrong signal that we would not welcome foreign investment—this has ruined the confidence of investors locally and internationally,” the finance minister Surapong Suebwonglee said in an interview in Bangkok.
The ironies! Of course, perhaps it is not so ironic after all, as perhaps the main reason that the old China Hands, the men (such as Owen Lattimore) who by “manipulating procedural outcomes” gave China to Mao, thought the Communists were the shizzle is that they were obviously so strong. America could really do great things in Asia with the ruthlessly indoctrinated divisions of the PLA on its side, as opposed to Chiang Kai-Shek, who looked like his main interests were opium and little boys.
After fifty million deaths and the annihilation of traditional Chinese culture, what still remains is that strength. There is not much antinomianism in China, which has reduced its totalitarian pretensions to one simple and easily-obeyed rule: do not challenge the Party for power. The result, though profoundly flawed, is the most successful capitalist country in the world. All things considered, it is certainly one of the best to do business in—as the article describes.
And there is another effect of antinomianism: this.
“That’s how we do it out here, man!” In my primitive search of the Pravda, I find no evidence that this happened. Therefore, I must conclude that it did not, and the video is faked.
Because imagine the breach of the limes between barbarism and civilization that this would represent! If you could show this video to an American of 1908, he would simply conclude that civilization has collapsed. It has not. It lives. 580 is safe, mostly. I think. This sort of thing simply can’t happen.
But it can, and it can go on for quite a while without (probably) affecting my life (too much). Nonetheless, it is not getting better. It is getting worse. And nobody is proposing anything like anything that would fix it—except, of course, for me. And I’m crazy.
So Q, of course, is left, and M is right. That is, M—pronomianism—is the essential principle of the political right wing. We very rarely see this principle in anything like its undiluted form. But still: why dilute it? Why look around for partial fixes? Why not cure the problem in one step?
Pure Toryism of this sort has a hidden advantage: it is a Schelling point. True, it is very difficult to persuade people to abandon all of the different strains of antinomianism that have nested in their brain, each of which assures them that a simple restoration of the nomos, with sovereign bankruptcy and a plenary Receiver, is unthinkably “fascist.”
However, the eternal problem in organizing any kind of reactionary movement is that if you can get two “conservatives” together in a room, you can generally persuade them to form three political parties. Dissidents by definition are people who think for themselves. They do not have the advantage of the Q-virus, which pulls them all together around the Good One. And like normal people, they tend to disagree.
This is why the search for the essential principle, the nomos, the philosopher’s stone of the right wing, matters. If you can persuade those who distrust the system as it is to discard everything, liberal or conservative—not just “diversity,” and the Good One, and police who hug criminals, but even the Constitution and the Flag and the World Wars and Democracy and the Pledge and the Bill of Rights and all the rest of that stale mythology—if you can talk your audience down to the bare metal, convince them that their political system is scrap, that it is not even remotely recoverable, and then present them with a single principle of government that is at or near this level of simplicity, you’ll have a group of people who are all on exactly the same page.
This, in a word, is organization. And organization is what gets things done.
An Open Letter to Open-Minded Progressives
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