A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations (part 6)
So at least we have a theory of the Modern Structure. But a theory is not a picture. History is a story, not a pile of facts. If history is a necklace, theory is the string. Now, some beads.
Let’s remind ourselves again what we mean by the Modern Structure. We mean the structure of actual political power—i.e., influence over official action—that exists today in the OECD countries, and is obviously of Anglo-American origin. Regardless of nominal boundaries, it appears to coordinate policy not just in the United States, but throughout the Western world.
This design is called in the modern English language democracy, although the Modern Structure is only one of many possible power structures that can evolve out of an attempt to achieve that impossibly-unstable fantasy state of homogeneous power distribution. But surely it is fair to say that if we oppose the Modern Structure, we oppose democracy. So the latter is two things; we oppose them both.
You are surely familiar with the democratic history of American democracy. Note that—as expected—it is a story of thrilling victories, sinister villains, and dashing heroes. Frankly, this fungal mass has spent far too long in your left parietal lobe. Today, it meets our diesel-powered Water Pik. Taste the pain, hyphae! You sleep tonight in a jar.
To enter the skull, we’ll use the same methods we used on the American Rebellion: a minimal number of open primary sources, of the utmost crispness and flavor. (This poses some problems after 1922, when copyright kicks in, but we’ll try to manage.)
But the American Rebellion (which belongs more to British than American history) is not quite part of the story of the Modern Structure. While the Structure’s ideological roots are older than Jesus, its organizational roots go back a mere century and a half. So this is all we must explain.
So: we are Martians. We know nothing. But somehow, still, we speak English. And our time-traveling spaceship has landed in New York in 1859. Where are we? What is this place, anyway?
Our first step in understanding the America of 1859 is to observe it. However, we are not actually Martians and we have no actual time machine, so we cannot observe it directly. Therefore we must rely on history.
Obviously, a large quantity of work, scholarly and nonscholarly, on the period has been and continues to be produced. If you have read the entire book to this point and you are not aware that 21st-century democratic history is an extremely unreliable guide to the America of the 1850s, I commend you for your obtusity. You might want to try a different blog, such as Instapundit. It is certainly a challenge to excise your so-called knowledge of the period completely, but it does no harm to at least try to take the challenge.
In the absence of a time machine, I prefer to rely on a single reliable report from a single alien. Or foreigner, at least. I see no reason to start with an American description of America. Let us be introduced by a stranger, and a decent, trustworthy stranger at that. In reading history, we must decide whom to trust; let us start by making this decision easy. I have just the man: Charles Mackay.
Sometimes I like to rate sources on a scale of 1 to 4. 1 is pure propaganda, the Devil’s work on earth, to be read only with heavy welding gloves. 2 is the usual human state of gullible sincerity. 3 denotes generally strong perception with occasional systematic flaws. 4 is a good source. Thomas Hutchinson, for example, is a 4.
Mackay is best known for his Extraordinary Popular Delusions, still quite popular on Wall Street. His American letters were written almost twenty years later. They are written in a whimsical voice quite suited to a large Victorian audience, but this is easy to get past. Mackay is, in short, a 4, and I commend to you his Life and Liberty in America (vol. 1, vol. 2).
I’m afraid Life and Liberty is mandatory reading, but it reads extremely fast (and the Canadian material, of course, can be omitted). Mackay simply tells you what he saw and what he thought of it. His ideas are typical of a moderate English liberal at the time, which of course makes him wonderfully reactionary for now. I can’t imagine a better host.
My first response to Mackay’s travelogue is that the America he is writing about is, um, actually alive. There is no sign of any tetrodotoxin. There are no zombie banks, zombie theaters, or even zombie politicians. If you absolutely have no time for anything beyond a sample, read Mackay’s chapter 3—Broadway By Night.
What would you pay for a ticket to Broadway, 1859? Just to spend a night there? Imagine Mackay traveling to the New York of 2009. How is our Broadway by night? Not bad at all—by the standards of 2009. (And pretty damned good by the standards of 1979.)
I suspect he’d think Manhattan had been subjected to some kind of awful experiment in mass psychiatric medication. Everything has become grim, gray and slovenly. Not to mention that “life and property” are no longer anywhere near what Mackay would consider “very safe.”1 (Being a Londoner of the Victorian era, by “very safe” he means “completely safe”—the presence of a human predator on the streets being slightly more likely than that of an escaped leopard.)
And this is Broadway, then and now. Now, consider his description of St. Louis. What would Charles Mackay make of St. Louis today? What do you make of St. Louis today? (Or Detroit, once America’s fourth largest city?) And then there’s Mackay’s New Orleans…
But there is another difference between 1859 and 2009: modern technology. We have it. They didn’t. So: imagine Mackay’s America, plus iPhones and satellites and nuclear power. Now you see the true measure of the gap. It’s a little like comparing America, 2009, to Belarus, 2009.
Mackay leaves us with two mysteries, to be answered below.
First, our story is a mystery, because it is the story of a crime. A century and a half of democracy has wreaked unbelievable devastation on a place and people once considered by far the most promising on earth. No mere ecological pollution could possibly compare. USG has left America a shattered wreck.
Her industries are gutted and vanished. Her finances are ruined beyond imagining. Her old cities, but for a few, are dirty, dangerous, unlivable. Millions of feral, armed savages, perfectly decivilized, run wild in her streets. Her famous social fabric is shredded, her famous voluntary institutions defunct, her population bored, lonely, atomized. Her small towns have rotted, turned into strip-malls, or both. (Her birds, however, are remarkably well-protected.)
Granted, the rest of the world is even worse. (This is not a coincidence.) Granted, many of her suburbs are bland but livable. Granted, pockets of some cities have been partly restored. True, things seemed to improve after the ’70s. But when we ponder this graph, we realize that even this may be a forgery—a late, illusory bloom, like that of Czechoslovakia and Hungary in the ’80s.
The entire recovery from the ’70s was built on a tripling of private debt. The analogy to the Warsaw Pact is by no means misleading—as we’ll see. Perhaps the best way to put it is simply to say that the United States has never quite recovered from the Great Depression.
Note that there was a Great Depression before the Great Depression. Lord only knows what this one will be called. The system is economically capable of reflating and restarting credit expansion. But it does not appear to be politically capable of any such drastic action, nor would its subsequent stability be clear if it was.
And yet: this is not the Soviet Union. There is no Party. The free and open nature of the system is unambiguous. Power, for perhaps the first time in history, is fully decentralized. And even though the Modern Structure cannot survive the concerted disapproval of half its subjects, they show little sign of even understanding what it is, let alone the effort required to remove it. If this is not a mystery, what is?
And we take another mystery from Mackay—a strange word, easily passed over as a mere quirk. It is not. Indeed it may be the key to American history.
Suppose you were referring to a German. Any German. Or Germany as a whole, or in her military capacity. Might you be tempted, in this situation, to use the metonym Fritz? Suppose that across the street was a Russian, Russia, the Red Army, etc., etc. Might you say Ivan?
You will notice that such metonyms do not exist for all nations. There is no equivalent for Britain or the United States, for example—the national characters of John Bull and Uncle Sam are well-known, but no one thinks of calling a random Briton John or a random American Sam, as with Fritz and Ivan.
But actually—this isn’t true. There is a national metonym for the US. Or rather, was.
The name is Jonathan—which you will see all over Mackay. And it works just like Fritz and Ivan. For example, in Wanderings in West Africa (vol. I, vol. II), Burton writes:
No one seems to visit Lagos for the first time without planning a breakwater. About three years ago an American company proposed to make floating breakwaters, upon the condition of receiving the harbour dues for twenty years; Jonathan, however, was refused.
Jonathan is the American company. Weird, huh?
But there is nothing strange about having a national metonym. What is strange is that the dog would not bark in the night—that a national metonym could just disappear.
How and why would such a linguistic change occur? What would it take, for example, for us to forget that Germans are called Fritz? And this is the English word for an English-speaking people, and not a minor one. How could it just disappear?
For an exhaustive investigation of the Jonathan phenomenon, see this historian. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that even Wikipedia has a page for Brother Jonathan—though not a very informative one.
The answer is that Brother Jonathan is a derogatory caricature of America and Americans. Brother Jonathan has two basic tendencies. One, he is completely uncultured—a participle best translated from the Russian nyekulturny. Two, he has a nasty reputation for hypocrisy, religious cant, and general pharisaism, as well as a talent for creative legal interpretation.
Writers who say Jonathan, as one might expect, are generally of the British persuasion. They are generally not fans of the great American experiment. Which explains why their names, their work, and their idioms are not generally known to you.
But this can only be part of the answer. There have been America-haters as long as there has been an America. Half Columbus’s crew took one look at the place and decided it was barely fit for dogs. And there are still America-haters—more than ever, indeed.
And these America-haters do not say “Jonathan.” So when did they stop, and why? Let us hold this second mystery in our teeth, like a dog with a spare bone, and introduce our second witness: Charles Francis Adams, Jr.
Adams, as UR readers may know, is my favorite American historian. I don’t always agree with his opinions, but my confidence in his sincerity, diligence and perception is absolute. With his lineage he had nothing to prove, and he (like his more famous brother Henry) was socially connected to all the major political and literary figures of the day. Chuck, in short, is a 4.
We introduce Adams as a historian of American ideas. Our story, after all, is the story of USG and how it makes the decisions it makes. This is a story of ideas and institutions, orbiting each other like a binary star: institutions follow ideas, and ideas follow institutions. And institutions, of course, fight wars. The winners survive, with their cloud of ideas. The losers—don’t.
While it is by no means unique, the roots of the Modern Structure can be observed admirably in a single Adams essay. The piece, An Undeveloped Function, is his 1901 address as president of the American Historical Association. An Undeveloped Function is a history of American political ideas from 1856 to 1901. I regard it as completely trustworthy.
The whole thing is fascinating, but the money quote, perhaps, is in the middle:
Twelve presidential canvasses, and six great national debates have thus been passed in rapid review. It is as if, in the earlier history of the country we had run the gamut from Washington to Van Buren. Taken as a whole, viewed in gross and perspective, the retrospect leaves much to be desired. That the debates held in Ireland and France during the same time have been on a distinctly lower level, I at once concede. Those held in Great Britain and Germany have not been on a higher. Yet ours have at best been only relatively educational; as a rule extremely partizan, they have been personal, often scurrilous, and intentionally deceptive. One fact is, however, salient. With the exception of the first, that of 1856–1860, not one of the debates reviewed has left an utterance which, were it to die from human memory, would by posterity be accounted a loss. This, I am aware, is a sweeping allegation; in itself almost an indictment. Yet with some confidence I challenge a denial. Those here are not as a rule in their first youth, and they have all of them been more or less students of history. Let each pass in rapid mental review the presidential canvasses in which he has in any degree participated, and endeavor to recall a single utterance which has stood the test of time as marking a distinct addition to mankind’s intellectual belongings, the classics of the race. It has been at best a babel of the commonplace. I do not believe one utterance can be named, for which a life of ten years will be predicted. Such a record undeniably admits of improvement. Two questions then naturally suggest themselves: To what has this shortcoming been due? Wherein lies the remedy for it?
The shortcoming, I submit, is in greatest part due to the fact that the work of discussion has been left almost wholly to the journalist and the politician, the professional journalist and the professional politician; and, in the case of both there has in this country during the last forty years, been, so far as grasp of principle is concerned, a marked tendency to deterioration. Nor, I fancy, is the cause of this far to seek. It is found in the growth, increased complexity and irresistible power of organization as opposed to individuality, in the parlance of the day it is the all-potency of the machine over the man, equally noticeable whether by that word “machine” we refer to the political organization or to the newspaper.
The source of trouble being located in the tendency to excessive organization, it would seem natural that the counteracting agency should be looked for in an exactly opposite direction—that is, in the increased efficacy of individualism. Of this, I submit, it is not necessary to go far in search of indications. Take, for instance, the examples already referred to, of Mr. Schurz and President White, in the canvass of 1896, and suppose for a moment efforts such as theirs then were made more effective as resulting from the organized action of an association like this. Our platform at once becomes a rostrum, and a rostrum from which a speaker of reputation and character is insured a wide hearing. His audience too is there to listen, and repeat. From such a rostrum, the observer, the professor, the student, be it of economy, of history, or of philosophy, might readily be brought into immediate contact with the issues of the day. So bringing him is but a step. He would appear, also, in his proper character and place, the scholar having his say in politics; but always as a scholar, not as an office-holder or an aspirant for office. His appeal would be to intelligence and judgment, not to passion or self-interest, or even to patriotism. Congress has all along been but a clumsy recording machine of conclusions worked out in the laboratory and machine-shop; and yet the idea is still deeply seated in the minds of men otherwise intelligent that, to effect political results, it is necessary to hold office, or at least to be a politician and to be heard from the hustings. Is not the exact reverse more truly the case? The situation may not be, indeed it certainly is not, as it should be; it may be, I hold that it is, unfortunate that the scholar and investigator are finding themselves more and more excluded from public life by the professional with an aptitude for the machine, but the result is none the less patent. On all the issues of real moment,—issues affecting anything more than a division of the spoils or the concession of some privilege of exaction from the community, it is the student, the man of affairs and the scientist who to-day, in last resort, closes debate and shapes public policy. His is the last word. How to organize and develop his means of influence is the question.
If the Modern Structure had a manifesto, this might be it.
No, I have not suddenly become a fan of the Structure. My goal is to explain how this awful, goat-horned beast came into existence. My answer: it was invented by some of the best people in the world, for some of the best reasons in the world. To me, this fact only highlights the absolute, bone-chilling horror of the situation.
Charles Francis Adams, Jr., was what they used to call a Mugwump. It is indeed to the Mugwumps that we owe the Modern Structure. Their experience is highly instructive.
Notice the theme of An Undeveloped Function, which is that democracy doesn’t work. Bryan Caplan avant la lettre, you might say. Adams reveals that the political debates of the late 19th century, which are of course a miracle of perspicacity compared to hope ’n’ change, do not take place on an intellectually meaningful level.
We need to bear in mind the formative experiences of Adams, Schurz, and the other Mugwumps. They were members of a genuine aristocracy of the mind—one described with gentle ridicule by Mackay:
Boston is the great metropolis of lecturers, Unitarian preachers, and poets. Perhaps for poets, it would be better to say rhymers or versifiers; and I make the correction accordingly. The finest churches in the city—with the tallest and handsomest spires, and the most imposing fronts and porticos, belong to the Unitarians. Lecturers have been so richly endowed by the Lowell bequest, that the Bostonians, over-belectured, often experience a feeling of nausea at the very suggestion of a lecture, or worse still, of a series of them; and as for poets and poetesses, or, as I should say, rhymers and versifiers, both male and female, their name is “legion upon legion.” In walking along Washington Street, and meeting a gentlemanly-looking person with a decent coat and a clean shirt, the traveller may safely put him down as either a lecturer, a Unitarian minister, or a poet; possibly the man may be, Cerberus-like, all three at once.
It’s essential to remember that in the 19th century, America was not the intellectual center of the world. That center was London. A Schurz and an Adams could be on the same page, though one was a Rhinelander and the other a Bostonian, because both were fully au courant with the latest brand of intellectual enlightenment as fermented in London. I.e., the liberalism of 1848—whose intimacy with low-church Protestantism is no secret to the UR reader. Thus their fervor exhibits a kind of provincial excess, a fanaticism above and beyond the call of duty—a quality with which the modern American is unfamiliar. The rest of the world has no such luck.
To the enlightened Northerner, the antebellum United States presented a distressing spectacle. Washington, paralyzed by the struggle between North and South, was by postwar standards miniscule and stultified. This produced intense intestinal discomfort in the lecturers, Unitarian ministers and poets, who were quite conscious that (a) America, in theory, was supposed to be the bleeding-edge of human liberty and progress; (b) America, in practice, was the home of slavery and an isolated backwater.
The war, whose coming both Adams and Schurz were quite enthusiastic about, was supposed to change this. (At least if the North won.) Rather than being sequestered in the stiff and idle hands of Southern aristocrats and their traitorous Northern allies, the full energy of Washington would pass to said lecturers, Unitarian ministers, and poets.
It did not work out that way. The North won and Washington burgeoned, but the expanded, empowered Washington became not the domain of poets, but that of machine politicians, bloviating demagogues, and corrupt interests—in a phrase, the Gilded Age. (Mark Twain had an even better phrase: the Great Barbecue.)
Bear in mind: from the perspective of 2009, the period between Reconstruction and the Progressive Era looks like one of the best periods of government in American history. For example, it is responsible for much of the best American architecture—always a telling issue. It was also the age in which American industrial supremacy, since destroyed by its 20th-century successors, was born. Not at all perfect, but hardly all bad.
Government by competing corrupt interests—the present system in many countries today, including Russia and China—is not at all without its virtues. While the corrupt interests, by definition, conflict with the interests of the whole, at least they are all basically in the business of making money. This keeps their heads on a certain plane of reality, and precludes any incentive for wanton, rampant destruction.
But it’s also pretty easy to see why the Great Barbecue did not please the likes of a Charles Francis Adams, Jr. He was a true American aristocrat, and so were his fellow Mugwumps. While I do not always agree with the Mugwumps, I seldom feel the need for a shower after reading their books. This is not always so for their successors.
As I have also, more than once already, observed, this Association is largely made up of those occupying the chairs of instruction in our seminaries of the higher education. From their lecture rooms the discussion of current political issues is of necessity excluded. There it is manifestly out of place. Others here are scholars for whom no place exists on the political platform. Still others are historical investigators and writers, interested only incidentally in political discussion. Finally some are merely public-spirited citizens, on whom the oratory of the stump palls. They crave discussion of another order. They are the men whose faces are seen only at those gatherings which some one eminent for thought or in character is invited to address. To all such, the suggestion I now make cannot but be grateful. It is that, in future, this Association, as such, shall so arrange its meetings that one at least shall be held in the month of July preceding each presidential election. The issues of that election will then have been presented, and the opposing candidates named. It should be understood that the meeting is held for the purpose of discussing those issues from the historical point of view, and in their historical connection. Absolute freedom of debate should be insisted on, and the participation of those best qualified to deal with the particular class of problems under discussion, should be solicited. Such authorities, speaking from so lofty a rostrum to a select audience of appreciative men and women could, I confidently submit, hardly fail to elevate the standard of discussion, bringing the calm lessons of history to bear on the angry wrangles and distorted presentations of those whose chief, if not only, aim is a mere party supremacy.
Well, that worked. We certainly can’t say the “scholar or investigator” is “excluded from public life.” No worries on that front.
What Adams and the Mugwumps are asking for is no less than the creation of a new power structure, a “lofty rostrum,” which is above democracy—which supersedes mere politics, which makes decisions and policies much as Adams and his friends would have—in the light of reason and science, the “calm lessons of history,” not the mad psychological battlefield of the torchlight election parade.
The result is our Modern Structure, of course. The dream made real. The Mugwumps won. Yet somehow, all the diseases Adams diagnoses seem worse than ever. What happened?
What happened is that Adams and his friends, as members of an aristocratic intellectual caste, true Platonic guardians, Harvard-bred heirs to the American dream, had been disempowered. Sidelined, in fact, by grubby street politics of a distinctly Hibernian flavor. This could not have been expected to make them happy. It did, however, render them pure—because even if the Carl Schurzes of the world had been inclined to corruption, which they were not, competing with the James G. Blaines of the world in that department was simply out of the question.
So the Mugwumps believed that, by running a pipe from the limpid spring of academia to the dank sewer of American democracy, they could make the latter run clear again. What they might have considered, however, was that there was no valve in their pipe. Aiming to purify the American state, they succeeded only in corrupting the American mind.
When an intellectual community is separated from political power, as the Mugwumps were for a while in the Gilded Age, it finds itself in a strange state of grace. Bad ideas and bad people exist, but good people can recognize good ideas and good people, and a nexus of sense forms. The only way for the bad to get ahead is to copy the good, and vice pays its traditional tribute to virtue. It is at least reasonable to expect sensible ideas to outcompete insane ones in this “marketplace,” because good sense is the only significant adaptive quality.
Restore the connection, and the self-serving idea, the meme with its own built-in will to power, develops a strange ability to thrive and spread. Thoughts which, if correct, provide some pretext for empowering the thinker, become remarkably adaptive. Even if they are utterly insane. As the Latin goes: Qui vult decipi, decipiatur. Self-deception does not in any way preclude sincerity.
Ideas are not individuals. They do not organize, have meetings in beer halls, wear identically colored shirts, practise the goose step or chant in the streets. However, to ambitious people the combination of good and altruistic intended effects, with evil and self-serving actual effects, is eternally attractive. We can describe policies exhibiting this stereotype as Machiavellian.
The Modern Structure exhibits a fascinating quality which might be described as distributed Machiavellianism. USG under the Modern Structure enacts large numbers of policies (such as “affirmative action”) which are best explained in Machiavellian terms. However, there is no central cabal dictating Machiavellian strategies, and actors in the Structure do not feel they are pursuing evil or experience any pangs of conscience.
Under this pattern, the intended effect of the policy is to inflict some good or other on America, the rest of the world, or both. The actual effect of the policy is to make the problem which requires the policy worse, the apparatus which formulates and applies the policy larger and more important, etc., etc. In other words, the adaptive purpose of the actors is to maximize their own share of sovereignty. The side effects are at least parasitic, and at worst far worse.
Most people’s share of sovereignty is zero. However, many aspire to make policy who will never get there, just as many aspire to play in the NBA. Since Machiavellian thinking tends to become the corporate culture of all powerful institutions, and since the ambitious naturally tend to emulate the thinking of the powerful, the natural perspective of the ambitious becomes Machiavellian. In a meritocratic oligarchy, where power is open only to those who succeed in contests of intellectual strength, the natural perspective of the intelligent is Machiavellian.
In other words: Machiavellian ideas are adaptive in a competitive oligarchy, because they allow members of that oligarchy to feel good about themselves while in fact looking out for number one. However, if the same exact people are completely disconnected from power and have no chance of regaining it, these same ideas will dwindle and die out, their intrinsic stupidity soon revealing itself.
Once again, we see the failure to solve the quis custodiet problem. The classic mistake is to pass power to some new institution, already extant but hitherto uncorrupted. It appears worthy of power because it is worthy of power, being uncorrupted. However, it is uncorrupted only because it has not yet held power. Handed power, it becomes corrupt, and the problem repeats.
So it was not the intelligence or education of the Mugwumps that shielded them from the corruption of power, but solely their (temporary) irrelevance. When that irrelevance was reversed, the consequence was a new system of government by deception—the Modern Structure—which is not, unlike the coarse populist mendacity of the Gilded Age, transparent to anyone of any intelligence or education.
The Modern Structure is just as sophisticated as Charles Francis Adams, Jr., and no less slippery, mendacious or corrupt than James G. Blaine. It is subject to all the woes of the system it replaced, but its new system of deception is impenetrable enough to convince even most of the most intelligent that up is actually down. It is, in short, a perfect disaster.
And, to make a long story short: the Mugwumps begat the Progressives. And we live, still, in the Progressive or progressive era—big or small P. Progressivism, big or small P, being the religion of government in our time, the distributed delusion of our atheistic theocracy. The mortar, as it were, in the Modern Structure.
The path from Adams to Obama is relatively straight. Along this path, three big things happen.
One, the influence of elected politicians over the actual process of government decreases. This represents the ongoing triumph of the Modern Structure over its ancestor. Indeed the charge that elected officials have excessive influence over government is a routine form of scandal, despite the obvious and never-explained weirdness of the charge.
At least, when the elected official in question is a Republican. Democratic politicians have no influence at all over government, because they consider their work entirely symbolic—they exist just to keep the Republicans out while the civil servants do their jobs. A vote for the Democrats is a vote for the Structure and against politics. Sadly, this is a perfectly sensible choice.
As late as the 1940s, enormous executive authority was concentrated in the White House. Harry Hopkins, FDR’s last Svengali, who was perhaps America’s last CEO (and also perhaps a KGB agent), could hire a million men in a month and get projects off the ground in weeks. Try that now, Barack & Co. These guys can’t even get a website up. Welcome to Brezhnevland.
The result of the impotence of democratic politicians is voter apathy. Obviously, since the whole thing is a game and the actual policies depend little or not at all on their choice, it is more and more difficult to motivate the faithful. Enlightenment spreads, like a cancer. Bureaucrats sweat.
However, because voters have no actual process by which they change the system, they disconnect from politics rather than pursuing it by other means. No power, no attraction. They are successfully subdued and subjugated, as the Structure desires. Thus this ubiquitous sense of empty, ineffectual resentment—a sensation familiar to all those who remember the Eastern bloc.
Two, institutions become more and more corrupt, grossly misdirecting resources in obviously self-serving ways, and becoming utterly incapable of doing anything like their jobs. This is obviously the inevitable result of unaccountable institutions, of which we now have quite a few. And the Mugwump civil-service state is a synonym for unaccountability.
In particular, when the power loop includes science itself, science itself becomes corrupt. The crown jewel of European civilization is dragged in the gutter for another hundred million in grants, while journalism, our peeking impostor of the scales, averts her open eyes.
Science also expands to cover all areas of government policy, a task for which it is blatantly unfit. There are few controlled experiments in government. Thus, scientistic public policy, from economics (“queen of the social sciences”) on down, consists of experiments that would not meet any standard of relevance in a truly scientific field.
Bad science is a device for laundering thoughts of unknown provenance without the conscious complicity of the experimenter. Bad news. That it’s the best you can do is not good enough. The good news, however, is that Marcus Aurelius seemed to do a pretty good job of running the Roman Empire without any science whatsoever.
Three, perspectives of blatantly religious origin flourish—notably low-church Protestantism, which as the Christian analogue of anarchism is always ready with an inexhaustible armory of Machiavellian memes for the world of fractured, competing sovereignty. Basically, the Modern Structure is the trisomal spawn of three juke mothers: 18th-century democracy, Mugwump scientific bureaucracy, and ecumenical mainline Protestantism.
The 1942 Time magazine article “American Malvern” (Chapter 1) is my standard justification for the third. If you want more detail, here is what these same people were doing a generation earlier. We see them in freeze frames crawling into USG’s skull, like Khan’s worm into Chekov’s ear, leaving the empty, powerless husk of formerly private religious organizations such as the YMCA—once, believe it or not, a force in the land.
And this is the Modern Structure: the predictable product of a botched surgery on the Republic, a (second) attempt to do away with democracy without actually doing away with democracy. (The first was the Constitution itself.) When will people learn? Not soon, I fear.
This explains the first Mackay mystery. Readers should feel free to try their hands at the second—the mysterious disappearance of Brother Jonathan. Another Adams essay, A National Change of Heart, might assist you in the process. The solution, which may just be obvious, appears in Chapter 7—in which we will add more beads to our string, and finish the awful tale of the Structure.