The best way to understand government

Monday, May 26th, 2008

The best way to understand government, Mencius Modlbug claims, is to assume everything you know about it is nonsense:

Growing up in the modern Western world, you learned that in all pre-modern, non-Western societies, everyone — even the smartest and most knowledgeable — put their faith in theories of government now known to be nonsensical. The divine right of kings. The apostolic succession of the Pope. The Marxist evolution of history. Etc.

Why did such nonsense prosper? It outcompeted its non-nonsensical competitors. When can nonsense outcompete truth? When political power is on its side. Call it power distortion.

And why, dear open-minded progressive, do you think your theory of government, which you did not invent yourself but received in the usual way, is anything but yet another artifact of power distortion, adapted to retain your rulers in their comfortable seats?

Probably because there is a categorical difference between modern liberal democracy and the assorted monarchies, empires, dictatorships, theocracies, etc, which practiced the black art of official mind control. The priests of Amun tolerated no dissent. They flayed the heretic, the back-talker, the smartmouth, and stretched his still-living flesh to crack and writhe in the hot African wind, till the hyena or the crocodile came along to finish him. But now they are all pushing up the asphodels, and Google hasn’t even thought about deleting my blog.

You think of freedom of thought as a universal antibiotic, a sure cure for power distortion. It certainly allows me to post my seditious blasphemies — for now.

But as a progressive, your beliefs are the beliefs of the great, the good and the fashionable. And as we’ve seen over the past few weeks, power can corrupt the mind in two ways: by coercion, or by seduction. The Whig, the liberal, the radical, the dissenter, the progressive, protests the former with great umbrage — especially when his ox is being gored. Over the past four centuries, he has ridden the latter to power. He is Boromir. He has worn the Ring and worked it. And it, of course, has worked him.

Today’s late Whiggery, gray and huge and soft, lounges louche on its throne, fastened tight to the great plinth of public opinion that it hacked from the rock of history with its own forked and twisted tongue. The mass mind, educated to perfection, is sure. It has two alternatives: the Boromir-thing, or Hitler. And who wants Hitler? Resistance is more than useless. It is ridiculous. The Whig cackles, and knocks back another magnum of Mumm’s.

And a few small rats wear out our incisors on the stone. Today we’ll learn the real principles of government, which have spent the last four centuries sunk under a Serbonian bog of meretricious liberalism.

Why bother to learn “the real principles” of government though?

The only defense I can offer is Vaclav Havel’s idea of “living in truth.” As a fellow cog in the global public supermind, you are bombarded constantly and from every direction with the progressive theory of government, with which all humans who are not ignorant, evil or both must agree by definition, and which makes about as much sense as the Holy Trinity. If you are ready to be the nail that sticks up and is hammered down, you can be a “conservative,” which ties up a few of the loose ends, and unties others. It also makes you a social pariah, unless most of your neighbors are named “Earl.”

From there, Mencius reiterates his thoughts on government, promoting what he cutely calls neocameralism — a term that made little sense to me until I read a bit about paleocameralism, which was the notion that the state should promote the collective prosperity in order to maximize its tax revenue, or, more accurately, its profit. It was also tied to some backward protectionist ideas, including the goal of autarky and immunity to trade wars.

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