Sirs:

I am but a lowly private citizen, a nobody who represents nobody, who speaks for nobody, and who writes for almost nobody; but I am nonetheless taking it upon myself to point a finger of indictment at you, the public men, the “masters of the universe”, the incumbents of political power.

Please do not mistake my intentions here. I am not some kind of naive and unworldly moral crusader horrified to have discovered that men as we find them sometimes vie for power, prestige, and influence; I am not St. Augustine come to exhort you that Man was originally made for animal husbandry and not lordship; and I am no Utopian daydreamer urging you to step down and let the State wither away in the interest of human “liberation” and the establishment of a land of Cockaigne where everybody says and does whatever pleases them. Far from it: I hold, with Aristotle, that Man, by original design, is a State-forming animal (zoon politikon), no more capable of subsisting without government than without the homeostatic control mechanisms that hold the biological processes of his body to order; and on that basis I concur with Hegel that, where there is no State, Reason demands that we establish one at once. I therefore write this not to try to convince you to abandon your duties, but to remind you of them- for you have been derelict in their execution. It’s not that political power is sinful, but that you have made yourselves unworthy of wielding it; not that men ought not to, or need not, be led, but that you have become unfit to lead them.

You have been called to serve as the head of the body politic, a fortiori, its brain; you are accordingly supposed to stand in for the principle of Reason in the governed. But here you are, stubbornly and willfully ignorant of the Nature of men and things, and of your own calling; that is to say, of the very arts of government entrusted you by God when He appointed you to act as His vice-regents on Earth.

It’s not as though God didn’t provide you with the wherewithal to come to knowledge of these arts; of His providence you were endowed with both an abstract capacity for Reason and concrete experience in the form of the acts of your predecessors, and so possess the means to discern the principles of civic prudence and Statecraft. But you have allowed yourselves to be deluded by the derelicts and charlatans of your elite Universities, entrusted to educate you in your youth and counsel you in your full manhood. From the lectern they taught you, and in camera now advise you, that there is no eternal and immutable order of Nature, nor even an objective reality external to the mind, and that the very idea is so much obsolete “metaphysical” superstition and “essentialist” nonsense. They told you that “Man makes his essence” as he goes along, and as he pleases; and that whatever we think we know about the world is a mere arbitrary “social construct”, the one as equally valid, viz. equally meaningless and dispensable, as the next. And they also told you that the collected wisdom and experience of your ancestors amounts to no more than “ideology”, i.e. a worthless and contemptible congeries of ignorance and error that had no other function than to sanctify the evil they claim your forefathers visited on their fellow men, and which ought to be condemned to ignominy in the name of “progress”.

And the conclusion you drew from all this when you ascended to office in the State was that your every wish would be instantly and automatically gratified in an infant’s world where there is no reality principle to demarcate fantasy and reality, since the reality principle has simply been jettisoned as just another oppressive and obsolete man-made barrier to “progress”. You concluded (not so much unreasonably, as from an unreasonable premise) that if one man, under his own power, can make his own essence and his own reality, that “if you can dream it, you can do it”- how much more powerful to do so must he be with the full might of the State behind him? And if all knowledge is equally valid- why not (again, quite reasonably) just cherry-pick, from the mass of social-science and public-policy theories and research studies available to the State, the ones that seem most genial to the wishes, agendas, and interests of State functionaries, in that they tell those functionaries exactly what they already want to hear?

In reaching these conclusions, you perversely led yourselves, by abuse of your own faculty of Reason, into madness. You came to sincerely believe that you could repeal the laws of Nature, and alter or abolish the essential being of men and things by decree; and to accordingly believe that the objects of government are altogether Protean, plastic, and pliable to the touch. Jurisprudence holds that the sovereign State is omnipotent at right; but you think that this omnipotence extends to the world of fact as well.  A.V. Dicey, commenting on the boundless legislative competence of Parliament, once remarked that the only thing Parliament can’t do is change a man into a woman- and without irony you set out to try to prove him wrong.

Paradoxically, this idealist view of the real as formlessly indeterminate goes hand-in-hand with a materialist determinism more stringent than anything hitherto. Stripped of form and formal cause, the world as you see it nonetheless, and down to the last detail, unfolds in time according to an inexorable determinate plan, and towards an inexorable determinate end. Where even the iron determinism of the physical sciences only purports to uncover the invariant parameters within which any possible event must take place, without dictating which actual events take place and when (e.g. the laws of physics can predict just how fast a ball must travel downwards if I drop it out of my window, but not whether or not I actually will do so, or when), the progressive theory of History writ large- taught you by your professors, who in turn learned it from Karl Marx- purports to uncover causal laws that dictate the actual occurrence of a determinate sequence of events in historical time, as opposed to merely assigning invariant properties to any possible event while leaving the actual occurrence of the event to historical contingency. Everything that ever happened in human history thus happened of necessity; and a predestined future course of events guaranteed to unfold in one, and only one, uniform direction.

And it follows from this conception that you see yourselves, and the State, as riding the crest of an enormous wave (“the arc of History”), with the governed dragged along helplessly behind in the undertow. The result is an extraordinary hubris, peerless in its arrogance, by which you not only understand your effective power and control to be God-like, but to exceed that of God as understood by traditional religion. All the religions agree that men have an absolute duty to obey the will of God, who will with irresistible force visit punishment upon them if they refuse- but they tend to stop short of predicting that men actually will obey. But you see the course of history, and, a fortiorithe power of the State, as exercising irresistible force proactively, such that men and things cannot help but conform to the will of History (and of its flagship, the State) and bend to its arc in their actions in the first place, any more than they can help conforming to the laws of gravity.

Hence your ignorance of the arts of governing; you see yourselves as having no need of them. You believe that whatever it is that you undertake to do in office is destined to succeed, and no matter how you go about doing it- because you, as the self-certain elect of History, are the ones doing it. The fecklessness and insouciance for which you are presently becoming infamous are thus not the index of simple incompetence and/or indiscipline on your part. It is all rather symptomatic of your faith in an historical Providence which, you are sure, will take care of things for you the way God provides for birds and flowers, leaving you to luxuriate in the leisurely otium of carelessness and put up your feet while the ship of State navigates on autopilot towards its destination in sunny Schlaraffenland.

But this is all delusion, in the strict medical sense of the term. (A private individual who described similar beliefs to his physician would be promptly and without controversy diagnosed as “manic with psychotic features” and offered- or compelled to accept- therapeutic intervention).  There is no plenary cruise-control or auto-pilot mode on the ship of State. (The diverse types of “invisible hand” envisioned by social science, to be sure, can automatically regulate some of its processes- but you ironically try to thwart their workings every time you get the chance, and in any case they can only do so much). And with a floridly psychotic mental patient at the helm, it is destined, not for the shores of Schlaraffenland, but mutiny and/or shipwreck. There’s a right way and a wrong way to lead the putative march across History- and you’re doing it wrong. In Part II, I shall try to indicate just how.

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5 thoughts on “You’re Doing it Wrong: An Open Letter to the Governing Classes (Part I)

  1. “who writes for almost nobody”

    If you want a larger audience, it can probably be arranged to let you post your stuff at WCR. I’m surprised Nick B. Steves hasn’t found this blog yet. You could always inform him as well.

    Like

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