What’s In A Name?

When I launched Zeroth Position in January 2016, I wrote an article explaining the name of the site. What I have not done until now is to write an article explaining the pen name I use here. The practice of writing under a pseudonym has a long history, and has been done by various authors for a wide variety of reasons. The particular name or names that one chooses for this purpose frequently have a degree of significance, either to the personality of the author or the nature of one’s literary works. Let us explore these reasons and contemplate them in relation to my own pseudonym as I explain the meaning and significance of it.

Motivations for Pseudonymity

A pen name is a name other than one’s legal name that an author adopts for use in the by-line of their publications. One reason for doing this is to protect an author from retribution. In many societies, authors of dissident materials could face severe punishments that could deprive not only oneself, but one’s family of life, liberty, and property. For example, this is the motivation for a critic of Islam using the pen name Ibn Warraq. Although states in the modern West usually refrain from such measures, having instead some degree of freedom of speech, the reality is that they have outsourced censorship to the soft power of establishment journalists and the leftist mobs at their command. Whoever wishes to be free from harassment by these types and remain employable while presenting a worldview at odds with the progressive consensus is therefore strongly incentivized to use a pseudonym. In other cases, an author may need a pen name because the terms of one’s other employment disallow publishing under one’s real name. Irish author Brian O’Nolan‘s use of the pen names Flann O’Brien and Myles na gCopaleen is explained by laws forbidding Irish civil servants from publicly expressing political views.[1]

Those who are safe from harm may wish to use a pen name in an effort to distinguish themselves or gain more readership. If one’s real name is shared with someone who is already famous, then a pen name may be necessary to avoid confusion. This was necessary for a young Winston Churchill, as the British statesman was once overshadowed by an American novelist of the same name; the former therefore wrote as Winston S. Churchill.[2] Some authors write in several genres and wish to have a separate name for each; the mathematician Charles Dodgson wrote under his own name for non-fiction and as Lewis Carroll for fiction.[3] Highly prolific authors may use multiple names to get more of their content into a given medium, as novelist Stephen King did with the pen name Richard Bachman.[4] Those wishing to experiment with a different writing style or genre may do so under a different name out of concern that failure may impact sales of their other works, as science fiction author Harry Turtledove did with some historical novels under the name H. N. Turteltaub. In cultures that disadvantage female authors, or in genres usually written by men, women may either choose a masculine pen name or use their initials instead of their full name. Famous examples of the former from the 19th century include Mary Ann Evans (as George Eliot)[5] and the Brontë sisters (as Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell). J. K. Rowling is a more recent example of the latter.

Some pen names are used collectively by multiple authors. One use of this is to suggest continuity of authorship over long time periods, much as a corporation suggests continuity of ownership beyond the span of an individual’s involvement in a business. This is also known as a house name. An example is The Saint series; the first books were written by Leslie Charteris, but later books were written by ghost writers under the same name. Collaborative authors may also share a pen name, as Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay did when they wrote the Federalist Papers under the pseudonym Publius.[6] One’s ideology may disallow taking credit for one’s work as an individual, so pseudonyms for public use exist for this reason, such as Luther Blissett.[7] The historical practice of pseudepigraphy involved the false attribution of a work, usually to put one’s own ideas into broader circulation that could be achieved under one’s real name by using the name of an established intellectual.[8] Of course, there may be multiple motivations for a pen name, as is the case with the pen name N. B. Pettibone once used by Brittany and Nicole Pettibone. It is both a collaborative name and an initial name by female authors in a male-dominated genre.

Other concerns are purely aesthetic or personal. An author may feel that one’s name does not fit with the genre of one’s writing. Whereas Julie Woodcock’s real name has certain implications in the romance genre, she writes as Angela Knight instead. As a person’s knowledge and experiences alter one’s beliefs over time, one can come to reject some of one’s previous works so strongly as to feel a need to use a different name. The tradition of using a pen name after one’s real name, known as takhallus, has long been practiced by poets and other writers in Persian, Urdu, and some other Indian languages.[9] Japanese poets and artists also use art-names, which they may change several times during their careers. This usually marks significant changes in the artist’s life.[10]

Nullus Maximus

Now that the reasons for an author to choose a pseudonym are clear, let us examine the name I have chosen. Both words come from Latin. As an adjective, “Nullus” is the masculine word for “no, none, not any”. As a noun, it is the masculine second declension of “no one, nobody”. It is also the closest word for the number zero, a foreign concept to the Romans which did not appear explicitly in Latin until medieval times.[11] “Maximus” is the masculine word for “greatest/biggest/largest”, “highest, utmost”, “leading, chief”, “longest”, or “oldest”. Several interpretations of the combination “Nullus Maximus” are meaningful to me, including “no maximum”, “greatest nobody”, “not any chief”, “no leading”, and “largest zero”. The masculine words give away my biological sex and gender identity, but I believe my work already makes this obvious.

“No Maximum” could also be thought of as “No Limit”, and this refers to my willingness to tackle any subject matter that interests me as well as my determination to take an argument to its logical conclusion. Though there are certain viewpoints that I refuse to allow to be advocated here at Zeroth Position, no topic is off-limits for thoughtful exploration. Whether it is the ethics of political assassinations, private ownership of nuclear weapons, the role of conquest and genocide in libertarian theory, slaughtering the most sacred ideological cows of the political establishment, or admonishing those who are nominally on our side (including ourselves), there is no intellectual ground that I and my guest authors dare not traverse.

“Greatest Nobody” is an acknowledgment of my personal status, a rejection of credentialism, and an aspiration to be more than I am. As of this writing, I hold a bachelor’s degree in physics with some graduate study in the subject, but no advanced degree. I wield no power to speak of in the physical world, aside from what following and influence I have earned here. On paper, there is no reason for someone to regard me as an authority on most of the subjects addressed in my political and philosophical writings. But to dismiss my work on this account would be a courtier’s reply fallacy; the truth value of an argument is independent of the expertise (or lack thereof) of any person advocating it. My work should stand or fall on its own merits and demerits, not on my merits or demerits as a person. While I may or may not be the “greatest nobody,” I aspire to be the best that I can be.

“Not Any Chief” is one possible interpretation of my ideal political order, though a great multitude of chiefs, each of whom have far less control than modern nation-states, is a more accurate description. This was initially called anarcho-capitalism, but anarcho-monarchism and anarcho-feudalism are more accurate terms. The former is suggestive of politically autistic hyper-individualism that is incompatible with the fact that humans are social creatures. This interpretation also admits that I am “not any chief”; I do not hold sovereign power and am unlikely to ever do so.

“No Leading” is a statement of purpose. I have always had natural leadership qualities, and many people in my life through the years have granted me perhaps more decision-taking power than I am due, but it is not my goal to convince others to follow me. (That said, subscriptions and donations are much appreciated.) I believe it to be more important to provide logical and strategic blueprints that others may adapt to their own purposes, for achieving a libertarian social order (or any other great accomplishment) will require many independent, decentralized efforts.

Finally, “Largest Zero” is a reference to my role here at Zeroth Position. As I am the site founder, payroll master, head of IT, chief editor, and the most prolific author, my role here is far larger than anyone else’s. Should this site grow to become far more popular and profitable than it currently is, I will seek to offload some of these responsibilities so that I may focus entirely on thinking and writing, but this interpretation fits for now.

Personal Motivations

I have explained my choice of pen name, but not why I chose to use one, so let us review the motivations from the first section. Agents of the state have only ever been inconvenient to me, but the dissident materials I and my fellows here have authored do not rise to a level that would currently be punishable by law in the United States as of yet. Of course, this may change someday, but no one who lacks sovereign power is truly safe from this.

However, as previously noted, the forces of inquisition are now mostly private and decentralized, with ever-changing standards for what makes them target someone. This is of little concern to me, as traditional employment has long remained elusive for me regardless of whether or what I write, and my audience is not yet large enough to attract much public ire from the Cathedral or its minions. I have very little at present that they could take from me, so this is also not my motivation for having a pseudonym. Furthermore, my legal name is something of an open secret in libertarian circles, in that anyone who needs to know (e.g. for the purpose of inviting me to a speaking engagement) has little difficulty in learning it. An enemy could presumably do so as well.

Several other people share my legal name, and at least one has contributed to scientific research. But no one with my name writes in a similar vein to my own work. Though I had several profiles at the content mill I wrote for prior to launching Zeroth Position, and I chose my pen name partly based on the site name, I did not choose the name to experiment with a different writing style; this simply happened over time as I changed my focus and learned more information. I currently write only for this site (though that may change in the near future) and am not highly prolific, so I do not use multiple pen names. Neither does anyone else write under my pen name.

My motivations for going pseudonymic are purely aesthetic and personal. The aesthetics were described in the previous section. The personal (beyond the personal nature of the aesthetic) is primarily that I wanted a new name to fit with my new website, a venture which marked a change in my life. “Nullus Maximus” thus functions somewhat like an Asian art-name. Another factor is that I noticed the neoreactionary scene a few months after starting Zeroth Position, and almost everyone there has a pen name. While the libertarian reactionary views I espouse are significantly different from neoreaction, there is also significant overlap, with a large number of shared concepts and diagnoses of the modern world. At the time, I thought that I might better fit into their circles if I behaved likewise. In hindsight, their response to me under my real name probably would have been nearly identical.

For now, I intend to keep the pen name and maintain course more generally, but with one major change. In early 2018, I began working on a book, but now I have started devoting more effort to actually doing everything necessary to complete a masterpiece of original thought. This will necessarily mean less articles here until the book is finished. Once the book is ready, I will seriously consider dropping the mask and going for a writing career under my legal name, though the subject matter of the book would fit my pen name very well. I may also write articles for other sites under my legal name or initial name in the near future.

To all who wondered about the meaning of my pen name, both denotatively and personally, now you know.

References:

  1. Curran, Steven (2001). “’Could Paddy Leave off from Copying Just for Five Minutes’: Brian O’Nolan and Eire’s Beveridge Plan”. Irish University Review. 31 (2): 353–375.
  2. Dockter, Warren (Oct. 2011). “The Tale of Two Winstons”. The Historian. 11: 10–12.
  3. Thomas, Donald (1996). Lewis Carroll / A Biography. Barnes and Noble, Inc. p. 129.
  4. “StephenKing.com – Frequently Asked Questions”.
  5. Cross, J. W. (ed.), (1885). George Eliot’s life as related in her letters and journals, 3 vols. London: William Blackwood and Sons. Vol. 1, p. 431.
  6. Furtwangler, Albert (1984). The Authority of Publius: A Reading of the Federalist Papers. Cornell Univ Press. p. 51.
  7. Deseriis, Marco (2010). “’Lots of Money Because I am Many:’ The Luther Blissett Project and the Multiple-Use Name Strategy”. In Cultural Activism: Practices, Dilemmas and Possibilities, edited by Begum O. Firat and Aylin Kuryel. Rodopi, Amsterdam. p. 65–94.
  8. Bauckham, Richard (Sept. 1988). “Pseudo-Apostolic Letters”. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 107, No. 3, p. 469–94.
  9. A Brief History of Persian Literature, by the Iran Chamber Society.
  10. Weston, Mark (1999). Giants of Japan: The Lives of Japan’s Most Influential Men and Women. New York: Kodansha International. p. 116.
  11. Durant, Will (1950). The Story of Civilization, Vol. 4, The Age of Faith: Constantine to Dante – A.D. 325–1300. Simon & Schuster. p. 241.

The Not-So-Current Year: 2018 In Review

Though the specific demarcation of the passage from one year into another is a rather arbitrary social construct, it does provide a useful annual period for self-examination and remembrance. Now that 2018 has entered the history books, let us take a look back at a year’s worth of essays and review the not-so-current year.

We begin, of course, with last year’s article of the same kind. Some articles in this list are sequels to articles in that list. Aside from that, we may move on.

Benjamin Welton and I began 2018 by addressing some leftover matters from the end of 2017. He explored the quick decline of Nepal from monarchy to democracy to communism in less than a generation, while I responded to a thoroughly misguided attack by Bill Wirtz on Hans-Hermann Hoppe and other right-libertarians.

The left’s warfare on language and the dangerous potential thereof is important to understand. I began exploring this phenomenon by examining common shortcomings among leftist popular authors, looking for the origins of their follies, and showing how these factors can cause a civil war if left unaddressed. In a follow-up essay, I contemplated how the innovation of language becomes stunted and weaponized in political struggles, as well as what may be done to counter such tendencies.

Book reviews have long been a part of my intellectual output, and 2018 was no different. I read and reviewed less books than in 2017, which included Robert Taylor’s Reactionary Liberty, Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus, Surjit S. Bhalla’s The New Wealth of Nations, James Ledbetter’s One Nation Under Gold, and Insula Qui’s Anarcho-Monarchism.

I began a new series called “Agreeing With Statists For The Wrong Reasons”, in which I consider how government policies which seem terrible at face value can be exploited to achieve liberty and/or undermine statist goals. This was loosely inspired by Morrakiu’s series “Agreeing With Liberals For The Wrong Reasons”, in which he showed how progressives unwittingly help the alt-right. The subjects covered in this series in 2018 included cryptocurrency bans, conscription, anti-discrimination laws, minimum wage, and impeaching Donald Trump. More episodes will come next year.

Insula Qui presented a grand project called “On Libertarianism and Statecraft” to lead into her book Anarcho-Monarchism. The introduction discusses other schools of thought and makes the case for why a libertarian theory of statecraft is necessary. Part I explains the folly of political activism. Part II explores the implications of property rights in a libertarian social order. Part III deals with the differences between states and governments, as well as the basics of private defense. Part IV explains the necessity of governance, what form it might take, and who will govern. Part V considers the effect that trust levels in society may have on the form of a libertarian social order. Part VI explores the relationship between authority and liberty. Part VII uses social contract theory to expand libertarian philosophy. Part VIII considers the nature of the natural elite. Part IX explores the role of trust in society. Part X examines the role of time preference in forming a libertarian social order. Part XI considers the role of externalities that go beyond strictly material concerns. Part XII explains how greed is frequently overrated by libertarians. The series may or may not have more entries.

In 2017, I argued that the United States debt ceiling should be eliminated. However, the debt ceiling is only part of the problem. Another part is the practice known as a government shutdown, and I argued that this practice should also be ended.

On March 9, right-wing activists Martin Sellner and Brittany Pettibone were detained and deported while attempting to enter the United Kingdom to give speeches and interview other rightist personalities. A similar fate also befell Lauren Southern on March 12. I wrote a list of observations about these events.

Following the Parkland shooting, a student movement to restrict access to firearms became prominent. I deconstructed this effort to show how it is orchestrated by the political establishment using tactics common to other such movements.

My glossary of social justice warrior terminology is the most popular article ever posted at Zeroth Position. After two years of continued craziness from radical leftists, I decided to revise and expand it to create a second edition. This is likely to need continual updating, and two years is a proper amount of time between editions, so look for the third edition in 2020.

I began an article series called “The Color Theory of Conflict”, in which I attempted to provide a grand unified theory of conflict. Part I defines the various colors and defends those definitions against likely objections. This was unfortunately put on the back burner, but more parts will come next year.

In human discourse, logical fallacies are quite common. But when opposition to these fallacies goes too far, further fallacies and sub-optimal behaviors can result. I examined the most common examples of this behavior in an effort to counter such second-order problems.

Sometimes, the lens of examination is best turned inward to correct one’s own missteps. Such was the case for an article I wrote in 2017 about the concept of degeneracy, so I published a revision in which I considered the possibility that civilization can be degenerate.

Welton returned with a case that American intervention in Syria is not only not right; it is not even wrong.

My poetic side suddenly came out in May, resulting in song lyrics critical of elected politicians in general. It resurfaced in September with song lyrics about Bitcoin, in November with an anti-election song, and in December with a Bitcoin Christmas song.

Libertarians have mixed views about capital punishment, but no one else seems to have considered the value of forming communal bonds by working together to execute the worst offenders. I did this at great length through the lens of ritual magick. Later, I used the problem of pedophilia among Catholic clergy to consider the limits of capital punishment, and found that there is a strong case for executing child molesters.

Welton offered an excellent history of the rise and fall of the Boy Scouts, along with the characteristics that a replacement organization should have in order to prevent a similar leftist takeover.

Doxxing has long been a problem in political circles, but it became worse in 2018. I reasoned through the limits of its acceptable use, then proposed a comprehensive solution for reining it in to those limits.

Since the beginning of recorded history, a teleological element has been present in historical narratives. I argued against this practice, promoting instead an agnostic historiography.

An incident on cable news over Trump’s immigration policies provided an opportunity for examining useful tactics for making leftists look more unhinged than usual. I showed how Corey Lewandowski’s treatment of Zac Petkanas was a master class in this regard.

I attempted to find the ideal amount of force that a civilization should use to maintain itself, coming to the conclusion that, contrary to mainstream liberalism and libertarianism, the bare minimum is not ideal.

Welton took on an important issue that has long been waiting for a proper reactionary response: the undue reverence given to the Magna Carta by liberals of all stripes.

In 2017, I argued the case for reining in censorious technology giants by threatening the revocation of their incorporation. I followed this up with an argument against the corporate form itself as a creature of statism that would almost certainly not exist in a free society. Continued problems with corporate censorship that touched me personally led me to formulate a holistic approach to solving the problem.

Qui returned with a thorough survey of the producerist school of thought, which has both significant overlap with and significant difference from libertarianism.

On July 23, Social Matter published an article by Mark Christensen in which he argued that conservatives should favor larger government. I welcomed Darien Sumner, the fourth additional writer at Zeroth Position, in August to rebut Christensen’s arguments point-by-point. A September 25 article by Henry Olson that criticized libertarianism from the right merited a more measured response.

Welton and I figured that if libertarians and rightists are going to be slandered as fascists and Nazis no matter what, then we have nothing to lose by examining real Nazis and seeing what can be learned from their example. The result was an excellent piece on the rise and fall of the Sturmabteilung (SA).

The Walking Dead comic series and the television show based on it contain many themes which are of interest to the student of libertarian philosophy and reactionary thought. I explored the many ways in which Negan’s group resembles a state apparatus, as well as what one can learn from those who resist his rule and ultimately overthrow him. The third part was released in 2018, covering the second half of Season 7. The fourth and fifth parts, covering Season 8, were planned for 2018 but will instead appear in early 2019.

In 2016, I wrote a guide to political autism as it pertains to libertarian commentators. I followed up that effort with a similar overview of autistic conservatism.

On September 4–7, the United States Senate held hearings on the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court to replace outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy. I wrote a list of observations on the events. After Democrats launched an unprecedented smear campaign, I wrote another list of observations.

Nathan Dempsey returned after an 11-month hiatus to begin a quarterly series of updates on his Liberty Minecraft project, the first of which ran on October 24.

Clashes between different strains of political universalism, as well as proselytization into territories ruled by non-universalist governance structures, led to the unprecedented losses of life and property in wars and genocides during the 20th century, and is capable of doing much more damage going forward. I examined the history and practice of universalism, its pathway to genocide, and what libertarians may do about it in a sweeping essay.

Welton offered a history of imperialism and colonialism, considering the bad name it has unjustly acquired, the joint-stock and free state models, and how colonialism might be used to create a libertarian social order.

Black Friday is revered by most libertarians as a celebration of free-market capitalism. I updated my explanation of why this reverence is misplaced.

My final think piece of the year will continue into 2019, but the first part offers a detailed explanation of the concept of immaterial technology.

All in all, it was an interesting year full of occasions to make sharp libertarian and reactionary arguments. May 2019 bring more and better!

Book Review: Anarcho-Monarchism

Anarcho-Monarchism is a collection of 30 essays by libertarian author Insula Qui. The book explores various issues from a libertarian reactionary perspective, all of which factor into a synthesis of anarchy and monarchy.

The introduction sets out the purpose of the book, which is to synthesize liberty and authority in such a way as to avoid the apparent contradictions in doing so. According to Qui, this is done through careful nuance. She recommends an alternate order in which one may read the book, but this is only necessary for those unfamiliar with any libertarian reactionary thought. She includes here a disclaimer that the work is not professionally edited, which unfortunately is more glaringly obvious than in her previous book.

In What is Anarcho-Monarchism?, Qui offers an extended introduction. She proposes that the non-aggression principle is necessary but not sufficient, and that property rights will lead to natural hierarchies that culminate in monarchs. These monarchs are different from the absolute rulers of history, in that they rule based on merit and ability rather than coercion.

The Contradiction of Freedom explores the limitations of freedom as pertains to the mutual incompatibility of each person being free to do as one will, which naturally leads to people violating each other’s freedoms. The differing conceptions of freedom offered by competing political ideologies motivate further conflicts in this regard. She summarizes these conditions thus:

“To fight for freedom qua freedom is to fight for other people to be able to impose their vision of freedom onto you. To fight for freedom is simply to fight for the dominance of an unspecified party, and as such if you fight for freedom you fight for subjugation. However, there is still the slight hope that you will be the one doing the subjugating.”[1]

She resolves this problem by advocating as a pragmatic matter that there must be a pursuit of autonomy to avoid needless conflicts in which people seek to impose their vision of freedom upon everyone else. Qui concludes the essay by denouncing the egoism of Max Stirner as the worst combination of freedom and autonomy.

In The Final Arbiter, Qui deals with the problem of final resolution of disputes. She considers various possibilities for how such a final arbiter may exist outside of a monopolistic legal system. Unfortunately, she accepts the opponent’s framing of the question and spends all of her effort in trying to answer it rather than rejecting the concept of a final arbiter as either nonsensical (in that no person or institution can absolutely guarantee that any issue will be resolved forever with no possibility of review) or guaranteed by nature (the dead cannot dispute and every person eventually dies, so the Grim Reaper is the final arbiter).

The fourth essay is The Centralization of Defence, and it argues against the contention of Robert Nozick and others that market anarchy would eventually be undone by centralization of defense agencies leading to the re-establishment of states. Qui admits the advantages of centralizing defense, such as volume discounts and the reduction of transaction costs. But as she explains,

“[P]eople do not constantly need viable alternatives. Rather, what is necessary is the possibility of alternatives emerging.”[2]

In other words, the mere threat of competition can inspire existing companies to provide better service. But more importantly,

“[T]he system of law enforced by the agencies of defence is independent from those agencies that provide physical protection. There is no one agency that should have control over both law and force, and these industries would always be separate. If these industries are not provided by different agencies, the defence agency would become a dictator and would become what it was supposed to defend against.”[3]

The separation of law creation and law enforcement into entities that are not under the same umbrella would be absolutely necessary to avoid the tyranny of modern nation-states. Finally, there is the problem of a powerful defense agency simply conquering a territory and declaring itself a new state. Qui admits that this is possible but not certain, which while less than ideal, is better than the certainty of the current system.

Pro-War, Anti-Nation offers a strong case for the incompatibility of nationalism with warmongering, noting the dysgenic effect of sending the best men to die, the economic ruin brought by wartime destruction and production diversion, and the loss of moral foundation. Qui argues that true nationalism has been corrupted by imperialism, and restoring non-interventionist thinking is the path back to sanity. To her credit, she recognizes the possibility of restoration of martial virtues in a defensive war.

In The Necessity of Force, Qui argues against the utopian ideas of some left-libertarians who advocate a goal of universal nonviolence. She writes,

“ There will always be people who use force and there will always be people who need to respond to force with force to ensure that the original initiator of violence can be brought to justice. …If there are no people who are willing to use force to secure relative peace for people who do not want to use force, then people who are willing to use violence for personal gains would always achieve unjust outcomes for the sake of themselves.”[4]

She also demonstrates that this need not devolve into a state, as the incentive structures involved give advantages to defenders over aggressors.

Qui considers the corruption of libertarian philosophy for the purpose of appealing to leftists in Brutal Freedom. Here, she considers the flip side of full personal responsibility to its logical conclusion of social Darwinism, though she does not use the term in this essay. Though charity may mitigate brutality somewhat, Qui argues that some brutality will remain, as these charities will only help those who are willing to help themselves and just need a temporary step up.

All Men Are Created Equal is a brief essay that addresses that all too common liberal fiction. As usual,

“Definitions change and juxtaposing a modern notion with a classical one results in a misunderstanding of much thought in the classical tradition.”[5]

As such, she compares modern notions of equality with the classical liberal idea of getting rid of titles of nobility and other such birthrights. This classical idea of human biological diversity and meritocracy is contrasted with the modern idea of equality of outcome. But Qui commits an error at the end, arguing for classical equality instead of natural inequality.

Social Darwinism is given direct treatment in the ninth essay. Qui argues that far from trying to deny such an accusation, capitalists should embrace this sort of thinking. She illuminates the difference between actively killing and passively allowing death, showing expectation of survival to be a revolt against nature. But then she makes a dubious assertion:

“If a system allows people to gain unearned advantages, that system ceases to be a social darwinist [sic] one. This is because it starts to encourage parasitism and negative qualities instead of the advancement of all individuals.”[6]

Left unsaid is what constitutes an unearned advantage. There is also the problem that one does not earn one’s own genetic code, and that parasitism and other negative qualities are part of the evolutionary process. However, she correctly recognizes that a Darwinian process applies not just to who can survive, but who will occupy each station in life. She argues that social Darwinism will prevent charity from being wasted on those who will never become productive members of society, with resources instead flowing to those who prove themselves best at managing them.

In The Rule of Law, Qui briefly contemplates the impossibility of any political system securing the rule of law, as any such system places someone above the law. She argues for a separation of law and state:

“The only solution to this is to remove the managerial position when it comes to law from being legitimized by the coercive use of force and to put law on the same level as every other industry. We can have the managerial position of law be put onto the free market where each person is able to patronize the providers of law and where each person is also free to not do so. Thus the people who are in the position that is traditionally one of governance become reduced to the level of every person who is not within the system of governance. In that manner, it is possible to create a situation where there are no privileged positions and there is real equality before the law.”[7]

Of course, this raises the usual objections of the wealthiest patrons ultimately deciding the law by which enforcers they will hire for which purposes, the free rider problem, and the possibility of re-emerging states, none of which are adequately addressed in the essay.

Against Taxes is the first long essay of the book, and approaches the case against taxation in economic terms rather than the usual moral arguments. Qui uses opportunity cost, price mechanisms, the lack of market accountability of the state, the cost of collecting taxes, the cost of prosecuting tax resistance, wealth transfer from competent stewards to incompetent stewards, and the impossibility of creating a taxation scheme that does not disproportionately harm the poor to make this case. She concludes the essay by debunking the idea of public goods.

In High Trust, Qui provides an overview of various types of individualism, settling on ethical individualism as most conducive to a libertarian social order. She also considers the role of homogeneity in strengthening trust. Unlike mainstream libertarians, Qui accepts the impact of genetics:

“Due to evolutionary pressures in different ecosystems and climates, genes change in humans when they are in different areas of the world. [T]hese genes affect the culture and they create the basis for culture. Furthermore, even if a member of a genetic group comes into contact with the culture of another, they still have the genetic incentives of their original culture.”[8]

The essay concludes by explaining why high trust is important. Where Qui goes astray is with her insistence on nonviolent means of enforcing social norms; violence has almost always entered into this process and will likely continue to do so. There is also no mention of the possibility for technology to reduce the need for trust.

In Liberty, Property, Society, Qui argues against critics who accuse libertarians of being anti-social because they reject coercive institutions. Defining liberty as self-determination and explaining property as a rational method for allocating scarce resources, she concludes that this allows for social interaction to be maximized. She explains the difference between capitalism and corporatism, which critics of libertarianism (and many libertarians as well) frequently confuse. The essay concludes by exploring the reversal of the argument, that a lack of liberty and property will undermine society.

With The Family in Capitalism, Qui begins addressing the relationship between libertarianism and the far-right. She addresses the far-right contention that capitalism is anti-family. Unlike left-libertarians, many of whom view the breakdown of traditional family structures as a positive, Qui argues that the state and the corporatism it enables has done this to everyone’s detriment. She shows that both states and corporations are incentivized to destroy the family as a challenger and impediment to their power. She understands that capitalism is an amoral process; garbage inputs result in garbage production, while good inputs result in the production of virtue. The ending deals with women in the workforce, and bears quoting at length:

“[T]here is the…point that capitalism pushes women into the workforce…so there is a need for fascist economics to avoid this phenomenon. This argument has a compelling point. Capitalists are directly benefited by there being a surplus of labour to make those who own capital able to lower wages in the economy. This would eventually correct itself and, given enough time, the supply of capital would reach the demand for capital. But capitalists hold political power in an unfree market. We can say that when the capitalists hold both political and economic power, capitalism has inherent forces that destroy the family. This cannot be achieved with economic power alone. There would be no way to force women into the workforce and keep profits from increasing the size of the workforce. However, in a free market, the capitalists cannot prevent additional capital from entering the market and cannot alter the amount of labour in the economy by incentive structures.

Furthermore, it is simply profitable due to the division of labour for women to stay home and take care of the children while the father works. This is for multiple reasons, usually men earn more since they are more productive and more willing to work longer hours. Women are more apt at taking care of children and more emotionally attached to the process of child-rearing. Thus, if a couple aims to produce healthy children in a good family with enough wealth, that couple needs a division of labour that would fit the strengths of all people in the family.”[9]

The Case for Tradition argues against “libertine hedonihilism,” as Qui terms it. This is the left-libertarian view of liberty as freedom to engage in any degenerate behavior whatsoever as long as no one else is aggressed against. She argues that the family is the bedrock of society, therefore a stable libertarian order will be undermined by anything that erodes family values. She writes,

“Every society is organized along some lines, even a society with no coercive power system creates a system of exclusion, rules of interaction, and other norms to stabilize social life under the system. These social foundations may be implicit or explicit, however, they will always exist and thus we should make sure that the everpresent [sic] organizational principles result in a society that produces the best quality of life for the people involved. The libertine recoils at this statement as he firmly believes that all people should be left alone to be as degenerate as they want to be and no person should be bothered by any sort of moralism. But even the libertine must function within a society and that society will have organizational principles.”[10]

Qui explains the difference between individualism as isolation and individualism as independence. She then describes tradition thus:

“[T]radition is not to be understood as the corrupted american [sic] concept of tradition. So-called family values, military histories, and constitutions do not constitute a historical basis for organizing society. Rather, tradition is the all-encompassing concept of the cultural heritage and the knowledge of all people involved in those traditions. Tradition is the manifestation of the cultural group that created the traditions. …Simply put, tradition is the spontaneous historical order of a nation and to not respect tradition would be to not respect proper social structures.”[11]

She urges libertarians to appeal to rightists instead of leftists as a more natural fit, much as Murray Rothbard did in his 1992 essay Right-Wing Populism. She finishes the essay by thinking of tradition as a collection of best practices through the ages, which while imperfect, was good enough to bring people this far.

In Community, Tradition, Liberty, the same matters are approached from the angle of community as a mitigating factor for the degeneracy that can result if people regard themselves as atomized individuals. The role of social capital as an economic factor is also discussed, along with lower transaction costs and better economic calculation as people form tight-knit communities. She then considers the problems of implementing traditional values absent liberty.

The Two Laws of Nature begins a streak of five controversial essays, in which Qui attempts to bridge the liberty-authority divide. She describes her undertaking as follows:

“In the niche sphere of radical politics, you find two very contrasting American intellectual traditions with their own notions of what is the natural law. American white nationalists and fascists occasionally claim that the law of nature forms a brutal order of self-defence and racial animosity. Radical libertarians interpret the law of nature as something that guarantees rights to each person. I would propose a synthesis of these two laws of nature to combine them into a proper set of moral values. This could form a social order that is a combination of libertarian and extreme traditionalist-nationalist values. Furthermore, this synthesis is highly similar to classical concepts of natural law which combine both personal morality and rights.”[12]

She considers fascist ethics as being rooted in animal behavior and adapted to take account of the differences between humans and lower animals. This sets up hierarchies as the natural form of organization, while egalitarianism and democracy are revolts against nature. By contrast, Qui views libertarianism as constructed from reason, from which the non-aggression principle and private property rights emerge. But curiously, she refers to libertarian theory as “empty tautologies.” She describes her proposed synthesis thus:

“Each person ought to value their tribe, know their place in society, attempt to form a family, and defend themselves. This is not to say that each person can succeed at all of these, there are certain inherent limitations. [H]owever, these things should be required for living a perfectly moral life. The tribe does not have to be a race or a nation, the tribe would rather be the community in which you find yourself.”[13]

The next essay is National Socialism and Libertarianism, and it deals with common premises shared between libertarians and national socialists, which are commonly believed to be diametrically opposed. Qui believes these to be that society should emerge organically, opposition to parasitism, recognition that the state is an institution of force, and intolerance of communism. The manifestation of each of these differs greatly; is the parasite the state or Jewry, are parasites best removed by the market or the state, and so on. She closes with a warning:

“[I]t is very easy to become disillusioned with freedom when one realizes for which purposes freedom is used. Because there are overlaps in the general worldview of fascists and libertarians, it becomes easy to simply remove the seemingly problematic aspect of freedom that leads to various ills within libertarianism.”[14]

“However, this does not mean that libertarians are similar to fascists or that it is necessarily libertarian to intermingle with fascists.”[15]

Authoritarianism Versus Libertarianism deals head-on with the central issue of the book. Qui argues that liberty and authority are incompatible in the political realm, but can come together outside of politics. Again defining liberty as self-determination, she finds the enemy of liberty to be not authority but coercion. She writes,

“When strong command structures and a social order predicated upon a strong focus on authority can defeat coercion at large in society, then authoritarianism is more libertarian than perceivedly unauthoritarian structures. This may seem impossible. After all, when there are strong structures of command it seems like there could not be any room to exercise liberty. But this ignores human action and psychology. These strong command structures do not liberate people from command structures but rather give them the liberty to decide what they do outside authority.”[16]

This kind of liberty under authority comports well with both traditional and neoreactionary thinking. Qui also has an explanation for why this is poorly understood among libertarians:

“But the people who want to be left alone to practice their liberty are also the people who are viscerally opposed to being constrained by command structures. This means that they often overlook how these seemingly oppressive structures can actually benefit the ability to exercise control over your own life. A government that makes a few demands in a very authoritative manner should always be preferable to a government that makes many demands in a democratic manner.”[17]

She spends the remainder of the essay considering the benefits of non-coercive command structures over coercive ones as well as a lack thereof.

Qui’s flirtation with neoreaction continues in Strong and Small. Here, she argues that an ideal state exercises hegemonic control and strong political authority, but does not needlessly involve itself in every facet of society. She uses public choice theory to show that states are inclined to grow, either by becoming stronger or larger (or both). She contends that a strong state will primarily look after its own interests, while a weak state will do the bidding of various special interests. But this contention is dubious because a strong state can have special interests and factionalism internally rather than externally, leading to similar problems. Her conclusion is that a state can either function as an anarcho-tyranny (as many currently do) or as a liberal autocracy, a strong state that does very little.

Libertarianism and Fascism began as an article here at Zeroth Position, though the version in this book is significantly different. Qui compares the spectrum between libertarianism and neoliberalism that leads to left-libertarianism to the spectrum between libertarianism and fascism that can lead to a type of libertarian reaction. She provides a history of the various fascist movements, though this history is not exhaustive. Next comes an overview of fascist ideology, which Qui explains as placing the advancement of the nation above all else. Of a potential synthesis of libertarianism and fascism, she writes,

“Fascism undoubtedly preserves property more than left-wing socialism does, thus fascist sympathies cannot be construed as completely anti-libertarian. But one cannot take both nation and property as ultimate goals. This is because the conflicts between these goals would have to be solved by means of arbitrary decision. This means that libertarianism and fascism cannot be combined as ideologies because their premises are different. One may combine republicanism, minarchism, monarchism, anarcho-capitalism, etc. into a broad political movement, as the premises of these positions are sufficiently similar. But there is no way to create a big tent movement that can accurately represent the interests of both fascists and libertarians; the premises come into too much conflict.”[18]

She concludes that although fascists and libertarians are incompatible in the long-term, they can work together against common enemies by setting aside their incompatibilities to deal with common enemies.

Conversely, the lengthy essay Producerism was later adapted from this book into a Zeroth Position article. Qui’s contention that efficiency is the base value of libertarianism is questionable at best. She describes producerism (differently from most sources) as trying to increase production in general, both of material and immaterial goods. Her claim that producerism is the only metaphysically consistent form of political philosophy requires more support than is given, as she does not prove uniqueness as needed. Much of the rest of the essay repeats material from earlier in the book. This essay would have benefited greatly from exploring the dangers of overproduction as a source of degeneracy instead of containing so much repetition.

Communitarian Libertarianism deals with yet another possible synthesis between libertarianism and another school of thought. Qui blames the strategic errors of Friedrich Hayek for the top-down focus of political libertarianism, which has so far failed to convince elites to be more libertarian for entirely predictable reasons. Though she correctly notes that warfare against the state would be required for the masses to implement libertarianism, she does not contemplate the possibility of a rogue elite leading the way to liberty, as neoreaction does. Qui instead focuses on building communities as a bulwark against the leviathan state, as this is what worked in pre-modern times.

The provocatively titled The Final Solution to the Banking Question argues for a fundamental reform of banking systems. Qui begins by explaining what is wrong with contemporary banking, which essentially functions as a globalist system of debt slavery. Before proposing a solution, she describes a conflict between two sets of critics of banking:

“Our approach to banking should not be about turning a blind eye to unethical action, rather it should wholly be a method of critique and instituting a market solution to a state problem. And there are plenty of people who critique banks from an anti-market perspective. They propose different solutions as they feel that banks are unethical by nature and not by circumstance.”[19]

She provides a standard free-market defense of interest as a measure of time preference. Her proposed solution is quite similar to the Banking Act of 1933 (better known as Glass-Steagall), in that she would separate savings and loan banks from investment banks, disallowing any institution to practice both. Strangely, there is no mention of cryptocurrency and its potential to eliminate the need for banks as we know them.

Familism refers to primacy of the family rather than the individual or any larger collective. Qui argues that families cannot be separated into discrete sub-units in economic analysis, as the income and spending of the individuals is too intertwined. More broadly,

“In cultures that have not been subject to American cultural imperialism, there is often no such thing as individualism divorced from the family. In most of the world, individualism does not imply that the individual should be independent from the constraints of the family, but rather that individuals should be focused on their own family. However, due to the increasingly westernized [sic] nature of the world, this is not a commonplace meaning.”[20]

She contends that unless families consist of degenerate and/or aggressive people, alienated individualism and non-familial collectivism are less optimal than familism. According to Qui, one redefines one’s family through redefining oneself, and advancing one’s family by giving rise to the next generation is the purpose of economic action.

Neo-Feudalism explores the common ground between libertarianism and feudalism, which is quite rich despite libertarianism’s origins in anti-feudalism. Qui makes the case that a natural landed aristocracy will arise out of libertarian standards for property ownership, but the absence of coercion would allow for more turnover of incompetent landowners. Second, the defense structures of anarcho-capitalism greatly resemble that of feudal lords, but Qui again hand-waves the issue of potential re-establishment of states. Even so, the destruction wrought by modern nation-states dwarfs anything under feudalism. She also notes the benefit of using mercenaries for lessening “my country, right or wrong” sentiments.

The Case for Guilds argues that trade unions are a statist corruption of the older system of guilds, which should be reborn and adapted for the future economy. Qui highlights the issue of guilds being run by the best in their line of work, while unions are run by the best at rent-seeking. The means by which guilds ensure quality in ways that unions, trade schools, and universities do not are also discussed.

In Greatness, Qui contemplates the conflict between modernity and potential for excellence. She blames the Enlightenment for abandoning the virtues of previous eras:

“Rationalism became replaced by populism, religious tolerance became replaced by institutional secularism, human advancement became replaced by anti-traditionalism, and an opposition to absolute and tyrannical monarchs became an opposition to monarchy. This was not helped by the opponents of the enlightenment [sic] as they were not staunch traditionalists, but rather simply anti-rationalists and similarly opposed to greatness. They only helped create the monsters of the enlightenment and the popular philosophy that started the downfall of the world.”[21]

This assessment of the Counter-Enlightenment is only partially accurate; for example, Joseph de Maistre opposed a rational foundation for governance because he believed it would only lead to arguments devolving into violence over whether this or that particular government was legitimate. Qui goes on to expose the contradiction between popular democratic will and eternal values. She then describes the progression from Enlightenment values to progressivism:

“Without equality, liberty, fraternity we would have never reached egality, entitlement, collectivity. It is a logical progression from wanting to abolish institutional privilege to wanting to abolish every kind of privilege. The same is true with wanting the ability to be undisturbed by other people and the ability to be undisturbed by the fundamental realities of the world. Respect for your fellow man can easily lead to demanding that the focus of each person be on their fellow man.”[22]

In Kings by Merit, Qui advocates authority as the means for creating virtue, which she believes liberty cannot do on its own. Why this would involve removing authority from economics or politics is left an open question, as degeneracy is especially prone to manifest there. She describes the libertarian king as a societal patriarch who is followed voluntarily for his leadership skills, which she believes is necessary for most people to avoid being led astray by the various demagogues that arise from time to time. Qui views the king’s function as combating parasitism and embodying virtue. She writes,

“The king would logically then be the person in society who has the highest degree of virtue and the highest degree of merit, voluntary monarchy is the ultimate meritocracy as the most qualified person would have the most power. The…person who is the most righteous and most capable would be the king. …Monarchy in any other way and democracy in all ways results in situations in which the rulers are people who do not embody virtue, although this happens far more with democracy than with monarchy. It does not mean that involuntary rule will always necessarily be against virtue, but we need exemplary kings to embody virtue and we only get exemplary kings through voluntary monarchy”[23]

The final essay, For an Anarchist Monarchy, closes the book on its central theme. Qui discusses the failures of combining monarchy with democracy, then proposes a synthesis of monarchy with anarchy by retaining the best principles of both while mitigating the potentially destructive aspects of both with a voluntary monarchic system.

The book ends with a single page advocating further reading of her series “On Libertarianism and Statecraft” here at Zeroth Position.

The first word that comes to mind when describing the entire collection is ‘unfinished.’ The grammatical constructions and punctuation are awkward throughout. A book of this many essays should be categorized into sections of similar subject matters, and the table of contents lacks page numbers. Each of the essays would benefit from a much deeper bibliography, as there are many important points which are simply asserted without proper support. The essays are also somewhat disjointed, in that they do not refer to each other to save space. That being said, the thoughts expressed in this book are sufficiently intriguing to merit reading despite these flaws.

Rating: 3.5/5

References:

  1. Qui, Insula (2018). Anarcho-Monarchism. p. 22.
  2. Ibid., p. 38.
  3. Ibid., p. 40.
  4. Ibid., p. 57.
  5. Ibid., p. 66.
  6. Ibid., p. 71.
  7. Ibid., p. 80.
  8. Ibid., p. 104.
  9. Ibid., p. 123–4.
  10. Ibid., p. 127.
  11. Ibid., p. 129.
  12. Ibid., p. 146.
  13. Ibid., p. 153.
  14. Ibid., p. 162.
  15. Ibid., p. 160.
  16. Ibid., p. 168.
  17. Ibid., p. 169.
  18. Ibid., p. 189–90.
  19. Ibid., p. 224–5.
  20. Ibid., p. 232.
  21. Ibid., p. 257.
  22. Ibid., p. 259–60.
  23. Ibid., p. 268–9.

An Introduction to Immaterial Technology, Part I

Merriam-Webster defines technology as “the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area”, “a capability given by the practical application of knowledge”, “a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge”, and “the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor”. There is an inclination to think of technology in terms of physical goods, but such material manifestations are only made possible by immaterial forms of technology. These consist of behaviors, beliefs, and relationships that are used for social organization. This has historically been called social technology, but we will introduce the term immaterial technology to avoid conflation with material technologies that are used for social organization, as has occurred with the former term in recent times.[1,2] Immaterial technologies include (but are not limited to) political power, laws, cultural norms, religions, symbols, decision-taking systems, information transfer mediation, and behavior pattern creation among individuals and groups.[2]

The idea of immaterial technology originated with Charles Richmond Henderson, who referred to it as social science and social art. In his terminology, social science makes predictions, while social art introduces improvements to society.[3] In 1901, he defined social technology as “a system of conscious and purposeful organization of persons in which every actual, natural social organization finds its true place, and all factors in harmony cooperate to realize an increasing aggregate and better proportions of the ‘health, wealth, beauty, knowledge, sociability, and rightness’ desires.”[4] In the 1920s, Ernest Burgess and Thomas D. Eliot broadened this definition to include results from psychology and other social studies.[5,6]

These concepts took on a distinctly Marxist flavor in the 1930s (and have never truly lost it), as both social technology and its intentional use to achieve particular goals, known as social engineering, became associated with the socioeconomic plans of the Soviet Union. The Soviet economist Yevgeni Preobrazhensky defined social technology as “the science of organized production, organized labor, of organized systems of production relations, where the legality of economic existence is expressed in new forms.”[7] Karl Popper criticized the Soviet-Marxist theory and use of social technology. He distinguished piecemeal social engineering, which adopts “the method of searching for, and fighting against, the greatest and most urgent evils of society, rather than searching for, and fighting for, its greatest ultimate good,” from utopian social engineering, which seeks “an ideal state, using a blueprint of society as a whole, is one which demands a strong centralized rule of a few, and which therefore is likely to lead to a dictatorship.” According to Popper, the former was democratic while communism and fascism were examples of the latter.[8]

Just like material technology, immaterial technology is often complex. Although immaterial technology can be subject to design, it does not always have a clear inventor, instead being produced by a vast iterative process for which no single person can take credit or blame. In this sense, the development of immaterial technology bears some resemblance to Darwinian natural selection. This necessarily makes it more difficult to understand, but it is vital for any practitioner of statecraft or contributor to political theory to understand the role of immaterial technology because the types available in a particular place or time form part of the boundary conditions within which a civilization located there will develop. Moreover, it is the advance or regress of immaterial technology that determines not only how societies will evolve, but how they can evolve.

To gain a greater understanding of immaterial technology, we will first explore the nature of interaction with technology in general, then apply this to immaterial technology in particular. In Part II, we will examine proper and improper modes of functionality of immaterial technology, explore the concept of social engineering, then consider how to apply immaterial technology toward the purpose of eucivic social engineering.

Levels of Interaction

Let us begin by considering the eight levels of interaction that a subject may have with a particular piece of technology. These can be illustrated by considering various responses to encountering a physical artifact. We will use for this purpose an iconic firearm: the Colt Single Action Army. Designed by William Mason and Charles Brinckerhoff Richards in 1872 and released the following year, it was the United States Army’s service revolver for the next two decades (three decades for the Artillery Model), and has remained popular in the civilian market to this day even though it has been outpaced in terms of performance.[9] Although this is an example of material technology, the same levels apply to the handling of immaterial technology.

First, a technology may be beyond one’s understanding. Consider a snake slithering across the ground who happens upon our revolver. The snake may investigate, but will find no use for it, for a snake is both physically and mentally incapable of using a firearm and understanding its use. Firearms made for humans by humans are simply outside the context of a snake’s ordinary existence. The most primitive response to a technology is to ignore it, and beyond a momentary examination, this is precisely what the snake will do unless it manages to accidentally discharge the firearm.

Second, one may use a technology in a manner inconsistent with its intended purpose. Suppose that our revolver is found by a gorilla. The gorilla will not understand how a firearm is intended to be used, and may not be physically capable of getting its finger into the trigger guard, but it may find that the gun can be smashed into fruits and nuts to crack them open. This is not the function that a revolver is built to perform, but it can serve this purpose. To understand another form of misuse, imagine a small child encountering our revolver. A toddler can fire a gun, but is likely to accidentally kill himself or someone else because he is mentally incapable of handling and using it properly. This form of misuse occurs not because the proper use of the technology is beyond the limits of the user’s abilities, but because the user’s abilities are not yet developed to handle the technology with competence. Misuse in this case is to be understood as inability to understand the proper operation of a technology; technically proper use for evil purposes, such as a criminal using a revolver as a murder weapon, is another matter to be discussed in Part II.

Third, one may be able to use a technology but be unable to repair or replicate it. Suppose our revolver is sent through a time portal to ancient Rome. It is likely that people from this context would figure out how to use the revolver. However, once the ammunition runs out or the gun breaks, they would not be able to keep using it because they did not know how to make gunpowder or manufacture the parts to repair it. Note that one can be at this level in the short-term due to a lack of material resources, in the medium-term due to a lack of knowledge, or in the long-term due to physical or mental limitations.

Fourth, one may be able to repair a technology but not replicate it. Suppose our revolver is sent through a different time portal to a gunsmith of the late 16th century. Matchlock firearms had just been invented[10], but the development of cartridges was still far into the future. A gunsmith from this time could probably repair a Colt SAA if he could figure out the mechanically indexing cylinder, but a user would still be limited by ammunition. Note that the gunsmith of this era may seek to avoid this limitation by re-purposing it as a matchlock revolver rather than a cartridge revolver. Repairs that are technically improper but functionally useful are an important aspect of immaterial technology as well as material technology.

Fifth, one may have the ability to replicate a technology but not innovate it. In modern times, copies and near-copies of the Colt SAA are made by Beretta, U.S. Fire Arms Manufacturing Company, and STI International. This level can be difficult to distinguish from the next. Efforts to invent a new technology are rarely uncontested; it only appears to be so because of the human tendency to remember winners instead of also-rans. Additionally, replicas manufactured later tend to be enhanced in some way that was unavailable when the original was invented; e.g., the modern STI version of the Colt SAA has a modified hand/spring assembly designed for more durability, thus placing it in the sixth level. In some cases, this level is reached and not surpassed because a particular technology cannot be further improved but is useful long-term in its current form, thus avoiding the higher levels.

Sixth, one may have the ability to innovate a technology. Here we include both invention of a technology and making improvements upon it, for most inventions are improvements upon prior inventions. After all, it would be rather myopic to treat the development of magazine-fed semi-automatic pistols as a separate line of technology rather than a different branch on the same technology tree. With respect to the Colt SAA, Mason and Richards were at this level, along with later gunsmiths who improved upon their design.

Seventh, one might take notice of a technology but decline its use because one already has superior technology. Suppose that an away team from Star Trek happened upon a Colt SAA. They are just as vulnerable to bullets as humans are today, but their phasers are generally superior weapons to firearms. Even so, they might find a revolver useful if their phasers should become inoperable or unavailable for some reason. In other words, if one’s current technology moves down to the third level and then fails, a less advanced technology may move down to levels of use from the higher levels of neglect.

Eighth, one may ignore a technology not because one is too primitive for it, but because one is too advanced for it. Suppose a Colt SAA is found millennia from now by an advanced “species” of sentient robots. Perhaps they are made of materials beyond our understanding, have an energy shield that vaporizes incoming projectiles, or can transfer their “consciousness” out of one robotic body and into another. Whatever the mechanism may be, they are immune to bullets. While they may have interest in such an artifact as archaeological evidence and/or a museum piece, it is not a useful technology for them. Just like the first level, this level is the result of broader context, but now the positions of subject and technology are reversed.

Further Observations

Let us make a few additional observations before applying these levels to immaterial technology. Note that this system refers to individual technologies, so each subject is at a particular level with each technology. Thus, a person or a civilization may be at level three with respect to one technology while being at level seven with respect to another.

Whereas a productive discussion of immaterial technology necessarily dwells on the practical and useful, we are primarily concerned with the middle six levels and not the first or eighth. Technologies which are so far ahead of or behind a particular subject as to be in level one or level eight tend to be matters of speculation. The first level is primarily of interest to experimental archaeologists, while the eighth level represents Outside Context Problems of one form or another. That being said, there is a nebulous boundary between the first two levels; just as a snake or a toddler may accidentally discharge a firearm, one may attempt to use methods of social engineering that are beyond one’s comprehension, with randomly destructive results. There is generally a greater gulf between levels two and three, as a certain mental capacity is required to cross this boundary. Accordingly, it is more difficult for a civilization to fall back from level three to level two than to fall through other level boundaries, as this is indicative of a general loss of knowledge that only accompanies great cataclysms. Aside from such disasters, the general trend is for technology to advance.[Footnote 1]

Levels three through five are much closer than they might appear to be. Though there can be many centuries of developmental difference between these levels in a particular technology, as there were between ancient Rome and 19th century America in the above example, the ingenuity of humans (and presumably other sentient lifeforms) allows for advanced technology to be reverse-engineered with astonishing rapidity. Should someone manage to send a relatively modern weapon back to that time, such weaponry would likely be in common use by perhaps a century later.[Footnote 2] In the same vein, level four is a spectrum of sorts. At the low end, only the most basic repairs may be performed, and losing even this ability returns one to level three. At the high end, the ability to repair blends into the ability to replicate as the production of repair parts eventually leads to the ability to produce copies of the entire artifact, thus blurring the boundary between levels four and five.

Level six requires yet another step in intellectual ability, as inventing one’s own technology is more difficult than figuring out how to use extant resources. Progressing along one branch of technology is the natural result of this level over time, but will usually lead to a different kind of technology, thus advancing one to level seven. Failure to make the transition to level six or level seven is a sign of stagnation, which usually precedes a decline. At level seven, we find one more important observation: “inferior” is not a synonym for “bad” when it comes to technology. If a rival is expecting to encounter more advanced technology, then using less advanced technology may be an effective surprise, as the rival may not have prepared defenses for it. Thus, archaic technology need not be discarded and should not be forgotten until one is at level eight with respect to it.

The eighth level represents an enormous step in ability, by far the greatest of all the level transitions. So great, in fact, that it is difficult to imagine a technology with respect to which humans at the time of this writing are at level eight. Even the most primitive tools of pre-human primates have modern improvements that perform the same functions more effectively, but the root functions are still necessary. Therefore, we are at level seven with respect to them. To be at level eight with respect to a hand ax, for instance, is to be so advanced as to have no need to use physical objects to apply force to other objects. To use another Star Trek example, the Q Continuum is at this level.

Application to Immaterial Technology

With the eight levels of technological interaction hopefully well-explained, let us apply them to immaterial technology. Here we will use several examples to illustrate some phenomena which do not generally occur with material technologies. As mentioned earlier, we will focus on levels two through seven, as this is where subjects are with respect to all useful and comprehensible immaterial technologies. We will proceed through these levels out of order for reasons which will soon become clear.

It must be noted that not all immaterial technologies are useful to all beings. For example, patriarchy would make no sense to a species that reproduces asexually. For them, patriarchy would be non-scoreable on the eight-level scale; regardless of their ability to understand the concepts involved, it would be impossible for them to apply such knowledge unless their biology were to change. One could only make an educated guess at their development with respect to this immaterial technology by examining similar technologies, such as those involved in their dealings with other species.

Invention and Replication

Let us begin with level six, for no technology can be used, misused, repaired, replicated, or improved upon before it is invented. As with material technology, people invent immaterial technology because they believe it will improve their lives in some way by giving them additional capabilities through the practical application of knowledge. In other words, to the extent that immaterial technology is the product of deliberate design, people are seeking to alter social structures to produce greater net goods per unit of effort. In the absence of deliberate design, immaterial technologies build up over time as cultural traditions through a process of survival of the sufficiently fit. These efforts fail at times for reasons which will be explored in Part II, but the intent is always the same if one remembers that what constitutes “greater net goods” is subjective because value is subjective. We see again that most inventions are built upon prior inventions, or at least have necessary prerequisites. For instance, one does not get democracy if there is not timocracy first. The most notable difference is that advances in immaterial technology are not necessarily improvements; using the previous example, though democracy seems to be a natural progression from timocracy, this was regarded as a devolution from good governance to tyranny of the majority for most of history, and for good reason. Of course, accounting for such false advances blurs the distinction between levels six and seven, but the theory must adapt to reality, not vice versa.

Next, let us discuss level five. Once an immaterial technology is invented, it must be replicated in the minds of enough people to make its practice possible. After all, one does not have a männerbund of ten men providing defense for a tribe of thousands or a religion with a dozen believers providing moral guidance for a great empire. In order to grow to the point of practical use, an immaterial technology must produce a perceived benefit for the right people, which is to say that the elites must find it superior to what they already use. Here we see another difference versus material technology. It is rare for there to be a successful effort to suppress the adoption of physical inventions; such efforts tend to be targeted and suppressed in short order.[11] Only when these physical inventions are intertwined with immaterial values that oppose those in power do elites spring into action against material progress, as happened in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.[12–14] Immaterial technologies which work against current elites are far more likely to be suppressed, such as heretical religious doctrines or alternative political systems.

When immaterial developments are not hindered, their proliferation is somewhat different from that of material technologies. Many societies have intellectual property laws that slow the advance of physical invention by restraining market forces to give inventors a monopoly on production for a number of years. Although these laws frequently deter the spread of ideas by lessening the availability of the media in which they are expressed, the ideas themselves are not scarce or rivalrous. Once released into the public domain in one way or another, they tend to remain there and be used freely. In the strictest sense, the replication of immaterial technology is as simple as you reading this article after I have written it. Failure in this sense is most unusual, for language is one of the most basic immaterial technologies. However, the use and repair of immaterial technology after replication is much more complex.

The adaptation of an immaterial technology from one societal context into another typically only occurs on a mutatis mutandis basis. The culture which produces an immaterial technology will necessarily leave its imprints on it, and some aspects of this may be incompatible with another culture. For example, Islamic feminism looks quite different from Western feminism because it must contend with another dominant set of immaterial technologies (the religion of Islam and everything that comes with it) that will not allow feminism to be expressed in the same ways that it is in the West. This kind of adaptation leads us into the matters of repair and maintenance.

Repair and Maintenance

The fourth level, that of repair, is quite different with immaterial technology. Indeed, maintenance may be a better term for what is done with ideas, especially when they still seem to function as intended. Whereas continuous replication in the sense of instructing future generations in the use of particular immaterial technologies is an essential part of this maintenance, the boundary between levels four and five is blurred once more. But education is only one aspect of this level; there are several others to discuss.

The proper maintenance and repair of immaterial technology involves the defense of orthodoxy against heresy, enforcement of social norms, restoration of lost traditions, and adaptation to conditions. An immaterial technology cannot be maintained if it is replaced by another, so it is necessary for the brahmins of a society to defend the immaterial technologies in use against alternatives whose advocates seek to replace the current paradigm. Contrary to the liberal ideology prevalent in modern times, this behavior has no inherent morality; the good or evil of suppressing heretical viewpoints depends on whether the immaterial technology being protected is proper or degenerate compared to the ideas being suppressed, and immaterial technologies that function well can still require such protection. The kshatriyas also have a role to play in this defense, for their role is the defense of civilization against enemies foreign and domestic, and immaterial technologies that can be wielded to wreak havoc upon social order certainly qualify.

Unfortunately, there are many cases in which the defense of proper immaterial technologies fails and degenerate forms manage to dominate a society. Even worse is that the very mechanisms that once reinforced a healthy social order are turned against that purpose. When this happens, a restoration is necessary. This involves purging the degenerate forms and reintroducing proper immaterial technology. The details of performing this operation are a primary concern of most schools of reactionary thought.

The role of adaptation to conditions was partly discussed in the previous section, but only in the sense of immaterial technologies crossing borders between societies and making necessary changes to accommodate the inherent differences between peoples. Changes must also be made to deal with temporal differences; just as there was a cultural difference between Han Dynasty China and the Roman Empire, there is a difference between Rome two millennia ago and Rome today. Shifts in demographics, economics, and even geology can alter the cultural institutions of a society, which must keep pace with conditions without being subordinate to them.

Improper maintenance and repair usually takes the form of doing the above incompetently, whether accidentally or maliciously, and tends to result in failure of the immaterial technology. But there is another form which need not end in failure, and is done out of necessity by well-intentioned people who are doing their best but are in over their heads. Bastiaan Niemand uses the example of horse-drawn cars in rural India to illustrate this phenomenon. He writes,

“First, a horse-drawn carriage is replaced by a car. The car soon becomes a junker, which is even worse than a carriage. So the junker is discreetly retrofitted into a jugaad horse-drawn car. The jugaad car looks like a car, but it only works because it is, in fact, powered by a horse. Yet it doesn’t even work as well as a horse because it has to pretend to be a car.

…[It is] likely that proper horse-drawn carriages existed in that part of rural India within living memory. But imagine that you have grown up without ever having seen a working carriage (let alone a working automobile, for that matter). All you know is horse-drawn cars. You might harbor vague doubts that things are not quite fitting together as envisioned, but compared to what? Who would you even ask about your suspicions? Everyone you know drives a horse-drawn car, even as the rusting frames seem to require more urgent maintenance every year.”[15]

The word jugaad is borrowed from Hindi, and roughly means “makeshift” in its adjective usage. As a verb, it means “to make existing things work with meager resources”. Niemand applies this idea to various immaterial technologies in his article, but describes only part of the cycle; in the example of the jugaad car, the rusting frames will eventually require greater repairs than can be performed. This leaves people riding horses and carrying only what will fit in their saddlebags. Eventually, someone rediscovers how to build chariots, then carriages and wagons. Perhaps the next time that something like an automobile comes along, the resources to maintain it will be present. Otherwise, the cycle begins again, as entire societies generally do not reject as transformative a technology as an automobile. The same sort of cycle can be seen in immaterial technologies; the political doctrine of anacyclosis described by Polybius, in which rule progresses through monarchy, kingship, tyranny, aristocracy, oligarchy, democracy, ochlocracy, and back to monarchy, is an example.[16]

As with material technology, level four is a spectrum. At the low end, some civilizations prove incapable of repairing and maintaining their mechanisms of social organization, resulting in decline that leads to foreign conquest, a dark age, or both. In the middle range, this can be forestalled by the jugaad method discussed above, but this sort of ingenuity receives far more praise than it deserves. The presence of such improvisation indicates that the leaders of a civilization are incompetent or malicious, causing the brightest minds of that civilization to exert effort toward solving problems which would not exist under better governance, thus keeping them from other accomplishments. At the high end, repairs and maintenance are performed properly, which keeps a civilization stable and healthy.

Intermission

So far, we have covered the history of immaterial technology as a concept, justified our novel terminology, devised a eight-level scale for describing interaction with technology, and started applying this scale to immaterial technology. In Part II, we will finish this application by discussing levels two and three, which include the use and misuse of immaterial technology as well as proper versus degenerate forms. We will conclude by discussing the use of immaterial technology for social engineering and determining how this is best done to promote eucivic good.

Footnotes:

  1. It is through this observation that Whig historiography appears as a corollary of technological determinism. If technology is a creator of potential, technology has continually advanced in time memorial, and reality is downstream from potential, then history will appear to be an inexorable march of progress.
  2. This is strong evidence either against time travel or in favor of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. Any artifact left in the past by time travelers should dramatically alter the course of history, as it would be figured out by the people of that time period and put into widespread use thereafter, thus creating a temporal paradox of who actually invented a particular technology. The only escape from paradox is for this chain of events to create a new timeline.

References:

  1. Leibeseder, Bettina (Jan. 2011). “A Critical Review on the Concept of Social Technology”. Socialines Technologijos/Social Technology: 7–24.
  2. Tamošiūnaitė, Rūta (2018). “Integrated social technologies for citizen participation in modern public governance decision making”, in conference proceedings of The 5th European Interdisciplinary Forum 2017. Bologna, Italy: EDITOGRAFICA s.r.l. p. 28.
  3. Henderson, C. R. (1895). “Review”. Journal of Political Economy, 3(2), 236–8.
  4. Henderson, C. R. (1901). “The Scope of Social Technology”. The American Journal of Sociology, 6(4), 465–86.
  5. Burgess, E. W. (1923). “The Interdependence of Sociology and Social Work”. Journal of Social Forces, 1(4), 366–70.
  6. Eliot, T. D. (1924). “The Social Worker’s Criticisms of Undergraduate Sociology”. Journal of Social Forces, 2(4), 506–12.
  7. Preobrazhensky, E. A. (1926). Novaya Ekonomika. Moscow. Translated by Pierce, Brian (1965); with an introduction by A. Nove, 1st ed. Oxford: Clarendon. p. 55.
  8. Popper, Karl (1945). The Open Society and Its Enemies. Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 158–9.
  9. “History: The Colt Legend”. Colt’s Manufacturing Company.
  10. 趙士禎 (Zhao Shi-zhen) (1598). 神器譜 (Artifact spectrum).
  11. Walters, Karly (2004). Law, “Terror”, and the Frame-Breaking Act. University of London.
  12. Kiernan, Ben (1997). The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-79. London: Yale University Press. p. 31–158; 251–310.
  13. Bergin, Sean (2008). The Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian Genocide. Rosen. p. 31
  14. Seng Kok Ung (2011). I Survived the Killing Fields: The True Life Story of a Cambodian Refugee. p. 22–6
  15. Niemand, Bastiaan (2018, Nov. 13). “Jugaad Ethics”. Social Matter. https://www.socialmatter.net/2018/11/13/jugaad-ethics/
  16. Polybius (146 BC). The Histories, Book VI.

On Private Imperialism and Colonialism

In the modern academy, no “sin” is seen as more reprehensible than racism. Colonialism and European imperialism (and only European imperialism) are equally damned by the professoriat as the arch-manifestations of racism. Take, for instance, a scholar like the German-born, Harvard-reared Sven Beckert, whose books claim that capitalism in the Western world is inextricably tied to the enslavement of Africans. Therefore, capitalism equals slavery, which equals racism, thus capitalism is illegitimate. This is the logic of post-Marxism in a nutshell.

Given this reality, how could anyone with a modicum of respectability stand up and cheer for imperialism? There are two worthy cases within living memory, and both merit discussion.

Colonialism’s Bad Name

Dinesh D’Souza penned “Two cheers for colonialism” in 2002. D’Souza argues that “the articles of faith” spouted by “Third World intellectuals” are not true. D’Souza uses two examples; the first is the Marxist historian Walter Rodney, whose book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa says that European colonial powers are responsible for “draining African wealth and making it impossible to develop more rapidly the resources of the continent.”[1] Rodney’s view is echoed by millions of leftists around the world, who, like Karl Marx, make the fatal mistake of assuming that wealth is only generated through labor and material extraction.

A more insidious writer was the Francophone psychiatrist Franz Fanon, whose book The Wretched Earth became one of the most popular reads among the Western counter-cultural set of the 1960s. D’Souza quotes Fanon,

“European opulence has been founded on slavery. The well-being and progress of Europe have been built up with the sweat and the dead bodies of Negroes, Arabs, Indians and the yellow races.”[2]

According to Fanon, Europeans have nothing about which to be proud.

D’Souza contends that this is all hogwash. “The West did not become rich and powerful through colonial oppression,” writes D’Souza. “It makes no sense to claim that the West grew rich and strong by conquering other countries and taking their stuff.” Rather, D’Souza notes that Western imperialism (namely British imperialism) added vital resources to their foreign territories (e.g. the introduction of rubber to Malaysia), introduced such thoroughly Western concepts as scientific inquiry, democracy, and capital investment, and rose the overall standard of living for non-white populations from Africa to the Philippines.

“Two cheers for colonialism” did not make too many waves because it was written by a well-known and outspoken mouthpiece of the Republican Party. The same cannot be said about the article published by Prof. Bruce Gilley of Portland State University. In 2017, Gilley wrote an article titled “The Case for Colonialism” that was published in Third World Quarterly. The outrage was immediate. The journal called the piece “offensive,” while online mobs howled not only for Gilley to be fired, but to be stripped of his doctorate. The journal’s editor claimed that he had received threats of violence against his person. All of this was for the apparently extreme assertion by Gilley that good governance by Europeans in the colonies lifted millions of people out of wretched poverty.

Besides elucidating the intolerance of the Left and academia (a fact hardly worth noting anymore), Gilley’s reviled article also put forward a proposal to bring back some form of colonialism. Gilley’s example includes the poverty-stricken nation of Guinea-Bissau, which until the 1970s, was a Portuguese colony. He writes,

“Suppose that the government of Guinea-Bissau were to lease back to Portugal the small uninhabited island of Galinhas that lies 10 miles off the mainland and where the former colonial governor’s mansion lies in ruins. The annual lease would be US$1 so that the Portuguese spend their money on the island and the Guinea-Bissau government is not dependent on a lease fee. Suppose, then, that the US$10 million to US$20 million in foreign aid wasted annually on the country were redirected to this new offshore colony to create basic infrastructure.”[3]

Gilley’s idea is not only controversial, but inconceivable. Portugal’s electorate would never vote to absorb Galinhas, regardless of whether or not it is inhabited. No democracy would vote for imperialism, no matter how conservative or “racist” the voters are. Imperialism is simply too expensive and has too many ugly connotations to appeal to any voting public. This is why none of the great European (or non-European) empires were brought into being by voters.

How then can imperialism be revived? A possible answer lies in imperialism without the state. There are at least two models of non-state imperialism from history which could be resurrected in the modern world. More importantly, these stateless empires could appeal to libertarians, despite the oft-cited contention that libertarianism and imperialism are diametrically opposed to one another.

The Joint-Stock Company Model

The greatest overseas empire in history, the British Empire, did not come about thanks to a professional army or Parliament’s funding of a world-dominating navy. Rather, Britain’s rise as the world’s most powerful state occurred because of royally chartered, quasi-private companies like the Virginia Bay Company and the East India Company. While some of these joint stock companies later became indistinguishable from the central state in London, they began as semi-independent entities cherished by the English, then British crown for their cheapness and the revenue and taxes they kicked back to the home isle.

The genesis of the joint-stock company began in the late 16th century, when Richard Hakluyt suggested to Queen Elizabeth I that company-controlled colonies in the New World would provide the Kingdom of England with a way to both harass the Spanish and remove from the metropole debtors, vagrants, and other “undesirables” (e.g. Scottish and Irish POWs).[4] Elizabeth I was not swayed, mostly because Sir Walter Raleigh’s adventures in the New World had generally failed.

King James I, the founder of the Stuart dynasty in England, had more of a gambler’s personality. In 1606, he established the Virginia Company as a way to colonize the New World. The fear of failure was high, and the starting costs for this venture were enormous. However, England at that time had plenty of willing investors. The second sons of noble families were willing to invest in the venture because English common law barred them from inheriting property. Merchants in southern England, many of whom had become stiff-necked Puritans, saw in the Virginia Company and others a possible way to flee the strictures of the Anglican Church. Helping matters too was the fact that England was awash in the landless poor, thousands of whom would wind up as workers (or slaves) in the plantations of Virginia, the Carolinas, and New England.

Unlike the colonialism of Spain or France, England’s joint-stock model gave investors as sense that the colonial enterprise belonged to them, not just the king. Whereas New Spain and New France were conquered by brave men filled with either religious zeal or the lust for gold, England’s Empire in the New World began as a business venture. This business venture proved highly enduring. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which had been founded by the Massachusetts Bay Company, English settlers were left to handle their own affairs. Massachusetts formed its own militia, created its own courts and churches, and even established its own schools and universities.

Such semi-independence derived from the Massachusetts Bay Charter of 1629, which legally bound the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a company-ruled plantation with only minimal supervision from England. The charter reads,

“Wee will, and by theis Presents, for Us, our Heires and Successors, doe ordeyne and graunte, That the Governor of the saide Company for the tyme being, or in his Absence by Occasion of Sicknes or otherwise, the Deputie Governor for the tyme being, shall have Authoritie from tyme to tyme upon all Occasions, to give order for the assembling of the saide Company, and calling them together to consult and advise of the Bussinesses and Affaires of the saide Company, and that the said Governor, Deputie Governor, and Assistants of the saide Company, for the tyme being, shall or maie once every Moneth, or oftener at their Pleasures, assemble and houlde and keepe a Courte or Assemblie of themselves, for the better ordering and directing of their Affaires, and that any seaven or more persons of the Assistants, togither with the Governor, or Deputie Governor soe assembled, shalbe saide, taken, held, and reputed to be, and shalbe a full and sufficient Courte or Assemblie of the said Company, for the handling, ordering, and dispatching of all such Buysinesses and Occurrents as shall from tyme to tyme happen.”[5]

Such autonomy was the norm in New England until 1686, when the crown in London consolidated the New England and Mid-Atlantic colonies in order to form the Dominion of New England. Under Governor Edmund Andros, England tried to remake the Dominion of New England in the image of the motherland. These attempts ran into trouble when the Church of England was instituted in the Puritan heartland. The Dominion of New England did not last past the Glorious Revolution and the unseating of the last Stuart monarch, King James II.

Besides the New World companies, the most famous English/British joint stock company was the British East India Company. Founded and incorporated by royal charter in December 1600, the East India Company’s original goal was to enhance English trade with India and Southeast Asia. Much like the Virginia Company, the East India Company was born out of England’s desire to take the trade in spices, tea, and other items away from its imperial adversaries; namely, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Portugal. By 1757, the company was the ruler of Bengal. From this time until the passage of the India Act in 1784, all sovereign decisions made in company-ruled India were made by the East India Company’s shareholders.

Today, companies are far more wealthy and powerful than the East India Company ever was. Although most corporations cooperate hand-in-glove with governments (both foreign and domestic), they have the resources and the wherewithal to establish private empires in the world’s less developed regions. A new East India Company could be easily established today. For instance, in borrowing Dr. Gilley’s idea, some import/export company could buy Galinhas island and protect it with private military contractors. Other countries in Africa, Asia, or Latin America could be similarly enticed to sell off parts of land that are either unproductive or too expensive for their meager government budgets. These countries would then be granted favored status in trade.

As far as issues of immigration or citizenship are concerned, such matters would be left up to the company. However, the easiest solution would be to grant citizenship or residency only to those who hail from the company’s country of origin or the country that sells the land to the company.

The Congo Free State Model

Only Nazi Germany is more reviled by the contemporary Left than the Congo Free State, which lasted from 1885 until 1908. Many people know about the cruelties of the Congo Free State thanks to the book King Leopold’s Ghost by lifelong leftist Adam Hochschild. According to Hochschild, the Congo Free State was King Leopold II of Belgium’s private sweatshop, and it culminated in one of history’s deadliest genocides. Hochschild puts the number of people killed by the awful Leopold II at 10 million.

Ryan Faulk argues that Hochschild’s numbers do not conform with the censuses taken of the Congolese population in the late 19th century. For instance, there were only 9,801,150 people in the Congo in 1885 (the first year of Leopold II’s rule). The number of Congolese citizens rose by 1900 to over 10 million souls.[6] Such numbers should be taken with a grain of salt given the high population of transitory slaves in northeastern Congo and the haphazard nature of census-taking in 1900. Still, these numbers call into question not only Hochschild’s body count, but his assertion that Leopold II was one of the world’s greatest butchers.

Similarly, when other European imperial powers investigated the Congo Free State after journalistic investigations into the practice of torturing and mutilating native rubber plantation workers, they found that such practices were not official Congo Free State policy.[7] Instead, members of the Force Publique, an armed constabulary made up of black Africans commanded by white, mostly Belgian officers, were singled out for committing cruel acts without official sanction.[8]

We can now highlight the unique innovation of the Congo Free State. Namely, this colony was not ruled by Belgium, but was ruled by King Leopold II as his private property. At the Berlin Conference of 1884–85, Leopold II convinced Europe’s major powers that he was interested in philanthropic work in the Congo. Rather than annex the Congo on behalf of the government of Belgium, he used the International Association of the Congo, a private company that he controlled, as the governing institution of the resource-rich African state. This is why Roderick Long and Tibor Machan labeled the Congo Free State as “anarcho-capitalism”.[9]

Under the rule of the IAC, the Congo became the world’s largest exporter of ivory, rubber, and minerals.[10] Its borders and internal divisions were guarded by the Force Publique, which attracted local men looking for steady work, as well as Belgian, European, and American mercenaries looking for profit. Between 1892 and 1894, this minarchist state even fought and won a war against Arab slave traders supported by the Islamic sultanates of Zanzibar and Muscat. This war ended the Arab buying and selling of Congolese flesh. Despite these successes, the Congo Free State is only remembered today for atrocities and gross exploitation. To be sure, the health and wellness of Congolese workers mattered little to the IAC, and it is certainly true that horrible things happened under the watch of King Leopold II. That being said, the design of the Congo Free State remains one of the few truly libertarian states in world history.

Imagine if Galinhas was purchased today not by a country, but by a country’s ruler. Consider American President Donald Trump. Trump, a billionaire businessman who specializes in real estate, could be enticed to personally buy some uninhabited island or chunk of real estate in some cash-strapped country. In return for American investment, Trump, acting only as a private citizen, could legally purchase this land and rule it as he saw fit. Trump’s critics would be horrified by such a proposal, but nonetheless such a legal transaction between a private citizen and a foreign government would be binding. Europe’s remaining monarchs, as well as wealthy businessmen the world over, should consider following in Leopold II’s footsteps while simultaneously avoiding those mistakes which cost Leopold his free state.

Libertarian Objections

It can be argued that imperialism is the antithesis of the libertarian social order. If the conquerors have no legitimate claims to land, then their invasion is no different than a highwayman sticking up fear-struck travelers. If conquerors colonize a land, rule it, but do not exterminate the local natives, then they forever become a thorn in the side of the people. By any legal definition these locals have a right to strike against their unwanted occupiers. However, there is a caveat here. If a colonial power invades a territory, exterminates the local population, then imports their own people, then it becomes less of a legal issue and more of a moral one. Although claims of genocide end with that generation that experienced and committed the genocide, a moral nation would disdain both conquest and genocide.

The problem in making a libertarian alternative to the contemporary state lies in modernization and state formation. The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism defines an empire as “a state of affairs in which one nation, tribe, or political entity (or, actually, their ruling elite) exercises political power over others.” By this definition, the United States, China, and Russia are imperial powers that resort to violence in order to maintain their control over a racially, ethnically, and religiously heterogeneous civilization, despite their stated federalism or anti-colonialist feelings. The power of these states have become so normalized that few today find it possible to rethink the central state model. Therefore, right-libertarians see imperialism as coercive and immoral.

One voice decrying the usual libertarian hatred for imperialism, Faré of The Distributed Republic dismantles the Rothbardian notion that one’s government is always the primary enemy:

“Of course, applying the same ‘logic’, the respective citizens of those countries whose government are in conflict with USG should in turn support the US government in its fight against their own—if only their own government wouldn’t murder them immediately at the mere utterance of such a support. And to take this line of reasoning to its conclusion, a Pole in 1939 should have supported Hitler and Stalin as opponents to his current oppressive government.

A ‘logic’ that reaches different conclusions for different people is actually…polylogism, a fallacy of double standards, a rhetorical device to back whichever absurdity one fancies. Moreover, underlying this fallacy, we see another typical case where people who should know better fall into an accounting fallacy: just because a current oppressor is identified (current account negative) current non-oppressors (current account zero) are considered a better alternative as part of an unrelated future choice between oppressors.”[11]

For Faré, some oppressors are better than others, and the article notes that “the British and French Colonial Powers should have been supported in their conquests of barbarian and totalitarian powers that previously existed in Africa, India, Vietnam, etc.” Although London and Paris exported oppressive states, at least their market-centric states were more beneficial to the average colonial subject than their own prior regimes.

Another complaint is that libertarianism is a peacetime philosophy. This line, which is often used to mock online libertarians, does get to the root of a major problem. Namely, extralegal force must be used in some cases to protect liberty. By extension, in the face of aggressive globalism, it could be argued that the exportation of the libertarian social order is the best defense. To square colonialism with libertarianism, certain factors must be met first before a colonial enterprise can be undertaken. First, can colonial expansion be justified under the idea of defensive violence? If not, then it is not guided by libertarian ethos. Second, the colonial campaign cannot be justified under collective punishment. Finally, colonial violence in the name of protecting a libertarian social order is legitimate only after softer measures have been exhausted against anti-libertarian opponents.

Possible Opportunities for Libertarian Colonialism

If Galinhas were purchased outright by an American company and protected by a private military outfit, then the cost to the American taxpayer would be zero. American and African consumers would benefit from efficient management and trade without having to foot the bill. Even better, if Galinhas proved to be a success, then it could serve as a model for other societies, especially those enduring illegitimate, oppressive, and/or poorly managed regimes. Other American or international companies could also be enticed to purchased uninhabited or sparsely inhabited territories in order to establish local governance overseen by a private entity.

Another possible example of libertarian colonialism could occur somewhere in the Middle East. Because of exhaustive chaos and warfare, perhaps a city in Syria or Iraq decides to become completely independent. As a city-state in the 21st century, this entity would need major outside assistance, as internal objections from its neighbors (especially its former state overseer) would put this hypothetical city-state in troubled waters. Like Galinhas, this city-state may turn to a well-armed private company in order to meet some of its security and economic needs. Employees of the chosen company would then receive citizenship or special privileges within the city-state. Again, as in the case of Galinhas, the Middle Eastern city-state’s foreign backers would be involved in governance because of a private contract between two parties.

Since colonialism is often interchangeable with imperialism, libertarians must find a way to distinguish the two. One way to do this would be to reintroduce a sense of Roman imperium, which means the right or authority to rule. For the Romans, this typically meant a general’s right to rule a legion or the emperor’s right to rule his empire. Imperium almost always meant an individual’s power rather than a nation’s. If this ideal could be wedded to the colonialism of the Archaic Greeks (Greek city-states built commercial centers on mostly uninhabited land), then few libertarians would object.

Finally, defensive colonialism is a possibility. Let us consider South Africa. The serially corrupt South African government led by Cyril Ramaphosa is considering an amendment to the South African Constitution to legalize the taking of private property without compensation.[12] Ernst Roets of AfriForum proved that such illegal land seizures target mostly (if not only) white South African farmers. He and his organization were pilloried by the mainstream media in South Africa and the West.[13] Without fail, when the land seizures began, they not only threw the unstable country into an economic tailspin[14], but white farmers were the ones targeted by the government and wildcat squatters alike.

In the case of South Africa, a private company, a private military order, or some other kind of non-state actor hoping to create a libertarian social order is justified in providing farmers in South Africa with money and security. If the South African Army initiates violence against these hired guns, then the farmers and their supporters would be justified to use violence against the South African state. The aim of this war would be the creation of a separate state within South Africa that would be recognized and supported by those counties currently denouncing Ramaphosa’s land seizures.

Conclusion

Private imperialism would provide the economic benefits of imperialism without the evils of state domination. To be sure, private companies are fully capable of evil on their own, and thus any company considering taking on non-state imperialism must make sure that they do not sink to nepotism, brutality, or any acts that would raise the ire of the always critical (and leftist) international press. Given human fallibility, such strictures may be too difficult to overcome, but private imperialism could be the best solution to the current problems facing the most impoverished nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

References:

  1. Rodney, Walter; Qtd. by D’Souza, Dinesh (2002). “Two cheers for colonialism”. San Francisco Gate. www.sfgate.com.
  2. Fanon, Frantz. Qtd. Ibid.
  3. Gilley, Bruce (2017, Aug. 15). “The case for colonialism”. Third World Quarterly.
  4. “2b. Joint Stock Companies”. U.S. History.org.
  5. “Charter of Massachusetts Bay 1629”, reprinted by American History from the Revolution to Reconstruction and Beyond. www.let.rug.nl.
  6. Faulk, Ryan (2016, July 24). “Mythologies About Leopold’s Congo Free State”. The Alternative Hypothesis. http://thealternativehypothesis.org/index.php/2016/07/24/mythologies-about-leopolds-congo-free-state/
  7. Report of the British Consul, Roger Casement, on the Administration of the Congo Free State. https://web.viu.ca/davies/H479B.Imperialism.Nationalism/Br.report.Congo.atrocities.1904.htm
  8. Renton, David; Seddon, David; Zeilig, Leo (2007). The Congo: Plunder and Resistance. London: Zed Books. p. 31.
  9. Long, Roderick T. and Machan, Tibor R., Ed. (2016). Anarchism/Minarchism: Is Government Part of a Free Country? Abingdon, UK: Routledge. p. 50.
  10. Gondola, Didier (2002). The History of Congo. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 66–7.
  11. Faré (2009, Nov. 25). “In Defense of Libertarian Imperialism”. The Distributed Republic. http://www.distributedrepublic.net/archives/2009/11/25/in-defense-libertarian-imperialism/
  12. Merten, Marianne (2018, Nov. 8). “The politics of land expropriation without compensation in the ANC constitutional review proposals”. Daily Maverick. https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-11-08-the-politics-of-land-expropriation-without-compensation-in-the-anc-constitutional-review-proposals/
  13. Steenkamp, Hesti (2018, Sep. 26). “South African farmers are indeed in a serious crisis – Ernst Roets”. AfriForum. https://www.afriforum.co.za/south-african-farmers-indeed-serious-crisis-ernst-roets/
  14. Montanari, Lorenzo; Thompson, Philip (2018, Aug. 31). “South Africa Land Seizures Begin, Economic Decline Accelerates”. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenzomontanari/2018/08/31/south-africa-land-seizures-begin-economic-decline-accelerates/

On Universalism, Genocide, and Libertarianism

One element which distinguishes modern political ideologies from their pre-modern counterparts and predecessors is universalism. That is, each of them makes several objective truth claims, and their adherents believe that everyone should convert to their point of view. Most also believe that everyone eventually will. This is due in large part to their Whig historiography, with the dominance of their particular system as the “end of history”. Clashes between different strains of political universalism, as well as proselytization into territories ruled by non-universalist governance structures, led to the unprecedented losses of life and property in wars and genocides during the 20th century. The currently dominant form, which will be examined at length, has the potential to motivate even greater destruction going forward. Let us explore the origins of political universalism, its implications, and what might be done with this knowledge.

Origins: Universalism, Calvinism, Unitarianism

Like most Western political ideas, the dominant strain of universalism in contemporary politics has its roots in Christianity. The doctrine of universal reconciliation says that all humans will eventually be saved and reach Heaven, that no permanent Hell exists, and that the idea of eternal damnation comes from a mistranslation of Scripture.[1] This belief can be found among some of the early church fathers[2], and persists in some sense within Catholicism through the belief in Purgatory. From a Protestant perspective, universalism is perhaps best understood as an extreme form of Calvinism. Calvinists believe that God has predetermined the fate of every soul, with some going to Heaven and others going to Hell.[3] A Christian Universalist believes that all souls are in the former category in the long-term. The Calvinist view of election is in contrast to Arminianism, which holds that election is conditional[4], and to open theism, which claims that God does not know in advance how a person will respond to the Gospel.[5]

The other four points of five-point Calvinism are total depravity, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. Total depravity means that all people are enslaved to sin and cannot by their own faculties choose salvation. Limited atonement means that salvation is intended only for the elect and not for all people. Irresistible grace means that the elect will be saved regardless of their resistance to the Holy Spirit. Perseverance of the saints means that the elect cannot fall out of communion with God; apostates either never had true faith or will be divinely chastened into repentance. All five points have important implications in the political realm which will be discussed in the next section. The teachings of John Calvin eventually led to his own de facto rule in Geneva, the rule of Oliver Cromwell following the English Civil War, and the dominance of the Puritans in New England, the latter of which has never truly lost influence over American politics. Each of these produced its own horrifying and deadly results, from the burning of heretics like Michael Servetus[6] to Cromwell’s massacres of the Irish[7] to the Salem Witch Trials.

Christian Universalism proper can be traced to a liberal denomination formed in 1793 to uphold belief in universal salvation, which would later become known as the Universalist Church of America. This denomination merged with the Unitarians in 1961 to form the Unitarian Universalist Association. The early Unitarians rejected several fundamentals of mainstream Christianity, such as the doctrines of the Trinity, the pre-existence of Christ, original sin, and substitutionary atonement. During the 19th century, through the influence of Transcendentalism, they moved away from liberal Protestantism to become more theologically diverse.[8] This trend continued with 20th-century secular theology.

Unitarian Universalists have seven fundamental principles: 1) the inherent worth and dignity of every person; 2) justice, equity, and compassion in human relations; 3) acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; 4) a free and responsible search for truth and meaning; 5) the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; 6) the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; and 7) respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

These principles look remarkably similar to secular progressive liberal rhetoric, and for good reason. As Unitarian Universalism became pluralistic and no longer explicitly Christian, it lost whatever minuscule resistance to leftism it once had, and Conquest’s Second Law took effect as usual. Unitarians and Universalists were active in social reform movements during the 19th and 20th centuries, including slavery abolition, alcohol prohibition, women’s suffrage, feminism, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, environmentalism, and social justice.

As the Unitarians in America became more secular, they formed a bridge between mainline Protestants and various types of radical leftists. The allegiance of these forces took some time, but was finally accomplished during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Their takeover of academia and the mainstream media after World War II led to their dominance in political life, so much so that non- or anti-Universalist ideas were steadily pushed outside of polite discourse and into the fever swamps of far-right conspiracy theorists. Only in the age of the Internet is this hegemony beginning to crack, though this may be partly attributable to backlash against the sheer extremity of the leftist vanguard, which is a natural consequence of their dominion.

Social Justice as Secular Calvinist Universalism

Taken together, the twelve beliefs listed above explain many facets of contemporary leftist behavior, and the contradictions between them are responsible for much of progressive doublethink. Although progressive liberal ideology claims to advocate for the seven Unitarian Universalist principles, its practice looks more like the five points of Calvinism. Like Calvinists, progressive activists believe that the world is fundamentally unjust, and that people cannot save themselves. But since they generally reject the Christian God, they substitute the secular god of statism and view themselves as its agents and advocates. This also leads them toward total depravity, but their self-righteousness and use of statism to avoid the consequences of bad personal decisions shield them from this understanding.

Unconditional election manifests in the form of oppressor classes and victim classes. For all of their supposed opposition to essentialism, social justice warriors group people into what would in earlier times be called the elect and the damned based on race, sex, orientation, and other biologically immutable characteristics. Since they define bigotry as prejudice plus power, they contend that members of the elect (victims) cannot be bigoted against the damned (oppressors). This paradoxical view echoes the parable of the rich man and Lazarus[9], in that the eternally wealthy are temporally impoverished and vice versa. Just as a Calvinist never is sure of one’s salvation status, so too is a progressive activist never sure of whether one is sufficiently far to the left or whether one has done enough work for the cause.

Limited atonement takes on two forms with the radical left. First, despite their claimed universalism, they do not intend that all people and their descendants should have a long-term part in their planned future society, especially if they are classified as oppressors and prove resistant to social justice ideology. We will return to this later, but let us now consider the second form. Because a progressive activist is never sure of one’s status, one must endlessly engage in ritualistic privilege-checking confessionals and sacrifices, such as ceding platforms and resources to those deemed less privileged and more oppressed. These offer only limited atonement and are never sufficient to resolve one’s “burden of original sin” for being part of an oppressor class.

Irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints manifest together. Members of oppressed classes who reject social justice ideology are said to have “internalized oppression” in general, which includes particulars such as “internalized misogyny”, “internalized homophobia”, “internalized racism”, etc. Universalism rules out the possibility that nonbelievers never had true faith, and secular progressives reject divine chastening, so they themselves must chasten nonbelievers and apostates to repentance. This chastening never ends because of the doctrine of irresistible grace; the elect must be saved regardless of their resistance, and universalism extends this chastening to all of society.

Against Unitarian Universalism

At the surface level, the seven fundamental principles of Unitarian Universalism may seem harmless or even beneficial. Worse still, they may fool one into thinking that they are an antidote to secular progressivism. But the way that these principles are interpreted through a Calvinist lens leads down very dark paths, and has already done so on multiple occasions.

It is possible to have reasonable disagreements with six of these seven principles. First, both the labor and the subjective theories of value reject the idea of inherent value, so taken to their logical conclusions, human life does not have an inherent worth or dignity and can become a negative in some cases. The replacement of the culture of honor with the culture of dignity may also be lamented for its amplification of uncivil conduct and decline of martial virtues. When offensive speech carried the possibility of being challenged to a duel, and either risking one’s life or being branded a coward, it was necessary to engage other people in a more dignified manner. That social justice warriors view only some people as elect seems to conflict with the inherent worth of human life, but this is resolved by dehumanizing their opponents.

Second, the idea of justice, equity, and compassion in human relations may be rejected at a shallow level as an excuse to intervene in affairs that are none of one’s business. All too frequently, social justice warriors will insert themselves into private transactions and relationships which do not concern them, using the promotion of social justice and equality as a pretext. At a deeper level, whereas social justice rarely means the same thing as actual justice, one may dispute the meaning of justice. The ideal of equity may be rejected as a revolt against nature, with the alternative view that human individuals and collectives have differing capabilities as a result of both genetics and environment. Fewer people will argue against compassion, but there are times when rational psychopathy, social Darwinism, and so forth produce superior results.

Third, universal acceptance rejects the idea of discriminating against anyone for any reason. In practice, this is both an assault on private property and on freedom of association. If one cannot exclude people, then it is impossible to have quality control. The result is a predictable decline in quality of human relationships, economic goods, and standards of living. Encouragement to spiritual growth may be rejected by materialists who deny the existence of the spiritual, though some progressive activists will do this as well.

While no one should disagree with the fourth principle, a free and responsible search for truth and meaning, such a search has the potential to undermine the entire progressive program. Leftists will instead attempt to create the illusion that this is both occurring and finding results consistent with their ideology, with any discrepancies blamed on lack of funding, poor communication, and any other cause besides the possibility that they might be wrong. Of course, this means that anyone who finds contrary results and publishes them will feel the full force of the establishment machine.

Fifth, the right of conscience can be opposed as an assault on contract law. While conscription by the state should be rejected as a form of slavery (or agreed with for the wrong reasons), it is also a consequence of universalism in the political realm. The democratic process may be rejected as an affront to individual liberty, private property, freedom of association, the iron law of oligarchy, the right of might, and/or the divine right of kings, depending on one’s political views. One may also critique democracy for empowering those who are unworthy of having a voice, creating conflicts of interest, encouraging demagoguery, and perpetuating social unrest.

Sixth, the goal of world community is in opposition to all political ideologies which call for non-globalist, non-universal political organization, such as nationalism, localism, anarchism, and individualism. This point in particular is the path to darkness, and will be addressed at length later.

Seventh, respect for interdependent ecosystems cannot be fully rejected, but can be subordinated to human concerns. Alternatively, one may approach ecology from a reactionary perspective; not as a pretext for state intervention in the economy, a broader social justice movement extended beyond humanity to all living things, or a myopic desire for a nice place to live, but as respect for cosmic order, hierarchy, bravery, harmony, and beauty.

Other Universalist Ideologies

Before we continue, it is necessary to take note of other kinds of universalism. The progressive liberal variety described above at length traces its lineage through the political philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and the Young Hegelians in particular. Other Young Hegelians were the forerunners of various socialist and communist ideologies, such as Leninism and Stalinism. Right-Hegelianism, another school of thought founded by Hegel’s disciples, was a contributing factor to fascism and Nazism.

Conflicts involving these schools of thought have provided the philosophical backing for the great wars of the 20th century. In World War I, universalists defeated their non-universalist opposition in the form of the traditional monarchies of Europe and Russia, leading to the rise of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Austria-Hungary. World War II was a victory of Young Hegelians over Right Hegelians in Europe and non-universalists in Japan, respectively. The Cold War was a conflict between two different branches of Young Hegelians, the Soviet communists and the progressive liberal West.

The War on Terrorism in the 21st century is a struggle between the ascendant progressive liberals and the forces of political Islam. Some Islamists embrace a universalist ideology, seeking to bring the whole world under the rule of a global caliphate. Others are non-universalist, seeking an exit from and alternative to postwar progressivism. But both of these are rivals of the Western hegemony, except when the establishment sees fit to weaponize them against the remnants of non-universalism in Western countries.

The Path to Genocide

The fundamental characteristic of any universalist ideology is that it posits at least one common factor among all people. Such factors may be formulated as “All people are W”, “All people believe X”, “All people do Y”, “All people require Z”, and so forth. But what shall a universalist do with a person who is not W, or believes the opposite of X, or deliberately avoids doing Y, or has no need of Z? Like a scientist who encounters data which does not comport with the hypothesis being tested, the universalist faces a binary choice: reject the hypothesis and formulate a better one, or alter the data to fit the hypothesis. In science, the latter is (hopefully) condemned as academic fraud, but it is standard practice in the political realm. In other words, because the presence of people who steadfastly reject universalism is an empirical falsification of universalism, a universalist must either renounce one’s ideology or renounce those people, and the latter tends to occur. The method by which this renunciation of people is performed is best known as “no true Scotsman,” and declares them to be less than human.

The path from universalism to genocide is thus clear; dehumanize the inconvenient people, systematically reduce their role in socioeconomic life, then remove them from society. Because it is impossible to remove people to a location outside the Universe, which is what would be necessary to preserve universalism from those who reject it, the universalists are left with the option of murdering the incompatible. Regardless of whether the universal ideal is the Nazi master race, the Soviet industrial worker, the Khmer Rouge agrarian peasant, the Islamic State interpretation of Sharia, or the Calvinist-Unitarian-rooted system of progressive liberal values, any belief system which posits a mold that all people must fit will ultimately dehumanize those who do not fit, often with ghastly results.

But what genocide are progressive liberals carrying out? Surely the United States government is not forcing its own citizens into concentration camps or murdering them en masse, even though it has done both in the memorable past. Merriam-Webster defines genocide as “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group”, “the deliberate killing of people who belong to a particular racial, political, or cultural group”, and “acts committed with intent to partially or wholly destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.” Note that only one of these three definitions explicitly mentions killing. The other two are far broader in scope, including any acts intended to destroy a group of people. Whereas the size that a group must have in order for its destruction to be considered genocidal is rather arbitrary, this is also absent from the definition. Culture is defined as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group”, “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization”, “the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic”, and “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.” All four of these definitions denote aspects of traditional Western thought that radical leftists seek to transform and destroy.

Because progressives have acquired such immense cultural power in the West, it is not necessary for them to directly murder their domestic opposition in appreciable numbers at this time. Such treatment is currently reserved for third-world peoples abroad. It currently suffices to use corporate power to censor their opposition, use social shaming to render them unemployable, promote milquetoast moderates as controlled false opposition in the political arena, wield state power to stop open attempts at real opposition, and steadily import migrants who are culturally incompatible with American and European rightists to demographically displace them over the course of generations. But no one should doubt that progressive universalists would resort to shooting like the others if nudging and shoving were to lose their efficacy, and this is beginning to happen throughout the Western world.

Genocide and Libertarianism

At this point, one may wonder what any of this has to do with political libertarianism, the idea that the use of force should only be defensive in nature. It may seem so obvious as to go without saying that genocide is incompatible with libertarianism, but let us take a closer look. By inserting the definition of culture into the definition of genocide, one finds that deliberate action intended to partially or wholly destroy a political or cultural group and eliminate the set of shared attitudes, beliefs, conventions, goals, practices, and values that characterize them is technically a form of genocide. Therefore, if a political or cultural group has a set of shared conventions and practices which are inherently aggressive in nature, then certain forms of genocide against said group would count as defensive uses of force.

That libertarian philosophy does not forbid genocide, but rather provides guidelines for its proper practice is a shocking realization that must be understood correctly, so let us contemplate these guidelines. First, of the four universal factors listed in the previous section, only the behavioral factor can form the basis of a libertarian genocide. It is aggressive action or the threat thereof that merits the use of defensive force. All forms of universalism based on a person’s essence, beliefs, or requirements are enemies of liberty because they lead to violence on the basis of factors which do not involve initiating the use of force against people. Only a group of people who actually behave in an unrepentantly aggressive manner merit partial or whole destruction.

This leads to the second requirement, that collective punishment should be minimized. While it is acceptable and may be necessary to use the authority of private property to censor and exclude those who provide the ideological motivation for criminal behavior, each person has the agency to decide whether or not to attack innocent people and/or their property. Thus, the people who are responsible for crimes are the people who committed the crimes or hired others to commit crimes in their stead, and defensive force should be focused on them. Broader nonviolent measures to suppress cultural norms which are anti-libertarian may be less targeted in application.

Third, a genocidal effort against an anti-libertarian faction should be the culmination of a long train of lesser measures and escalations, all of which have failed. One should not reach for a rocket launcher when a fly swat or a handgun will suffice, and one should not attempt to eliminate an entire political or cultural faction if lesser measures will restore orderly peace. The amount of force which is best for civilization is dictated by the strength and cohesion of the enemies of that civilization, and partial or complete suppression of a political faction is only necessary for ending existential threats to a libertarian social order.

Conclusion

Let us conclude by considering libertarian strategy in light of the points discussed above. There exists an established order that has permeated and controlled established organs of politics, academia, media, business, and finance. This order originated with a heretical Christian sect despite the denials of its membership that this is the case, but has since become almost entirely secular. Examining the tenets of this religion is useful for understanding why progressive liberal activists argue and behave as they do. The practice of this religion has brought unprecedented aggression, destruction, and death to the world, and will continue to do so unless and until it is stopped.

In order for a libertarian social order to succeed, it must stand against this creed with both the might and the willingness to defend itself from the proselytizing acolytes of secular Calvinist universalism. Of course, libertarians will need to make the advocacy of such ideas within their territories punishable by exile and outlawry. But because the establishment is universalist, the very existence of islands of liberty in the ocean of progressive liberal statism refutes their ideology. For the reasons and by the processes enumerated above, peaceful libertarians minding their own business in their own societies can expect to be attacked. This necessitates considerations of robust defense, as failure to do so will result in said libertarians being genocided by statists.

While part of the practical answer to globalism is local governance protected by nuclear deterrence, another part is a counter-universalism that fights fire with fire. A behavioral standard that all people refrain from engaging in the worst forms of criminal activity, with those who do regarded as having forfeited their personhood in an ethical sense, is not only necessary to prevent social order from being disrupted, but is essential for dealing with persistent external threats. Just as an individual need not spend a short life dodging hired assassins instead of stopping the person who hires them, libertarian communities need not live on the precipice of annihilation by an all-consuming global statism. By resorting to the methods discussed in the previous section which happen to fall within the dictionary definition of genocide, a libertarian social order can prevent itself from being defeated by the nation-state system and stand defiant against secular Calvinist universalism.

References:

  1. “What Is Christian Universalism?”. Auburn.edu.
  2. Knight, George T. (1953). The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. 12, p. 96.
  3. Calvin, John (1994). Institutes of the Christian Religion. Eerdmans. p. 2206.
  4. Allen, R. Michael (2010). Reformed Theology. Doing Theology. New York: T&T Clark. p. 100–1.
  5. Gregory A. Boyd (2001). “The Open Theism View”, in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, ed. James K. Beilby, Paul R. Eddy. InterVarsity. p. 14.
  6. McGrath, Alister E. (1990). A Life of John Calvin. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 118–20.
  7. Breton, Albert (ed. 1995). Nationalism and Rationality. Cambridge University Press. p. 248.
  8. Engaging Our Theodiversity. Unitarian Universalist Association.
  9. Luke 16:19–31.

An Overview Of Autistic Conservatism

There is a certain species of political theory and public policy analysis which is marked by an inability to understand context and/or a denial of it, difficulty with using abstract thinking and concrete thinking in the correct situations, deep knowledge in very narrow topics, difficulty in understanding other perspectives, repetitive use of set phrases, and an inability to identify or think about groups or shared interests. People who routinely produce such content tend to have a troubling need for routines, a lack of empathy, and difficulty in processing social cues. Analysis that suffers from some (or even all) of these shortcomings can be found all over the political spectrum to varying degrees. While it is most common among libertarians, such myopic content is produced by many conservatives as well, particularly those who are politically connected.

The term political autism has come into use as a descriptor for this phenomenon because the above symptoms are commonly found among autistic people, particularly the high-functioning or mildly autistic. Other symptoms, which are more common in severe cases of autism, do not manifest politically because they are socially crippling, keeping a person from organizing in the political realm to advance one’s interests. Therefore, let us focus on the autism symptoms which manifest among some conservatives and impair their intellectual output. We will examine each of these symptoms, then consider how they typically manifest in order to provide a guide for self-diagnosis and self-treatment to the afflicted. Finally, we will compare and contrast autistic conservatism with the related but distinct phenomenon that has been labeled cuckservatism.

Personality Problems

People who have autism spectrum disorders typically have a lack of interest in sharing achievements, emotions, or interests with other people. They frequently lack empathy for other people’s feelings and have difficulties in forming and sustaining relationships. They can have difficulties in understanding other perspectives as well as non-literal speech. These personality problems amplify pathological political positions taken by certain subsets of conservatives, frequently denounced elsewhere as neoconservatives, Beltway bandits, chicken hawks, and imperialists. In argumentation, these symptoms manifest when conservatives answer leftist rhetoric with dialectic, or vice versa. A related problem is the use of faith-based persuasion toward the faithless. The autistic conservative is unable to process the operational mode of the opponent and is therefore only able to frustrate leftists.

Context Problems, Abstractness, and Concreteness

As with many other disciplines, there is a dichotomy between abstractness and concreteness, between theory and practice in politics. Given the human element which is necessarily present, a multitude of variables are introduced, some of which will escape account by even the best theorist. Furthermore, peoples’ lives are only ever lived in context; there is no such thing as human existence devoid of setting. It is thus only natural that a theorist should present a simplified model of the world for the purpose of illustrating an argument. Doing so avoids presenting a cacophony of background noise, distracting the recipient with instances of his own ignorance, and maintains the presenter’s frame of reference. Political autism takes this several steps further; the politically autistic will not only neglect certain elements of context, but will ignore important parts which fundamentally alter the calculus of a policy decision. More extreme examples will present completely abstract arguments devoid of any real-world considerations.

Depth Without Breadth

A related problem is the practice of delving deep into the weeds in a narrow topic while missing the larger picture. Again, there is a lesser version which naturally occurs for understandable reasons. As Carl Schmitt writes,

“Every religious, moral, economic, ethical, or other antithesis transforms into a political one if it is sufficiently strong to group human beings effectively according to friend and enemy.”[1]

This insight broadens the breadth and depth of knowledge required to be a general expert in politics far beyond that which any one person can possibly acquire. Accordingly, political theorists and commentators will specialize in certain aspects of statecraft. Political autism frequently involves taking this to the extreme of knowing almost everything there is to know about an esoteric, even trivial topic while being unaware of the larger context in which such knowledge could be useful. This hampers the political autist’s efforts by peppering one’s work with useless details that do not advance the case being made and reducing one’s ability to predict future results. Notably, this aspect almost never occurs in the absence of the others, so the issues tend to overlap.

Plural Solipsism

Another symptom of political autism is the tendency to view other people as being similar to oneself, and other nations as being similar to one’s own despite overwhelming contrary evidence. In other words, the political autist denies Schmitt’s insights into the nature of the political. Charles Krauthammer termed this behavior plural solipsism, writing:

“Solipsism is the belief that the whole world is me, and as mathematician Martin Gardner put it, its authentic version is not to be found outside mental institutions. What is to be found outside the asylum is its philosophic cousin, the belief that the whole world is like me. This species of solipsism—plural solipsism, if you like—is far more common because it is far less lonely. Indeed, it yields a congenial world filled with creatures of one’s own likeness…

The mirror-image fantasy is not as crazy as it seems. Fundamentally, it is a radical denial of the otherness of others. Or to put it another way, a blinding belief in ‘common humanity,’ in the triumph of human commonality over human differences. …Its central axiom is that if one burrows deep enough beneath the Mao jacket, the shapka, or the chador, one discovers that people everywhere are essentially the same.”[2]

This predictably causes serious problems, but is understandable. Humans have a very small amount of genetic variation, such that one would have to delve two or three levels below that of species in order to classify subgroups of humans. In terms of lived experience, many people in the modern world are surrounded in their daily lives by people who are sufficiently similar to them so as not to get into violent conflicts. This is especially true of people who write essays in political theory. Many people also live within a rather small bubble compared to the scale of international relations, so plural solipsism is a naturally occurring heuristic that allows people to devote mental resources to more pressing concerns.

Krauthammer continues,

“If the whole world is like me, then certain conflicts become incomprehensible; the very notion of intractability becomes paradoxical. …The more alien the sentiment, the less seriously it is taken. Diplomatic fiascoes follow… To gloss over contradictory interests, incompatible ideologies, and opposing cultures is more than anti-political. It is dangerous.”[2]

A more realistic approach is thus required, as Krauthammer describes:

“Ultimately to say that people all share the same hopes and fears, are all born and love and suffer and die alike, is to say very little. For it is after commonalities are accounted for that politics becomes necessary. It is only when values, ideologies, cultures, and interests clash that politics even begins. At only the most trivial level can it be said that people want the same things. Take peace. The North Vietnamese wanted it, but apparently they wanted to conquer all of Indochina first. The Salvadoran right and left both want it, but only after making a desert of the other. The Reagan administration wants it, but not if it has to pay for it with pieces of Central America.

And even if one admits universal ends, one still has said nothing about means, about what people will risk, will permit, will commit in order to banish their (common) fears and pursue their (common) hopes. One would think that after the experience of [the 20th] century the belief that a harmony must prevail between peoples who share a love of children and small dogs would be considered evidence of a most grotesque historical amnesia.”[2]

Once more, a politically autistic person takes a mechanism which is beneficial in moderation for certain purposes and applies it in excess toward purposes for which it is unwarranted. It is also worth mentioning that one can engage in plural solipsism in one aspect of one’s thinking while being fully cognizant of the fallacy in another aspect.

Hyper-Individualism

Another symptom of political autism is a sort of hyper-individualism in which a person seemingly lacks the ability to identify or think about groups or shared interests, as well as make collective judgments. This is put into stark relief by the fact that rightist, conservative, reactionary, and other such labels specify a political group identity based on a common value set. This hyper-individualism hinders the ability of conservatives to organize into groups to accomplish tasks which are too difficult to complete on one’s own and to recognize large-scale threats in the form of demographic shifts which will alter their culture to be hostile to their interests.

Seeing and judging people as individuals rather than as stereotypes of a collective identity is the best approach whenever it can be employed, and bigotry frequently manifests in an ugly manner. But there exist situations in which one lacks the time and resources to judge each person individually, thus a collective decision must be made. In a sense, hyper-individualism is also a form of context denial. Identity politics and intersectionality have been successful driving forces on the left, but have been denounced by the conservative establishment. Refusing to use an effective weapon that the enemy gleefully employs leaves one’s side at a disadvantage. Additionally, no one living in civilization is truly an atomized individual, as everyone has collective ties to some degree.

Thought-Terminating Clichés

A thought-terminating cliché is a phrase that is used to end a debate prematurely without addressing all important points. These do have legitimate uses; one may employ them to avoid repetitious arguments against points that have already been refuted a thousand times, to end an engagement when one no longer feels like participating, or simply because the cliché is a true statement that applies to the subject being discussed. It is important to distinguish between proper and improper uses so that one does not incorrectly accuse others of using logical fallacies.

That being said, autistic conservatism frequently manifests in the use of abbreviated talking points, snarl words, and triggers. This is done to create a Pavlovian response in voters and activists to get them to denounce leftists and their policies absent the reasoned arguments which should accompany such references. Political autism is thus exacerbated by democracy, for denying the masses a political voice would eliminate the need for such behavior. Note that such clichés need not be true; indeed they can be outright fabrications and conspiracy theories.

Current Examples

With the symptoms covered, let us turn to current instances of political autism among conservatives. Context denial is the most common symptom of political autism. Two examples at the time of this writing are the establishment conservative positions on trade and social media censorship. Mainstream conservatives pay lip service to free trade, arguing that it would be best for the economy if no nation enacted tariffs or embargoes against any other. In a perfect world, no protectionism would be justifiable, but that is neither this world nor the world of the immediate future. The current context is that other nations have high tariffs against the United States which are not reciprocated. One means of lowering tariffs in the long term is to respond with an equivalent counter-tariff to attempt to even out the discrepancies caused by another state’s tariffs, with an aim toward negotiating reduction or abolition of the tariff on both sides. In this view, tariffs do for trade policy what nuclear weapons do for foreign policy; their primary purpose is to alter the behavior of other states by serving as a deterrent. The threat of a trade war by way of tariffs and counter-tariffs helps to keep the economic peace, just as peace through mutually assured destruction does with nuclear weapons.

Although free trade usually provides more net benefit than protectionism in the long run, people do not live in the long run; they live their lives and feel economic pain here and now. Furthermore, a net benefit does not mean that each individual person benefits; only that the sum of all benefits and malefits is a net positive. It may be the case that a minority sees great gains while a majority suffers somewhat smaller losses, and this would explain why a democratic system would produce protectionist policies. Political autism also manifests here in the form of the lack of empathy for those who are harmed by free trade in the short-term, the difficulty of understanding their perspective, and the inability to think properly about individuals versus groups.

The recent censorship of conservatives by social media companies has also produced a great amount of context denial. Establishment commentators typically declare that these technology giants are private companies and should be free to deny service as they see fit. According to them, anyone who disagrees with the terms of service can go build their own platform. Real-world conditions thoroughly contradict such a view. Those who have tried to build their own platforms find themselves stymied by domain registrars and payment processors who refuse to host their websites and handle their assets, as well as the ability of established companies to use their platforms for anti-competitive practices, such as keeping their upstart competitors out of search results and application stores. This can keep their competitors from gaining the brand recognition necessary to build the user base to become successful social media platforms. This was less of a problem in the early days of social media when turnover of the most popular sites was higher, but the near-monopolies of the largest companies are no longer as vulnerable.

As for private companies, the technology giants are not as private as mainstream conservatives seem to believe because all of these companies are incorporated. A corporation is a legal fiction created by the state to shield business owners from full financial liability and ease the enforcement of laws upon those businesses. Without registering or chartering a corporation under the laws of a state, it is impossible to establish such an entity as we know them. The closest one could come would be to negotiate recognition of a business entity with limited liability with each customer of that business, but this would not be identical to a state-recognized corporation in terms of its interaction with the state or its liabilities for negative externalities. Two results directly follow from this. First, registering a corporation amounts to participation in a government program. Second, state-recognized corporations are not truly private businesses, but public-private partnerships in which the state provides limited liability through its monopoly on courts and the private business fulfills its purpose, whatever it may be. Because taxpayers are forced to pay for the legal structures that corporations use, any funding grants or bailouts they receive, and any public works they perform, to let taxpayers be denied service by these entities compounds the injustice of taxation.

As mentioned earlier, plural solipsism occurs most prominently in the efforts of liberal democracies to proselytize their civic religion to non-democratic governments, often violently. The West, from ancient Athens onward, produced a unique set of values that led to liberal democracy. This occurred in a distinct historical context; enough particular people living in particular environments eventually came to view liberal democracy as, in Winston Churchill’s words, “the worst form of government, except for the others that have been tried from time to time.” People of different genetics in different environments need not and have not developed the same values, and there is no logical reason why they should. Indeed, there is no logical reason why the West need retain democracy in light of the loss of essential liberty that has occurred under its watch and the degree of havoc its adherents have wrought upon non-democratic countries.

A second example of plural solipsism is that of conservative strategy versus liberal strategy. Liberals tend to view conservatives as being evil, while conservatives tend to view liberals as merely wrong and assume similar good faith. Leftists simply ask who can do what to whom, while what passes for the right gets bogged down in concerns over civility. The political autist lives in search of a neutral referee to penalize leftist transgressions, unable to discern that no such creature can possibly exist, and if it did, it would instead be the field being played on or the goal being scored on. A less autistic approach would recognize the difference and change course accordingly.

Hyper-individualism is best evidenced at the time of this writing by open-borders advocacy by big-business conservatives who enjoy cheap immigrant labor at the expense of native populations that must deal with lower wages, higher crime rates, and cultural dispossession. Recall that lacking empathy for others, difficulty sharing achievements with them, and not understanding other perspectives are part and parcel of political autism. That the people who seek to import massive numbers of culturally incompatible immigrants are typically shielded from the adverse effects thereof by their location and wealth make this behavior more prominent and reprehensible.

Finally, the thought-terminating cliché has recently taken the form of Make America Great Again, despite the lesser degree of political autism in Trumpism vis-à-vis establishment conservatism. Although this is a grammatical shorthand for a wide range of quasi-right-wing populist policy measures, it is also a rallying cry for low-information voters to excite them enough to vote Republican, whatever that may ultimately mean for them, as well as a means of accusing opponents of opposing American greatness.

Autism Versus Cuckoldry

Although there is some overlap between autistic conservatism and cuckservatism, they are distinct phenomena. Now that the former has been described thoroughly, let us compare and contrast the two.

Both autistic conservatives and cuckservatives pay lip service to the defense of traditional conservative values, but recommend policies which work against those values. However, the disposition of each is different. The autist has intellectual handicaps, while the cuckservative prioritizes establishment respectability over implementing conservative policies. For example, the same argument for an open-borders immigration policy can be autistic or cuckolded, depending on whether the arguer cannot understand the potential dangers to one’s own people or is too afraid to argue for the preservation of one’s people out of fear of being called a racist. Another issue on which both produce the same misguided arguments is that of corporations, but while the autist will confuse them for purely private businesses due to context denial, the cuckservative will oppose anything that threatens the power of corporations, even going so far as advocating a soft variant of fascism.

The two groups differ in their most common goals. The autistic conservative is more likely to defend incorrectly, while the cuckservative is more likely to attack incorrectly. The autist defends institutions and practices that conservatives should oppose because they do not understand the greater implications of what they are doing, while the cuckservative spends more time punching right than punching left. The autist will attempt to strictly adhere to principles that no one else observes because they are useless handicaps in the political arena. Meanwhile, the cuckservative may articulate a set of principles, but will seldom stand by them in the face of criticism from the left.

Both autistic conservatives and cuckservatives are tolerated by the leftist establishment and occasionally paid well, but for different reasons. The autists are useful idiots who are incapable of doing serious damage to the Cathedral, while the cuckservatives are false opposition who take up valuable political space in a two-party system in order to keep real opposition from ever gaining power through democratic means. For all of the above reasons, autistic conservatism is more forgivable than cuckservatism, as ignorance and innocence are more forgivable than malice and subterfuge.

Conclusion

Political autism is perhaps best interpreted as a tragic flaw, the result of normal human behaviors taken to extremes which produces poor results precisely due to their immoderation. Although autistic conservatives present works which are predictably incorrect, they are not usually doing so in bad faith. The best way to handle them is to correct them when they go astray, with the aim of helping them to recognize their political autism and check it as needed so that other, non-autistic rightists no longer have to do so for them.

References:

  1. Schmitt, Carl (1932). The Concept of the Political (Expanded ed.). (George Schwab, Trans. 1996). The University of Chicago Press. p. 37.
  2. Krauthammer, Charles (1983, Aug. 15). “The Mirror-Image Fallacy”. Time.

The State Is Negan, Part III

<<<Part II                                                                                                 Part IV>>>

The Walking Dead comic series and the television show based on it contain many themes which are of interest to the student of both libertarian philosophy and reactionary thought. The character Negan, who appears in the Season 6 finale and is the primary antagonist in Seasons 7 and 8, is one of the most obvious allegories in recent memory for the nature of the state. Let us examine the third part of his character arc to see how he and his underlings deal with a developing hostile challenge to their rule. As we will see, there are many lessons to be learned for those who seek either to abolish state power or to wield it oneself. This part of the article series will cover the time period following Rick’s decision to resist Negan (Episode 709) up to the battle in Alexandria (Episode 716).

Reluctant Warriors I

In Episode 709, Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom begin their resistance. The episode begins with Gabriel watching the gate in Alexandria at night. He leaves his post, fills crates with food and weapons, drops his Bible on the pantry floor loads them into a car, and leaves. A dark figure is seen in the passenger seat as Gabriel drives away.

Jesus and many people from Alexandria meet with Gregory in Hilltop. Gregory refuses to fight the Saviors, but upon leaving his office, the group finds others in Hilltop who will fight. The discussion turns to tactics. Daryl proposes bombing the Saviors’ compound, while Tara objects that this may kill innocent civilians. Rick suggests returning to Alexandria. Jesus reveals a walkie-talkie taken from the Saviors that can be used to spy on their movements, then proposes they visit the Kingdom, which they do. After meeting Richard and Alvaro, two Kingdom guards, the group enters the Kingdom. They are reunited with Morgan, who informs them that he found Carol but that she has gone. Rick’s group then meets King Ezekiel and his tiger Shiva. Rick makes the case for war while Morgan advises non-violence. Ezekiel invites them to stay the night while he deliberates.

During the night, Benjamin finds Carol in the woods, who gives him advice on being quiet and sends him home. Ezekiel puts Benjamin’s brother Henry to bed, then Benjamin asks Ezekiel to help fight the Saviors. The next morning, Ezekiel declines to fight but offers asylum to Daryl so that the Saviors will not find him. Dejected, the group leaves. Outside, Rick and Richard discuss matters, both realizing that while they lack numbers, they are making the Saviors stronger by paying tribute to them. Rick convinces Daryl to stay and try to change Ezekiel’s mind.

As the group returns to Alexandria, they encounter a roadblock of cars set by the Saviors, which they move. They then find a tripwire and explosives, which they appropriate for their own use. They hear on the walkie that Negan is looking for Daryl and see a large herd of zombies coming, so they hurry in order to get back home and avoid the zombies. Rick decides to keep the zombies on the highway in case they can be useful later. Accomplishing this endangers some of the group, but everyone survives and goes home.

Moments after returning home, Simon arrives with some Saviors and says he is looking for Daryl. They search and find nothing, noting only that the pantry looks bare. After the Saviors leave, Rick asks Aaron about the pantry. He and Tobin tell Rick about Gabriel’s actions. Rosita accuses Gabriel of theft, but Rick defends him. Rick finds Gabriel’s Bible on the floor, then finds a note from him in the inventory book that says “BOAT.” Rick and Aaron go to the boat where they found supplies earlier. They find a trail of footprints that lead to a parking lot. A large armed group surrounds them as Rick smiles.

* * * * *

Let us begin with Gregory, the weak and treacherous leader of Hilltop. He, like many people in positions of power today, is unfit for leadership on his own merits, and is accordingly the puppet of a higher authority. He knows on which side his bread is buttered, and that the people of Hilltop will probably remove him in favor of Maggie if not for the threat of what Negan might do to them if such removal were effected. Naturally, Rick’s group sets about building an alternative power structure to serve their interests.

Speaking of elites and rebellion, Jesus recognizes the need to have at least one more community leader on board with the plan, and so hopes to recruit Ezekiel. It is natural for someone in Ezekiel’s position to be cautious of such plots to overthrow the established order, as the Kingdom has a better deal with the Saviors than do the other communities. From his perspective, Rick is an unknown quantity who should not be entrusted with full allegiance as yet, but Ezekiel does offer a token gesture by protecting Daryl. Rick is wise to convince Daryl to stay and whisper in Ezekiel’s ear in the hopes of slowly warming him to the idea of revolution. Of course, a wise rebel leader will also work on the lieutenants of the elites that one hopes to bring on board, as Rick does with Richard. The decision to bring Morgan along was questionable, as his arguments for a nonviolent resolution both undermine the chances of bringing Ezekiel into their plot and are out of place in the ultraviolent context of Negan’s actions.

The discussion between Tara and Daryl is an important one that any serious revolution must contemplate. Will a war effort be total, or will there be rules of engagement that one will not cross, even if it means failing the mission? Many treatises have been written throughout history debating the merits and demerits of each position, and reaching a definite conclusion here is outside the scope of this article, but the particular context of The Walking Dead clearly indicates total war, as Negan is an existential threat.

The walkie that Jesus acquired from the Saviors demonstrates the importance of spying and gathering intelligence. Without this advantage, Rick’s group would not know how to stay away from Savior patrols. The group also shows good judgment in appropriating explosives and tripwires that the Saviors placed, as well as by using a zombie herd to block a road that the Saviors could use. It is important to impair the enemy in whatever way possible.

Finally, Rick trusts and defends Gabriel when others do not, treating him as innocent until proven guilty. This may come from his former life as a police officer or from his experience as leading the group; likely both. It is important to trust one’s subordinates to accomplish important tasks, even if they sometimes do so by questionable means.

Reluctant Warriors II

In Episode 710, the uneasiness before battle continues. The episode begins with a tribute meeting between Ezekiel and the Saviors. Gavin, the lead Savior, says their tribute is small but accepts it. Richard and Jared come to an armed standoff, but Richard backs down at Ezekiel’s command. Morgan stops Jared from attacking Richard again, then Jared attacks Morgan, then Benjamin attacks Jared. Ezekiel orders his people to stop fighting.

Once back at the Kingdom, Ezekiel admonishes Benjamin for being too eager to fight. Daryl asks Morgan why he tolerates the Saviors, saying that Carol would want to fight if she knew about Negan’s murders of Glenn and Abraham. Morgan agrees, adding “that’s why she left.”

Later, Daryl and Richard discuss killing the Saviors while practicing archery. They leave for a hidden camper in the woods, where they discuss making war against the Saviors and moving Ezekiel to fight. Daryl discovers that Richard’s plan is to get Carol killed by Saviors in order to anger Ezekiel, which angers Daryl enough to threaten to kill Richard if this plan is enacted.

The episode then picks up where the last one left off at The Heaps, where Rick’s group is surrounded by the Scavengers, a new group. Rick speaks to Jadis, a woman who leads the Scavengers, asking to see Gabriel. He is brought out, and Rick says that killing his people will anger the Saviors. He asks for help against the Saviors, but Jadis refuses. After a fight breaks out, Jadis takes Rick to the top of a trash heap. Thus begins a test, as Rick is pushed down into a pit with a zombie that has been covered in armor and spikes. Rick sustains hand and leg wounds, but kills the zombie. Jadis throws Rick a rope to climb out of the pit, then agrees to help Rick fight in return for one third of the Saviors’ supplies. Scavengers load the supplies that Gabriel took into Rick’s car. Gabriel thanks Rick for the rescue and for believing in him. Rick responds that enemies can become friends. Rosita argues against going home, saying they need to find guns for the Scavengers. Tara responds that Rick and Aaron need medical attention. Michonne asks Rick about where to look for guns. Rick asks Tara, but she does not mention the armed women she met in Oceanside.

Ezekiel and Jerry deliver food to Carol. She tells them to go, then Daryl arrives, who she is much happier to see. Carol tells Daryl that she left because she didn’t want to lose anyone and wanted to stop killing, but she would have to kill the Saviors if they killed anyone she loved. Daryl decides not to tell her about Glenn and Abraham. After dinner, Daryl hugs her and leaves.

In the Kingdom, Daryl sits next to Shiva’s cage. He informs Morgan that he found Carol and asks him to convince Ezekiel to fight. Morgan refuses, after which Daryl decides to return to the Hilltop. The next morning, Morgan watches him leave and sees Richard watching as well.

* * * * *

Here, we witness further evidence that Negan is not a competent sovereign. Lack of respect for one’s vassals breeds discontent, and his lieutenants clearly treat the Kingdommers with contempt. The Saviors only get away with this for so long before matters escalate and Ezekiel decides that war must be waged, and oppression in the real world is no different. As Frederick Douglass wrote, “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

The tension between Richard and Daryl illustrates a problem that is always present within revolutionary movements. People will make plans of their own, sometimes without consulting with their fellow revolutionaries and even throwing them under the bus in some cases, as Richard plans to do with Carol. This can not only disrupt long-term strategies, as will be seen later, but can lead to splinters within the revolution when fights over leadership occur or hostility over perceived or actual betrayals boils over.

When Rick deals with the Scavengers, we once again see a hesitant leader who wants proof of Rick’s mettle. Jadis is far more open and direct about what will bring her on board, while Ezekiel does not show his cards. Of course, one must always be cautious of the establishment, who may demonstrate greater character, resolve, or ability, or may simply make a better offer.

In any martial effort, it is natural for some people to have mental breakdowns. Horror at the sight of blood and guts can cause this, but this is all but absent this long after the apocalypse, with almost all such people being zombies or zombie food. However, slower-onset cases in which one sees so much death and destruction that one simply cannot handle any more still occur. It is important to recognize the signs of this and handle such people with care, as Daryl does for Carol.

Tara’s refusal to tell Rick about Oceanside and the useful weapons they possess is important, but will be discussed later when the issue resurfaces.

Enemy Camp

Episode 711 returns to the Sanctuary immediately following Daryl’s escape in Episode 708. A group of Saviors finds Fat Joey’s body. Dwight notices a missing motorcycle, runs to Daryl’s cell, and finds it empty. Dwight grabs his walkie from his apartment and finds Daryl’s prison clothes there. He also finds a note given to Daryl that says, “Go now.”

Negan returns from Alexandria with Eugene, who is terrified. Laura, a female Savior, walks him to an apartment as he begs for mercy. He is surprised to find that the apartment is for him. Laura says that Daryl escaped and asks Eugene if he has any leads. Eugene says no and that he would not lie about it. He is glad to find the refrigerator stocked and to learn that Laura can get him other food as well. After being denied lobster, he settles for canned pasta in tomato sauce but is disappointed by a lack of pickles available.

After examining the note, Saviors barge in and beat Dwight as Negan looks on. Dwight is put into the cell that had housed Daryl. Negan tells him that Sherry ran away, then questions whether she or Dwight helped Daryl escape. Dwight is released with orders to find and return Sherry. In the infirmary, Dr. Carson stitches Dwight’s wounds and says that Sherry probably helped Daryl. Dwight gets his gear from his apartment and leaves on a motorcycle. He rides through a suburb and parks at an abandoned house which used to be his. He finds Sherry’s wedding rings and a letter from her, in which she admits to freeing Daryl and apologizes for getting them into Negan’s system. Shaken, he puts the rings in his cigarette carton and leaves pretzels and beer next to a candle, in accordance with her letter. When Dwight returns, Dr. Carson tends his wounds again. Dwight lies, saying he killed Sherry.

Laura takes Eugene on a tour of the factory floor, explaining the points system and that it does not apply to Eugene. She takes a pickle jar and gives it to Eugene. Outside, Negan orders Simon to lead a party to Alexandra to find Daryl. Eugene is brought out and intimidated by the Saviors. As he commonly does, Negan asks for everyone’s name. Eugene gives his own name, then everyone else says “Negan” together. Negan shows Eugene what his bullet did to Lucille, then asks if he is a “smarty pants.” Eugene lies as he did to Abraham long ago, saying that he has multiple doctoral degrees and was part of the Human Genome Project. Negan tests him by asking how to better preserve their fence-line zombies. Eugene proposes pouring molten metal on them, which will harden into armor. Negan is impressed, offering to send several of his wives to Eugene’s apartment and nicknaming him “Dr. Smarty Pants.”

Eugene plays video games while Tanya, Frankie, and Amber, three of Negan’s wives, are with him. One of them jokes about making a bomb, and Eugene lists the ingredients he would need. He walks outside with them, mixes ingredients, and ignites a balloon filled with hydrogen, to their delight. Later, Tanya and Frankie visit him again, saying that Amber wants to kill herself. Eugene agrees to make pills for her. He uses his rank to cut in line at the points market, getting cold capsules and a stuffed toy. Back at his apartment, he makes the pills.

Laura brings Eugene to the factory floor, where a crowd has gathered around the furnace. Negan tells Eugene to pay close attention to what is about to happen. Negan hits Dr. Carson with Lucille, accusing him of helping Daryl escape. Dwight had clipped part of Sherry’s farewell letter and planted it in Dr. Carson’s desk, framing him. Dr. Carson accuses Dwight of lying, but confesses under the threat of Negan’s hot iron. Negan throws Dr. Carson face-first into the furnace. After the execution, Negan stares at Eugene and remarks to Dwight, “Good thing we have a spare Dr. Carson.”

When Tanya and Frankie come to Eugene for the pills, he correctly guesses that they intend to kill Negan and refuses to help. Tanya calls him a coward before leaving. Negan then stops by, telling Eugene not to be afraid anymore. Negan asks Eugene for his name, and he eagerly says, “Negan.”

Eugene oversees the workers as they carry out his metallic upgrade of the fence zombies. Dwight joins him and asks if he is on board. Eugene apologizes for attacking Dwight in Episode 614, then says, “We are Negan.” Dwight reluctantly agrees.

* * * * *

Like many people who are captured and forced to work for the enemy, there is a delicate balance that Eugene must walk between doing enough legitimate work to fit in and engaging in whatever subterfuge is possible while saying what one must in order to survive. For the rest of the war, Eugene will have to deal with this, but he partly realizes that subterfuge must wait until he can gain Negan’s trust and partly is too scared to try anything just yet. This is evidenced by his unwillingness to help Negan’s wives assassinate him and his eventual willingness to take on Negan’s name. As for Negan’s side of this interaction, he is more perceptive than most people and knows how to make others believe that he knows more than he does, which both helps keep people in line in the short-term but makes him vulnerable to betrayal by his closest associates in the long-term. His tactic of bringing in resourceful people from the other side makes more sense than letting them keep working for the enemy, but he does not have the overall temperament to prevent eventual defection.

As for saying what one must, Dwight does this both to cover for Sherry and to spare himself Negan’s wrath. In a totalitarian regime, someone must always be to blame, which leads to Dwight’s use of Dr. Carson as a scapegoat. This is a natural tendency rooted in the instinct of self-preservation, and Negan’s treatment of Dr. Carson shows that this instinct is well-honed. But again, Negan takes ultraviolence too far. Making a public spectacle of shoving someone’s head into a furnace because a prisoner escaped just to have someone to blame is the behavior of someone whose power is insecure; secure rulers have made their example and do not need to regularly brutalize their own people. This helps explain the desire of Tanya and Frankie to kill Negan, along with his mistreatment of their former partners and his callous domination of them.

War Materiel

In Episode 712, the hunt for weapons begins. Rick and Michonne look for guns to fulfill their deal with the Scavengers. They find some Saviors playing golf in a field and manage to sneak over to their truck in order to use batteries inside to power their walkie. Driving their van, Michonne sees that Rick has fallen asleep. She pulls over, makes coffee, spots a deer in the woods, and grabs a gun. Rick wakes up and joins the hunt. They lose the deer but find an abandoned school in the distance. They approach, bang on the fence, and dispatch a zombie drawn by the sound. They see shell casings and guess that powerful guns are nearby. They climb onto the roof for a better view, seeing carnival rides and zombies carrying guns. The waterlogged roof caves in, dropping Rick and Michonne into the school. They get lucky, landing on a bed. Inside, they find many food rations and other supplies. Rick and Michonne discuss their future plans and what to do with the resources they found, deciding to give one third of the food as tribute to the Saviors and some of the guns to the Scavengers.

The next day, Rick and Michonne make a plan to kill the zombies outside. A zombie with a machine gun gets stuck in some re-bar in such a way as to make the gun fire at them. They take cover in a car, then escape through the sunroof as zombies swarm it. They split up to divide the zombies. Rick spots a deer and tries to shoot it from a Ferris wheel, but it cannot hold him. Zombies close in on him, and Michonne thinks he may be dead. She is glad to see him when he emerges. Rick sees Michonne crying as they gather guns from the fallen zombies. On the way home, Rick warns her that they will lose people in the fight against Negan, possibly each other. He says that such sacrifices will be worth it and that the struggle is about the future, not about them. He asks her to lead if he dies.

In Alexandria, Rosita is removing stitches from the cut on her face. Tara tells her that they have enough people but need more weapons. Rosita leaves to look for guns. She finds a toy gun and almost gets bitten by a zombie, which infuriates her. She returns to Alexandria and visits Gabriel. She yells at him for trying to discourage her from shooting at Negan. Gabriel remains calm, arguing that the rest of the group needs her alive.

Tara babysits Judith and debates whether to tell Rick about Oceanside or keep her promise to its residents to keep their existence a secret.

Rick’s group delivers 63 guns to Jadis, who says that she needs twice that many. This angers Rosita. Jadis agrees to let Rick keep 20 to help his group get more. When they return, Rick asks Tara if she has seen Rosita. Tara decides to tell Rick about Oceanside.

Rosita goes to Hilltop to see Sasha, asking for help with killing Negan. Sasha agrees to help as long as she gets to take the shot. Rosita says that she remembers Daryl’s and Carl’s descriptions of the Sanctuary, while Sasha has a map of the exterior from Jesus. They both acknowledge that it is probably a suicide mission, but decide to go anyway.

* * * * *

When building a revolutionary movement, it is important to avoid taking stupid risks. Rick and Michonne became far too careless in pursuit of their objective. Had a bed not been located in an implausibly lucky location, they would have been either killed or mortally wounded by their fall through the roof. In real life, this would have been the end for both of them. Their plan to escape the school almost fails, then Rick’s ill-advised attempt to hunt deer from a rusted Ferris wheel almost gets him killed again.

Once the two of them apparently wise up, they discuss the important realizations that they will lose people in the fight and that there must be a leadership plan if Rick dies. Many revolutionary movements lose their original leaders, especially if the revolution drags on for many years. That people will die fighting is obvious in principle but still difficult when it hits close to home, but the manner of Negan’s rule leaves them with nothing to lose. Another aspect of revolutions is that a victory easily won is hardly valued, whereas a victory that costs a great amount of blood and treasure will be defended more vigorously against later threats out of a desire that one’s friends and riches not be ultimately lost in vain.

Tara finally decides to help her own group instead of keep her word to outsiders by telling Rick of Oceanside’s weapons. The desire to keep one’s word to neutrals is generally a virtue, but out-group preference loses wars. Anyone in such a situation is best advised to share all available intelligence with one’s leader to help the war effort. Neutrals can usually be made to understand or brought to heel as needed, but leaving a resource untapped against an enemy like Negan is no way to win.

Once more, we witness splinter factions within Rick’s group jumping the gun and attempting their own private missions. Rick’s plans are moving too slowly for Rosita and Sasha, who believe they can carry out a targeted assassination against Negan. While such a plan may work in this case, it is not generally possible to remove a totalitarian regime from power by assassinating the head of state. The result is usually “the king is dead, long live the king” or “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.

Uneasy Peace

In Episode 713, the Kingdom inches closer to conflict with the Saviors. The episode begins with several Kingdommers loading a blood-stained cantaloupe onto a truck. Morgan teaches Henry how to fight with a staff as Benjamin watches.

Carol wakes up, gets out of bed, and leaves her house for the Kingdom. She incapacitates a zombie but does not finish it off. Once at the Kingdom gate, she kills five zombies. The guards let her in, after which she goes to see Morgan. She wants to know why Rick’s group came to the Kingdom and if everyone in Alexandra is alright. Morgan tells her to ask Daryl and offers to return to Alexandria with her. She leaves. On her way out, Benjamin asks her to teach him to fight, and she refuses. Carol then finds that the zombie she did not finish off earlier has been killed. A shadow is seen watching her from a distance.

Richard digs a hole to bury a child’s backpack, which has the name “Katy” written on it. One of the Kingdom residents informs Ezekiel that a crop has weevils and must be burned. She assures him that it will grow back. Benjamin gives Morgan a painting.

Several Kingdommers load cantaloupes onto a truck for another tribute. Richard apologizes to Morgan, then warns him that someday he will have to kill. On their way, Ezekiel’s crew encounters a barricade of shopping carts in the road. They search the area as Richard covers the group from behind, and find an open grave that Richard dug earlier with a sign saying, “Bury me here.” They remove the roadblock and continue to the tribute meeting. Gavin reprimands Ezekiel for arriving late and will hear no excuses. Jerry tells Gavin not to interrupt, and gets hit by Jared with Morgan’s staff for his trouble. Benjamin mutters under his breath, which Jared hears. Gavin inspects the cantaloupes, then demands their guns. The groups draw on each other. Gavin says they have the same choice they have always had; try to use their guns or not. Richard advises Ezekiel to submit and is mocked by Jared. Ezekiel complies. Gavin says they are short one cantaloupe, but Ezekiel insists that all twelve are there. Gavin says he will teach them a lesson. Jared points his gun at Richard, who tells him to shoot. He shoots Benjamin twice in the legs instead. Gavin orders Jared to return Morgan’s staff, and orders Ezekiel to bring the last cantaloupe the next day. The crew loads a bleeding-out Benjamin onto the truck and leaves for Carol’s cottage. They try to save Benjamin, but he dies.

Morgan walks alone at the urban lot where the roadblock was. He sees visions of his past and considers suicide. He kicks a box and finds the twelfth cantaloupe. He deduces that Richard hid the cantaloupe on purpose. Morgan goes back to the Kingdom to confront Richard. Richard says that he was supposed to die, hoping that his death over something so petty would push Ezekiel to war. Richard tells Morgan about losing his wife and daughter, blaming himself for inaction then. Richard proposes they regain the Saviors’ trust, then destroy them with help from Alexandria and Hilltop. Morgan goes to his room and thinks about his next move.

The next scene returns to the beginning of the episode, as the last cantaloupe is loaded. At the meeting, Gavin asks about Benjamin, then realizes that he died. He angrily orders Jared to walk home, threatening to kill him if he disobeys. Richard brings the cantaloupe to Gavin, but Morgan beats Richard with his staff and strangles him to death, shocking everyone present. He explains what Richard had done and assures Gavin that their tribute relationship will be honored going forward. The Saviors leave. Morgan tells Ezekiel what Richard told him, but refers to Benjamin as Duane, his deceased son’s name. This confuses Ezekiel, who attempts to console him. A crying Morgan tells Ezekiel to leave him alone. Ezekiel leaves, then Morgan stabs Richard so he will not reanimate. Morgan drags Richard’s corpse to the open grave and buries him. He buries Katy’s backpack with him, then goes around killing zombies.

Morgan visits Carol and tells her about killing Richard. He then tells Carol the truth about Glenn, Abraham, Spencer, and Olivia. He explains that Rick came to the Kingdom looking for allies against the Saviors. Carol returns to the Kingdom, finding Ezekiel with Henry. She says that she is moving in to help them fight, and Ezekiel agrees, adding that the fight will not be immediate. Carol, Ezekiel, and Henry replant the burned crops.

Morgan sits on Carol’s porch, whittling the end of Benjamin’s staff into a spear.

* * * * *

With the confrontation at the tribute delivery, we see the age-old dilemma that every armed people facing oppressors has: submit and be disarmed, or try to use one’s arms. We also see the Kingdommers give the incorrect answer, as many oppressed people do. As is frequently the case in real life, one of the oppressed who does not make war against tyranny winds up dead anyway, for those who would disarm people seek to do to them what could not be done if they were armed.

Though it was Richard’s intention to get himself killed as a means of starting the war, intentions are irrelevant compared to results. One can never be sure of who will be lost in war; only that some people will be, so war is only worth waging once it is clear that some people will also be lost without war, as is the case under Negan. Note that Richard originally intended to get Carol killed to start the war.

Many people make sacrifices in order to keep the peace, even if the peace is phony. The Kingdommers give up their guns, and Morgan kills Richard just to maintain this false peace of subjugation and oppression. But the truth is becoming increasingly unavoidable, as it always does, leading Morgan to symbolically sharpen his stick into a spear. That the last holdout who seeks peace at any cost is now preparing for war foreshadows the coming breaking point. In any revolution, there tends to be “a long train of abuses and usurpations” by the establishment that will continue until enough opposing elites find revolution to be preferable. Morgan also tells Carol the truth about the Alexandrians that Negan killed, knowing that she will join the fight.

As always, timing is everything. If one waits too long, then tributes and sacrifices may make a revolution too weak to succeed. If one strikes too soon, then the people and resources needed for a successful revolution may not be gathered. Ezekiel wants to wait perhaps too long; Rick wants to strike once they are ready; Richard and others in Rick’s group want to strike too soon. There is a window of opportunity, and any successful revolution must have leaders who can recognize its boundaries.

Plans Interrupted

In Episode 714, plans unfold at the Hilltop while Saviors visit. Maggie teaches the residents how to throw knives. She works with Jesus on future plans. Sasha draws a floor plan of the Sanctuary. Enid sees Jesus hand his map to Sasha. Maggie sees Daryl sitting alone, so she brings him food. Gregory watches with suspicion as a group of Hilltoppers congregates in the courtyard. Rosita arrives and tells Sasha that she needs her help to kill Negan. Maggie apologizes to Jesus for taking over his trailer, but he says that he likes having her, Sasha, and Enid there. Maggie goes to see the blacksmith about making spears for trading with the Kingdom. Jesus begs Sasha to delay her mission, but she refuses. Enid tells Sasha that she will inform Maggie but give them ten minutes to get a head start.

Just then, a guard alarms them that a group of Saviors have come. Sasha and Rosita make for a secret escape hatch that leads them out of Hilltop. Maggie does not have time to make it to the hatch, so Enid guides her and Daryl to a root cellar to hide. Daryl looks out from the cellar, and Maggie calls him over to a dark hiding place. Sasha and Rosita escape through the woods.

Gregory greets Simon, who tells him that Negan wants one of the Hilltop residents. In the medical trailer, Simon tells Dr. Carson that his services are needed at the Sanctuary. This informs him that his brother has died, though not that Negan killed him. Simon gives Gregory a crate of aspirin. Gregory then pulls Simon aside. He assures Simon of his loyalty, then explains that he may have an insurgency on his hands. Simon gives Gregory a pass into the Sanctuary in case he needs Negan’s help with quelling a rebellion.

Roy, a Savior, walks toward the cellar doors and enters, despite Enid’s efforts to distract him, to which he responds in a rather creepy manner. Daryl is enraged, but stays hidden. Roy searches the cellar, and Daryl readies his knife. Maggie holds him back. Roy takes some supplies and leaves. Maggie senses Daryl’s anger and tells him that she also wanted to kill Roy, but it would have been counterproductive. Daryl apologizes for his role in Glenn’s death, and Maggie responds that Daryl is not to blame.

The Hilltoppers gather and watch the Saviors leave with their doctor. Gregory is uncomfortable.

Rosita fails to hot-wire a car. She notices Sasha’s necklace and says that she made it for Abraham, renewing tension between the two over their common ex. Sasha suggests sniping Negan, while Rosita wants to enter Sanctuary and kill Negan up close. Rosita burns a car to distract zombies in the area, then they climb a fence into the lot. Rosita successfully hot-wires a car, and they drive to Sanctuary. They enter an empty building near the Sanctuary, where Sasha discovers Eugene overseeing some Saviors. She tells Rosita, who believes Eugene must be pretending to be a Savior. While waiting for Negan, Rosita and Sasha discuss Abraham and their pasts, making peace with each other. The truck from Hilltop arrives and Negan walks out, but Sasha cannot get a clear shot before Negan goes back inside. Then they hear Eugene ordering Saviors to strengthen fence security. Sasha and Rosita decide to go in.

Back at Hilltop, Gregory summons Jesus. They quarrel over job assignments for the newcomers from Alexandria. Outside, Daryl asks Jesus where Rosita and Sasha went.

After nightfall, Eugene discusses security with a Savior, then Rosita and Sasha kill the Savior. They ask Eugene to escape with them, but he tells them to leave and goes inside. They cut through the fence. Sasha goes through and tells Rosita to keep watch. Sasha locks Rosita out and tells her that Alexandria still needs her. Sasha kills another Savior and goes into the Sanctuary. Rosita cries, then flees as Saviors approach and guns fire. She notices a dark figure with a crossbow watching her.

* * * * *

Gregory’s weakness and treachery is already well-established, and he behaves as one may predict in recruiting Simon to help him save his hide from a mutiny. It is interesting that Gregory does not reveal to Simon that Maggie is alive, but he probably realizes that this would get him killed by someone at Hilltop. Many puppet rulers eventually find themselves in such a situation, and their behavior can be difficult to predict, as they are eventually doomed regardless of what choices they make.

As for Maggie, her leadership qualities are on display. It is important to know one’s limitations and refuse to fight the establishment on their terms, such as when Saviors are in Hilltop. She shows this by restraining Daryl, who could have caused great trouble for himself and everyone else in Hilltop by killing Roy rather than staying hidden. Meanwhile, Enid demonstrates the importance of knowing the terrain. Without her knowledge of their community, Maggie and Daryl may not have been able to hide. Those who know the lay of the land have a decisive advantage over those who do not.

Again, there are members of the resistance who are making and executing their own plans outside of leadership. While there is some virtue to stating an overall goal and allowing for freedom in execution, this can easily go too far and compromise the greater strategy of the revolutionaries. Finally, there is Sasha’s willingness to sacrifice herself for the group. Almost all revolutions have their martyrs, and this one is no different. Some people are drawn to suicide missions out of a sense of civic duty, some believe there is no other way to accomplish their goals, while others are simply tired of living and want to go out with a bang. Still others are thrill seekers who believe they can defy the odds and be a hero. Regardless of the motivation, individual sacrifices can be powerful motivational propaganda to fuel a revolution.

Alternate Plans

In Episode 715, the gun hunt resumes and power dynamics continue to shift. Tara tells Rick about Oceanside, so they lead a group there. Meanwhile, a group of zombies moves down the shoreline to Oceanside. Rick’s group gets into position outside Oceanside: Michonne climbs a tree with her rifle, Jesus and Daryl plant explosives, and Aaron and Eric keep watch. Eric tells Aaron that he understands his resolve to fight the Saviors.

At Hilltop, Maggie offers farming advice to Eduardo as Gregory observes. He is unsettled by Eduardo calling Maggie “boss lady.” Maggie plans to transplant a blueberry bush into Hilltop from outside, explaining that they can produce for decades and that they should be making long-term plans. Jesus chastises himself for not stopping Rosita and Sasha, but Daryl reassures him and guesses that they could have returned already.

We learn that they did not; Sasha was captured and is in a cell much like Daryl’s. David enters to find her arms and legs bound. She asks for water, to which he responds by telling her that he will bring her water in exchange for sex. He tries to sexually assault her, but Negan interrupts. He says that rape is forbidden and executes David. Negan apologizes for the incident and orders a Savior to bring her a new shirt. He asks if Rick sent her, and she says no. Negan then unties her wrists, leaves her a knife, and leaves her with a proposal: let David reanimate and kill her, or stab David to prevent that, after which she must join his cause. Eugene comes later to bring Sasha a blanket and pillow. He tells her that he joined Negan because meeting him was the scariest time of his life and he never wanted to feel that way again. He advises her to join Negan, and she demands that he leave. Once Eugene is gone, David starts to reanimate. Later, Negan goes to Sasha’s cell to find that she saved herself. She agrees to join him, and he retrieves his knife. He says that she must do more to demonstrate her loyalty. He tells her that he knows Rick is plotting against him and wants her to help him stop Rick.

Maggie and Gregory go outside to get the blueberry bush. He contemplates killing Maggie from behind, but decides not to. A zombie comes at them, which Gregory fails to kill. Maggie kills it as a second zombie attacks Gregory. She has to save him again, as a passing group of Hilltoppers watches. One of them remarks that Gregory exaggerated his zombie-killing experience. After returning to Hilltop, Gregory takes out Simon’s note, studies a map, and calls for Kal to pack a bag and prepare to drive him somewhere.

In Oceanside, Tara sneaks into Natania’s home and holds her and Cyndie at gunpoint. She asks them to join their resistance, but says they are taking their guns regardless. The others detonate the explosives. Beatrice and Kathy are captured by Daryl and Jesus as others flee. Cyndie and Natania manage to subdue Tara, then Tara reveals that her gun was unloaded. Rick’s group rounds up the Oceansiders. Rick tells them that he does not want to hurt anyone. Natania appears, holding Tara at gunpoint. Cyndie and Beatrice both suggest joining the fight, but Natania refuses. Zombies approach, and Cyndie knocks out Natania. The groups work together to kill the zombies. Beatrice and Rick shake hands, and Natania concedes. She lets Rick’s group take the guns, but will not join the fight. Gabriel wonders whether they need all of Oceanside’s guns, but Rick says it is necessary. Cyndie thanks Tara for fighting but says that Natania has forbidden Oceansiders from joining them.

Eugene visits Sasha again. He assures her that she chose correctly, but she cries, worried that she will now be used against Rick. She begs for a weapon to kill herself, and Eugene says he will consider it. Later, he brings her the pill he made for Frankie and Tanya, but Sasha really wanted a weapon to use against Negan.

Late at night, Rick’s group returns home. Jesus asks about Sasha, but Rosita just says they have a visitor. She leads them to the Alexandria prison, where Dwight awaits. Daryl charges at him, but Rick and Michonne restrain him. Rosita says that Dwight wants to help. Rick holds Dwight at gunpoint and orders him to kneel.

* * * * *

The incident with David shows that even evil has standards. Negan engages in many forms of cruelty, but rape is one crime that he will not abide, even if his conduct toward his wives could be construed as such. This is perhaps best understood as the general hypocrisy of tyrants; many totalitarian rulers engage in behaviors that they criminalize for others. This provides insight into the purpose of such governance structures; they are meant to free those at the top by binding those beneath, which can be seen in Negan’s system more generally.

Gregory continues to be treacherous, even to the point of wanting to kill someone who ends up saving his life, but there is nothing to discuss about him that has not already been covered. Meanwhile, Maggie again shows herself to be the real and more capable leader of Hilltop, both in facing the ever-present threat of zombies and in making long-term plans. A revolutionary movement must have not only an endgame, but an after-game in which people live free from tyranny and build a new order that is better suited to their well-being. However, Natania demonstrates the opposite qualities. Her spirit is broken by the death and destruction that Negan brought to her community, and this impairs everyone in Oceanside. The younger women could be valuable fighters in the resistance, but they will not disobey Natania’s orders to stay at Oceanside.

Fools rush in, and Sasha’s Leeroy Jenkins-style strategy is a textbook example. Her myopic plan helps the enemy, as Negan now has her as a bargaining chip against Rick. This places her in a difficult position, although it is curious that she does not attempt to stab Negan once she has killed David. Almost any real person who has been captured, has a weapon, and knows the enemy leader is coming would lie in ambush. It is important to take advantage of any opportunity once captured by the enemy.

The end of the episode deals with one of the most important aspects of a revolution: how to handle enemy defectors. Though killing Dwight is tempting, Rick’s group correctly realizes that an enemy lieutenant working to undermine Negan can provide the edge that they need. Of course, any despot knows this, so one must always handle such cases with care, never trusting anyone without verification of a switch in loyalty. In the long run, bringing hostile elites over to one’s cause can be even more important than securing support from neutral elites, especially if the hostile elite is foreign. The Saviors will need new leadership if Negan is deposed, and Dwight could be a friendly leader.

The War Begins

In Episode 716, the uneasy peace can no longer hold. The episode begins with Sasha in a dark place listening to an iPod. She sees Abraham in a flashback, thinking back to Episode 616 just before everyone met Negan. Sasha asks him to stay, but he says he must go to Hilltop with Maggie and the others. In the present, Negan brings food to Sasha in her cell. He says that someone from Rick’s group must die, but it does not have to be her. She asks him what he needs from her. A second flashback shows Sasha with Maggie in a field.

Rick and company interrogate Dwight in their prison. Tara accosts him for murdering Denise in Episode 614, to which he says that she was not his intended target. Daryl slams Dwight against the wall and holds a knife to his neck. Dwight offers to work with them, saying that Sherry is gone, so he has no more reason to stay with the Saviors. Tara says to kill Dwight, but Daryl backs down. Dwight warns that Negan is coming the next day and presents a plan. He suggests attacking Negan and his crew in Alexandria, then using their trucks to go to the Sanctuary. Dwight will radio back that everything is normal, which will lead to the Saviors being caught off guard when Rick’s group comes out of the trucks instead of Negan’s group. Then, they can rally the workers to overthrow Negan’s lieutenants. Rick agrees, then Dwight leaves. Daryl vows to kill Dwight after Negan is defeated.

Sasha is shown in the dark place listening to music again. Her flashbacks with Abraham and Maggie continue. She tells Abraham that she dreamed that he died. In the present, Negan tells Sasha of his plans for her. He insists on killing three Alexandrians, but she bargains him down to one. Negan does not know that she means herself.

Maggie, Enid, and Jesus review Dwight’s plan. She considers whether to join the fight. Jesus says that he is glad she is deciding instead of Gregory.

Carol leads some Kingdommers toward Alexandria. They find the shopping carts and an unstable Morgan. He wants to hunt Saviors alone, but Ezekiel convinces him to join them as they continue toward Alexandria.

The Scavengers come to Alexandria with bicycles and garbage trucks. Rick greets Jadis. She propositions him, but he rejects her advances. Aaron, Daryl, and Rosita set up explosives near the gate. A Scavenger watches Tara set up a blockade near the gate. On a balcony, Michonne gives instructions to Farron, a Scavenger, and hands her a sniper rifle. Farron says, “We win.”

Dwight secretly fells some trees onto the road to delay the Saviors. Negan’s crew works to remove them, and Negan suspects that Alexandrians are responsible. He reminds Simon that they have a second plan. Eugene asks to negotiate with Rick to try to avoid war.

Sasha is shown in the dark with her headphones a third time. She struggles to stay conscious. In one of her flashbacks, she tells Abraham that in her dream, he drowned while swimming at the beach. He jokes that he hates the beach and gets up to leave. She asks for them to stay, but to no avail. In the other, she watches the sunrise with Maggie. In the present, the Saviors prepare to leave for Alexandria. Eugene tries to talk her out of using the suicide pill, but she is determined.

The Saviors arrive at Alexandria. Rick takes position at the front gate, with Jadis hidden next to him. Eugene steps out and asks Rick to surrender. He asks where Negan is, and Eugene says that he is Negan. Rick signals Rosita to detonate the explosives, but nothing happens. The Scavengers then betray the Alexandrians, with Jadis pointing her gun at Rick and the other Scavengers turning their guns on the other Alexandrians. Negan emerges to taunt Rick as other Saviors open the truck with the explosives. Michonne tries to leave her balcony, but Farron stops her. Dwight and Simon remove a coffin from their truck. Negan announces that Sasha is inside and offers to let her live if they surrender their weapons, lemonade, pool table, and Daryl in addition to someone of Rick’s choosing being executed. Otherwise, Negan will kill everyone. Rick insists on seeing Sasha, and Negan taps Lucille on the casket.

Another flashback of Sasha is shown. She kisses Abraham, then he reminds her that Maggie and her baby are the future of their group. They leave for their journey to Hilltop that was interrupted by Negan.

Before leaving for Alexandria, Sasha confirms with Eugene that the trip will take hours. Eugene gives her an iPod. Sasha asks for a bottle of water and to travel in the casket to rest. He agrees and thanks her for cooperating. In the coffin, she listens to “Someday We’ll All Be Free” by Donny Hathaway and takes the suicide pill.

In the present, Negan opens the casket to find a zombie Sasha who attacks him. The Alexandrians turn their guns on the Scavengers. Michonne and Farron fight, Alexandrians on the guard posts fire on the Saviors, and Rosita is shot and helped away by Tara. Jadis holds Rick at gunpoint. Roy saves Negan, and zombie Sasha kills him instead. Negan yells to Simon to use Plan B. Rick tries to negotiate with Jadis, but she shoots him and pushes him off the platform. Farron beats up Michonne and pushes her to the edge of the balcony.

The Saviors and Scavengers gain the upper hand in the street fighting. Several Alexandrians are killed and several more are captured. Jadis takes Rick to Negan and makes him kneel next to Carl. We learn that Negan learned of Rick’s deal with Jadis and turned her with a better deal. Negan had offered her twelve people in exchange for their help, but he bargains Jadis down to ten. Rick and Carl think they see Michonne thrown to her death. Negan says he will kill Carl, then cut off Rick’s hand. Rick, fearless, declares that he will kill Negan.

Before Negan can kill Carl, Shiva suddenly appears and mauls a Scavenger. Forces from the Hilltop and Kingdom arrive, catching the Saviors and Scavengers by surprise. Negan orders a retreat and is surprised to see Maggie alive and well, commanding Hilltop forces. Numerous Saviors and Scavengers are killed in the battle as Alexandria, Hilltop, and Kingdom forces push their enemies out of Alexandria. The Saviors escape in their vehicles as the Scavengers throw smoke bombs to obscure their exit.

With the battle won, Carl and Rick go to Michonne’s station and are relieved to find a dead Farron on the ground. Michonne is badly beaten inside the building next to the balcony.

With the battle lost, the Saviors prepare their next move. Dwight and Simon inform Negan that preparations are underway. Negan asks Eugene how Sasha died, suspecting subterfuge. Eugene supposes that she ran out of air. Negan doubts this but cannot prove anything. Later, Negan addresses his crowd and tells them that they are going to war.

Maggie and Jesus carry out the emotional task of going into the woods to put down zombie Sasha. Gabriel presides over Sasha’s funeral, then the alliance celebrates their victory. Morgan seems to have regained stability. Dwight left a figurine by the front gate that says “Didn’t know”, which Daryl finds. Tara sits with Rosita in the infirmary, and Rick stays with Michonne as she rests.

The final flashback shows Maggie and Sasha smiling as they watch the sunrise together. The episode ends with Rick, Maggie, and Ezekiel addressing their communities.

* * * * *

The handling of an enemy defector continues, and Dwight is put to the test. As with any such person, action is required for judgment. The action is inconclusive thus far and will continue in Part IV.

In Hilltop, we see the process of a shadow government coming to power, as Gregory is reduced to the figurehead for the Saviors. Building such alternative institutions and offering the masses a better governance structure is the most effective means of taking power away from tyrants and their vassals. Maggie and Jesus are doing this well.

As mentioned before, war can push unstable people to the breaking point. It is important to help unstable members of one’s group channel their impulses productively, as Ezekiel does for Carol and they both do for Morgan.

Negan apparently continues to misjudge the situation, as rule with an iron fist is the only method he understands. Had he made a better offer to Rick’s group from the beginning or at any time thereafter, he might have been able to bring them on board. To make an offer that requires Rick to surrender so much seems destined to fail, but perhaps that is the point. Negan massacred all of the men from Oceanside, and may wish to do something similar to Alexandria, so an offer they will certainly refuse is a way for him to justify an atrocity.

One must always be wary of mercenaries. Rick had no idea what Jadis was doing when his people were not around the Scavengers, and they found out too late that Negan was aware of their plans. Pure mercenaries in an environment in which reputation ratings are unavailable are best left out of a conflict unless one has no other options, and the Alexandrians learned this lesson the hard way.

In Sasha’s final acts, she becomes the weapon against Negan, as it is her only move remaining. Though it is best to avoid maneuvering oneself into a position in which suicide is the only outcome, it is commendable to strike at the enemy with one’s last breath once one is out of other options rather than simply die for nothing. Like a terrorist attack in the real world, her surprise attack on Negan gives the Alexandrians a much-needed advantage in a tough situation.

Just as state forces in the real world can be defeated with irregular tactics and the element of surprise, Negan’s forces must retreat when an unexpected attack comes from Hilltop and the Kingdom. But victory in battle and victory in war are two very different things, which both sides, to their credit, realize.

Conclusion

The third part of Negan’s story showcases his strengths and weaknesses as a statesman. He is adept at converting potential threats into allies, keeping his regime in order, and keeping himself enough steps ahead of his enemies. However, he engages in needlessly excessive brutality that can prevent people from perceiving a benefit from living under his rule. He also allows his rivals to have an unnecessary amount of contact that they can use to plot against him. Ultimately, these flaws prevented him from bringing Alexandria under his wing while encouraging the Hilltop and the Kingdom to make war against him. In the fourth part, we will examine the time period from the beginning of war between the Saviors and the alliance of Alexandria, Hilltop, and Kingdom (Episode 801) to the destruction of Alexandria (Episode 808).

<<<Part II                                                                                                 Part IV>>>

The Rise and Fall of the Sturmabteilung

Editor’s note: There is a faction of the contemporary left which denounces anyone who disagrees with them as fascists, Nazis, or “literally Hitler”. I figure that if we will be called such names anyway, then we have nothing to lose by studying real Nazis to see what lessons can be learned from their example.

One of the problems that has long deviled the Western Right is that of creating alternatives to the Leviathan state. For the Left, there is no such problem. West German communist Rudi Dutschke told his followers that, in order to win, the Left must take over the institutions of power. The Dutschke model has succeeded in the United States. To see how the Left has overrun American human resources and marketing departments, one need only consider the existence of “woke” corporate capital or the recent banning of Alex Jones for ill-defined “hate speech”. In Europe, the situation is even more dire thanks to the legal reality of “hate speech” laws and the existence of left-wing bureaucracies that think it is a good idea to provide former jihadists with housing and jobs. A mostly disarmed European populace also makes resistance all but impossible, thus giving the Left in Europe safety to pursue their desired population engineering.

The Right, on the other hand, always finds itself on the blunt end of the stick when it tries to organize because the Cathedral always views right-wing activism as much more serious threat to its power. This is arguably the most terrible legacy of the 1930s, when mass movements in Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, and Poland seized power and established right-wing dictatorships. For opponents of the Western Right, any mobilization of supporters is seen as one step away from extermination campaigns.

Taken together, they belie the inherent weakness within democracy. As Hoppe writes,

“As soon as mature members of society habitually express acceptance or even advocate egalitarian sentiments, whether in the form of democracy (majority rule) or of communism, it becomes essential that other members, and in particular the natural social elites, be prepared to act decisively and, in the case of continued nonconformity, exclude and ultimately expel these members from society.”[1]

Unless egalitarianism is stamped out, countries will inevitably decline into avarice, sloth, and patterns of elite-backed racial guilt-mongering. Western countries that accept egalitarianism will come to resemble modern France, where government debt to GDP and government spending to GDP are both well over 50 percent. Philosopher Guillaume Faye recently made the point to interviewer Gregoire Canlorbe that “[France] is today more communist than the Soviet Union ever was.” In a country that represents less than one percent of the world’s population, Faye notes that “France represents 15 percent of the world’s welfare state redistribution.” The reason why France’s natural elites (the descendants of those not guillotined in the Revolution) do not rebel is because the French state provides then with the “good life”—wine, cheese, world-class food, and plenty of Internet pornography. In his book The Returned, French journalist David Thomson says that besides its nightmarish immigration policies, France’s problem with Islamic terrorism stems from the fact that the Fifth Republic is the archetype of the decadent and amoral Western “pleasure dome”.

The fact that democracies inherently accept egalitarianism, especially mass democracies like the ones currently ruling the United States and Europe, renders them pathologically incapable of expunging communism, whether overt or covert, from their bodies politic. After all, both communism and liberal democracy are predicated on the idea that all men are equal, should be afforded the same rights, and should never be under the thrall of a natural elite. As such, both are revolts against nature. As Murray Rothbard noted in his essay “Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature”, the reason why the Left enjoys such power is because they have been conceded “to have morality, justice, and ‘idealism’” on their side.[2] The Right, because it opposes the Left, is therefore rendered morally repugnant and the enemy of an ill-defined “progress”. The Left gets away with such easy moralizing because they rule over an unnatural state and have convinced the masses that what is unnatural is natural.

What is to be done? For both Hoppe and neoreactionaries, the answer lies in creating or restoring a new elite. This makes sense initially, but how can one find such an elite in a society so thoroughly imbued with an egalitarian, democratic ethos? One answer may lie in the history of Germany between the World Wars. During this age of great instability, several right-wing movements came to the forefront via violence, demonstrations, and ingenious political intrigue. Eventually one group, the National Socialist German Workers Party, seized power in 1933 and ultimately drove their nation and many others into the worst war in human history.

Despite this horrific end, and despite the hue and cry of the left-wing intelligentsia, the story of these Weimar-era groups in general and the Nazi Sturmabteilung (SA) in particular can teach the Western Right quite a bit about organizing for victory. It is necessary to learn from what they did right. Even more importantly, we need to study what went so terribly wrong.

The New Man

World War I forever changed the world for the worse. As Hoppe outlines, World War I deserves to be cursed simply because of what it did to Austria-Hungary—the last true Christian and free monarchy in European history:

“If the United States had followed a strict non-interventionist foreign policy, it is likely that the intra-European conflict would have ended in late 1916 or early 1917 as a result of several peace initiatives, most notably by the Austrian Emperor Charles I. Moreover, the war would have been concluded with a mutually acceptable and face-saving compromise peace than the actual dictate. Consequently, Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia would have remained traditional monarchies instead of being turned into short-lived democratic republics.”[3]

The fall of these nations set in motion the Soviet gulags, the Ukrainian famine, the Second World War, and the Holocaust. As for Austria-Hungary, it, the direct descendant of the medieval world and the Holy Roman Empire, was lost forever under a flood of war, nationalism, and Bolshevism.

However, World War I, with its machine guns, tanks, and gore-filled trenches, gave the world a new type of man. German writer Ernst Jünger, a veteran of all four years of the trenches, was the first to give voice and shape to this new man of the trenches. Jünger saw the new man as prefigured by the storm-troopers of the Imperial German Army:

“Like the Italian arditi whom they resembled, the storm-troopers were the prototypical Fascist ‘new man’, with straight jaw and empty killers’ eyes staring beneath the shadow of the steel helmet. The Nazis would regard them as their immediate precursors.”[4]

The storm-troopers of Germany and Austria-Hungary, along with the arditi of the Royal Italian Army, were considered the best of the best. These men were drawn from the battle-tested infantry divisions, sent to the rear for specialized training, then deployed during massed offensives as battering rams designed to poke holes in enemy lines. They often went into battle with sub-machine guns, grenades, and knives. These specialized troops received better food and housing than their mates in the trenches, and, like officers, they were given the luxury of wearing sidearms.

More importantly, according to Jünger, the storm-troopers embraced death and cultivated a mixture of aristocracy and democracy. The storm-troopers were “aristocrats of the soul” who came from the democratic masses. In the storm-trooper units, the stultifying stiffness of Prussian class distinctions were discarded, and the enlisted men called their junior officers by their first names. This tradition would come to full fruition during the interwar period, when right-wing movements in Europe tried to sway workingmen away from internationalist Marxism by destroying old class distinctions in favor of nationalism, national socialism, and promises of direct action in the form of street fights. Unemployed former soldiers joined these right-wing groups in droves, thus forming the backbone of the “New Man” class.

From Freikorps to Sturmabteilung

It is not surprising that the Nazis decided to call their armed street soldiers “storm-troopers”. Many SA men had been storm-troopers, and on the streets of Weimar Germany, they often proved their mettle by besting bigger militias like the Red Front of the German Communist Party (KPD) or the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

The SA was born out of the ashes of the Freikorps (Free Corps). Historians like Nigel Jones and Robert G. L. Waite have long maintained that the Freikorps soldiers gathered by SPD politicians Friedrich Ebert and Gustav Noske provided the germ that became National Socialism. Following the declaration of the German Republic on November 9, 1918 (a declaration made by the SPD in order to offset a potential Communist takeover), Germany erupted in several massive strikes and far-left mobilization campaigns. The first Communist uprising, orchestrated by the Spartacists, briefly took Berlin in January 1919 and forced the SPD-led government to flee to the central German city of Weimar.

Despite their socialist credentials, the major figures of the SPD in January 1919 were mostly German patriots who, like President Ebert, “hated the mob, and hated the revolution”.[5] Noske, the Minister of Defense, was not averse to using violence to put down the worker and soldier soviets that sprung up all throughout Germany following November 9. The problem was that the government could not rely on its own soldiers. When soldiers returning from the Western Front were tapped in order to put down the remnants of the Kiel Mutiny, they were embarrassed and many soldiers defected to the other side. A majority of German troops just wanted to go home, and indeed most did.

Desperate to stamp out the raging fires of Bolshevism in Germany, Noske called upon patriotic German generals to form volunteer battalions of veterans, recently demobilized troops, and right-wing university students. These Freikorps soldiers put down the Sparticist rebellion with armored cars, rifles, and machine guns. They would do the same in Munich, central Germany, and in the Ruhr. Historian Nigel Jones quotes one Freikorps volunteer writing home to his parents in the spring of 1920: “We even shot some Red Cross nurses. How those little ladies begged and pleaded! Nothing doing!”[6] Such was the blood-lust born out both the “betrayal” of the German Army in November 1918 and the experience of totalitarian Red republics in Germany.

Not less than a year after their birth, the SPD government realized that it had created a monster. Freikorps soldiers were always up for a fight and did not want to listen to the central government that they considered illegitimate. Freikorps troops fought private wars in Silesia and the Baltic in 1919 and 1920. When the central government officially disbanded them, they created underground cells like the Organisation Consul which carried out hundreds of political assassinations and murders. In March 1920, the Freikorps-backed Kapp Putsch almost destroyed the Weimar government.

By 1923, the visible Freikorps were no more. They had been replaced by hunting and shooting clubs that were actually underground paramilitary organizations and political militias like the Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten and the Sturmabteilung. Another was the so-called “Black Reichswehr,” a secretive, alternative army that was made up of the officially dead Freikorps divisions and was far away from the prying eyes of the League of Nations.

At this point, for today’s American readers, an important fact bears mentioning: large segments of the German judiciary, police, and military openly supported groups like the SA and the Stahlhelm. German judges, especially in Bavaria, often handed down lenient sentences to right-wing activists, even those who carried out murders. Similarly, men like future SA leader Ernst Röhm used their positions within the regular German Army to supply their paramilitary friends with light and heavy weapons. Hardly any right-wing groups in America can say that they enjoy these perks.

It should also be noted for fans of the Third Reich that the Freikorps included hundreds of patriotic Jews. Historian Thomas Weber notes that “158 Jews served in Bavarian Freikorps after the First World War.” Weber also adds that “Jews continued to join the Freikorps in the days and weeks after the end of the Munich Soviet Republic.”[7] For every anarchic and anti-Semitic “Freebooter,” the Freikorps included more men of all backgrounds inspired by a love of the Fatherland and a hatred for Bolshevism.

Rise and Fall of the SA

The SA began when Adolf Hitler, a virtually unknown Austrian corporal who had served in the Bavarian Army, attended a meeting of the small German Workers’ Party (DAP) in 1919. The DAP had been formed by the secretive Munich-based occult order, the Thule Society. The aristocratic members of Thule wanted the DAP and its leader Anton Drexler, a railway worker and ardent nationalist, to be the public face of their movement. The DAP was supposed to win over Bavaria’s working class, but by 1919 the DAP was a small cabal of intellectuals with no support.

Hitler changed all of that. Weber shows that the future leader of the Nazi Party was a self-declared social democrat[8] who was a part of minor bureaucracy in the Bolshevik-backed Munich Soviet.[9] By the time that Hitler first found the DAP, he was an intelligence operative under the command of German Army officer Karl Mayr.[10] Mayr wanted Hitler to infiltrate the DAP and turn it into a partner for the more conservative and monarchist German National People’s Party (DNVP). This plan backfired, as Hitler quickly became the leader and renamed the group the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. In order to protect his speeches from Communist and SPD thugs, Hitler formed a bodyguard of political soldiers known as the SA. These men, who would later adopt the brownshirt, were often former soldiers with easy access to firearms. Many also embraced the nihilistic ethos of the Freikorps, with a love for violence for its own sake.

Early on, the SA was also filled with political soldiers more interested in the socialist aspect of National Socialism. Because the SA drew recruits from the working class and the criminal underclass, many of the brownshirts had a strong thirst for class warfare and hooliganism. Indeed, while Hitler controlled the SA for a time in Bavaria, his followers in Berlin expanded the Nazi brand in the Protestant north and center by embracing far-left politics. Röhm, Joseph Goebbels, the Strasser brothers, and Walther Stennes all characterized the more left-wing SA of the pre-1933 era. In March 1931, Stennes and his SA followers, which included many former Communists, revolted against Hitler’s autocratic rule and occupied the party’s Berlin headquarters because they were fed up with Hitler’s slow approach and wanted their promised revolution.[11] They would not get it, and most of the SA hierarchy from this time was murdered during the Night of the Long Knives.

The problem with the SA was always its thuggish lack of discipline. For Hitler, who wanted to achieve power by using the means of democracy against itself, the SA increasingly became a liability. In 1933, major German industrialists and members of the army decided to put Hitler in power as the Chancellor of the Reich, and they demanded that he rein in the SA. The industrialists were afraid of the political radicalism of the SA, while the army was afraid of Röhm’s idea of using the SA as a “people’s army” that would be fused with the regular army. The officer corps wanted none of this, so Hitler used the SS, his more loyal bodyguards, to thoroughly weaken the SA.

The last great hurrah of the SA came immediately after Hitler’s bargained victory in 1933. SA units throughout Germany created wildcat concentration camps that housed their KPD and SPD enemies. These early concentration camps numbered as many as 240 by 1934, and Berlin alone had three such camps that were controlled by autonomous SA units. Historian Daniel Siemens writes,

“In the first weeks of the Nazi takeover of power, most of the captives were brought to the illegal SA prisons that mushroomed in the larger German cities. Cellars of SA taverns, sports facilities, youth hostels, barracks, and deserted factory buildings were all used as provisional prisons. These locations often existed for days or weeks before they were replaced by a string of larger concentration camps that were run either by the German states or by the SS and the SA.”[12]

The brutality and illegality of these SA camps, many of which were located in the middle of Berlin neighborhoods and therefore highly visible, drew the ire of Hitler’s conservative partners. The SA, they said, either had to be gutted or destroyed.

From 1934 until 1945, the SA took a distinct backseat to the SS, Gestapo, and Wehrmacht. A huge chunk of SA were drafted into the army, and only rarely did entire SA units form the nucleus of new German military divisions. As Siemens notes, the SA, which was originally created as the revolutionary volk community of future “Aryan” colonists, ended its days as both a bureaucracy—a public relations arm of the Nazis that was mostly kept away from the front linesand a low-level street militia. Siemens notes that during the war, “SA diplomats were not the driving forces behind this [Holocaust] policy, but they often acted confidently and independently to carry it out.”[13] The SA, as the most radicalized arm of the Nazi machine, never achieved its original aim of creating a new army, but many of its members did jump at the chance to beat, harass, and murder unarmed civilians.

Learning From the Nazis

The successes and failures of the SA as an organization contain valuable lessons for any rightist anti-establishment movement. The foremost lesson of the SA and the National Socialists is to always refuse totalitarianism. Authoritarianism is the goal—indeed, highly local authoritarianism is desirable in the form of the anarcho-monarch. Totalitarianism, whether fascist or liberal, is a stultifying force that leaves no room for “aristocrats of the soul.” Totalitarianism inherently means a massive bureaucracy; authoritarianism runs best when its power is decentralized.

Second, the story of the SA is the story of the futility of the Führerprinzip. Hitler was a megalomaniacal leader who gutted the SA—the very organization that brought him to political prominence—because it was expedient for his personal authority. If a leader lacks loyalty to his subordinates, as Hitler clearly did, then they will never be seen as anything other than expendable. Thus, organizations much choose their hierarchies wisely.

Third, right-wing movements need to know when to act openly and when to practice subterfuge. The failed Beer Hall Putsch made an enemy out of Gustav von Kahr, the arch-conservative Bavarian minister who had previously acted as a protector of right-wing militants in the large and Catholic German state. The failed putsch also split the Nazis, with Hitler and his followers in Bavaria and the more left-wing Strasser brothers active in Berlin and the Protestant states of northern Germany. This internal split would not be addressed until the Night of the Long Knives. Finally, the failed putsch also turned Erich Ludendorff, the former military dictator of Germany between 1916 and 1918, against the movement, thus severing the possibility of a more monarchist and national conservative element within the Nazi victory of 1933.

Fourth, it can be argued that the Nazis seized power in Germany too soon, thus forcing the Allies to gravitate towards the Soviet Union as a more attractive option. Similarly, Hitler’s willingness to sacrifice the SA to appease his more conservative backers shows the danger in cooperating too closely with groups seeking to harness revolutionary enthusiasms for their own gain. Cooperation between right-wing groups is good, but each group should be allowed to remain somewhat independent. Also, amalgamation should be avoided. One could theorize that had the DNVP and Stahlhelm stayed around after 1933, the excesses of the Nazis, especially Hitler’s suicidal war, could have been curtailed by more cautious conservatives.

Fifth, the SA’s story shows the necessity of having standards of inclusion. The SA was such a threat to the German order because so many of its men were criminal-minded and only cared about the chance to crack some skulls. Nihilism, which was such a large part of the Freikorps and the SA, has no place in a serious movement. The SA’s rotten core became all too apparent in the concentration camps of 1933 and 1934, thus dooming the organization within its own political movement. Any right-wing movement today must be highly selective in choosing its men. However, the men of a rightist movement need to be willing to use defensive violence. Also, the forced removal of egalitarians should also be encouraged in the public-facing organization, but carried out by secret arms of that same organization. The SA made a mistake in having both a public-facing bureaucracy and a public-facing army of street thugs. A smart movement would separate the two, thus allowing the public-facing and “respectable” part of the movement the ability to disavow the actions of the other.

Sixth, there is a warning about entryism. Owing to the name “National Socialism” and the thirst for revolution that characterized so many SA men, the group saw an influx of former Communist street fighters in the early 1930s. These “beefsteaks” undoubtedly played a role in the Stennes revolt of 1934, and many probably had a hand in the wildcat concentration camps of 1933–4. As Sergei Bulgakov observed, “Socialism is the apocalypse of the naturalistic religion of man.” Socialism in any form is antithetical to Christendom, and should therefore play no part in the Restoration. Even nationalists (nationalism itself being a kind of socialism) should not be included if they have pink or outright Red attachments.

The brutality of the SA following Hitler’s victory in 1933 should also serve to remind us that right-wing organizations will always come under more scrutiny than their left-wing counterparts. Again, the Left gets a pass because its motives are supposedly grounded in a higher morality. Therefore, right-wing movements must be careful not to engage in overly savage violence. Similarly, right-wing movements should always be wary of Hitlerian figures—men who preach violence while being themselves adverse to doing it. The other warning from Hitler is this: according to Weber, Hitler saw himself as a “genius” and therefore never questioned his own decisions.[14] Hitler’s self-aggrandizement often meant that his decisions went unquestioned by his underlings because of his central position as leader. Right-wing movements must avoid leaders who believe in their own infallibility.

What the SA got right included their eventual termination of the KPD. Whether it was a false flag operation or a legitimate act of left-wing terrorism (most historians now say the latter), the Reichstag fire of February 27, 1933 gave Hitler and the Nazis all the ammunition that they needed to enact emergency decrees listed in the Weimar Constitution. The SA seized on these decrees in order to destroy the KPD—a move that gutted the power of German communism until Soviet arms reintroduced it in 1945 and pampered West German students stormed classrooms in the 1960s. In America, right-wing movements should study how the attacks on September 11, 2001 gave Washington, D.C. a reason to openly expand the reach of the security state with a popular mandate.

The SA established an esprit de corps that sought to change the world. It just so happened that their vision of the world was anti-Christian and went against the best traditions of the West. The SA was also incapable of cooperating with other paramilitary groups, even the Stahlhelm (which the SA briefly joined with before completely engulfing). Because the Stahlhelm represented the ethos of the old Wilhelmine period (the Kaiser, the Prussian junker class, and militarism), the more revolutionary SA saw fit to confiscate their weapons and force Stahlhelm members to join their organization. Also, by this point, the SA included some “beefsteaks” (former members of the KPD) who gleefully brutalized their former political opponents in the Stahlhelm.[15]

Applying the Lessons

In order to restore the West, the Right must form organizations for young men. These organizations should specifically recruit active and former military members, patriotic students, and workers of all stripes. They should be willing to cooperate with other like-minded organizations, as political purity dooms any movement. This hypothetical movement should only use violence defensively, but must be prepared to do so. Giving into the offensive violence of the SA would see the movement quickly suppressed by the Cathedral, as happened to the alt-right after Charlottesville. Most importantly, any right-wing movement in our world should be explicitly pro-Western and dedicated not to pursuing totalitarian and impossible visions of racial purity, but achieving an ordered and authoritative liberty deeply embedded in the traditions of Christendom. As previously noted by this author, any new right-wing organization should focus on trying today’s youth to be competent in the wild, self-reliant, and independent. This explicitly right-wing organization should not have any truck with communist thinking, and should cultivate men of both action and education.

A good place to start would be to form armed groups contracted by private citizens to guard private property along America’s southern border and in various places in southern Europe. Border protection is popular with American voters. In Europe, some independent border patrols have already been established in Bulgaria and Macedonia in order to curtail illegal migration. In protecting American and European property, these armed groups would earn the goodwill of citizens who live close to the unstable borders and show the moribund nature of the professional border enforcement agencies of current governments.

Other options include reintroducing outlawry and letters of marque. In towns and counties near porous borders, local officials could contract independent militias to either deport or apprehend illegal immigrants guilty of certain crimes. If these militias prove more swift and efficient than the Cathedral’s police forces, then many citizens will begin to look to the militias for justice. This would be a step in the right direction towards more decentralized power. A vanguard of right-wing individuals should be at the forefront of this decentralization platform.

Conclusion

The Right in the West must finally get serious about organization. The Left is far better organized, even despite their clear internal divisions between the far, Marxist left and the moderate, liberal left. Only the common sense of populist voters in rural and middle class Europe and America has kept the Left from completely dominating every aspect of power and culture.

In reviewing the history of the SA, today’s Right must recognize that this was the force that bested the Left on the streets and in politics, but ultimately made subsequent right-wing mass movements all but impossible. The SA are still a bogeyman haunting the minds of our current elite. We need to understand what they did right and what they did wrong in order to better our chances of victory in the present and the future. A new right-wing movement must adhere to the steadfast principles of Christ, ordered liberty, property, hierarchy, and authority. There should be no talk of socialism or messianic leadership. The Right should also learn the importance of keeping the street toughs and the intellectuals separate while instilling in both a core set of values about self-defense and enmity toward communism. Unlike the SA, the next great right-wing movement must not frighten the burghers into submission, but convince them that the values of the ancient West are superior to the unnatural delights of mass democracy.

References:

  1. Hoppe, Hans-Hermann (2001). Democracy–The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order. New Brunswick: Routledge. p. 218.
  2. Rothbard, Murray (2000). Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature And Other Essays, 2nd ed. Auburn: Ludwig von Mises Institute. p. 1.
  3. Hoppe, p. xiii
  4. Jones, Nigel (2012). A Brief History of the Birth of the Nazis. London: Hachette Book Group. p. xii.
  5. Ibid., p. xiii
  6. Ibid., p. 192
  7. Weber, Thomas (2017). Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 61.
  8. Ibid., p. 66.
  9. Ibid., p. 102.
  10. Ibid., p. 101.
  11. Siemens, Daniel (2017). Stormtroopers: A New History of Hitler’s Brownshirts. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 59.
  12. Ibid., p. 125.
  13. Weber, p. 190.
  14. Ibid., p. 300.
  15. Ibid., p. 158.

The Case Against Corporations

Libertarianism within a leviathan state functions not as a governing philosophy, but as a critique of excesses, i.e. the cases in which state power is used in an unusually pernicious manner. These efforts have had varying degrees of success, depending on how well libertarians can convince major party operatives and wealthy financiers of the wisdom of restraining the state on one issue or another. Unfortunately, mainstream libertarians seem to have a blind spot, if not an outright case of political autism, when it comes to corporate power. Free-market conservatives, reactionaries, and traditionalists also view corporations far too positively. Let us examine the history of corporations, construct a case against their existence and power, and offer solutions for reining them in.

History of Corporations

The word “corporation” comes from Latin corpus, meaning “body”. Originally, it was the gods of Uruk that fulfilled the function of imaginary entities that owned property and conducted commerce. Like modern corporations, Enki, Inanna, Lagash, Shurupak, and the other deities of ancient Mesopotamia outlived any human and were not troubled by inheritance disputes, but needed humans to conduct affairs on their behalf. The ancient Egyptians merged this concept with a physical embodiment to create the concept of Pharaoh.[1]

By the time of Justinian I (r. 527–565), Byzantine-Roman law recognized several types of corporate entities, such as collegium, corpus, and universitas. The state itself was considered a sovereign corporation, the Populus Romanus. Smaller municipalities were also categorized as such, along with occupational guilds, political groups, and religious cults. The privileges of these early corporations were granted by the emperor in their charters, such as owning property, making contracts, engaging in commerce, and pursuing legal action.[2] Local governments and religious institutions were also incorporated in medieval Europe for the same reasons. Other forms of organization such as partnerships were offered by common law, which arose whenever people acted together with an intent to profit.

The era of the modern corporation began in the 17th century with the chartered companies that led European colonial ventures in India, the Americas, and elsewhere. The Dutch East India Company (VOC, from Dutch Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) was chartered by the Dutch government in 1602 and sold shares to investors, who traded them on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. The charter granted limited liability to investors and allowed the company to use military force pursuant to its purposes, which it did by defeating Portuguese forces in the Maluku Islands.[3] The English government chartered corporations with a territorial monopoly. For example, Queen Elizabeth I chartered the East India Company of London in 1600 to monopolize trade with all countries east of the Cape of Good Hope.[4] Like the Dutch company, the English company would use force on the government’s behalf, becoming integrated with English and later British foreign policy. The English East India Company would become a symbol of both corporate success and exploitation.[5] Shareholders made almost 150 percent returns in 1711. Its first stock offering in 1713–1716 raised £418,000, and its second in 1717–1722 raised £1.6 million.[6]

However, the apparent success of a similar entity, the South Sea Company, turned out to be illusory. Established in 1711, its monopoly rights to trade with Spanish South America were supposedly backed by the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. In reality, the Spanish remained hostile, only allowing one trade ship per year. Investors made the South Sea Company immensely wealthy despite the fact that it did no real business. It took on the burden of British public debt in 1717, further accelerating the share price. War with Spain in 1718 cost the company its prospects of trade profits.[7] The Bubble Act 1720, which prohibited the establishment of companies without a Royal Charter, contributed to Britain’s first speculative bubble.[8] South Sea Company shares eventually collapsed from £1000 in August 1720 to under £150 in October, causing many bankruptcies.

Modern Developments

As the 18th century ended, mercantilism was displaced by capitalism and agrarian economies became industrialized. Corporate forms also evolved to be less dependent on state direction and permission. Many business ventures during this time were unincorporated associations with up to thousands of members. Litigation was thus very difficult to coordinate, keeping the courts from being clogged with corporate lawsuits. The Bubble Act was eventually repealed in 1825. In 1844, Parliament passed the Joint Stock Companies Act, which allowed companies to incorporate by registration for only £10 without obtaining a royal charter.[9] Until 1855, company members were still fully financially responsible for their collective actions, but the Limited Liability Act changed this by only holding investors responsible up to the amount of their investment[10], thus allowing the remainder to be externalized to the public.[11] Insurance companies were excluded from limited liability at first, but the Companies Act 1862 changed this.[12] The 1897 House of Lords decision in Salomon v. Salomon & Co. confirmed the separate legal personhood of corporations by affirming that creditors could not sue the shareholders of an insolvent company for outstanding corporate debt. In 1892, Germany introduced the Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung (GmbH), the forerunner of the modern limited-liability company (LLC). These were considered separate legal personalities with limited liability like corporations, but could be owned by a single person.[13]

In the United States, corporations were usually formed by acts of Congress until the late 19th century. The captains of industry therefore made more use of the trust model than the corporate model, under which Rockefeller’s Standard Oil and Carnegie Steel Company became enormously successful.[14,15] State governments had more permissive corporate laws than the federal government in the 19th century, but most were designed to prevent corporations from gaining much wealth or power.[16] In the 1890s, New Jersey and Delaware adopted enabling corporate statutes.[17,18] Around this time, mergers and holding companies led to larger corporations, and governments responded with anti-trust and anti-monopoly legislation. Forming corporations was also made easier in most jurisdictions, though some places had many state-owned corporations that effectively nationalized certain industries. In recent decades, many countries have moved toward privatizing state-owned corporations, though ownership was transferred to politically connected oligarchs in many cases.[19,20,21]

Inherent Problems

The history of the corporate form makes clear the intractable problems of such entities. Fittingly, their roots are in the realm of religion, where fictions that operate on the intersubjective level of human experience have traditionally resided. Formalism demands that official reality should reflect actual reality, which is the first argument against corporations. Physical existence requires a concrete particular form; corporations are defined as lacking this, instead being legal persons without individual humanity. Furthermore, an association of individuals who agree upon a group identity and common purpose may be formed and continued without being accorded special privileges by a state, and power should not do what it need not.

A new set of problems arises when the state takes on a corporate form. For a sovereign to incorporate is redundant, as it already has all of the privileges of a corporation by virtue of monopolizing the legitimate use of force within the territory it controls. For good or ill, it can use its power to declare itself immune from suit and limit its liabilities by debasing currency or declaring a sovereign default. Only a loss of sovereignty from losing a war or sufficiently damaging measures taken against its trade by other sovereigns could force a sovereign to pay its creditors. More generally, a sovereign entity can have no law at all enforced against it except by the previously mentioned means. This is because the very concept of international law is a contradiction of terms; a sovereign cannot be subject to a higher law by definition.

Additionally, for a ruler to invite others to share power in a joint venture is to create offices which will eventually be used for evil ends, regardless of any well-intentioned efforts to create checks and balances. Eventually, these powers will be used to usurp the rights of the ruler and redistribute them. The road from there to democracy and all of its ills is heavily worn and in no need of additional traffic. Once that occurs, politicians can demagogue against the very corporations that the state has empowered to convince voters to support regulations that will increase state power and control over the economy. It is better to nip this recipe for rebellion and totalitarianism in the bud.

There is also danger in any sovereign entity, from private property monarch to nation-state government, granting such privileges to business interests. Corporations become the most powerful and profitable business entities wherever they can be formed without the tight constraints of pre-modern times (and even under those constraints in many cases) because of their ability to capitalize gains and socialize losses. That is, their state-granted privileges allow them to protect their interests by means unavailable to purely private businesses and push the tab for their mistakes onto the rest of society. This has long been a problem with regard to environmental pollution. Recent examples of this that still cause lingering resentment are the various corporate bailouts following the 2008 financial crisis. These privileges and safety nets, combined with their abilities to bribe state officials to regulate smaller competitors out of existence with compliance costs and spend vast amounts of money on political campaigns[22], creates a feedback loop by which economic and political power is centralized into a quasi-fascist oligarchy.

This oligarchic power is weaponizable just like any other power. Once an industry is dominated by only a few large corporations because the state has altered the market to keep any other upstarts from having a chance to compete, it becomes possible to deny essential services to people who are considered undesirable by the elite, such as political dissidents or ethnic minorities. It is here that the political autism of mainstream libertarians manifests itself, as they will defend the rights of business owners to discriminate without regard for context. Corporations, acting at the state’s behest, can effectively force people to stop participating in socioeconomic life by reducing their options and then cutting off those options. Those who lose their stake in society are both at risk of being destroyed by it and incentivized to destroy it in order to create a new system that serves their needs, paving the way for both genocides and terrorist attacks.

Solving the Problem

Fortunately, there are several methods which may be used to confront the problem of corporatism. The initial step is to gain enough political power to turn against them the very legal systems that empower them. Once that is done, the process of eliminating the corporate form may begin.

First, the worst behaviors of overzealous corporate leaders must be curtailed. If a corporation is chartered or registered under the laws of a particular state and that state has a constitution demarcating the limits of its claimed powers, then no such corporation should exceed those limits, for no entity should delegate powers to others that it does not have itself. For example, an incorporated social media firm or payment processor in the United States should be prohibited from banning users who are not breaking laws because of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.[23] Only a purely private business should be able to discriminate in this fashion within territory governed by US law. Because taxpayers are forced to pay for the legal structures that corporations use, any funding grants or bailouts they receive, and any public works they perform, to let the taxpayers be denied service by these entities is doubly unjust. This method could be used against almost all corporations as of this writing, though corporations in countries with unwritten constitutions may be unaffected.

Second, the power to tax and regulate is the power to destroy. Libertarians and free-market conservatives tend to balk at the prospect of wielding this power, but so long as they are unwilling and unable to mount an effective challenge to it, it will exist and be wielded by someone. Progressives have no scruples about using state power to perform social engineering, and the presence of such scruples among their opponents explains much of the current imbalance of political terror. If the goal is to eliminate the corporation and the concept of limited liability, then the taxes and regulations on such companies could be made so onerous as to give them no choice but to adopt another business model. Of course, an adjustment period of perhaps two years would be necessary to avoid unnecessary economic disruption, and carrots for adjusting to a type of unincorporated unlimited liability company with haste could be employed alongside the aforementioned sticks. Once all companies have either transitioned to a new model or failed because they cannot survive under free-market conditions, the doorway back to corporatism can be sealed.

Third, it is necessary to break up the largest and most powerful states. Corporate power is ultimately derived from state power, and a large tree cannot be supported without large roots. In a world of thousands of smaller polities, no governance structure would be powerful enough to grant the dangerous advantages that corporations currently enjoy. Whether by amicable separation, cryptographic disempowerment of states, secessionist movements, or civil wars, the scale of governance must be reduced as much as possible in as many places as possible so as to limit the potential power of whatever corporations survive the purge.

While the plan of using state power against corporations followed by a localization of state power is being carried out, there is an important role to be played by private actors. Technological innovations, such as cryptocurrencies, enable new forms of business organization. These forms should be innovated and developed in order to create more alternatives that can help businesses transition to a model which does not depend on the state. Smart contracts built into blockchains can offer most of the legitimate advantages of incorporation without the illegitimate advantages or negative externalities. Moreover, purely private businesses can be built for the primary purpose of competing with establishment-favored corporations.

Rebutting Objections

One may anticipate several objections worthy of consideration. First, there is the sheer difficulty of the task at hand. Corporations wield immense power, and will exercise that power to defend their privileges. It is true that eliminating corporations will be a daunting task, but that which is created and perpetuated by humans can cease being created and perpetuated; it is only a matter of who has the will to do what is necessary to win. In fact, there was a time when people faced great challenges precisely because they were difficult for the sense of accomplishment and pride in achieving real progress. Doing battle against such a formidable foe may be just the sort of challenge that people need to give their lives meaning and purpose.

Traditionalists are most likely to object that corporations have existed in one form or another for millennia, and are thus a natural outgrowth of governance structures. This is both an appeal to tradition and an appeal to nature. Traditions can emerge in one set of circumstances as a collection of best practices, but be counterproductive in a different cultural milieu. It is also possible for traditions to form not as best practices, but as practices which are just functional enough to avoid being abandoned or as practices which keep a particular group of people in power, regardless of merit. That corporatism seems to naturally emerge from statism and become worse as democracy spreads is not a defense of corporatism, but an indictment of statism and democracy.

Another reactionary objection is that corporations can increase the effectiveness of governance by coupling the efficiency of markets with the functions of government. If governments ruled justly, this objection could be valid, except for the potential pitfalls already discussed. Unfortunately, this is frequently not the case, meaning that entrusting state functions to private actors results in the worst of both worlds: criminality under color of law carried out in service of profit above all else.

Critics from across the political spectrum will likely point out the role of limited liability in encouraging risky but beneficial ventures by protecting investors from losses beyond a certain point. In more modern terms, the absence of corporate privileges can lead to missing markets because of coordination failures that would occur without government intervention. This objection commits the broken window fallacy twice. First, it ignores the coordination failures that corporatism causes by creating negative externalities, thus resulting in missing markets in pollution mitigation. Second, it overlooks the economic activity that could have occurred had chartered and registered corporations not attracted investment capital to them and away from purely private companies. It also fails to interpret missing markets as a market signal that a certain market should not exist. Additionally, reactionaries should understand the shortcomings of basing economic considerations on utility alone, working instead with the principle of sacrifices producing greatness.

From a laissez-faire perspective, the economic growth that followed easing of restrictions on corporations and greater privileges granted to them may seem to prove the case in their favor. This is a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy; the fact that an enormous increase in prosperity occurred after limited liability became common and the creation of corporations changed from charter to registration does not mean that the latter caused the former. It is impossible to determine how much of modern prosperity has occurred because of corporations, in spite of them, or because of other factors, such as the exponential growth of knowledge and technology.[24] Of course, any other factors are inextricably linked to corporations. What can be said for certain is that economic growth is not the be all, end all that some capitalists make it out to be. For what shall it profit a people to be physically enriched but morally and spiritually impoverished?

Finally, libertarians will object that state power in general and taxation in particular are morally criminal and should not be used in pursuit of any socioeconomic goal. The political autism of this approach has already been addressed, so let us focus on the particular policies being advocated. The policy of taxing and regulating corporations out of existence is not designed to collect taxes. The idea is to require businesses to avoid the tax by changing their form. If this succeeds, then the economy has been engineered in the direction of liberty. If this fails because businesses opt to suffer through exorbitant taxation and regulation rather than reform, then this gives and advantage to purely private businesses while engineering society against obstinate stupidity. The idea of localizing state power by whatever means are necessary will meet opposition from libertarians who misunderstand the non-aggression principle, but this is resolved by articulating a correct understanding of libertarian philosophy.

Conclusion

The ancient root of corporations is in myths about deities which exist nowhere except in the minds of believers. The current form of corporations empowered by nation-states is only possible due to the monopoly of the state, which is based on aggressive violence rather than any legitimate property claim. While the pre-modern chartered companies were created by more legitimate powers, especially in pre-democratic times, they are still legal fictions that a rational philosophy should oppose. Corporations are therefore incompatible with libertarianism and should be replaced by other forms of business organization, such as common-law partnerships and cooperatives. Recent technological advances offer novel means of aiding this replacement, but turning state power against the corporate power it has created will almost certainly be necessary. Though there will be many objections to such a radical approach, none of them withstand proper scrutiny. Everything that corporations have done that should be done can be performed by purely private companies without the drawbacks of greater statism.

References:

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