Is Bigger Better?Nicholas R. Jeelvy
I am, at the Federal level, libertarian;
at the state level, Republican;
at the local level, Democrat;
and at the family and friends level, a socialist.
If that saying doesn’t convince you of the fatuousness of left vs. right labels, nothing will.
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin in the Game
One of the most inane dilemmas of mainstream political discourse is the question about the size and power of the government. More often than not, conservatives and libertarians who try to get a grasp of where I stand politically will ask me whether the government should do this or that, or how big it should be, or whether it should have the right to do whatever.
Lately, I answer their questions with a question of my own: Which government? It stops them short. They’re used to thinking of “the government,” not of “a government,” even though nobody alive or dead has interacted with “the government”, always with “a government.” My usual rhetorical follow-through is that current governments, for the most part, should not even exist, whereas a hypothetical monarchy with myself as King should be omnipotent. It’s crude, but it helps recenter their worldview on what really matters: who, not what or how.
However, since we inevitably have these discussions on the Dissident Right as well, even though we are centered on the who rather than the how, it might be a good idea to devote some time to exploring how big the government should be — maybe even to have a second recentering of the discussion frame. As usual, the answer lies in history.
Thanks in no small part to Hans Hermann Hoppe’s Democracy: The God That Failed, the idea of the medieval king’s lack of power relative to today’s government has reentered the discourse. Libertarians will point out that in the past, people were freer than before; that the King had to gather investment and men for offensive wars on his own private time and dime, much like an entrepreneur rising capital for a business venture; that he did not interfere in the lives of his peasants; and that he certainly did not take their children away from them and place them in indoctrination camps (sometimes known as schools), nor did he engage in wealth transfers to parasitic client populations.
In fact, the King’s duties and powers were relegated to being supreme commander of the military, chief diplomat of the state, chief law enforcement officer, and supreme judge of the land. He didn’t even have legislative power beyond the power to interpret and apply existing law (as supreme judge). This has led people to believe that life in medieval times was basically ancapistan plus the King.
However, the fact of the matter is that the King was not the only part of the government. Sure, he was the guy in charge, but medieval society had many layers of government; many dukes, counts, and barons, and each lord, petty or small, was supreme master in his own demesne: the head of law enforcement, the military, and the highest judge — basically a king in miniature. Furthermore, each city and town had a local government headed by a lord mayor which busied itself with the day-to-day maintenance and administration of the city and its common areas, the city watch, and any other infrastructure. City government was augmented by guilds, which functioned by royal charter and had a de facto monopoly on a certain trade, so that trade was regulated through the guild in exchange for the right to extract monopoly profits. Each village had a local government, which was organized along familial/tribal lines for the most part and headed by elders.
A final layer of government was the Church, which had vast holdings all over medieval Europe, both in the West and the East. Bishoprics and monasterial estates functioned similarly to lordly demesnes, with the bishop or the abbot of the monastery performing many of the functions of the Lord and functioning like a feudal land-holder in many instances. The Church had its own canon laws and ecclesiastical courts which were separate from the King’s laws in the West, or integrated into Imperial law in Byzantium and Russia.
Between themselves, these many layers of government built and maintained roads and infrastructure; provided defense and law enforcement; provided for the sick, the old, and infirm; provided for the poor, both in material and spiritual help; educated children; regulated commerce; levied taxes; planned economic and cultural life; financed arts and sciences; built cathedrals and castles; and founded cities and made possible all which we call civilized life. But the King’s government did little outside the military, police, diplomatic, and judicial areas. The monarch was a true minarch, even though he did not preside over a minarchy.
The great question of what the government should or shouldn’t do is predicated on the notion of “the government.” We think of “the government” because we live in the modern age. In the Age of Enlightenment, monarchs started centralizing government, mostly because they were jealous of the power held by feudal lords and the Church, but in the process, city and village self-government also suffered. In order to centralize government, kings instituted the centralized bureaucracy which gradually took over the powers and prerogatives of the feudal lords, the Church, and the local self-government. They gradually took over the governing and administration of the entire state, and soon, the kings found themselves superfluous in the system. The bureaucracy could function perfectly well without them, and so they went away — in France by guillotine, in England by defanging.
The calls for the abolishing of privilege and the cries for equality were merely signs of a system trimming the fat, retiring institutions which no longer served a purpose. If the bureaucracy can defend the land, enforce the law, conduct diplomacy, build roads and bridges, shelter the poor, regulate commerce and trade, heal the sick, and even provide moral guidance, then why do we need kings, lords, churches, or even guilds? The states which resulted from these liberal-bureaucratic revolutions were almost totalitarian — the totality of governance from the previous era was concentrated in a single entity: The Government.
It may appear we’ve come full circle, that my question about “which government” is mere pedantry and rhetoric. Here is someone having a serious discussion about the size of government, and then I try to show what a clever boy I am by demonstrating that ekshully, historically, what we call the government wasn’t the government (or something like that). Honestly, I’d punch myself in the face if it were so — but it ain’t so. The existence of multi-layered, multi-modal government in the medieval period tells us something about human nature and the nature of government, which is something that is still with us and still pertinent.
The institutions of the feudal lords, of Church authority and estates, of city and village self-government, and of guilds arose because a need for them existed in human society. The basic social unit may be the family, but the basic biological unit of man is the community, by which we mean the village, a Dunbar number-compliant human social agglomeration. Villages may further be agglomerated into counties, or if very close together conurbated into a city, but because this is the level at which humans interact and exist, this is the level at which they must be governed. A city government is a government of conurbated villages (neighborhoods), each of which should have a layer of government for itself so that it may provide local solutions to local problems, and local government is an organ of the community itself, as the brain is an organ of the body.
The problem of centralized bureaucratic government is that it is blind to local problems at best, trying to solve them with one-size-fits-all solutions at worst. When people complain about “muh big gubment,” unless they’re repeating Koch brothers talking points, they’re usually complaining about the various stupidities that centralized government bureaucracies impose on communities they do not understand. The bureaucracy, for example, will impose Critical Race Theory top-down on schools because it has discovered, through a very intellectual and difficult process which has no connection to reality, that white people created a white society, and that this constitutes racism against non-whites for which all white people must be made to pay and hate their own whiteness (which is a social construct made specifically for the purpose of justifying slavery and exploitation), regardless of the actual educational needs of the community. Critical Race Theory, for one, would be impossible to implement and promulgate if education were handled at the local level.
What we’re left with are unsolved and wrongly-solved problems, because they can only have local solutions, and modernity’s local government is defanged and quivering before the central bureaucracy. However, devolution to local government is more or less impossible, because the central bureaucracy holds all the power and will not relinquish it – otherwise, it may fall victim to foreign bureaucracies, which remain centralized. The result is a sort of hollowing-out of society with the power to solve problems accumulating at the absolute top, and the unsolved or wrongly-solved problems gathering at all levels and sucking the vitality out of civilization. It’s how you get a country with ten Nimitz-class nuclear supercarriers, but where you can’t get a train from Dallas to El Paso.
Does this answer the question of whether “the government” should do this or that? No, and that question doesn’t really deserve an answer, because it is nonsensical. During my time as an attorney, people would often barge into my office and start rambling about what they wanted me to do. It could take up to fifteen minutes before they stopped rambling about the great and detailed plan they had for their legal proceedings. One has to wonder why would they come to an attorney if they already had a plan, but experience has taught me not to begrudge them this. People will often try to implement a solution without regard for the problem. So I’d let them ramble on until they felt they had unburdened themselves, and would then ask them what problem they were trying to solve. Once I knew the problem, I’d offer them the appropriate solution, but as they were uneducated in law, they could not even frame their problem properly — hence the need for a recentering of the frame.
The question isn’t whether the government should or shouldn’t, but whether it is or isn’t — whether it consists of those who are willing and able to solve our problems rather than hunt down abstractions such as “whiteness” or build a global empire based on sexual transgression. We have a way of creating a government capable of solving problems, and that is by having governors with skin in the game — who are themselves beset by the problems they are trying to solve. As the government scales up to the county, regional, or state levels, the government entity’s breadth (though not depth) of power will naturally decrease, as defense and law enforcement problems always present problems of greater scale than local sanitation or infrastructure.
Most of what the local government will do from day to day is the stuff that is decried as socialism (pronounced soshulism) by the liberal Right. Socialism’s biggest problem — the thing that kills it whenever it is tried in modernity — is the free-rider problem. By governance at the local level, the free-rider problem is eliminated. It’s easy to free-ride off of foreigners or people you never meet. It’s much harder to do that if everyone you know hates you for not pulling your weight. Naturally, the polity would have to be ethnically homogeneous, such that taking one for the team and not free-riding would make biological sense.
I’d add to the sentiment expressed in the opening quote that aside from all those things, I am an anarchist at the global level, meaning that I believe there should be no global government or governance: There is no category of problem which can be effectively solved at the global level, unless we are invaded by space aliens or threatened by a planet-killer asteroid. But even then, the degree of international cooperation displayed by historic kingdoms would be quite essential to defeat such threats. When medieval Europe was menaced by the might of the Caliphate, the kingdoms put their differences temporarily aside in order to unite under the banner of Christ and break the back of Muslim power in the Mediterranean. Christendom under the spiritual leadership of the Pope was an example of internationalism done right: a specific solution to a specific problem which took advantage of existing commonalities between the European Catholic kingdoms.
Whites today face similar problems as we did in the Middle Ages. This doesn’t necessitate the construction of a racial imperium, but merely an alliance which would beat back our racial enemies. Our racial commonality, which creates a temperamental and spiritual communality, lends itself well to white cooperation in the face of anti-white adversity. And before you ask, yes, the government should protect the racial interests of whites — with all means available, at all levels, the government should be pro-white.
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‘The question isn’t whether the government should or shouldn’t, but whether it is or isn’t….’
I’m not sure where you thought you were going with this because it seems we cannot effectively answer any question about governance without taking into account both ‘should’ questions and ‘is’ questions and also ‘can’ questions.
Can local government do X?
Is local government doing X?
Should local government do X?
There is also the very real issue of how the wishes of the people are communicated to ‘government’ and, as you put it, whether the governors are accountable for what they do or do not do in the name of the people.
The old ‘machine’ politics of Boston and Chicago was corrupt, but it actually well-designed to be responsive to constituents who voted the right way. Take out the partisan political aspects of the Chicago Machine and you have something that looks an awful lot like a great chain of political being that starts with the citizen talking to their ward captain about potholes and ends in the potholes being filled in a timely manner by over-paid ward-heelers.
Not ideal, but at least the pot-holes got filled in a timely manner.
An excellent piece with an excellent point that channels Bowden in its execution, well done.
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