Awakening in a modern time is like suddenly sobering up and finding that you are in command of an aircraft or speeding yacht. You have to make decisions quickly, learn on the job, and realize that all your previous assumptions are not just wrong but suicidal.
Leftism teaches us to see the world in a simplistic manner where there needs to be one “big idea” which applies in all areas, and that a collective group of citizens and the State is needed to apply this idea firmly in a single step, transforming an unruly and naturalistic humanity into enlightened citizens in an orderly, managerial society.
These “one big idea” style approaches require teaching a binary morality as a control method. Normal morality is designed to avoid bad results; you have moral feelings for others so that you do not act in a way that injures them. Leftist morality is designed to engineer your future behavior by regulating what methods you use, for example the words you can say, the types of decisions you can make regarding who you include or exclude in your social group, the way you share what you have, and of course, whether the background goal of all that you do is equality or not.
In this way, Leftism is like a cult, and most attempts to break away from Leftism have also been cult-like because they follow the Leftist model. National Socialism and Fascism, for example, tried to escape the modern State… by creating an even more domineering administrative state. They took the pattern of Communism and tried to make a Right-wing version, which shattered any Right-leaning ideas like social order, organicism, gradualism, localism, and most of all, the variety between peoples.
In the same way, Libertarians and neoconservatives have attempted to create alternatives to Leftism based on Leftist ideas. Libertarianism wants equality created by removing the State and letting markets decide, which converts life into the pursuit of what is profitable entirely, just like modern societies are utilitarian and therefore pursue what is popular in three arenas: socially through opinions, politically through votes, and economically through consumer purchases. Neoconservatism parses conservatism as classical liberalism and then adapts this to a Leftist-style agenda of social engineering, including globalism or the forced adoption of liberal democracy and free markets worldwide.
Back when I started writing, the first twitches of the Libertarian revolution were manifesting themselves because people were seeing the dual barrels of over-regulation forming a dystopian corporate existence and the emergence of government as an industry. With the rise of administrative agencies, regulation on American business had become massively oppressive, including its twin stars Civil Rights (affirmative action) and protection of unions. This raised costs and increased the number of bureaucratic jobs, converting the modern office from a functional place into one where following procedure and routine was more important than anything else, a lot like your average day in public education. People rightfully wanted to flee from this heavily bureaucratic, managerial, and administrative vision of our future and instead pursue simpler transactions without government sticking its nose into every area of life, adding red tape and threatening to haul us off and confiscate our stuff for forgetting a single triplicate form.
However, it quickly became clear to me that Libertarians were looking for a “one big idea” ideology like Leftism, and would fail for the same reason. Life does not reward “one big idea”; like nature, it rewards complex structures where different parts hold each other in balance, sort of like how the Old Right believed we needed a nation based in the family, culture, heritage, faith, aristocracy, a caste system, and classical education. These are less like toolsets than ecosystems, where each part supports the others and is challenged by them, so that nothing takes over and creates the “one big idea” mindset that people then follow like zombies. Unfortunately, when we are looking for something to break people out of Leftism, the tendency is to create another one big idea — race, corporations, free markets, community — so that Leftists can simply swap one for the other. However, since those ideas are similar in composition, they will tend to polarize, meaning that they put all of their focus on one idea or the other, but if any part of it fails, immediately flip back to its opposite, sort of like how a spurned consumer will go to the store across the street owned by a competitor but easily be lured back by a sale.
Even more, Libertarianism did not address many of the important institutions and functions of society that, although we could explain how the free market might produce them, were better explained as productions of culture or of a few highly intelligent individuals who had access to nearly unlimited amounts of money. The monuments built across Europe, or the science and arts funded by patrons, reflected the power of aristocracy, which to my mind seems like a sane acceptance of two facts. First, that humans vary in ability, and relatively few are truly competent and good; second, that no matter what system we use, we only thrive when we have the competent and good in positions of authority. To biological realists like myself, placing people of competence and goodness in positions of authority at every level from managing donut shops to running the nation is Job Number One. Without doing that, we get nowhere no matter how many rules we write, dissidents we shoot, or even financial incentives we offer.
A key part of this understanding involves the awareness that people cannot understand that which is above their intelligence level. When out of their depth, people reject good solutions as nonsensical because they do not understand them, and when what they chose instead fails, have no idea why it did not produce the results they desired. They simply lack the mental circuits, which is a biological and genetic fact and not one that they can alter with “free will,” to understand what is above their ability. If an idea requires a genius to understand, it will be gibberish and moonman-talk to everyone else; since competence and goodness are rare, those who should be in power will be enigmas to almost everyone else that they meet. This means that we have to protect the competent and good by building a society around their elevation to positions of power and training for the responsibilities they will inherit.
Free markets do many things well, but they emphasize minimums like sales targets more than the type of nuanced understanding that the competent and good would implement on their own. Conservatives endorse capitalism because it is a natural outgrowth of independent production, not because we think it should replace social order; we see social conservatism, hierarchy, culture, and other organic factors of the civilization ecosystem as necessary balances to raw capitalism, and we reject socialism simply because it is dysfunctional. Socialism rewards non-performance and redirects society to become a subsidy state, at which point competence is fully punished and, predictably, a simultaneous collapse of quality, efficiency, and productivity dooms the society which was foolish enough to adopt socialism.
In this way, we can see why libertarianism itself is not a solution to the question of civilization. It is like a Leftist interpretation of markets as an ideology, or goal in and of themselves, as opposed to a method toward an end, which for conservatives is a healthy civilization and existentially thriving individuals. It lacks the other methods of civilization which are necessary, despite being correct in its fundamental assumption that free markets are more effective and less restricting than the bureaucratic administrative-managerial state. This then directs us to the eternal libertarian attempt to provide a working model of civilization, patchwork or panarchy.
First, a look at panarchy:
According to de Puydt, many governments freely chosen by the individuals can co-exist side by side in the same territory and supply more efficiently and cheaply all those services that are now provided (very often ineffectively and costly) by a monopolistic territorial state. In this conception of Panarchy, the termination of every political monopoly and the personal freedom to choose between competing governments would then constitute decisive, if not indispensable, factors for obtaining better and more cost-effective social services.
…John Zube defines Panarchy as
The realization of as many different and autonomous communities as are wanted by volunteers for themselves, all non-territorially coexisting, side by side and intermingled, as their members are, in the same territory or even world-wide and yet separated from each other by personal laws, administrations and jurisdiction, as different churches are or ought to be.
Americans will recognize panarchy as a vestige of the idea that existed before the Constitution: States’ Rights, or the notion that a federal identity would provide defense, and the individual states would be “laboratories of democracy” with a high degree of internal autonomy. In theory, America could have been states that did not even share a political system, with fascist and communist states next to monarchies. However, this idea fell apart because these states were not working together enough on matters of shared importance like upholding a professional military and cooperating on economic interests, so the States’ Rights idea in the United States was downgraded to being mostly about social issues. That went out the window when the Americans switched from natural rights to Civil Rights sometime in the 1870s and later in the 1930s and 1960s, aiming for government-engineered equality instead of the equality of birth alone which the founders idealized.
Then let us consider patchwork:
The peaceful, reactionary world of Patchwork is a world populated entirely by rational absolute sovereigns: states which are managed competently and coherently for financial benefit alone.
…Within Patchwork, peace, security and order are most definitely the same thing. Of course, a realm is designed to maintain absolute or near-absolute levels of internal security and order. Society within a Patchwork realm has none of the running sores of the democratic era: there are no slums or dirty streets, no gangs, and no politics. Japan or Singapore would be the closest analogies today, though both of course are quite imperfect.
…Patchwork has no central authority or community of realms. It has conventions, such as rules protecting shared resources (the atmosphere, the oceans and the fish in them, orbital space, etc.) from any abuse that would be collectively uneconomic. Sometimes people need to get together and update these rules, as with any system of rules, but they are only occasional delegates and do not constitute any sort of permanent organization.
Patchwork, then, is panarchy plus acceptance of strong power plus World Federalism, that favorite of 1950s liberals which produced a great deal of faith in the United Nations.
By the way, here is where that author loses the narrative, in my view:
Kant reasons: people are generally reasonable. As they are—except when unreasonable. If you entrust them with the power of government, you create an easy exploitation target for an oligarchy that controls the State by directing the opinions of the people.
This plays into the Leftist narrative of the virtuous People exploited by government, when in fact the people are self-exploiting because of the bell curve and the lack of accountability in democracy; people vote for what they want, instead of what civilization needs, and so they tear it apart into many special interests while making truly terrible decisions because their votes are contingent upon what they think others will vote for. Even more, people are mostly unreasonable in the sense of “unrealistic,” and very few possess the capacity for making leadership decisions, with the vast majority rejecting mental self-discipline and instead pursuing desires, emotions, and wishful thinking like a drunk man chasing the moon right over a cliff.
Plato understood democracy better than that author; he knew that democracy gave license to the most venal instincts of humanity by legitimizing herd behavior, which was in fact disguised individualism, and this in turn created a system that made people solipsistic and through that, neurotic and effete. Only with W.S. Burroughs did we have another thinker on this topic who pointed out that the basis of human failure is control, a type of individualism which has people desire to limit the methods of others in order to enforce a vision of reality that makes the individual feel powerful, and that in societies this becomes bureaucracy and democracy.
To summarize, people are not good; as with Adam and Eve, they seek power over realism, and in groups, they opt to kill the messenger (Socrates, Jesus) instead of discover whether or not he was right. Once they form a self-referential circular echo chamber, or hive mind, they race further away from reality toward illusions that make them feel good about themselves, and they go right over that cliff, just like the USSR or NSDAP or even contemporary liberal democracy, although the second shoe has not yet fully dropped on that one.
Back to patchwork, we can see that people like it because it removes democracy from the equation. Instead of leaders placed in power by the votes of citizens for certain policies, leaders maintain strong power in corporation-societies where the bottom line is the services they provide. That type of outlook might work for market communities such as Singapore, but ignores what makes Japan work, which is strong cultural unity that creates an orderly society that can accept this type of leadership without demanding a “bottom line” based on market competition. Patchwork uses the libertarian idea of society as a market, and construes citizens as customers who purchase citizenship based on the cost of the stability offered them, but it ignores the most fundamental human need, which is to participate in something meaningful.
To understand that, we must look to Francis Fukuyama and his restored Platonic idea of thymos, which refers to the need for meaning in the human life as part of our identity as individuals in a market of another kind, namely the exchange of our irreplaceable time for participation in voluntary and affirmative productivity:
Thymos is a Greek word usually translated into English as “spiritedness,” which Socrates discusses in Book IV of the Republic. It is the part of the human personality that demands recognition of one’s inner dignity, and the seat of the emotions of pride, anger, and of shame. Thymos, I argued (following G. W. F. Hegel) has been the primary driver of the entire human historical process.
In my 1992 book I distinguished between two manifestations of thymos which I labeled isothymia and megalothymia. The former is the desire to be recognized as the equal of other people, and is the emotion underlying much of modern identity politics. Identity politics began to take off in the 1960s following the major social movements that emerged then, built around the marginalization of different groups in society: racial minorities, women, gays and lesbians, the disabled, and so on. Their central demand was equal recognition of their dignity, together with a substantive redress of their social condition.
I stated in The End of History and the Last Man that neither nationalism nor religion were about to disappear as powerful forces in the modern world. As I explain in my new book, both can be seen as thymotic demands for recognition. The stability of modern liberal democracy is threatened by the fact that it does not fully solve the problem of thymos. Modern liberal democracy promised universal and recognition of the dignity of its citizens, but frequently failed to deliver on these promises. Moreover, not everyone is satisfied with universal recognition: People want recognition of their particular identities and the groups to which they feel bound, particularly if they have suffered a history of marginalization.
Civilizations did not arise from markets, but invented markets as a means to the end of sustaining civilization. Think perhaps of the conservative approach, which instead of one big idea is a handful of ideas designed to balance one another; culture reckons with markets, aristocracy restricts cultural excesses, religion guides aristocracy, heritage shapes culture, culture drives markets. If you can imagine a four-dimensional ring, where each of these nodal points connects to all others, you can see how this works; they form an architectonic structure, or one in which each point supports all others and also resists them from becoming too powerful. The American Constitution was a simplified adaptation of this idea.
Thymos addresses the primary concern of the individual, which is “what is the good life?” as Plato points out. Each person wants to live the best possible existence, and many of them suspect that individualism — “me first” at the expense of any order larger than that of the individual — is not a complete answer. It may be a better answer than being a doormat, but if an even better answer exists, then it is irrelevant. The existential health mentioned above, which seems to be a significant concern of conservatives, addresses thymos; people want to know that they are spending their lives well, meaning trading their irreplaceable time for something of significance, sometimes called meaning. Following Michel Houellebecq, I posit that one of the primary drivers if not the primary driver of human behavior is loneliness, or the feeling of isolation in what one perceives which leads to a desire to find others who have seen the same thing. This is not merely confirming a vision, but sharing a fear and thus the flip side of fear and hatred, a hope for what might be, whether that is physical, intellectual, or even metaphysical.
Patchwork and panarchy sound like American consumerism taken to their horrible conclusion: life is a shopping mall, and you choose which store offers you the best value, while being watched over by a security force of nanny bureaucrats who both protect you from the angry underclass criminals and socially engineer your behavior so that you do not pollute or drink too much, making sure you chew each bite thirty-two times and brush your teeth for two minutes after eating your five portions of fruit and veg each day. Your life in this shopping mall possesses none of the implements of thymos such as culture, social rank, moral approval, honor, pride, integrity, and accumulation of wisdom. You are simply another worker, just as in the Leftist system, but now you have the illusion of “freedom” that is achieved by stripping away everything that makes life significant so that you have lots of options when shopping for which government-product you desire.
In other words, patchwork and panarchy are simply Leftism re-stated in a new form. The individual chooses in a market, but civilization itself is removed because individualism cannot accept it, and is replaced with a utilitarian bureaucratic system that eradicates all of the organic and existentially significant parts of life. Communism and consumerism, two sides of the same coin, produce their own versions of the shopping mall, and the libertarians end up being a variety of consumerism.
Further, these societies rely on laws, not individuals. Individualism eclipses individuality, ironically, by making the individual a means to the end of himself, which loses what makes him individual, which is actually where he sacrifices the order of himself so that he can achieve an order larger than the self, even if that is only unity with nature, culture, and possibly the metaphysical.
Laws are only as good as their interpretation, and their interpretation is a product of the degree of intelligence and goodness of the interpreter. Without the right people in charge, over time lesser people will erode every law back to what the human herd always desires, which is individualism subsidized by the group (sometimes called collectivism by crypto-Leftists trying to hide its origins in individualism). No matter how cleverly-worded, laws break down over time as human wishful thinking takes over; the demise of the American Constitution and its conversion into a pro-socialist Civil Rights documents by the courts and voters shows us the failure of laws.
Competition in free markets, also, proves to be only as good as the purchasers. If people begin to prefer inferior products in large enough numbers, and history shows us that they are easily swayed by low-cost low-quality disposable products as well as novelty products, then the markets will become implements of utilitarianism and also race to the lowest common denominator.
Any society like a panarchy or patchwork will cause a convergence on lowest common denominator government because people tend to ignore long-term questions in favor of short-term benefits in hand. In the ideal scenario, one corporation-government will cater to the ten percent of any society who understand the necessity of long-term planning, and eventually become successful. At this point, we have an American Civil War strategy, where much as the North went to war over its demands for tariffs on the Southern economy, the other corporation-governments will seek to assimilate and destroy their competition. Any group that rises above will be pulled down to the lowest common denominator.
As conservatism emerges from its Buckleyite coma, many are rejecting the notion of Libertarian solutions while hanging on to the value of capitalism, rejecting the neoconservative notion that a welfare state can coexist with conservative values. At this point, it makes sense to take stock of some truths of history.
(Libertarianism has utility, but only temporary. As Fred Nietzsche told us, “Where there is still a people, there the state is not understood, but hated as the evil eye, and as sin against laws and customs.” Plato showed us how once monarchy and military rule are discarded, a republic is created and eventually passes through democracy into tyranny which suspiciously resembles modern Communism. The State rewards the worst and punishes the best, and we can undo the state by applying Libertarianism as a temporary method, namely removing the ideological basis of the State and making it into an economic force instead, before eventually fully removing it because it is an unstable and destructive form of leadership.)
From panarchy we can derive the idea that civilizations are competing with one another based on a number of factors including the “System” which they choose. Those which choose more effective systems, and have more effective people of competence and goodness, will rise above others, and then be attacked by them, much as happened with the Mongol wars and is currently happening with Chinese-Russian aggression against the West.
From patchwork we can abstract the notion that ultimately, strong power is necessary for us to see the goodness in government. A government based on shifting policy evades accountability and even identification, since at that point people are merely supporting the System and not any particular direction. This pluralism causes an “agreement not to agree” which makes coherent policy and long-term planning impossible.
With this in mind, we can break away from the notions of the Leftist cult. There can be no bottom-up strategy in which humans magically assemble themselves into a working society because of laws; they can only do this, as in nature, by responding to environmental influences, and this occurs on an individual level, like the sorting necessary for hierarchy. We cannot have an individualist society; we can only exist where we have shared focus as our means of adaptation to our environment.
Like other cults, the Libertarian and panarchist dream appeals to our emotions, but it is not real. We all want a solution where we each do our own thing, invest little time in civilization, and can pursue our own desires. That however leads to dissolution, so we must cure ourselves of this illusion.