The text we will be discussing is Chapter 10 (Why the Worst Get on Top) of F. A. Hayek's widely read The Road to Serfdom. You should be able to find a copy online.i
From home we bring the concept of Monarchy, which is that form of politicalii organisation of a groupiii where the sovereignityiv of the entire group is vested in the person of one member of that group. The only practical alternative ever seen, and the only theoretically possible alternative for that matter, is not having the sovereignity of the group invested at all.
That's it - much like the male human over the age of thirty could either be a man or not be a man. He may call the state of not being a man "being a metrosexual" or "being a hipster" or "being a CEO" or anything the hell, but in the end it makes little difference - about as little as calling the bums "homeless" or "habitationally challenged" or "inequitably housed" or whatever you may come up with. Either they're bums or they aren't, either he's a man or he's not, either sovereignity is vested in a person or it's not vested at all.
The various political forms of organisation that fail to be a Monarchy find themselves in the practical world roughly in the situation of the various flying machines that couldn't fly pre 1900, or of the various perpetuum mobile machines that aren't actually perpetually mobile today : unable to actually distinguish themselves from their alleged peers substantially, they proceed to distinguish themselves through generous application of colorful paint, generally understood as "branding".
So in this vein, bureaucracy (often spelled by older authors "democracy") tends to represent the unvested sovereignity as having in fact been vested in some sort of positivist abstract value, such as "the well being"v of the group. Meanwhile collectivism (often referred to as "socialism", "communism", but confusingly also "democracy" though usually with a helpful "people's" nearby) tends to represent the unvested sovereignity as having in fact been vested in some sort of moral abstraction.vi Needless to say, none of this gargle can ever work - the young woman in question (virgin or more likely not) could never be impregnated either by some sort of "Holy Ghost" or by some more positive if pedestrian representation thereof as "the Father". Strictly, strictly a man put the bun in her oven if anyone did at all, and equally strictly a man will be the sovereign if anyone (or anything) will be the sovereign at all.
Thus armed, we're well ready to proceed into the text. Here goes :
We must now examine a belief from which many who regard the advent of totalitarianism as inevitable derive consolation and which seriously weakens the resistance of many others who would oppose it with all their might if they fully apprehended its nature.
It is the belief that the most repellent features of totalitarian regimes are due to the historical "accident" that they were established by groups of black-guards and thugs.
Surely, it is argued, if in Germany the creation of a totalitarian regime brought the Streichers and Killingers, the Leys and Heines, the Himmlers and Heydrichs to power, this may prove the vicious nature of the German character but not that the rise of such evil is the necessary consequence of a totalitarian system.
Why should it not be possible that the same sort of system, it if be necessary to achieve important social ends, be run by decent people for the collective good of the community?
This entirely misses the only important point to make about any group, which is to say that no group is ever homogenous. This may seem banal, but it does have a number of important consequences. To wit :
- The displeasure of a member of a group (be he the sovereign of that group or not) with the behaviours of some member of some other group (again, be it the sovereign or not) does not rise to the level of enacting that second member as "a thug" or "a blackguard"vii, nor does it brand the group "vicious". However one tries to enact or represent his own political choices, the fact remains that inasmuch as Hayek is not Goebbels, Hayek is in a very poor position to judge how good of a Goebbels Goebbels makes. It is perfectly true that Hayek may be uniquely equipped to judge how good a Hayek Goebbels makes, but in this sense so am I : I judge Hayek makes a very poor teapot. So what of it ?
- The presumption that there exist some sort of "decent people", or some sort of "collective good", or even a community in the sense Hayek's context limits that term readily reduces to and neatly requires as a prerequisite that the group be homogenous, its members fungible and all people in principle the same thing. This is falseviii, and its being false ends the entire discussion.
There's very little to be had from an idle consideration of whether the sun would have been bluer were it tetrahedral or conical. It's neither, nor is it blue.
We must not deceive ourselves into believing that all good people must support democratic processes or will necessarily wish to have a share in the government. Many, no doubt, would rather entrust it to somebody whom they think more competent.
This peculiarly limits the Hayek definition of "good people", but in a rather broken way. A rough equivalent would be something like "we must not deceive ourselves into believing that all honest merchants must act in good faith as fences for thieves, or wish to engage in trade with other merchants". So rewritten, the nonsense involved becomes readily apparent. On one hand, being a supporter of democracy, with its baked-in false premise of human fungibility, bars one quite plainly from any pretense to goodness, much in the way the fence is no merchant, but just another thief. On the other hand however, being uninterested in government bars one quite plainly from any pretense to manhood, much in the way the merchant that never transacts is perhaps a philosopher of merchantry, but never actually a merchant. So, shockingly, Hayek's "good people" are neither good nor are they people.
Although this might be unwise, there is nothing bad or dishonorable in approving a dictatorship of the good. Totalitarianism, we can already hear it argued, is a powerful system alike for good and evil, and the purpose for which it will be used depends entirely on the dictators. And those who think that it is not the system we need fear, but the danger that it might be run by bad men, might even be tempted to forestall this danger by seeing that it is established in time by good men.
The only way the government of another may be accepted is in the manner I accept it : inasmuch as it in no way differs from my very own will, I accept it in that I can not see it. Inasmuch as I at all see it, I immediately proceed to destroy what can be seen of it - and if that process brings further parts into view they shall be destroyed too. So it's not a matter of the dictatorship of the good, it's a matter of water with diamonds mixed in. If they're diamonds they may stay, but if they're glass they'll have to go just as soon as the light changes.
In this sense, dictatorship by good men is no dictatorship at all, just like someone doing what you yourself would have done does you no inconvenience. If I one day come home and find all my items rearranged I will count myself most grieviously assaulted, except should it be the case that they were rearranged exactly in the manner I'd have arranged them myself. In that case I'd likely never know, nor would I ever care, and for all you know untold legions of gremlins do this every night after you go to bed. Good gremlins they are indeed, and their tyrannical dictatorship over your things while you sleep not particularly now or ever likely to come within your interest.
There are strong reasons for believing that what to us appear the worst features of totalitarian systems are not accidental byproducts but phenomena which totalitarianism is certain to sooner or later produce.
It seems altogether more probable that what to us appears one way or another is not phenomena at all in the first place, but merely perspective. Is the flatness of the Earth you perceive this instant the phenomena of the Earth's flatness or the error of your very flat vantage ?
Just as the choice architect who sets out to plan economic life will soon be confronted with the alternative of either assuming dictatorial powers or abandoning his plans, so the totalitarian dictator would soon have to choose between disregard of ordinary morals and failure.
While the former proposition stands, and no architect is ever going to be free from this persnickety daughter of the cvadrature problem, the latter proposition is enjoying a peculiarly incestuous relationship with entropy. Specifically, why would the dictator have to confront the problem of ordinary morals in the ordinary terms proposed, and in so doing become the "totalitarian dictator"ix ie the bad guy ? Take a certain Jew that may have lived about two thousand years ago : has he been confronted with the alternative of either assuming dictatorial powers or abandoning his plans ?
What fucking plans ? Why does the dictator have to absolutely have some sort of plans, aforethought ? Maybe he's a dictator in the proper sense, because his group perceived him as worthy. He didn't go to them, like an obnoxious lawyer spawn, with a list of whatever items are fashionable - promises, intentions, qualities, college degrees - to ask to be made a dictator and thus have the gaping void and ontological fear of nothingness chewing away at his frail identity somehow resolved.x No, maybe they came to him, saying "look Cincinnatus, you are the best among us, and the best by so very far you must be our dictator" and he said "Maybe; we'll see". What plans did then Cincinnatus have, exactly ? That all men must assemble on the Camp of Mars ? And if they hadn't, what exact moral impediment'd have that been for him ?
Obviously the dictator is not a common man. Obviously his grasp of the issues is not going to be ordinary. On what then is Hayek's conviction that he should run into ordinary problems predicated ? Is it perhaps on a deeply entrenched, purely Platonic, utterly Napoleonic conviction that all men are fungible, and that there aren't betters, but only slaves under the Sun ? Sure, if there are only slaves then we agree, no slave should be made emperor, for he will be meanxi and base and slavish, as his nature commands, and his fellow slaves will suffer mightily - for their sins of having followed a slave.
But what of the actual masters ?
It is for this reason that the unscrupulous and uninhibited are likely to be more "successful" in a society tending toward totalitarianism.
If the society is tending towards totalitarianism, is it an unscrupulous and uninhibited society ? If it is so, then would the people average for their time appear indeed unscrupulous and uninhibited to average people in other societies tendentious in other ways ? It would seem that if success may carry the airquotes, so could unscrupulous and uninhibited, does it not ?
Who does not see this has not yet grasped the full width of the gulf which separates totalitarianism from liberalism, the utter difference between the whole moral atmosphere under collectivism and the essentially individualist nature of Western civilization.
I will dare say this liberalism virgin seems quite pregnant to me. Hayek's ideas of liberalism seem fundamentally to rest on the exact same root that yields collectivism : the bizarre notion that men are the same thing, as theoretically nonsensical and irreconcilable with practice as that may be.
The "moral basis" of collectivism has, of course, been much debated in the past; but what concerns us here is not its moral basis but its moral results. The usual discussions of the ethical aspects of collectivism refer to the question whether collectivism is demanded by existing moral convictions; or what moral convictions would be required if collectivism is to produce the hoped-for results.
Our question, however, is what views are likely to rule it. The interaction between morals and institutions may well have the effect that the "ethics" produced by collectivism will be altogether different from moral notions that have led to the demand for collectivism.
This is a very good point, and history can readily be re-read without missing a drop as a lengthy string of stories of people and groups aiming for a status that has little to do with their aim. Naive children become doctors "to save lives" or lawyers to "fight for truth" and end up cynically working the grind, such as it is. Indeed the moral notions that send the average 17 year old to law school are quite unmappable on the ethics observed in the average lawyer, and MDs working 18 hours shifts and killing their patients "because it's what's done" are quite a far cry out from the intellectual independence you'd imagine to see from the members of a medieval guild that to this day are pretentious enough to swear an oath. People generally wish to be rich for all sorts of reasons and mental constructions that scarcely survive the transformative process which becoming rich entails, why'd a society be any different ? I went to Costa Rica for pride and stayed for the climate, the US Army went into the Gulf for the oil and stayed for fear, things change. Of course they do, and what part of this'd be at all disputed ?
While we are likely to think that, since the desire for a collectivist system springs from high moral motives, such a system must be the breeding ground for the highest virtues, there is, in fact, no reason why any system should necessarily enhance those attitudes which serve the purpose for which it was designed.
I should like for someone, some day, to show me such high moral motives. The only motives for collectivism are laziness and vanity, mixed in varying proportions : the laziness of he who knowing himself inferior, would prefer the world to change down to his level, rather than expend himself the effort needed to climb up to it ; the vanity of he who knowing himself inferior would prefer the pretense of equality to the world rather than the nude statement of his actual inferiority. That's all that's there, no matter how cloakedxii.
The ruling moral views will depend partly on the qualities that will lead individuals to success in a collectivist or totalitarian system and partly on the requirements of the totalitarian machinery.
We must here return for a moment to the position which precedes the suppression of democratic processes and the creation of a totalitarian regime.
In this stage it is the general demand for quick and determined central government action that is the dominating element in the situation, dissatisfaction with the slow and cumbersome course of democratic processes which make action for action's sake the goal.
It is then the man or the party who seems strong and resolute enough to "get things done" who exercises the greatest appeal.
"Strong" in this sense means not merely a numerical majority - it is the ineffectiveness of parliamentary procedure with which people are dissatisfied. What they will seek is somebody with such solid support as to inspire confidence that he can carry out whatever he wants.
This is very factual, but it also seems to me quite sexual. When in rut, society desires someone with a raging erection. So would you, if you were her. It would seem the only party upset with this factuality would be the cuckolded husband, if present.
In the above illustration, the mostly cropped man on the left with a raging hard-on is representing the black-guards and thugs, specifically the "successful" one of them. He is aptly colored for this role. The world-worn woman with a streetwalker's hairdoxiii is representing society. On the right, with shirt tied under absent tits and small flaccid penis captive in womanly knickers, Hayek, as a representative for all they who don't like the situation.
Why don't they like it ? Because it's bad, of course. Why is it bad ? Is it because others are "successful" in it that are equipped and ready to go in ways they themselves "aren't"xiv ? It must be. In any case, a strong erection in this case does not merely mean a large volume of blood - it also means some modicum of copulative ability.
But let's move on.
In the Central European countries the socialist parties had familiarized the masses with political organizations of a semi-military character designed to absorb as much as possible of the private life of the members.
All that was wanted to give one group overwhelming power was to carry out the same principle somewhat further, to seek strength not in the assured votes of huge numbers at occasional elections but in the absolute and unreserved support of a smaller but more thoroughly organized body.
This would be true, and it also happens to be why the ivory tower exists as a social phenomenon, perpetual and quite widespread. To be happy I do not require or even desire the faint approval of a colossal assemblage of people I couldn't tell apart, but merely the strong approval of a very carefully selected set. Or, in Cicero's own terms, equidem is sum qui istos plausus, cum popularibus civibus tribuerentur, semper contempserim. It's a very strange thing indeed to have created the completely nonsensical electoral system of modernity and then be surprised when there exist they who do not think the world of it.
What if I had created a cooking style which consists of putting a pot outside overnight, for any passerby so willing to come drop into it whatever he may find adequate, and then in the morning put the thing to fire and serve its contents as food ? Would you wish to eat at my table ? And if not, suppose the practice had spread far and wide, owing to its extreme cheapness (or if you prefer, convenience), and extremely sophisticated sophists spent a very long time discussing in great detail how the material contained is mostly protein anyway, statistically speaking, and deductively (for whence would it come from other than people, and then what could it be other than organic ?) idem - as if anyone cared for the fact they've been discussing such disgusting things, or as if the mere fact of them wasting their otherwise worthless time on this topic were to enact it into relevancy somehow. Would that change anything as far as you're concerned ? Because if not you're clearly a dangerous black-guard and all that, you enemy of bureaucracy and with it of all things "nice", "good" and "proper".
The chance of imposing a totalitarian regime on a whole people depends upon the leader's first collecting round him a group which is prepared to voluntarily submit to that totalitarian discipline which they are to impose by force upon the rest.
This reads to me incredibly askew. Why should the sovereign of a group impose anything to anyone ? A proper sovereign I mean, obviously the officious kind would, and it's quite plainly why - as long as there's anyone outside his group, the identity problems that pushed him in the first place are still present. But why'd a proper dictator want more citizens ?
The presumption clearly is there, that he would, or that the group would, but why ?
Although the "socialist" parties had the strength to get anything if they had cared to use force, they were reluctant to do so. They had, without knowing it, set themselves a task which only the ruthless ready to disregard the barriers of accepted morals can execute.
That socialism can be put into practice only by methods which most socialists disapprove is, of course, a lesson learned by many social reformers in the past. The old socialist parties were inhibited by their ideals; they did not possess the ruthlessness required for the performance of their chosen task.
It is characteristic that both in Germany and in Italy the success of fascism was preceded by a refusal of the socialist parties to take over the responsibility of government. They were unwilling to employ the methods to which they had pointed the way.
I wonder if this is so. Obviously the general point about how socialism can only be brought about by idiots stands - it's an idiotic system based on idiocy, and as the saying goes "you can't make omlette without breaking eggs". In that expression, omlette stands for idiocy. Nevertheless, the historical point about Germany and Italy... it may well be, from what I know of the actual history of the first half of the XXth century. Maybe it isn't - for instance take France, in very much the same situation. I'd be curious to hear what others think on this score.
They still hoped for the miracle of majority's agreeing on a particular plan for the organization of the whole of society; others had already learned the lesson that in a planned society the question can no longer be on what do a majority of the people agree but what the largest single group is whose members agree sufficiently to mae unified direction of all affairs possible; or, if no such group large enough to enforce its views exists, how it can be created and who will succeed in creating it.
This is a minor point. The major point is the problem that you don't know what you don't know. To illustrate it : it happens that I take a slave that doesn't know how to cook. So I force her to learn, whether she wants to or not, and I enforce seemingly arbitrary, absurd and designed-to-be-mean-to-her criteria and processes. With the stick in hand, and liberally applied. Hundreds of bruises later, and gallons of tears past, the girl can now cook, and cooks exceedingly well, and can express herself as she is in this, while feeding herself and those she cares about, if she cares to. And she says she can't understand that people can live who can't cook, and how do they.
Meanwhile women that aren't my slaves at this very moment meet other idiots just like them for coffee or whatever they do, and declare they can't understand that people can live who can cook, and that women can be happy who are slaves. Because they don't know what they don't know, and to learn it they must be forced, and forcing is either pain or pretense, and only the former actually works. Once they've learned they can appreciate the stupidity of not knowing, but this is all in vain : of course they who know can appreciate how stupid they who don't know are. What's that do for the stupid in question ?
So, no. The question is never what people can agree on, and the proposition that some sort of a majority has anything meaningful to say on any topic is so much nonsense. If we were to go out for a drink and I started telling a joke, I would be telling the joke and everyone else would be closing the mouth and opening the ears. Then when some other told a joke, I'd be doing the same myself. Imagine a joke consisting of the word that popped into the heads of the most people present. Can you see the punchline ?
There are three main reasons why such a numerous and strong group with fairly homogenous views is not likely to formed by the best but rather by the worst elements of any society. By our accepted moral standards, the principles on which such a group would be selected will be almost entirely negative.
In the first instance, it is probably true that the higher education and intelligence of individuals become, the more their views and tastes are differentiated and the less likely they are to agree on a particular hierarchy of values.
This seems both nonsensical and a misstatement of the situation. As for nonsensical, take for instance the topic of the geometric shape of the planet Earth. Quite obviously, the higher the education and intelligence of individuals in a group, the closer the opinion converges towards a common view whereas the lower the education and intelligence of same, the more lively debate to be had and the more complex differences of opinion available. In fact, a bunch of idiots could spend their time happily debating whether the Earth is flat or banana shaped for the next fifty centuries. Similarly the case with the theory of evolution, or with the expediency and medical benefit of vaccines, indeed with any topic of import whatsoever. Well educated, intelligent people readily dismiss "global warming" as politically motivated nonsense. Not as well educated, not as intelligent people still struggle with it to this day, as they struggle "studying" the kaballah, "women's topics", counterfactual histories of that great saviour of the black race that was the Atlantic slave tradexv.
Much more importantly: the better educated and more intelligent the members of the group, the easier coping with various strange is for them. Take us two for instance, you and me : if the above footnote didn't make you want to find me and kill me, would you credit that to your intelligence and education, or to your lack of intelligence and absent education ? And if we wish to spend a pleasant evening together with another two dozen people, without oppressing them if at all possible, would you wish to risk the evening on the hand of intelligent and educated, or counterwise, bland and blunt ?
It is a corollary of this that if we wish to find a high degree of uniformity and similarity of outlook, we have to descend to the regions of lower moral and intellectual standards where the more primitive and "common" instincts and tastes prevail.
And what if we don't ? Where does it follow that agreement and collective action stem from uniformity of outlook and that only ?
This is where our reading will have to come to an end : Hayek is much too clueless, much too unintelligent and clearly not educated enough to speak to me. He jumps across chasms with all the obliviousness of ingenue ignorance, he proposes to discuss cups and then jumps right into describing china, as if no metal cup was ever made, it's unpleasant to try and follow his nonsense. But let it be said in summary that masters are not what slaves imagine masters would be, and that there is a lot more to this world than what the boring would make it seem.
A lot more, most of which is painful and unexpected, both of which are virtues, not vices.———
- I won't recommend reading the book because so many others do that if you've not read it by now it's probably not because you never heard of it, and so the simple act of the recommendation serves more as a metasyntactic indication of political preference (in the eye of the recommender) and cultural berth (in reality). So no, I'm much too smart, and more importantly I'm much too well informed, cultured and experienced to recommend you read fucking Hayek. Go read Taleb's reading list instead, Alexander of Aphrodisias and Seneca and Lucretius and Tusi and Dawad and Mulla Sadra and Sabsawari. [↩]
- As opposed to economical, political is anything to do with speech, which includes all creation of ideas, symbols, and other means of representation as well as all interaction of any kind with the foregoing. [↩]
- A group in this context simply means "any set of agents". [↩]
- This is exactly equivalent to property, and so it's defined as the power to extinguish the group. Pure and simple, he is the monarch for whom and by whose word all die gladly. There aren't alternative definitions, there couldn't be alternative definitions. [↩]
- The impossibility of measuring such nonsense yielding the very predictable failure of bureaucracy, in all its amusing complexity, all the way to periodically renaming things to fix problems and so on. [↩]
- The circularity of this nonsense yielding the splendidly intractable indecidability problems of all collectivisms. [↩]
- For a good complement to this discussion, see Stage n: Bitcoin exists. [↩]
- It is not just merely a little false, it is completely and absolutely, universally and fractally false, with velvet ribbons and gilded tassels. People are not equal. Not born equal, not living as equals nor equals while alive. We may enact the legal fiction where people be treated equally in some context or other, but only for as long and only inasmuch as the context is drastically limited so as to avoid it becoming in any way meaningful for the people in question, and only in order to further underscore, bring forth and celebrate just how unequal people in fact are. This exactly in the manner where equal distances run makes it obvious which is the better horse, and running equal distances is crafted specifically in order to establish just how unequal two horses are, and is only practiced as a minor and ultimately irrelevant part of the horse's daily life.
For that matter, people are not even significantly similar. The only thing that can be inferred from being able to write a description of man that's shared by all the members of a group is that the group is very very small indeed, and very carefully chosen. In short, gaze upon this plucked chicken and see Plato's man. [↩]
- The term is nonsensical, what's a partitarian dictator supposed to be ? Dictatorship deals with totality by its definition, but I suppose Hayek can't simply and earnestly say "bad", because he imagines he's too educated to take a piss or something. [↩]
- Cat on a hot tin roof is quite relevant. Gooper does not get the farm. Quoth he :
Gooper Pollitt: You said I never loved Big Daddy. How would you know? How would he know? Did he ever let anybody love him? It was always Brick, always. From the day he was born, he was always partial to Brick. Why? Big Daddy wanted me to become a lawyer. I became a lawyer. He said to get married, I got married. He said to have kids, I had kids. He said to live in Memphis, I lived in Memphis. Whatever he said to do, I did.
- In the old sense of this term, look it up [↩]
- Obviously the lazy vain will present the whole story in terms of third parties - not for themselves are they concerned you see, not for their own inferiority, but for a third, who's not even here (nor need he be). Much in the manner of a delightfully naive girlie asking embarrassing questions of venereal diseases for the needs and benefit of "a friend of hers" - because you see she's the first that ever came up with this idea, of "a friend", and actual adults neither heard it before nor can they see through her as if she were made of very thin latex. [↩]
- Closely cropped hair is much easier to keep clean, which may seem of no interest to you until you try living on the streets. Because you see, to he who lived in suburbia all niggers look the same, and to he who's never been a bum, all bums stink and are equally filthy. Not so for the niggers themselves, of course, nor so for the bums themselves. Some have lice. Some do not. The difference of degree in filth is larger than you could imagine. [↩]
- The quotes are here to match the quotes around success, which is to say, we'll put in quotes anything that if read plainly may endanger the vanity of the "liberal". Oops... [↩]
- Black population in Africa will become extinct under pressure from (legitimate) Chinese economic interest much in the way Red population in North America became extinct under pressure from (legitimate) European economic interest. Had the Europeans not forcibly transported a few million black sheeple, and then later made them people, forcibly, by the whip, there wouldn't exist any future whatever to that particular race. [↩]