The definitive sovereign

Thursday, 02 April, Year 7 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

La Serenissima is an abstract concept, just like every other sovereign throughout the history of sovereignity on Earth, and just like every other entity currently pretending to sovereignity.i

La Serenissima imposes tax on its subjects - ie, those who recognise its sovereignity - just like any other sovereign out there (with the notable characteristic that unlike every other pretender to sovereignity to date, and unlike absolutely all pretenders active today, La Serenissima actually collects 100% of the taxes it's dueii).

La Serenissima runs a budget. Exactly like some extant pretenders to sovereignity (notably, countries in Africa and the United States of America) it does not actually publish a budget. Exactly like all pretenders ever known, La Serenissima runs a deficit. Unlike all those pretenders, its deficit is monstrous, and especially so on a percentile basis - most recently estimated by people familiar with the matter at a whopping 5`798`796`857`967`496`834% (that's five quintillion seven hundred and ninety-eight quadrillion seven hundred and ninety-six trillion eight hundred and fifty-seven billion nine hundred and sixty-seven million four hundred and ninety-six thousand eight hundred thirty-four percent). This fabulous deficit greatly exceeds the deficits of any currently seen or historically attested sovereign pretenders, but experts concur it is in no sense unsustainable. In fact, while even minute percentual increases in other pretenders' deficits can sink the pretender in question, La Serenissima could readily double its deficit, or for that matter increase it twenty billion fold without ill effectiii.

This difference - like every other - lies in the problems coercion induces in economy. To wit : a state which attempts to build itself on the unwilling work of slaves has to maintain order and put down slave rebellions. This will necessarily shape institutions in certain ways, and model everyday life accordingly - for instance, the uneasy feeling one gets among people unlike himself is a direct result of the historical tendency to run states on the (consensus-supported, by the way) slave model. If one's going to try and force those who don't look like him into slavery, and then try to build a state on unwilling slave labour, that someone'd better make damned sure he's never alone in a large enough group of different-looking people.

A state built on coercitive taxation will have to satisfy fundamentally very similar constraints - nobody works for it willingly, and consequently its ability to get things done is strictly limited by its ability to beg, embezzle and steal. As its ability to beg dwindles, it moves to embezzlement, but should there be a shortfall it has to steal. It has to, its "power" such as it is and the entirety of its pretense rely on being backed by theft, much like a bully's pretense to relevance in the schoolyard is backed by violence. A bully unwilling to escalate violence is exactly like a USG unwilling to steal : they dissolve overnight.

Exactly opposite to this, La Serenissima can run infinite deficits, what difference does it make ? People felt like contributing. The more they contribute, the bigger it gets.

Meanwhile, exactly like all the other pretenders, La Serenissima issues perfectly worthless IOUs in exchange for the work third parties deliver to its own benefit, and in exchange for all their sweat, blood and tears. Unlike the other pretenders, La Serenissima doesn't bother to print them on paper - which is a lot more ecological, to say nothing of the ethics involvediv, but outside that they are all exactly the same.

When you accept the worthless IOUs USG printed you are essentially making a very generously improbable leap of faith : "suppose later on this thing is a preeminent world power". Your expected pension, like the various payments owed to Confederate soldiers, like the assorted hopes and dreams of men and women during the endless centuries that took an immediate loss so that their favourite abstraction may live in the future - all these depend on the premise that the pretender in question will matter tomorrow. Exactly in the same manner and exactly to the same degree, accepting the absent Serenissima IOUs offers you a claim in the future, to other people's attention, respect and good will. Provided of course this thing is a preeminent world power.

Which will actually be the preeminent world power ? That, of course, depends on anything but the pretenders in question. This is what I mean when I say La Serenissima is the definitive sovereign : not that the claim to sovereignity of the other pretenders is somehow "not good". Much like Bitcoin itself, nobody can ever have or in any way acquire title to sovereignity.v No claims are particularly good, all claims are equally good, which is to say not good in any sense. It's possession that makes the law.

And possession flows, much like currency, much like heat. Specifically - it flows from hot to cold, it flows from stupid to intelligent, it flows from the antiquatedly dysfunctional to the clearly superior alternative.

Sed fugit interea, fugit inreparabile auctoritas, singula dum capti exspectamur solito.

  1. For reasons detailed in that discussion of Hayek, the most a sovereign can do is claim. Whether his pretense stands or doesn't stand is an ulterior consideration, what interests us here is the observation that as far as anyone is concerned, the pope, some random historical monarch or some random "country" in the world today are mere pretenders to sovereignity, and that pretense no better or worse than any other pretenders' pretense. Which is how things like the Republic of China or the Soviet Union go away, to be replaced by other, temporary, pretenders. []
  2. By virtue of taxation being voluntary - which, incidentally, is exactly the only way one can have taxation in the first place.

    Yes, I know, other people are saying other things. This is fine. Among the other things other people are saying we count such brilliant gems as "women are naturally inferior to men" and "blacks lack the intellectual and moral qualities which would allow them to act autonomously" and "you can have coercitive taxation" and so on and so forth. Why is this pile of nonsense relevant ? Some of it was fashionable and is no longer, some of it was fashionable and still is. All of it is still as stupid as it was originally, and none of it has any place in the minds of thinking people. []

  3. Technically - at least if one applies the reasoning of the Keynesian cult in a field where the priors of that peculiar theory are actually satisfied - the larger a deficit La Serenissima runs the better it's doing. []
  4. What'd you think of a man that, in response to your presenting him with a coffee maker, would respond by offering you his thanks ? In physical form, framed ?

    What if people who offered their condoleances at a time of great loss for you and your family also expected you to keep track of said condoleances, account for them, and present yearly reports as to the condoleance flow, under threat that if you fail to follow eight billion pages of obscure "regulations" on the matter they'll pay some random street scum to invade your house and shoot your dog ?

    Who keeps tracks of hellos ? []

  5. Of course there's a whole industry predicated on trying - much like there's a whole industry predicated on selling unctions to older women. []
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8 Responses

  1. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Thursday, 2 April 2015


  2. Amazing. Can you explain the latin?

  3. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 3 April 2015

    It's a line from Vergil, originally "yet meanwhile time flies, flies irreparably, while [we're] captivated by our love for detail", altered to "yet auctoritas flies, flies irreparably, while [you're] captivated by your expectation of banality".

    Neither English version is exact, and a whole treatise could be written on the points of departure. In particular the meaning of auctoritas is not available to one who's not versed in classical antiquity (and a degree of any kind obtained in an English speaking country does not attest such qualification). But, for the needs of the incurious, "sovereignity" might do.

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