Autocracy and cultural peace
"Just as every cop bleeds blue, every imperial staffer bleeds purple."
Widespread mockery has greeted my suggestion that the deep right—which is the only right that in the long run counts—must be neutral in the American culture war. To this I reply, in the words of Dr. Emilio Lizardo: laugh while you can, monkey-boy!
For only the deep right has the formula which lets both sides win their wars: monarchy. Or as the cool kids call it these days (why not run with the pejorative, eh?), autocracy.
The deep right is neutral in any culture war—sympathizing sincerely with both sides—because its mission is to anticipate a healthy monarchy, which must also be neutral. Such an autocracy will peacefully impose a healthy, well-designed peace on both sides.
Peace is possible because both sides sincerely believe they are fighting in self-defense. A well-designed peace can relieve both sides of the feeling that they need to dominate the other side to defend themselves, leaving both sides with no good reason to fight. The bad reasons, which obviously come from nowhere good and lead nowhere good, will be easily discarded.
Of course, what most people think of when they say peace is victory—a very different outcome, in which one side is totally dominated. In a culture war, it is very easy to see the difference between peace and victory: do you impose your culture on your enemy? Does your end state involve a structure that will treat both cultures as equal?
No collective form of government, besides a government of foreigners (a common solution to the governance problem, which has more to be said for it than most think), can be neutral in a nontrivial civil conflict.
Within the ruling group, power will naturally gravitate to one side. A crude but simple test for power is the cultural or political affiliation of the permanent employees in any regime organ—any institution, public or private, that has an external social impact. If this affiliation is skewed toward one cultural, ethnic, political or religious group—as we would expect—we are looking at a regime of collective domination. While effective domination can be quite peaceful, this is not the kind of peace we are looking for.
Generally, the party of regime employees is the party of the cultural aristocracy. An aristocracy loves nothing so much as to kick around the commoners. This is nasty and causes the commoners to want to defend themselves, which being nasty peasants they often do in nasty ways. A regime employee is just a database entry—can we imagine a commoner regime that fires all the nobles and hires only cultural peasants? In short, can we flip the script?
This has been tried and it’s generally nasty. A peasant aristocracy is a contradiction in terms and tends to send some nasty human specimens to the top. While it is not good for the aristocracy to kick around the peasants and do weird-ass decadent late-empire stuff, in such behavior the student of history can see no unnatural order of things. He sees that it sucks. He doesn’t see that it is unstable or somehow magically has to end.
Historically, oligarchies are defeated by monarchies. A distributed oligarchy can only be separated from power by a single effective organization. Such an organization will not be effective unless it reports to a single manager, CEO, king, dictator, emperor, etc. If there was a more efficient way to run a railroad, someone would have found it.
It is much better for the peasants to outsource their own protection to one autocrat, whose natural incentive will be to protect all groups from all other groups. If the peasants just want to be protected, they will trust the king to protect them. If they truly want to burn and pillage the castles of the nobles, the king will be their enemy.
A king also has a motivation to protect the aristocracy, who are in general his most delicate, refined, talented and fragile citizens. Nothing is so sad as a nation with a starving or oppressed aristocracy. The nobles are the flower of any country, and this flower must bloom forever. It needs absolutely no involvement with peasant children. A late-empire aristocracy should govern itself absolutely—and absolutely no one else.
Therefore, both groups can obtain their core demand—a safe existence for themselves and their posterity, preserving their beliefs and ways of life—without either losing.
How does this work in practice? Anyone would see the same solution. Here it is:
Pillarization: the groove of the wedge
Suppose, like many of my good friends, you have a red mind. What a blue mind would call “gender affirmation therapy” might, to you, be “child mutilation.” Let’s call the idea that an unemancipated minor can consent to this procedure, without parental consent, X. With your red mind, you abhor X.
Here is a question for red minds. Are you content with keeping X from applying to children of red parents? Or do you also want to impose your values on blue parents, preventing them by government power from “mutilating” their children in this way?
You should know that winning the second victory is much harder than the first. For the first victory, your enemies only need to give up their dominion over you. For the second, you need to take dominion over them.
Which of these things do you care about most? “Canst thou draw out Leviathan with a hook? Or his tongue, with a line that thou lettest down? … Lay thine hand upon him, remember the battle, do no more.”
The blue mind may have more trouble abandoning its universal ambitions. But it was a long time since ambition motivated the blue mind the way self-defense now does. Certainly the blue excitement of the Trump administration was pure self-defense. Half of Cambridge thought they were about to be sent to the camps! While deranged, it was beautiful—in the art of shaping public narratives, a work of art.
The wedge that strikes the left must strike the groove between ambition and security. It must uphold the security of the American progressive community, while rejecting any ambition to guide, educate, or otherwise hold empire over any other society.
Progressives will experience this denial as a sobriety. But the sobriety will come with a level of political security they have not yet experienced. They will never again have to worry that Trump will order all gays and homosexuals whipped naked in the streets, while weird pervy preachers teach their kids that God created the Earth in 4004 BC. And if their own kids want “gender affirmation therapy”—by God, they shall have it.
But the opinions of progressives will not matter at all to conservatives. Conservatives will have their own institutions, governed by their own rules. At the top level of scholarship, these new red organs will be as serious and intellectually ambitious as the old blue organs that compete with them. And at the elementary-school level, “sex changes” will not be on the curriculum.
Since everyone likes tulips, a good way to market this solution is under the Dutch word pillarization. Pillarization requires your cultural identity to be formalized and visible to the state—as visible as to any advertiser with two nickels to rub together.
It is not the end of the world if your driver’s license says if you are a Republican or a Democrat. It may not even be the end of the world if there are different drug laws, for instance, for Republicans and Democrats. It may not be part of the American tradition—and how is that tradition working out for you?
Pillarization does not even exclude conversion. There are many reasons to switch pillars—but this is never a trivial, or even easily reversible, process. Nor is it a gradual process—at any time, everyone is part of exactly one pillar.
The balance of peace
The general formula for peace between any two powers is that neither of them may dominate the other. Unfortunately, since sovereignty is conserved, this balance implies a third party which is supreme over both others, and enforces the balance.
The fundamental need of both red and blue minds is to live their lives under social authorities that make sense for themselves and their posterity. Once assured of this outcome, they will have no further need for, or interest in, political self-defense.
If neither group can dominate the other out of pure ambition, neither group needs to try to dominate the other in self-defense. The loop of conflict is broken—and if any raw ambition to dominate, the libido dominandi, remains, it goes under its real name. And all good men, of all persuasions, can and must abhor the libido dominandi.
The cure for culture war
The cure for a culture war, or for any civil war cold or hot, is simple: monarchy. (Other third parties who can restrain our civil conflict could be imagined—but they all suck. A Chinese colonial empire would also do the trick, for instance.)
If all power is vested in a group—whether a group of few (oligarchy) or a group of many (democracy), one group will hold power over the rest. Either the blue oligarchy dominates the red democracy, or the red democracy dominates the blue oligarchy. The only way for a group to not be dominated by any other is to dominate all others. In this situation, self-defense is a plausible motivation for seeking to gain domination.
In Rome, when Caesar and Octavian ended senatorial politics (with its frequent civil wars), a condition of class warfare had pertained for the past 500 years—the distance between Joe Biden and Henry VII. After Augustus, Rome was unified. It had lots of problems and developed more, but never under the Empire did it have class conflict—not until Christianity. Class is culture and monarchy can always cure a culture war.
It is true that Caesar came to power as the candidate of one faction, the populares—roughly red-state Rome. So did his predecessor (and relative), Marius. But Marius ruled Rome only as the leader of the populares; Caesar ruled as the leader of Rome. The populist faction was only the ladder he climbed to rule. In power he did treat his original supporters well. But he treated everyone well.
Marius did just the opposite: in power, he rewarded his supporters and punished his enemies—as if he was not in power, but still seeking it. Either his power was truly insecure, or psychologically security; in any case, he did not like act like an emperor.
Of course, in a stable monarchy the king has no enemies—everyone supports him. Autocracy solves this problem because an autocrat can be above all groups—and also create a loyal staff organization which is above all groups.
The ideology of the emperor’s staff is purple—they are an adoptive community whose primary loyalty is not to any hereditary group, but to their employer and/or career. When the CEO is actually in the saddle and can actually hire and fire the staff, this loyalty is not hard to maintain. Organizational loyalty over group loyalty is not hard to engineer these days—every police department has it, for instance. Just as every cop bleeds blue, every imperial staffer bleeds purple.
And although the government must understand science and technology, and research in this area must be done privately in educational institutions which are either red or blue, a regime that is really in charge of its destiny will have the intellectual firepower to evaluate all the private research it sees critically, from above. A government seals its own fate when it has no choice but to delegate its trust to organs outside itself.
The whole point of a stable monarchy is to get beyond the point where it needs any collective support from any demographic bloc or oligarchic organ. It needs to stand up on its own power. And once it is running on its own independent power (in Caesar’s time, for instance, the Roman military), it does not need to maintain opposing “face” and “heel” groups. It does not need its old political system of supporters and enemies.
For this reason, a rational, peaceful red or blue mind should seek any monarchy at all. Whether this monarchy arises from their own side or the enemy’s, the incentives of strategic reality will force it into the default posture of enforcing peaceful mutual toleration, thus giving both sides the sense of security they need to avoid slipping into the old mode of aggressive self-defense.
The path to monarchy
It is true that the most obvious path to any kind of autocracy is through the cultural right—through some kind of commoner revolt. This is because the commoners lack a functional oligarchy, which would otherwise stand in the path of such a revolt.
Turning oligarchy into monarchy is hard. It annoys everyone who matters. Oligarchies often contain little invisible emperors of their own fields—but they abhor any formal centralization of power. And they abhor any personal authority or responsibility. All decisions must be made by an infallible scientific process, not a fallible human being.
Replacing an oligarchy with a monarchy is easy. It does not take much of a monarchy to simply enumerate and dissolve the institutions of the oligarchy, however informal and distributed it was. It does take a heck of a monarchy to spin up a new regime from scratch—but history knows it can be done.
Therefore, “blue Caesar” is almost impossible to imagine, whereas “red Caesar” is quite plausible. Of course Caesar too was a populist—of the populares. He was also an aristocrat born and raised, which was no more an obstacle then than it is now.
The difficulty in reaching a stable autocracy from a populist revolt is in persuading the people, once supreme, to cede power rather than wielding it. They can cede power to a stable monarch, who will protect them; or they can wield it, quickly run out of energy, and lose to their enemies, who will despoil them with only more rapacity.
Convincing the commoners to execute this complex maneuver, which is the only move that can preserve them, is the most difficult problem in replacing the present regime. Very little progress has been made on this task so far.
But the task does not seem impossible, considering the changes in narrative capacity that have taken place in the public across the last century. The simple, hot violent blood of the people has cooled almost to exhaustion; their media sophistication, and talent for irony and complexity, has only grown and shows no sign of stopping.
The growth of sophistication needs no explanation. It is a late-empire thing. It is seen everywhere, in every field—from movies to cooking. But why the cooling of the blood? What is this social-political change? Can we predict it? Can we cause it?
The cooling of the blood
The political energy of the population in almost every country has dropped in the last 50 years, but nowhere so dramatically as in China.
China is ethnically homogeneous, at least compared to the US, which helps us filter out various irrelevant factors. When we compare Chinese politics today to Chinese politics 50 years ago, from the Red Guards to TikTok, we cannot ascribe the loss of mass political engagement to any genetic or cultural factor. We are still looking at Chinese people, in China, being Chinese.
But most Chinese citizens today are not interested in politics, because there is no free political power in the atmosphere. All political power has been subsumed in a stable monopoly of power: the Chinese Communist Party. Anyone who wants power will find his best shot there; anyone who doesn’t care about power, doesn’t need to care.
This lesson is repeated all across history. Desire for power is a human universal, but not a human constant. Desire for power is (as evolutionary psychology would lead us to expect) conditioned by the availability of power. Once the Roman Empire is born, the Roman citizen stops craving democracy.
Human beings are driven by this power drive to act and think along lines which they expect to bring them status and power. If they are excluded from power, these lines do not exist—and the drive to follow them does not exist.
Consider the frame of an American surf bum in Bali. He literally has no power over the government that rules him. And he doesn’t care. Getting involved in Indonesian politics, demanding the right to vote in Indonesia, is the farthest thing from his mind.
But this is only because he has no way to gain any power. No one in Indonesia would dream of giving him any power. There are Americans who are in a position to affect the government of Indonesia. But they are not surf bums. That power got snapped up long ago. But our surf bum, if he could, might well love to play Lord Byron.
It is not hard to imagine when red Americans would look like if excluded from power. They are already excluded from power—just not very cleanly. They would probably just want to grill, and raise their kids to be just like them.
It is hard to imagine what blue Americans would look like if excluded from power—that is, “impact,” or “changing the world,” or any of a thousand other terms of jargon found in every college application. Power and its uses define the whole blue culture. It is like asking what gamers would be like, if there were no videogames.
While it is hard to answer this question, any one who is not a gamer would probably agree: without games, gamers would probably be better off than they are now. Indeed, there are probably many gamers who agree with this sentiment.
All we know is that this aristocracy is, like most aristocracies, made out of amazing human beings. These people are not bad. They are embedded in bad systems. Taken one by one, they are generally just plain wonderful.
And they are absolutely capable of living lives both wonderful and productive, neither parasitizing the rest of society, nor dominating it. If the blue class is not the jewel in the crown of any new monarchy, it is being somehow mishandled. If it is collectively in charge of any group but itself, something has gone wrong.