For the times they are a-changing
"And admit that the waters around you have grown."
Someone calling himself “Damon Linker,” in something called “The Week”—which seems to have been born as a sort of Hyundai to Newsweek’s Honda, but actually still in the year of our Lord 2021 purports to be edited—so more a successor than an imitator, since that old junior emperor of the dentist’s office (second only to TIME) has started its slide into content-farm status that can end only as a GPT-3 spam factory, written by machines to impress other machines—has been listening to my podcasts.
This “Linker,” a sort of transitional figure who can still convincingly emulate a person, is afraid—very afraid. In fact, he’s appalled:
Defenders of Anton, Yarvin, and the Claremont Institute will say that this thoroughly appalling discussion was just that—some casual talk, idle musings, a fantasy disconnected from reality. Yet fantasies are outgrowths of our imaginations and hopes, and they help set our expectations, including our conception of what is possible and desirable in politics.
The indisputable fact is that a leading and longstanding conservative institute in the United States hosts a podcast by someone who served as a senior official in the presidential administration of a man who may run again for the nation's highest office in a few years. And on an episode of that podcast, this former official and his invited guest genially rehearsed arguments about why a future president would be justified in turning himself into a tyrant, and how he could set about accomplishing this task.
Which means that on the starboard side of American politics, the Overton window has now shifted far beyond the boundaries of democratic self-government to a place broadly coterminous with fascism.
Broadly coterminous with fascism! “Linker”—or “Dr. Linker,” as he may call himself—he claims a PhD, in political science no less, from some kind of freshwater university, though I have not checked up on the matter—might have a fun time in identifying whether the following monarchical regimes were “broadly coterminous with fascism”: the Tudors, Napoleon, Atatürk, the Tokugawa, the Antonine emperors, the Romanovs, the Habsburgs, Caesar and Augustus, the Umayyads and the Bourbons. Please use no more than a page for each answer.
And if the public understanding of political science, which being a science existed not only before the 19th century but before the birth of the Sun, by some amazing miracle came to escape from Plato’s cave—or, as “Dr. Linker” calls it, the “Overton window”—to actually contain the most common and successful political system in human history—not to mention the system by which all functional private organizations are organized—not to mention the system by which our regime itself was first organized, back in the ‘30s by its secretly-paraplegic founding pharoah—would any such change represent an advance, or a retreat, in the public understanding of science? “Dr. Linker” is also welcome to comment on this issue—or at least, generate a response with GPT-3.
However the text was produced, its intentional double-entendre of the word tyrant—a crude ambiguity of “is” and “ought,” linking the objective label for monarchy to the judgment of unjust government as tyranny, as if the two were logically inseparable—is as old as the Sicilian Defense, and as effective. Plato would clap.
This culmination of the democratic Enlightenment in the “Overton window” and the “paradox of tolerance” is inadvertently hilarious. Of course, freedom of the mind was only one of the gifts this form of government, democracy—or as we call it in practice, politics—was supposed to bring us. In contrast to the inferior, obsolete monarchy—or, as our doctor of political science insists on calling it, tyranny, fascism, dictatorship, etc.
But what is our form of government? What do we actually have?
What we actually have
Paraphrasing my ugly heresies, “Dr. Linker” has a nice summary of our actual regime:
The current American “regime” is most accurately described as a “theocratic oligarchy” in which an elite class of progressive “priests” ensconced in the bureaucracies of the administrative state, and at Harvard, The New York Times, and other leading institutions of civil society, promulgate and enforce their own version of “reality.”
Yes. It’s not quite how I’d put it, but it’s good enough. Note that politicians are not mentioned in this summary, which means politics is not mentioned, which means democracy is not mentioned. In fact, in 2021, under our present constitution, actual substantive democracy cannot exist; does not exist; and should not exist.
We love democracy so much that, like a prize poodle, we have relieved it of its balls. The only election that anyone still cares about emotionally is the Presidency. And they are quite mistaken to care, because the Presidency does not actually matter. You can tell how much the President actually matters by the percentage of the President’s day that he spends on ceremonies and photo-ops.
Little things still happen on the margin. A Democratic President defers to the regime, and takes credit for its work. A Republican President postures ineffectually against the regime, and in some cases resists or even overrides it, and—takes credit for its work. The entire point of the civil-service system, going back to the late 19th-century and the end of the “spoils system,” is to resist politics—which is the same as democracy. Or as “Dr. Linker” probably calls it, “populism.”
And as we see, this oligarchy is neither liberal nor democratic. It is illiberal because it uses physical force to defend itself from disturbing ideas. It is undemocratic because its whole design is a fortress against populist politics, which it mocks and despises. Indeed, it is unconstitutional—since its purpose is to pervert the Constitution, creating a government in reality which is completely alien to the one specified on paper.
Specifically: there is no executive branch. What we call the “executive branch” is, in fact, the legislative branch. While it contains a cosmetic monarchical hierarchy, in every way this “executive branch” is substantively managed—in personnel, process, organization and purpose—not by the White House, but by Capitol Hill. Indeed, the White House itself may be best seen as part of the legislative branch. The destiny of the Presidency is to be an elected celebrity which the Congress parades in front of whatever it does.
This engineering defect in the Constitution is not new. Woodrow Wilson noticed it. Ultimately it is a flaw in the concept of separating judicial, legislative and executive powers—a weird British idea from the 18th century, which never really worked. Sorry. The business end of our government is Capitol Hill. Behind it lies the aforementioned theocratic oligarchy, which is its brain and its voice—but in front of it lies nothing.
Capitol Hill is no longer even a legislative or parliamentary organ. It is not a legislative organ because no objective observer would describe its thousand-page ukases as “laws”—actual law in America today is administrative law. It is not a parliamentary organ because its functional process does not include members convincing other members by making convincing speeches in a hall full of members.
And Capitol Hill, now well-fortified against furry mobs, has long been no less fortified against anything anyone not “‘avin a larf” could call democracy—by a brutally effective combination of incumbency advantage and (totally unconstitutional) seniority, which leaves its gerontocratic leadership with a tenure that would impress the Politburo. At least on paper, the political process of this country is being run through the office of one of the good-looking young people in this picture:
Imagine governing 2021 America with the mindset of 1961. You don’t have to imagine it—you can walk across Dupont Circle and see it.
And as Dupont Circle goes, so goes America. I recently drove across Kansas—which may not be our widest state, but feels like it. We stopped for lunch in Russell, Kansas—the hometown of that lion of the Senate, Bob Dole, who at only 98 somehow manages to be retired. It was only a few miles off the freeway—why not see a real Kansas town?
Well, we tried to stop—since Russell, with its beautiful brick streets, is like a zombie movie without the zombies. A few shambling figures, perhaps opiated, were observed. Three-quarters of the storefronts were empty. There were no restaurants, except for a couple of Mexican joints—eventually we found a brewpub back by the freeway. No—this is not just something covid did.
This is the regime which “Dr. Linker,” the political scientist, adores. Such is its reality; such are its consequences. Also, he calls me appalling.
And he has surely never asked himself which 20th-century regimes he is “broadly coterminous” with. Why not now? Scientist, research thyself.
What we could have instead
Yes. If my principles must be crudely reduced to one such word, I am a monarchist. But this label suggests an advocate for monarchy, whereas one of my big things is that I am a passivist—I eschew any kind of political action or advocacy, however legal or gentle.
Unlike “Dr. Linker,” my only motivation for saying things is that they are true—not that they will make people do good things. My ideas are not psychological weapons. They are not tools for manipulating the public. I am sorry if anyone finds them hurtful, but you could always eat less soy.
I am not exhorting the masses to rise up and demand “fascism.” Gray Mirror is not for any masses at all—even with the unpaid subscribers, I couldn’t even fill a high-school football stadium in Texas.
So what am I doing? Just asserting hypotheses in history, law and political science. Evidently these hypotheses are appalling, or appall some. Frankly, hypotheses have always had this kind of trouble. When was the world not full of censorious, sinecured professional midwits.
My first hypothesis is that, as usual in complex systems, the only choice of any latent power which conceives itself sovereign over this system, and has some desire to reassert its sovereignty—whether the American people, or the Queen of England—is to keep the system more or less as it is, or delete and replace it completely. Changing it is so impossible that the very word “change” has become a sinister Orwellian jargon.
My second hypothesis is that the only way for the American people to replace the regime is to elect a chief executive who dismantles the unconstitutional legislative branch and the theocratic oligarchy behind it, replacing both with a new executive branch. This can only be done by electing a President with a popular mandate for absolute power—or one who, like FDR, just takes it anyway.
Since the current Presidency has no power, the only way to grant it any power is to grant it absolute power—a statement which is just as true for Elizabeth II. FDR in 1933 demanded, and largely got, “the powers that would be granted to me were we in fact invaded by a foreign foe.” While these emergency powers, impressive as they are, were sufficient to establish FDR’s regime, they are quite insufficient to disestablish it.
Rather, the depth of the necessary process—which cannot stop at the formal borders of “the government,” since many of the most powerful institutions of the 20th-century regime are nominally “private”—is best compared to the denazification of Germany. This process of lustration or demarxification will require not just the powers of a general defending against an enemy invasion, but the powers of the enemy general.
Americans can only act, and should only act, in an orderly way. But the usurpation of their constitutional order by forces broadly coterminous with Marxism, a century-long process, cannot be reversed with the instruments those forces have contaminated. This reversal cannot have a lawless quality; it must have a law-like quality; but, beginning with the perversion of their republican constitution into a bureaucratic oligarchy, even the concept of law has become no more than a tool of the old regime.
To disestablish the total regime of the NSDAP required the total regime of AMGOT. In fact, all regimes are total. If you see a partial regime, the rest is just camouflaged. The 20th-century American administrative state is both unconstitutional and absolute. To think that this unconstitutional and absolute legislative branch can be unseated by any power, except a new executive branch with absolute power, is mere idle fancy. And to think that this bureaucracy is the regime itself, not the tool of a theocratic oligarchy which, safely situated outside the formal limes of the state, yet dictating all its beliefs and hence all its actions, is absolutely supreme and absolutely unaccountable, would be yet another fatal lenity. There is no such thing as a gradual, partial or incomplete regime change—just a failed regime change, a common thing and a dangerous one.
My third hypothesis is that 21st-century America can replace its government and even its regime without any kind of violence or bloodshed. The reconstruction of Germany was a rough business, at least in ‘45 and ‘46; the reconstruction of Japan was far better handled. Yet in neither of these countries, both previously considered the most violent and nationalist of nations, was there serious, violent resistance to denationalization. Unless you understand why this was, do not immediately dismiss the third hypothesis.
Human beings are not werewolves, or even wolves. Human beings are naturally easy to rule and govern. And Americans, or any 21st-century Westerners, are as governable as any humans in history, because they have no living tradition of political violence—or even authentic (bottom-up) political organization.
We still think of ourselves as a very violent and spontaneous people. This is another of our stupid 18th-century larps—just another piece of mythical baggage we cart around. Actually, not only are Americans completely harmless, apathetic and atomized—any last exceptions to this rule are no friends of the 20th-century regime, but its enemies. Even our black-clad friends (Salud! A luta continua!) are embarrassingly-tolerated.
The supporters of the old regime, for all their weird, nonsense-riddled lawn signs, can believe in anything—which is just what their signs demonstrate. If Bronze Age Pervert came to power tomorrow, they would replace all their credoes with BAP quotes—and believe them no less completely. All they know how to do is is lick a boot; one boot is as good as another. “In this house, we believe: chimp in state of nature never jerks off.”
Imagining that the wine aunts of the late but not unlamented “Resistance” would form actual resistance networks, perhaps not ISIS-tier but at least to the Days of Rage levels that real Americans, living in the real America, reached 50 years ago, is like imagining that the Stasi officers put out of work in 1989 would form revolutionary underground movements. Which is exactly what they would have imagined! It was not what they did. As Nancy Pelosi’s neckline demonstrates, even the ‘60s were a long time ago. “And the first one now will later be last.”
And my fourth hypothesis is that, as unconvincing as these first three hypotheses may be, they are as convincing as many hypotheses that professional intellectuals use to justify their various intellectual onanisms.
If we believe that a next regime is possible, that no empire is forever, we can excuse ourselves as practical when we draw up blueprints for that next regime. But this field of policy is quite different than any that exists—for, when we study monarchism, we are studying the absolute public policy of a new regime that can be anything, that can do anything—not relative changes in the public policy of an old regime that can only be what it is, and only do what it does—modulo some infinitesimal, derisory epsilon.
Of course, once there is a blueprint—or even a sheaf of blueprints—for a next regime, it is much easier for the regime to change. This does not mean the nerds who drew up the blueprints will be involved in the change, whether in removing the old regime or staffing the old regime—in fact, it is better if they are not; for if the 20th century has taught us nothing, it has taught us that even nerds can be corrupted by power.
But otherwise, this new field of study, absolute public policy—the policy playbook of a new monarchy—is completely safe. And completely uninhabited. Why not staff it up? All we need is a few good donors. In fact, since one boot is as good as another, we can even imagine “Dr. Linker,” who must have done well in school, and who does not seem at all too old to learn and grow and change, making real contributions to the new field. We don’t have to like it, but many such creatures become pillars of any real transition—the good Lord has a place for all of us, even the midwits. By the way, you should: