The Tolkien system of social roles
"For instance, the standard e-tradcath is an elf."
The hobbit-elf metaphor, which for literary brazenness is even worse than ripping off the Wachowskis, certainly struck a chord on the Twitters. And not at all a good chord. As one Croatian shepherd, Niccolo Soldo, told me: “People mad.”
I will defend my hobbits and elves. I will defend the Denny’s Hobbit Menu! I will even defend the dwarves, orcs and zombies.
There is one big issue with the Tolkien system: elves, hobbits, dwarves, orcs and zombies are roles, not races. (We could say classes, but that word has a lot of baggage.) These roles tend to be hereditary, but do not need to be. The course of a human life often includes a shift in role. But people are racist, so they think race. It’s not race.
Players in the system are high if they support the regime, and dark if they oppose it. Most elves are high elves. Most hobbits are dark hobbits. You get it. It’s dumb. Maybe even cringe. To be completely based is to have no fear at all of cringe.
Anyway. let’s walk through the task of governing all these kinds of human beings.
On governing dwarves, orcs and zombies
Everyone wants to know about the dwarves, orcs and zombies. Dwarves work; orcs don’t; zombies can’t. They are all people. We are all people. Kumbaya, man.
Without work, without some sense of meaningful effort toward purpose or mission, all people—elves, hobbits and dwarves alike—tend to turn into either orcs or zombies. Full orc society is achieved after multiple generations of routine unemployment. Zombification is faster; it can start with no more than a sip of the wrong potion.
It is the clear mission of any healthy regime to rescue zombies and resocialize orcs, returning them to their original social role. A large percentage of existing zombies only need to be separated from intoxicants. Almost all orcs (including the absurdly high number of imprisoned ones) are socially normal human beings and, in a social structure where meaningful work is both readily available and economically essential, will make valuable contributions to civilization without significant externalities. Dwarves have an economic fabric; with a social fabric, they will turn into hobbits.
In plainer terms, a new regime should be able to release most of the people in prison. Mostly they are not psychopaths—just gangbangers. These are normal people and will pursue stable professional and family lives—if this path is their only possible option.
As for the broken people on the street, some of them have serious neurological illness and should be in care. Most of the rest can return to normal lives in situations where drugs and alcohol are simply not available to them.
A functional society should not structurally import labor. Its workers and their children should assimilate into stable social roles. As labor importation ceases, the labor market must adjust to using only workers who are part of the same social network as its customers. Fruit will probably cost more.
Managing this social restoration process is an important and difficult governance task which, obviously, is not currently being addressed. We can set this process aside, assume its successful completion, and speak only of governing elves and hobbits.
On governing elves
The elven role is both hereditary and adoptive. While the children of elves are always elves (regardless of profession), educational institutions can turn anyone else into an elf. If poorly chosen, they will not be very good elves; but they will be elves. Being an elf is a state of mind.
Elves specialize in strip-mining young hobbits, dwarves and orcs to find kids who can be turned into elves. Fishing for elves born out of place is good and necessary, but like any kind of fishing it should not be overdone. Collateral damage should be minimized.
It is bad to try to turn everyone into an elf—it creates resentment against the elves, which is dangerous and bad. To a high-elf, everyone in Middle-Earth is an elf, or should be. I feel this is a bad attitude which is harmful to elves and other living things.
That everyone should be an elf is at least debatable. That everyone is is not. Even if the ultimate purpose of governance is to turn all the people into elves, it has to start from who they are right now.
What is an elf, anyway? I have two definitions of an elf; they are very different, but it is rare to find one satisfied and not the other. An elf is a person who has fully entered modernity; an elf is a person who lives for self-actualization.
For instance, the standard “e-tradcath” is an elf. He may think he is a hobbit; he may even share his church with hobbits; he is (like me) a dark elf. The hobbit has rejected modernity; having entered it, the most an elf can do is to criticize it. The stain will never wash off. Adam and Eve can neither un-eat the apple, nor remain in the Garden.
The trad is not necessarily less Catholic (or Orthodox—destination of the real trads) for all this. Indeed converts in all religions are known for their fanatical faith. Still, his purpose in becoming a trad is the central elf purpose: self-actualization. The cradle Catholic, whose faith is a function of hereditary inertia, never makes this choice.
It is unsurprising that, in Elf-Ruled America, elven ideas and values have seeped into hobbits everywhere. Hobbits of a previous period would find our hobbits quite elf-ish. These elven values tend to be strictly detrimental to a hobbit existence—they erode the traditional social fabric of the hobbits without providing real self-actualization.
There are many people (a large percentage of elves) who were born as hobbits, or dwarves, or orcs, but destined by some innate nature to migrate to the elf world. Typically this destiny is some atypical trait of intelligence, sexuality, or both.
The role of educational institutions in facilitating the adolescent hobbit-to-elf transition is essential. But this should be a selection process, not an indoctrination process. There is no advantage, to the hobbits or anyone else, in making average hobbits more elf-like. The same is even more true of dwarves, orcs and zombies.
On governing hobbits
My Internet friends seem especially bent that, like some 19th-century elf imperialist surveying my new hobbit empire, I am unsure that hobbits must be ruled by hobbits.
My friends! My very righteous friends! The secret of political science is that politics consists of getting what you want. Is what you want to rule? Or to be well-ruled? If the former, why?
Suppose you were well-ruled by alien octopus robots. Would you have an issue? Why? As Alexander Pope wrote:
For forms of government let fools contest:
Whatever governs best is best.
And how is it not self-evidently bad, either morally for the ruler, or practically for the ruler’s relative, to trade off any amount of misrule for the rule of a distant relative, or even the rule of a co-ethnic? Should hobbits prefer B-tier governance from a hobbit president, to A-tier governance from an elf-viceroy? Why?
“Rule themselves” is a flattering euphemism for a “republican form of government” that some believe is effective in certain situations. It certainly works better in some situations than others—better for some times, places and peoples than others. Over all of history, republican government is quite rare.
Even hobbits have to admit that Amish are the ultimate hobbits. The Amish do not rule themselves. The Amish are ruled, unconditionally, by the State of Pennsylvania. They also have their own church governments—which, so far as Pennsylvania knows, do not exist at all. They seem to do fine with this. They seem in fact to be flourishing.
We could say that the Amish are ruled by Pennsylvania, but govern themselves. Sure. In this sense, hobbits are generally fit for self-government—but not for sovereignty. But…
There is no way that today’s hobbits can obtain self-government without a change in sovereignty—in the power that rules over them, as Harrisburg rules over the Amish. The high-elf oligarchy will never stop tormenting the hobbits, who just want to grill.
When hobbits imagine replacing the high-elf oligarchy with a dark-hobbit oligarchy, or even with a democracy, or with some other unstable form of government, they are endangering themselves. It is not that these structures are necessarily bad—it is just that they are not especially stable.
Students of political science place too much attention on quality of government. An incompetent regime may deliver low-quality service—but beneath some threshold of competence, the regime loses the ability to hold power.
Any structure of governance is deficient in design if it cannot (a) seize power, and (b) hold onto it. Many power structures—like a mob—are transient in nature. The power of a mob decays on a scale of hours. A mob cannot take power; it can destroy power, and even direct how that vacuum of power is filled; it cannot fill the vacuum. A mob always goes home.
Democratic enthusiasm burns more slowly and evenly when it expresses itself in the form of elections, not demonstrations. Still, an election is a transient power spike—like the power spike of a mob riot or a peasant revolt. This spike may be able to (a) seize power, but not (b) hold it.
In particular, the middle-American hobbit has suffered such structural depredations from the seaboard elf that we can easily demonstrate his incompetence to rule. Proof that the hobbits are not competent to rule: they let the elves rule them.
If there was some way to give real power to the hobbits, they would give it right back. Often they would give power back in a trap designed to exploit their desire for power, which is how they got trapped into giving away their power in the first place.
The proper way to use a power spike is to use it to transfer power to a stable second-stage regime. The first stage can capture power, but cannot keep it. The second stage could not capture power, but can keep it.
This permanent regime has to be a regime that treats hobbits well. Does that mean its org chart has to have only hobbits at the top? Or in the middle? To cook good Italian food, do you have to be an Italian? This is, like, racism.
Hobbits cannot be expected to endure an anti-hobbit regime. Elves cannot be expected to endure an anti-elf regime. Unless whatever power is about both hobbits and elves is above the hobbit-elf conflict, one of these unendurables will exist.
It is logical to staff such a regime with dark elves, ie, elves who are sympathetic to hobbits. Government is a big-brained thing and elves are at high risk for big brains. There are big brains in every role, even orcs—but statistics don’t lie.
Yet the tradeoff between wisdom and intelligence is just as clear. It favors hobbits just as clearly. After a month in Reno (a small town in North Vegas—say it like the actor) I knew my neighbors better than after twenty years in San Francisco. When I was in LA the other day, a friend remarked: no one ever moves to NY or LA and talks about how everyone they meet is just so nice. Wisdom is the power to contact the gods; the State, being the viceroy of God on Earth, must mobilize the spiritual power of the hobbits.
Of course, most hobbits are still thinking in traditional Schoolhouse Rock terms. They think they can use their power not to displace the current regime, just to impact it. They are there to contribute to the democratic process. Sad!
You can’t hack anything if you believe in it. Democracy is no exception. Kindergarten politics is any political effort which sincerely believes in democracy for democracy’s sake, rather than as a functional mechanism to seize or hold power. The powers that be do not practice kindergarten politics; for them, democracy means them in power. Democracy in the sense of Brussels is a functional mechanism to hold power.
So democracy in the sense of Trump must be a functional mechanism to seize power. If not, it is kindergarten politics—politics that believes in Santa. Let’s go to the tape. To debunk anything, debunk the best possible instance of it…