Genetic Entropy finally starting to make waves

Genetic Entropy finally starting to make waves

Although stated from time to time as a scientific hypothesis, the theory of devolution, or negative evolution if you will, has had a hard time attaining recognition in a culture which congratulates itself on measuring “progress” from imbecilic proto-humans. The idea none the less has refused to go away. Richard Watley, an early contemporary of Darwin, put it pointedly “An Aristotle may be nothing more than the rubbish of an Adam.” (And that from a man who had great respect for Aristotle, having reintroduced his logic to a 19th century audience).

Now Dr. John Stanford, in his recent work on Genetic Entropy has brought forth rigorous arguments which indicate that mutation is predominantly maladaptive. Being a student of history and society rather than genetics the most I can add to that is to note that human beings certainly don’t give any indication of geting better morally.

What atheists and gnostics are going to make of this when it becomes recieved wisdom is anyone’s guess, but some indication of the fact that genetic entropy is starting to percolate into the culture comes from the movie Prometheus. Although Prometheus is a rather flawed attempt to mix science fiction and horror plots, on the symbolic level it does manage to visualize genetic entropy in a compelling fashion.

The non-Christian response is likely to be a gigantic yawn…if not a laugh. Something along the lines of “So people are getting dumber…I always knew that!” These people also think that God wants us dumb so he can dominate us. Thats exactly what a god who was immanent to the created universe (like Satan) would like to do…however that’s not the God who Christians worship.

Our God made us smart and made us to last. Like the promethean figures of science fiction, Adam was a veritable superman. So much for physics and noetics. The problem was ethics…in addition to being brainy and physically perfect, Adam wanted to be morally independent of his creator. He got that independence (albeit exchaged for the subtle despotism of Satan) and was forced to endure the curse of mortality.

Gentile myths of the fall accord pretty well with what the Bible says. What makes the Bible different is that it also gives us a scientifically realistic view of genetic entropy. Of course at the time of Darwin this was still “future science.” The interval between Darwin and Sanford has been a long time to waste on a flawed paradigm. Especially considering the fact that we aren’t getting any smarter!

Leave a comment

March 7, 2013 · 5:45 am

Creationism, The Principle Behind The Ontological Dualism of Humanity and Nature

The Natural Sciences vs. the Human Sciences, the contribution of General Creationism

Christian creationism, whatever subschool is in question (Gap, Framework, Old Earth, Young Earth etc.) goes beyond the bare assertion of creation and makes the fall a central principle of a Christian anthropology.  This is confusing to people who come to creationism for the first time, even those who might otherwise be predisposed to accept creationism on principle.  Here I want to make a case for distinguishing a general from a specific (or Christian) creationism.  There was a general creationism which undergirded all classical humanism, a humanism which is to be distinguished from the post-evolutionary “skeptical humanism” of the modern Humanist Associations.  The ideas of human dignity and personal rights are largely products of this creationist humanism which came into prominance at the time of the Western renaissance.

Later I will go into somewhat more detail on how this creation-based humanism is distinguished from its more complete Christian archetype, and to what extent it was a kind of bootleged Christianity, suggled past the vanities of the flesh and resulting in the kind of ameliorations of the human condition which were characteristic of the earlier Western revolutions.

Creationism’s mightiest enemy, Aristotle, was defeated long before the advent of Darwinian naturalism.  In contrast to Darwinians, the Aristotelians had a world-view which not only had considerable emprical evidence in its favor but which also had a tight  conceptual framwork.  Aristotelian eternalism was a self consistent whole which didn’t have to deal with the paradox of the initiation of time (aka “Big Bang”) a factor which weighs uneasily on the concience of secular science.

Enter Maimonides

With the rediscovery of Aristotle Christians of the 12th century had the  option of either keeping the eternalist view out  of the Augustinian synthesis by fiat, or accomodating it by taking a double world view stance, with faith on one side and science on the other.  At the time this was called Averroism, but it should look very familiar to anyone knowledgable about liberal theology from the 19th century onward.

Of course “nobody can serve two masters” and the double world view leads to either secularism or fideism, but not both at the same time in the same individual!  Note at this juncture the distincition between the benign duality of the natural and human sciences, which I am plugging for here and the contradictory eternalist/creationist distinction.  In the first case it is a matter of two different theories for two different objects, and in the second two different theories for the same object.  Please keep that in mind.

Fortunately Aquinas and other theologians unhappy with Averroism’s violation of the law of non-contradiction had the rabbi, Moses Maimonides (Egypt based Sephardi, 1142-1204) to do their homework for them.  Maimonides pointed out that natural law, or in simple terms the ability to keep objects “still” enough to investigate their properties, did not reqire a seemless eternal universe such as that posited by the Aristotelians.  It did not require an infinit continuum, only continuity from a begining.  The other competing world view, called occasionalism, didn’t allow for relations within time, and hence failed a major prerequisite of being a basis for science…the necessity positing causes and effects.  But scriptural creationism (remember, like Christianity, Judaism posseses Genesis) is not the “continuous creationism” of the occasionalists.  As Maimonides was at pains to point out in his Gide for the Perplexed,  scriptural creationism is foundational creation with subsequent continuity.   As such it provides a perfect “floor” for the building up of scientific knowledge.

The above is an oft told tale, albeit one which deserves frequent reiteration.  However I want to take this story a bit further and point out that the solidity of creationism, even in the very generalized and non-Christian form that it takes in Maimonides and his scholastic successors, is precisely the basis on which the benign dualism of natural history and the humanities was laid.  One result of this is what was called “science” after Galileo, and another was what is termed the “renaissance” of civilization in Western Europe.  Neither of these were unmixed blessings, but the point at hand is that neither would have existed at all without a creationist prologue.

Today creationism confronts a monistic naturalism which is more sophisticated in its methodology and has greater empircial depth than anything the Aristotelians were familiar with.  On the other hand these strivings toward monism don’t have the consistency of the Aristotelian synthesis, but rather resemble ad hoc conjectures which are both contradictory and subject to intellectual fashion trends.  In a sense the great battle between creationism and eternalism has been won decisively.  The argument against evolutionism is essentially a mop-up operation against scattered and dissolute bands of desperados.  Of course I’m speaking from a purely conceptual viewpoint, and fully recognize that, trapped as they are within the framework of modern politics and culture, most people are just as “perplexed” today as when Maimonides put stylus to parchment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Ontological Dualism of Nature/Humanity Founded on Creationism

To the reader

In the immediate future I hope (God willing!) to make a categorical survey of “creationism” in its broadest sense.  First of all this entails making a distinction between creationism in general and what may be called Christian, or specific, creationism.  Much of the misunderstanding and prejudice associated with the creationist movement, both pro and con, can be attributed to a conflation of these two categories.  Broadly speaking, general creationism has been neglected even though it has had important historical consequences.

Creationism may be defined as the bare doctrine of the creation of the world ex nihilo, i.e., “out of nothing.”  This is a necessary but not sufficient doctrine for specific creationism, which not only adds the doctrine of the fall but makes it central to any understanding of anthropology.

Disagregating general from specific creationism helps us get a better handle on ontological questions.  As interesting and important as chronology might be, (and lets face it, when most people think of “creationism” they automatically start thinking in chronological terms) the prior issues have to do with the “is-ness” not the “when-ness” of things.  Apart from theology, the most salient ontological question was always “What does it mean to be human” or more precisely, are “human beings” a separate category from “nature” or just one of its sub-divisions.  Giving a postive answer to this question yields an ontological dualism.  I also submit that this dualism is a necessary prerequisite for humanism in the good sense of the word, when we use it to designate the upholding of human dignity and personal rights.  In other words it is foundational to the older Western revolutions, who’s influence has spread throughout the world and become the basis for contemporary international society.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pico’s Resolution!

Onward Christian Anthropologists!

Last year I let this blog go quiet, but in the meantime I have been trying to flesh out some ideas about Christian Anthropology, which are now ready (or at least semi-ready) for publication.  First, on a personal note, I need to make it clear to any past readers of this blog that I have gone from a rather hazy Anglo-Catholic stance on Christian doctrine, to a staunch Evangelicalism.  While this doesn’t necessarily impinge on every issue in Christian Anthropology, there may be certain differences in tone which hopefully wont be a “skandalon” to long time followers of this blog.  You can be scandalized if you wish…just don’t let it become a “stumbling block” in your spirtual walk.

 

Secondly, and of much more relevance to Christian Anthropology per se, is the fact that I have gradually transited from being “creationist curious” to acnowledging creationism as an indispensible starting point for any seriously Christian consideration of the doctrine of human nature.  This doesn’t mean that I intend to add to the very extensive work done by the so-called “scientific creationists.”  I don’t doubt the value of this work, but it does seem to me that there is a certain nurd-like ambience to that movment, which has very successfully emulated the  “facts and only the facts ma’am” attitude of secular physical scientists.  In this process the social sciences have tended to get left out in the cold, which I think is a pity.  What is really needed is some sort of collective effort…a continuation of, say, the journal of Creation in the Social Sciences and the Humanities which was heroically fielded by Eleen Myers and her associates from the late ’70s to the early 90’s.

Indeed the decideratum is not so much the development of a separate “creation science” as a critique of evloutionism’s deepest and most salient motivations.  I don’t think that the gates of evolutionary doctrine will long resist acritical psychological investigation which clearly shows that the roots of the “deep time” metaphysic in the mentality of sin.   To demonstrate that evolutionism is gnostic, and that gnosticism is fundamentally psychologistic rather than objective, should be the long term goal of any Christian anthropology which deals in first principles and does not merely emulate the eccleticism and random empiricism of secular anthropology.

Having said that, I am going to initiate this blog’s revival with an upcoming series on one of the more wildly speculative, and yet empircal, Christian anthropologists, Arthur C. Custance.  While I don’t necessarily agree with everything which Custance held to, his thinking was one of the more sustained attempts to delve into the social (and in his case physiological) consequences of a creationist anthropology.   None the less, since his intellectual legacy has been marginalized by contemporary science and theology, it seems that begining with an investigation of Custance’s ideas should open up all sorts of neglected and important avenues of thought…at least for yours truely.

But I hope others will join in!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Burn ‘em at the stake!: Refuting Cowen’s Libertarian Heresies

Tylor Cowen goes to bat against paleolibertarianism

Tylor Cowen, who has artfully managed to turn economic analysis into a running commentary on life style enhancement, has recently given a succinct summary of his objections to what he no doubt considers the “fundamentalist” version of libertarianism.  Many people would like to replace this older ideology of the right, which might be called paleolibertarianism, popularized from the time of Albert J. Nock to that of Murray Rothbard under the slogan “our enemy is the state” with somthing like “look at the state we’ve  gotten ourselves into…can’t something be done to improve it?”  Tyler Cowen is by no means the only person who shares this point of view, he is simply its most articulate advocate.  The idea is that the monker “libertarian” is just too good to be wasted on anarchists and other of their ilk who really want to radically curb the principle of coercion in public life.  Rather it should be awarded to the respectable oppenents of leftism: the social democrats, neoconservatives, and life style liberals who otherwise would have nothing better to call themselves than “cosmopolitans.”

It is to Cowen’s credit that he has come up with a list of priciples which distinguish these pro-capitalist cosmopolitains from libertarians, and that he has admitted that in the eyes of the latter the former are heretics.  In an address to the Institute of Humane Studies he formulated a series of principles which, in his mind at least, distinguished pro-freedom cosmopolitans from libertarians.  This is, of course, a “galaxy far far away” from yours truely, and moreover I am relying on second hand information, the blog of skepticlawyer who seems to live in Australia (at least my own hemisphere).  None the less to the extent that I can reconstruct Cowen’s address, the principles seem to be five in number:

1.  People are freer now that they were in the past

2. The proportional size of the state has diminished in relation to the growth of civil society.

3. It is meaningful to speak of postive as well as negative rights.

4. The establishment of the rule of law is anterior to any possible calculus of freedom vs. unfreedom among a population, and a prerequisite for any advance in freedom.

5. The cultural values of a population must be considered anterior to any abstract notion of the advance in freedom.  Less freedom may be preferable, in the eyes of the population, to the sacrifice of other values to the end of greater freedom.

These are weighty statements which almost guarantee the consent of our prudence and common sense.  Whether they are true is yet another question.  I hope some mind equal to the task will refute them in their totality and preserve the radical integrity of the libertarian movement.  After all a slogan like “look at the state we’ve gotten ourselves into…can’t something be done to improve it” is less likely to send people to the barracades than “hate the state.”  But then of course, that may be the real motive for the cosmopolitans’ defection from old-style radical libertarianism.  It may be  an attempt to put prudence and self-preservation ahead of principle, certainly an understandable motive…but one which opens up the possibility of refutation.

I for one find it difficult to resist the temptation of chiping away piecemeal at these “heresies”…if only to see if some deeper foundation can be discovered for the paleoconservative position.  Tylor has thrown down the gauntlet…now let’s see how many will take up the challenge!

Leave a comment

Filed under Austrian Economics, libertarianism, Philosophy, politics

Sudha Shenoy: In Memoriam

A Woman in the True Tradition of Political Economy

Sudha Shenoy 1947-2008, was more than an economist, she was a keeper of academic traditions, a living lore-mistress, a transition belt between cultures and generations of scholars. She was one who both introduced me, and then reintroduced me, to the world of Austrian economics, which was quite a feat in itself, since in those days I was a kind of refugee from a different cognitive world. Sudha was the kind of economist who could speak to a disaffected social scientist or even literary critic in such terms as to make the “dismal science” of economics come alive as a branch of the humanities.

I really only knew her briefly, but now that she is gone a host of memories crowd in on me…things that she said in an off handed way which struck everyone present as profound, yet largely went unrecorded for posterity. For example, she once conjectured the “throw away hypothesis” that most Austrian economists came from marginalized religious backgrounds, that is to say, they were more likely to be the children of atheists, Quakers, or Jews than, for example, Methodists. Her implication was that the principles espoused by Mises and others could be seen as an amplification of the rhetoric of dissent (which in the Anglo-Saxon world included Catholics like Neuman). She herself was a dissenter from her own tradition, for she had become a Buddhist by choice. Most Westerners would be hard pressed to distinguish a Hindu from a Buddhist, and I imply no invidious comparison, but for Sudha it was a characteristically intellectual choice…a rejection of cast and mythogogy for reason or “dharma” a Sanskrit term which approximates the Greco-Christian term “logos.”

Another shocking manifestation of Suda’s dissenting mentality was her rejection of the cult of Mohandas Ghandi. At the time I met her there was a vigorous trend among libertarians to incorporate Ghandi among the icons of the movement on the pretext that there was an unbreached continuity between the nonaggression principle and a strategy of nonviolence. Although there was never a gentler person than Sudha Shenoy, she was quick at spotting and denouncing cant in whatever cultural guise it appeared. Once she explained to me that even the wife of the Great Souled One considered him a madman. Well, considering that her husband adopted celibacy without calling a family conference to discuss the matter in advance…Mrs. Ghandi may have had some insight that the rest of us lack.

Yet for all of her critical acumen, Sudha was a conservative thinker in the very best sense. She was impatient of those neologizing disciplinary distinctions which seem based more on the unionization of intellectual nitch-holders than on real differences in subject matter. I remember a debate at George Mason over who had been the first to recognize the division of labor. Cantillon was said to have gotten it earlier than Smith, while others claimed that it was all to be found in the writings of the Spanish Scholastics. Sudha settled it with one word: “Plato” which compelled our assent, for everyone (well almost) remembered the passage of the Republic where Socrates had described specialized exchange within his soon-to-be-reformed “city of pigs.” Although Plato seldom appears on reading lists compiled for the inspiration of libertarians, the passage is there and its priority is unquestioned.

That was Sudha. She was never one to reject a valid insight, no matter of what obscure and dubious provenance. This made her a balancing influence within the world of Austrian scholarship. Among the Misesians she was a Hayekian, and among the Hayekians she was always trying to push towards a more fundamental and radical reinstatement of liberty. In a wider sense, her mind encompassed strands which had been sundered since the time of what Karl Jasper called the “Axial Age” i.e. of c. 600B.C, up to the present: Greek philosophy, Indian metaphysics, British political economy, the Mengerian revolution, contemporary social science, and American libertarianism. Yet the result of these influences was not a miasma of eclecticism, but a mind all the more focused on a single goal…a world governed not by coercion but by spontaneous and tacit agreements. No doubt Suda would wish, in lieu of mourning the loss of that mind, that we should redouble our efforts in pursuit of its goal.

Leave a comment

Filed under Austrian Economics, libertarianism, politics, Sudha Shenoy

Tom Paine and our pain: A critique of Rothbard’s reasoning on republics

“The Sudden Emergence of Tom Pain” and the evolution of libertarian theory

It is a maxim of conservative thought, which should be fully shared by paleolibertarians, that good things evolve, while evil things burst suddenly into the world with revolutionary force.  In the short time since the death of Murray Rothbard (1995), paleolibertarian theory has continued to clarify itself through small increments of incisive reasoning.  This is, of course, as Murray would have wanted it, for if there was anything that he was more skeptical of than the idea of a “new libertarian man” it would have to be the notion  that he himself provided an infallible model of such a person.

One of the most surprising turns in the late and post-Rothbardian period of libertarian theorizing has been the rehabilitation of monarchism stimulated by Hans Hermann Hoppe in his Democracy: The God That Failed.  This paleoconservative/paleolibertarian synthesis is indeed a promised land which Rothbard, even looking out from the highest Pisgah peak of his theory could but vaguely dicern.  Thus the excerpting of a portion of Rothbard’s history of the independence movement Concieved in Liberty by the Ludwig von Mises Institute provides a valuable opportunity to assess the limits of Rothbardian thinking, as well as to explore a new trajectory of thought which was mostly unguessed at during his lifetime.  I can add nothing to the brilliant analysis of “private government” (aka monarchy) as a stable and equitable economic system contained in Hoppe.  However there is another dimension to the critique of republicanism which was overlooked by Rothbard, a dimension which, for want of a better term, might be called “social psychology.”  Hoppe is no doubt aware of this dimension, but in his works he makes the case for “private government” according to the strict methodological rationalism of the Austrian school.  Although I am every bit of a rationalist as Hoppe, here my approach will be more phenomenological, which might be termed rational inquiry into the irrational.

No Country for Old Kings

Anyone familiar with Rothbard will, upon encountering “The Sudden Emergence of Tom Pain” get the sudden shock of arriving at a critical juncture in Rothbardian historiography.  For those unfamiliar with him, it is sufficient to point out that Rothbard always approaches American history from an antipoidal perspective, and the expression “everything you were taught in the standard textbooks is the precise opposite of the truth” will serve as a handy outline of his thinking on practically any issue.  Thus World War II should not have been fought, not to mention World War I, the North was the agressor in the Civil War, civil service “reforms” were less just than the spoils system…the list could be extended indefinitely.

However with “The Sudden Emergence of Tom Paine” Rothbard suddenly rejoins the mainstream narrative of American history.  Why, apart from the fact that Rothbard was Rothbard and not Hoppe, should this have been so?  As “The Sudden Emergence” explains…

One of the main stumbling blocks to a commitment to independence was personal loyalty to the British crown.  There has always been a political taboo of almost mystical force against attacking the head of state, and always the convenient though emasculating custom of attributing his sins to his evil or incompetent advisors.  Such long-standing habits impeded a rational analysis of the deeds of King George III.  Furthermore, the old and obsolete Whig ideal of virtual independence under a figurehead king of both Britain and America could only be shattered if the king were to be attacked personally.

The key political concept here is “the old and obsolete Whig ideal of virtual independence under a figurehead king.”  Uncharacteristically, Rothbard is taking a narrative rather than a synoptic viewpoint here, that is to say, he is robbing himself of historical hindsight to take up the perspective of an British American living at the eve of the revolution.  Yes, from the vantage point of such a person the “Whig ideal of virtual independence under a king” might have appeared “old and obsolete.”  Since the end of the French and Indian War the British parliament had been trying to stage a coup d’etat against the institutions and liberties of the American colonies.  On top of that the Hannoverian dynasty was begining to show signs of discontent with its “figurehead” status.  The thrid George was now a fully assimilated Britisher, and just mad enough to start throwing his weight around while he was reasonaby functional.  A perfect storm seemed to be on the verge of wrecking Whig loyalism.

But of course Rothbard knows how the story ends, with a continental rather than an multi-continental empire.  According to the libertarian axioms which favor seccession and smaller polities this appears to make sense at first glance, but there are surely other considerations besides simple scale which should be weighed in the transition from British monarchism to American republicanism.  Though the libertarian impulse of the generation of ’76 is unimpeachable, Rothbard knew quite well (from Charles Beard via Albert J. Nock) that the clique which drew up the constitution of 1787 was motivated by the expansion rather than the limitation of power.

The story that Rothbard is telling us, and it is true as far as it goes, is essentially a description of stasis…as stasis of states if you will.  First we have the British empire, followed by a libertarian interreginum from 1775-1788 under the states and the Articles of Confederation, followed by the American empire from 1789 onwards.  Or as Rothbard himself was apt to say, anarchy is desirable but inherently difficult to maintain because of the constant impulse in human nature towards aggression and “taking over” an even playing field.  Rothbard’s narrative is clearly superior to that of the standard textbooks in that he recognizes that the empire of post-1787 was no great improvement over the empire of pre-1775.  Yet this position is not as antipoidal to consensus thinking as it might seem.  A more radical stance would be to maintain that the empire initiated under the Federalists was actually worse than that of the British.  Certainly the evidence presented by the full sweep of Rothbard’s historiography point in that direction.  Why, in this instance, does our curmudgeonly historian so uncharacteristically pull his punches?

Whiggism=Manifest Destiny?

Rothbard’s glorification of Tom Paine’s republicanism contains a curious conflation of two sides of Whig ideology, in which he, perhaps unwittingly, weighs in on the wrong side.  The Whigs stood for private rights against public power, one formulation of which can be stated as “virtual independence under a figurehead king.”  However Whiggism also refers to a kind of historical theory which might be caracturized as “things are always getting better, never worse.”  Rothbard, quite rightly, rejects this second idea…that is, with the notable exception of the American separation from the British monarchy.  Naturally, from a rhetorical point of view, Rothbard like all political writers, could see the utility of taking a position which was flattering to the vanities of patriotism.  But is it objectively true that people were freer, or at least no less free, under the federal constitution than under the British monarchy?

Obviously measurements of degrees of freedom are suspect so I will restrict myself to a very impressionistic observation.   Since the late 18th century, the theory of rights which were expounded under the name of Whiggism, later liberalism, and still later libertarianism has undergone a mounting challenge from authoritarianisms of both the left and the right.  Is it not reasonable to consider, under such circumstances, that a wrong turn was made in Whig theory sometime during the 18th century and we have been living with its consequences ever since?

Yes, I would say there is, but I want to offer something more than just such a circumstantial arguement for “libertarian” monarchism.  I think that there are a priori grounds within the realm of social psychology which in some sense necessitate Whig monarchism as the framework for a free society.  Rothbard could not have seen this because, in spite of his intellegence which was so much greater than many, and certainly mine, his style of thinking didn’t allow him to pose the question in the right way.  His methodological individualism blinded him to the power of collective representations.  Methodological individualism is an absolute requirement of economic theory which deals with actions and transactions.  But a conflation of normative individualism with methodological individualism can hamper attempts to understand the way masses of people think.  Such thinking must be understood, if only so as to shown its own errors.  Then we will be closer to understanding why people love, or hate, monarchies.

A Certain Dangerous Animal

The novelist Lawrence Durrel once wrote something to the effect that, “Society is not a collection of individuals or a machine, it is an organism.  And like any animal, it becomes dangerous if its nature is not respected.”  In these sentiments Durrel was probably echoing a tradition in sociology that libertarians would prefer not to deal with: the French positivists of the 19th century.  I share in this distain for August Compt the founder of the movement, although to a far lesser extent his distant diciple Emile Durkheim.  The key notion of this school was “society worships itself.”  As a normative statement (and for Compt it was normative) this expresses the antithesis of liberalism.  However as a phenomenological description of how people think under concrete social conditions, it is remarkably accurate.

People, if left to their own devices, will worship themselves.  A perfectly isolated person, say a Renaissance magus living in a Gothic tower served by genii, will actually try to become a god.  In actual fact such cases are rare, if indeed they exist at all.  Normally people live in a social state, and they discover that if they don’t cooperate they are humbled.  However this humbling of the individual doesn’t lead to an abandonment of the self-deification impulse.  Rather this drive is transfered from the individual to the group.  Actually, since we are talking about thinking here, we are talking about the transfer of worship from a image of self, the “ego” (which may be a very selective appropriation of traits from the emprical self) to an image of the group (which liable to be even more selective).   Just as people don’t really relish thinking about what they physically and morally consist of, groups don’t worship themselves in the form of little particles called “others” (which would only draw attention to potential in-group competition).   Instead they form a collective representation of the group, and each individual directs the intentions of their thought towards that representation.  Ethnologists describing small scale traditional societies call these representations “totems.”  In a politically centralized  traditional society the totem becomes a person: a sacred king.

Since the sacred king is the collective representation of society as a whole, the system is open to all sorts of abuses which we can detect from the retrospective vantage point of Whig theory.  The king is liable to go from “being ” society as a colletive representation, to “owning” society as an individual.  Thus Joseph’s pharaoh, who wound up taking over all the grain in the kingdom, and later pharohs who even eslaved their stewards and their people.  Thus the oriental despots as described by Wittfoegel, who (thanks to control over irrigation) were able to turn their kingdoms into private farms.

European developments, and British developments in particular, mitigated against the worst of these abuses.  The theory which went along with this practice was, in the 18th century, designated Whiggism.  The idea was to roll back the power of the kings by denying them their sacred character and treating them as private individuals, who, for the sake of social peace were intrusted with sovereignty through a social compact.  Both their political and sacred duties became more and more attenuated.  Queen Ann was the last British monarch to cure people of scrofula by her touch (one of those she treated was the infant Samuel Johnson).

From this attenuation, the next logical step was abolition, which occured in America and France roughly around the same time.  Now if these revolutions had been accompanied by a corresponding transformation in human nature, such that a “new libertarian man” had come into existence, all would have been well.  This would have required, at the very minimum, that people in general give up thinking about social collectivities in abstract terms, and become nominalists.  This would have obviated conflicts between class and class, nation and nation.  Seeing reality as nothing but a collection of concrete entities, perhaps they could have worked out some sort of just exchange of scarce goods among themselves on a utilitarian basis.  But it didn’t happen, and people continued to apply abstract categories to social collectivities…and not just bare “humanity”…but also lesser divisions such as “England” and “France”  “the bourgoisee” “the Robertson family” etc.

It may seem that I am being rather draconian, or facetious, in my account of the period around the end of the 18th century, but there is circumstantial evidence to the effect that the most advanced thinkers of the times were indeed bothered by the obstructions which abstract thought put to the implimentation of scientific ends.  These people called themselves the “ideologists” a word which today has come to mean someone who expounds any special philosophical viewpoint, but in the original sense meant litterally the study of ideas as problematic.  The initially felt that their plans to reorganize society were being interfered with by a persistence of Platonism in popular thought, but in the end they were forced to realize that the human mind naturally deals with its environment through a process of abstraction.

Now this process of abstraction is both necessary and natural, but the delegation of collective representations to represent the group meant that the cupidity which is born in the individual was tranfered to society.  Now the nation took the place of the sacred king as the totem of the group.  From the begining of the 19th century socialism and nationalism increasingly became the religions of the masses.  A few masochisticly rigorous thinkers like August Compt could think their way through to a pure humanism abstracted from both the supernatural and class interests, but the majority were spoiling for a fight…and got it beyond their wildest dreams in the American Civil War, the Franco-Prussian war of 1871, and the world wars of the 20th century.

New Country for Old Wiggs?

To sum up my argument for monarchism: it keeps societies from worshiping themselves.  From this self-worship comes the legitimacy of democratic appropriation of power from empirical society to the state, this latter being (amongst other things) the collective representation of society, society’s “ego” if you will.

If the world were made up of men like Murray Rothbard and Tom Paine, men who see everything in terms of concretes and methodological individualism, the world would be safe for republicanism.  But of course that is not the case, for ordinary people the republic becomes the god of society, the republic with all its symbols, its flag, its anthem, and its president with powers more vast than any king in history.

The only kind of state in which a stable and enduring system of personal and property rights could flourish is one in which the soverign was a private person.  This is not because having a soverign who is a private person is particularly safe, but because having a soverign who is a collective person is so manifestly dangerous.  I appeal to the 20th century as my evidence.

A word of caution is in order however.  Opponents of constitutional monarchy and private government always seek to tar legitimate monarchy with the brush of oriental despotism.  Their objections should not be dismissed hastily!  The history of the Napoleonic dynasty, not to mention many more “legitimate” houses in modernity, show that an unchanging human nature is still receptive to the archaic notion of the sacred king.

The god-men must not be allowed to return!  The kind of Whig monarchy which I am refering to could only be revived within the context of a Judeo-Christian culture.  Just as the monarchy should function as a sponge to absorbe the false pretentions of society towards divinity, so true religion must always be present to keep the person who has been entrusted with sovereignty from developing aspirations towards godhood.

Given these conditions there is nothing utopian about a Whig monarchy, indeed, I can’t think of any other libertarian constitution which would be less utopian.  Society would have no collective representation to generate irrational loyalty.  There would instead be two classes, the soverign and the subjects, each jealous of their own rights and checking the other.  The proof of this is non-utopian is that such societies, however imperfect, actually existed at one time, prior to the American and French revolutions.  The “utopian” sort of monarchism was the tyranical idealizing of men like Filmer, who wanted to revert the Christian monarchies of Europe back to something like the pharonic system.  Short of historical determinism, there is no reason why the Whig ideal of legally circumscribed monarchy shouldn’t have stabilized and continued.  Although the 18th century wasn’t quite a collection of proprietary communities in a strict Hoppean sense, and there was a great deal of economic and political chaos, the kings and queens, at least in Britain, were well on the way towards becoming private persons who simply happened to hold soverignty.  Sacred, realist thought was becoming restricted to theological objects, legal, nominalist thinking was starting to dominate the relations between royal houses and all the other legal persons in civil society.  As Someone  once said, that’s called “Rendering unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s,  and to God what is God’s.”

3 Comments

Filed under antimodernism, Austrian Economics, Philosophy, politics, theology, traditionalism