Owned Government Would Tend to Lawfulness & Social Peace

Owned government would tend to good government. Stable, just law is a forecondition of prosperity, and thus of the sovereign’s revenues from his personal property in the state enterprise. So the prudent sovereign would not want his government to be capricious, or vicious. He wouldn’t want to run it as a racket. He wouldn’t try to rip off his customers, but rather do his best to give them great service.

To his subjects then would it be quite apparent that the laws their governors impose and execute are reasonable and just withal, fairly and properly enforced. They would not be unhappy with their lords, or chafe at their rule. That rule would therefore be legitimate; and the sovereign would enjoy the fealty of his subjects, and indeed their love. Their untroubled cooperation with him would follow.

Owned government would tend then also to engender lawfulness among the people, to whom it would be apparent that their government generally makes pretty good sense – is honest, straightforward, intelligent, sapient, and apposite to things as they really are. Sensible laws that congrue with reality are terrifically easy to obey; one *wants* to obey them. Who that is sane wants to drive the wrong way on a one way street?

Owned government would therefore tend to preponderance of orderly, lawful, and proper behavior, thus to good social order, efficient and effective coordination toward truly valuable ends, and to social peace and harmony; to the temperance of resentment and envy, and the reduction of crime.

These all feed back, obviously, into psychological health. And preponderant good health feeds back in turn to prosperity and harmony, in a classic virtuous cycle.

Finally, owned government would tend to simplicity, parsimony, apposition, adequacy, logic, consistency and transparency of law, and to the overall coherence and sanity of the code of law, ergo to the justice and efficiency of the administration of justice. The sagacious sovereign wants his laws to be clear to his subjects, few, light, and easy for them to obey, as being fit to their lives as lives must be lived. So he would try to minimize the legal and logistical friction laws impose upon social and economic transactions, greatly smoothing and speeding both loves and works, and increasing the rate of generation of value – which is to say, of true human flourishing.

24 thoughts on “Owned Government Would Tend to Lawfulness & Social Peace

  1. Pingback: Owned Government Would Tend to Lawfulness & Social Peace | @the_arv

  2. Owned Government Would Tend to Good Government

    Owned Government Would Tend to Lawfulness & Social Peace

    As is so amply proven by the history of Europe between, say, 476 and 1800 AD, and for that matter, by most of the history of the entire human race.

    ====
    Monarchy is *not* good government; it’s just — generally (*) — better than what else was available at the time.

    (*) There is always a Prince Charles (than God for 1776!) waiting in the wings, ready to make monarchy even worse that it normally is.

    • Yeah, whereas republics and democracies are … well, res ipsa loquitur.

      In reality, the government is *always* owned. The only question is whether it is owned honestly and openly, or dishonestly and secretly, as ours is. In the latter case, the government becomes a conspiracy of some few men against the commonwealth – or a secret war of such conspiracies. In the former, the sovereign wins when the people win, and loses when they lose. Sane sovereigns then will tend to … sanity. And, yes, there will always be insane sovereigns. That’s just life. There can be ways of dealing with them that do no violence to the social fabric. The US Constitution was a brilliant sally at just such a solution.

      Notice that in the two posts under discussion there has been no mention of monarchy. A government could be openly and honestly owned, in law as well as fact, by one man, or a group of men, or all its subjects and citizens.

      • Yeah, whereas republics and democracies are …

        Not to be mentionied in the same breath. Democracy — all the drawbacks of monarchy and republicanism, with none of the benefits, and as an added bonus, oligarchy and tyrrany thrown in for free!

        Notice that in the two posts under discussion there has been no mention of monarchy.

        Oh, come on! You guys are *always* banging the drum for replacing the Republc with a monarchy.

        So, you’re implying that I mis-judged your purpose. Well, them, If I did, then you shoul have no problem stating your agreement that “monarchy is *not* good government“.

        A government could be openly and honestly owned, in law as well as fact, by one man, or a group of men, or all its subjects and citizens.

        Monarchies don’t have citizens, and if the subjects of a government own the government, then we’re talking about a republic, not a monarchy.

        Sane sovereigns then will tend to … sanity. And, yes, there will always be insane sovereigns.

        Which is precisely why “monarchy is *not* good government“. In a republic, the majority of the electors must be insane for the government to be insane; in a monarchy, there is only the one elector, and if he is insane, or merely incompetent, than *everyone* suffers.

      • Ilíon, honestly: I had not monarchy much in mind in writing this post or its predecessor. I had rather in mind a feudal stack of sovereign corporations– which might be monarchical, or not. As described, it was rather republican.

        That I truly wasn’t shilling for monarchy just above nowise entails my agreement that monarchy per se is not good government. The governors of *any* sort of government might govern badly, or well, including monarchy. I see nothing at work in the world that ensures that monarchy will do evil always and everywhere. On the contrary.

        Your point about the dispersion of risk in a republic is well taken. But in the real world, monarchy has almost always been tended by, and the king a creature of, a ruling class of aristocrats, who tempered his excesses and, if need be, removed him from office somehow. These aristocrats, in turn, were tempered, supported, and tended by courtiers of their own. So in practice, with the relatively rare exceptions (at least among the Europeans) of totalitarian dictators, something of the dispersion of risk that you discover in republics is at work also in monarchies.

  3. Pingback: Owned Government Would Tend to Lawfulness & Social Peace | Reaction Times

  4. Kristor, would you consider an ante-bellum sugar plantation to be an example of owned government? or King Leopold’s Congo? Maybe the government would find it profitable to kick people off of their ancestral lands so that they can create an enclosed pasture. Maybe they would find it profitable to put all of the farm land in the hands of giant agra-corps, move the peasants to the city and extract massive rents from people doing monotonous labor. Maybe the owned government would encourage women to do the kind of labor from which it is easier to extract excess value.

    You are trying to do political economy without ethics. It’s a square circle.

    • No; those are not examples of owned government. Owned government of people is not the same thing as owned people.

      The post is six paragraphs, for Pete’s sake. It’s not an exhaustive specification of every aspect of a society.

      To repeat: governments are always owned. It’s just that they are almost always dishonest about it. All I am doing with these posts is running gedanken experiments on what would be different if instead ownership of government were open and above board, while holding other factors of social life (ethics, religion, kinship structures, and so forth) more or less constant (except insofar as they would be affected by honestly owned government).

      • “Owned government of people is not the same thing as owned people.”

        Why not? What is government of a people? What does it mean to own people?

        Frankly, a well run Virginia tobacco plantation probably tended to many of the goods that you mention. That’s why I specifically said Sugar plantation. Sometimes there is an incentive to provide good government, sometimes it makes more sense to work people to death in the salt mines.

      • When people are at liberty to reject your government – Moldbug’s right of exit, or something equivalent – you do not own them.

        In practice, just as governments are always somehow or other owned, men have always the power to reject their government. Even the most tyrannical totalitarian government can be overthrown. Viz., the recent history of Albania.

    • Can’t quite make sense of this, Thordaddy. Can you please express it less cryptically, and using normal diction?

      Have deleted a few of your other comments because I couldn’t begin to make head or tail of them. If you want comments to pass moderation, you’ll need to make them easy to understand.

  5. The reality is that those most capable of self-governing cannot escape the ungovernable and the ungovernable cannot be tamed by more government. But in the wild, wicked West, the ungovernable DEMAND more government and those most capable of self-governing serve it up like a smorgasbord. So our government is bought and sold and yet no one actually owns any of it.

  6. It is understandable that modern people would read this (and similar posts) and think of it as reducing the City to raw materials to be processed and consumed for the benefit of the owner, because that is how modern people think of property. The notion of the authority referred to by “owner” as a matter of stewardship which is only justified in the first place by its connection to the common good sails right over the modern head.

    But given that connection to the common good there is obviously no “right of exit” in some plenary sense either. Fleeing persecution is one thing; fleeing your post, the place allotted to you by Providence, is something else entirely.

    • There is no right of exit that is not granted by some sovereign, yes. But almost all men have the natural power to flee (whatever they construe as) persecution. And there are always going to be some such lingering and malingering about, in any polity, howsoever fair and wise it be. So sovereigns are fools who would prevent disloyal or disgruntled men from departing their realms. No one – neither the sovereign, nor any of his subjects, who rely all upon their mutual loyalty – wants to live with a lot of traitors or deserters or would be rebels. Nor even would sunshine patriots be so very welcome. “Leave when you want; we’ll buy you out at a good price, just to get rid of you; don’t let the door hit you on the way out;” that would be the prudent attitude of a sovereign – of a people – to those who would (for whatever reason) depart the commensal fellowship of the realm. Better their departure than their betrayal, sedition, or sabotage. Or their whining.

      So almost all sane sovereigns have granted their subject citizens the legal right to emigrate.

      These considerations lie at the root of the ancient Greek custom of annual ostracism of the least popular among the citizens.

      • Kristor:

        So almost all sane sovereigns have granted their subject citizens the legal right to emigrate.

        Well, I think you are glossing over a much more complicated history. I have the impression that conscription and other mandatory service is both relatively common and – at least in itself – not particularly morally problematic. Active banishment as pragmatic treatment of and punishment for the disloyal isn’t a “right to emigrate”.

        But my main point wasn’t about the substance of what you are presenting. It was more an explanation of why (in my view) the manner of expression — the reframing of sovereignty as ownership – is bound to cause a misapprehension of the reality being explained.

        Sovereign authority doesn’t need to be reframed as a form of property ownership, in my view. It needs to be grasped and accepted as what it has always been, that is, a higher level in the fractal instanced by a father’s authority over his family and their duties to the family he heads. A family owns property and has members; and a father’s authority is not limited to that of owner of the property.

      • To be sure; a tremendously important point.

        That said, and to repeat what I wrote to Josh: the post – and its linked predecessors in the series – were not held forth as exhaustive specifications of society. They were, all, explorations of the notion of making owned government explicit and above board, while leaving other factors of the social organism alone, except insofar as they were influenced by the change to lawful owned government. My occasional posts on the familiar society explore another such factor in the same way.

        I didn’t mean to suggest that ostracism and banishment are sorts of voluntary emigration. What I had in mind rather was a spectrum of emigration policies, with totalitarian slavery of the East German or North Korean sort at one end (preventing anyone from leaving), ancient Greek ostracism at the other end (kicking someone out every year whether or not he wants to leave), and a legal right to emigrate at will somewhere in the middle.

      • To be more concise:

        “Exit” merely reframes liberalism under another name in its implication that a sovereign justly rules only territory/objects/property, not actual subjects.

      • Yes. Government is authoritative constraint of subjects, or it is not government in the first place, but rather only the real estate business.

      • Kristor:

        See, I knew we weren’t substantively disagreeing; just clarifying.

        And it is certainly worthwhile to state and emphasize that fathers and sovereigns personally own the communal property.

      • Almost all disagreements are mere appearances. They can be resolved by a careful clarification of terms and propositions. This indicates that when people disagree with each other, one at least of them is disagreeing with reality – thus with his own deepest self. In reality, everything agrees – albeit not necessarily comfortably.

        But if that’s the case, how can people err, so as then to disagree? Only by falling into a (generally inadvertent) confusion of some sort, springing from the great disparity between the limits of our intellects and the Limit of the real; thus, an (almost always) innocent turn away from what is real.

  7. Ilion:Monarchy is *not* good government.

    Kristor:Ilíon, honestly: I had not monarchy much in mind in writing this post or its predecessor. I had rather in mind a feudal stack of sovereign corporations– which might be monarchical, or not.

    Kristor:If government were the personal property of some men, …

    If a government were the personal property of “some men”, then you’re not talking about “a feudal stack of sovereign corporations”.

    If a government were the personal property of “some men”, then you’re talking about monarchy … or dictatorship.

    Kristor:As described, it was rather republican.

    Well, the good you’re trying to get depends on republicanism, but you’re (vainly!) trying to get it through monarchy, and worse, via feudalism.

    Kristor:I had rather in mind a feudal stack of sovereign corporations …

    Heavens! Haven’t utopian schemes, whether leftist or “neo-reactionary” done enough damage to humanity already?

    We citizens of USA *already* have the best sort of government that has ever been devised by men, and likely ever will be. That “progressives” have been deliberately-and-relentlessly working for well over a century to undermine and overthrow our government by stealth does not so much reflect on the system itself as on the people — the flawed, weak, sinful human beings who both rule and are ruled by the system.

    Why are you wasting your time and energies dreaming of some it-will-never-happen “neo-reactionary” feudal “corporation”, when you *already* live under the best sort of government possible — short of the direct rule of Christ — and the best suited to the rule of and by human beings, given the nature of human beings as flawed, weak, sinful sreatures?

    Kristor:I had rather in mind a feudal stack of sovereign corporations- which might be monarchical, or not.

    In the only sort of monarchy that we English-speaking peoples have experience — a feudal monarchy organically developed from “right-of-conquest” — not only do the subjects of the government *not* own the government itself, but technically, legally, they don’t own even the clothes on their own backs. For, technically, legally, the monarch owns *everything*.

    Now, while in our history this particular fly in your ointment goes all the way back to the historical “right-of-conquest” basis of the post-1066 English monarchy, it is also a characteristic inherent to the nature of feudalism — under feudalism, all that one “owns” is merely the use of some property or other, at the sufferance of one’s feudal superior, and which use was both granted and may be revoked at his pleasure.

    Kristor:That I truly wasn’t shilling for monarchy just above …

    Really? It sure looks like that is what you’re doing.

    Kristor:That I truly wasn’t shilling for monarchy just above nowise entails my agreement that monarchy per se is not good government.

    Kristor, I am at least as careful and precise in what I write as you are. I did not say or imply that that what you’ve written entails your agreement that monarchy per se is not good government. I called — and still call — upon you to agree, as a matter both of reason and of historical experience, that monarchy per se is not good government.

    Kristor:The governors of *any* sort of government might govern badly, or well, including monarchy.

    Once again, I am at least as careful and precise in what I write as you are. This in no wise contradicts anything I have said.

    Kristor:I see nothing at work in the world that ensures that monarchy will do evil always and everywhere. On the contrary.

    Once again, I am at least as careful and precise in what I write as you are. This is not what I said.

    Kristor:Your point about the dispersion of risk in a republic is well taken. But in the real world, monarchy has almost always been tended by, and the king a creature of, a ruling class of aristocrats, who tempered his excesses and, if need be, removed him from office somehow. These aristocrats, in turn, were tempered, supported, and tended by courtiers of their own. So in practice, with the relatively rare exceptions (at least among the Europeans) of totalitarian dictators, something of the dispersion of risk that you discover in republics is at work also in monarchies.

    I pointed out to you the signal weakness of monarchy … and your proposed solution to the flaw is oligarchy(!)?

    What happened to “government [being] the personal property of some men“? What happened to “The only question is whether [government] is owned honestly and openly, or dishonestly and secretly

    Kristor:The only question is whether [government] is owned honestly and openly, or dishonestly and secretly, as our is.

    Since when are you a subject of the British government?

    The government of the USA *is* “owned honestly and openly” by the corporation of The People.

    Once again — that “progressives” have been deliberately-and-relentlessly working for well over a century to undermine and overthrow our government by stealth does not so much reflect on the system itself as on the people — the flawed, weak, sinful human beings who both rule and are ruled by the system.

    • If a government were the personal property of “some men,” then you’re not talking about “a feudal stack of sovereign corporations.”

      Why not? You’ll have to show your work here.

      If a government were the personal property of “some men,” then you’re talking about monarchy … or dictatorship.

      “Some” disjunctively includes every quantity: one, a few, lots and lots, most, all. A government personally owned by all men would be a government personally owned by some number of men; so would a government personally owned by one man. A joint stock corporation can be owned by any number of men. So a sovereign corporation could be implemented as the sole property of a single man, or as the joint property of any number of men. There is nothing in the sovereign corporation eo ipso that makes it inherently either monarchical or dictatorial.

      That said, human organizations of all sorts – republics and democracies included – do tend to hierarchical orders with a ruling class (that may or may not be composed of true aristoi) with a single man at the top. Such hierarchies seem natural to man. We don’t seem to be able to do without them. Perhaps then we should not pretend to try.

      Heavens! Haven’t utopian schemes, whether leftist or “neo-reactionary,” done enough damage to humanity already?

      Not all schemes are utopian. The Constitution is not a utopian scheme. Not too much, anyway. A feudal stack of sovereign corporations could evolve quite smoothly from the current American Constitutional order (such as it still is), with only a minor tweak thereto: the actual issue to each current citizen of one share of two classes of shares of (potentially) dividend-paying stock in each sovereign corporation (town, county, state, nation) wherein he resides, one of the voting class that is transferable to other natural persons, the other of the non-voting class that is transferable only to the corporation itself.

      That “progressives” have been deliberately and relentlessly working for well over a century to undermine and overthrow our government by stealth does not so much reflect on the system itself as on the people – the flawed, weak, sinful human beings who both rule and are ruled by the system.

      The system would seem then to suffer from some inadequacy to the inevitable and incorrigible assaults of fallen human nature. Noble and canny as it is, it would seem to be ill-fitted to the reality of man.

      For, technically, legally, the monarch owns *everything.*

      The sovereign still owns everything; this is so no matter how many people are involved in its operations. In law, all property rights are granted by the sovereign, from the sovereign’s own fisc. Eminent domain, it’s called. If the state does not recognize your ownership of your pencil, you don’t own it. And the state can revoke its prior recognition of your ownership at whim. It can take from you without limit. It can take your very life from you. So, your ownership is derivative of the sovereign’s prior ownership.

      This is just the way that law works, everywhere. When Jefferson says that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable, he doesn’t mean that they cannot be taken by the state, but rather that they cannot be taken by the state without somehow disaggregating the natural person, destroying him a bit qua person. Delete a man’s power to act toward the ends he sees fit, and you delete a bit of his manhood as such.

      NB: government eo ipso and inherently involves such takings – and, ipso facto, grantings. For, government is such only insofar as it constrains individual acts; and, due at bottom to the conservation laws, every constraint is somehow or other also a let.

      I called – and still call – upon you to agree, as a matter both of reason and of historical experience, that monarchy per se is not good government.

      But it’s a silly idea. There have been many good kings, whom their subjects have loved, and under whose policies they have flourished. If monarchy per se were not good, this could not have been so. It has been so. Ergo, it is false that monarchy per se is not good.

      NB: to say that monarchy can be good is not to say that monarchy *just is* good, per se. It is not. Obviously. Monarchs can do evil. So, monarchy is neither the beginning nor the end of politics.

      I pointed out to you the signal weakness of monarchy … and your proposed solution to the flaw is oligarchy(!)?

      What happened to “government [being] the personal property of some men“? What happened to “The only question is whether [government] is owned honestly and openly, or dishonestly and secretly”?

      Oligarchy is not a solution, but an ubiquitous feature of human society. All chief executives retain their offices from one day to the next at the behest of a set of powerful men who surround them, and from whom they sprang to their position of eminence. It’s pointless to think it might ever be otherwise. It is the case now, when the rights of ownership – of control – of the levers of government power are owned surreptitiously, and it would be the case if such ownership were publicly recognized.

      Better then to congrue our laws and customs to reality. When x is the case whether or not we admit and recognize it publicly, we would do better to admit and recognize x publicly, so that policies and acts will be more fitly shaped to reality than they would be if they had to pretend that ¬x.

      The government of the USA *is* “owned honestly and openly” by the corporation of The People.

      That’s why it would be relatively easy to evolve a more limited and excellent electorate (ergo public policy) by the issue of (potentially) dividend-paying stocks to all citizens. The Founders came very, very close to establishing the durably stable and effective (and moral) Polybian ideal. A few tweaks to their work and we can get the system a bit closer to it.

      Not that we’ll ever reach it, short of the eschaton. Utopia is not a hand that can be dealt with the cards humans now naturally hold. But that we can’t be perfect does not relieve us of the obligation to try.

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