As there is always a king of some sort, so is there always a popular legislature of some sort. Whether or not there is an *ostensible* House of Commons, there is always an *effectual* House of Commons (as mediated through their Lords, if in no other way (this, in exactly the same way that even in the absence of women’s suffrage, the interests and judgements of women are politically reckoned via their patriarchs)). And the problem with popular legislatures is that they are ever prone to enact legislation that imposes costs upon the whole polis to the benefit of but a few.
It’s a design problem. Legislatures are commons. They establish a positive feedback circuit, under which it seems to become rational (at least in the short run) for the legislature to vote itself ever more goodies at ever diminishing apparent marginal cost – and at ever increasing real marginal cost. So uncorrected legislatures ever tend toward economic and social disaster. To correct the circuit design, the feedback must be negative. It must be closed, so that costs bear upon those who benefit from them.
So, tell me what’s wrong with this notion, that came to me the other day like a zephyr unbidden: let the whole cost of any legislation be borne only by those districts whose representatives voted for it.
You want freeways? You pay for them. So far, so uncontroversial, perhaps. But then it gets interesting. You want welfare? You pay for it.
My main worry is that under such a system, federation would simply dissolve. Is that a bad thing? I’m pretty sure it isn’t. Subsidiarity, you know. This design constraint would force the local solution of local problems. That might actually end up making federation easier, when it came to problems of federal scale.
Back in April of 2015 I whinged on about the stupefying boredom of latter day public life in the West. Thanks to the extraordinary depredations of the Obama years, things seemed then inexorably locked in. The Overton Window was doomed to move ever leftward, ever more rapidly. There was not even going to be a Hegelian Mambo anymore, but just a long smooth depressing slide into oblivion, as if a morphine drip were gradually dialed upward, and the body politic fell more and more deeply comatose.
Then, in June of that year – just two months later – Donald Trump declared his candidacy, and then a year later Britain voted to leave the EU.
In a libertarian society, everyone agrees to disagree, and to leave each other alone in their disagreements. It would not be important that people should leave each other pretty much alone, so that each might go his own way as he saw fit, unless they had no cult in common, that brought them naturally to agreement about how best to live life. The purely libertarian society is the zero of commensality, and of ecclesiality. There is in the purely libertarian society no gathering, no agora; for, even the disputations of the agora presupposed a basic patriotism under the bonds of extended familiarity.
Libertarianism then is identity politics reduced to its limit: the individual. In the purely libertarian society, every man is a faction. Libertarianism is a cease fire in a Hobbesian war of all against all.
But it is at best a cease fire; the war continues, and threatens ever to boil over.
As each level of a subsidiaritan political hierarchy fobs off upon its subsidiaries every duty it possibly can, each level of the hierarchy will interfere with subsidiary systems less and less. The result should be a libertarian’s dream – and quite nice for sovereigns, too (indeed, optimally nice).
In Completing the Groundwork of a Hierarchy of Sovereign Corporations, I suggested that we have all long lived under the government of a stack of sovereign corporations, in each of which we each own an effectual single share; and that a transition to a feudal stack of such sovereign corporations could be effected if these shares were split into two classes of dividend paying shares: D for denizens and C for denizens who are also citizens [for more on the similarities and differences between D and C shares, please review that post].
What would happen if such D and C shares were issued, one of each class to each citizen?
The thing need not be that difficult, in principle.
Consider first that you are already at once a denizen, participant and – provided you are not merely a stranger passing through – a member of a village or neighbourhood, of its county or city, of its province or state, and of its nation. All of us, throughout the world, live this way without a second thought. We each of us bear duties to and enjoy privileges under each of these sorts of sovereign entities. So has it been since the dawn of civilization.
Villages, counties, provinces and nations have furthermore been always ordered, and have always been legal agents. They have acted, owned property, engaged in commercial transactions (even if only so far as to collect taxes or fees and then pay their officers), negotiated agreements, granted benefices, levied penalties, and so forth. They have, i.e., been actual entities – i.e., entities that act – and for a thousand years at least have been treated as corporations (with the sole proprietorships of royal or lordly domains construed as ‘corporations sole’). They have been construed as corporations on account of the fact that they were understood to be real, albeit invisible, bodies.
A culture does not subsist in virtue of its members, or of their mere vicinity. Nor does it subsist in any formal specification of its systematic relations – laws, customs, language, technics, rites, and so forth – or of the propositions about reality upon which those formalities are founded, and from which they derive. Nor even does it subsist in the agglomeration of its people and the body of formal specifications of their systematic coordination thrown somehow together.
This, in just the way that I do not subsist in virtue of my cells, or of the formal specification of their systematic coordination. Rather, my cells and their formal coordination subsist qua mine in virtue of me.
The regnant occasion of my body, and of my life, is just me. I am the angel of my body’s life. I am the concrete real in whom the formal specification of its systematic coordination first subsists so as to be strangely attractive to my otherwise wayward cells and organs and subsidiary control systems. The relations constituting the system of me are very like those of feudal vassalage. My subsidiaries are loyal to me for the sake of their love for me, and mine for them.
So likewise a nation subsists, not in its people or in its laws or in the system of propositions in virtue of which those laws make any sense, but rather in the concrete angel who is its regnant occasion, to whom its components are all strangely attracted, and by whom they are all domesticated to his house, ordered and coordinated.
The modern notion that monarchy is inherently tyrannical and exploitative is an artifact of a fundamentally deficient concept of human society. That concept – the modern concept – treats society as basically loveless, a collation of antagonists engaged in a zero sum game; so it eventually finds, as we have lately seen it do, that all human relations are more or less exploitative – the wife and husband of each other, the mother and father of the child, and so forth. Such is the conclusion of the latter day apotheosis of modernist dialectical materialism in postmodernism: all human relations are about power, and nothing else.
Notice that this doctrine is self-fulfilling. If on the basis of the conviction that human relations are all essentially exploitative you then proceed to exploit your fellows, you are likely sooner or later to discover that they have all reciprocated.
Postmodern social theory boils down then to an assertion that, as composed of mutually inimical agents bound only to exploit each other as much as possible, society is essentially sociopathic. And behaving as if this were so leads to actual sociopathy.
Liberty is a subsidiary factor of social life; it is a derivative feature of social order, but not its source; for, social order by definition consists in constraints upon individual acts, whether through custom, or taboo, or scapegoating, or law. Social order then is the source and basis of such liberty as may be, and not vice versa.
Where there is no social order, there is no freedom to do anything but fight. This is that hypothetical State of Nature cherished analytically by Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, either to disparage or valorize it. But notice that it never really happened, nor could it: man has always been a social animal, and cannot be otherwise. The most basic jot of society – i.e., sex – consists in constraints upon individual liberty; for, sex is either a mutual agreement to accept the constraints of duty to a lover, or else by rape an utter and complete constraint upon some other. Whether these constraints arise from within the social agent as the voice of his conscience, or from without as the voices of others urging him to this or that, is neither here nor there.
The zero of social order then is the zero of sex, ergo of man.
The true state of nature for man is a state of highly evolved and definite social order. His freedom of action, then, has always been constrained by social order; and that social order is in fact the basis of his freedom to opt for anything other than combat.