In Defense of a Police State (II)

He who obtains sovereignty by the assistance of the nobles maintains himself with more difficulty than he who comes to it by the aid of the people, because the former finds himself with many around him who consider themselves his equals, and because of this he can neither rule nor manage them to his liking….Besides this, one cannot by fair dealing, and without injury to others, satisfy the nobles, but you can satisfy the people, for their object is more righteous than that of the nobles, the latter wishing to oppress, while the former only desire not to be oppressed.

-Machiavelli

The Founding Fathers knew their Machiavelli.  By making the “nobles” nothing more than members of “the people” temporarily elevated to power, they hoped to prevent the kind of political instability that has always led to anarchy, then tyranny.

Here again, this works in a rough frontier society, with power jealously guarded at the lowest practical level by men who have skin in the game.  Once the government centralizes past a certain point, however, most of its functions aren’t handled by elected officials, but by career bureaucrats (as Machiavelli himself was).  You can stave off the inevitable consequences of this for a little while with good old fashioned machine politics, where most civil service jobs are handed out as rewards for party loyalty and thus turn over every election cycle, but the Pendleton Act squashed that.  The result is all around you: Rule by unelected, unaccountable career bureaucrats.

Which leads to a crisis of legitimacy.  As Hobbes said back in Part I, “the power of the mighty hath no other foundation, but in the opinion and belief of the people.”  Princes have the trappings of aristocracy to firm up the people’s belief; elected officials have the “dignity of office.”  Career bureaucrats have neither.  Neither ancient ritual nor political philosophy will ever convince the majority of people to obey them.  A GS rating is not a patent of nobility.

By what right, then, do they rule us?

We all know the answer:

the nature of the people is variable, and whilst it is easy to persuade them, it is difficult to fix them in that persuasion. And thus it is necessary to take such measures that, when they believe no longer, it may be possible to make them believe by force.

That’s Machiavelli again, but — eloquence aside — it could have been said by any Soviet apparatchik, Nazi gauleiter, or American government paper-pusher.  We put up with Patti and Selma at the DMV, or goofy professors of Grievance Studies in our classes (to take two of the less harmful examples) because they can bring more force to bear on any one individual than any one individual can on them.

Worst, our bureaucratic lords and masters are so divorced from The People that they don’t even realize they’re acting like The Nobles.  Surrounded as they are by likeminded folks who all studied the same subjects at the same schools and “work” at the same “jobs,” they’ve never encountered anyone who thinks differently.  What William F. Buckley once said of Washington liberals is now true of anyone who draws a government check: They “claim to want to give a hearing to other views, then are shocked and offended to find there are other views.”  They have the power to punish us for having other views, and since they see no downside to exercising it, they will exercise it.  They, at least, still have an unshakable “opinion and belief” in their invincibility, because they’ve never been on the receiving end of it.

We all know this, subconsciously at least.  A large — and rapidly growing — number of us know it consciously.  What happens when the majority of us do?  What happens if some of us start trying to rectify that power imbalance?  When Piero Soderini’s government lost power in Florence, his right hand man Machiavelli was thrown out of office, imprisoned, and tortured.  He died penniless.  A GS rating isn’t a patent of nobility; it’s also not a kevlar vest, a bulletproof car, and a platoon of bodyguards.

The unconscious is rapidly becoming conscious; the implicit, explicit.  Witness liberals’ reaction to last night’s State of the Union speech.  One Democratic “representative” actually walked out when the audience started chanting “USA! USA!”  Whatever this man “represents,” it sure as hell isn’t The People.  In 2016, they were marching lemming-like off the cliffs of a Constitutional crisis.  Now they’re sprinting.  What happens when the people “believe no longer?”

The entirety of Western History says “nothing good.”  We’re about to find out.

 

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