Modern political theory rests on the Social Contract. We all got this in grade school, so there’s no need to belabor it, but it’s important to remember the underlying assumptions:
- Social Contract theory is designed to legitimize a Modern State; that is, a State that can only defend its people with firearms. The main driver is technology. The Premodern State was legitimized by God (the “divine right of kings” or some such), and that worked fine when wars were small, seasonal, and fought mainly by a warrior caste… but Modern wars are large, year-round, and fought mainly by militia.
- A militia system requires some kind of representative government — call it “democracy” for convenience — in order to function effectively. This in turn requires ideology. See the Putney Debates for details. (A militia system without ideology is Roman-style warlordism — each individual commander negotiating the payoff with his troops; what civil government there is, is always subsumed by the need to keep the army happy). Here again, the English Civil War is the model — Parliament’s troops were ideologically sound, which explains both their military effectiveness and their legendary brutality, especially in Ireland.
- This entails that, as the citizen’s primary duty is to help defend the realm, therefore only those capable of defending the realm are citizens. Specific legal doctrines evolved to support this — couverture for women, minority for children. (Old men who couldn’t physically fight paid taxes to support those who could).
All of these flow logically. But Social Contract theory made one more assumption, all the more powerful for being unstated:
- Social contracts are only valid between close kin. No one would argue that wars between States are unjust because they break the social contract, even if we are all “kin” in some sense (all brothers in Christ, for example), and even though the State’s security is put at (at least theoretical) risk during wartime. Borders were remarkably porous in the Early Modern period — if, say, an Englishman wanted to go live in the Netherlands, he just went there, bought a house, and went about his day. No red tape, no paperwork, no official sign-off from anybody. But that didn’t make him Dutch, so when England and the Netherlands had one of their frequent little wars, his life and goods were at considerable risk. Put simply but not unfairly, that Englishman could never be Dutch, even if he lived there, spoke the language, and was utterly opposed to the policies of his “native” country. He might think of himself as basically Dutch, but he wasn’t — he was covered by the English social contract, not the Dutch one, his own opinions and even actions notwithstanding.
The problem is, we no longer live in a Modern State. We live in a Postmodern one.
Again, the main driver is technology. We don’t operate under a militia system, because we can’t, as we learned at great cost in the Civil War. Even 19th century armies were too technologically complex for weekend warriors to handle. This is why conscription in the World Wars was “for the duration” — “nine-week wonders” can be thrown into combat knowing the basics, but they’ll take appalling losses… after which the survivors become the hardened professionals with which modern wars are won.
And, of course, we’re well past mass conscription in any case. A main-force clash between, say, the US and China would end with the loser shooting off tactical nukes as it retreats, which would either end the war right there, or escalate it into a full-on ICBM exchange….
… either that, or any attempt at mass conscription would reveal what we all instinctively know to be true — we can’t draft a functional army, because our draft pool is made up of noodle-armed soybois, grunting savages, lardass neckbeards, and girls. What if they held a war and nobody came? Try drafting Millennials and you’ll find out, Moonbeam.
Which brings us around full circle. What is a State for, then, if it’s not to provide for its citizens’ physical security? We all know that “democracy” fails in practice — had The People been consulted at any point in the last 75 years, the United States would still be a White, Christian nation, safe behind our seas, far from whatever barbarities they were practicing in Europe and Asia. Instead, we’re ruled by Hawaiian Judges. But given the changes in technology, it would seem that the Social Contract itself no longer applies, even in theory — in a world with nuclear weapons, in a country that’s so rich even our “poor” people die of heart disease, what can we, the governed, possibly be consenting to?
I propose that the answer to “what is the State for?” is: Cultural security.
It’s quite clear that the combination of technology and democracy are lethal to human culture. Left to our own devices, minus the evolutionary pressures that got us here in the first place, humans will choose lotus-eating. We have over 100 years’ evidence for this. The hot new artists of 1911, all classically trained, with the full panoply of human cultural achievement from which to draw, gave us Modern Art — futurism, brutalism, stream-of-consciousness, and the rest. Google up Der Blaue Reiter — that’s the best Modern Art can do. Max Nordau was right — our evolutionary success has thrown evolution into reverse. What will the culture of Ingsoc be like? Imagine Miley Cyrus twerking on a human face, forever. Unless we stop it.
Will this entail a loss of some freedoms? Of course. But we’ve seen what people do with freedom. It’s not the proles’ freedom we have to worry about, since they give that up without a second thought. So long as they have their Soma, they’re fine. It’s the freedom of the just-smart-enough-to-be-dangerous that we have to curtail. They want to burn down the world because they’re bored, just like Modern “artists” did. Getting “sent down to the countryside,” Mao-style, would do Soros, Bill Kristol, et al a powerful world of good. Technology and democracy got us here; only technology and authoritarianism will get us out.Loading Likes...