A STEEL-cameralist Manifesto Part 3a: The Age of Crisis; the Science of the State; and the Rules for Rulers.


Introduction: The Age of Crisis. 

1: What is the State?

2: The Rules for Rulers.

3: The Rules for Essentials.

4: The Rules for Expendables. 

5: The Science of the State.

6: The State as an Exponential Feedback Loop.

7: Coherent V Incoherent States.

8: Imperium In Imperio. 



Introduction: The Age of Crisis.

We live in the Age of Crisis. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.

But what crisis, which one?

This one? This one? Is it this one?

Is there a theory that can explain all of the seemingly disparate and disconnected crises?

What is the cause or causes of the crisis?

What can be done and by whom?

Is it a cultural crisis? Is it a crisis of character? Is it a moral or religious crisis? Is the crisis a crisis of Western civilisation?

We assert that it is none of these things, at least not fundamentally.

The crisis is, we assert, political.

The crisis is a crisis of state: the United States.

Even if it is culture or religion or just safety and security that wastes your energy worrying, your energies should be trained and concentrated instead on the structure, scope, scale and composition of the modern American State (which we will refer to it henceforth as USG).

The fish rots from the head down, and it is the head (or the brain) of USG where the ultimate cause of this crisis is to be found. Just as a person cannot function if they suffer from a a brain disorder, USG cannot function because it is suffering from the most fundamental of political disorders: Imperium in Imperio.

Hilary Clinton, long destined for the Presidency, did not know “what was happening….”

This is what a crisis is. When things happen that don’t make sense, and you don’t know what the cause of your confusion is and all the normal procedures don’t work in response to it. Like Hilary Clinton, you’re constantly surprised by events.

Surprise, however, is all in the mind.

The first duty is to think.

What is a crisis?

A political crisis resembles, in many ways, the concept of a scientific crisis.

A scientific crisis according to the historian of science, Thomas Kuhn, is when the basic assumptions of a theory cannot explain the fact of “anomalies”, or facts that contradict the theory.

A political crisis occurs when the governing assumptions (which are often implicit and unstated) that underpin the political structure, political values, methods, laws and regulations can no longer account for – in intellectual terms – a series of anomalies. The practical upshot is that the state and the state’s ruling elite cannot adequately predict and control actors and events.

Here, in Part 3, we will address the following questions:

1: What is a state?

2: What is the composition of the state?

3: What are some of the fundamental laws and rules governing politics within the state?

4: What is a crisis?

5: What is the fundamental cause of the current crisis?

6: What are the flawed assumptions that are the proximate cause of the crisis?

7: If a state faces a crisis how can it best attack it? Beyond attacking a crisis, how can a state best anticipate a potential crisis? And if a state can anticipate a crisis, how best can it adjust so as to avoid the crisis in the first place?

1: What is the State?

War is the origins of the state. Charles Tilly captured the truth when he said: war made the state, and the state made war.

The modern European nation states emerged via war. Assuming the “Clausewitzian Trinity” we have the People, the State and the Military.

The state occupies the central position between the military and the people. The state acts as a bridge or a funnel between the people and the military.

We call this the Iron Law of the State: if you have a state, you will have and or will need to have, a military.

Now, in any organisation – Church or State, Corporation or Military – there are three kinds of people:

The Elites: (the High).

The Essentials: (the Middle).

The Expendables: (the Low).

So, for the Church (Catholic), we have:

1: The Pope.

2: the Bishops and Priests.

3: The Congregants.

For the Military, meanwhile, we have:

1: The General.

2: The Officers.

3: The Privates.

For the Corporation we have:

1: The Executive.

2: The Managers.

3: The Employees.

We call this the Iron Law of Organisation.

Naturally, this Law implies that in any organisation the elites are functionally necessary and inevitable.

This Law is the Iron Law of Oligarchy.

We can generalise the types of political oligarchies in the following way:

1: An oligarchy of priests, clerics, philosophers or clerks. (Oligarchies based on beliefs, usually of a religious or philosophical kind.)

2: An oligarchy of merchants, businessmen, bankers, industrialists. (Oligarchies based on wealth.)

3: An oligarchy of soldiers, warriors, mercenaries, criminals, and bandits. (Oligarchy based on force.)

A regime will also differ in character depending on the ordering of the three types of oligarchy.

For the state then, as in any organisation, there are always a small number of men who either collectively or under the auspices of a “head man” or “chief” or “king” who decide on matters of war and peace, death and taxes. This group is the Elite. (The Grand Master’s term is “Brahmin” and Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s term for this group is “The Winning Coalition.”)

Some – though not always all – of the interests of the elite are fundamentally in conflict with the interests of the expendables. More importantly, and in a more destructive way, the elite’s interests nearly always conflict with the essentials.

How so?

The first principle of politics is that politics is the struggle for power and the second principle is that if you have power, your goal is to keep it.

The ruling elite, however, cannot rule alone.

The elite must be supported either via belief (priests) or force (soldiers) or wealth (merchants). Usually, the essentials will comprise of all three.

The supporters are essential because they control or have influence over men, money, materials (such as food, horses and gold) and finally memes (religious, philosophical, legal or political ideas of legitimacy).

Essentials have influence, but their influence – if wielded individually – is rarely decisive.

Collectively, however, essentials could not only dominate but even, in some cases, replace the elite. (A single corporation might not be able to wield decisive influence, but a cartel could.)

Octavian, before he became Augustus, had the support of some of Caesar’s Legions and key men like Marcus Agrippa. Without the Legionaries, despite whatever wealth Caesar had left him, Octavian’s chances of becoming the master of Rome would have been considerably diminished. Without Agrippa serving as his top General, Octavian (who was no Caesar in war) would have likely failed in the struggle against Brutus and the other senators.

After Actium, Agrippa could not have replaced Augustus, however. The reason is that he would not have been able to form a sufficiently powerful coalition of essentials to support him.

Yet, sometimes, essentials have better opportunities to come to power. Under Tiberius, Rome’s second Emperor, the Prefect, Sejanus came close, oh so close, to usurping the Emperor. (Later men, where more successful alas.)

Now here, as relayed by Master Spandrell, is an essential that triumphed:

Letter by letter it is “point deer make horse”. It tells the story of Zhao Gao, one of the closest ministers of the First Emperor of Qin. The Qin Emperor died in 210 BC, and soon after the Chen Sheng rebellion (another good example of history as a mirror for government) started, which in a few years destroyed the first empire that the Qin house had spent centuries to achieve.

Qin was able to conquer all the other Chinese states and build a unified empire because it had invented royal absolutism. Back in the 300s BC, Shang Yang had reformed the Qin government, stripped the landed nobility of all its privileges, and set up a centralized bureaucracy to effectively transmit the will of the royal house. A rationalized system of punishment and rewards made the peasants into very effective farmers and soldiers, and soon the other traditional feudal states were swept away by the absolutist Qin armies.

The funny bit is what happens with the royal house. As I said this was perhaps the worlds first absolute monarch ruling over a centralized bureaucracy. Well a lot happened to the Qin house during the years, but let’s focus on the First Emperor. When he died in 210 BC, the crown prince, Fusu, was up in the army in the northern frontier. The emperor had died while touring the provinces, and with him was a younger son, Huhai.

Well the emperor died out of the capital, so nobody knew. The only ones who knew were his prime minister, Li Si, and his close minister Zhao Gao, who may or may not have been a eunuch. Well apparently Zhao Gao didn’t like the crown prince Fusu very much. He had reason to think that Fusu hated him, and would execute him as soon as he became emperor himself. So Zhao Gao gets Li Si and says “hey, dude’s dead, we’re the only ones who know. Fusu doesn’t like you either, so why don’t we get this kid Huhai and name him successor?”

Li Si took some convincing, as did Huhai himself. But eventually they got on the plan, and sent a forged imperial edict ordering Fusu to kill himself. Which strangely he did, even after opposition by his entourage. With crown prince Fusu out of the way, the three got back to the capital, and set up Huhai as Second Emperor of Qin.

Soon later Zhao Gao found some excuse and executed Li Si and all his family, and took his prime ministership. He obviously knew too much. Then he proceeded to execute all those little Schelling Points that were the emperor’s brothers and sisters, so there was no contest about who had the right title to the crown. Still after Huhai was secure in his thrown, he was starting to be a little uncooperative with Zhao Gao. The Chen Sheng rebellion had started, and the empire was having trouble suppressing it. The Emperor blamed Zhao Gao for the mess and he had a point. But Zhao Gao didn’t like that. He started to think that maybe they should have a change of emperor, but he couldn’t be sure he could pull it off.

So Zhao Gao brings a deer into the palace. Grabs it from the horns, calls the emperor to come out, and says “look your majesty, a brought you a fine horse”. The Emperor, not amused, says “Surely you are mistaken, calling a deer a horse. Right?”. Then the emperor looks around at all the ministers. Some didn’t say a word, just sweating nervously. Some others loudly proclaimed what a fine horse this was. Great horse. Look at this tail! These fine legs. Great horse, naturally prime minister Zhao Gao has the best of tastes.

A small bunch did protest that this was a deer, not a horse. Those were soon after summarily executed. And the Second Emperor himself was murdered some time later.

Why was Zhao Gao able to succeed?

How can someone like a Zhao Gao be stopped?

Let’s find out.

2: The Rules for Rulers.

For the elite, or just the ruler himself, there are a few key rules that must be followed.

According to Bruce Bueno de Mesquita there are five fundamental rules for rulers:

Rule 1:

Keep your winning coalition as small as possible. A small coalition allows a leader to rely on very few people to stay in power. Fewer essentials equals more control and contributes to more discretion over expenditures.

(Strong and Secure High; Small and Weak Middle.)

Rule 2:

Keep your nominal selectorate as large as possible. Maintain a large selectorate of interchangeables and you can easily replace any troublemakers in your coalition, influentials and essentials alike. After all, a large selectorate permits a big supply of substitute supporters to put the essentials on notice that they should be loyal and well behaved or else face being replaced. (Bold mine.)

(Did someone mention Muslims? Muslims? Do I hear Muslims? Hello?)

Rule 3:

Control the flow of revenue. It’s always better for a ruler to determine who eats than it is to have a larger pie from which the people can feed themselves. The most effective cash flow for leaders is one that makes lots of people poor and redistributes money to keep select people—their supporters—wealthy. (Bold mine.)

(To paraphrase Alexander Hamilton, if you control their pay, then you control their principles.)

Rule 4:

Pay your key supporters just enough to keep them loyal. Remember, your backers would rather be you than be dependent on you. Your big advantage over them is that you know where the money is and they don’t. Give your coalition just enough so that they don’t shop around for someone to replace you and not a penny more.

(Sometimes treat em mean, but always keep em keen.)

Rule 5:

Don’t take money out of your supporter’s pockets to make the people’s lives better. The flip side of rule 4 is not to be too cheap toward your coalition of supporters. If you’re good to the people at the expense of your coalition, it won’t be long until your “friends” will be gunning for you. Effective policy for the masses doesn’t necessarily produce loyalty among essentials, and it’s darn expensive to boot. Hungry people are not likely to have the energy to overthrow you, so don’t worry about them. Disappointed coalition members, in contrast, can defect, leaving you in deep trouble.

(Fuck em.)

Now consider how these rules change, if you are an essential, however.

3: The Rules for the Essentials.

1: If you are an essential, you want your fellow essentials to be large and united; the expendables to be small and divided and the ruling elite to be weak and benighted.

2: If you are an essential you want the expendables or possible essentials to be small – so that the elite cannot replace you.  The reason why you want to be part of a large group of essentials is that it is easier to collectively use your power against the elite and the expendables.

Secondly, a small group of powerful essentials who, in alliance with a small but useful number of expendables, can remove the ruling elite. So, a large group of essentials can act collectively if one of their fellow essentials attempts to overthrow the elite. (Think of Lenin’s failed attempt to balance Stalin with Trotsky and Kamenev etc.)

3: For essentials, it is vital that they prevent the elite from controlling the supply of money – especially when it comes to budget and taxes. If the essentials can control the budget for war and the tax collecting, then the elite cannot raise a huge army and loyal bureaucracy. If, on the other hand, a ruler has an army and a bureaucracy, you can then weaken the essentials over time or just outright replace them. (Think of the English Civil War.)

4: For the essentials, the contrary is the case. Make sure the elites have enough, or less than enough, so that while they can govern (poorly) or win wars (with much blood split but with little treasure spent) the elites can never become too powerful.

5: Here the essentials and the elites can agree: extract as much wealth from the expendables as possible.

Tragically, it is likely that the only time the elites and essentials (and even the expendables) are only ever truly united and not at war with each other is when they are at war with all the others.

4:The Expendables.

The third, largest and final group are the expendables, in other words, the People.

The “People” are sources of manpower, money and materials for the essentials to bargain with or use against the elite.

The people have little to no power or influence as they are often slaves, serfs or soldiers (which in some cases amounted to the same thing). Whatever power they have is either a result of the elite using the expendables to weaken the essentials, or used by the Middle against the High.

From this basic structure – with the addition of time, resources, a division of labour, science and technology – the modern state emerges.

However, there is one element that is missing – the central element – that explains the evolution and emergence of the modern state: war.

5: The Science of the State.

For a state to survive it must be secure – from external conquest and internal insurrection. For the state to be secure it must be strong. And for the state to be strong it must rich.

It is not enough that a state have lots of gold to throw around; what matters is not the possession of wealth but the production of wealth. And not just the production of wealth but the production of producing power itself.

Here is Master Foesti, outlining Friedrich List’s view of wealth and the production of wealth:

List also believes that Smith errs in focusing on wealth as opposed to focusing on the ability to produce wealth, “the pow­er of pro­duc­ing wealth is there­fore in­finite­ly more im­por­tant than wealth it­self; lt in­sures not on­ly the pos­ses­sion and the in­crease of what has been gained, but al­so the re­place­ment of what has been lost. This is still more the case with entire na­tions (who can­not live out of mere rentals) than with pri­vate in­di­vid­uals.”

The principle here is: success leads to success. Developing industries, human capital, establishing market dominance and competitive advantage in sectors capable of productive, technological and commercial innovation is more important in the long run than being wealthy.

6: The State as an Exponential Feedback Loop.

(Later, we will more fully set out the argument that a state needs to be, in part, understood, as a complex adaptive system, but if you are eager to get ahead, you can start here or here.)

A state wants to wealthy; not just wealthy but powerful in the production of wealth. After all, with more gold, then you can buy or build more guns.

With more guns, you can conquer countries that have gold and other goods that can be exchanged for gold.

With more gold, and with the means to make better goods, you can get more gold.

And with more gold, you can buy and build better guns. (Rinse and Repeat.)

The state feeds the military.

The military feeds the state.

And the state feeds the people.

Cities are useful, indeed necessary, for producing potential soldiers (among other things). Cities are good for farmers and merchants, meanwhile, because they will have a large and permanent market for their produce. The farmers, in return, will have their homes, cattle and fields protected by the military against external or internal aggressors.

Some of the gold, however, will leak out of this system via bribes or payments to other states or lost via trinquets, baubles and theft. If the state has a gold mine, then the shortfall can easily be made up.

Once you have this system up and running you’re ready to be fired up with the Imperial Energies. 

7: Coherent V Incoherent States.

Yet, within this system, there is an internal tension or conflict. The small, ruling elite – either a King or an Emperor or an Aristocracy – nearly always do not have complete power to either tax the people or recruit, train or command the military.

If, for example, essentials command and control their own, smaller armies and have taxing power over expendables, they will naturally suspect and often resist the ruling elite or the central power for the reasons  set out above (the “five rules”).

How well the state can conform to the above Imperial System depends upon its internal coherence.

We can thus distinguish two kinds of states. The first is coherent states and the second is incoherent states.

A coherent state is structured hierarchically with clear and formalised ranks and responsibilities. The elite controlled, central power has command and control over taxation, appointments and laws. A central power can and must delegate power to essentials, but they are subordinates. If for example, a subordinate refused an order, the central power has both the authority and the means to remove and or punish them. (Control of Budget, Policy and Personnel in short.)

An incoherent state, however, has either no formalised and coherent hierarchy or it contains separate hierarchies; the central power, moreover, does not have power and authority over taxes, appointments and laws, or is very weak relative to the essentials.

A central power in an incoherent state, meanwhile, may even face the possibility of two or more supporting powers of essentials forming alliances against it. Furthermore, these essentials may even ally with external powers or states against it. (Think of the French helping Americans against the English central power..)

Needless to say, an incoherent state is extraordinarily difficult to make coherent and almost impossible to do so without the use of bloodshed: state-building is, as John Keegan said “a bloody business.”

8: Imperium In Imperio. 

If a coherent state makes itself incoherent, then it has sinned against the first principle of neoreactionary political theory: Imperium in Imperio (or state within a state) and the inevitable result will be “sadistic government” as the Grand Master notes:

…. sadistic government can arise in a state of scattered authority. This class of defective political structure, which is about halfway done destroying European civilization, is generally held at educated circles at present to be the philosopher’s stone of government. Indeed: the more people who have input into a decision, the better that decision is likely to be. As so often, the fallacy is the simple polar opposite of the truth. The Romans knew this error as imperium in imperio – the ass’s bridge or fool’s mate of political engineering.

The ideological parent of modern scattered authority is Montesquieu’s doctrine of separation of powers – originating in a very misguided view of the 18th-century British constitution. Since one may search the modern power structure of Britain, inasmuch as any such thing remains, in vain for any relic of the Crown or Lords – or even much of the Commons – Montesquieu is easily seen as refuted. No separated authority structure is stable. (Note that in all private administrative structures, corporations and nonprofits alike, executive authority is often delegated, seldom shared or divided, never scattered.) (Bold mine.)

The results of Imperium in Imperio were best captured in dramatic, poetic and tragic form by William Shakespeare’s King Lear, which was magnificently adapted for film by Akira Kurosawa in Ran (which, by the way, means “chaos” in English).

The following video elegantly encapsulates the origins of the tragic stupidity of Imperium in Imperio:


One critic, commenting on the theme of the film, aptly describes the result of “scattering authority” or creating Imperium in Imperio as:

…. a trickle-down theory of anarchy. (“Ran” has been translated as “chaos.”) Kurosawa’s monarch, like the Bard’s, overburdens the bonds of family when he places his security on the shoulders of unsuitable and unready offspring. Hidetora’s wishful thinking blinds him to the honesty of his third and youngest son, whom he banishes for bad-mouthing his scheme.

Ran has a trickle-down theory of anarchy, all right, but it trickles down, in gore, all the way from heaven. The gods have left men — and, as Lady Kaede shows, women — at the mercy of their human drives for dominance and retribution. (Bold mine.)

From Anarchy to Chaos and from Chaos to Crisis, Master Future notes:

When political structures, philosophical systems and society in general begins to stop working, there are only a few general response which can be taken. The first is that the problem is a result of a failure of the constituent actors to apply the rules and systems truly and accurately. This is the response seen in relation to the current crisis of science. The problem is seen as a failure to apply the scientific method properly, resulting in a perversion of science. (Bold and italics mine.)

This is the fundamental origin of the current crisis engulfing the state.

Authority can be delegated, but it must never be divided.

As Napoleon said: “Better one bad General, than two good ones.”



50 thoughts on “A STEEL-cameralist Manifesto Part 3a: The Age of Crisis; the Science of the State; and the Rules for Rulers.

  1. Ran is a very good recommendation. It is perhaps the best cinematic crash-course in political theory that I can think of.


  2. “Authority can be delegated, but it must never be divided.”

    how is that possible? someone with delegated authority may well use it against he who delegated, thus effectively dividing authority. how has more power, the General or the King?


    1. Authority and power are not the same thing, as you know. The key difference, when we come down to it, is the ability to hire and fire, overrule, change the rules and clarify the rules. Trump cannot fire the Mayor of San Francisco, Xi Jinping could fire the Mayor of Shanghai.


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