1: Introduction: STEEL-cam V Absolutism.
2: The Key Distinction.
3: The Board of Directors.
4: Signals and Incentives.
5: How Old is Too Old?
6: The Art of WOO (Wining Others Over).
7: A Word About Sovereignty.
We are, however, in agreement with much of what Absolutists think.
Adam and Chris are superb theorists and their work pays endless re-reading with rich rewards.
The articulation of the patron theory of politics stands as a tremendous advance of, well, neo-reactionary theory.
The following is a summary of our shared principles:
1: Imperium In Imperio is the central political engineering mistake.
2: All regimes have a Ruling Elite.
3: Politics and political change is an elite affair.
3: The Ruling Elite’s first and foremost goal is to secure their power.
4: The Ruling Elite’s power depends upon and is often “checked” by essentials and subordinate or sometimes independent “scattered” or divided institutions (such as the judiciary).
5: As a result of unsecure, divided power, Elites will subvert, degrade and diminish (or destroy) rival power centres or institutions and seek to make essentials as weak and pliant as possible.
6: In terms of systems (the political system), there is structural incentives for a weak, small and unsecure central power, operated by the Ruling Elite, to centralise their power.
This results in two things:
- The growth of the central power over more and more aspects of the individual, family, society, the economy, schools, hospitals, culture, science etc. etc.
- The centralising power’s main method of centralising is “levelling” or “equalising.” In other words, the centralising power must disrupt ordered relations of rival or recalcitrant power centres by using expendables against essentials or Low Against Middle.
7: Historical examples of this centralising and levelling are the Protestant Reformation; the abolition of slavery; democracy itself; female emancipation; civil rights and desegregation; LGBT activism and immigration.
8: The goal, ultimately, is to establish a political system that eliminates Imperium in Imperio.
We believe this to be a fairly accurate summary of our agreements and shared purposes.
Our main disagreement lies with the nature of the regime that Absolutists wish to establish; specifically, the nature of the Sovereign power itself.
Our main fault with Absolutism can be found in the following passage:
The sticking point for a lot of people seems to be the question of removing a clearly unfit leader, which a rigorous absolutism seems to preclude, because any such mechanism introduces division into sovereignty by now making someone else sovereign—the doctor who determines the mental fitness of the ruler, the board of directors that gathers to assess his performance, the judges who would hear appeals regarding disqualifying acts of the president, the legislature that impeaches and removes him, etc. All the divisions and power plays that the clarification of sovereignty aims at eliminating would all then rush in through this open door. But absolutism can answer the question of removing an unfit leader, even if it’s not a very comforting answer. If a ruler’s unfitness manifests itself in an incapacity to defend the country or maintain the conditions of law and order, he will be removed by whichever of his subordinates is in the best position to do so—the best positioned in terms of readiness to manage the emergency, rally the support of other power centers, and command the forces needed to rule. And that subordinate will then seek to return power as soon as possible either to the once again fit sovereign, or whoever is next in line according to whatever tradition has been followed in ensuring the continuity of sovereignty. Maybe that subordinate will serve as sovereign temporally or even permanently. And if he fails to remove the sovereign, and no one else can either, then that suggests either the sovereign wasn’t really unfit, or sovereignty can no longer be sustained in that form on that territory—maybe it needs to be broken down into smaller units or aggregated into a larger one.
What this means is that there are no formal procedures for removing an incompetent or tyrannical Sovereign.
Dark Reformation has explored this issue here, here and here, but we will not spend time on abstractions. Here we will put forward three examples of Sovereigns that needed to be removed. Nevertheless, because they were “absolute” they couldn’t, despite the fact that some people did try – and died for it. Then, we will explain why, when it comes to signals and incentives Absolutism is an inferior system.
Our three examples of Sovereigns that needed to be removed or restrained are:
1: Henry the VII.
2: Napoleon Bonaparte.
3: Adolf Hitler.
Henry was an absolute Sovereign. We will assume that Henry was, in the first half of his reign, an intelligent and energetic Sovereign but that his judgement deteriorated in the latter part of his reign due to a brain injury (which, interestingly enough, is the problem that Dark Reformation begins with). Furthermore, according to La Wik, Henry was impulsive and rash and perhaps this was the reason he executed poor old Thomas Cromwell (which he later regretted).
The problem is that no one could remove Henry formally; indeed, Henry’s “great matter” was the lack of a male heir – which wouldn’t have been a problem if there had of been the medieval version of a Board of Directors. (If this sounds ridiculous, then consider that the Catholic Church had something similar, and the Joint-Stock Corporation was invented in the Elizabethan period).
If Henry’s essentials tried, via a conspiracy, they risked – literally – losing their heads; in fact, they tried, and they failed. If they had succeeded, however, a civil war could well have been the result.
2: Napoleon Bonaparte.
Earlier, we alluded to the fact that the Marshalls were the essentials to the elite Napoleon. The Marshalls also, in a way, doubled as a Board of Directors and a group of them forced Napoleon to abdicate after his disastrous Russian Campaign.
Our point, however, is that we assume that Napoleon’s invasion of Russia was not only a crime, it was a mistake. If Napoleon could have been persuaded out of this decision – by being threatened with removal, or by being prevented from funding the invasion, the Russian campaign probably would not have happened.
Napoleon was an absolute or near-absolute ruler (Napoleon offers us the best and last example of a true absolute Sovereign) and he could not have been removed without violence and civil war.
Napoleon, despite his genius, ultimately destroyed himself (and much of France) and a large part of the reason why is that he had absolute power subject to no responsibility mechanism.
3: Adolf Hitler.
That Hitler wielded absolute power we don’t think anyone can deny. His decision to fight a two front war violated a basic principle of war and was probably the main reason why the Nazis were defeated.
Hitler’s role as the Supreme Commander and his dilettantish, constant meddling was, strategically speaking, a grave and fatal mistake for Nazi Germany.
The Key Distinction.
Absolutism has no satisfactory answer to the problem of a Sovereign that needs to be removed, as Adam admits.
And so does STEEL-cameralism.
Neo-cam, in theory, contains what is best in Absolutism and eliminates what is worst.
What is best is that you have a centralised state with a secure power and a Sovereign (Executive) who can exercise near unlimited power. The worst aspect of Absolutism is that this unlimited power is not subject any responsibility mechanism.
Neo-cam allows a Sovereign to decide on general policy, personnel and how the budget is allocated. Finally, the Sovereign in a neo-cam state has the power to exercise near absolute personal judgement over matters great and small.
The key distinction, however, is that neo-cam contains a responsibility mechanism or a “failsafe” in which a poor, irresponsible or corrupt Sovereign can be removed.
The concept of a Board of Directors exists in neo-cam but it plays an extremely important part in the STEEL-cam system.
3: The Board of Directors.
The Board have three core duties in STEEL-cam:
1: Search and Selection.
3: De-selection and Succession.
Let’s take each one in turn.
1: Sovereign Search and Selection.
The Board can draw upon a vast array of human talent for the Sovereign.
We agree with Reactionary Future that there is no necessary protocol that could guarantee selecting a good Sovereign and that it is a question of judgement. However, the heredity principle is also a protocol and hereditary succession is one that is likely to naturally emerge under Absolutism.
The Sovereign, a single ruler, is unlikely to be able to devote his full time and attention to the question of selecting a successor. Furthermore, this also assumes that the Sovereign is selecting a successor that benefits the state and not themselves.
STEEL-cam, by contrast, features a Board of Directors that consists of a pool of men with a broad range of experience and expertise who can conduct a continuously ongoing search for potential successors.
The Board, therefore, could have 2-3 potential successors that could replace the Sovereign if necessary; 3-5 potential Sovereigns, though not the immediate first choice and 5-10 men who could, with time and experience, become potential candidates.
The role of the Sovereign in this process, however, is that they have complete control of personnel in the management of the country and so they will be responsible for promoting and developing potential successors.
Is this coherent? Surely the Sovereign will want to promote those who are loyal and not those who are potential rivals?
These incentives exist but they exist more strongly in Absolutism.
In neo-cam or in STEEL-cam the Sovereign’s natural incentive to favour loyalty over competence must align itself with the interests of the state itself because the Directors supervise (but cannot formally override) the choices the Sovereign makes.
Just consider, for example, that the Catholic Church uses a similar system to this and that the Catholic Church is the longest, continuous institution in human history.
To spell out the search and selection process in more detail, consider the following possibilities:
A: The Board compile candidate profiles with information regarding education, expertise and experience.
B: The Board can create one or several “search committees” to aid them in their search.
C: The Board, or their “committees”, can conduct interviews, design various “war-games” or role-playing scenarios to test candidates.
D: The Board can reflect upon current procedures for search and selection; acquire feedback and advice from external parties and report to the shareholders and the Sovereign about possible adjustments to the search and selection process.
E: In STEEL-cam, the Sovereign is contracted to serve as Sovereign for a certain period of time – that is flexible, however, and a Sovereign could be kept on longer.
Nevertheless, in STEEL-cam the current Sovereign serves as Chairman of the Board and so has input and a vote over the selection of the successor. Furthermore, under STEEL-cam, the previous Sovereign can become a Director after serving as Sovereign; thus, they too can contribute their expertise and experience to the search and selection process.
Let’s now describe a potential makeup of the Board itself, and how it can supervise the Sovereign.
Suppose we follow standard corporate practice and have only a Board of seven men, then the following would be a good mix:
1: External Security (Potentially, an ex-General).
2: Internal Security (Potentially, an ex-Police Chief or “FBI” Director).
3: Diplomacy (Potentially, an ex-ambassador or “Secretary of State”).
4: Economics (Potentially, a former member of the Executive Cabinet who served as the Secretary of the Treasury).
5: Legal (A retired judge or Executive level Attorney General).
6: An ex or retired Sovereign (Similar to a move from CEO to a Board of Director’s position).
7: Chairman (the current Sovereign).
Let’ stipulate that each Director has a deputy; this means the “enlarged” Board consists of 13 men. They meet twice a week (like the Chinese Politburo Standing Committee); the first meeting is only the principals (a Board of seven) and the second meeting consists of the deputies (A Board of 13).
Furthermore, these men would all have a staff of assistants with expertise and experience in different areas.
How can the Board supervise and thus ensure the Sovereign has incentives to rule well?
Firstly, they have a twice weekly conference with the Sovereign.
Well before a crisis emerges, the Board have time to anticipate, adjust and then act if they need to replace the Sovereign. If the Board are unhappy with the Sovereign, then they can express their disquiet at first, dissatisfaction later and then their disapproval, followed by their determination that unless things improve, the Sovereign will ultimately be dismissed.
During the twice-weekly meetings, the Sovereign describes and explains the various problems, solicits input, put’s forward various conjectural possibilities, again solicits input and then answers probing questions from the Board.
Our assumption here is that under such supervision the Sovereign has every reason to rule in a way that is to the good of the state because he can be called upon to explain, in whatever detail necessary, his decisions to the Board.
In STEEL-cam, however, the Sovereign and the Board are only two elements in a larger system.
Some of the other elements, or nodes, are the following:
1: Non-Executive Directors.
Their job is just one: supervise the Executive Board and report to the shareholders. They have no power to remove either Directors or the Sovereign; they have no power over personnel, policy or budget.
They select both Boards and can replace any Board member at any time for any reason; Directors are to be re-confirmed every year by the Shareholders. The one exception to this is that they cannot replace the Sovereign directly but must rely on the judgement of the Executive Board of Directors.
3: The Disciplinary and Inspection Bureau.
This department – completely separate from the management of the state – is headed by the Inspector General selected directly by the shareholders who are also in control of the Bureau’s budget. The Inspector General leads a small team (as small as possible and no smaller) of investigators. Their job is to investigate crimes against the state by the Management or the Board of Directors. The decision, however, to charge and try (but not convict) any employee – up to the Sovereign himself – for crimes against the state – rests with the shareholders.
4: The Tribunal.
The Tribunal consists of a panel of judges who serve for life, again directly selected by the shareholders, who only judge state employees who are accused of crimes against the state – they have no other function but this.
3: De-Selection and Succession.
Let’s illustrate the difference between Absolutism and the two cams with the following analogy.
Absolutism is a fire and forget missile. Once the missile is launched it carries on towards the target until either it runs out of fuel or explodes. HQ cannot stop, terminate or re-direct the trajectory of the missile.
In both cameralist systems, HQ can exercise some control over the “missile”. What kind of control? That very much depends, of course.
One kind of control, or fail-safe, is that the missile operates on a timer and will explode after a designated time-limit (think of this term limits);
The second form of control is that HQ can terminate (or neutralise) the missile mid-flight (think of this as de-selection).
Finally, the third form of control is that HQ can re-direct the missile mid-flight away from a target or towards a new target (think of this as formulating a new grand strategy or abandoning a particular policy for a new one).
What is superior?
A missile that allows for more control is thus more responsive and is therefore better.
Well, suppose you launch a missile at what you think is a terrorist camp and then the satellite pictures or drone video provide you with new information that, say, the camp is a refugee camp with hundreds of children. A fire and forget missile cannot be changed and so the camp is blown up, along with the children. A missile that can be terminated mid-flight would allow you blow up the missile before it reaches its target, thus you save the children. Finally, suppose you actually do have a real target at the camp, along with children, but you fire anyway; however, the target leaves the camp in a vehicle. If you could steer the missile towards the moving vehicle (and thus away from the camp) and if you successfully hit the target, then you have succeeded in eliminating the target, and saved innocent lives.
Absolutism is a fire and forget missile.
Neo-cam and STEEL-cam is a precision guided missile.
Ultimately, the key difference between STEEL-cam and Absolutism is that the Sovereign can be replaced.
Naturally, this is an outcome that no one wants, so everyone would be invested in it not happening. If, however, it did have to happen, then perhaps the Sovereign would announce an early retirement for “health” reasons.
Finally, we support the ability of the Board to de-select the Sovereign because we claim that such a responsibility mechanism will produce more responsible government than under an Absolutist system.
Responsiveness and the ability to adapt are crucial, we claim.
4: Signals and Incentives.
Here is how both a neo-cam and a STEEL-cam system respond to signals and incentives. Unlike a system that contains Imperium In Imperio, no node in the system is independent or beyond the control of some other node. As Cyborg says: “no more controlled than controlling.”
We can analyse the “position” from each node and then factor in the signals and incentives and then calculate the moves open to each person in each node. So far, we have only discussed the Sovereign and the Board; however, let’s begin with the customer.
Customers can signal their satisfaction (or lack thereof) in a number of ways. Firstly, there is customer interaction with the employees and junior Management of the state. Secondly, there are customer satisfaction surveys. Thirdly, there are complaint or “ombudsman” mechanisms that provide signals to the management about performance. Fourthly, certain customers can form special interest groups or lobbying groups that can also provide feedback on how the Managers in the state are performing. Fifthly, customers in conjunction with whatever media or reporting exists, also provide a mechanism for the supply of feedback signals. Sixth, customers would have a legal right to redress of grievances against the state breaking its agreements with them. Seventh, customers exiting the state also provide the ultimate form of feedback.
If sufficient numbers of customers exit the state, then the resulting drop in the tax intake, which means a drop in the share price, provides a clear and unambiguous message that something is going wrong.
Of course, this form of signals is not all. The Shareholders can also make use of the above signals and then signal their concerns or dissatisfaction with the Board of Directors or the Sovereign directly. If enough shareholders sell their stock, then this is also a clear and unambiguous signal that something is going wrong. Likewise, rising share prices and a growing number of investors is a healthy sign.
When it comes to state employees and junior Management they can signal important information up the chain of command. Also, they could communicate with Shareholders directly and bring the Board’s attention to some problem.
The Board of Directors, meanwhile, receive signals from the share price, the Shareholders, the Management and the Sovereign. Naturally, they will be most sensitive to signals coming from the shareholders, because it is they who can replace them.
The Sovereign, meanwhile, has access to all of these signals, and much more. For the Sovereign, the number of signals is greater, and in some cases, he would possess better, more comprehensive information; however, the number of signals (information) is of such complexity that no man could ever process them.
Nevertheless, and this by no means is the be-all and end-all, the Sovereign has three good proxies for grasping the state of the state: tax returns, share price and exit numbers.
Again, these things are far from exhaustive markers of good government, but they are a very good proxy. Absolutism does not have these things, but STEEL-cam does.
When it comes to incentives, the state has incentives to provide good governance because it is profitable. Employees and managers have incentives to provide good customer service because they could get fired if not. Shareholders, meanwhile, have incentives to hold the Board and Sovereign to account because if customers begin to exit the state, then the drop in tax-returns, which causes the share price to drop means that Shareholders are losing value.
The Sovereign, meanwhile, has incentives to ensure good governance because they will get replaced if not and rich if they do.
Thus, each node in the system is geared towards the goal of profit. The pursuit of profit is the chief incentive mechanism that will ensure good government because a profitable government is a well-run government.
5: How Old is Too Old?
Finally, we must also factor in the age of the Sovereign.
What is the optimal age of being the Sovereign? At what age are the mental and moral faculties most likely to be at their most ripe? When will these faculties begin to slip?
We venture to say that someone of 90 years of age is not likely to have the Imperial Energy to rule.
Napoleon was Consul at thirty and Emperor by thirty-five – but he was a prodigy.
While it is true that no absolute rule (indeed!) or formula can be stipulated, generalisations can be made. So it is unlikely that, within a stable neo-cam or STEEL-cam system, no one less than 40 would hold the supreme position.
Potentially, a man might be Sovereign for decades (from forty to seventy say) but eventually, the body and mind grow weak and tired and fresh blood is needed. Under Absolutism an increasingly geriatric and cranky old man is one the throne, but with neo-cam and STEEL-cam the Sovereign can both step down or be persuaded to step-down and in the final analysis, be forced to step down.
The transition of power in any political system is a crucial event and under any system, it must be conducted with grace, nobility and solemnity. However, the person giving up power can both take pride in their hand-over and relax in the fact that their bank account is going to swell.
This is the theoretical superiority of STEEL-cam over Absolutism. Next, we will see that it is superior when it comes to persuading people to adopt it.
6: The Art of WOO (Wining Others Over).
Strategically speaking, in terms of persuading enough elites, essentials and expendables to re-structure the state, neo-cam and STEEL-cam have superior advantages over Absolutism (at least, when it comes to USG).
How do we get from A to B? We have options X or Y or Z; which option is more likely to succeed? That is the question
Absolutism does not offer sufficiently persuasive incentives for the current crop of elites, essentials and expendables to switch systems.
Napoleon was largely, but not completely correct, when he said that “fear and self-interest” are the chief motivators of men. Let’s apply these two levers to Absolutism.
With neo-cam and STEEL-cam (and yes, even with democracy) everyone can not only imagine themselves becoming the Sovereign (President) but that – for a small but not insignificant number of men – they can actually become the Sovereign. Thus, men, especially possible future elites can convince (delude?) themselves that neo-cam and STEEL-cam are in their best interests and not Absolutism.
Under Absolutism, and especially if one uses the hereditary succession principle, you end up with just one ruler for life and then his family or little circle succeeding. We claim that this is not desirable enough for elites to want to adopt this system. Even if they only imagine the possibility of them becoming Sovereign, it still stimulates their self-interest better than Absolutism.
Finally, whatever people think of STEEL-cam, people will fear the idea of one man holding absolute, unaccountable power. It is very hard to persuade someone of something if they have an instinctive fear of it.
Neo-cam would, without question, entail that the elites are extraordinarily well paid. In STEEL-cam, the financial incentives will be made explicit.
Becoming Sovereign earns you a huge bonus, being a successful Sovereign will mean an even bigger bonus and completing your contract and retiring or stepping down, should the Board not renew your contract, means you’re golden – forever.
Assuming that the Sovereign has a fixed contract that requires them to serve for ten years say, an under-performing or incompetent – or even criminal – Sovereign could be persuaded to “quietly” step down. This allows the Sovereign to “save face” and to avoid costly political-legal battles. It also means that the state’s stock price will not overly suffer.
Men are governed by a judicious mix of carrots and sticks and a little drop of glory. So, if a Sovereign gets cute and starts playing funny games, then the Board can make him an offer he cannot refuse:
“Fight, and you will be fought; lose, and your life will be lost, your family will be disgraced (maybe even executed as well); exit stage right, however, and you and your family, well, how does twenty million dollars sound? No? How about fifty million dollars? Think of your family, think of your children and don’t try to be a (false) hero.”
STEEL-cam uses, like in the military, an “up or out” doctrine. So, unlike in a potential Absolutist state where men may linger in the same role for years, in STEEL-cam the political environment is ULTRA competitive. As a Chinese saying has it: “climb or die.” So, to reach the pinnacle of power you must climb and keep climbing.
Fear of being a loser keeps everyone climbing and the financial gains, along with prestige, keep everyone trying to reach the top or die trying.
The number of employees needed in a neo-cam or STEEL-cam state will be much, much, smaller than in the current one; thus, job security (such as having permanent civil service employees) is non-existent.
So, we expect a high turnover in personnel in the STEEL-cam state.
However, in an Absolutist state the Sovereign will come to rely on a small, trusted, but perhaps not very competent team who serve him indefinitely. In short, the Absolutist Sovereign will reward loyalty over competence. Again, this is a natural consequence of the Rules of Ruling.
7: A Word About Sovereignty.
Absolutists might complain that in STEEL-cam the Sovereign is not the Sovereign. If you accept the definitions of Absolutists then yes. In STEEL-cam, we do not use the term Sovereign, but Supreme Commander. Later, in the STEEL-cam manifesto, we discuss the concept that the “Sovereign decides the exception” and how this relates to STEEL-cam over the most crucial of all questions the Sovereign must decide: War.
In summary, then, the virtues of Absolutism are its simplicity: personal rule which is both a normal and natural and historically salient fact about human life. Its weakness is that it is not as adaptive, flexible or robust (anti-fragile) as either neo-cam or STEEL-cam. The potential weakness of neo-cam and STEEL-cam, however, is that it is more complex. This is a trade-off, and there is no clear and decisive way of settling the matter. Finally, STEEL-cam has more chance of persuading people who need to be persuaded.