1: The Collapse of the Roman Empire and Imperium in Imperio.
2: The Imperial Mission of Imperial Energy.
3: The State of STEEL: A Basic Introduction to STEEL-cameralism.
4: The STEEL-cam Trident.
1: The Collapse of the Roman Empire and Imperium in Imperio.
Why did the Roman Empire collapse and could it have been prevented?
Here is our hypothesis that explains the collapse and suggests that a collapse could have been avoided or at least mitigated.
The reason why the Empire collapsed was for three, interlinked, reasons:
1: A poor succession system that resulted in numerous civil wars as commanders fought each other out of fear and self-interest.
2: No selection mechanism for elites who select the emperor.
3: Dysfunctional civil-military relationship.
Now for the positive proposal.
If the Roman Empire had of adopted a system for choosing the Emperor in a way that was very similar to the way the Catholic Church chooses its Popes, then civil war would have been avoided in most cases. If civil war was avoided, then Rome would have been stable, coherent and functional. Rome did not have a fundamental problem with either manpower or material resources; it could easily have beaten off all rivals; the reason it failed was that the structure of power was malformed and thus it was not able to coherently and functionally make use of its material resources.
In other words, the reason why Rome collapsed was because of Imperium in Imperio.
The difference between selecting the Emperor as opposed to the Pope, was that the elite selectors had to incorporate all three types of elite castes. Thus, the conclave would have had generals, priests, aristocratic patriarchs, judges and wealthy merchants.
Preventing Military Revolt.
What would have prevented generals in the provinces from revolting, however?
Firstly, the generals would have a shot at power though via peaceful means (nomination). Thus, generals would have been incentivised to channel their ambition into cultivating alliances across the whole of government and not just rely on brute force.
Men fight as much for fear as for gain. Thus, this Schelling point of selecting the emperor would have allayed fears among the generals because, so long as everyone follows the rules, they have a chance at power and avoiding the worst outcomes of losing in a civil war. Even if a general fails to become Emperor via the nomination process, they will not be killed along with their families, friends, senior officers and soldiers.
Secondly, the benefits of this system is that if any general violates these rules, then everyone else in the system (generals, priests and merchants) would have an easier time coordinating against them because they have a Schelling point that all can operate from (which includes the principle of legitimacy).
Thirdly, one simple solution to the problem of revolting generals would have been to have their families all live in the capital city – protected by the priests say – but if a general attempted to seize power using his army, then his family would be threatened. Extend this to the senior officers as well and you have an effective deterrent.
To compensate for these impositions, however, you need to lavishly reward the generals and allow them into the circles of power and give them a chance of becoming Emperor. However, like the Catholic Church, an Emperor should not be expected to rule for too long. Indeed, one could stipulate that the position of emperor have “term limits”.
(Obviously, this does not square with our “received” view of what an Emperor is but Rome only formalised the role of the Emperor hundreds of years after Augustus.)
Furthermore, to prevent revolt from the generals, Rome needed something like a military staff college which trains and posts political-military commissars into all the legions. These commissars would not, like the generals, be from the aristocracy but from the lower orders. The formal role that the commissars play is to manage the bureaucratic functions of the army (stores, pay, discipline, intelligence and training etc., etc.).
However, the commissars have a real task which is to ultimately report to the Chiefs of Staff in the staff college who report the Emperor. The real task is to report disloyalty and signs of unhealthy ambition among the generals.
Weakening the power of the generals by preventing them from forming bonds of loyalty with the troops can be better accomplished if generals are moved around different regions and put in charge of different legions periodically.
In addition, ensuring that all the legions are accompanied by several senators and their household guard would further reduce the risk of revolt. The role of the senators, formally, is to inspect and supervise the conduct of the legion but in reality it is to supervise the generals and check them if necessary. The senators are a kind of “military police” or “internal affairs” unit.
Beyond military reforms, what Rome also needed was religious and legal reform.
Unsurprisingly, this means formalisation. What the Roman religion lacked was a holy text that offered authoritative guidance but texts that were only understood, controlled and propagated by official priests. Furthermore, if the priests were allowed to have a small body of lightly armed men to enforce religious orthodoxy, this would also aid in hindering possible revolts by intimidating anyone who tried to support the usurping general. One again, we see the advantages of not only Catholicism here but of text-based religions in general.
However, in order to check the power of the priests (and of the generals), Rome needed legal reform. This required creating a system of permanent judges and a panel of supreme judges who would also have a hand in selecting the Emperor. In addition, if the legal system had what we today call “police” it would be additional checks (though weak checks) against usurpers. (Creating a permanent legal system would also help lighten the burden of Emperors because they spent most of their dealing with petitions.)
Finally, even if a general could rebel, they would not have the legitimacy to do so because, so the assumption goes, they would have neither religious nor legal legitimacy.
Nevertheless, despite all this division of labour, there would still only be one
Emperor and he would have had full authority to “hire and fire” anyone, set policy and set rates of pay. In reality, the Emperor would have had to build support via consultation with his “Essentials”.
The role of the emperor in this system would largely boil down to three things:
1: Prevent internal deviation from the protocols.
2: Prevent external interference from barbarians and foreign powers.
3: Exercise ultimate judgement.
In short, keep the machine running.
We argue that this system is superior to the one that is referred to as the “Dominate System”, riddled as it was with Imperium in Imperio.
Of course, theory is one thing and reality is quite another.
Finally, it should be said that imperial China, while having its own problems with Imperium and Imperio from time to time, still experienced civil war, revolts and foreign invasion and conquest. Thus, even if you have a sound structure, there is no guarantee of success. While this is true, one distinction to draw is that Rome did not have to face the same level of barbarian threat that China did. Either that or Rome was simply better at fighting. Still, nothing lasts forever.
2: The Imperial Mission of Imperial Energy.
Arguably, one writes best when one writes spontaneously. The following was a rapid fire response to a question posed by a reader called Sam in an earlier post. We have modified our comment somewhat but it stands as a good outline of our purpose here.
A tough question for imperial energy: Why should we minimize violence?
We answer that:
The larger question is why we should try to minimize conflict in general.
Starting at the global level, we have to think about the risks involved from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. We also have to think about new technologies coming over the horizon: bots, AI and god knows what else.
Furthermore, we also have to think about rogue states or resentful states (Iran, North Korea and maybe a future, failed China) giving nuclear material to terrorists.
Nuclear weapons technology can never be unlearned and nuclear weapons can never be given up. We must now live with – live for – these weapons.
Consider the following.
We assume that these weapons can never be used but we also assume that they will exist forever. However, these weapons must be protected (cared for and looked after). The people who make, supervise and care for these weapons must also be looked after and supported by wider society.
The collapse of the Soviet Union gives us our answer. Here was a super-power that collapsed politically. There was a great deal of anarchy and confusion following the Soviet collapse but there were also individuals and groups on the make stripping state assets, some of which involved weapons and some of which may have involved nuclear material.
The Russians did seem to secure their nuclear weapons stocks – but who knows?
The general point is what might happen if America, China or even France collapses and some of these weapons or their material gets sold or, what is worse, the weapons come under the control of maniacs.
The point about nuclear weapons generalizes. Since nukes will always exist, the army will always exist to guard them. If an army exists then so must the state. And if states exist, then there is always the possibility of war.
However, as Christopher Coker put it, war will not end until it has exhausted its evolutionary possibilities.
Look at the world; look at North Korea; look at China; look at Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
Look at the UN, the EU and NATO.
Finally, look at USG.
Are these countries preparing for peace, are they stable, reliable and trustworthy? Does the future of Africa and the Middle East suggest a peaceful or violent future? Crucially, are the current national and global institutions fit for purpose?
Can they manage the existential risks of the 21st Century?
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the state of security in the future?
Now, dropping down several levels, we have risks to person, family, community from criminals, terrorists, political mobs and state actors.
We are living in an age which is seeing a breakdown of the most basic of state functions: security.
Now, here is our more philosophical answer.
We have claimed that war is the central driver in the growth of state power and of the evolution of history. War, however, is just natural selection in one of its modes.
War, as Grant said, is not only “progressive” but Progressive.
At the very least, every last big war correlates with the expansion of leftism. Today, the war on “terror” is having similar effects. For us, this is not just correlational but causal.
America’s democracy promotion in the Middle East has had the same effect it had in Germany a century ago: Fascism. What are the similarities between the Nazis and ISIS other than both ending in the letter i and s? (Quite a lot.)
One has to think big – bigger than Moldbug – and bigger (and better) than even Henry Kissinger. What is needed is a Reactionary World Order that, unsurprisingly, maintains order (at nearly all costs).
The risks are simply too high.
However, to achieve this we need to have the right domestic order for America and there needs to be a complete re-conceptualization of America’s relationship with Russia, China and the Islamic world.
Ethically, however, the concern with violence is pretty simple. Martin Van Creveld’s correct point aside (that many men love war), the destructiveness of war prevents the existence and emergence of other human values. Life is the necessary condition of all value after all. And of course, war often – though not necessarily – advances the left.
Finally then, we – Imperial Energy – are left with a kind of paradox. A paradox similar to the maxim: “if you want peace, prepare for war.”
Philosophy, strategy and history are full of endless paradoxes, however.
Perhaps the central paradox of Imperial Energy is that the only way to prevent (catastrophic) war is to put the warriors in charge and the only way to minimize violence is to put professional men of violence in power.
This was true in Egypt with Sisi; it was also true of Saddam in Iraq; it would also have been likely true of Germany if the military had of ran the government and not the Nazis.
1: Priests? (Harvard.)
2: Merchants? (Wall Street.)
3: Soldiers? (West Point.)
3: The State of STEEL: A Basic Introduction to STEEL-cameralism.
To the STEEL-cameralist there are three types of government:
A: Government as a charity.
B: Government as a business.
C: Government as a criminal enterprise.
Virtually everyone in the world – reactionaries included – view government as a charity (a “Church”).
Nigel, over at the Carlsbads1819 blog, rightly says that Moldbug’s task was:
… taking Buchanan and Tullock’s “politics without romance” to its conclusion via formalism (the absence of metaphysics)….
Nigel, later on says:
The Orthosphere and other “theonomists” are probably the closest to counterrevolution, but being interested in a spiritual revival of Christendom they are more focused on the sacerdotium side of things and less on the imperium – understandably so.
Imperial Energy, as expected, focuses explicitly on imperium for the following reasons.
Government cannot be, necessarily, a charity, because charity is voluntary. Relatedly, a state is not a church – the state is the state and the game is the game.
The provision of charity, and the use of it, is contingent, which is to say it is optional or voluntary.
Charity is the preserve of the church, and the non-profit corporation.
Government, however, is a necessity; necessary in supply and demand: sovereignty is always conserved.
Thus, the mixing up of church for state is a category error.
In theory, government as a charity is a confusion. In practice, it cashes out to being an informal phenomenon where political form and political reality do not match: corruption in other words.
In reality, government as a charity is, in fact, always a criminal enterprise because the nature of government itself is often, indeed, almost always, a criminal enterprise.
The great “charity” models of government in the 20th Century – Soviet Communism and American Progressivism are testaments to the horrific failures of how, perhaps, good intentions (among some naïve Essentials) lead to perverse consequences.
Government actors are almost always gangsters, and political parties are little different from criminal cartels. Their bread and butter are extortion, bribery, racketeering and murder.
Charities do not demand your money, governments do.
Charities cannot conscript you into armies, governments do.
Charities do not demand that you think, value and act in a certain way, governments do.
What is the difference between a political party and a mafia?
You cannot say no to the mafia and you cannot say no to government as a charity, but you can say no to government(s) as a business – because the customer is always right.
Government as charity allows political gangsters to rob, intimidate and enrich themselves while proclaiming themselves as humble public servants.
To the STEEL-cameralist, like the neocameralist, however, government is a business.
What does that mean?
It means exactly what it says on the tin.
A: Government is a business and it should be structured like one: executive, managers and employees; a board, a chairman and stockholders.
B: Government is a business and it should be run like one: for profit.
C: Government is a business and it should operate like one: by voluntary contractual relationship between buyer and seller.
D: Government is a business and its chief business is security: law and order in exchange for rents.
To the STEEL-cameralist, government is not a “mystical union”; it is not the repository of our “hopes and fears”, it is not a moral enterprise.
The necessities of statecraft and the deeds of statesmen often run contrary to folk morality and folk religion. Government is a necessary evil, at least when set against the backdrop of Christian moral idealism.
The STEEL-cams are political engineers and political realists. We refuse to look away from the dark facts of human nature and of the necessity of political action.
The Jewish political realist Hans J. Morgenthau has it exactly right:
1 Political realism believes that politics, like society in general, is governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature. In order to improve society it is first necessary to understand the laws by which society lives. The operation of these laws being impervious to our preferences, men will challenge them only at the risk of failure.
2 The main signpost that helps political realism to find its way through the landscape of international politics is the concept of interest defined in terms of power. This concept provides the link between reason trying to understand international politics and the facts to be understood. It sets politics as an autonomous sphere of action and understanding apart from other spheres, such as economics (understood in terms of interest defined as wealth), ethics, aesthetics, or religion. Without such a concept a theory of politics, international or domestic, would be altogether impossible, for without it we could not distinguish between political and nonpolitical facts, nor could we bring at least a measure of systematic order to the political sphere.
3 Realism assumes that its key concept of interest defined as power is an objective category which is universally valid, but it does not endow that concept with a meaning that is fixed once and for all. The idea of interest is indeed of the essence of politics and is unaffected by the circumstances of time and place. Thucydides’ statement, born of the experiences of ancient Greece, that “identity of interests is the surest of bonds whether between states or individuals” was taken up in the nineteenth century by Lord Salisbury’s remark that “the only bond of union that endures” among nations is “the absence of all clashing interests.”
4 Political realism is aware of the moral significance of political action. It is also aware of the ineluctable tension between the moral command and the requirements of successful political action. And it is unwilling to gloss over and obliterate that tension and thus to obfuscate both the moral and the political issue by making it appear as though the stark facts of politics were morally more satisfying than they actually are, and the moral law less exacting than it actually is.
5 Political realism refuses to identify the moral aspirations of a particular nation with the moral laws that govern the universe. As it distinguishes between truth and opinion, so it distinguishes between truth and idolatry. All nations are tempted-and few have been able to resist the temptation for long-to clothe their own particular aspirations and actions in the moral purposes of the universe. To know that nations are subject to the moral law is one thing, while to pretend to know with certainty what is good and evil in the relations among nations is quite another. There is a world of difference between the belief that all nations stand under the judgment of God, inscrutable to the human mind, and the blasphemous conviction that God is always on one’s side and that what one wills oneself cannot fail to be willed by God also.
6 The difference, then, between political realism and other schools of thought is real, and it is profound. However much the theory of political realism may have been misunderstood and misinterpreted, there is no gainsaying its distinctive intellectual and moral attitude to matters political.
In other words, the man had Imperial Energy.
The STEEL-cameralist state exercises its sovereignty by virtue of its military dominance, over a certain, carefully defined, geographical area – this is de facto sovereignty. It exercises its sovereignty – de jure – over any and all people who live in that defined area by virtue of a voluntary contractual relationship.
A STEEL-cameralist state has no citizens; it has customers.
A STEEL-cameralist state does not depend upon the formula – the fiction – of consent (hypothetical social contract) but of custom: payment in exchange for goods and services.
A STEEL-cameralist state survives, not because it teaches people to love it, but because they view its goods and services – law and order – as essential and legitimate.
Good governance is nothing more, and nothing less, than good customer service. What is good customer service? The answer is: security of life, liberty and property.
The STEEL-cams will follow the path of Deng Xiaoping and allow the political equivalent of Special Economic Zones. These “patches” – which could be called neo-Federalism – will have the freedom -coupled with financial responsibility – to create, re-create or conserve their own laws, customs and culture.
There will, however, be – at least – three necessary conditions or red lines.
1: These special zones – “patches” – will be required to pay rent (of provide offer goods and services) to the central authority.
2: They will be required to abide by, minimally necessary, common economic rules to facilitate trade and commerce between the patches or neo-federal states.
3: They will be required to abide by rulings regarding such things as foreign policy, defence, and regulation regarding weapons of mass destruction.
The STEEL-cameralist state will divest itself from all other public provisions and engage in only as much economic and political interference as absolutely necessary. In practice, this means little to no public education for the masses, little to no welfare for the masses and little to no foreign aid – especially no foreign aid for such things called “Human Rights”.
The STEEL-cameralist state will no longer interfere in the affairs of foreign nations, unless that state is engaged in hostile action such as supporting terrorists, developing nuclear weapons or engaging in actions that threaten the security and stability of the state or its clients.
The STEEL-cameralist trade policies will be decided not by any formula or dogma but by what is profitable and prudent. The STEEL-cameralist overall framework for economic theory and practice is geo-economics.
The STEEL-cameralist state will often, but not always, welcome immigrants. However, those immigrants must contract, not only with the central authority, but with the particular patch they wish to work in and, if they are fortunate, permanently reside in. Immigrants, like all customers, will be obligated to abide by the terms of that contract on point of whatever penalties are laid down in the contract.
STEEL-cameralists will seek profitable and mutually beneficial relationships with all nations and all peoples. It welcomes cooperation, but it abides by competitive principles:
1: Does this make us richer?
2: Does this make us stronger?
3: Does this make us more secure?
Above all, the STEEL-cameralist state will seek nothing more, and nothing less, than to provide a stable and secure arena for its customers to pursue whatever ends and interests they choose – so long as it remains within the bounds of their contractual obligations.
The difference between STEEL-cam and Land’s Techno-Commercialism is that Tech-Comm is anarchist, automatist and confused about the nature of power and politics. In Land’s system, there is no desire for and no need for human judgement. To Land, Tech-Comm, apparently, offers the possibility of accelerating something (capital) to somewhere (communism?).
STEEL-cam, on the contrary, accepts and desires the need for human judgment.
As for the difference between STEEL and neocameralism the difference is this:
Neocameralism is a state that is a business which owns a country and runs the country like a real estate enterprise.
In contrast, STEEL-cameralism is where the military becomes the state which owns the country and then runs the country like a hotel domestically and operates as a protection racket – security firm – internationally. (In addition, a military or a private military company may create a state which is a business and then run the country for profit.)
Can a soldier be judge?
Can a soldier be a priest?
Can a soldier be a merchant?
Can a soldier be the Sovereign – the regulator of regulators, the Commander in Chief, the mover of moves and the maker and maintainer of the political machine?
In the military, you have laws, you have rules and you have formal procedures.
In the military, chain of command, ownership and control are clear.
In the military, personal virtue, personal responsibility and corporate spirit is central.
Neocameralism is government done by merchants, soldiers and priests.
STEEL-cameralism is government done by soldiers, merchants and priests.
(A fun way of thinking of the reversal of caste order is to view STEEL-cameralism as the ENTJ to neocameralism’s INTJ.)
4: The STEEL-cam TRIDENT.
STEEL-cameralism has three principles or basic assumptions as part of its overall political paradigm – as other political philosophies and programs often have. For example, we have the old, American conservative “stool” which consists of Christianity, free market economics and a robust national military; with STEEL-cam, however, we have the Trident.
1: Cameralism: The Art and Science of Realist Statecraft and the Theory and Practice of Geo-Economics.
2: Hierarchy and Unity of Command, Control and Responsibility: there is one STEEL-cam Supreme Commander (SCSC) who is the final determiner of all legal, political, economic and military decisions as well as all government appointments, regulations and disputes who is, nevertheless, subject to supervision and de-selection by a board of directors.
3: Pacta Servanda Sunt: All agreements must be respected. This is the fundamental axiom of STEEL justice. The axiom serves as the basis of the STEEL formalist legal system.
In the next post, we compare and contrast the three cameralisms: the cameralism of Frederick the Great; the neocameralism of Mencius Moldbug and the STEEL-cameralism of Imperial Energy.