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The Fall of the Roman Republic: A Narrative and Analytical Comparison with the Contemporary Conditions of the United States of America — (Part 4 of a Series)

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The Fall of the Roman Republic:

A Narrative and Analytical

Comparison with the Contemporary

Conditions of the United States of

America — (Part 4 of a Series)

Derek Suszko

Derek Suszko is an associate editor for The St. Croix Review.

III. Analysis of the Roman and American Republics

Abstract

In the previous installment of this essay, we discussed the first cause of the collapse of the Roman republic: the pollution of the legislative function. We described the principle of a natural legislative obsolescence brought on by a superabundance of administration and declared that the failure of the Roman tribunate to generate enduring reform was due to the erosion of its legislative power. We applied the same phenomenon to our consideration of the contemporary American Congress and found it to be a tepid and unlikely conduit for the remedial demands of an American right-wing populist movement. We judged that the first initiative of such a movement was to generate a factional clarification of the American right-wing, and thereby purge the platform of its inhibiting and contradictory elements. Each of these conclusions will be relevant as we proceed into a discussion of the second cause of the collapse of the Roman republic: the apathy and criminality of its political elite. The plan for Part IV mirrors the procedure established in Part III. In the first section, we examine the idea of a political elite as a general phenomenon of political theory. We proceed in the second section to apply the general considerations to the respective situations of the Roman and American republics. Finally, we deploy our conclusions to forecast probable outcomes for the future of the American political situation, and offer further theses for the possible salvaging of the American way of life.

Cause II: The Apathy and Criminality of the Political Elite

Elite Minority Factions and the General Nature of Subsidiary Factions

It is in the nature of all political systems to produce an elite. By this term I refer to an exclusive class of persons that exercises determinative power over the dominant political and cultural orientation of a state and retains a high standard of living in a society by virtue of this capability. It is possible for a person to attain a high wealth status in a state and yet not be a member of the political elite due to dissenting politics, but it is generally an implausible rarity for those who wield authentic determinative power to persist at a low standard of living.1 The difference of governmental systems may determine the degree of separation from the mass of ordinary citizens, but not the essentiality of an exclusive political elite. Thus, while in a pure democracy all citizens nominally exercise an equivalent measure of political power, there will inevitably emerge those with a greater proximity to the mechanisms of electoral process, both as viable candidates and as machinators, and who therefore maintain a de facto determinative power far beyond that of a single vote. For the unique contours of our discussion, I choose to deploy the term elite minority faction (EMF) to describe the exclusive class of citizens who retain determinative cultural and political power. While an EMF may represent a coalition of independent factional interests and work to promote them, the abiding motivation for themselves is determinative power. Because of this unique motivation we are justified in treating them as embodying an independent factional motive. In the history of states, elite minority factions might be analyzed and distinguished in four ways: 1) the basis on which their elite status is consecrated and justified; 2) the governmental system that they have produced, or that has produced them; 3) the fluidity of their composition; and 4) the methods by which they maintain their domination.

Elite status in any political society can have at its basis only four types of justification: hereditary, ethno-nationalist, meritocratic, or ideological. These are not mutually exclusive, but we shall consider each as a superseding justification. An ethnic or nationalistic elite has been the most common throughout human political history, and virtually all pre-Enlightenment political societies were oriented on the basis of common national origin. Nationalistic bias should be regarded (as it is by Marxists, much to their agitation) as an extension of family bias. The various hereditary monarchies of the world have always justified claims to power on the basis of the prestige of a bloodline, and aristocratic status has generally been determined by the purity of an individual’s ethnic, national, and familial pedigree. So widespread has been the compartmentalizing of societies on ethnic considerations that it is tempting to identify such societies as being in some sense “natural” to the human political condition.2 The stringency of nationalistic EMFs is most pronounced in instances of the subjugation of a largely homogeneous ethnic group by an alien ethnic minority; the entire history of European colonialism was characterized by the privileged power of a small European EMF governing a large ethnic majority in the interests of the colonizing state. The basic ethnic associations of human cultural motivations remain formidable, despite the dominant ideological paradigms of our times that would wish to deny them. The morbid failures of post-colonial Africa have often been attributed to the lack of ethnic self-determination for the large variety of African ethnic minorities. Recent European conflicts like the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s and the present-day Ukraine war are driven entirely by national considerations. Whether these examples, and a myriad of others, demonstrate the impossibility of long maintenance for states divided on national or ethnic lines is a debatable and largely taboo topic for the orthodoxy of the established power consensus in the West.

Attempts to establish a political elite within a privileged ethnic caste or a homogenous ethno-state, or under a nominally “color-blind” or multicultural society, must base themselves on either objective merit or ideology. By merit, I intend to convey a “capacity for competency” as far divorced from subjective ideological evaluations as possible. In the domain of statecraft, it should be taken to mean “a disinterested and objective capacity to consider the optimal interests of the state and the sustained prosperity and safety of its citizens.” A meritocratic elite has always been more an abstract ideal than an achievable proposition, for the biases of human nature and the inherently dogmatic disposition of the human mind predispose all governmental systems to fall well short of optimized clarity. Nonetheless, certain historical states have come far closer to the meritocratic ideal than others, and it remains an open question for political philosophy how such conditions might be maintained.3

The last basis for the establishment of a political elite, and the one with which we have most to do in the present time, is the ideological. By ideological, I refer to any principle, conception, or heuristic, which has been raised to the status of universal — that is dogmatic — truth. The proliferation of ideological EMFs in the history of modern states can be traced to the larger trend in the modern West of bourgeois emancipation, and to the Enlightenment idea of the determinative and autonomous self. The essential revolution in political thought offered by the modern world is that power should be delegated on the basis of correct thinking, and no longer merely to those whom Nature has favored by circumstances.4 All ideologies share in common the notion that a demonstrated fidelity to the principles of the cause renders a man (or woman) worthier of power than the more immutable characteristics of origin and capability. Any ideology that arises from power is by nature revolutionary, since its adherents must regard themselves as meriting power by virtue of the correctness of their beliefs. After the attainment of consensus power, a reigning ideology must constantly reiterate the correctness and universal truth of its principles to justify the continuance of the assumed authorities of its adherents. Such efforts are doubly necessary if the ruling ideologues demonstrate visible incompetence, for then they must train the populace to fight against the witnesses of their eyes.

These then are the possible bases on which an elite minority faction might justify itself: ethno-nationalist, hereditary, meritocratic, and ideological. We may readily observe that different governmental systems will preclude the possibility of one or another of these bases. A hereditary monarchy or aristocracy can never be meritocratic unless we attempt to assert the demonstrable impossibility that competency is indefinitely heritable. Such a form of government cannot be ideologically based, either, since the political perspectives of the successive inheritors of power are subject to variance. A military dictatorship displays the opposite conditions. A dictator who comes to power by force may attempt to establish a hereditary basis to justify passing power to his progeny but this cannot be the justification that brings him to power. He must justify his assumption of authority on a meritocratic or ideological basis. Note that this is true even in the instance of forcible conquest and subjugation, for the ability to deploy force is a demonstration of persuasiveness to some sizable composition of enforcers. In a representative government power, is theoretically acquired on the basis of the “consent and support of the governed.” But “government by consent” is an ideological position contingent on the principle that citizens should have the right to determine the composition of their governments. We need not take seriously the risible claim that democratic support is a proper surrogate of merit. All republican governments are ideological in nature, because power in them is justified on the basis of highly mutable conditions (i.e. no man is “born” with the electoral support of the masses, nor is he guaranteed to possess it indefinitely). All republican systems must maintain the ideological perspective of the essential immutability of the general will, but the proper composition of the general may vary depending on ideological orientation. In post-Enlightenment political theory, man is declared to be endowed naturally with the right to political participation, and no temporal law can change the immutable fact of his right to free choice in the matter of his rulers. Such an understanding is a cornerstone of liberalism, and forms the ideological underpinning of the present American republic and its models across the world. But in ancient republics (where suffrage was far more restricted) the immutable characteristic was not inherent in a man’s mere existence, but rather in an assessment of his utility to the society. We may take the Roman republic as an example. The plebeians of the Roman republic were not enfranchised on the basis of inherent rights of being, but rather because without their cooperation, the patricians could not sustain the numbers to defend themselves or maintain a national economy. The use of patrician force was not possible without the plebeians, because the plebeians were too valuable and numerous to be enslaved. Thus, a social contract was necessary in which political rights were acquiesced to the plebeians in exchange for their participation in a mutual society. The basis of power in ancient republics remained ideological because it was dependent on a veneration of the general will, but it cleaved to a meritocratic ideal, far more than in modern republics, because composition of the general will, was not inherent but subject to criteria.

The possible means of entry into the ranks of an elite minority faction is the third distinction we will consider. We have spoken already of the concept of immutability. The test of the immutability of a power basis is the degree to which an individual can freely control his relation to it. The most immutable conditions are those of parentage, national, and ethnic origin. An individual has no means of altering these conditions for himself; if he is lacking in necessary pedigree, he can never have it as a basis for power in a governmental system that has consecrated it. But, while a subject can never become a rightful ruler in a system of hereditary power, he or she might still enter the ranks of the EMF by competency, charisma, or sycophancy.5 Competency (or merit) is less immutable than origins because an individual has some freedom to determine the measure of his industriousness, though he may not have the freedom to go beyond the natural limits of his intellect. The most mutable basis for power is that which depends on mere allegiance. Pledging oneself to an ideological cause is entirely at the free discretion of choice. Naturally, an ideology which attains power consensus in a society will have so many “allegiants” that it will be impossible for them all to be among the ranks of the necessarily exclusive EMF. Other considerations such as seniority, utility, and marketability will determine which allegiants are able to rise to the determinative status of the EMF.6

The maintenance of any power basis rests entirely on the degree to which its possessors are able to convince the populace of its claims to immutability. Such an assertion has many composite considerations. A subject might disapprove of the policies of a certain monarch while still conceding that the monarch has a right to rule. So, too, a citizen of a republic may dissent from the platform of an election winner, while accepting the legitimacy of the constitutionally sanctioned electoral result. In both instances political disagreements are tolerated in the interest of allegiance to the higher immutable principle of the bloodline or the constitution. In any examination of historical states, it is necessary to ask: What is the highest principle of immutability? That is, what is the acknowledged authority that renders virtually all factions in the state a cohesive whole? We have said that all republican states are, by definition, established on the basis of certain ideological presumptions. Thus, in order for any republic to be maintained, a large plurality of factions must accept the immutability of those presumptions which underpin the idealism of representative government. If they do not, then, there is dissension over the immutability of the republican principle. But this equilibrium, in which all factions are bound to a common agreement of immutability, goes against the power incentives of factions who claim the highest status of immutability for all of their claims. For an example: If one’s faction acknowledges the absolute right of abortion, then it follows that any prohibition represents not just a partisan disagreement, but a violation of the republican principle itself, regardless of whether the ban was generated by constitutional process. The consequence of this phenomenon is the inevitable radicalization of the opposition coalition. The desires of the ruling EMF and its composite factions to consolidate power by imposing immutability on all its claims, serve to erase the common immutabilities held by the plurality of the opposition factions. Without any common principle of immutability, the state has ruptured and the factions must either sever their union, or enter open conflict for the control of the orientation of the state.

We have mentioned that the abiding motivation of an elite minority faction is sustaining power. We emphasize this not to imply a fundamental ideological insincerity among those who wield power, but rather to insist that this is a concern which generally supersedes all absolute principles.7 In order for an EMF to sustain power, it must assemble and maintain a proper coalition of subsidiary factions that will support its claims to legitimacy. In republican systems, this “proper coalition” must be majoritarian by the principle of “consent of the governed.” All factional coalitions should be assessed in two primary ways: by scope and intensity. In the history of many Marxist insurgencies, the rabid intensity of a small faction often proved sufficient to attain determinative power over the entire state. But in democratic states, in which the republican principle is deeply embedded, such fringe adventurism is rarely successful. The scope needed for factional consensus in majoritarian systems more often serves to blunt the intensity of successful political movements. American democracy (and others with a winner-take-all electoral system) is plenteous in “consensus” figures who balance the factional divisions within one or another of the opposing national parties. EMFs of differing governmental systems will have different methods for maintaining the loyalties of their subsidiary factions. At the extremist instance, a military dictator might only require the fanatic loyalty of the single, narrow faction of soldiers to sustain his power, because this faction is all he requires to enforce his will over the majority populace. In Marxist dictatorships, the loyalty of the party membership faction may likewise be sufficient to subjugate the non-member majority. But in republican systems, the fanaticism of a minority faction is rarely sufficient to achieve abiding power. It is necessary to assemble a coalition of compliant factions whose motives do not interfere (or do not appear to interfere) with the ideological motives of the directing EMF. A republican insurgency movement that seeks to contest a reigning EMF and its established power must answer the following questions: is the majoritarian coalition under the existing EMF insurmountable? What is the highest principle of immutability that holds the coalition together? Which of the compliant factions are reachable by persuasion? What conditions might compel the factional coalition to disintegrate? Can the reigning EMF be defeated within the boundaries of the present ideological presumptions underlying the state? We shall proceed to apply each of these considerations to the Roman and American republics.

To sum up our contentions in the foregoing discussion: 1) all political systems produce a power elite that determines the political and cultural orientation of a state; 2) the minority of persons who make up this elite represent an independent, driving faction whose motive is sustained determinative power; 3) an elite minority faction must justify its assumption of power on nationalistic, ethnic, hereditary, meritocratic, or ideological bases; 4) the power basis for all EMFs in modern republican systems is the ideological presumptions of government by consent and inhering rights; 5) all EMFs are motivated to justify their claims on the basis of immutability in the interest of sustaining power, that is, to present their claims as fundamental and necessary to the ethical imperatives and objective conditions of the world; 6) EMF claims to immutability serve to entrench the loyalties of the subsidiary factions and to polarize the dissenting factions within a state; 7) an opposition coalition in a republican system must assess whether it can topple the reigning EMF within the boundaries of republican ideological presumptions (that is, assemble an electoral majority by persuasion, and so force the EMF to exercise arbitrary power to maintain its authority) or it must repudiate republican ideological presumptions to achieve power; 8) the lasting strength of the new EMF of a successful insurgency movement is dependent on the degree to which it can consecrate the immutability of its own basis for power.

Analysis of the Factional Composition of the Roman and American Republics

Despite the probations of its constitution, the Roman republican state remained highly hierarchical throughout its history. Most of the magistrate officers of any given year descended from a small number of aristocratic families, and even those magistrates who were plebeians generally hailed from highly wealthy families that lived in Rome. The ranks of the senate were inevitably dominated by patricians, and the narrow aristocratic elite always maintained an outsized and generally decisive influence on the political determinations of the state. But for much of Roman republican history the patrician domination of government had widespread plebeian approval. The Roman aristocrats cultivated a cult of the “selfless statesman” who would venture all danger for the protection of the state and its citizens. The Roman aristocracy claimed consistently to take on power as a duty and a burden, and for much of the Roman expansionary period this was not a facetious contention. In stark contrast to later Roman warfare, consuls and praetors of the middle republic were expected to personally lead the legionaries in battle. This expectation led to numerous battle deaths of sitting magistrates, especially during the first two Punic Wars (264-202 BC). For many generations of the republic, the power of the Roman aristocratic elite minority faction was merited by the immutability not only of familial heritages, but also by inherited nobility and sense of duty to the state. But the period of Roman prosperity, enhanced by the subjugation of the Balkans and of the Iberian peninsula, and of the final vanquishing of Carthage in the middle decades of the 2nd century BC, saw a deterioration in the caliber of the Roman aristocracy. Without the threat of lethal enemies, the aristocrats turned profligate and hedonistic, and began abusing their influences as they oppressed the Roman rural plebeians.

The aristocrats were able to venture on such predatory policies within constitutional bounds (at least until the advent of the Gracchan movement) because they retained the support of a sufficient number of compliant factions, and the political opposition remained mired in confusion and corruption. The factional composition of the Roman state, circa 133 BC, can be summarized in the following table of the approximate economic apportionment of the male Roman population:

  1. “Aristocratic” Patricians, more than 2 percent
  2. “Lower” Patricians, 5 percent
  3. Equites (cavalry), 8 percent
  4. Rural Smallholders, 15 percent
  5. Urban Artisans and Tradesmen, less than 20 percent
  6. Landless Rural, less than 20 percent
  7. Slaves, 25 percent

We will note the following observations about the Roman republic. Only citizens could vote, and the exercise of this right was exclusively confined to the city of Rome. Slaves were not citizens and therefore had no representation. Before the resolution of the Social War (92-88 BC), the “landless rural” consisted almost entirely of non-citizens, or else of citizens for whom the travel to the city of Rome was prohibitively costly. Because of these factors, the Roman electorate had effectively no “lower class” representation at all. The political platform of Gaius Gracchus did attempt to include the claims of landless Italian allies, but it is notable that the patrician factions were able to use this inclusion against him by stoking concern among the higher classes, the equites in particular. A large plurality of the “urban artisans and tradesmen” were sympathetic, for most of the republican period, to the patrician EMF for commercial reasons, as the traditional Roman aristocracy represented their customer base. But they turned largely toward the populist opposition faction when figures such as Marius, Pompey, and Caesar started accumulating and spending money in the city. The equites were generally impeded from advancing into the ranks of the patricians, and thus had enormous resentment toward the aristocrats. But they were wary of the rural factions and could sway away from the populists, if overly alarmed at the demagogic excesses of the tribunes (as they did during the tribunate of Saturninus). We see from our assessments that so long as the patrician EMF could secure half of the “urban” vote, and perhaps a portion of the equites, they could generally win elections outright, due to the lower participation of the rural smallholders. During much of the 2nd century BC, such a majoritarian coalition was sufficient to sustain determinative power for the aristocratic EMF.

To perform a similar analysis for the contemporary factional composition of the present American republic, it is necessary to introduce another determinative factor into the calculus. The Roman factions listed in the above table are assessed on two distinctions: economic wealth and urban/rural occupancy. In general, there was little disagreement among the Romans over explicitly cultural issues separate from the marginalization and inclination of political and economic policies. Even the opposition of the Italian allies was based on demands for political integration on the grounds that they had demonstrated a sufficient degree of cultural integration into the language, customs, values, and religious doctrines of the Roman state. It is telling that all the partisans of the late republican civil wars (Marius vs. Sulla, Caesar vs. Pompey, Conspirators vs. Triumvirate, Antony vs. Octavian) sought to denigrate their opponents by castigating them as proponents of an alien culture.8 In contemporary American politics, cultural issues are at least as large a driver of individual political orientation as economic issues. This factor makes it more difficult to cleanly delineate the aggregate factional interests on purely economic divisions. The following table demonstrates a plausible and approximate apportionment of the American population based only on general economic distinctions:

1.   Cultural and Political “Elites,” 2 percent

2.   Affluent Suburban, 10 percent

3.   Urban/Suburban Professionals with College Degrees, 30 percent

4.   “Blue-collar” workers, 25 percent

5.   Unskilled Employed, less than 10 percent

6.   Rural Impoverished, 10 percent

7.   Urban Impoverished, 10 percent

This table gives us a less certain but still valuable delineation of factional political allegiance. The elite minority faction of the present American political situation represented in the table by the first category has been euphemized in many ways: “the Swamp,” “the System,” “the DC elite,” “the coastal elite,” “the Cathedral,” “the managerial state,” “the deep state,” sometimes simply “the establishment,” or “the elite.” Whatever one wishes to call it, its general ideological orientation is not in doubt. The American EMF is committed to the depreciation of traditional forms of American life by fundamental alterations to culture and economy. Like the Roman factional situation, the clearest general distinction between those loyal to the established EMF and those opposed to it is between the urban and rural citizenry. The most solidly conservative voters are the “blue-collar” workers and the “rural impoverished,” while the most solidly Democrat voters are the EMF, the urban professionals, and the “urban impoverished.” The two divided categories are the “affluent suburban” and the miscellaneous category that I have chosen to term unskilled, or low-level, employed. Though the American factions mirror the Roman in the rural/urban divide, it is crucial for the forthcoming discussion to examine if the reasons for the distinction are equivalent. The Roman small landholding class resisted the aristocratic EMF in order to remain in the middle class and preserve their ownership status. This is in many ways similar to the motivations of “blue-collar” workers who make up the core base of voters opposed to the aims of the American EMF. But the large category that I have chosen to generalize as “Urban/Suburban professionals” is in a very different case than the putative upper middle Roman equivalent in the equites.9 The efforts of Gaius Gracchus showed the equites highly amenable to a moderated populist movement, and though the equites evinced some consternation at the advocacy of the “landless rural” and the “Italian allies” by Saturninus, Drusus and Marius, they remained a solid part of the populist coalition until the imperial ascendancy. But the “urban/suburban” category shows signs of entrenched support for the American established power despite the fact they are suffering economic deterioration brought on by decades of inflationary policy and irresponsible governance. How should this be?

The answer lies in the problem of universal suffrage. We have mentioned already that participation in the Roman electorate was not determined by claims of inherent rights but by assessments of individual utility. The “right” to vote was accompanied by the “duties” of taxation and military service. The Roman republic maintained a system of contingent suffrage whereby citizens were forced to make sacrifices in order to participate in the republican process. The present American republic (along with all its imitators) maintains a system of near universal suffrage. Since the right to vote is regarded by our reigning ideology as an inherent property of being, it can only be lost but never earned. The right to vote is presumptive, so it is more helpful to list those few conditions that would explicitly prevent someone from exercising the right: i.e, under the age of 18, lack of citizenship, and criminal record.10 In a system of universal suffrage in which voting is no longer leveraged by affiliated demands of the state, individual voters naturally tend not to discern considerations of the general interest (if they are even capable of perceiving them), either in favor of pure self-interest (which is not necessarily debilitating), or of emotive qualifications (frequently generated in them by propaganda). In contingent suffrage systems, voting is essentially a surrogate for forestalled force, i.e., if the plebeians were not given the right to vote, they would rebel or abandon the state. The vote of the plebeians only had authority because it was backed by the possibility of rebellion. Under universal suffrage systems, however, individuals are free to endorse policies for which they themselves have no intention or ability to advance. Thus, a group of voters might choose to support a candidate who favors lenient sentencing for criminals. If the crime rate should rise because of the policies of such a candidate, the voters would naturally assume that a police force or some other enforcement would be responsible for addressing the increase in crime. But if the police should simply refuse to comply with enforcement, the candidate and his supporters would have to find a means to compel them. If they could not then compel the police for lack of force, the state would cease to function and the voting “power” of the electorate would have been nullified. Systems of universal suffrage can only discern the forceful basis of voting power to the degree that the electorate is not able to enforce their will through the exercise of voting. The problem becomes most acute in those individuals who either do not care about maintaining civil society (severely unintelligent or psychopathic voters), or — of more concern — in those individuals who are susceptible to emotional pleas, but who are rarely responsible for enforcing the maintenance of civil society. To the perfectly rational or self-interested voter, there may be instances in which a diminution of civil society generally will result in a gain for him personally.11 But these instances represent the normal factional trade-offs inherent in public resource allocation. More serious are the instances in which fundamentally irrational voters are persuaded by grievance appeals to support policies that neither benefit them (except as moral validation) or society in general. These types of grievance appeals are often ventured by dysfunctional EMFs seeking to retain power, but without the means to secure the immutability of their power basis. An EMF which has staked its survival on the resonance of its emotionally manipulative propaganda will have greatest success in a republican system of universal suffrage. It is obvious that the present American EMF is of this kind. The question confronting a right-wing opposition movement is: Can the American EMF be defeated with the preservation of universal suffrage?

(This essay will be continued in the next issue)

Notes

  1. In our own time, Elon Musk is an obvious example of the first condition. Despite his wealth, he is not a member of the political and cultural elite because his politics dissents from the established norms. The only exception to the second condition would be in the instance of a genuinely monkish figure who voluntarily takes on a life of poverty on principle, yet still wields the power of political consensus.
  2. In our own time, of course, such an assertion contradicts the pervading Western ideological commitment to the virtues of “multicultural” societies. But even within multicultural states, individual association is largely determinable by ethnic affinity. Witness, for instance, the general failure of assimilation of Middle Eastern immigrants in Western Europe or the persistent voluntary segregation of American blacks from whites and vice versa, despite the long-standing removal of legal impositions.
  3. We have mentioned in a previous installment the Era of the Five Good Emperors, 96-180 AD of the Roman empire, whose selection was based not on heredity, but merit. The pattern, alas, could not be sustained. The last of the five, Marcus Aurelius, had the foolishness (after a life spent in wisdom) to select as his successor his megalomaniacal son Commodus.
  4. I aim to avoid sophistical entanglement as far as possible. The claim “only the bloodline of Charlemagne should rule” is an ideological claim insofar as it ascribes a subjective value to the immutable characteristic of bloodline; but it is less ideological than the claim “private property should be abolished” or “the right of peaceful assembly must be respected.” This is because it pegs political power to what is immutable (national origin, parentage) and not to what can be continuously altered (ownership and activity). It is a postmodern trope that everything is reducible to ideology. A postmodernist would regard not only ethno-nationalism as an ideology, but also meritocracy itself, since it relies on disputable claims of objective truth. Without entering into the whirling catacombs of postmodern discourse, I will only say that the distinction of immutability, if it has not objective truth, is nonetheless the native heuristic of human biological and social function, and I am therefore justified in distinguishing ethno-nationalism and meritocracy from ideology because of their greater immutability. One is free to change one’s political or religious allegiance as the wind blows, but one is not free to change one’s origin, nor is it in one’s power to accede to a competency beyond the natural impositions of intellect and aptitude.
  5. Perhaps the most curious and outstanding example of this is the achievement of the 17-year old illiterate peasant girl, Joan of Arc, in convincing the French Dauphin that she was a divine agent and that he should follow her guidance in all political and military matters. Other historical examples of highly improbable monarchical influences are the Byzantine Empress Theodora (elevated from prostitute to royal spouse by the emperor Justinian), An Lushan (a morbidly obese general of Tang dynasty China who responded to the inexplicable favors of the Emperor Xuanzong by having an affair with his wife, and then by instigating a fantastically bloody revolt against him), Christopher Columbus, and Grigori Rasputin.
  6. Certain enterprising persons with a good deal of practical sense are capable of ascending to power in highly contrasting political environments. Some examples of men who retained a degree of political or military power over a drastic alteration in the reigning elite minority factions throughout the course of a career, are the ancient Athenian bon vivant Alcibiades, the French diplomat Talleyrand, the Confederate general James Longstreet, and the Russian commander Alexei Brusilov. Such persons as these maintain relevance, but are bitterly castigated as traitorous and unprincipled for their altered allegiances.
  7. Two illustrations from the Soviet Union will demonstrate that this motive supersedes even the most severe ideologues: Lenin’s notorious New Economic Policy, which allowed the continuation of free markets, was decidedly retrogressive from the standpoint of Marxist dialectics. Yet, Lenin recognized that he did not have the political security to overcome the inevitable (and, according to Marxism, necessary) travails of forced collectivization. His successor Stalin rose to power on a reputation for rigid ideological purity. But after many years of preaching the “end of nationalities” in favor of international worker solidarity, Stalin nonetheless reversed himself upon the German invasion and appealed to “the sons and daughters of the motherland” to save their native Russia.
  8. Sulla convincingly accused Marius of having developed attachments to barbarian customs over the course of his campaigns away from Rome. The excursions of Caesar and Antony into Egypt caused their opponents to charge them with the unmanliness and excessive sensuousness that were the common associations of the Orient, while the high-brow Brutus lost common support for the un-martial and elitist associations of Greek culture.
  9. It should be observed that though the equites make up only 8 percent of the Roman table and the “urban/suburban professionals” make up 30 percent of the American table, if we adjust for each category as a percentage of the electorate, then the apportionment of equites rises near 30 percent. Neither the slaves nor the landless rural were included in the electorate, and on average perhaps only half of the rural smallholders consistently attended the elections in Rome in the decades before the Gracchan movement.
  10. Increasingly, we are seeing efforts in leftist states to lower the voting age to 16 and to allow illegal immigrants to vote. Such absurdities would have appalled Franklin Roosevelt, much less than Washington or Cincinnatus.
  11. Examples of this are student support for student loan forgiveness and black support for reparation payments. Both represent policies that are probably detrimental to the aggregate benefit of society as a whole but which the benefitted individuals would be hard-pressed to oppose.     *
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