Westphalia’s End Part 4: What Comes Next?

The Westphalian Order of States is in TroubleIf you have not read the first three parts of this series, please do that first: They are a necessary prelude:

Westphalian Orders’ End Part 1
Westphalian Orders’ End Part 2
Westphalian Orders’ End Part 3

I have thus far made quite a few arguments why the Westphalian order of states is in trouble. Presuming that I am correct, and that the current state model fails, the great question is what comes next?

The Two Classes

Impolitic though it may be, any sensible analysis of states in transition has to divide the inhabitants into two groups: the Rulers and the Ruled. We can seek tamer terms if we like (such as officials and citizens), but those terms invariably muddle the issue. There are two groups that matter: those that make orders and those who take orders. These two face massively different challenges and incentives; separating them clearly is the only way to arrange a reasonable discourse.

I will begin with the rulers:

Imagine being a big boss of a big country: You and your predecessors have promised free everything to your voters, but you have now failed to deliver. They are angry, but there’s nothing you can do; there are no more buyers for your bonds and inflation has made your currency almost worthless. You are out of options. At the same time, you can’t just walk away – being the boss is something you need. So, what do you do?

Your first job will be to keep the people with you, rather than against you. You must give them someone else to blame and to make them feel horrible about the prospect of your system vanishing.

Finding outsiders to blame is always easy. (Jews and immigrants being the perennial favorites.) Making people feel like they need you, however, isn’t so easy, especially when your promises have just come up painfully short. You need some majestic promise for them to believe in: something that makes them special, provides a credible promise of more than they deserve, and/or makes them part of some magical uber-entity. In other words, you need an appealing new myth.

The problem, of course, is that large new myths are not created in a day, and certainly not by people who can’t deliver much. So, you have to use whatever respected myths remain, make them more grandiose, and run with them. (This is precisely what happened at the end of the Roman Empire, as I will explain in Free-Man’s Perspective.)

Westphalia's End: What Comes Next? - Freeman's Perspective
Fall of the Roman Empire

Right now, the only big myths are of the globalist strain, such as climate change, save the rainforest (or whales, or trees, or children, or…), the value of politically correct speech and so on. Judeo-Christianity remains, of course, but it is a horrible mythology from a ruler’s point of view, is more or less incompatible with the globalist myths, and has been driven from respectable circles in most of the west anyway.

So, the mythologies chosen by the rulers will have to be based upon environmentalism, anti-capitalism, and associated guilt-centric ideas. For lack of a better term, the new mythology will probably have to be globalist, with the many nation states and their scattered strategies being blamed for the crisis. The solution to the crisis, of course, will almost certainly be unified management by proper elites.

But if globalist, elite rule is to be the next model, a modification of the social contract will be necessary. This will be the great moment of opportunity for intellectuals. Devising a legitimacy myth for the new order will be a ticket to fame and fortune.

As strange as it sounds, there is another group associated with the rulers that must be included in this discussion, and they are the dependent class. People who survive on government checks are not what we usually think of as rulers, but they are necessarily joined to them. Together with the elites, they form a high-low ruling coalition.

The vast majority of the dependent will support the rulers (or at least the replacement rulers), almost regardless of what the rulers do. Even if their checks stop, promises of future checks will keep them faithful. The other choice is to utterly reform their lives, and very few will be of any mind to do so. They may complain or even riot at the moment when their checks stop, but being faced with either radical change or supporting the rulers and hoping for restoration, they will choose the latter. And, most unfortunately, this is a very large group.

The Other Side

Now – and this will not be hard for most of my readers – imagine that you have behaved well and worked hard; that, after being challenged by numerous obstacles, you have carved out a comfortable, stable life. Then imagine that it has been turned upside down. Everything is a mess, and you want things to get back to normal so you can work and enjoy life. What do you do?

This is where the formation of the future gets interesting. The Rulers may come up with a few surprises, but their strategies are more or less predictable. The productive ruled, however, are a wild card. Ultimately, they control everything, but they don’t know it.

Rulers do not make, they only take. The productive make. If they ever decided, en masse, to stop giving in to the rulers, the rulers would be soundly defeated, and in short order. No matter how many armed tax collectors they employed, it wouldn’t be enough for an unwilling populace, not to mention that paying the armed collectors gets very difficult when there is no more money coming in. And if the mechanic refuses to fix state vehicles, if the HVAC man refuses to fix their air conditioning, and so on, the end comes much faster.

The above is precisely what happened at the end of the Roman Empire: Harsher and harsher tax laws brought in less and less silver. People ran away to Germania, Britannia and Gaul to escape. The ruling structure failed.

But, as mentioned above, the productive middle does not believe that they have the right to make their own political decisions; they feel free to choose between Party A and Party B, but not to demand a new structure.

If, somehow, the productive class does decide they are worthy of such choices, it will be a small matter for them to begin organizing with their neighbors, cobbling together ground-up systems of law and markets, and arriving, over time, at a structure that suits them. They would almost certainly end up rediscovering John Locke, the common law, and sound money. But will they?

The Cognitive War

Though most of us have seldom realized it, we have been living through a continual war for our minds and our wills. We feel confused a great deal and suspect that it is our own problem; a problem that we hide, rather than risking shame. This equates, roughly, to a surrender in the cognitive war.

Anyone who seeks to make us do things without thinking, wages war against our wills. Whole industries are built on this, as we all know: “Look at the pretty, happy people; buy the beer,” “don’t vote for that horrible, scary candidate,” “look here at the sexy girl,” and so on. We all swim in a soup of it.

This battle will determine what comes out of Westphalia’s crisis. If the Lockean productive class is too confused and intimidated to assert their wills, the globalists will be able to regroup as they wish. If, somehow, the producers regain their nerve, they can more or less do as they wish. They will have an initial difficulty in overcoming the globalists’ death throes, but in endurance they will reclaim their world.

A Second American Revolution

The last time a broad group of producers asserted their will and stuck to it was the American Revolution. Contrary to any conventional wisdom of the time, they defeated the mightiest empire on the planet and changed the world. The American Revolution, as I have explained elsewhere, is misunderstood and used badly for propaganda purposes, but it was a unique and potent event. Producers have, at other times, pushed rulers to reform, but very seldom have they gathered the courage to say, “get lost, we’re doing it our way.” In order to achieve this goal the early Americans required separation, Christianity and the philosophy of John Locke. There are wonderful Lockean thinkers and teachers in the West today, but they are usually drowned out by the 24/7 clamor of 500 entertainment channels, music in nearly all public places and the recent Blackberry, texting and iPod fetishes.

Withdrawal from the Circus

The one real hope for the Lockeans is withdrawal from the great Western circus of mainstream TV, movies and music.

In a previous article, I wrote that free news may begin vanishing, and that if it does, people will begin to choose more carefully. The thing I didn’t mention, however, was that this is occurring already. And the people who have been wandering away from the circus are mainly the producers. The first among the Lockeans are headed slowly away from the big noise. These people will begin to reclaim the right to their own opinions, even regarding how they choose to be ruled (or not).

If this grows, there will be many people who don’t believe that they need to be coordinated and ordered by central elites and that Adam Smith was right: If you leave people alone, most of them will provide things needed by others, as if guided by an invisible, benevolent hand.

In order to avoid this, the globalists will have to preserve media above all. Whether this includes subsidies for cable TV, free Internet services, or whatever, it will be strongly in their interests to provide them. If the circus ends, the young will start to ask impertinent questions.

Lockean organization is effective, but it isn’t loud and flashy. Globalist organization is parasitic, but it comes with engaging stories and entertainments. If the circus reigns, the producers stand to be overwhelmed… yet again.

The Exercise of Will

I leave you with two quotes to consider, and I hope that you do so:

The will of men is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided. Men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence. It does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, until each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
— Alexis de Tocqueville

Mankind is made great or little by its own will.
— Friedrich Schiller

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Westphalia’s End Part 3: Death From a Thousand Cuts

Westphalia's EndIf you have not read Westphalia’s End Part 1 and Westphalia’s End Part 2 of this series, please do that first: You’ll need them to understand properly.

I have thus far made two primary arguments that the Westphalian order of states is in serious trouble. I’ll now continue with a large number of small arguments. The order of presentation is somewhat arbitrary, so the first point may not be more important than the last:

  • Currency traders prevent currency control: Back in the days when exchange rates were fixed, governments could change them to prevent certain fiscal issues. Now, with currencies being trading world-wide, and in massive amounts, that tool no longer exists. A powerful weapon has been removed from the state’s arsenal.
  • The fiat currency game is being understood and exposed: Knowledge is spreading and light is being shined. People who want to know, can know. And worse, fiat currency may have reached its limit. Several articles would be required to explain this properly, but the welfare-fiat system of the past 40 years is failing, and that is very, very significant. Precious metals, digital currencies and other forms of honest money continue to emerge and spread, even though they are viciously attacked by the US government. How this situation will develop is unknown, but is is a significant problem for the nation-state. The day they can no longer deliver on their promises, their spell will break.
  • Regulation: Governments and their sub-organizations survive and thrive, not by creation, but by restriction. To get what they want, their one tool is to restrict things. But, the more they use that tool, the more they constrain commerce, their one source of money. This is “strangling the goose that lays the golden eggs” and has myriad effects, most of them small.
  • Complexity: Again, much space would be required to explain fully, but complex structures breed more complexity, which feeds back upon itself and strangles itself. Over the past century, and especially over the past 40 years, states have reached a tremendous level of complexity; a level that restricts even simple actions. For example: When everything must be approved by a legal team, not much gets done, and that which is done, is done very slowly.
  • The War On…: Be it drugs, terror, or whatever, this phrase points out cracks in the Westphalian structure. Faced with successful criminal strategies, the state reacts in its natural way – by making ‘war.’
  • Mass polarization: This is already happening because of multiplied choices via the Internet, but it may get stronger if ‘free’ news begins to disappear and people must buy their own. If so, people will begin to surround themselves with others of their own opinion. In the worst case, many will become deeply polarized, conceivably leading to civil wars. However, the progression of this may be in a different direction. We’ll cover that next time.
  • Wikileaks: The new fly in the ointment of legitimacy. The broader Wikileaks strategy is exposing the sins of the state, and it is hard to portray yourself as morally superior when someone keeps exposing your nasty secrets. These guys are committed, motivated and obsessive. They will be very hard to stop.
  • Inertia: Huge organizations lack the ability to turn quickly. They are very often incapable of reaction, even in self-preservation. And it is not just the ability to act that is in question, it is also the ability to see. As is said: to the hammer, everything is a nail. Likewise, state agents have come to see themselves in very specific ways, and they have been consistently rewarded for doing so. Their mental filters will not change easily.
  • Infiltration: Criminals and interest groups are paying off politicians world-wide to get what they want. This is a massive business, much of it ‘legal,’ and it is working beautifully for those involved. If some person or group is necessary to get you elected to office, it’s not hard to justify favors for them. This is happening continuously in every government. To be fair, I should add that some of the people involved have no evil intentions. Many wealthy people and firms buy politicians, not really to grab other people’s money, but simply to protect themselves.
  • Frustration: The average citizen has no real way to change anything. Votes don’t matter for many reasons, but firstly because there are party organizations between themselves and their representatives. The Senator cares about (and obeys) the party more than opinion polls. They know that the party will develop strategies in time for the next election, and will provide them with effective advertising. Many people still hold out hope that their party will eventually grow a spine and do the right thing, but that bias may not hold. If it does not (as we may be seeing already), they will begin to identify with non-state or anti-state organizations and ideologies.
  • Nukes: The nuclear bomb created an unbeatable weapon. When fighting an opponent armed with such a weapon, you cannot face him directly; so, you adapt and attack his organizational method instead. The state is designed for face-on attacks, not for systems subversion.

I’ll conclude this series next time by looking at possible outcomes: Westphalia’s End Part 4.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Westphalia’s End Part 2: Legitimacy & Information

Westphalian OrderIf you have not read Part 1 of the Westphalian Order series, please do that first: You’ll need it to understand what I cover here.

Now, having (I hope) established that the Westphalian order of states is in some trouble, I will proceed to another reason for my pessimism.

The Obedience Game

All states of all periods share a common foundation: a group of subjects who accept rulership. Without this, no state can endure. That applies to democratic regimes, socialist regimes, republics, monarchies, theocracies and any other ruling arrangement. If the people are unwilling, the state will fail soon enough.

Though they seldom mention it in public, the operators of states know this. That is why they want to control information flows, and why, in a crisis, they will shut them down. Contrary voices undercut legitimacy, and the states cannot survive without it.Think of it this way: If a state had no more legitimacy than the local Rotary Club, attempts to collect taxes would be widely rebuffed; people might not buy government bonds, obey orders, or even choose to repair government equipment. That state would collapse.

A pristine image of legitimacy is essential to the state, even more so than power. The proof of this was the Church in the middle ages: They had no power to speak of, yet they ruled for a millennium. They were able to do this for one reason: They maintained a monopoly on legitimacy. (I write on this at length, by the way, in Production Versus Plunder.)

The Lost Heyday of Info-Control

The peak of information control came in the mid-20th Century, when perhaps 98% of all American news came out of one or two zip codes in Manhattan. (About the same was true for London and other capital cities.) Furthermore, the people who produced mass-market news were a fairly homogenous bunch. Some of them did excellent work, but there were not many dissenting voices. Party A always fought Party B, but thoughtful questioning of the larger operation was not heard. (Crazy people questioning the larger operation were welcomed, since that helped legitimacy.)

Even cable television didn’t add many dissenting voices, but something else did:

The Accidental Internet

A strange thing that happens when politicians get scared: They grudgingly call in the smart guys and let them loose. Most of us learn about this in elementary school: The smartest kid in the class is more or less abused until the class gets into real trouble; then they run straight to him and promise to do whatever he says. That’s how the Internet was born.

The event that scared the politicians was Sputnik. Russians surging ahead of the US into space meant that they had to pull out all the stops. The resulting Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was where the Internet began.

The Internet is not really a control technology. Designed by the smart kids rather than political types, it is purposely decentralized. That makes it hard to control.

Almost no one saw the Internet coming. Its  explosion in about 1993 surprised almost everyone. And, before long, a lone news geek exposed Bill Clinton as a willful liar and “guys in jammies” brought down the mighty Dan Rather. The game had been changed.

Governments are presently retaking control of the Internet and using it for mass surveillance, but they are treading carefully, and it may be some years before they (along with their mega-corp friends) can clamp down on it altogether. In the meanwhile, ideas that question or oppose state legitimacy are spreading. There is no more gatekeeper.

Publishing

There is also a serious decline of gatekeeping in the publishing business. Rather than requiring the approval of a major publisher (with friends in broadcast media and government, needing publicity help and attending the same cocktail parties), the rogue author can publish himself: either at zero cost as a blogger, or at zero initial investment as a print-on-demand publisher.

Newspapers also are in a state of flux. They began the Internet era by giving away their stories and have suffered continuing losses. Now, they seem to be moving to a pay model. This may save some of them, but it also breaks up what we may call the info-matrix. Once people are cut-off from ‘free’ news, they will begin to choose. And since they are paying this time, they will choose more carefully. This will favor newsletters and other providers of superior content. And, again, the state-friendly gatekeeper is removed from the equation.

Competition

Although it is not widely known, foreign nations are spreading money around Washington and New York to influence media coverage, and some of them are spending shocking amounts. (I strongly suspect that the same is happening in other countries.) So, the state that wants to influence the media in its own country now has competitors, and some percentage of the time, a media outlet will lean toward the foreigner who is paying better.

To retain proper control and influence, a state needs more than some of the intellectuals to comply with them; it needs substantially all of them. The state’s version of events must be the only sane version to be seen; any competing views must be seen as crazy and dangerous. Once truth outside of the authorized stream becomes possible, people will begin to wander, and the state’s brittle legitimacy can be broken.

To continue reading, visit Westphalia’s End Part 3.

Paul Rosenberg
FreemansPerspective.com

Westphalia’s End Part 1: The Sovereignty Trap

Westphalia's End: The Sovereignty TrapThe current world order of nation states is in trouble. In fact, it may be doomed. In this series of articles, I will explain this arrangement (briefly) and then how it is being broken, for reasons both good and bad.

Westphalia

The agreement that created sovereign states as we know them was called the Peace of Westphalia. This agreement was made between churches and rulers as the Divine Right of Kings was failing, Protestantism was ripping Europe apart, technology was revolutionizing the economic order and new continents were being settled. In other words, the old order had broken apart and a new arrangement was not an option: either the rulers cooperated and adapted or their game fell apart entirely. I’ll spare you the details and simply explain that the agreement was signed in 1648, after the first modern diplomatic congress. The main tenets of the Peace of Westphalia were:

  1. Each prince would have the right to determine the religion of his own state, with the options being Catholicism, Lutheranism or Calvinism. (Of course they gave it a pompous Latin name: cuius regio, eius religio, which simply means “whose region, same religion.”)
  2. Christians were guaranteed the right to practice their religion in public during allotted hours and in private at will, whether or not it was the same religion as the ruler.
  3. The signers agreed to recognize each other’s sovereignty over territories, their agents abroad (to grant them diplomatic immunity), and not to interfere with each other’s shipping.

This agreement is the foundation of the modern state and is held to (fervently) by almost every ‘authority’ on the subject – from Henry Kissinger (by whom I was first acquainted with it) down to your local Poly-Sci instructor.

What, Exactly, Is Sovereignty?

Sovereignty is one of those words that is seldom understood clearly. Nonetheless, the definition is simple. Sovereignty is this: A right to rule that is held to be legitimate. For example:

  • A king of the ancient world was sovereignty personified.
  • The Greeks (followed by the Romans) broke sovereignty into thousands of pieces and made each citizen a partial holder of sovereignty.
  • As Rome devolved, sovereignty went back to the king, but only as authorized by the Roman church. This is what we often call the divine right of kings.

But, as the Right of Kings collapsed, a new order of rulership was required; we are calling that the Westphalian order, and all of us in the West have been living under it since the 17th Century.

Cometh Hobbes, Cometh Rousseau

There was one thing missing from this arrangement, however: With rulership no longer sanctified by God and his Church, what made a ruler ‘legitimate’? Simply seizing power wasn’t enough. People had to see the ruler as legitimate: if not, many would cease to obey.

This gap was rapidly filled by people who began to be called intellectuals. Two of them in particular (Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau) rose to prominence by filling this gap with what is called the social contract.

Both Hobbes and Rousseau, in different ways, provided secular legitimacy to replace the Divine Right of Kings. Both did this by imagining a contract between the rulers and the ruled. This social contract idea legitimized Westphalia’s new form of rulership. As a result, Hobbes and Rousseau are revered to this day.

But, as I say, that form is fracturing, and I shall now begin to explain how:

Al Qaeda’s Hedge

As mentioned, the system of Sovereign States is held with religious fervor by the operators of nation states: They respect borders, and do not cross them without publicly declaring and defending their reasons for doing so.

Criminal groups have begun taking advantage of this strategy. By hiding in a state that can’t or won’t hurt them, they are insulated from the other states of the world. Al Qaeda, for example, hid for a long time in Sudan, then they hid in Afghanistan, and they seem now to be hiding in Pakistan. National borders protect them.

This is probably best defined as a hollow state strategy. A hollow state is one that exists in all outward ways, but that is ‘hollowed-out’ and used by criminal organizations for cover.

Criminal organizations need safe havens, and hollow states provide them. These organizations make massive amounts of money from data theft operations, product piracy, traffic in illegal drugs or in other ways. They can afford to create and support corrupt states, and do so.

Aggrieved nations might want to stop criminals that are stealing their data and pirating their goods, but they are not going to bomb another sovereign nation that has committed no aggression.

Essentially, criminal groups rent a hollow state’s infrastructure and hide behind their sovereignty.

One way to obtain this is to destabilize a small state, so that it is easy to deal with. Renting France might not be possible, but renting a war-torn African nation can be affordable. The ideal hollow state is one with a clear international standing, but with massive internal problems.

Sovereign states, if they take over another state, become responsible for it, and must be seen to maintain their social contract. No such requirements face the criminal organization that creates or finds a hollow state and moves in. So long as a titular government remains in place, nothing else is required.

The Trap

Devotion to the Westphalian ideal of sovereignty and the social contract gives the confirmed criminals of the world a hedge to hide behind. This strategy was held in check under a bi-polar US/Soviet world, but it has since become viable.

The criminals are adapting and are using sovereignty as cover… very effectively. The states cannot adapt. They are caught in a trap of their own making. It looks like this:

  1. They have held up their ruling ethos (sovereign states, the social contract) as the inevitable end of civilized existence.
  2. The overwhelming majority of subjects has come to see the current order as the best possible way to order life. (In this, the Westphalian states succeeded magnificently.)
  3. If the states leave their model and their sanctified image, legitimacy is likely to break. And if it does, everything could fall apart.

So, the states are prevented from adapting to the threat. They are trapped. This leaves Al Qaeda, et al, with a hedge to hide behind. God only knows what kind of damage will come of this.

Westphalia has a big problem.

(In Westphalia’s End Part 2, we’ll cover the information revolution.)

Paul Rosenberg
Westphalia’s End Part 1: The Sovereignty Trap
FreemansPerspective.com