I’ve already made several forays into the realm of the nature of proper governance. Here’s the most extensive of them:
Which was itself heavily informed by the writings of one Frederic Bastiat, some of which passages I have commented on here:
But in this article, I’d like to explore a few unusual arguments, take them to their extremes, and hopefully gain a better understanding of the nature of political power. Because political power is an evergreen source of contention, mainly because it is all about contention. Politics is about who should be on our side whom we should always defend and opportunistically admire, and who should be on the other team whom we should always despise and opportunistically destroy.
One of the first reactions I would expect is the stance that there is no “other”, and that we should make every effort to never attack and destroy people. And that’s a valid political stance, but it boils down to anarchy and the dissolution of the state itself. And if that’s what you want, okay, but you’re not really playing the game at that point. “This game is stupid, let’s play something else!” might be true, but it’s not a legal move. It’s a rejection of the game, turning the face toward something else. I’m something of a libertarian, and as this whole first objection is basically radical libertarianism I feel compelled, by way of cleaning my own house to simply point out that “Christ will rule with a rod of iron” and that God is the “Lord of Hosts” and if you want to rebel against that, I will not stand with you. Furthermore, that is exactly the kind of argument that can only be answered by violent force, so if your aim is the elimination of violence, your ends will be best served by silence.
I suspect this first reaction is rooted in the addition of the feminine perspective to our modern political landscape. In a family, casting out the children is unthinkable, nearly the worst signal of familial failure, second only to preventing the children from leaving when they are ready. And this is the deeply dogmatic framework we have introduced to our political system. It is an ancient voice, speaking from the most unassailable seat of authority, the seat of life itself, which is the woman. But for these same reasons, it does not need a voice in the political scene. The saying that “A woman’s place is in the home” is not only true, but deeply helpful, and we have ignored it with the perilous results which are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.
So the first argument I would like to make is an argument against the extension of the franchise to women. The most telling examples I can offer are the historical examples of the Iroquois and the Hawai’ians. The Iroquois practiced a matrilineal system. If you like the way the Iroquois lived, very good. But I do not, and that is a very different discussion. As for Hawai’i, they gave the vote to women in 1840 when they first began their experiment in democracy. Without getting lost in the details, I will simply point out that they found it necessary to amend their constitution twelve years later in order to restrict the vote to male property owners. This second move indicates the other half of my franchise proposal, which is that:
We must resume making a distinction between slave and free. This distinction has existed for nearly all of human history. Fundamentally, the distinction is made in order to clearly answer the question “Are you responsible for yourself?” or, put another way “Is someone else taking care of you?” which points to another question we moderns seem to have forgotten how to ask “Where are your parents?” Which is another major problem, who takes care of children, and which really I’m not prepared to address at this point except so far as it concerns slavery. The traditional answer is that children are the slaves of their parents. The modern answer is that children are slaves of the state.
This assertion is often met by the statement that we have eliminated slavery, and no one is a slave. But this is patent nonsense, because such a thing is impossible. It is impossible to remove the need for someone to take absolute responsibility for children. And it is impossible to separate responsibility and authority. So it is impossible to remove slavery from politics unless we remove children from politics. And, of course, while we’re at it, we need to remove those who choose to act like children, that is, irresponsibly. The name for such a person is “slave”, in that someone else agrees to take responsibility for their physical well-being in exchange for the authority over their whole physical being. For an irresponsible person, there is no choice between slavery and freedom. It is a choice between slavery and death. While this sheds a fascinating light on the modern confusion of death and freedom, I pass it by, too, for the present.
It might be possible to find a society where every mature person has personal authority and responsibility. I would point to Singapore as a fairly good example of such a society. But in the USA, we have not done this. We have simply removed the distinction between slave and free, and then given half the reins of the society to the only unavoidable slaveholders, that is, to women. So it is no surprise that instead of making all people free, we have made all people slaves. It is stunning, in fact, that we could possibly imagine any other outcome.
So I propose that we alter the franchise to extend to only living free men. This, by itself, will not solve any political problems. But it will allow for the possibility of freedom, a possibility which does not exist at all at present. As a citizen of a nation which dares to style itself the “land of the free” this seems a rather disastrous shame that it is a practical impossibility for anyone to be free in the United States. Not that I object to the state of slavery. It is an honorable station, and has been held by saints and great rulers. I simply object to the modern presumptions that it is the only morally acceptable state for all of mankind (which is nonsense), and that we should call it by the name of “freedom” (which is simply deceptive).
Now, this idea will no doubt elicit accusations, of which I choose three broad enough to hopefully be representative. The first is “What you propose is tyranny!” which is true enough. Or, I should say it is half true. I support the possibility of tyranny, in so far that such a possibility must be admitted in order to allow free men to give up their freedom and become slaves, and then for their free master to freely choose to act tyrannically. To refuse this possibility is to twice thwart freedom. Perhaps the possibility of freedom for all is not worth the possibility of even one tyrant. That is more than I know. But in so far as we the people of the United States of America are devoted to upholding the possibility of “liberty and justice for all” it seems beholden on us to bear the cost which such possibilities require. As it stands, we have defaulted.
Another objection might be “So, you support communism then?” which I can not deny. In my system, every woman and every man would form a communist society, into which would be born (Lord willing) slaves over whom they would hold absolute authority, and for whom they would be absolutely responsible. That this “communism” goes by the more common name of “family” I need not point out. I thus do so freely. I feel the fact that this communism is voluntary on the part of its founding members (who hold, together, the means of production of their subjects) is sufficient differentiation from the more intrinsically violent forms of governance which moderns in their new culture uphold as communism and which more experienced cultures called more simply “conquest”.
And finally, the opposite objection may be offered “This would make all men fascists, ruling women absolutely” which is also true enough. It is even more true than the other two objections, in that there is no real blunting of the force of it, except to offer its corollary, that women would rule men absolutely, and its historical context, that these two things have always been true, continue to be true, and will likely be true long after this and all other “modern” nonsense has settled, like all dust “blown this way and that by every whim of doctrine” eventually does, to the bottom of the sea.
Earlier today, Jared Wheeler commented (on Facebook):
Okay, I’ll bite for reasons I don’t fully understand. Lord knows your position doesn’t particularly merit acknowledgement, let alone discussion, and I certainly don’t want to waste time arguing the thing itself. So what am I even doing here . . . Well, having read your post, it struck me that, although I seldom agree with anything you say, you normally at least mount some kind of a real argument, but that is not the case here. What even is this . . .? 4 points, for whatever small value it may offer either of us for me to enumerate them:
1) You repeatedly trot out assertions that have no basis in logic or life, and then just move on as though they are to be taken as givens when in fact you could have spent your entire post just establishing your rationale for why these assertions are true. You would have failed, because they aren’t, but that you didn’t even try is . . . sloppy.
For instance: “One of the first reactions I would expect is the stance that there is no “other”, and that we should make every effort to never attack and destroy people. […] I suspect this first reaction is rooted in the addition of the feminine perspective to our modern political landscape. […] It is an ancient voice, speaking from the most unassailable seat of authority, the seat of life itself, which is the woman. But for these same reasons, it does not need a voice in the political scene. The saying that “A woman’s place is in the home” is not only true, but deeply helpful, and we have ignored it with the perilous results which are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.”
The mind boggles as to where one would even begin to point out the avalanche of absurdities, inconsistencies, and obvious counterexamples to this mess . . . it’s not even a “line” of reasoning so much as a series of tenuous stream-of-consciousness hops between disparate ideas. But then you just . . . leave it as assumed and move on as though this silliness were too self-evident to merit further discussion . . .?
2) “The most telling examples I can offer are the historical examples of the Iroquois and the Hawai’ians.”
Again, you could spend an entire post just explaining in what possible sense these example could be said to support your argument, but again you just treat it as too obvious to bother explaining and move on. You literally say, as an argument against women voting, “The Iroquois practiced a matrilineal system. If you like the way the Iroquois lived, very good. But I do not” as though anything about that has ANYthing to do with voting rights for women.
Your other example at least appears to be relevant on the surface, but I can’t find any solid evidence that your account of the history is actually accurate in any meaningful sense (it unquestionably oversimplifies every salient reality of the cultural context and national politics involved, which you refer to as “getting lost in the details” . . . oh, those pesky details) . . . To say nothing of the fact that you’re flagrantly ignoring 130 years of the history of modern women’s suffrage from around the globe to bizarrely cherry-pick 1 distorted anecdote, and then pretending that, even if this happened exactly the way you pretend it did and for exactly the reasons that you imply, it actually proves anything with any sort of connection to the point you’re making . . . and moving on as though there were nothing more that needed to be said. Here as elsewhere there are so many threads dangling out of this frayed tapestry that one hardly knows where to start pulling. The thing all but unravels itself in every possible direction.
3) You do this thing a lot where you’re like, “I believe in x, y, and z, and oh by the way, x of course means a, and y naturally means b, and z obviously means c.” You can’t just pretend that words mean whatever your random personal made-up definition is . . . or, rather, you should acknowledge that when you use these words you mean something that no one else on the planet means when they use them.
4) You’re doing that obnoxious thing where you pretend that, for example, “freedom” actually just means “freedom for people who are like me.” As in: “So I propose that we alter the franchise to extend to only living free men. This, by itself, will not solve any political problems. But it will allow for the possibility of freedom, a possibility which does not exist at all at present.” Nothing in that whole surrounding paragraph is anything but abject foolishness, but laying that aside as the sort of thing that I’m trying to avoid arguing about . . . You could at least be honest and say “it will allow for the possibility of freedom FOR MEN” when that’s what you mean. I assume you’ll offer some claptrap here about women being free to resume their natural place in the home or whatever, but the freedom only to choose what YOU think is best isn’t freedom even by your strained method of defining words.
I have no problem even granting your ignominious backward attitudes about the family unit because those are personal decisions and views that you and your family are perfectly entitled to . . . but you’re pretending that there aren’t, say, single, adult women who are not married and who may never marry, and who have no living male relatives, and you’re suggesting that they should have no role and no voice and no agency in their own governance. And you have the gall to call that the “possibility of freedom.” Gross.
tl, dr: You didn’t actually give any reasons why women shouldn’t vote. I think you think you did, but you definitely didn’t. You dropped a few broad hints sprinkled atop false premises which suggested that you do have some (nonsensical) reasons, but having read your whole post 3 or so times, I couldn’t actually articulate what those reasons are in a way that wouldn’t evoke laughter from a reasonable person, i.e. Women shouldn’t be allowed to vote because women voting is destroying our freedom.
To which I responded:
Thanks for the extensive response! I appreciate and applaud the respect which the effort implies, and I hope you’ll continue to feel free to engage in the future. Your summary says it best (it should have gone at the top) that you consider it the highest rhetorical condemnation when you feel urged to titter like a schoolgirl when restating a thesis. I suspect this stems more from the orator than the argument.
I’m glad the eloquence struck you with such force, though you find it necessary to object to the substance. And, to be fair, I labeled the whole essay “unusual” taken “to extremes”, so I’m glad you didn’t take it as a personal statement of doctrine.
Seeing how you reduced a 1477 word essay to a 1060 word response (nearly a golden ratio, by the way) you will no doubt be expecting around 650 words in reply (655 for full credit), an exchange I will do my best to honor.
First, your tone is uniformly dismissive, condescending, and abstractly insulting, which is the tone I would expect from a school teacher failing to mode-change when addressing their peers. I would say “betters” but stooping is so unseemly. Speaking of unseemly, I acknowledge you are out of your element in the “soft sciences” (As am I, friend. As am I!) and a lack of mathematical precision is much wanted. Until we have attained mastery of the elusive “moral calculus” as foretold by Bob Α. Heineken in that classic of political science “Starboat Marines” we must content ourselves with what may appear at times to be “tenuous stream-of-consciousness hops” (You may notice I am somewhat less eager than yourself to quote whole blocks of text to pad out my reply. Perhaps if you were likewise inhibited you would have attained more closely to that most precious of fractions).
1) Well, one has to assume something, and end ones argument somewhere. That you find my chosen premises unacceptable should tell you something about my view of your own assumptions, though you have not shown the courage to state them. I admit that large leaps may betray a soft head, but they are also necessary to avoid falling into chasms, and anyway cover a lot of ground.
2) Spoilers below for those who want to figure out why I chose those two examples.
They were the only examples I could find of experiments in extending the franchise to women which had a definite conclusion. The one was ended by a reversal, and the other by conquest. I suspect there are many more examples of the latter lost to history, but I am attempting to confine myself to the facts. If there are any other examples you can think of (no ongoing experiments, please), I would be interested to hear of them.
3) “Do not foolishly involve yourself in terminological arguments” with apologies to my namesake.
4) You seem to be conflating “franchise” with “freedom”. No equivocation please.
I happen to consider the cloister a high calling. Whatever you may think of it, you can not pretend that voluntarily joining a spiritual order is an act of women with “no role and no voice and no agency in their own governance”. Though, on reflection, you might also consider moving to another country an act of political disenfranchisement? (The first question mark! You have employed two, though both seem confused rather than inquisitive.)
The undertone of your objections (as I stated at the top) appears to be that the arguments I put forth are not in line with Modern Fashion. So far out of line, in fact, that a dandy like yourself finds it difficult to even tell if they are being worn properly. Anyway, we agree they are quite ridiculous by modern standards of apparel. Perhaps you think you are watching a rather laughable parade? No doubt a column of Romans looked to the Gauls, likewise, absurd.