We’re trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death.
This is the fourth part of my Statehood series. Part II concluded with a question: if a collection of sentient creatures are subsumed into a more complex structure without their being aware, as ants are to an ant colony, what happens when a group of sapient creatures (i.e. humans) group together? Clearly, we still form a superstructure that possesses unique emergent characteristics, but we are aware of it and can influence it. From this privileged position, what can we conclude?
This fourth part shall present arguments for the following statements:
- that sapient life must necessarily form a confederal form of superstructure, which must consist of at least three elements;
- that this superstructure’s concerns are not necessarily those of its constituents, by its very nature;
- and that, thus, the most just form of state is any that allows for free association with it.
We’re all in this together
Ants cannot consent to becoming a colony. They cannot revoke that consent and choose to dismantle their colony. They have no idea that their colony exists—that is the nature of emergence. Humans, however, can (and must) consent to be governed. If, overnight, all 10,100 inhabitants of Tuvalu decided they were no longer Tuvaluan, only the most ardent of constitutive theorists would argue that Tuvalu continues on as before. Humans are necessarily equal in sovereignty with anything composed of them. This means that any human state must necessarily be confederal in nature.
Every state executes three functions. These align to the id, ego and superego components of sapience that I described in Part II. They are: the legislative; the executive; and the judicial.
The legislative function, or the state’s id, is the branch of the state produces the desires of the state. The executive attempts to put those whims into action, applying rationality and pragmatism where applicable, as the state’s ego component. Finally, the judicial function, or the state’s superego, constantly evaluates both the actions of the executive and the directives of the legislative on a moral basis, stepping in where necessary. It is, crucially, the only part of the state that can be expected to put the needs of the constituent individuals over the needs of the state. I’ll come back to this.
These three branches need not be sharply separated, as in the United States Constitution. Indeed, they need not be separated at all—in a one-person dictatorship, the government (of one) has their own whims, puts them into action and marks their own homework in regards to the justness of those whims. Nonetheless, all three must be present.
This is also a good time to specify that I do not mean ‘state’ in the constricting, geopolitical sense in which it is often used. Indeed, a country is one form of state; it is not, however, the only form, nor likely the only one to which a single person is subject. An example:
Consider Bob. Bob is a UK citizen. This means he is subject to the UK state, obviously. However, Bob is also a Catholic. This means he is under the separate (although often overlapping) jurisdiction of the Holy See. He is employed by SomeCompany Inc., putting him under their jurisdiction as well.
SomeCompany Inc. have a rather draconian employee policy that mandates red trousers on Fridays. Bob forgets this and turns up in blue jeans. He has breached the legislation of SomeCompany Inc. (the employee policy), and is thus judged by the executive branch (his manager) and dismissed. None of this matters to the other states of which he is a component, however. He continues attending Mass and paying his taxes.
As should be clear from the parallel drawn above between the three functions of a state and the three elements of the sapient mind, the individual is the indivisible building block of all further statehood.
Everyone’s a critic
The implication of the combination of both our awareness of and our confederal sovereignty within our own superstructures, coupled with our sapient ability to judge right and wrong, is that our states must vary. All ant colonies run the same; the moment the ants get a say in the matter, we’ll begin seeing variation.
This leads to a proliferation of varied, often directly contradictory, ideas, as even a cursory glance at the entire history of our species over the past few millennia will attest. That all of these can exist simultaneously means one of two things; either we’ve just not found the objective answers to morality yet, or there are none. As we’ve been trying to do the former for many thousands of years now, it seems unlikely that a couple more will do it. Thus, I must accept the second proposition (you can see me reach this point rather less flippantly in Part III).
This does not mean that morality is for suckers, and that we should go kill and rob with impunity. As morality exists only within sapience, and thus within the superego of each individual sapient human, it is up to that human to determine their own.
How can all of these unique systems of morality possibly be reconciled? The answer is the social contract on which all super-human states are based. By surrendering one’s individual and naturally limitless liberty to the limits imposed by a higher-level state, one gains both society and safety. If everyone can take from everyone else anything that they wish, then a group of people can subsume themselves in an agreement not to take from each other. They all lose the ability to take what they want from others, but all gain the security of their own things not being open to theft.
How does this handle the existence of an outsider who refuses to bow and retains their own full sovereignty? If they take it upon themselves to steal from a member of this anti-theft state, is that not their right? Yes, it is. They believe, as Redbeard does, that
might is right; as Crowley does, that
do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law; that Stirner does, that
what I have in my power, that is my own. So long as I assert myself as holder, I am the proprietor of the thing. This is all predicated, however, on the assumption that they are, in fact, strong enough to take what they please.
View it this way: the state of the outsider has not stolen from any one individual within the anti-theft state, but from the anti-theft state itself. Much as an individual may have tried to defend their possessions by raining blows upon the outsider, so will this state use the force at its disposal against the thief. If the thief can best this force, then it is the same as having bested that of an individual. If, however, the anti-theft state’s retaliatory force can defeat the thief, then it turns out they were not in fact strong enough to take the property in the first place. Both moralities survive (though either thief or thieved-from may not).
We look after our own here
If the state is a lumbering Leviathan to which which are but part, with its own thoughts, wishes and values (however alien they may appear to us), where does that leave us? How does a state view us?
This is an easy question to answer. When was the last time you thought about your own body? Not as a totality, but deep down, on the cellular level? Chances are, you rarely spare a thought for the trillions of cells that make up you. They’re below you, you reason, too small to bother with. They last for days or, at most, years—a scale of existence, both temporally and physically, on an order of magnitude below yours.
To the state, you are a cell. What else does the analogy have to say about our relationship?
When a human acquires aberrant cells that threaten the organism as a whole, we call them cancers. We remove them wherever possible, placing the preservation of the human over the preservation of individual cells. I don’t believe I need to explain the ways in which this is applicable to a state.
Another example: humans (by and large) enjoy drinking alcohol, a poison. In normal concentrations, alcohol doesn’t threaten the human overall. Even small amounts, however, cause some cell damage. Not enough to cause concern, generally, but still present. Thus, the superstructure will directly harm its own components (and, ultimately, itself) in order to please it as a superstructure.
This example can be used to demonstrate the value of a strongly individualist judicial branch. As the judicial branch is to the state, the superego is to the individual. The superego, when made aware of this cellular damage, may choose to abstain from alcohol. The superego has, thus, made a decision that restricts the state (in this case an individual) for the sake of its constituents (in this case, their cells). In the same vein, the judiciary must be the element of government that is willing to restrain the state’s will for the sake of its constituents.
It is thus also the case that a collection of individuals, with all of their own differences, can lose their awareness of their own individuality. Their actions will then begin to serve the state in which they have lost that awareness, to the detriment of all of its constituents (including themselves). That a state will tend to promote activities that increase the likelihood of this happening, such as requiring uniforms for its executive agents, is further evidence of it having its own, separate consciousness.
I’m sure Buchenwald was the same: some of the guards tried to be as humane as possible, some of them just did their job, some of them went out of their way to make it worse for the prisoners. It doesn’t matter: the machine produces the effect it was designed for.
So: all states are formed by sub-states, down to the lowest level of sovereignty—the individual. These states can be formed alongside any morality that the constituents choose, and multiple conflicting moralities can co-exist with no break in internal consistency on either side. The state will always prioritise itself over its constituents, unless an individualist judiciary is present to hold it in check (often for its own benefit).
The final conclusion to be drawn from this and the previous part’s inquiry is that unknowability inherent in all moral systems, and their non-universality, must necessarily lead to many different states co-existing. Not necessarily peacefully, but alas. This appears very much to be the case currently, and for the previous few millennia.
The crucial difference between the logical and the reality, however, is that membership of any of these states must be a) by choice and b) revocable. Having previously equated a private company and its employees to a country and its citizens, consider how each approach this issue. A company that claimed its employees at birth, or refused to let them leave their jobs, would be rightly condemned—this is slavery. A country, however, does so with impunity. Thus do we see behaviour that would strike us as barbaric if performed by any other form of state, normalised. In a company, a manager might fire an errant employee for flaunting the company’s rules; in a country, the executive (in this case the police force) might imprison the rule-breaker, or even kill them. In both cases, the subversive element is removed from the group; only in the case of the country, however, is revoking their membership (i.e. banishment) not considered.
As far as the revocability of one’s own membership goes, the countries of the world again play by a different rulebook. The UN’s 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons outlined the rights that a ratifying country would have to afford to a stateless person within their territory. However, the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness treats it as a malignant condition to be done away with, like malaria or HIV. This ignores the fact that a) the state that an individual without any national citizenship is -less of is but one form of state, out of many and b) this idea of universal ‘statefulness’ is only a recent invention.
This shall be covered subsequently.