People v. State

fairly undermining public confidence in the administration of justice

In Defense of Tyranny

December 12, 2013 By: John Kindley Category: Uncategorized

It seems to me that probably my favorite novel of all time, Eumeswil, by Ernst Juenger, is half Utopia and half The Prince. The narrator, who calls himself an anarch rather than an anarchist, tends the night bar in the castle of Eumeswil’s ruler, the Condor. During his interview for this job, under the influence of a truth drug administered by the interviewers, he had identified the Condor as a “tyrant.” This apparently raised no alarms, as he was hired nonetheless.

An Amazon reviewer of Eumeswil calls the novel “a glimpse as to how intellect can convince itself to serve power.” (Many apparently cannot forgive Juenger for serving in the German Army during WWII in occupied Paris instead of martyring himself.) But the Condor is no Hitler. Indeed, he comes across in the novel as quite honorable and just. What then made him, correctly speaking, a “tyrant”? Only this: He came to power by overthrowing the previously reigning “tribunes,” and therefore his rule lacked so-called “legitimacy.” That is, he had no Authority, no Divine Right, to rule.

But is this in itself so bad? To the contrary, the Condor’s admission of the narrator into his inner circle, despite (or perhaps even because of) the latter’s honesty, is an indication that the Condor’s rule is free of the pretense that defines the State.

As I indicated in a recent post, I’ve revised my previous opinion that “ruling” defines the State. Frankly, this definition of the State was largely a product of my attachment to a standard definition of Anarchy as “rulerlessness” and my corresponding attraction to the basic idea in John Hasnas’ article The Depoliticization of Lawthat law can be the product of human action without being the product of human design. While this idea might be optimal, it’s not essential. Justice is what is essential, and the sole determinant of legitimacy. (What is Justice? In my humble opinion, nothing more and nothing less than the Presumption of Innocence, but that’s the subject of another post.) A code apparatus, or even the decree of a “tyrant,” can be just, and can certainly be more just than the decrees of a so-called “democracy.”

As Lysander Spooner wrote:

Men honestly engaged in attempting to establish justice in the world, have no occasion thus to act in secret; or to appoint agents to do acts for which they (the principals) are not willing to be responsible.

The secret ballot makes a secret government; and a secret government is a secret band of robbers and murderers. Open despotism is better than this. The single despot stands out in the face of all men, and says: I am the State: My will is law: I am your master: I take the responsibility of my acts: The only arbiter I acknowledge is the sword: If anyone denies my right, let him try conclusions with me.

. . .

If any number of men, many or few, claim the right to govern the people of this country, let them make and sign an open compact with each other to do so. Let them thus make themselves individually known to those whom they propose to govern. And let them thus openly take the legitimate responsibility of their acts. How many of those who now support the Constitution, will ever do this? How many will ever dare openly proclaim their right to govern? or take the legitimate responsibility of their acts? Not one!

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote something similar in a letter to his son, then serving in WWII:

My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) – or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could get back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the [act] and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so as to refer to people. If people were in the habit of referring to ‘King George’s council, Winston and his gang’, it would go a long way to clearing thought, and reducing the frightful landslide into Theyocracy. Anyway the proper study of Man is anything but Man; and the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity. . . .

While the anarch might tend bar for the tyrant, and might even fight for him, he always remains conscious that he is as sovereign as the tyrant. Tyrannicide is never out of the question. But the anarch is distinguished from the anarchist in that the latter aims to bring about what the former knows already is. Hence, the anarch, according to Juenger, “doesn’t interfere,” until it’s necessary. It’s worth noting in this connection that the Tao Te Ching, an ancient book whose purpose was like that of The Prince, advised the ruler to do the same.

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