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An Introduction to Power in the Modern State

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Feb 4th, 2021
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  1. An Introduction to Power in the Modern State
  3. Power in Medieval Europe existed in a delicate balancing act between the Crown, the Church, the Nobility, and the Merchant class. These institutions, holding power within a regime, can be accurately described as constituting the Government.
  5. A good King knew that if he wanted to retain power, he needed to ensure that he was not replaced as king, first and foremost. While the Crown itself retains power, kings can be replaced. A good king must, however, also to ensure that the Crown’s power (and hence his own) is not siphoned off by other institutions. The institutions themselves and their powers are broadly summarised below:
  6. - The Crown: The executive power in the state. Controls the military and creates law. Delegates power to the Nobility for maintenance of local order.
  7. - The Church: Determines social values and act as a source of truth for the people. Exerts power by influencing social norms and expectations, setting the boundaries of acceptable thought, and condemning heretics.
  8. - The Nobility: Delegated either local fiefdoms or specific powers by the Crown to administer the law and day-to-day running of affairs. Responsible to the Crown.
  9. - The Merchants: Have power by virtue of their material wealth. Do not have direct responsibility for anything unless compelled to by the Crown.
  11. There are some assumptions made in this model, which we will address briefly. Power exists in a closed system. While the overall power of the system can rise or fall depending on regime strength, it can never leak out into another, unseen institution. So, whatever power exists in a regime can only shift between institutions. The institutions themselves, or at least their functions and loose groupings, persist and cannot be created or destroyed so long as the underlying civilisation exists.
  13. At this point, a skeptic may rightly ask: “But what about the people? Surely they have power?”. The answer is no. The people do not have any direct power under this model. If you disagree, I suggest you brush up on your history of peasant rebellions. The word “Jacquerie”, and the derisive, contemptuous connotation it has exist for good reasons.
  15. That said, “the people” are still significant in this model, but only as a weapon for one of the institutions to wield. While powerless when acting alone, they act as a weapon for whoever can effectively command them. If it feels like you are reading a short summary of elite theory of power; yes, you are. It describes Medieval European systems of government accurately, and we will also find that it describes our own situation equally well.
  17. The military is also relevant to any discussion surrounding power. It is defined here as the physical power by which the law is enforced. In this model, there is no separation between the military and the Crown. Whoever commands the military commands the physical power of the state, and hence the absolute power which, by definition, belongs to the Crown. Think of Japan under the Shogunate – yes, the Emperor was still the Emperor in name, but the Shogun ruled by strength of arms.
  19. Now that we have our 4-institution working model for power interactions in Medieval Europe, let us consider the possibility that these institutions and arrangement of power in society did not just persist until the upheaval of the French Revolution, but in fact persisted until…. today. Keep an open mind, and we will see that institutions embedded in Medieval life continue to shape our reality of today.
  21. It’s likely that you will be wondering: “if the institutions persist, where is the Church?”. And indeed, the Catholic church (or Protestant, or Orthodox, for that matter) simply does not exist as a power centre today. However, the need for our regime to determine a consensus through social values, set bounds of acceptable opinion, and determine a source of truth remains. We no longer have the Pope in Rome telling us what to think and believe; yet we shall find that our Vatican still exists. Our Church has not been eliminated – far from it – it has become decentralised. You must ask yourself: who, or what is responsible for these functions today?
  23. We will break the Church’s main functions down into three tasks: creation of truth, propagation of that truth to society at large, and suppression of alternate viewpoints. Who creates truth in society? Who are our oracles? Begin with what constitutes “proof” today. Consider the knee-jerk reaction of a midwit losing an argument: “Do you have a source for that?”
  25. Yes, dear reader, our priests wear white lab coats and conduct elaborate rituals with petri dishes and computer modelling programs. Sometimes they even make animal sacrifices – all humanely and ethically, of course. If my experience in research holds true, most are even virgins, just like our Medieval priests.
  27. If you come armed with a list of “credible sources” to support your claims, you can make anything true. If you scoff at this and counter that our priestly caste today offers a more serious and accurate description of the world than their Christian predecessors, I invite you to take a deeper look into the replication crisis. Continue to look, and you will see that the Church declares certain perspectives “true” while suppressing others in a fashion which has little to do with fact.
  29. Recently, the New England Journal of Medicine, perhaps the most prestigious medical journal in the world, declared that “sex designations on birth certificates offer no clinical utility”. Such a position could, of course, only be held by the most influential journal in the world – if anyone else tried this, they would be laughed out into the street. But none may dare question the doctrine of the New England Journal of Medicine.
  31. The announcement from the New England Journal of Medicine had to arrive in front of me somehow. I certainly did not go looking for it by myself. So, who propagates these stories to be read and absorbed by the masses? Who is it that gatekeeps the information which makes it through to society at large? Our curators of respectable thought, the mouthpieces of the regime, are known as journalists. They command an indirect power which is no less strong, influencing the (un)written law, its interpretation, and its enforcement.
  32. Yes, you or I can go on obscure forums and try to determine fact from schizophrenic outburst, but this knowledge has no credibility – it cannot be easily shared with others. Stories promoted by a blue-check journalist come hard-wired with respectability. If I were to dispute a story published in one of our august newspapers (and I would never, for they always report fact), I must provide the burden of proof. Once in black and white, a story becomes real in a way that bears no relation to the reality and can be cited as “proof” for decades to come. It may even become a primary source for historians covering our time in the future – and that should make you think about how true history really is.
  34. Journalists launder truth which has been manufactured by our priests in the universities. Of course, their power extends far beyond this – they can manufacture their own truth by selective amplification of stories and events. Everything you watch, read, and listen to in mainstream media has been curated by journalists. What they choose to tell you is just as (and often more) important than what they choose to hide from you. Through this power, the Church creates a narrative which directly influences public opinion and manufactures consent for the ruling regime. Putting it plainly, the media quite literally shapes reality for your average person. That is power.
  35. Knowledge which existed outside this system could reach average people at scale, if only for a short time. Social media, particularly Youtube and Twitter, were a platform by which someone outside of the system could have an audience based purely on the quality of the content they produced. As social media grew in influence and began to siphon legacy media’s monopoly over information it was quickly subsumed into the Church. Now it is one of its most powerful arms, able to not only set the standards of discourse, but to deplatform and remove people and ideas which contradict their dogma from the conversation. When people are completely unable to access outsiders who contradict our tastemakers, will they be able to think dissident thoughts at all?
  37. Indeed, the Church’s control over information is so complete that it was able to cut off a sitting President’s communications channels without consequence. Whether you agree with the reasoning behind the decision or not, the fact that a few dozen (at most) employees within a private company have this ability suggests that they wield enormous power – the first thing targeted in coup attempts is a leader’s capacity to communicate and hence organise. In the event of civil disturbances or uprisings, the sovereign is dependent on the goodwill or neutrality of tech and media oligarchs. This undoubtedly places a leader in a bind – to be on the wrong side of the media and tech oligarchs is to put yourself at their mercy. I ask the reader: is this a healthy development? Can democratic society survive control of information being put in the hands of so few people, who are both unaccountable and unelected?
  39. Having established our Church, we come to our Nobility. We are certainly not answerable to a local lord with hereditary title anymore. However, our definition of Nobility is a functional definition; in today’s world, management of daily affairs falls to the bureaucracy. All the state apparatus and justice system falls under this umbrella.
  41. Modern-day fiefdoms can be geographical in nature, but today are most related to specialisation in tasks of government. In some cases, there is significant overlap between bureaucratic institutions as they vie for increasing power and influence – does anybody know where the jurisdiction of the NSA, FBI, CIA, and Department of State begin and end in practical terms?
  43. Politicians who are given the Public Health portfolio, for example, are hardly content matter experts. They are routinely manipulated by their far more knowledgeable senior bureaucrats – bureaucrats who have permanent, highly paid employment in the Department in contrast to the tenuous term limit of their supposedly superior politician, who is generally paid much less. In times of strife, the politician – who knows they are way out of their depth – defers to the bureaucrat at every time, simply becoming a rubber stamp. And should something go wrong, the politician takes the fall, while the bureaucrat remains unaccountable; either remaining in their position or shuffled sideways out of the spotlight.
  45. Because of this, we can see how our bureaucratic Noblemen can build up from a petty fiefdom into actually threatening the authority of the king himself. This dynamic remains with us today. Public health bureaucrats have essentially had limitless authority over economic and social life in Western countries during the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. This influence can also extend to more cynical, political ends: bureaucrats involved in the security state apparatus were able to stymie the executive in the US by lying about things like troop movement in Syria and concocting elaborate conspiracies involving Russia. This is the executive from whom they supposedly take their orders and are subordinate to.
  47. Lastly, we come to our Merchant class. The special case. They derive their power by using their wealth to influence others within the other institutions. As a parasite class, the Merchants have no direct responsibility to the State, and their influence is related to the power that the State itself can exert. In dysfunctional nations, power is cheap to buy – because that power is limited. In more efficient states, power is more expensive as the Government has far more capacity to exert its will.
  49. We also find that our merchant class becomes more powerful as the Crown (specifically, the executive) becomes less powerful. Absolute autocrats have no use for money. However, regime apparatchiks holding a sliver of power (say, a politician or bureaucrat) are by comparison far more vulnerable to temptation. The soft, indirect, but highly corrupting power of lobbyist money influences individuals holding power within the regime to turn a blind eye to the excesses of their paymasters. Eventually funding on all sides of politics reaches a point by which, without powerful financial backing, it is impossible to win in a supposedly democratic system.
  50. This can only be opposed by a strong, powerful executive who is less vulnerable to the termite-like corrosion of order and divide-and-conquer tactics used by the Merchant class.
  52. Observing our institutions and how they have changed over time, there are some clear trends that have emerged. The King’s power has been steadily eroded over time, splintered from one absolute sovereign into legislative bodies. The Church was destroyed as a unified institution, its power shared across multiple different groups which still operate in a broadly organised way despite a lack of central command. The nobility shifted from hereditary titles into university-awarded accreditations (a power which used to belong to the Crown, now shifted to a group of decentralised university administrators).
  54. Interestingly, despite the executive’s power being as weak as it has ever been, consensus from the Church is that your vote has never been more crucial. Of course, this is the total opposite of reality: your vote means less than it ever has before, because power increasingly exists in the hands of institutions which are fundamentally unaccountable and untouchable. There is a bizarre contradiction when the institutions which tell you how important the executive is, simultaneously act to prevent the executive from ever exercising any real power. The real government – which does not include the executive – does not need executive oversight at all, and indeed would prefer life without it.
  56. It is tough to say which institution out of the Church, the Nobility, and the Merchants is currently the most powerful. The three exist in a kind of anarchic triumvirate, all feeding from each other to further accelerate their dominance of the political, financial, and even social life. If this author is to wager a guess, it would be the Church which dominates; by controlling the information, the Church controls the youth. On a long enough timeline, these youth, brought up on Church orthodoxies, will staff the other arms of the Government and subvert them from within.
  58. These trends broadly represent a slow erosion of the Crown’s power, leached by representative democracy and then swallowed up by the Church and Nobility. Today’s Crown, including all legislatures and leaders, are largely powerless. They are accountable to the people, and therefore temporary according to their whims, but the Nobility, Church and Merchants are unaccountable and impossible for the people to remove. Essentially, we now perform a charade where we elect a powerless figurehead who manufactures consent for the real ruling regime.
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