Means And Ends

Whenever you are confronted by someone who wishes to explain their beliefs to you – their philosophical system, the type of government they favor, their preferred social arrangements, and so on – there are a few questions that are always of tremendous value to ask: “Is what you propose an end, or is it a means? If it is a means, then what end is it a means to? If it is an end, what are its inherent benefits in and of itself, apart from those of any other end?” This will almost certainly throw anyone you ask off their guard, because most people pay precious little attention to these big-picture questions. They become so focused on the details of their favored system that they lose sight of them; and yet they are critical and must be answered if we are to avoid grave, even civilization-threatening mistakes.

This is especially important when we consider that Whigism – which is the root of modern democracy – suffers from a persistent inability to distinguish between means and ends. One may see evidence of this in many of its failures. For example, its confusion over whether technology, hard work, and money represent a means or an end (it all too consistently operates as if they are the latter rather than the former), has resulted in much of the aesthetic, cultural, and spiritual ugliness of Modernity. It has meant that modernity never came up with a solid idea of the Good Life, as ancients such as Cicero did (the “American Dream” is far too vague, and doesn’t sufficiently clear up the means vs. ends confusion, to be truly useful as one). It has led to a society full of ambition with no goal – of people who, as a great modern novel put it, live lives of “working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need”. We have wrecked our families, let our children be raised by strangers or by the television set (if we have any at all), destroyed femininity in all its comfort and glory, become atomized and deracinated to the point that we hardly know our neighbors, work soul-crushing jobs as cogs in gigantic corporate machines, and, worst of all, are miserable – is this an end that anyone could desire? Could this be any sane person’s definition of the Good Life? Certainly not. Why has it happened, then? Because we have gotten so lost in the pursuit of something that we have forgotten what we were pursuing in the first place.

Thus, if someone wanted to convince me to support a system that they claimed was a means, they would then have to convince me that it would reliably produce the promised ends. And if they wanted to convince me to support a certain end, they would then have to convince me that this end had inherent benefits. (Within the concept of “benefit”, as used here, we must also include the lack of disastrous, and presumably unintended and unforecasted, ill effects.) Whoever wished to do either (or both) of these things would have to present evidence that squared with the reality that I observe in the world; any evidence that visibly does not match observable reality must be dismissed as false. That is because reality – not our hopes, plans, wishes, dreams, or pet theories – is final.

Let us start by considering a test case: the issue of ethnic diversity. Is it a means, or is it an end? If it is a means, what are the ends, and do our observations of the world around us indicate that it is actually producing those ends? If it is an end, then what are its inherent benefits, and do our observations of the world around us indicate that those benefits are actually accruing? Does what we observe in reality around us square with what we were promised by those who supported increased diversity, without any appreciable amount of unintended bad consequences?

My own observation of reality tells me this: I see no end to which increased diversity is acting as an effective means except for increasing the power of leftist political parties who want the guaranteed votes provided by the importation of millions of dirt-poor immigrants, and the profits of businessmen who want the cheap labor of illegal scabs. Since I do not support these ends, I must reject diversity as a means to anything beneficial. As for diversity as an end with inherent benefits, I say this: If diversity was working as advertised, with no serious bad side effects, then I would have no objection to it. But it visibly is not: the loss of social cohesion, the erosion of freedoms (such as freedom of association and even freedom of speech), the increased risk of crime and terrorism, the slide into socialism based on untenable debt brought about by the increased power of these leftist parties, the “slipping and sliding into Third Worldism” that the great Bob Grant so presciently warned us against – all of these and more present themselves to me in reality as disastrous effects of diversity that those who supported it did not describe as part of the bargain. Weighed against this are benefits – “enrichment” and “vibrancy” – the very unquantifiable vagueness of which testifies to their effective meaninglessness.

In short, as they say on eBay: “Item not as described”.

Now, let us apply this concept to another idea; one that is even more unquestioningly held to in the modern world: democracy. The first problem we face here is that questioning democracy* pretty much automatically makes one a heretic everywhere in the Modern world. Mencius Moldbug described the situation a few years ago:

[D]isbelieving in democracy in 2008 is a lot like disbelieving in God in 1758. For one thing, you disagree with basically everyone in your society. For another, your thoughts undermine the theory of legitimacy on which your government is founded. For a third, acknowledging your beliefs, let alone evangelizing them, is not exactly an effective way to make friends or influence people. And for a fourth, your original reason for believing in it was that when you were very small, grownups told you that it existed and was good.

Americans especially are fanatically – often hysterically – attached to democracy, entirely for sentimental reasons. We were all told by grownups when we were very small – and still are told today – that America is a “proposition nation”, and that the proposition involved is democracy. I have even heard it said that “our culture is the Constitution”, as if a 20-page guide for setting up a caretaker government is a substitute for a fully-developed native culture built and refined over centuries or millennia**. And Americans get very upset indeed if you question these beliefs. Here, for example, is a quote from usually-rational author John C. Wright, taken from a debate in which he participated:

[Y]ou say inferiority to a monarch is not the same as inferiority to me, John Wright. The answer already given there is that I am a member of the sovereign ruling in America, hence the same rank as a king.

This is simply delusional. Here is a question for Mr. Wright: How do you recognize the sovereign when you see him? The answer is that the sovereign is the guy who’s getting his way on issues of policy. When the sovereign (and here I mean the real sovereign; not some figurehead who may ceremonially hold that title) makes his will known, that is the law. I know that Mr. Wright styles himself a conservative. Has the history of the past couple of centuries been a tale of conservatives like Mr. Wright getting their way on matters of policy? Or, a few bumps in the road aside, has it been a story of them suffering loss after loss to the point that, as his friend Vox Day has pointed out, conservatives have failed even to keep men in dresses out of the ladies’ room? Mr. Wright seems to have a great deal of his self-image tied up in the idea that he is sovereign, or at least a significant member of the “sovereign ruling in America”. But if this is the case, then why has his rule been so ineffective in yielding him the results he wants (and that I, as a traditionalist, want as well)?

Mr. Wright, allow me to quote that most reactionary of recent films and ask: Do you feel in charge?

The difference between myself and Mr. Wright is that I have not one ounce of sentimentality in me towards government – not the one I live under, or any other. This allows me a bit of realism that eludes both Mr. Wright and (in fairness to him) most Americans. Allow me to explain the reality of the situation: There are approximately 220,000,000 eligible voters in the United States (the rest of the population being children, felons, or nonvoting aliens). Mr. Wright is one of them, and thinks of himself as a sovereign – equivalent to a king who has 1/1 of the decision-making power in a monarchical society – because his sentimentality has allowed him to believe in the obvious delusion that a 1/1 share and a 1/220,000,000 share in something are exactly the same.

Think of it this way – I’m not sure how many shares of Apple stock are currently in circulation, but for the sake of argument, let’s say there were 220,000,000. Let’s further say that I bought one of them. If I then attempted to use it as a justification to stop by a meeting of the Board of Directors and start instructing Tim Cook on how to build iPhones, how do you think that would go? The answer is that it would go about as well as if you went to Washington and started insisting that the government has to listen to you because you are “a member of the sovereign ruling in America”. Here’s the harsh truth: the government is just another corporation – in fact, it is the biggest corporation of all. It just happens to be one in which you are issued a single share of voting stock when you turn 18. And, unlike any other corporation, you will never have the chance to acquire any more voting shares than that. So face facts: You are not the sovereign; not even a little bit. Believing that you are will not help you get your way on policy issues; in fact, it is a fantasy that’s used to keep you quiescent while the government runs roughshod over you.

Here we return to critically important point: that if everything is X, then nothing is X. If everybody is a king, then nobody is the king. And who ends up in charge then? Those who always end up in charge when there’s a weak king – the schemers behind the throne, hidden in the shadows. Money men, slick talkers, flatterers, liars, clever sophists skilled in manipulating the crowd, and snake-oil salesmen with a heart-tugging story to tell and a tinhorn utopia to peddle.

This is all the long way of saying: Hey rube, stop being sentimental about government. Stop believing in the inherent goodness of a system that commits incessant wickedness just because when you were very small, grownups told you that it was good. Then take the big step by asking yourselves: What actually is good? Presuming you are the sort of impeccably moral sort who wants what is good (and how could any of my readers be otherwise?), we may them move on to this question: What would our society look like if you did get your way on issues of policy? Pretty much as they do now, or would there be a whole lot that was different? Finally – and most importantly – we reach this: Why should you not support whatever system is likely to deliver the ends you want? Why should you not prefer the good to the bad, and wish to see what is good done instead of what is bad? Is this not both more logical and more moral than a sentimental attachment to a system that consistently delivers foolishness, wickedness, and unsustainability?

Here I will doubtless hear the old saw that “the ends do not justify the means”, which is the sort of idea that spreads when slogans take the place of rationality in public discourse. If this were true, we would never do anything that was a means to an end, which means that we would do virtually nothing that we ever do our lives. My earlier condemnation of the rat race of consumerist capitalism aside, I must eat, and so I have a job. Do you? Unless you are working for the sheer joy of it, then your job is a means, the ends of which is paying your bills. Do you drive a car? Unless you are doing so for recreation, then it is a means, the ends of which involve getting where you want to go. A much truer statement would be that the ends don’t always justify the means: that there are some cases in which there are some means that are not justified by the ends they involve. Robbing banks will pay your bills just as a job will, and hijacking an airplane will get you where you want to go, but there are specific moral reasons why these ends justify some means but not others. So yes, in fact, except for a few edge cases, the ends we pursue generally do justify the means we use to achieve them.

And it is here that we circle back to the question we started with: Is our current form of government a means, or is it an end? What sense would it being an end make? How would it be rational to have a certain form of government just for the sake of having that sort of government? Other than for reasons of sentimentality, it makes none; we must dismiss this as an acceptable conclusion for rational and moral people to come to. So then, we must see it as a means. But then, what is so great about it as a means that it justifies the awful ends – i.e. the actual results – that we can observe ourselves?

I too had been told by grownups since I was very small that democracy was good; but it was when I could not figure out any answers that squared with what the grownups had told me to these questions that I began to turn against democracy. I became unsentimental about government, and came to the conclusion that I value ends above means and product above process. And unlike Moldbug, my conversion to Christianity only strengthened and confirmed these beliefs. The Gospel of Matthew teaches us that our Savior said: “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them”. So what are you going to believe: a set of political theories concocted by men two hundred years in the grave who never got to see the real-world results of what they were proposing, or your own lying eyes? In the end, people like Mr. Wright talk themselves into the idea that democracy produces good results for the same reason that someone who bought an Edsel would try to talk himself into the belief that he bought a top-of-the-line car: It hurts our pride to believe that we’ve been suckered into buying a lemon.

There are those who would say in the wake of the rightward shift seen in elections worldwide during 2016 that “the pendulum has swung back right”, and there is no reason to worry. This misses the point entirely. I don’t want “the pendulum”. I don’t want wild and unpredictable swings between having rulers who will give me tolerable laws and those who will give me intolerable laws. I want decent, sustainable laws, and I want them consistently and predictably. I will support whatever form of government provides that to me. Of course I do not expect absolute perfection from any system derived by man; that has nothing to do with the realities of this world. The operative question is: what system delivers the results that I consider best the greatest amount of the time? What led me to “throne and altar” monarchy is the fact that on balance I think it provides the best chance of actually getting the laws I want. But again, I am unsentimental even about this. If mass democracy or a classical liberal republic delivered consistently good results, then I would support it. And if any particular king turned out to be a new King Manasseh or Ivan the Terrible, then I would be first in line to drag His Majesty kicking and screaming from his palace, end his reign with an axe, and find someone who would do a better job.

Treason? Don’t be naive. Again, the government is just another corporation with a job to do; if it does it acceptably, then all is well; if it does not, then it is expendable. Why should it be otherwise? Get this through your heads, citizens: You are subjects, and not, as Mr. Wright believes, sovereign rulers. As such, your interest is in product, not process. Of what use is salt that has lost its flavor? It is good for nothing, except to be thrown out and trampled under the feet of men. And if that is true of salt and apostles, how much more so of kings and presidents and senators and caesars?

So what is the actual end that I want? I want good to win and evil to lose. It’s as simple as that. Everything else is a means to that end, and anything else is insanity.

I have often said that the road to reaction begins with conceding some points to the left. If what I have said seems extremist, please understand that I am merely conceding that the left’s view of political power is practical and realistic (which does much to explain their triumphs over the pst 250 or so years). When I say that the left has no principles, only ideology, that is only an observation, not a criticism. They are putting the product they want above any process, which not only do I not find contemptible, but is utterly rational. It is the way of non-cucks.

As John Glanton explains:

You have to admire the Left for its clarity of vision. It has identified its enemies, and it does what it can to drive them from the field. The recent fireworks in Indiana are a perfect illustration. Team blue knows that Christians are hateful homophobes, and so it goes to bat for the right of homosexuals to sue them over wedding cakes. The Right, with its characteristic acumen, mistakes this bushwhack for a principled stand. “Ah!” they say, “But if you support the right of a gay man to force a Christian to make a cake then you must support the right of the KKK to force a black baker to make a cake!” The average liberal couldn’t imagine a more irrelevant rejoinder. They aren’t making any such proposition at all. In their calculus, Christians (of the Not-fans-of-Pope-Francis type at least) are the bad guys and thus their interests are hateful and invalid and must be opposed. The KKK are bad guys and thus their actions are hateful and invalid and must be opposed. You attack bad guys. You don’t attack good guys. Whence the confusion?

I am proposing that we on the right should have the same clarity of vision, and stop allowing sentimentality or philosophical confusion to get in our way. Let us focus on ends, not means – whether those means are abstract universalist principles, particular forms of government, or old pieces of paper***. Let us say: Victory for good and defeat for evil – at any cost and by whatever means necessary – that is what we want. It is only once we do say this that the victory of good will become possible.


(*Let us here dispense with the rather silly notion that the difference between a republic and a democracy is vast enough to have any real effect on this discussion. If nothing else, limited republics don’t stay that way; inevitably, some demagogue comes along and offers to expand citizenship and/or the franchise to new groups of people in exchange for a tacit understanding that this group will support them or their party. This will continue until the limited republic has morphed into a mass democracy. In Rome, the process started with the Gracchus Brothers; in America, it started when the property qualification for voting was abolished. It never ends well.)

(**Is it unpatriotic for me to say these things about the republic, the founding fathers, and the Constitution? I ask you then: What is patriotism? Is it attachment to a people, a history, a culture, and a set of traditions, or is it attachment to a government? If the former, then it is not contemptible; if the latter, then it is foolish and servile. It is faith, blood, and soil that defines a people; a particular form of government should never define them. Although we have forgotten this as a “proposition nation”, that view has been the near-universal norm throughout history – and certainly before American ideas went universal. Don’t forget that in Leipzig during the 20th century, the government went from monarchy to republic to fascism to communism and back to a republic – but the people there never stopped being German, nor, presumably, being patriotically so. It is only very recently, with the push to displace the German people from their lands and replace them with other peoples, that German identity has faced any real threat.)

(***You cannot – can you? – be so naive as to believe that the Constitution, i.e. the EULA that supposedly regulates our civic life, really protects you. Like all EULAs, it protects its creators (i.e., the government), not its end users. In terms of preserving your natural rights, the Constitution has been a dead letter since 1803, when the Supreme Court arrogated to itself the unlimited power to “interpret” this document, which of course is functionally identical to unlimited power to rewrite it. Thus, functionally speaking, we do not have a Constitution at all, but are ruled by the biases, opinions, and agendas of nine government lawyers in Hogwarts costumes. The left harbors no illusions about this, and we are perpetually a Supreme Court appointment or two away from the First and Second Amendments sharing the fate of the Ninth and Tenth.)