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Not a member of the Cult of Democracy

The Squirearchy: Prologue

The next time you’re in lower Manhattan, be sure to take some time to visit the Tenement Museum. It’s located in the SoHo neighborhood of the city, so named because it’s South of Houston Street (in one of those wonderful quirks of the English language, the name of this street is pronounced “How-ston”, as opposed to the city in Texas, the name of which is pronounced “Hugh-ston”). The neighborhood has, for perhaps a quarter century now, been throughly gentrified, with the five-story brownstones that line its streets remodeled and turned into fashionable but oh-so-expensive apartments occupied mainly by the rising stars of the trading houses on nearby Wall Street. But in the late nineteenth through mid twentieth centuries, this place was among the most poverty-ridden slums in the nation; these same brownstones were occupied almost exclusively by penniless immigrants fresh off the boat, many of whom had come through Ellis Island with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Here they toiled in backbreaking and often terribly hazardous conditions. Some (including more than one of my own ancestors) dug the subway tunnels under the city with shovels or moved rock with their bare hands, others labored in sweatshops where fourteen to sixteen hour days, six or even seven days a week, were the norm. Many were crippled, maimed, or killed in accidents like the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire of 1911, in which 146 workers, mostly women, burned alive or were crushed in a panicked stampede after a fire broke out at a garment factory and those inside found that the owners had locked the exits in an effort to keep them from taking unauthorized breaks. After their long days of work, the immigrant laborers came home to these tenements, which in those days were kept in a horribly dilapidated condition. The very poorest among them were consigned to the basement apartments, where they lived and slept in an inch or two of water that perennially covered the hard stone floors.

Those days are long past, but a bit of them is preserved at 97 Orchard Street, which the Tenement Museum Foundation acquired just as the neighborhood was beginning its turnaround in the 1980s. From 10AM to 6:30PM, seven days a week, it receives visitors who are given guided tours of apartments that have been carefully restored to look as they would have during the great wave of immigration that hit New York City in the 1880s through the 1920s. If you go there on a weekday during the off-season when the summer tourists are gone and things are slow, and if you show up early for your tour and find yourself sitting in the museum’s lobby with the chance to chat a bit with your guide before they start showing you through the exhibits, you may just end up being favored with hearing this story…

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Sometime toward the tail end of the nineteenth century, a young immigrant by the name of Piotr found himself, after being processed through Ellis Island, lost and alone in the confusing bustle of Grand Central Station in New York City. Surrounding him was a madding crowd made up mostly of other immigrants from every conceivable end of Europe, few of whom spoke so much as a single word of English, and many of whom were illiterate even in their native languages. Interspersed among them, trying to bring some semblance of order to the perpetual chaos that the influx of immigrants had brought to Grand Central, were railway employees, whose job it was to make sure that the immigrants got on the right train – the one that would take them to whoever it was that had sponsored them on their journeys across the Atlantic. Sometimes the sponsors would be relatives, but most often they were employers whose desire for cheap labor was so insatiable that they contracted with agents in Europe who recruited directly from among the continent’s poor, providing them with sponsorships and passage to America in exchange for pledges to work a certain number of years for those who had sponsored them. Most of these agents were deeply dishonest and unscrupulous, telling their perspective recruits tales of streets paved with gold in the New World, and carefully avoiding any truths about sweatshops and tenements.

It was one of these agents who had recruited Piotr, a second son of a poor dairy farmer in some backwater of a Poland that, in those days, was still under the domination of the Russian Czar. At the port of Danzig, before his ship set sail for New York, the agency handed him a piece of wood with that had a bit of rope attached to it at both ends and a word he didn’t recognize written on it. This was the agency’s rather ingenious workaround for the problem of their recruits not having the basic English skills necessary to tell the railway men in New York where they were supposed to be going – it was a sign that they were supposed to wear around their necks when they arrived that had the name of their destination painted on it in large lettering. Now, ten days later and an ocean away, Piotr stood in the chaos of Grand Central Station with the sign dutifully hung around his neck.

Eventually, he managed to fight his way through the crush to one of the railway employees, an annoyed, busy man whose patience with the immigrants who had brought unceasing disorder to his station was running noticeably short. The railman, who simply didn’t have the time to spend more than a few seconds with each one of the newcomers swarming around him, took a quick glance at the sign around Piotr’s neck and pointed him toward a departing train. In the confusion, nobody even stopped to check whether he had a ticket before he boarded (sponsors usually paid fares upon the arrival of their new laborers, so there wasn’t much point in looking at their ticket before they got to their destinations anyway). Everyone seemed satisfied by the fact that he was going where his sign said he should, though Piotr himself had never before even heard of the place whose name was painted on it – a place called Houston.

For three long days, the train rumbled along; through the Mid-Atlantic states, through the Tidewater, through the deep south, and on into Texas. Finally, the exhausting ordeal came to an end when the conductor shook Piotr awake and guided him off the train. Having arrived at his new home, he walked inside the Houston & Texas Central Railway depot to wait for his sponsor to come for him.

He waited all day, and then all night, sleeping fitfully on one of the depot’s wooden benches. Then he waited all the next day, and all the next night as well. By the end of Piotr’s third day there (and with no one having come to pay for his train fare), the station master knew that something had gone wrong. Unable to communicate with the young man and unable to find anyone who knew anything about him or how he had gotten there, the station master eventually summoned the sheriff. The sheriff, who was equally unable to make any sense of the situation, took Piotr off to jail, ostensibly on a charge of vagrancy, but more than anything simply because the jail had a bed for him to sleep in and food for him to eat until someone could figure out where he had come from and what to do with him.

For several days, the sheriff made inquiries, but turned up nothing – nobody seemed to be missing an immigrant or to know who might be missing one. Though Houston is now a vast metropolis, it was in those days a small, sleepy country city – a cow town where everyone knew everyone, surrounded by vast cattle ranches. It didn’t take long before anyone who might know anything had been asked, and every possible route of inquiry had come up dry. The sheriff knew that he couldn’t keep Piotr in jail forever, nor did he wish to, as the young man seemed like a decent enough sort of lad. Unable to think of anything else to do with him, the sheriff started asking around to see if any of the local ranchers would take him on as a hired hand. After a bit of good-natured cajoling, one of them – an old friend of the sheriff – agreed to it. The next morning, a wagon arrived to take the still-confused Piotr away to his new life on the ranch.

As soon as he arrived, his eyes lit up with a combination of joy and relief. Finally, there was something in America that he was comfortable with! He might not have known much about his new country or even known a word of its language, but if there was one thing he did know from growing up on a dairy farm, it was cows. Even his lack of English proved not to be as great a problem as the rancher feared, as Piotr needed hardly any instruction in his duties at all. Beyond this, he was responsible and hardworking; unlike the other cowboys, he didn’t spend his nights getting drunk or his days off down at the local whorehouse or gambling den, and so he was neither perpetually hung over nor perpetually broke. As he slowly but surely became fluent in English, he became more and more useful, and the rancher steadily promoted him to higher (and better paid) positions. And if Piotr had successfully caught the boss’s eye, eventually the gentle and industrious young man began to catch the eye of the boss’s eldest daughter, as well; with the rancher’s blessing, a romance blossomed between them.

Years passed, and the newcomer’s fortunes continued to rise. He became a trusted employee, then a friend, and finally part of the family; courtship turned to marriage, and in time, the ranch passed to Piotr and his wife. Under their direction, the ranch became more prosperous than ever. From the humblest of beginnings, the immigrant who had arrived with nothing came to be wealthy, respected, and a pillar of his community – he had found the American Dream in his adoptive home.

Yet contented as he was, there was still one thing that had never stopped bothering him over the years – the mystery behind the chain of events that had brought him to the ranch in the first place. No one in Houston had ever been able to come up with any explanations – as far as the Texans were concerned, he had simply appeared out of nowhere one day. And so, decades after he had passed through it on his way to his new life, Piotr, now wealthy enough to afford the trip and fluent enough to understand whatever documents he might uncover, set out, with his wife and a couple of his older children in tow, for New York City, to see if he could find out what had happened all those many years ago. While his family enjoyed the delights of shopping and dining on Fifth Avenue, Piotr returned to Ellis Island, spending his days digging through file cabinets full of dusty, yellowed old papers. After a few frustrating, long days of searching, he finally found what he was looking for.

His sponsor had been one the the garment sweatshops that operated in lower Manhattan, and the sign that he carried was meant to send him to Houston Street, not to Houston, Texas. In the crush and chaos of Grand Central Station, the overworked railway employee who never bothered to look at his papers had hastily pointed Piotr toward the wrong train. He was never meant to go where he had gone at all, and, if not for a quirk of fate, would have ended up in a life of crushing poverty in the slums of New York, working fourteen-hour days for pennies in horrifying conditions in someplace very much like the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, and living in misery in a tenement very much like what 97 Orchard Street looked like in those days, most probably even sleeping in an inch of water in a dark and moldy basement apartment.

Piotr returned to the big, comfortable house on his ranch in the wide-open plains of Texas very happy indeed for quirks of fate, and determined never to return to New York City, lest an elderly garment factory owner somewhere south of Houston Street find out who he was and attempt to sue him for the cost of a steerage class ticket from Danzig to New York.

And he lived happily ever after, y’all.

* * *

This seems as good a way as any to start a series of essays on the topic of the advantages of us all seeking our fortunes in the country rather than in the big cities. Expect more in this series to be coming soon.

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The Squirearchy: Introduction

The megacities are dead: nothing can, and nothing should, be done to save them. The entire incentive structure inherent to urban living pulls those living in them toward leftism and degeneracy, and there is fundamentally nothing that can be done about it. Yes, big cities are engines of culture, but the culture that does emanate from them is poison, has been for decades, and will continue to be in the future. Yes, big cities are engines of the economy, but have long ago caused our economy to have a vastly excessive emphasis on the finance sector, and this has thence degenerated into thinly-masked, “too big to fail” fraud on all sides, built on a foundation of usury that is both sinful and unsustainable. Further, it should go without saying that our cities, once gleaming, have descended into dystopian hellscapes of crime, poverty, pollution, dependency, degeneracy, atomization, alienation, and meaninglessness, which cannot be fixed and which all of the boutique bookstores and arthouse cinemas in the world simply can’t make up for. And, in fact, they don’t have to – the internet age has (perhaps ironically) created a new world in which almost all of the cultural and economic opportunities that once could be enjoyed only in the big city are available virtually anywhere. All of these truths should draw us toward the conclusion that the traditionalist right should abandon the cities entirely; meaning we should both reject the idea of mass urbanization as a good, and we should physically abandon them ourselves as well. In the short term, this means that each of us should move out of the cities for the countryside as soon as it is practical to do so. In the long term, it means accepting the idea that the Restoration must involve a recentering of society, from one centered around megacities to one centered around a “manor culture”, led in both a cultural and political sense by country squires who form a de facto or de jure aristocracy.

These are the core ideas around which I will base a series of essays that will be appearing here in the coming months. Like my Christania series, they may not be sequential – in other words, I may intersperse them among other pieces on other topics – and I am not at present sure precisely how many of them I may end up writing. I will, however, explore the topic as thoroughly as I can, including providing some theoretical models for the new society that I believe we should be moving toward creating in the long term. This will, in many ways, be personal for me, as my own plan in the next few years is to leave the cities and move to someplace rural, conservative, and non-diverse.

So then, please do keep checking back in this space, because the Squirearchy will, I promise, be coming soon, In the meantime, anyone who may wish to get a head start on this series should do so by reading this excellent recent essay by Ryan Landry, which touches on many of the ideas that I plan to present going forward.

Where We Are

At the time of this writing, Donald J. Trump has been President of the United States for half a year. Though I normally prefer to leave commenting on day to day political matters to others (of whom there are a great many, and who do what they do with great skill), it occurs to me that this is a worthwhile time to reflect on where we stand in the historical cycle, the role that Trump plays, and where we are likely going in the foreseeable future.

Much like the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s recent Batman films, I like to think of myself as being ahead of the curve. While I long ago gave up on representative democracy of any kind, I am left having to admit that most of the right has not yet gotten on my level. Most of them – even in that loose category of people who make up the “alt-right” – cling to what grownups told them when they were very small: a mythos about how only this one solitary form of government based on one solitary piece of paper could keep us out of literal chains and deliver us decent, sustainable laws. It’s no use saying that this is a fairy tale – of course it is, but fairy tales are designed to make people feel good by sweeping them out of reality and into a realm of fantasy where things are very much simpler and more to their liking than in the cruel, complex, boring real world.

Yet past a certain point, even the pull of a fairy tale won’t be sufficient to keep anyone but the most delusional from noticing just how bad and how unsustainable things have become. Our collective ability to whistle past democracy’s graveyard began to get very strained indeed during the Obama years. The omens of this were not embodied in anything as overt as throngs of citizens crowding the streets holding up signs calling for a restoration of monarchy, but they were still there for those able to see them. Consider: In 1994, a ban on “assault weapons” passed with minimal opposition or outcry, because at that time ownership of such weapons was uncommon – few people had them, wanted them, or were all that motivated to fight to keep them. Today, enactment of a new ban of this sort on a federal level (the original law expired in 2004) would be impossible. The spike in ownership of such weapons over the past thirteen years has been dramatic (and part of a larger, unprecedented increase in gun sales), with AR-15 pattern rifles practically flying off the shelves of gun shops. And while I am as great a supporter of civilian firearm ownership as can be found anywhere, pardon me if I can’t quite see panicked hoarding of military-style weaponry as the sign of a healthy republic that has the faith and trust of the people solidly behind it.

It is an undefined feeling of dread about the future that led millions of average Americans to make room in their bedroom closets for an AR-15 and a few hundred rounds of 5.56 ammo, and that is that same feeling which sent millions of them to the voting booths last November with the usually-unspoken, but undeniable feeling in their hearts that Donald Trump was the last, best hope of the republic. And they were right – that’s precisely what he was.

So six months into his time in office, what do we have? We have a presidency under siege from the actual centers of power (Call them what you like: the Establishment, the Globalists, the Cathedral, the Deep State – either way, they comprise the entrenched bureaucracy, the courts, the media, and big money interests) who thought that they had adequately made the point about elected leaders defying them back when they hounded Richard Nixon out of office. Whether they can actually remove Trump from office, or even defeat him in re-election, is a secondary concern; if they can merely bog him down in having to defend himself against their endless attacks such that he has no time or energy left to accomplish much of anything productive, they will have achieved their objectives. In this, they have the collusion of the Congress – both parties, in both houses. The members of this august body are, as a rule, easily spooked and easily bought off (either by one of the many forms of bribery that Congress has left technically legal for its members to enjoy, or in the form of positive media coverage and other intangibles). That this is not true of all of them is beside the point. It doesn’t need to be all of them, it just needs to be enough of them, which it reliably is.

Ask yourself a question: If this system, while under the complete control of the putative “right”, is unable even to repeal Obamacare – a deeply unpopular and plainly dysfunctional program that is quickly collapsing under its own weight and which the now-ruling party promised to repeal within its first week in power – in half a year of trying, what could possibly make you think it will ever be able to deal with the larger issues, both social and economic, that plague our society? What makes you think it will ever ban abortion, or repeal gay “marriage”, or arrest the slow banishment of the Christian faith from the public square, or effectively stop the immivasion that promises to soon make the founding stock of this nation a minority in its own lands, or bring any restraint whatsoever to the out-of-control welfare state, or get our nation out of the empire business, or end the Fed, or wrangle our astronomical national debt under control? And yes, maybe Congress will eventually get around to some weak-tea repeal of Obamacare and its replacement with a slightly less obnoxious and ramshackle state program. After all the compromises and backroom dealing that will have to go into getting the true centers of power to allow it to pass, can anyone believe that it will really do what we want it to – deliver us good healthcare at affordable prices?

All of this makes plain that democracy, if it ever worked at all (a highly questionable proposition), is obsolete in the modern age. The government set up in 1776 was intended to be a small-time farmers’ republic designed to deal with the problems of a sparse rural population that was almost universally made up of northern European Christians who needed (and wanted) only minimal governance and were deeply uninterested in world-saving. As the nation became more populous, more urban, more industrialized, more globalized, more diverse, less cohesive, and less religious, the republic attempted to deal with the problems of a society that had gradually come to look nothing like the society it was designed to govern by becoming an ever-bigger government. This didn’t actually make it any better at its fundamental task of solving society’s problems; on the contrary, it simply made the government ever more bloated, expensive, and intrusive in the lives of its citizens. That this government is now utterly incapable of effectively dealing with the problems we face is not merely my opinion – it is the reality in front of us.

As someone who has “been around the block a few times” in terms of watching democratic politics, I knew from the start that the hopes pinned on Trump were overblown. Even in the best of circumstances, presidents normally accomplish maybe a third of what they start out promising to do. This springs from two causes: first that there are many things they promise to do that they have no real intention of ever doing in the first place, and second from systemic resistance to their agendas. In Trump’s case, I suspect there is remarkably little of the first at play, but this will be made up for by an extraordinary amount of the second. In the end, he will be quite lucky indeed to get anything like the customary one-third of his stated goals accomplished, and it will probably be much less. This will not be enough to save the republic. If anybody could have done it, it would have been Donald Trump, but the reality that is making itself obvious right before our eyes is that nobody can do it. The people already cry “Drain the swamp!” and demand that someone with the power do something to get the Deep State under control, which can’t practically be done by the means available to Trump, especially within a mere eight years. And it won’t be long before people start also to compare what Trump has been able to accomplish when he hasn’t had to rely on Congress (a lot) with what he’s been able to accomplish when he has had to rely on Congress (not a lot), and begin to wonder whether Congress is more trouble than it’s worth. This bodes well for those of us who favor non-democratic forms of government*.

There are many who would fall prey to the temptation to look at a single dramatic event – say, Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon or the Battle of Actium – as the moment when the Roman republic died, but in fact its death was a long process that took something like a century to fully unfold. First there were the Gracchus brothers, who tried to reform the system peacefully (and who were murdered by it for their trouble). Then there was Sulla, who came to Rome with an army and who tried to reform it and restore it to its former glory at swordpoint (the Roman version of the Deep State undid all his reforms as soon as he died). Then there was Julius Caesar, who came with another army, instituted reforms, and tried to avoid having them meet the fate of Sulla’s reforms by draining the swamp even deeper (the swamp drained his blood onto the Senate floor instead). Finally there was Augustus, who sealed the inevitability of Plato’s cycle by killing anyone who stood in his way. And yet, once he had power, he rebuilt the city (he was fond of bragging he had found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble), patronized a remarkable flowering of the arts, filled the public coffers with money, and expanded an empire that would last another four centuries (or another fifteen, if you count Byzantium).

On the grand Spenglerian curve of civilizations, Trump is not our analogue for Augustus (all of the interenet’s talk of “the God-Emperor” aside). He is not our Julius Caesar. He is unlikely to be our Sulla. But (whether or not he ends up being physically assassinated), he just might be our Gracchae – the first of a series of populist reformers who take on a powerful and entrenched system, with both sides using increasing levels of force, until finally that system topples, keeping Plato’s perfect record of being right on these matters intact. This toppling of the system may come in the form of a single authoritarian figure taking power in Washington, or in the breakup of the republic into smaller entities that will have mixed fates (some will find good authoritarian leaders and survive; others will collapse), but either way, inevitability is catching up to the current system.

It is worth here noting that the Spenglerian curve that the West is on has always run more quickly than that which the Greco-Roman civilization traveled, meaning that what took a hundred years to happen for them may take a considerably shorter time for us. So if you haven’t bought one of those AR-15s already, now might be a good time. I don’t know when you might need it, but I now believe that day will come a lot sooner than I believed it would back in 1994.

 

(*It is not entirely unexpected that Dunning-Kruger cases like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison would have completely misunderstood what Plato was trying to warn them about. They believed that Plato was warning them that democracies always give way to authoritarianism, and thus built strong defenses against authoritarianism into the design for their democracy. But what Plato was really trying to tell them was that democracy inevitably devolves into such horrendous moral, social, and economic chaos that decent, smart, educated people will, with full deliberate intent, beg an authoritarian leader to take power and restore order, even if it does impinge on their liberties to some degree. The fear that these pseudointellectuals really did design a system that will make it impossible for a Caesar to come and save us is what keeps me awake at night.)

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.)

The Christmas Bullet

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with airplanes, or really, with any man-made flying machine. Planes, helos, zeppelins, gyrocopters, what have you – I would, in those pre-internet days, spend hours reading books full of facts and figures and pictures and stories about them (that is, when I wasn’t busy building plastic models of them or watching reruns of Airwolf, Baa Baa Black Sheep, or Tales of the Gold Monkey). A few of the more colorful and interesting accounts of the early days of aviation have stuck with me through the years, and it has occurred to me that there is one in particular that may be of some relevance to my readers.

Toward the end of World War I, a charming but eccentric man by the name of Dr. William Wallace Whitney Christmas founded an aircraft manufacturing company in Washington, DC. This was perhaps a bit of an odd thing to expect him to do, as there exists no evidence that Dr. Christmas, who was a physician by training, had any background or practical experience in aeronautical engineering, or in fact in any kind of engineering at all. He claimed to have built airplanes before that point, but no record has ever been found to support this other than his own word. Despite his complete apparent lack of qualifications in the field he was entering, he nevertheless managed to find a pair of wealthy brothers – Alfred and Henry McCorry – who he was able to talk into providing him with financial backing while he worked on his projects. Since he did not actually own a factory at which airplanes could be built, he traveled to Long Island to visit the Continental Aircraft Company, where, trading both on his remarkable powers of persuasion and on the still-palpable war fever in which the nation had been gripped, he was able to convince its corporate leadership that his newest design, which he had named the “Bullet”, would be the key to the success of a daring plan he had developed to bring an end to the war by secretly landing an airplane behind German lines, kidnapping Kaiser Wilhelm II, flying him to Britain, and forcing him to sign a surrender. Having secured Continental Aircraft’s agreement to build his airplane for him, Dr. Christmas next needed an aeronautical engine, which in those days (and especially with all available production going toward the war effort) were both expensive and not easy to come by. Undaunted by this, Dr. Christmas visited Army headquarters in Washington, on a mission to get them to loan him an example of the most powerful engine they had. Here once again a combination of his personal charm and wartime desperation worked to his advantage, and he was able to talk his way into possession of an experimental Liberty VI engine, which developed a then-incredible 215 horsepower. To the Army’s credit, they were sufficiently skeptical of the entire matter that the loan came with the proviso that their engine was to be used only for ground testing of the prototype Bullet; he was not to take it into the air until the Army had gotten a chance to inspect and do a full evaluation on the new aircraft. Eager to get his hands on a Liberty VI, Dr. Christmas agreed.

As for the actual design of the Bullet, what Dr. Christmas called “innovative”, others would call “ludicrous”. He claimed that its weird-looking, flattened-egg-shaped fuselage – made of veneered wood – was  going to provide unprecedented reductions in aerodynamic drag, and that its flimsy wings, which he said that he had deliberately designed to flex and bend, were more than strong enough to support its weight. In an article about the Bullet in the British Flight magazine (which still publishes today, as Flight Global), Dr. Christmas even went so far as to declare that the Bullet had “a safety factor of seven throughout”, despite the magazine’s observation that “it would seem that such construction would result in a low factor of safety”. The editors of Flight were not, however, the only people who knew a lot about airplanes and who began to voice serious misgivings about the Bullet. When Dr. Christmas finally submitted his blueprints to Continental Aircraft, the company’s in-house head of engineering (Vincent Burnelli – who would go on to make some genuine innovations in the area of “flying wing” type aircraft, of which the modern B-2 bomber is perhaps the most famous example) came up with a long list of changes that needed to be made before the Bullet would be airworthy. Not least among Burnelli’s concerns was Dr. Christmas’s insistence that the Bullet be made out of cheap scrap wood and metal, which the Doctor claimed would minimize both the cost of building it and the strain that its construction would place on supplies of critically-needed resources during wartime. Once again, Dr. Christmas was able to convince others that his plans were sound; Continental’s management sided with him over Burnelli’s objections, and the Bullet was constructed exactly the way that Dr. Christmas wanted.

And then, suddenly, the war ended.

While the rest of the world celebrated, Dr. Christmas found himself with serious reason to worry. The end of the Great War meant that generous wartime contracts for new weapons would quickly evaporate, along with the willingness of the Army, industry, and investors to try just about anything, no matter how strange it might seem, as long as there was the slightest chance that it might contribute to victory. At this point, the first prototype had been finished and a second, for which an engine had not yet been found, was under construction. Dr. Christmas knew that he had finally had to show what the Bullet could do, and show it fast, before both the interest and the money that his supporters had been giving to him began to dry up. Of course, Dr. Christmas had never actually flown an airplane himself, so personally test-flying his airplane was out of the question. Fortunately for him, thousands of freshly-demobilized Army aviators were coming home from the war. The airline industry was not yet even in its infancy, and jobs flying the mail were scarce, so many of them found themselves unemployed and without any prospects of flying for a living. Dr. Christmas put out an offer of generous pay for any who would become a test pilot for his new airplane. Man after man turned up, took one look at the Bullet, spun around on their heels, and left, declaring that no amount of money was worth their lives. Finally, Dr. Christmas found one pilot – one Cuthbert Mills – who was either brave or desperate enough to try.

And so one cold day in January of 1919, the first Christmas Bullet took to the sky from the Continental Aircraft factory’s airfield. It climbed a few hundred feet in the air, at which point Dr. Christmas’s innovative thin and flexible wings broke off. What was left of the Bullet plunged to the ground, killing Cuthbert Mills instantly.

Vincent Burnelli was livid. Continental Aircraft was deeply embarrassed. The Army, which Dr. Christmas neglected to tell about the crash and the destruction of their expensive loaner engine, was beginning to get impatient. Dr. Christmas, however, was undaunted. Next time, he promised, would be a complete success – all he needed to do was make a few minor adjustments to what was an essentially flawless design. He turned on the charm again. Somehow, he managed to convince Continental Aircraft to finish the second prototype. Somehow, he managed to scrounge up an engine for it (this time, a much less powerful Hall-Scott model L-6). Somehow, he managed to find someone – this time, an Army pilot named Lt. Allington Jolly – to fly it. Somehow, he managed to talk his way into having the second Bullet displayed at Madison Square Garden as a way to gain publicity and public support. The display claimed that the Bullet had been demonstrated to achieve speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour – the fact that it had done so going straight down after its wings had fallen off was a detail that Dr. Christmas felt it unnecessary to mention to the gathered crowds.

And so one warm day in April of 1919, the second Christmas Bullet took to the sky. It climbed a few hundred feet in the air, at which point its wings broke off, and it plunged to the ground, killing Allington Jolly instantly.

Continental Aircraft walked away. The McCorry brothers walked away. The Army, which had thousands of now-unneeded surplus airplanes on its hands and no war to fight, and which probably wouldn’t have put any more money into the Bullet even if it had turned out to be everything that Dr. Christmas had promised, walked away without even bothering to sue Dr. Christmas for the lost engine. The world moved on; only two minor pieces of the story remained.

One of them was the grieving families of Cuthbert Mills and Allington Jolly. The other was Dr. William Wallace Whitney Christmas.

Dr. Christmas never stopped telling anyone who would listen that the Bullet was just one minor alteration away from being a historic, world-changing success. When, in 1930, Flight published an article giving a full account of the affair, Dr. Christmas had his lawyer send an angry letter denouncing them, calling their report “false and scurrilous”, stating that the Bullet had been a tremendous achievement and that it had only crashed due to careless flying on the part of Cuthbert Mills (the letter made no mention at all of Allington Jolly or the second Bullet), claiming that mountains of evidence (none of which he actually bothered to provide) attested to all of this, and vaguely but unmistakably threatening legal action if any further “injurious and libellous” articles about the Bullet appeared in their pages. In fact, to his dying day, Dr. Christmas continued to insist that he had hundreds of patents to his name (of which no record exists or ever has existed), that he had designed dozens of successful airplanes (the Bullet is the only one that there is any real evidence for), and that he was on the brink of revolutionizing aviation. A New York Times article from 1950 records the 85-year-old Dr. Christmas still darkening the doorstep of the military, this time trying to sell the newly-created U.S. Air Force on his design for a massive “flying battleship” (the Pentagon, in an unusual bout of sanity, passed on the idea).

Dr. Christmas died in the spring of 1960, at the ripe old age of 94, forty-one years after he had killed Cuthbert Mills and Allington Jolly and well into a jet age that had materialized despite him rather than because of him.

And thus ended the story of the Christmas Bullet.

*  *  *

So why am I telling you this?

Machines are made by humans, and thus the machines that we create are, whether we intend them to be or not, an extension of our own heart and soul. They come from us; they are creations of our minds, and therefore their stories are our stories. And while many of their stories have no great meaning, some of them become parables that teach us about ourselves and how our minds work. The most famous of these is, of course, the Titanic, which serves as a warning against the dangers of hubris in the face of nature. Was it really unsinkable, as all the smart men of its day – all the engineers and shipbuilders and sea-captains – said it was? No, and none of us have to be engineers or shipbuilders or sea-captains to be able to say that with authority. All we need to know is that it actually sank; the wonderfully complex and informed reasons that the wise, educated, experienced, and smart offered as to why it could not sink came to nothing as soon as it did. History is reality, and reality is final – as the saying goes, “let reason remain silent when experience gainsays its conclusions”.

The Christmas Bullet, too, serves as one of these parables, and it has its own lessons to teach us about modernity in general and Marxism in particular. Certainly, the parallels to the latter are exceptionally strong. Like Dr. Christmas, Karl Marx was a crank who had no qualifications whatsoever in the field into which he inserted his ideas. Like Dr. Christmas, Karl Marx simply sidestepped this rather obvious criticism by claiming to be self-taught, even though the discipline involved takes years of study and practical experience (none of which either men had a lick of) for men to to master (and, as the example of the Titanic proves, even then they are often wrong). Despite this, both men claimed to have hit on a scientifically incontrovertible answer to a difficult problem that the best and most qualified men of their time had all somehow overlooked. Like Dr. Christmas, Karl Marx told desperate people something they intensely wanted to believe – Marx that the terrible poverty of the early industrial age would inevitably give way to a workers’ paradise, and Dr. Christmas that the horrendous carnage of the Great War could be brought to a swift and easy end by a deus ex machina secret weapon. Like Dr. Christmas, Karl Marx’s invention crashed and burned every time it was tried in the real world, leaving an awful trail of death and destruction behind it. Like Dr. Christmas, Karl Marx’s defenders insist that if those ideas had not been interfered with by lesser men full of jealousy or malice, or if those who tried putting them into practice had not been incompetent, or if just a few more minor adjustments had been made, things would have gone exactly as they promised. But like Dr. Christmas, Karl Marx’s errors were not mere matters of detail; the whole concept behind their ideas was fundamentally flawed – their plans were ridiculous on their face, and any precocious schoolchild who wasn’t blinded by desperately wanting to believe in them could identify all of their glaring flaws.

There are two important differences, however. One is that the Christmas Bullet only killed two innocent people, while Marxism killed a hundred million of them (although there is no doubt in my mind* that Dr. Christmas would have, without a second thought, sacrificed that many, and more, to the cause of proving his ridiculous theories correct if only he had the chance to). The other is that precisely nobody in the field of aeronautical engineering still defends Dr. Christmas, whereas academia, media, and the arts are full of defenders of Marx’s ideas, and they never run out of reasons why history is not in fact reality and reality is not in fact final.

These reasons, of course, are ridiculous, as I can show by using the parable of the Christmas Bullet. Using the logic of these sophists, I can prove to you without a doubt that Dr. Christmas’s airplane never crashed. Let us start by offering a definition of an “airplane” that I believe we can all agree upon: An airplane is a device with wings that flies in the sky. Fair enough? Well then, as soon as the wings fell off of the Christmas Bullet and it ceased flying and started plummeting, it wasn’t an airplane anymore, because airplanes are things that have wings and fly in the sky. Thus, we cannot say that the crashes of the Christmas Bullet represent a failure of Dr. Christmas’s airplane, because at the moment it crashed, it wasn’t really an airplane anymore.

Ridiculous? Obviously so. But this same argument is used by the defenders of Marx. According to them, when Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot began to murder and oppress their people, then what they were doing became not-communism, because communism is defined as a thing that liberates instead of murdering and oppressing. Thus, we cannot say that what they did represents a failure of communism, because as soon as they did it, it wasn’t real communism anymore.

Dead-ender Marxists will also insist that, with just a few more adjustments, communism could be made to work. (A good example of this is the Venus Project, whose adherents serve up a warmed-over communism that they insist will work this time because computers). They will challenge you: prove that it could never work! And, to be fair, I cannot. But I also cannot prove that no way could ever have been found to make the Christmas Bullet work. I do know this much, however: There sure as hell isn’t any way that someone could ever talk me into getting into that thing and flying it. What about you?

Those who deny the validity of historical experience as a tool of epistemology and who insist that it does nothing to falsify their favorite theories ignore a truth that every adult should have a strong grasp of: Any crank, con man, or snake-oil salesman can make big promises – but it doesn’t matter what someone can promise, the only thing that matters is what they actually deliver.

(*Or perhaps I am being unfair to Dr. Christmas and he didn’t mean to kill anybody with his bizarre and unworkable theories (although I will note that unlike Howard Hughes, who flew, and sometimes crashed, his own designs, the good Doctor never did get in the Bullet and fly it himself). And perhaps neither did Marx. So what? What does it matter? Does it make any difference to Cuthbert Mills or Allington Jolly, or to the millions of victims of communism, most of whose names you will never know?)

Meet The Beadles

Looking back on my recent account of the response to poverty found in the Kingdom of Christania, it occurs to me that I may have left the impression that the Charity Centers which I described represent that land’s first line of response to certain social ills. This is, in fact, not the case, and in fairness to the people of that distant and obscure nation, I believe that it is necessary to introduce my readership to an institution in Christanian society which, while it is a part of our own distant heritage as well, has long been forgotten here by all but the most serious students of history and literature. This is the office of beadle; one which permeates Christanian civil society.

What exactly a beadle is and what role they fill is a bit difficult to explain to those not familiar with Christania, because not only have beadles played no role in western societies for at least a century, but the Christanian take on them is a unique one, a bit different from their old English counterparts. It might be best to describe them as something between a deacon, a mafia fixer, and a ward heeler in the days of Tammany Hall. Their office is sponsored, and given its authority, jointly by the church and the crown, but they are neither clergy nor police officers. The beadle may be a man or a woman, and is typically (though not always) a retired elder who, as the saying goes, has been “a pillar of their community” for many years. They will have deep roots in these communities, will understand how things work there, and will know everyone and everyone’s aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, and friends. These connections, as much as their commission from church and state, are what grant them the resources to help those who have fallen into trouble. Their role is as advocate, as problem-solver, as advisor and counselor, as negotiator, as stern lecturer, as mother or father figure, as friend to those in need, and as shoulder to cry on for their communities. They are, in everyplace they serve, whether small towns or neighborhoods in large cities, someone who people can turn to when they need help with any of the innumerable problems of life. The church and the crown see beadles as good investments because their purpose is to deal with social problems before they reach a point at which more drastic steps may be necessary and other civil or religious institutions (such as Charity Centers or even the police) have to become involved, and to handle them as locally as possible, which is in keeping with the Christanian view that most problems are best handled by local institutions rather than by large bureaucracies in a distant capital city.

Indeed, dealing with problems in their communities – of every conceivable sort – are what beadles do incessantly. They are who you go to if you’ve lost a job and are running out of money; they will know every business owner in the community, and (so long as you are not a drunk, a layabout, or an embezzler, for they have responsibilities to those businessmen as well), will make sure it isn’t long at all before you get an offer of work. They are who you go to if your teenage son or daughter did something stupid and got themselves arrested; they will know every cop, every prosecutor, and every judge, and a word from them along the lines of “He’s a good kid, he just made a mistake” can turn what would have been a year in prison into a few months of probation and some community service (though it can also do the opposite; the beadles know who the real troublemakers in their communities are, and are not hesitant to see them dealt with). They are who you go to if you’ve gotten behind on your car payments and the bank is threatening repossession. They are who you go to if you suspect, but have no proof that the police could act on, that your neighbor is beating his wife. They are who two parties, whether individuals or businesses, turn to when they have a dispute so that it can be arbitrated and a compromise reached without having to resort to lawsuits. They are who a wife turns to in desperation about her husband’s drinking problem. They are who a single father (rare, but not unknown in Christania) turns to if he doesn’t know what to say to his adolescent daughter about getting her first period. They are who a bright 18-year-old talks to if they’ve just become an adult and have no idea what to do with their lives. They are there for these and a thousand other things, large and small, that may present themselves as problems in the lives of people in every community all across Christania.

This is not to say that the beadles always tell people what they want to hear. The first responsibility of a beadle is to their community as a whole, not to any particular individual in it. This, for example, is why those individuals who the beadle knows are, due to some personal failing, not capable of being a worthwhile employee will not be found a job, but will either be placed with some relatives to deal with or simply shipped off to a Charity Center. In addition, those whose antisocial actions, or those of their children, have (and here we are not speaking of the likes of reclusiveness or eccentricity, but of people who are making public nuisances of themselves) become a blight on their community can expect a knock on the door from their local beadle, and the “friendly advice” they offer is best taken by those who would not like the next knock on their door to come from a policeman. Here, it should be emphasized that although beadles are not police officers themselves, they have wide latitude and discretion when it comes to when they believe that the police should become involved in a problem in their community. Due to the nature of their work, beadles encounter violations of the law constantly, which range from minor to extremely serious. Of course, beadles are sworn to act in accordance with Christian morals and His Majesty’s laws, and of course, any major examples of lawbreaking are reported to law enforcement immediately. However, when it comes to minor infractions, beadles are expected to make judgments about what can have a blind eye turned to it, what can be handled with an apology and some restitution, and what calls for the law to get involved. A good example is found in the default attitude of beadles (and Christanians in general) to homosexuality; it is technically illegal in the Kingdom, but that is mostly a hedge against politicized homosexuals attempting to bring down the faith of the polis and upend the laws and traditions of the nation in order to suit their own purposes. Beadles are selected for the job because they know their communities and are no fools; thus they know full well whether someone in that community is a homosexual. However, it is unspoken, yet ironclad policy among beadles that as long as homosexuals use discretion and go quietly about their business, the beadles will use their own discretion to see to it that they are left alone. Should they be discovered through misfortune, any beadle will generally ensure that the matter is swept under the carpet or settled with some nominal punishment like a small fine. It is only if they become disruptive to their communities that a beadle would ever consider invoking the law in defense of their culture.

Here too, it must be emphasized that just as beadles are not police officers, neither are they Inquisitors. While Christian morality should and must infuse everything they do, it is not their job to go on moral crusades aimed at the eradication of vice. Moreover, Christanians are people who don’t suffer gossips or busybodies easily, so a great deal of effort is put into ensuring that beadles become neither of these things. With the exception of reporting activity that is criminal, disruptive to society, or endangers public safety, beadles are expected to not ever go where they have not been invited, do what they have not been asked to do, or discuss what they have seen or heard with any outside party without the permission of those involved. This means that being a beadle requires a mix of discretion and judgment; a sense of Christian justice tempered by Christian mercy, along with a healthy dose of realism about the ways of the world and about human nature. All of this is necessary if beadles are to continue to fulfill their intended purpose in Christanian society. The Christanians are keenly aware that beadle is the sort of post that could, in the wrong hands, become a swamp of abuse and corruption, turning the beadles themselves from beloved advocates and helpers of the people into a group of informants and enforcers to be feared and avoided. This has led to a system of safeguards placed upon the position designed to uphold its reputation and keep those who practice it honest. These are designed so as to reflect the Christanian belief that essentially all problems are best handled first through the application of tradition, then by social pressure, and finally, as a last resort, via the law. Beadles work closely with both church and civil authorities, and, as with virtually every other profession in Christania, there is a Beadles’ Guild. All of these work with individual beadles to help and support them in what is a very difficult and trying job. These authorities understand that simply due to the nature of the job (it is impossible to please everybody, especially in difficult situations, and beadles are only human and do sometimes make wrong judgments) all beadles will have complaints made against them from time to time. However, real concerns about consistent bad judgment, or, worse, abuse of power are taken very seriously, and although the need to do so is rare, there is no hesitation at all to see that beadles who have overstepped their bounds and lost the trust of their communities do not stay long in their positions.

But again, the need for these measures is exceedingly rare, as the nature of the position of beadle, and the process by which they are chosen, tends to select for those who are both wise and who are in it for the right reasons. When an opening for beadle becomes available, the local civil and religious authorities will meet (typically it will be the mayor and priest of a small town, but can also be an alderman and parish priest in a city district) and, in cooperation with the Beadles’ Guild, nominate candidates from among the prominent citizenry. Wealth is not considered when making nominations; instead, good character and a long-established history of civic involvement are the most important factors in putting someone into consideration. Another safeguard against ending up with the wrong sort of person is that nobody will ever get rich by being a beadle. The job is not intended as a sinecure for careerists; a modest stipend is provided through the guild, funded by the crown and the church, but it is really meant as a supplement for a person who already draws a pension, and would not be enough by itself to support more than a life of true Christian poverty in a very small town. In addition, beadles generally leave the position after being in it somewhere between ten and twenty years (though there is no fixed term for them and they may, except in the very rare cases in which one may be removed for corruption or incompetence, stay in it as long as they like), as the stress it brings does become wearisome after a while. Because one of the most important functions of a beadle is as an intermediary between common people and the the institutions that hold authority over them, no active clergyman or government employee will be considered for the position, although those who once held such posts but have been retired a few years may be nominated. Elders are preferred, but a beadle may be any age, retired or still working, and of either gender (some localities maintain both a male and a female beadle on the belief that the problems that men and women face are so different that each needs their own dedicated beadle to help with them). With rare exceptions, male beadles must have satisfied their duty to the national militia (which is similar to the Swiss system), and with no exceptions, female beadles must have raised children of their own. It is emphasized to all, and remembered by all, that to be nominated to be a beadle is an honor, not a right. Those nominated will be asked to come for a series of interviews (many who are nominated decline because they do not want the responsibilities involved, and there is no shame in doing so), references will be gathered, backgrounds will be checked, and finally a selection made.

Once a beadle is selected, they will be made ready for the job through a few months of study with the guild (and, if possible, with the outgoing beadle whom they will be replacing). As they shoulder their new responsibilities, church authorities, civil authorities, and the guild will strive to provide them with whatever resources they may need – material, psychological, or otherwise. Of these, the guild is especially critical; just as the beadles are always there for their communities, the guild and the brotherhood and sisterhood of fellow beadles it represents will always in turn be there for them. While it will sometimes call beadles who have made mistakes in for a stern talking-to or other disciplinary measures, the guild’s primary purpose is to be there as a support system and source of advice in what is one of the most difficult, but also necessary, roles in Christanian society.

The Christanians strongly believe that the beadle system, with its close connection to the communities it serves, produces results that are far superior to those of the faceless bureaucrats found in the welfare states of the West. If nothing else, giving a formal imprimatur to these personal, local systems of support increases the affection and loyalty that the people feel toward their civil authorities by ensuring that it isn’t the case that the only official authority figures the people ever deal with are those who either want money from them or who might drag them away in handcuffs. In the West, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” is an ironic joke; due largely to the effort of the beadles, there is no such joke in Christania. Sending the beadles to help them – to be their advocates and advisors – is living proof to Christanians that their king and their bishop care about them and want to help them as they live their everyday lives. That the Christanians feel this way, despite the general lack of sociology degrees from Ivy League universities among Christanian beadles, may be seen as a sign of backwardness in many places that style themselves advanced and that take pride in their systems being run and staffed by “credentialed experts”. And yet, as with their approach to poverty, some of the less enlightened among us may find things to admire in the Christanian approach to the problems of life.

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From time to time, we may return in this space to the topic of the Kingdom of Christania, in order to explore the question of what the political and social policies of a perfectly Christian land might look like. Hopefully this will be of interest, so please keep reading!

Down And Out In Christania

Today, let us board the Ship of Imagination and take a journey to the Kingdom of Christania. A small nation in a far-off corner of the world, Christania is a perfectly Christian land: its inhabitants, including its leaders, are entirely believing, churchgoing Christians who, after an honest day’s labor (except on Sunday, of course), come home, sit by the fire, and read the Holy Bible with their families (with a little Tolkien, Chesterton, or Lewis thrown in there for fun every so often). The spirit of the Savior is strong in the hearts of the people of Christiania, and everything they do in every aspect of their lives, both public and private, from the King and Queen to the humblest plowman, flows from their faith.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any problems in Christania, however. As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 26:11, the poor will always be with us, and indeed the poor are there in Christania, as well. Being the sort of people they are, the Christanians have established in their country a response to poverty that they have striven to ensure is perfectly Christian and fulfills every obligation that their religion places upon them in dealing with the needs of the poor. Here we must be perfectly clear: the Christanians are a smart, sensible people who know the Bible better than they know their own names and who don’t suffer charlatans easily, and are quick to point out that when they say that their approach is based on their faith, they mean that it is based on Christian scripture, Christian custom, and Christian philosophy – what it is decidedly not based on is any desire to make those things conform to the postmodern theories of Marxists*, socialists, welfare-staters, liberals, social justice warriors, equality fetishists, sociology majors, utopian dreamers, or non-Christians (though they bear no hatred for people with other religious views, Christanians are notorious for their bluntness in making clear that they are not interested in the opinions of non-Christians on the subject of how Christians ought to conduct themselves in the practice of their faith).

In word and deed, the Christanian approach to poverty is 100% based in actual Christian teaching, and thus is unique in the world and worth a bit of study.

The first thing we must look at if we are to understand the Christanians’ approach to poverty is their definition of what exactly poverty is. For this, we turn to the works of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (whose works every Christanian schoolchild has read, in the original German, by the second year of middle school). On the subject of poverty, Kuehnelt-Leddihn wrote:

Whoever lives in real abundance has a Christian duty to assist those living in wretchedness. Before we proceed, however, let us affirm that the notion of misery is different from that of poverty. Péguy has already drawn the distinction between “pauvreté” and “misère”. To live in misery means to suffer genuine physical privation: to know cold and hunger, to have no proper dwelling, to be dressed in rags, to be unable to secure medical attention. The poor, by contrast, have the necessities of life, but scarcely any more. They can borrow books, no doubt, but cannot buy them; they can hear music on the radio, but cannot afford a ticket to a concert; they cannot indulge in little extras of food and drink, but should, by self-discipline, be able to save a little. The poor have, therefore, the normal material preconditions for happiness — unless plagued by acquisitiveness or even envy, which has become a political force in the same measure as people have lost their faith.

The Christanians (many of whom believe, as Chaucer did, that a state of humble pauvreté is what is most conducive to living a genuinely Christian life) take the view that they have every obligation to relieve the misère of their fellow man, but none to relieve their pauvreté. They never allow themselves to lose sight of the fact that the Corporal Acts of Mercy laid out by Christ’s teachings are: to feed the hungry, to give water to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to care for the sick, to visit the imprisoned, and to bury the dead. Nowhere in any of this is there the slightest mention of things like free cell phones or college tuition, nor of subsidies to be an artist or to live in expensive parts of big urban centers. They are an industrious people who have built a developed nation out of nothing; they understand that the Christian rules of charity were developed for – and in – a time and place that any modern person would consider dirt poor; a time when even kings sweltered when it was hot, shivered when it was cold, and agonized when they had a toothache, and when “clothe the naked” had to be included in the list because society had a nontrivial problem with people who literally walked around naked because they couldn’t afford a scrap of cloth to cover their private parts. The way the Christanians see it, while there may be pauvreté in developed nations in the present day, there is very little genuine misère, and particularly there is virtually none that is not to some degree self-inflicted.

This brings us to the other thing that must be understood, which is how seriously the Christanians take II Thessalonians 3:10. In this passage, St. Paul writes: “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him also not eat”. The Christanians draw a hard line between those who can not work – the aged widow, the young orphan, the sick and disabled, the mentally ill – and those who will not work. For the former, there is great sympathy and charity; for the latter, there is none. Those whose inability to work can be traced to their own poor decisions in life – drunkards, addicts, those who are morbidly obese or otherwise unhealthy by choice – are seen as something in between; it is understood that such people should be cared for, but that the care they are given must lead them toward repentance, reform, and renewal of their lives – physically, mentally, spiritually, and morally. Those who are not willing to take that journey will find themselves placed in the category of those who are not willing to work, and (as we shall see), their pleas for assistance will avail them little.

In short, the Christanians see themselves as having the obligation to provide basic survival necessities for those who, for some reason beyond their control, are incapable of working to earn them on their own, and no obligation to provide anything beyond that to anyone, most especially to idlers and layabouts.

That tells us all we need to know about their attitude toward poverty, but how does that manifest itself in practice? Let us turn to a detailed examination of the system that His Majesty the King of Christania and His Excellency the Bishop of Christania have put in place in order to deal with the problem of poverty in their land. While it may seem a bit spartan by the standards of a Western welfare state, it must be emphasized that great pains have been taken to ensure that it meets or exceeds every requirement and obligation placed upon it by scripture and by Christian tradition.

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The poor of Christania find their way to Charity Centers (hereafter referred to as CC’s) through a few different paths. Some seek them out themselves, which is easily enough done at any outpost of the government, from police stations to post offices, all of which can arrange a referral for the needy person. Others are sent there after defaulting on debts (which is rather rare, as Christania has strict anti-usury laws) or for non-payment of bills (they are free to refuse to go, but if they do, they remain liable for the money they owe). Many end up there after being picked up by the police for vagrancy or panhandling. No matter how they may have ended up into the system, after a day or two in a temporary shelter, they are put on a bus headed out into the countryside, where all CC’s are located.

It is worth remarking before we proceed any further that the name “Charity Center” was very carefully chosen. It is meant to emphasize to those who go there that what they are experiencing is, in fact, charity – provided to them by His Majesty and His Excellency, who jointly administer the CC system, and ultimately by the taxpayers and parishioners of the kingdom, whose taxes and contributions at the collection plate are what are paying for the CC’s to exist. It is not an entitlement which they may demand (the Christanians are notoriously impatient with those who are possessed of the delusion that the universe owes them anything at all); it is a gift which they are expected to receive with humility. The point of this is twofold: to keep those receiving this charity realistic about their situation (and therefore eager to get out of it), as well as to prevent them from coming to resent those who have come to their aid via the mistaken belief that the list of things they are entitled to can and should be expanded indefinitely and that those in positions of power who do not provide them with every last thing on that list are somehow doing them wrong. The Christanians strongly believe that to do otherwise would be to undermine social harmony and to give the poor illusions which, in their situation, they cannot really afford to indulge.

As for the CC’s themselves, they are scattered around rural areas, as far from any towns as they can be reasonably be situated. One can recognize them from a distance; the multiple clusters of whitewashed dormitories standing in the midst of farm fields are unmistakable (some of these dormitories were, in fact, once army barracks, but it hardly matters which, as even the ones that weren’t have been constructed to the same plan). Most CC’s are surrounded by fences, but these are almost invariably low post-and-wire affairs designed to keep animals on the right side of them; CC’s are neither prisons nor are they slave plantations, and it is emphasized to those entering them that nobody there is either a prisoner or slave. The dormitories (with some exceptions, such as those designed for the disabled or elderly, or those with children) are filled with basic, but perfectly comfortable double bunk beds, with a locker for each inhabitant located next to them. Toilets and showers are communal, though separated into stalls for the sake of Christian modesty, and located at the end of each dormitory building. Heat is provided by wood stoves, and cooling by ceiling fans (as Christania has a temperate climate similar to Ireland or the Pacific Northwest, these are felt to be perfectly sufficient). In addition to the dormitories, each cluster typically includes a mess hall, an administration building with staff quarters, a chapel, an infirmary, and an equipment shed. Clusters dedicated to female residents (male and female dormitories are, of course, kept strictly separate; male children under twelve may stay with their mothers, while older ones are assigned to a male dormitory) will also normally have a child care center in their midst.

On the rare occasion that a foreigner (no Christanian would ever say any such thing themselves) remarks that these arrangements suffer from a lack of amenities, they may count on being told that not only do they meet Biblical standards, but are at least as comfortable – if not more so – than those in which recruits in Christania’s army live. And if the conditions on offer are good enough for the realm’s honored defenders, then they should be good enough for anyone.

An incoming resident can, on their first day, count on a thorough medical examination provided by the medical staff at the CC. Here, multiple findings are made regarding their health. One, of course, is overall condition. If serious problems are found, they may be sent to a hospital for treatment, and if it turns out that they require medication, a prescription will be issued and an order placed for it. The signs of drug or alcohol addiction are checked for, and if found, a treatment regimen is arranged for them. Though virtually everyone who arrives at a CC does so with some share of emotional issues, the seriously mentally ill are also identified, and sent on to facilities where the staff is trained to provide them with the care they need. Finally, disability status is checked for; the doctors at CC’s keep their own counsel about who is and is not genuinely disabled (and just how disabled they actually may be), and are very, very good at telling the difference between them and work-shy bellyachers who simply don’t want to get their hands dirty. Those who are afflicted with a self-induced medical condition that makes them unable to do any useful work (i.e. the morbidly obese or the weak and underweight “basement-dweller” type) are sent to fitness training, which is a much gentler iteration of that given in basic training to army recruits who need a bit more work to come up to standards.

New residents then attend an orientation, following which they are offered a sturdy, comfortable set of work clothes to replace whatever they showed up wearing (which is, understandably, often in terrible shape and reeks horribly). Though wearing these around the CC is not technically mandatory (residents may work in other clothes so long as they are practical for the task at hand), it is highly recommended and most people do end up in them (after, perhaps, a few days’ worth of resistance). They are then assigned to a work crew, given dinner, and shown to their bunks to rest up for the next day.

The understanding at a CC is that everyone must work to the best of their ability to do so. The able-bodied mostly work in the fields surrounding the clusters, in which the food that the residents eat is grown. (After harvest season is over, they keep busy chopping wood for heating, shoveling snow, rebuilding tools for the next planting season, and performing other such tasks as are common on any farm during the wintertime). Those in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues are mostly given office work in the administration building; the elderly are usually assigned to the child care centers; the blind do tasks that do not require sight, which can include anything from answering telephones to husking corn. Only those whose disability is permanent and total – quadriplegics or those with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, for example – are exempted from work entirely.

Though some people from Western welfare states may consider the practice of requiring the able poor to work as a condition of receiving help as barbaric, Christanians (after they’ve finished quoting II Thessalonians 3:10, which they are wont to do) will respond that it was not long ago that this was the norm even in those welfare states – they will cite the examples of the WPA, CCC, TVA, and other such New Deal agencies, which not only required real manual labor of those who participated in them, but used that labor to build valuable infrastructure projects such as the Hoover Dam or the electrification of the rural south and west. Which liberal, they ask, is willing to cast Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a cruel exploiter of the impoverished? And if they are not willing to do so, then how can they criticize anyone else for doing no more than what FDR did?

It should be pointed out here that work in a CC, while moderately demanding, is hardly backbreaking drudgery. The pace of life, like that on any farm, is slow and steady. While some labor-saving devices are intentionally absent from CC’s in order to ensure that everybody there has enough to do, there are machines there (operated by trustees, about whom we will hear more later) to do all the truly heavy or dangerous tasks. The Christanians also understand that most of the poor who find their way to a CC are urbanites with no experience of farm life; it is expected that they will have to be shown the ropes over the first few weeks or months (and that this will teach them the skills they would need to perhaps settle down on a few acres of their own someday). The point is not to punish them with Gulag-style hard labor (Christanians will eagerly remind you that Gulags were a project of atheistic communism), but to give them the pride and purpose that comes of labor, to teach them skills that will help them to fend for themselves, and of course to emphasize that freeloading is good for neither the person who allows themselves to sink to it nor for the larger society around them.

If it should happen that a resident in a CC who has not been found to be unfit for labor simply refuses to work, then trustees (or, if necessary, a constable on staff) will bar them from entry into the mess hall until hunger changes their mind. “He who will not work, let them also not eat”.

It cannot be restated enough that CC’s are not prisons, and that the people in them are not being punished for anything. The Christanians are an industrious people, and any claim that the mere necessity to work in order to earn one’s bread is any kind of punishment will be met with the indignant question “Which queen gave birth to you?” – a Christanian colloquialism which amounts to an inquiry as to what basis one might have for the idea that an honest day’s labor is beneath them. Furthermore, those who find themselves in a CC are frequently reminded that they are free to leave whenever they wish; the next bus bringing people in can just as easily take them away. However, they are also reminded that in Christania, public begging on the part of anyone who has either walked away from a CC or been expelled from one for violating its rules is a criminal offense. The reasoning here is that if someone was offered help and then either explicitly refused it, or implicitly refused it by refusing to follow its rules, then begging on their part is a species of fraud, in the same vein as running a fraudulent charity. As for anyone who has left a CC and finds themselves in need again, it is assumed that one trip through the system was enough to teach them how to avail themselves of its services should they require them. The doors to a CC are always open, while the doors that lead to crime or to becoming a public nuisance are slammed tightly shut.

While almost all residents end up leaving a CC after a stay of a few months, there are a relative handful who find that the structure and stability provided there suits them, and who choose to stay indefinitely. (Typically, these are people with a history of addiction or an unstable family life on the outside.) While mildly discouraged, this is not forbidden, and those who have been there (and displayed good behavior) for a few years and who have no plans to leave typically find themselves appointed as trustees. In addition to being given more demanding tasks such as operating (and training others in the operation of) the CC’s complex tools and machinery, they take a position as a sort of community leader. They are expected to act as foremen of work squads, conduct orientations, provide counseling, help resolve disputes, handle minor rule violations by residents, and otherwise help keep life in the CC running smoothly. Small as it may be in the great scope of the world, it is still a position of esteem and responsibility, and those who were the lowest of the low on the outside often find a place and a purpose in it.

Now that we have a solid picture of overview of the structure and operation of a CC, let us examine the typical day-to-day life of those who find themselves in one.

Wakeup time for most residents comes at a half-hour before sunrise, rounded to the nearest ten-minute interval. After showering and dressing, residents go to the mess hall for breakfast (work in the mess hall itself is one of those jobs generally reserved for the able elderly or mildly disabled, but also involves an earlier wakeup). Then there is a short morning prayer (like all religious activities at a CC – of which there are many – it is strongly encouraged, but not strictly mandatory), after which the residents head out for their work assignments. For most of them, this means the farm fields. The labors of the day begin, at their typical slow-but-steady pace (only during planting and harvest season can it be said to have any real intensity to it). For safety reasons, as well as to discourage residents from retreating inside themselves instead of acting as part of a team, headphones are forbidden while working, but the foremen leading the work squads often bring a “boom box” style radio with them, and tune it to some music, a sports broadcast, or religious programming so that all can hear while they work. At midday, a truck arrives from the mess hall with lunch, which the squad eats together, picnic-style. Work then resumes, and continues until dinner or dusk (whichever comes first at that time of year). After dinner in the mess hall, residents may attend Bible study, or whatever therapy or rehabilitation sessions they may need, or avail themselves of one of the many job training courses offered at CC’s. For those who would rather relax in their off time, there are a few options available as well. While there is no television, internet service, or cellular service at a CC, residents are encouraged to read, or to play cards or other games, or may listen to their own radios using headphones while in the dormitories until lights out, which is at 9PM every night.

(As for children who end up in a CC with their parents, they are placed in child care if very young, then in a school located on the grounds of the CC until they have reached an age at which they can join the adults in their labors. This is typically much younger than one would see in a Western nation, but it reflects the Christanians’ rather skeptical attitude toward the view of formal schooling as a guarantor of prosperity and panacea for social ills that has been so common in the West for the past century or so.)

This is the pattern six days a week (excepting, of course, a few national holidays such as Christmas or His Majesty’s birthday). On Sundays, the Sabbath is observed, and there is no unnecessary work (a few, such as mess and medical staff, must of course do their jobs on Sundays, but they are compensated with other time off). In addition, married couples who find themselves in the CC (of course, each husband and wife will have been separately sent to the appropriate male or female end of the CC upon arrival), on Sundays are allowed to spend the day together (though conjugal visits are not permitted, as anyone in a CC is not in any position to bring another child into the world). After breakfast, church services are held, and are attended by virtually everyone. These tend to be very long and very traditional, as befits the temperament of the Christanians. Once that is done, a long and leisurely lunch is served. Alcohol is generally prohibited in CC’s, however after Sunday lunch, residents (except those with a history of alcoholism or other relevant health problems) may have two pints of lager (this must be consumed in the mess hall, in order to prevent hoarding or having it end up in the hands of problem drinkers). Following this, a social event is held – for example, a movie (approved by His Excellency the Bishop, of course) may be screened, or a sporting match may be held between teams of residents, or a talent show put on.

Though great care is taken to keep all of these events wholesome, there is one variety of them that is seen as unfortunate, but unavoidable. It happens more often than one might hope that two residents find themselves in an irreconcilable conflict, to the point where preventing them from violent altercations with each other proves impossible. Where this happens, every attempt is made to resolve the conflict peaceably, using methods from counseling to mediation to moving residents from one dormitory to another. Should all of this fail, however, male residents are allowed to challenge each other to a boxing match in order to settle things between them. (Once again, this is in line with Christanian culture; specifically their long history of dueling, which by tradition has thankfully been limited to nonlethal practices.) When this is the case, the utmost care is taken to ensure that it is a fair fight. First, both men must be cleared to fight by the medical staff. Second, it must be mutually consented-to; both parties are interviewed separately by staff to make sure they want to go through with it, and if either says no, then some medical excuse will be concocted in order to cancel the fight without loss of face. But if both are able and willing, then they are permitted to face each other in the ring, with a referee (another trustee duty) and a doctor present, under Christanian Boxing Association rules of conduct. This too, will be scheduled for Sunday evening, and though (of course) His Majesty and His Excellency would prefer that such confrontations never come to pass, they are frequent enough that the large audiences of residents that are attracted by them rarely go very long between opportunities to see one.

With the sole exception of this outlet for male aggression, physical violence of any kind is strictly forbidden at a CC. Furthermore, any crime of any sort committed by a resident will be referred to a constable, who will arrest them and make sure they are remanded for trial by the proper authorities. Other than that, the rules at a CC are straightforward: no illicit intoxicants or sexual activity (The Christanians are upright people, but hardly naive about what can happen when people – especially men – are brought together in close quarters without access to the opposite sex. They are also of a decidedly non-modern mindset when it comes to the subject of sodomy.), no intimidation or hazing, no general troublemaking, and no loafing. Trustees may come up with methods to deal with minor violations of these rules, but severe or repeated cases will result in expulsion, which is the only real punishment on offer at a CC.

While the residents work in the fields, the staff (including residents restricted to office duty) will be busy finding work and housing for them so that they can leave and become independent again. Every effort is made to place residents with, or close to, friends and family, and often the staff manages to connect with those on the outside who are close to a resident in order to find a placement for them. For those without addiction or mental health problems, and who found themselves destitute only through unfortunate circumstance, stays are typically short in duration. Though the recidivism rate at CC’s is higher than anyone would like to see (the ideal rate, of course, being zero), it is low enough to convince the Christanians that their system is the most effective at actually lifting people out of poverty of any nation on Earth.

Thus does the pious, prosperous, peaceful, and orderly Kingdom of Christania face the problem of need within its borders. And while the Christanians would never presume to impose their system on any other people (nor ever will they suffer a foreign system being imposed on them), they are not shy about recommending its virtues to anyone who may inquire about it. Perhaps here in the welfare states of the West, we consider our system to be such a success that no other should be considered, and yet – and here I beg the pardon of the many generations of credentialed experts with degrees from the likes of Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton who designed our own antipoverty programs from atop their ivory towers, secure in the knowledge that their understanding of economics and human nature far exceeded that of not only the benighted ancients, but of the very living God Himself – I cannot help but wonder whether those backward, old-fashioned Christanians might be on to something after all.

(*In fairness, it should be pointed out that even the smarter variety of Marxists from days past understood how disastrous it would be to design a system that permitted perfectly healthy people to become parasites, endlessly drawing on a system that they did not contribute to. Stalin was one of them. Article 12 of the Soviet Constitution of 1936 reads: “In the U.S.S.R. work is a duty and a matter of honour for every able-bodied citizen, in accordance with the principle: ‘He who does not work, neither shall he eat’. The principle applied in the U.S.S.R. is that of socialism : ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his work’.” It should go without saying that this level of realism is essentially unknown among the modern left.)