Weber VI: Lawyers and Journalists

Weber has an interesting reading of both. Lawyers, he says, are the only ones who can make a good argument for a good case. Anybody can make a good argument for a bad case:
The craft of the trained lawyer is to plead effectively the cause of interested clients. In this, the lawyer is superior to any 'official,' as the superiority of enemy propaganda [Allied propaganda 1914­-18] could teach us. Certainly he can advocate and win a cause supported by logically weak arguments and one which, in this sense, is a 'weak' cause.  Yet he wins it because technically he makes a 'strong case' for it. But only the lawyer successfully pleads a cause that can be supported by logically strong arguments, thus handling a 'good' cause 'well.' All too often the civil servant as a politician turns a cause that is good in every sense into a 'weak' cause, through technically 'weak' pleading. This is what we have had to experience. To an outstanding degree, politics today is in fact conducted in public by means of the spoken or written word. To weigh the effect of the word properly falls within the range of the lawyer's tasks; but not at all into that of the civil servant.
In this the criticism Socrates' contemporaries pointed at the Sophists is reversed. Sophistry was said to be able 'to make the weak argument seem the stronger,' or 'the worse argument seem the better.' The lawyer can make the best argument he (or she) can for the weak cause, and may do so reasonably well given legal training. But the politician will make sophistry his (or her) argument for any case; it is only when pled by a lawyer that we can tell that the strong argument really is stronger, because everything the politician says sounds equally like bull. (And as far as the politician bothers to understand the case, it may as well be.)

Journalists get a pretty generous treatment from Weber. He points out that only the far left treats them with much respect, enough that is to raise them out of journalism and into power. Everyone treats them with a pretense of respect that is really a sort of fear; but nobody else really respects them, though Weber thinks they often deserve it more than others. 
The journalist belongs to a sort of pariah caste, which is always estimated by 'society' in terms of its ethically lowest representative. Hence, the strangest notions about journalists and their work are abroad. Not everybody realizes that a really good journalistic accomplishment requires at least as much 'genius' as any scholarly accomplishment.... This is because, in the very nature of the case, irresponsible journalistic accomplishments and their often terrible effects are remembered.  Nobody believes that the discretion of any able journalist ranks above the average of other people... Thus far, the journalist has had favorable chances only in the Social Democratic party. Within the party, editorial positions have been predominantly in the nature of official positions, but editorial positions have not been the basis for positions of leadership.... In any case, for the time being, the journalist career is not among us, a normal avenue for the ascent of political leaders, whatever attraction journalism may otherwise have and whatever measure of influence, range of activity, and especially political responsibility it may yield.

There follows an interesting set of remarks about anonymity as a guarantor of good journalism. In the First Age of Blogs, to which this one belongs, anonymity or at least pseudonymity was normal, and the argument was that the protections it afforded would allow for people to speak more honestly about what they really believed. Later it was said to be the case that online anonymity enabled scoundrels to hide behind it, and thus to say terrible things without consequences. There was a consequent movement to make people abandon their pen names or anonymity, and instead to publish under real names to which consequences could be applied (by lawyers and cancel culture alike).

Weber thinks that the shift away from anonymity in journalism enabled the rise of known journalists who sought fortune through fame and fame through scandal, sort of Geraldos of their day.

Whether the renunciation of the principle of anonymity would mean a change in this is difficult to say. Some journalists - ­­not all­­ - believe in dropping principled anonymity. What we have experienced during the war in the German press, and in the 'management' of newspapers by especially hired personages and talented writers who always expressly figured under their names, has unfortunately shown, in some of the better known cases, that an increased awareness of responsibility is not so certain to be bred as might be believed. Some of the papers were, without regard to party, precisely the notoriously worst boulevard sheets; by dropping anonymity they strove for and attained greater sales. The publishers as well as the journalists of sensationalism have gained fortunes but certainly not honor. 

Overall, though, Weber is a friend of the free press, and views them with a sympathy that our own press -- no longer so obviously free, though bound to corporate wealth and ideology by its own preference -- has not always merited.

It is not a road for everybody, least of all for weak characters, especially for people who can maintain their inner balance only with a secure status position. If the life of a young scholar is a gamble, still he is walled in by firm status conventions, which prevent him from slipping. But the journalist's life is an absolute gamble in every respect and under conditions that test one's inner security in a way that scarcely occurs in any other situation. The often bitter experiences in occupational life are perhaps not even the worst. The inner demands that are directed precisely at the successful journalist are especially difficult. It is, indeed, no small matter to frequent the salons of the powerful on this earth on a seemingly equal footing and often to be flattered by all because one is feared, yet knowing all the time that having hardly closed the door the host has perhaps to justify before his guests his association with the 'scavengers from the press.' Moreover, it is no small matter that one must express oneself promptly and convincingly about this and that, on all conceivable problems of life­­ - whatever the 'market' happens to demand­­ - and this without becoming absolutely shallow and above all without losing one's dignity by baring oneself, a thing which has merciless results. It is not astonishing that there are many journalists who have become human failures and worth less men. Rather, it is astonishing that, despite all this, this very stratum includes such a great number of valuable and quite genuine men, a fact that outsiders would not so easily guess. 
Indeed not! 

Weber V: History and Honor

The next several pages are a worthy history of the problem, which I will neither quote nor summarize. I do recommend reading it. The one part that I'd like to put before you is the exception Weber notes to the general manner in which the prince (or the Parliament, whichever became dominant after the Middle Ages) brought the expert class to power as a means of contesting the other side of the medieval power structure. This was in Britain. 
The fourth category was a specifically English institution. A patrician stratum developed there which was comprised of the petty nobility and the urban rentiers; technically they are called the 'gentry.' The English gentry represents a  stratum that the prince originally attracted in order to counter the barons. The prince placed the stratum in possession of the offices of 'self­-government,' and later he himself became increasingly dependent upon them. The gentry maintained the possession of all offices of local administration by taking them over without compensation in the interest of their own social power. The gentry has saved England from the bureaucratization which has been the fate of all continental states. 
Alas this did not last forever, but it was a manner in which a sort-of 'middle class' could assume small and local powers to avoid having the corrupt bureaucracy come into being. The officers were able to assume these small local offices because they could afford to do them for free, on a voluntary basis (rewarded, that is, by honor alone).

This method is one we should keep in mind with an eye towards future reform: keeping powers small and local, so that the office need not be a full-time pursuit but one that a person can afford to perform voluntarily and for honor alone. It need not require a 'gentry' in the British sense, though it will require citizens who care about honor as well as the community: but our volunteer firefighters perform such tasks successfully in much of the nation already. Perhaps many other sorts of governance can be shifted into such a mode.

Politics Against Education

It's common for states to have 'required classes' of politically-mandated nonsense that end up forcing high school students to study politically-approved subjects rather than things like mathematics. Virginia is going beyond that, however, and simply banning the study of advanced mathematics before the 11th grade.

Meanwhile, the Office of Personnel Management may soon be headed by someone who supports the view that standardized tests are racist. So, notes long-time milblogger Commander Salamander, does the Naval Chief of Operations. 

Weber IV: Politics as Vocation

The problem with having a state that requires constant administration in order to maintain its position of power is that you need people who are constantly involved in administrating it. The power of physical force doesn't get you there; people don't like being pushed around, and you can't push them into pushing for you or they'll just let things slide when you're not around. 

The answer, Weber says, is to create a position that it is an honor to hold -- an honor that comes with remuneration, as well.
[Security of administration requires two means], both of which appeal to personal interests: material reward and social honor. The fiefs of vassals, the prebends of patrimonial officials, the salaries of modern civil servants, the honor of knights, the privileges of estates, and the honor of the civil servant comprise their respective wages. The fear of losing them is the final and decisive basis for solidarity between the  executive staff and the power­holder.  There is honor and booty for the followers in war; for the  demagogue's following, there are 'spoils'­ - ­that is,  exploitation of the dominated through the monopolization of office - ­­and there are politically determined profits and premiums of vanity. 

As mentioned in the previous post, while this holds true for feudalism as well as the modern state, the feudal state is different in that the vassals own their own military power. In the modern state, as in the ancient empire, the central authority consolidates all power. The people who come to work as administrators do not pay themselves, then: they are paid by the central authority.

Taxes levied upon the citizenry thus become not an exercise in providing for the common good through an agreed-upon mutual expenditure, but a means of maintaining the capacity of physical force against the very people who pay for it. It is, Weber suggests, a form of booty distributed to mercenaries by the conqueror. Complaining that 'the government works for us' 'because we pay the taxes' is never persuasive to any member of the government, and Weber shows why: the fact that you pay rather than are paid shows that you are the conquered. Vae Victis

So far Weber is talking about the bureaucrats, policemen, and soldiers. But what about the elected politicians themselves? That is where our defense is supposed to reside, in having a representative who pursues our interest as part of the government.

The problem, Weber says, is that these too must either be paid to do politics or else be rich enough to not need to be paid. Thus, the class of politicians is either corrupt -- because they have turned politics into a racket that they can live off of -- or else a member of a class that does not share the interests of the common people. 

There are two ways of making politics one's vocation: Either one lives 'for' politics or one lives 'off' politics.... He who lives 'for' politics makes politics his life, in an internal sense. Either he enjoys the naked possession of the power he exerts, or he nourishes his inner balance and self­ - feeling by the consciousness that his life has meaning in the service of a 'cause.' In this internal-sense, every sincere man who lives for a cause also lives off this cause. The distinction hence refers to a much more substantial aspect of the matter, namely, to the economic. He who strives to make politics a permanent source of income lives 'off' politics as a vocation, whereas he who does not do this lives 'for' politics. Under the dominance of the private property order, some - ­­if you wish­­ very trivial preconditions must exist in order for a person to be able to live 'for' politics in this economic sense.  Under normal conditions, the politician must be economically independent of the income politics can bring him. This means, quite simply, that the politician must be wealthy or must have a personal position in life which yields a sufficient income.... 

The professional politician must also be economically 'dispensable,' that is, his income must not depend upon the fact that he constantly and personally places his ability and thinking entirely, or at least by far predominantly, in the service of economic acquisition. In the most unconditional way, the rentier is dispensable in this sense. Hence, he is a man who receives completely unearned income. He may be the territorial lord of the past or the large landowner and aristocrat of the present who receives ground rent. In Antiquity and the Middle Ages they who received slave or serf rents or in modern times rents from shares or bonds or similar sources - ­­these are rentiers.  

This is to say that the successful politician must either be an activist who makes politics pay them, or else someone as rich as a Trump who can leave their source of income entirely in other hands. This peril is not new to Weber. Aristotle notes the dangers of having either the rich or the poor in charge of politics (as is likely in an oligarchy or a democracy, respectively). The poor will be intensely interested in making politics pay them to do it, and thus are likely to destabilize the state with their demands to extract wealth from it; the rich will pursue their narrow class interests at the expense everyone else until the populace is ready to revolt. Only the middle class, Aristotle says, is reliably moderate enough to govern rationally: and they will only govern as much as they have to do, because unlike the rentier, they have to get back to managing their farm or their shop. 

Aristotle's solution won't work, Weber says, precisely because the middle class can't afford to go after politics full time. What Aristotle saw as a moderating factor turns out to be a limit that will prevent ordinary working class guys, or small business owners, or even large business owners, from succeeding in politics. 

Neither the worker nor­­ - and this has to be noted well­­ - the entrepreneur, especially the modern, large­-scale entrepreneur, is economically dispensable in this sense. For it is precisely the entrepreneur who is tied to his enterprise and is therefore not dispensable. This holds for the entrepreneur in industry far more than for the entrepreneur in agriculture, considering the seasonal character of agriculture. In the main, it is very difficult for the entrepreneur to be represented in his enterprise by someone else, even temporarily. He is as little dispensable as is the medical doctor, and the more eminent and busy he is the less dispensable he is. For purely organizational reasons, it is easier for the lawyer to be dispensable; and therefore the lawyer has played an incomparably greater,  and often even a dominant, role as a professional politician.

Trump could walk away from his business because he was always delegating the work of running it to an endless series of hotel managers, accountants, lawyers, and the like. Someone who really is the genius behind their successful business can't walk away from it: they are indispensable. 

Nor does turning to the super-rich solve the corruption problem. The rich also like to use government to make themselves even richer.

The leadership of a state or of a party by men who (in the economic sense of the word) live exclusively for politics and not off politics means necessarily a 'plutocratic' recruitment of the leading political strata. To be sure, this does not mean that such plutocratic leadership signifies at the same time that the politically dominant strata will not also seek to live 'off' politics, and hence that the dominant stratum will not usually exploit their political domination in their own economic interest. All that is unquestionable, of course. There has never been such a stratum that has not somehow lived 'off' politics.

Weber was himself a member of the class of citizens that tends to produce small businesses and middle-class lives. What he is lamenting here, in his way, is that his class is not able to effectively wield political power. 

Yet this may be an understandable complaint to many of you, too. You would like to enjoy your lives, and politics is maddening. (Perhaps literally so.) The good life of family, productive work, membership in a religious community, pleasant hobbies, arts and crafts, none of these things are very compatible with a life lived in the political sphere. If you are like me, the last thing you want is political power over other people; you just want those other people to please go away and leave you be to live according to your own lights. 

Because you don't care to make politics into your vocation, however, if Weber is right you will be dominated and forced by those who do. These are none other than corrupt professional activists, and corrupt rentiers. They're all getting rich, and they're getting rich by stealing from you.

Either politics can be conducted 'honorifically' and then, as one usually says, by 'independent,' that is, by wealthy,  men, and especially by rentiers. Or, political leadership is made accessible to propertyless men who must then be rewarded.... For loyal services today, party leaders give offices of all sorts - ­­in parties, newspapers, co­operative societies, health insurance, municipalities, as well as in the state. All party struggles are struggles for the patronage of office, as well as struggles for objective goal.

The next parts are a rehearsal of how this corruption was playing out in Weber's own time. This speech was published in 1919, and a better example can be found from our position of perspective in how it played out in the years after Weber spoke. 

Arizona Audit

A full audit of the votes in Maricopa County, the most populous county in Arizona, has been ordered by the state senate. The Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit to try to get a court to forbid the audit.

UPDATE: Judge orders a halt to the audit until Monday. 

UPDATE: AZ Democratic Party fails to post required million dollar bond. Audit back on. 

Weber III: The Real Locus of Power

Legitimacy may be grounded in several ways, but power is grounded only in one.
How do the politically dominant powers manage to maintain their domination? The question pertains to any kind of domination, hence also to political domination in all its forms, traditional as well as legal and charismatic.  

Organized domination, which calls for continuous administration, requires that human conduct be conditioned to obedience towards those masters who claim to be the bearers of legitimate power. On the other hand, by virtue of this obedience, organized domination requires the control of those material goods which in a given case are necessary for the use of physical violence. 
Weber goes on to note that there are two basic forms of this, one of which is better than the other from the perspective of limiting domination -- and, thus, never practiced by the modern state. 
To maintain a dominion by force, certain material goods are required, just as with an economic organization. All states may be classified according to whether they rest on the principle that the staff of men themselves own the administrative means, or whether the staff is 'separated' from these means of administration. This distinction holds in the same sense in which today we say that the salaried employee and the proletarian in the capitalistic enterprise are 'separated' from the material means of production.... 

These political associations in which the material means of administration are autonomously controlled, wholly or partly, by the dependent administrative staff may be called associations organized in 'estates.' The vassal in the feudal association, for instance, paid out of his own pocket for the administration and judicature of the district  enfeoffed to him. He supplied his own equipment and provisions for war, and his sub­-vassals did likewise. Of course, this had consequences for the lord's position of power, which only rested upon a relation of personal faith and upon the fact that the legitimacy of his possession of the fief and the social honor of the vassal were derived from the overlord.  

However, everywhere, reaching back to the earliest political formations, we also find the lord himself directing the administration. He seeks to take the administration into his own hands by having men personally dependent upon him: slaves, household officials, attendants, personal 'favorites,'... [H]e seeks to create an army which is dependent upon him personally because it is equipped and provisioned out of his granaries, magazines, and armories. In the association of 'estates,' the lord rules with the aid of an autonomous 'aristocracy' and hence shares his domination with it; the lord who personally administers is supported either by members of his household or by plebeians. These are property-less strata having no social honor of their own; materially, they are completely chained to him and are not backed up by any competing power of their own. All forms of patriarchal and patrimonial domination, Sultanist despotism, and bureaucratic states belong to this latter type. The bureaucratic state order is  especially important; in its most rational development, it is precisely characteristic of the modern state. 
The professional army that we employ today dates in an important sense to the Napoleonic wars, in which it proved to be the case that organized national armies with combined-arms capabilities were impossible to resist except through a similar means. For two hundred years we have lived in that world, with the consequence that it enables a modern state that exercises this more direct and aggressive mode of control over the means of physical force.

Yet the failure of this mode has been brewing for a while. The Vietnam War was a prototype, although it was not won (as in the popular imagination) by the Viet Cong's 'man in the black pajamas.' It was won by the professional armies of the People's Army of Vietnam (usually given in the US as the 'NVA'), backed by the arms factories of the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union. Guerrillas allowed a non-state actor to fight an asymmetric war that was generally lost, but expensively so by the winning great power; and thus, competing great powers tended to fund and support such efforts. Terrorism provided an even more extreme version of the same practice of perfidy, in which the guerrilla now took on the guise of an ordinary person in a peacetime environment and used it to wage war not on the state armies but on the citizenry. 

The prototype has given way to the proper type, however, in the conflict in Afghanistan. Both the USSR and now we have lost long-fought wars in Afghanistan that were conducted without major support from an opposing great power. Charlie Wilson's War wasn't why the Mujahedeen won against the Soviets, and no great power has been supplying the Taliban against the United States. Their arms are leftovers from the Soviet arsenal they won the hard way, or they are home-made in Darra Adam Khel and similar villages. Firearms are a mature technology; the knowledge of how to make a rifle or a pistol is widespread and the tools easily available.  

The regular army that Napoleon's era spawned still wins every conflict at the squad level or higher; somehow it cannot win its wars. In Iraq, we won not by winning the gunfights so much as by persuading the enemy; and not persuading him to turn in his guns, but to use them on our side against an enemy had reason to hate even more. 

If the winning mode is shifting from Weber's more concentrated mode to a less-concentrated mode, then nature of the state is primed to shift as well. A new kind of state becomes possible, one in which voluntary associations of ordinary people can hold the land in defiance of concentrated powers and regular armies; and, having exhausted them at last, live as they please. 

Another Sidebar Update

I added James' blog, which I don't think I realized existed until this week. If any other regulars have blogs that aren't listed and you would like them to be, let me know.

Weber II: Justifications of Legitimacy

Weber states that there are three justifications that states use to show that they are the legitimate locus of the sole right to use violence to dominate others.

Like the political institutions historically preceding it, the state is a relation of men dominating men, a relation supported by means of legitimate (i.e. considered to be legitimate) violence. If the state is to exist, the dominated must obey the authority claimed by the powers that be. When and why do men obey? Upon what inner justifications and upon what external means does this domination rest?

To begin with, in principle, there are three inner justifications, hence basic legitimations of domination. 

First, the authority of the 'eternal yesterday,' i.e. of the mores sanctified through the unimaginably ancient recognition and habitual orientation to conform. This is 'traditional' domination exercised by the patriarch and the patrimonial prince of yore. 

There is the authority of the extraordinary and personal gift of grace (charisma), the absolutely personal devotion and personal confidence in revelation, heroism, or other qualities of individual leadership. This is 'charismatic' domination, as exercised by the prophet or­­in the field of politics­­by the elected war lord, the plebiscitarian ruler, the great demagogue, or the political party leader. 

Finally, there is domination by virtue of 'legality,' by virtue of the belief in the validity of legal statute and functional 'competence' based on rationally created rules. In this case, obedience is expected in discharging statutory obligations. This is domination as exercised by the modern 'servant of the state' and by all those bearers of power who in this respect resemble him.

The United States of America rejects the first mode entirely. Itself a state borne of revolution, the 'eternal yesterday' is unavailable to it as a form of legitimation. Article I, Section IX, Clause 8 of its constitution forbids titles of nobility. The First Amendment forbids a state religion, which in other states serves the function of tying the temporal leadership to the eternal. At this point the Constitution itself is old enough to almost serve as a kind of 'eternal yesterday' legitimation, but only in an illusory way: all politicians refer to it, profess loyalty to it, but none obey it. 

There are no charismatic individuals in American leadership. Some argue that Donald Trump was one during his tenure, but that is over. No one currently in any position of leadership in the United States government has any sort of charisma or charm. Perhaps this is just as well; in fact, the Founders were quite worried about demagogues of the sort mentioned.

That leaves only the third justification, and it is the one that the United States has traditionally relied upon. The rule of law! Laws and, since FDR, rules created by executive 'experts' are supposed to be obeyed because they were crafted in a process itself supposedly legitimate and enforced evenhandedly upon all. 

Crises of legitimacy have occurred before now. FDR himself experienced one because his rules and rule-making bodies kept being rejected by the Supreme Court. This continued until his court-packing scheme, which although it failed had the practical effect of convincing the court to stop bucking his actions. The current Supreme Court, facing a similar court-packing scheme, seems to be avoiding conflict with the President and Congress pre-emptively. However, FDR paid a big price in terms of legitimacy in the eyes of the American people for this and other acts; had it not been for the Second World War uniting Americans behind his administration, that history might read differently. 

In the previous post I mentioned that we have entered a revolutionary moment on two fronts: 

Nevertheless it should be clear just from what has been said that we are in a revolutionary moment. The government is trapped between a segment that is openly contesting its claim to a monopoly on legitimate force -- or to having the legitimacy to police at all -- and a segment that questions whether the government continues to enjoy a more basic and fundamental legitimacy. The government's response to one side is cowering submission; to the other, an attempt to suppress their concerns rather than to address them. 

The BLM/Antifa faction, allied with the left broadly, has won some early rounds. Policing has become much more limited over the last year as the police withdraw into themselves and their precincts. The consequence is a murder rate that has risen to a degree with no modern precedent, in some cities up half again what it was only a year prior. Revolutions have their cost, though, and this one is not borne by the revolutionaries but by ordinary poor people in bad neighborhoods. As such, the revolutionaries can afford to pay such a cost forever; it does not even come onto their books.

On the right, the movement is outraged precisely by the failure of the law. The IRS in the Obama administration targeted right-wing TEA Party groups to prevent them from being effective politically. (If you Google this, you will learn that the media is telling you now that this was all 'fake news,' except that the government had to pay settlements for their wrongdoing.) The IRS coverup of this, which involved the 'accidental' destruction of many hard drives containing copies of emails, was never punished. The FBI built its whole investigation around the Clintons around clearing Hillary in time for her to become the Democratic Candidate for President; it then turned on the Republican candidate in a stunning fashion, creating an appearance of hostile foreign intelligence activity that enabled them to spy on his campaign, destroy his first National Security Advisor even though the FBI had cleared him during its investigation, and mire his administration in an illusion of scandal for the first two years. The 'interagency' community then arranged for his impeachment, precisely on the grounds of defying the unelected bureaucracy he had been elected to command. 

In the next election, the FBI bent over backwards to hide Hunter Biden's laptop (hey, another 'accidental' destruction!); the Secret Service seems to have worked to cover up his gun crimes. The powers that be turned a blind eye as a self-confessed conspiracy funded by major corporations in alignment with the Democratic party -- the conspiracy that gave an interview to Time magazine after the fact -- unconstitutionally and illegally changed election laws with an eye towards determining the outcome of the election. State and Federal police agencies refused to treat this as the serious crime of election fraud, and our court system refused to hear these cases: Dr. David Clements, a former District Attorney and a law professor in New Mexico, shows that not one single court had an evidentiary hearing at which evidence could be presented. In the news media, composed of more corporate participants, the 'rejection' by the courts was said to have shown that there was no evidence of fraud; in fact, none was allowed to be offered in any court venue.

At this point the United States' "rule of law" is so corrupted by the attempt to consolidate power that even the United States Postal Service is running a clandestine program to spy on Americans' social media activity. If the reports are accurate, they are engaged in domestic spying precisely targeting constitutionally-protected protest activity. This is the sort of thing that would have been rightly mocked as the fever-dreams of the paranoid drug-addled a few years ago.

Meanwhile the National Guard has been tasked to protect the politicians from the ordinary people (yes, the poor Joes are still there), though the violence targeting the Guard seems to be coming from people on the left affiliated with the anti-police movement.

So there is a general collapse of the rule of law associated with the success of the anti-policing movement; and an abandonment of the principle that the law should rule evenhandedly by those seeking to consolidate power. For these twin reasons, the United States government is on very thin ice on Weber's terms.

There remains a secondary source of submission to authority, however, even where legitimacy fails. That will be the subject of the next entry in this series. 

Weber I: Monopoly on Violence

I think this time I'll break it out by topic, starting with the one I mentioned in the introduction below. 

Weber begins by asking what "politics" is, and -- therefore -- what a "state" is, the state being the field of political activity.

But what is a 'political' association from the sociological point of view? What is a 'state'? Sociologically, the state cannot be defined in terms of its ends. There is scarcely any task that some political association has not taken in hand, and there is no task that one could say has always been exclusive and peculiar to those associations which are designated as political ones: today the state, or historically, those associations which have been the predecessors of the modern state.

Aristotle would object to this philosophical claim. For Aristotle, politics is the science of the highest human good: how we should order ourselves and our activities in order to maximize human flourishing. He says this right at the beginning of the Politics:

Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good.

Note that this embraces Weber's claim that lots of different "tasks" have been undertaken by various states; it disputes Weber's claim that these represent different "ends." Even the Communists, who brought about more human misery than all the others, claimed that they were acting for the good of humanity and indeed for its highest good as they understood it. 

One could also dispute Weber on a point where Aristotle agrees with him, to whit, that the state is the 'highest' level of such organizing activity. The European Union and the United Nations both imagine a supra-national level of organization. It may or may not be attainable or sustainable, given human nature; or it may not be capable of attaining the 'highest' human flourishing, if such things can only come in more intimate relationships. Nevertheless it is conceivable, at least.

In any event, Weber does not think we should define the state in terms of its end, but rather by its choice of means:  "[O]ne can define the modern state sociologically only in terms of the specific means peculiar to it, as to every political association, namely, the use of physical force." [Emphasis added.]

Now again, this would not be obvious to the ancients nor to the medievals. Aristotle and Plato worry continuously about the problem of family and clan producing factions within the political sphere that will turn to violence. The medievals tried to use political friendship between families as a way of organizing states, but it was in fact the families that often proved the most powerful -- as reflected in their literature, for example when the blood feud between Gawain's family and Lancelot's lays the groundwork for the destruction of Arthur's kingdom. If you read through the full version of Le Morte Darthur, or the long French cycles like the Prose Lancelot, these blood feuds are constantly pulling apart the feudal relationships on which the state of the day is based. 

Weber will talk at some length about the medievals and feudalism, but he is especially interested in "the modern state." Now by "modern" philosophers generally mean "the 18th Century," and to some degree the things that followed from that: thus, the American and French Revolutions, Kant and Hegel, and the consequences of Marx and Marxism, Nietzsche and Romanticism, and the fascists and Nazis as well. We are living at or just past the end of the modern period, and most of the states extant today remain modern states -- perhaps, it must be said, states that are also at or just past the end of their time. 

So, speaking of the claim that the modern state makes, Weber gives it thus:

'Every state is founded on force,' said Trotsky at Brest­-Litovsk. That is indeed right. If no social institutions existed which knew the use of violence, then the concept of 'state' would be eliminated, and a condition would emerge that could be designated as 'anarchy,' in the specific sense of this word. Of course, force is certainly not the normal or the only means of the state­­ - nobody says that - ­­but force is a means specific to the state. Today the relation between the state and violence is an especially intimate one. In the past, the most varied institutions­­ - beginning with the sib­ - ­have known the use of physical force as quite normal. Today, however, we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. Note that 'territory' is one of the characteristics of the state. Specifically, at the present time, the right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it. 

The state is considered the sole source of the 'right' to use violence. Hence, 'politics' for us means striving to share power or striving to influence the distribution of power, either among states or among groups within a state.

Notice that the current protests against police are a kind of double attack on the state on these terms. Groups like Antifa and BLM violate the laws, storming businesses or public transit (just last week, the Metro in DC was invaded by hundreds of BLM-aligned protesters who jumped the turnstiles and took over a train), invading people's space, clash with the police, use physical force. They claim they are doing so legitimately, and the state because of its injustice is illegitimate in resisting them. Likewise, in claiming that the police must be defunded and abolished, they claim that the state has no right to use physical violence at all -- not only no legitimate monopoly, but no legitimacy to use force to police its laws whatsoever. 

As I said in the introduction, the claim the state (n.b., not Weber, but the modern state) is making is fundamentally incompatible with the principle of the Declaration of Independence that the people may abolish the state if it becomes destructive to the end of protecting their rights. Actually, the Declaration is also against Weber's own claim that the state has no proper end: it holds that all states do have a proper end, specifically, the protection of the natural rights that human beings are endowed with by their Creator. If any state becomes destructive of that end, then the people have the right (and eventually the duty, the Declaration goes on to say) to alter or abolish the state. 

Therefore, if that principle is true, the state cannot ever have a legitimate monopoly on the use of force. 

Well, unless...

I propose that the citizen is an officer of the state.  More, if the American Declaration of Independence is morally correct, citizenship is the office in which the sovereign power resides. The sovereign power is originally all the power, some of which is delegated to the formal government. Even after delegation, however, the sovereign retains the power to determine when the rest of the government may exercise the powers delegated to it by the sovereign....

The citizen is the officer the Declaration of Independence is thinking of when they speak of the “Right of the People to alter or to abolish” any government that becomes destructive to the defense of their rights. The citizens, and only the citizens, have the right to make that awesome decision. No foreign power may dissolve the United States Constitution, and no elected nor appointed executive officer, nor a Congressperson, nor a judge nor Justice of any kind. The citizens alone have that sovereign right. They may delegate it to a constitutional convention, called by their other delegates in the legislatures. They may instead take up arms and do it themselves, as Washington and his generation abolished British rule. But whether they do it the one way or the other, no one may do it against their will nor without their consent.

That mechanism of treating citizens as a part of -- as the sovereign officers of -- the state ends up harmonizing Weber's description of the modern state with Hobbes' prescriptive idea that human beings desperately need a state to hold back the dangers of the world. If that is right, the 2nd Amendment's reliance on the militia of citizens as the last and best defense of 'a free state' makes a lot of sense.

Nevertheless it should be clear just from what has been said that we are in a revolutionary moment. The government is trapped between a segment that is openly contesting its claim to a monopoly on legitimate force -- or to having the legitimacy to police at all -- and a segment that questions whether the government continues to enjoy a more basic and fundamental legitimacy. The government's response to one side is cowering submission; to the other, an attempt to suppress their concerns rather than to address them. 

In the next segment, we will look at Weber's ideas about how state legitimacy is grounded, and why the United States' legitimacy is therefore in grave peril. 

You'll Get Further with a Kind Word and a 2x4....

...than with a kind word alone.

Max Weber: "Politics as Vocation"

For our next philosophical piece, you will be happy to know that I have selected a much shorter work that is almost contemporary. Max Weber's "Politics as Vocation" won't take very long to get through, but it will underline some real problems in our current politics. 

Now, Weber wasn't a bad guy. Per the first link to the SEP:
Weber’s political project also discloses his entrenched preoccupation with the willful resuscitation of certain character traits in modern society. [He was concerned about] great transformations that were undermining the social conditions necessary to support classical liberal values and bourgeois institutions, thereby compelling liberalism to search for a fundamental reorientation.... Weber’s own way was to address the problem of classical liberal characterology that was, in his view, being progressively undermined by the indiscriminate bureaucratization of modern society.
Weber's opening in this work is to define politics in terms of the state, which he describes as a territory-linked institution that has successfully claimed a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. I emphasize describes because I almost always encounter this in contemporary philosophers as if it were a prescription. Weber was not arguing that a good state ought to claim such a monopoly, nor (like Hobbes) that it would be to the common good to have a state that did; he was merely discussing what the modern state does, states that included Soviet Russia, Communist China, and Nazi Germany. 

As we will see, Weber is actually quite concerned about the necessary relationships of domination that occur when the modern state succeeds at claiming to be the only legitimate user of force. Note that the whole idea is in direct contradiction to the principle of the Declaration of Independence that the People should be free to 'alter or abolish' a state that ceases to defend their core liberties: if the state is solely capable of using force legitimacy, no revolutionary politics can be legitimate. 

Weber is clear from the beginning that he's talking about 'successful claims,' rather than actual legitimacy; and also he is clear about how dubious these claims actually are. You'll find it worth your time, I think. The whole thing is only 30 pages, and though it was originally in German, the translation provided is smooth. 

UN: Lockdowns Killed 228,000 Children in S Asia

This is just in six nations: Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. 

BREXIT Recovery

Trade relations between the EU and UK did not suffer long. This is promising for any future decisions to depart from the EU, or similar super-national entity. 

A Free Life

Apparently a verdict has been reached in the trial of current moment, and will be announced shortly. I just want to take this quiet moment to reflect on how pleasant it is to live in a place where no mobs will riot regardless of the verdict, and any police strikes will go unnoticed because there are no police up here anyway. 

Conan was right about civilization. 

Corruption and Cars

A very slickly produced video, edited in a style to appeal to Millennial and younger viewers, nevertheless makes a fairly plausible case that a lot of corruption was involved in turning American cities into car-centric areas.

It may surprise you to learn that cars, in the four years immediately after World War I, killed more Americans than World War I. It's not going to surprise you at all to learn that the Feds stepped in to stop local governments from banning cars from cities, and instead imposed a new model Federal law designed by a 'safety commission' whose membership was almost entirely car manufacturing corporations. Nor will it surprise you that GM and others bought up all the streetcar firms serving American cities, so they could destroy them. You'll probably be surprised they were convicted for doing it, but not by the consequences they faced.

So give the kids your ear for a few minutes, 'cause they've got a point or two this time. 

Voter Integrity Project: Georgia Report

The public report redacts a lot of the actual data, because it contains specific details about voter registrations that could be used to harass people. They identified six illegal tranches of votes, of which their resources only permitted them to examine three. Even with those limitations, they identified more than enough illegal votes in just the three tranches in Georgia to overcome the margin of victory.

Note that this is different from the 'chain of custody' issue in Georgia, which 355,000 ballots appear to be lacking. These are specific ballots identified as illegal. 



It’s getting pretty and warm. 

Paul Revere's Ride

Last night was the anniversary of Paul Revere's famous ride, which called the Minutemen to order to resist gun seizures by the British government. The above link provides both the famous poem, and some historical corrections to it. 

60 Minutes vs. the Oath Keepers

Last night, 60 Minutes ran an investigative piece into the Oath Keepers, the right-wing militia that is currently burning American cities and who opened fire on the Minnesota National Guard this weekend... er, wait, no, that was someone else. Oddly there seem to be no investigative reports into that group, whomever it may be. The Oath Keepers did, however, attend the 6 January protest in an unarmed fashion; and some of them did trespass in the Capitol, which they ought not to have done. 

Heads Up, Collaborators

Apparently mathematicians are police running dogs.

Now, it's my understanding that the argument against the police includes an argument that they are disproportionately targeting black Americans and other communities. If you want them to fix that, don't they need some mathematical input? 

If it's not true, wouldn't it be helpful to have the myth dispelled by trained mathematicians? It's a narrative that is doing a lot of damage to our country right now. We should surely either fix it if it's true, or dispel it if it's not. 

Sidebar Update

It's been a long time since I changed anything there, but I did add sections to the recent commentaries on Parmenides and the Laws. Hopefully I didn't screw any of the links up, but if I did please let me know. 

I don't know if I will take up reading through another work soon or not. I hadn't intended to do Parmenides, but it came up in discussion.