Restoration: A Modest Proposal

I’m not saying I’m doing this, but if you wanted to engineer a restoration this is what you’d do. It would only take thirty to forty years.

I.

Start by looking for families which have high average levels of the kind of traits you would want in a leader. (Or a king.) Intelligence, energy, drive, discipline, focus.  No personality disorders, no history of psychiatric illness. Healthy, tall, good facial symmetry — fine, let’s just say it, ideally they would be hot — and charismatic.

Whatever national virtues or values your nation has, these families should share. (So the Anglo-Saxon love of liberty, for example is not objectively speaking a trait these families need to have, unless you happen to be American, Canadian, or British, in which case it becomes desirable.)

If the adult members of these families were already fairly accomplished, that would be a good sign; if they already have wealth, status, or some other form of power, so much the better. But the fundamental traits matter more than the accomplishments.

Make a long (long) list of suitable families. Compare notes with collaborators. Befriend the families you’ve identified (why wouldn’t you?). Monitor them. Wait.

Oh, did I mention these families should also have sons?

II.

Some of these outlier families will have sons. Some of these sons will, themselves, be outliers. These are the ones you are looking for.

It is exceptionally unlikely that any one boy will be an outlier along all of the desirable traits. So you must emphasize some traits over others. For example: in a family of astrophysicists, a son who is slightly below the average familial intelligence but far exceeds his parents in drive and discipline would probably be preferable to someone with the reverse traits. Broadly speaking, it’s for the best if these boys are more testosterone-fueled than the rest of their families.

Some traits that are undesirable in families may be acceptable (in low levels) in a son. Families with high average levels of “dark triad” personality traits, for example, are unsuitable: but if a kind-hearted family has an otherwise-promising son who is a bit of an outlier in this area, that should be fine. Likewise, you would want to screen out families where there is a pattern of megalomania, but it’s not a huge problem if the son shows a hint of it. Likewise for risk-seeking.

These young men are the raw material for a Männerbund. Now it is just a matter of watching them as they grow, weeding out the marginal candidates and focusing on those who excel. Over time, provide philosophical guidance. Don’t bother trying to red-pill them, but prepare the way for a red-pilling that will come later.

If it’s in your power, you would like to encourage their maturation. Find ways to get them the resources they need to explore their talents and interests, and reward them for pouring effort into them. Encourage healthy routines and habits. Guide them into activities where they will learn the nature of discipline.

But you’re a reactionary, not a freakin’ Shaolin monk. The training montage is optional: broadly speaking, if they need your encouragement they’re probably not suitable. Most of what you need to do is put them in touch with one another. It would be wonderful if you had real resources at your disposal by this stage in the project and could send them off to a private island to plot world domination, in the style of James Bond villains: but that is entirely unnecessary. Most likely you will only need to befriend them individually, and then introduce them to one another over lunch, or even by e-mail.

These young men will be quite unusual along a number of dimensions. Few of their peers in their hometowns will see the world they way they do. They will find it refreshing to meet one another and challenging to have a realistic rival. They will admire the accomplishments of the boys you introduce them to, and this will inspire them to pursue their own ambitions with great passion.

Not all of the candidates will befriend each after a single superficial introduction; some actual ingenuity may be required on your part! And even once they start to form lasting acquaintances, some will dislike others for idiosyncratic personal reasons. Some will find the whole experience of encountering peers with similar unusual abilities unpleasant, and will voluntarily withdraw from the experiment. Others will be drawn towards some but strongly repelled by so many others that they are eventually, as the network of friendship-dyads congeals into a whole, pushed out of the nascent Mânnerbund entirely.

Over time these ties will act as attractors: schoolmates, roommates, colleagues, co-founders, co-authors, or simply co-located best friends who play tennis twice a week and hang out on the weekends. Ultimately their mutual admiration will draw them to one another and as they start to accustom themselves to thinking together and acting together, this mutual admiration will mature into cohesion.

They now begin to function together as a powerful group — not because of the talents or resources of any one of the young men (although they are all talented and can probably amass resources steadily if they need to), but because they are beginning to act as one.

III.

Now comes the hard part. (The next part may not be easy, but if they will accept your guidance here, their acquiescence in the follow-up is implicit.) Of all of the magical and stupendous and awe-inspiring things that this group of unusually talented young men could be doing (many of which you or I would not even understand, I imagine), you will convince them to apply their mutual power to finding each other wives.

What wives, you ask? Well, you might start by handing them over that long (long) dossier of families you collected over the previous two decades. You want the wives to come from families with similar qualities. They do not need to be exceptionally bright stars among their siblings; even if they are only “average”, they may well be too smart for their own good. Hold back your misgivings about whether such wives as these will make these young men happy: probably not, but oh well. In TCY, a woman from a talented family probably does not aspire to be the wife of a talented man and mother to five talented children. She will probably have attended (or still be enrolled in) college, for example; it simply cannot be helped. So long as the girls are not human rights lawyers or “community organizers” everything will probably turn out all right, and if you catch them young enough you (or more accurately, your budding Männerbund) may be able convince them that pretty girls don’t need to go to med school or apply for internships at Goldman.

Of course, each man should actually like the young woman his fellows have ensnared for him. So she should have some loving, wifely qualities, she should be pretty, and all those nice things. But she should be pretty mainly because she comes from a family of attractive people, not because she comes from a family of feminine women and effeminate men; that would vitiate the next stage in the process.

Oh, and don’t choose sisters of the young men. In some sense these matches would be easiest to arrange, but it would create headaches down the road. Mumble mumble human leukocyte antigens mumble mumble founder effects…

IV.

So those crazy kids all get hitched and you’re invited to all the weddings, each one more rollicking than the last. Ten months later the babies start rolling out.

Your young friends will now have their hands full, between ascending to the pinnacle of human accomplishment during the day and crying infants at night. Maybe you can recommend a reliable au pair? Or maybe it is time for you to slip into the background before they remember who recommended they propose to all these women who know more about calculus and Middlemarch than baking cakes.

Slip deep into the background. Fast-forward ten or fifteen years. Now re-emerge for the second-hardest part: remind them that the whole point of making sure they all had top-notch wives was to make sure they would all have equally excellent children. Now the children are here, and it is time to marry them off to each other.

Not all at once, of course. You can let them mingle.

Then after the mingling is done it would be wise to take the path of least resistance and marry off the pairs of boys and girls who simply adore each other first. That will make the policy of arranged marriage easier to swallow, at any rate, and then when the time comes to pair off the adolescents who don’t click (yet!) there will be less kicking and screaming.

But of course, even when the Männerbund’s genius for matchmaking leads it to match a young man and young woman who have never seen eye to eye, there will not be much kicking and screaming, because these will be unusually lovely children, and their parents are planning to send them to Oahu for a week with no chaperone; so the young couple will probably be able to swallow the indignity of having to get married first. This easy submission on the part of the children to the wisdom of their elders is your reward for having so carefully limited your search to attractive families, when you started the project three or four decades ago.

The ’bund’s main concern, other than making sure their children are at least moderately likely to like their spouses, should be to make the graph of intermarriages among the ’bund’s children as close to radially-symmetric as feasible. The purpose of this is avoid clusters of men whose children are all married to each other, but not to the children of the men in the other cluster(s).

V.

When first grandkids start to arrive, it’s time to seize power.

“Oh, uh, how will they seize power?”

How would I know?

“Okay, but didn’t you say this was a plan for how to carry out a restoration?”

No.

“I’m pretty sure you did, actually.”

No, read carefully. I said this was plan for how to engineer a restoration, which is really something completely different.

“But… what’s the difference between engineering a restoration and carrying out a restoration?”

What’s the difference between setting up one of your friends with a girl and taking her out on a date yourself? When you engineer a restoration you set up the conditions under which a restoration would be possible, or even likely. It doesn’t mean you’re going to rule yourself, or even that you would know how to.

“Okay, I guess that’s… less ridiculous than I thought. But how can you know anything about the conditions under which a restoration would be possible unless you know how a restoration would be carried out?”

I’m not sure I follow. I don’t mean for you to take the going-on-a-date analogy too literally, but surely you see how I can know that going out to dinner is a good chance for my friend to get to know the girl better even if I have no idea what he’s going to say to her?

“I see what you mean, but of course we know that people can start to fall for each other after spending an hour together eating a meal, or going for a walk — or doing nearly anything, really. It happens all the time. But restorations are rare, right?”

Rarer than dates, at least.

“So how can you know that the conditions you’re describing are conditions under which a restoration would be possible, unless you can describe how the men in question would actually carry out the restoration from that point?”

Ah, I see what you mean. Well, let me see if I can frame this a bit differently. By the way: are you a formalist?

“Of course! Would you let me appear as an interlocutor on your blog if I weren’t?”

Good, that’s what I thought. The formal power/informal power distinction is a good one for these kinds of discussions. Now, if you were trying to carry out a restoration yourself, would you try to start with some sort of demand that the future sovereign, whoever he might be, must not be cruel to his subjects?

“No, of course not.”

Or that he not pass any law which does not agree with natural law, and that any unnatural law would be null and void? Or that he must in all of his actions respect the inherent dignity of man?

“No, I already told you — I’m a formalist!”

Good, I’m glad to hear it. But why not? What’s so terrible about not being cruel, or adhering to the natural law? Are you saying you’re against the natural law? Is formalism a violation of the natural law!?!

“It’s not that it’s terrible, it’s that demands like that are either superfluous (if Don’t be cruel means nothing other than: Don’t do things your subjects will hate for no reason) or tendentious (if it means Don’t cause your subjects to suffer in ways I don’t like). And if the so-called demand is implemented so that one formally designated man or body has the authority to veto cruel policies and the power to enforce its veto, that body is actually sovereign, not the body it prevents from being cruel.”

And if the demand that cruelty be abolished is not implemented with a meta-sovereign, then what?

“Okay, so if, on the other hand, the demand is implemented so that no one in particular decides what’s cruel but everyone expects that what’s cruel will be vetoed, then some informal network of people who collectively shape what the actors at the relevant veto-points think is cruel or not cruel will have informal power that undermines the sovereignty of the state.”

And what’s wrong with that?

“Well, it creates uncertainty, which leads to violence. If cruel acts will be vetoed but no one really knows for sure which acts will be called cruel and no one knows who decides which acts are called cruel, then no one really knows what the state will do, which…”

Good, good, you can stop there. I understand what you’re saying. But what about this: what if we just detailed our demand very, very carefully? Like: Don’t force your subjects to eat brussel sprouts unless they don’t have enough veggies in their dietDon’t draw and quarter traitors unless hanging doesn’t seem to be deterring them. Don’t broadcast spoilers to new mass-market young adult paperbacks over the emergency broadcast system.

“You would just be creating an infinite regress, wouldn’t you? The sovereign would have to decide when each rule applied, in which case the only reason he would follow it is that it’s a sensible rule he would be likely to respect anyway; but making it a formal limit on his sovereign powers can do nothing but sow uncertainty.”

So in other words, you have to trust that the sovereign would use his power wisely? Or at least, not idiotically?

“Precisely.”

But government official do use their powers idiotically all the time, correct? This is why we want a restoration, after all. Too many idiots at the helm. We need to curtail their powers, don’t we?

“No, that’s not quite right. Our current officials don’t have any power. They are just part of the kabuki show. Half of what they do is stupid because the they can’t accomplish anything anyway, and the other half is evil because the anarchy they create calls for violence and deception to resolve the uncertainty of demotism.”

So let me get this straight: if the situation I have described could lead to a restoration, and those young men could one day establish a sovereign order, and have equal shares in sovereignty or appoint one of their member as king, you would say (after they are sovereign, I mean) that I should trust their authority? That I shouldn’t second-guess their decisions?

“Right, agreed.”

So, for example, I shouldn’t give them a long list of instructions that they should follow on how not to be cruel, or how to respect the inherent dignity of mankind, or how to follow the natural law?

“No, you shouldn’t. Or… if you did, it would have to be as advice, not as some kind of formal instructions with official status.”

Because I don’t need them to follow the instructions I devise, correct? I have to trust that, given that their formal power is adequate to rule the state, they have no reason to behave like idiots, certainly no need to promote violence and uncertainty; they will be perfectly able to make kind, respectful, prudent decisions without any input from me?

“Yes.”

And conversely I, with no responsibility and no power and no special talents deserving of either, am actually not especially qualified even to come up with mediocre advice about how to rule?

“Yes, I guess that follows as well.”

And the same goes for everything else they will do if they become sovereign? They do not need my instructions, either as constitutional law or as private counsel, on how to balance a budget, staff a police force, put down a rebellion, repel an invasion, or any thing else like that? They will be able to maintain order just fine without my meddling?

“Naturally, yes.”

In fact, such meddling would be meaningless, because we are entirely ill-equipped, we have said, to offer this kind of practical advice to a sovereign?

“Sure, that goes along with everything else.”

So then, look back at the moment immediately before these men become sovereign — when they have the power to rule, but have not yet demanded and defended and won public recognition of their power — should I give them instructions on how to assume power? How to announce their supremacy?

“Ah, now I see where you’re going with this. No, I don’t think there would be an substantial difference between telling them how to announce their intention to rule, or how to defend it after they’ve announced it, and telling them how to defend their sovereignty after it is already firmly established.”

Good. Because of course, it’s vitally important that a sovereign maintain order; but we don’t need to instruct him on how to do so, because he knows he needs to and is better positioned to find the ways and means than we are. And likewise it’s vitally important that an incipient sovereign assume power, isn’t it?

“Yes, but… he knows this too, he knows how to do it better than we possibly could…”

Wonderful! So are we agreed that engineering a restoration is quite a different thing than showing how to carry one out?

“Wait, wait. We’re not quite agreed yet! I think what you’ve shown is that it’s logically inconsistent for a formalist to say he knows how to carry out a restoration of political order. (Unless maybe he plans to carry it out himself? That part of it confuses me, but never mind.) But I still think my original point stands. If it’s impossible (or at least senseless) for you to predict how a restoration might be carried out, how can you say that you’ve engineered the conditions for the restoration?”

Oh, well: that’s simple enough. Let’s say instead of following my plan you approached a bunch of colonels in the country you planned to restore and tried to sell them on formalism. What would happen? Let’s say that between them, the colonels control enough tanks and helicopters to manage whatever crappy little country you’re operating in.

“Well… I’m not sure what you’re getting at. There’s no way to know what would happen! They might get bored halfway through Part I of the Gentle Introduction and never embrace formalism at all. Or some might embrace it but not others. Or even if they all embraced it, some might think they didn’t have any chance of success and refuse to go along with the restoration attempt, or others might be willing to stand behind restoration but only if some of the other colonels were purged first… really, anything could happen! Who can say?”

You have perceived exactly what I was getting at. Good job. That is precisely the point: there is no reason to think ‘the colonels’ would all be of one mind, and even if they were there is no reason to think they could all work together effectively. But it’s even worse than that. Let’s say they did manage to work together and they did try to carry out a restoration and they did  manage to start rolling back whatever monstrosity Foggy Bottom had installed in their presidential palace? What would happen next?

“Well… to the victor go the spoils, right? I imagine even if they were united before they started, they would start feuding once victory was a real possibility. Because if the endpoint of the restoration is to restore sovereignty, then each colonel is going to want to be sovereign himself, or have the largest share possible if they are handing out shares in a sovcorp.”

Bingo. And then what happens with the siege of El Presidente‘s palace, once the colonels conducting the siege start feuding?

“Oh, I mean… I guess it would fall apart. At the very least El Presidente, or his international sponsors, could find some colonel who thought he was getting a raw deal, bribe him to switch sides, and then draw out the fighting.”

Right. That is the problem… lack of cohesion at the beginning when the project seems sure to fail, and lack of loyalty at the end when success is within reach.

“And the reason it seems sure to fail at the beginning is that it seems sure to fall apart at the end.”

Precisely so. One of the reasons, at least. Hard to cohere around a project which is sure to have many losers, even on the winning side. And worse: the likeliest person to win this kind of competition is exactly the kind of person who is deceptive, underhanded, treacherous…

“The kind of person all of his previous comrades would hate for having succeeded where they failed.”

The would hate him, wouldn’t they? They’d probably hate him enough to kill him, if they could find a way.

“And if he knew how much they must hate and resent the way he clawed his way to the top during the restoration, he would surely exile them. Or murder them.”

Now, now — we’re formalists, remember? If he becomes sovereign and then kills someone he suspects of lèse-majesté, that’s not murder, it’s a well-deserved execution. But the problem is that the potential targets of this particular well-deserved execution might see the writing on the wall before the restoration, and (quite reasonably) execute him before he has a chance to execute them. Well, I don’t exactly mean reasonably; because there are lots of people who might be the treacherous, deceptive rat who might execute you later, but the deceptive rat would be quite good at deception, wouldn’t he?

“He might look like he’s just some innocent reactionary colonel who wants to preemptively execute the deceptive rat who will execute all his old comrades after the restoration succeeds…”

Exactly so.

“The whole thing sounds like a mess, to be frank.”

Wouldn’t it be convenient if the colonels — or whoever you were trying to convince to carry out the restoration — didn’t actually care at all which of them was going to rule after the restoration? If they would be perfectly willing to pick a name out of a hat, and make that colonel king and the rest of them his ministers?

“Well, it would be convenient but it doesn’t sound very likely.”

Not likely, no — but is it possible? For example: what if by some bizarre coincidence, every colonel had a child married to every other colonel, so that no matter which of them became king, every colonel would have a child married into the royal family. Would that make them feel a little bit better about a royal lottery?

“Oh… okay. This is all coming together. And if all of their children were married to each other in a radially-symmetric network, then it wouldn’t really matter too much if, in the actual restoration, each man lost a little power or gained a little power against his initial expectations, because all of their children collectively constitute the new royalty, and there is no way for one man’s children to fall to a lower status than he expected unless all of their fathers-in-law have also been shut out from the new regime.”

Yes, something like that. Not impossible, but statistically unlikely. And since none of their progeny are likely to be shut out from the new regime (even if each of the fathers individually might be), there is no life-or-death urgency behind the struggle for a share in the sovereignty in the new state, no need to risk betraying one’s peers to get a slightly bigger slice of the pie. So in fact, it is quite likely that no one will be shut out in any way.

“Or if someone is shut out, it’s because they implement something wacky and idealistic like the royal lottery you suggested — because they are so confident that any of them would be a good king, and would reward the rest of them appropriately for their efforts.”

That’s possible too. They would have options. I’m not here to tell them how to rule. I’m just trying to play matchmaker.

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7 thoughts on “Restoration: A Modest Proposal

  1. Awesome post.

    The finance nerd in me wants to find some way to design a corporate structure that would give them the same incentives, but it’s not obvious how to do it. As in, you can make the shares equal in the putative sovcorp, but enforcement after the takeover is always the question. Something something crypto weapons!

    It does seem that a hardcore formalist, a la moldbug 2007, would say that formalism in fact IS the restoration – when ownership is defined concretely, whoever is the owner has incentives to manage the state well. Hence the original proposal to just assign formal ownership to today’s informal ownership, to maximize their incentive to go along with the plan (an advantage that oddly doesn’t get discussed a whole lot). While I agree this would probably be an improvement, I suspect that it wouldn’t suffice to do the trick all on its own. Hence the need for the rest of the engineering, as you say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there’s a NRx folk-theorem to the effect that “Urbit will have an app for that” 😉

      >to maximize their incentive to go along with the plan (an advantage that oddly doesn’t get discussed a whole lot).

      I think about that often. 😀 I don’t remember how much of that went into the planning of the post, but I get the sense that “sovereign knows best!” doesn’t, in the 2017 reactosphere, extend to fighting to have Hillary Clinton, Elena Kagan, and Kanye West declared the triumvirate of the New American SovCorp. (And I’m not sure how much of this is just the inevitability of tribal attitudes, and how much due to pragmatic deviations from formalism.)

      Like

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