A New View of Society
This essay has been developing for many years, and has been through a number of forms. It has never been published to any great number of people, and it has so far attracted some amused interest but very little in the way of serious critical response. I publish it in this medium now in the hope of improving it and bringing it to the attention of a greater number of people. At this stage it is a bare outline, and I have not included any adequate list of my intellectual debts.
I see society as composed of a number of types of actors. I have begun earlier versions of this essay by naming and describing each of these types of actors in turn. As the number has now grown beyond what I would have expected, and some of the types I enumerate are not obvious at first sight, I propose in this version to adopt a more narrative style and, as I introduce each of my types, to explain how it fits in with previous types.
HONEST MEN. The first type of human actor I see is the Honest Man. I include women in this description. Honest Men live by agreement and exchange, according to the rules of division of labour as set out by the great British economist, Adam Smith. The science of economics focusses largely on the activities of Honest Men and tends to include the activities of other types of human actor somewhat awkwardly, as they do not fit well into the framework of economics.
SOLDIERS. The second type of human actor I see is the Soldier. The Soldier lives by creating fear, by the use and the threat of force. He may do this as a free-lance, independent agent, as an armed robber, but usually he teams up with other Soldiers to form a group, often a very large group. Soldiers love to arrange themselves in ranks and dress in uniforms which distinguish them from their victims. The Soldiers who belong to what we call armed forces are usually intended to fight other Soldiers, but another category of Soldier is that we call police, who are intended to fight helpless victims and are indignant if they have to fight on equal terms. Soldiers are often paid a salary, but they may supplement this by direct extortion. In modern times, Soldiers may add to their ranks by the device of conscription, in which unwilling members of the subject population are forced into the more dangerous and unpleasant roles in modern armies.
PRIESTS. The third type of actor is the Priest. The Priest’s technique for dealing with his fellow men is to deceive them. He like the Soldier may do this as a free-lance, as a fraudulent businessman or a guru, but Priests, like Soldiers, like to arrange themselves into hierarchies. Priests need to have a story which people really believe or can be persuaded that they should believe or should pretend to believe: this is what we may call a religion. Priests do have a tendency, like Soldiers, to dress up to distinguish themselves from their victim populations, but they don’t do this as much as Soldiers do.
At this point I must take a break from enumerating new types to go into more detail about religion, and about how Soldiers and Priests interact to mistreat and subjugate Honest Men.
A religion must really be believed to a large extent by the subject population if it is to be of any use to the Priests. This means, strange as this may appear at first sight, that it must not be recognised as a religion. Once we recognise some set of ideas as a religion, we no longer really believe in it: falsehood is inherent in the meaning of the word “religion,” at least as we use it in English. A set of ideas that could reasonably be taken seriously by a sensible man in a sober frame of mind is not a religion: it might be a philosophy or a theory. A religion may be incoherent; it may be very elaborate; but it must be false, and if it is a living religion we do not realise that it is false.
It should be pointed out here that the phenomenon of the Priest who really believes in the religion is genuine. There are large numbers in any Priestly hierarchy who really believe. Usually these will be lower-ranking and less intelligent members of the organisation. They are very useful in providing camouflage for the Priests who know what they are about.
What we think of as traditional religions do not really fill this role in modern society: very few people in what may be called the civilised world really believe in Christianity or Islam, even if they say they do. Traditional religions that are no longer believed tend to become forms of entertainment.
It is my contention that the living religion of the modern world is one that I call Education. Its most numerous Priests are those people we call educators and journalists. We believe today that we must have information and training to live, and many of us believe that education will give our children a better life than we have had ourselves. To this extent we really believe that Education can save us. We do not think about this: it is an assumption most of us have grown up with.
I include as Priests also the members of the judiciary, who maintain the deceit that our corrupt system of law is justice, and earn their living by that deceit; and members of the boards of central banks, who are responsible for the corrupt system of fiat money which dominates our economic lives. These are vast subjects which I can deal with only fleetingly at present.
It is my contention that all governments are formed by an alliance of Soldiers and Priests. The use of force and the use of deceit are claimed as monopolies by all governments. The Priestly hierarchy may not be wholly within the confines of the formal government, but it operates in close co-operation with it and often dominates it. Journalists do their best to claim immunity from the law in collecting information for the public benefit, and universities claim a degree of independence from government decree under the formula of “intellectual freedom.”
At this point, it might be appropriate for me to acknowledge some relevant intellectual debts. The germ of this whole system of ideas I found in an essay by Ayn Rand, in which she described a government of which she did not approve as an alliance between “Attila (the Hun) and the witch-doctor.” It occurred to me that all governments could be described in this way. Subsequent elaborations of this story have taken place in my mind over a period of something like forty years to date.
The second debt I would like to acknowledge here is to Dr. Hjalmar Schacht. I had grown up with the idea that religion was separate from politics: I did not think this was unreasonable because religion was obviously a silly form of behaviour that people indulged in on Sundays, while ignoring it the rest of the week. I accepted that this sort of silliness should not have anything to do with serious business, which is what I thought politics was. Dr. Schacht, in one of his autobiographical works, made a passing comment that completely contradicted this: Christianity, he said, was the religion of the Germans, and he seemed to think that this was a significant political fact. Later, I found myself inside a Catholic anti-Communist organisation at an Australian university, and this experience made me aware that religion is in fact relevant to politics. The pretence that it is not has only been possible because the belief of English-speaking people in the various denominations of Christianity is not genuine.
It might be worth adding here that Communism, which at first glance looks like the deification of the State, is really a latter-day version of Christianity. It is in fact the Christian moral code (good is bad and bad is good) stripped of its association with the magic stories and myths of Christianity, and taken seriously. I owe this insight to a Lutheran minister. The rise and fall of Communism in the twentieth century will probably be seen, in the eyes of history, as the last gasp of a cult that has ruled the civilised world since the time of Constantine.
CHILDREN. My fourth category of human actor is the Child. I define a Child as any human who has no means of bringing his will to bear, and who lives by the goodwill of others. This includes old people, cripples and street beggars as well as actual children.
THIEVES. My fifth category of human actor is the Thief. This is a more restricted category than may appear at first sight: it does not include armed robbers, who are free-lance Soldiers; or people who run fraudulent scams and swindles, who are free-lance Priests. It is a residual category which includes only those like shop-lifters and pickpockets who take property surreptitiously.
SLAVES. My sixth category of human actor is the Slave. The Slave resembles the Child in that he lacks any way of bringing his will to bear: he differs from the Child in that he is economically useful. We are sometimes led to believe that slavery is extinct in the modern world, but any person who lives in fear can be called a Slave. Many people who work in family firms are probably Slaves in practice, as are many unskilled workers who fear to change their employment.
I suggest, also, that from the perspective of the Soldier and the Priest, all Honest Men are slaves, and that from the perspective of higher-ranking Soldiers and Priests, lower-ranking Soldiers and Priests are Slaves. Lower-ranking Soldiers and Priests generally speaking are not well paid, and are in fear of their superiors far more than they enjoy their dominion over the Honest Men and Children subject to them.
Policemen are not usually happy thugs, gleefully engaged in smashing the faces of helpless Honest Men, but are anxious thugs, doing their best to scratch out a living without being caught. Similarly, academics are usually not happy liars, enjoying their ability and right to deceive admiring Honest Men, but are nervous acolytes, earnestly engaged in sucking up to other Priests on higher ranks, and hoping for advancement.
BROKERS. As I see it, the existence of modern government gives rise to a category of human actor I call the Broker. Brokers in some way stand between government and its victims. A characteristic of the Broker is that of varying loyalties. An individual Broker may be entirely in sympathy with the victims of government, or he may see himself as a part of the government and see the victims as his prey. Brokers include politicians, lawyers, tax accountants, and government-paid health-care workers and social workers.
Whatever the individual loyalty of a Broker may be, his employment depends on the existence of government. Politicians are a form of Broker that is under the system of democratic representation co-opted into the government, where they take the formal decisions which are carried out by the machinery of corruption. The decisions are however constrained by the needs of the government itself, and democratic control is a legal fiction.
My view of democracy is that in a situation in which voters are really equal, as in a frontier society or in a business setting, it may have some validity; but in the conditions of modern society, it is largely a Priestly device to make the common man believe that he has in some way given his consent to the things that are done to him.
CONTRACTORS. The eighth category of human actor I distinguish is the Contractor. By this I mean the independent business that acts as a supplier to government, as, for instance, an arms manufacturer. Contractors look like Honest Men, but their interests are aligned with the interests of government, and they live off it.
SERVANTS. I include the category of Servant to cover all those employees of government who are not readily classifiable as Soldiers, Priests, Brokers, or Contractors. I was at first inclined to lump these in among Honest Men (with the more self-aware of them perhaps classifiable as Priests), but I think the category of Servant is necessay, like the category of Thief, to cover a residual of people who serve government and profit from its existence, while largely working as Honest Men do.
CREATIVES. The classification of human actors given in this essay concerns their method of interacting with their fellow men, not their interaction with the material world or the world of the intellect. However, it does appear that, at least in Western societies, there is a type of actor whose significant method of interaction with others is to bring new intellectual products to their attention. These I suggest might be called Creatives.
If Creatives get a material benefit from their activity, it is not usually in proportion to the effort involved: the main personal benefit is in recognition. However, their activities are of importance in protecting and improving society. Like Honest Men and Slaves, Creatives are definitely productive in economic terms. Priests may become Creatives by doing intellectual work, or may attempt to masquerade as Creatives by producing trivial or spurious work.
The main problem I see with this system of classification is that it does not cover neatly the world of privately-owned public corporations. As I understand it, the limited-liability corporation is an invalid construct, since in justice, liability may be limited in contract but not in tort. There are some corporations that have a natural existence, such as a town or a factory, but modern limited-liability corporations are creations of government. If this is accepted, then the vast panoply of corporate governance and the market in ownership of stocks in limited-liability corporations may be seen as a criminal activity, an outgrowth of government, which is in itself simply succesful organised crime (composed of an alliance of Soldiers and Priests). I have not yet sorted this out to my own satisfaction, and would welcome the opinions of others.
I am aware that a vast amount of work is done in co-operative arrangements, the most important of which is marriage. I see this as the exchange of aid for aid, and include it in the activity of Honest Men.
I am also aware that both Priests and Soldiers do a lot of honest exchange, when they purchase goods and services. I do not suggest that such people never make honest exchanges, only that their incomes depend on fraud or the use of force. I am also aware that schoolteachers and technical teachers do pass on an enormous amount of perfectly valid knowledge. Some of this knowledge used to be passed on by the masters of apprentices, and it is only in recent years, as Christianity has entered its final years and the cult of Education has gained in power, that many skills have been claimed by the Priestly educators. This is not to say that the masters of apprentices did not enjoy some of the benefits of Priestly office themselves, in their day.
Some reactions to past versions of this essay have suggested that readers take its intention to be satirical. My intention is to describe human society more clearly and scientifically than it has been described before, and to supersede the Priestly misdirections that are now called social science. These, as far as I know, consist of fatuous ramblings dressed up in as much questionable mathematics and as many diagrams as they can manage. As Vance Packard once said, observation and description should precede measurement in scientific activity.