“Anything based on the masses, the herd, carries in itself the seeds of slavery. This crowd, which does not self-determine its values, is incapable of defining its own life.”
I usually try to eschew labels: Sure, they’re useful, but let’s be honest—the world is too large a place, its cultures and creeds too diverse, its philosophies too many, its religions too vastly different. The notions of those cultures and creeds and philosophies and religions are simultaneously sweepingly broad and narrowly specific. No one “-ism” or “-ology” can contain the totality of useful and meaningful concepts that exist.
That being said, the alignment of my political and spiritual notions, as of late, have produced something I like to call anarcho-aristocracy.
Give me a moment to explain:
- Anarcho-: I believe that, in the long run, the existence of the State (which, by the way, is not necessarily the same as government—see below), as well as the monopolization of the economy by rich elites via insatiable consumerist, corporate capitalism—both systems of which depend on hierarchical power structures—is detrimental to human progress and fulfillment. An equal, and yet dynamic, measure of freedom, and the potential to exercise it for the purpose of attaining well-being, should be allotted to all. The greatest possible of measure of freedom which can be apportioned to each person ought to be, so long as that apportionment does not allow individuals to interfere with the liberties of others. That being said, certain individuals are pre-disposed to certain abilities or areas of skill or expertise, and so in a society would tend towards practicing a particular task or set of tasks according to their abilities, as the demand for services in communities naturally inclines them. People may be equals legally, but they are not necessarily equals functionally. Someone who is good at mathematics can try to be a decent journalist, but he made not be as fit for the job as someone who has routinely studied The Chicago Manual of Style. Nonetheless, no person should be forced to do anything (unless they are violating the rights of another, in which case they should be made to stop their aggression), and all associations should [ideally] be as voluntary as possible. At the end of the day, it is up to the individual to decide how to live his or her life as he or she sees fit.
- -aristocracy: This term, meaning “rule of the best”, often refers to rule by a privileged or ruling class. In an older sense, one used by the Greeks, it meant rule by those most qualified (those who were so merited for the job, being intelligent and/or skilled in an appropriate way). I use it in this sense. I also use it in the more philosophical-spiritual sense, as conceived of by Friedrich Nietzsche: Aristokratia, for Nietzsche, is a system in which the greatest among us (the “masters”) can achieve their greatness, becoming the crowning glory of the world through self-ennoblement, and thus advance the boundaries of human ability and what it means to “triumph”. This leaves the lower people (the “slaves”) to remain in an ignoble state. Nietzsche openly recognizes that some are, in a way, “meant” to become great, whereas others are not, and that that is the natural state of things. (His anti-egalitarianism is fairly apparent.) To me, this is not really a brutish notion so much as a simple truth: So long as humans remain in the state they are now (this assumes trans-humanism, in its fuller sense, never becomes a reality), they will always give in to their base desires and live as “slaves”, whereas others will triumph over themselves and the world and carry out their Wills. This statement is not a condemnation of freedom, but rather a recognition of the fact that throughout history there are those who consign themselves to baseness—and they have every right to, as free beings!—and there are those who find what is great in themselves, and enact that.
- Here’s the gist: To bring these two ideas together means to recognize the inherent potential in all people—that potential can be recognized and achieved—and even all beings (if we’re being broad enough, and taking on the mantle of Buddhism…), at all times, to attain to greatness—whether one would call that “excellence,” “self-actualization,” “happiness,” “well-being,” or even “enlightenment.” All people should be given at least the measure of freedom necessary to achieve their own senses of fulfillment, and their personal capacities, without taking away freedom from anyone else. Realistically, not all people will fulfill their potentials, but we should not look down upon them for it. Things are as they are…
To clarify the concept of “the State”, I will paraphrase part of a cogent 2013 post by Skyler J. Collins at Everything-Voluntary: The State, according to libertarian thinker Stephen Kinsella, is the firm (group of individuals) which monopolizes the ability to provide governmental functions (“law and order”) in a society, making itself the arbiter of power and the “final word” in conflict settlement—even conflicts within or involving itself. This means that there is no “third party”, so to speak, to adjudicate conflicts regarding the State, making the State almost infallible, if not unchallengeable, when or if the time comes to question its ability to function properly as an institution which works (or is supposed to work) to provide freedom and happiness for those it governs.
This implies, simply, that the existence of the State creates a situation in which decision-makers—policy-makers and so forth—are too far removed from the effects of their decisions. This often leaves the brunt of the State’s failures to rest on the shoulders of citizens, and creates a class system in which a hierarchical difference exists between the rich and powerful—who remain at the top—and those whom the rich and powerful control—who remain, and suffer, at the bottom.
Closing this gap, by whittling down the State until it becomes indistinguishable from the citizenry, turns the vertical power structure into a horizontal one (the column into a row), in which all members of society are valued for their individuality, and in which all members may contribute to the maintenance of those societies of which they choose to be a part.
As Collins notes: “Monopolies are always an illegitimate arrangement of authority in society because nobody has the right to prevent others from providing any good or service of their choosing. This includes governmental services. … To be a consistent libertarian, a voluntaryist, or an anarchist is to oppose the monopoly of governmental services, i.e. the State, and to instead favor competing providers of law and order. It really is that simple.”
I would also go further to say that, in an ideal state (that’s with a little “s”), a society may even eliminate such “competing providers of law and order”, with individuals acting based on voluntary association, or based on a sort of constitution on an as-needed basis.
Voluntaryism, on one hand, is something I believe we should pursue to its fullest extent, as the idealization of the greatest amount of freedom for the greatest number of present and future persons. But, on the other hand, we should recognize that the decision-making process, even rendered as free and non-binding as possible, should still always be informed by reason and, hence, merit, in the form of individual experts capable of lending their expertise to other citizens, so that those citizens may offer their opinions in a state of understanding, not ignorance.
This is where meritocracy, and thus aristocracy, comes into play.
While in an anarchist society power structures have effectively dissolved, and all human beings are free to pursue their desires so long as they do not interfere with the freedom of others, the aristos are needed to stabilize such a society through the dissemination and clarification of useful information and lead as examples in a more effective decision-making process.
In terms of experts in the fields of science and engineering, such a system would emerge as a king of quasi-technocracy—“government by an elite of technical experts”.
To be clear, what I’m advocating isn’t “government by”, but rather, “exemplification by”. This is aristocracy in a more free and practical sense—the siphoning of reason from a class of experts capable of creating more informed views, and hence better at solving problems.
In simpler terms: A thorough education is paramount in a system intended to benefit individuals based on contract and mutual benefit; information is and will always be useful for the maintenance of any society; third, a society lives or dies based on its ability to adapt, made possible by the participation of skilled individuals and the use of tools, typically developed by those individuals.
Of course, it must be said that expertise is no longer merely sourced from individuals. Despite a worldwide culture of pedagogy, in the form of universities, and a slew of think-tanks manned by ostensible experts in various fields, the future may hold sources of information we can scarcely imagine. What began with libraries as a repository for human-consolidated information and has since developed into the Internet may take on a wholly new form as A.I. and machine learning become more and more capable and advanced.
I have not dismissed the idea that these machines, the progeny of humankind, may one day even surpass us in knowledge and understanding, and then will become an invaluable asset to us in the form of teachers and organizers of information and raw data. (That is, of course, if they don’t destroy us first, as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk seem to worry.)
Whatever the future holds, so long as human beings remain individual in their personalities and autonomous and self-determinant in their desires, there will always be an opportunity for the actualization of the conscious experience. From birth to death, humans encounter every day their own, raw potential. This can give rise to aristocracy in the more inward sense, which I will address in Part II…