Shayne Wissler
“How far into the foundations, when it comes, must the revolution penetrate?” – Thomas E. Phipps, Jr.

How to Win the War for Humane Civilization

February 03 2021

Our basic civic choice is whether to be ruled by true rational principles or to be ruled by arbitrary fiat.

Rational rule is those principles of governance which are knowable by means of the rational faculty which all healthy adults have all been endowed with. Such faculty has been best exemplified historically in the field of classical physics and particularly by Issac Newton’s work in that field. In this field we observe the penetrating power of natural human faculties in identifying what is true by way of:

  1. A firm commitment to follow the evidence wherever it leads while neither excluding relevant evidence nor fabricating evidence;
  2. An equally firm commitment to logic;
  3. Communication of such principles via faculties common to all, which need not be taken on “faith” nor as a type of “magic”, and;
  4. Shunning arbitrary complexity by perfecting our understanding into a simplicity that does not oversimplify, building an integrated system of thought that has the most precise utility possible for beings of limited mental powers.

The successful implementation of rational rule yields a society whose systems of governance are based upon sincerity, transparency, intellectual independence, courageous integrity, rational consensus, and meritocracy.

Fiat rule is the rule of arbitrary authority, that is, an authority that has no rational basis, the product of a shameless mental laziness that refuses to expend the effort to right itself but yet demands obedience to its arbitrary desires. It is against our nature to accept fiat rule, therefore fiat rule fabricates illusory counterfeits to rational argument. In one form of this gambit, it creates for itself the superficial appearance of being grounded upon rational argument, but whose illusion breaks down upon close inspection. Another form of gambit is to defame rational rule as being ultimately yet another type of fiat rule, by creating the illusion that the rational argument is really an illusion (aka “gaslighting”). When such tactics fail, fiat rule implements its gambit of last resort: dictatorship, the rule of brute force by those who most excel at deception, manipulation, venality, and incompetence.

Rational rule demands self-discipline of society: we don’t reach for more than the rational process sanctions nor by way of violating our civic principles. With fiat rule, the ends justify the means: it’s sufficient that a society wants a certain consequence that it start grabbing at it, it need not reflect on whether what it aims for is actually good nor have a moral conscience about its methods. Its apparent hypocrisy is unreal since its publicly admitted moral rules are merely part of the illusion of rational legitimacy, and therefore untroubling to the mind devoted to fiat rule. Among the world’s greatest follies is to point out the hypocrisies of those who fundamentally disclaim the need to make rational sense.

“O King, for traveling over the country there are both royal roads and roads for common citizens; but in geometry there is one road for all.”

— Menaechmus (c. 350 BC) response to a request of Alexander the Great to be taught concisely

Richard Feynman has observed that if you want to understand physics, you must learn the formalism of mathematics. It is true that we all obtain an intuitive understanding of how the world works naturally, but the only road to a precise, correct, and penetrating understanding of physics – the understanding that actually economically powers our modern civilization – is through the use of mathematics.

What mathematics does is formalize our statements about the world, creating a system of description that is acutely specific and self-correcting. Students of physics may not notice the self-correcting aspect, since they are given the system after it has already been checked and cross-checked many times, thereby perfecting it; but in the origin of such system the innovator has used mathematics as an indispensable tool for pinpointing contradiction, which proves a defect of understanding and thereby opening the path to its creative correction. This instrumental facilitation of self-correction is the key to its great power.

Likewise, most people think that their political philosophies need only be intuitive as well; but physics is to mathematics as political philosophy is to the law. The US Constitution has been described by the libertarian investor Doug Casey as a “dead letter.” Why? Because we have a people who have lost the discernment to recognize that the formal legal meaning of the words of the Constitution does not at all match the reality of how government is now operating. They therefore mouth their oaths as they put their hand on the Bible, swearing to uphold it, but do not really mean to in a rational sense. Perhaps they intuitively “mean well.” But their “good intentions” don’t translate into actual good in reality, any more than a “physicist” who had “good intentions” about creating rockets that don’t explode on the launch pad would translate into reality if he disdained the formalism of mathematics.

Similarly, we have political activists (even libertarians who claim to stand for allegedly rational ideas of freedom) that do not translate their intuitive philosophies into a specific legal propositions with specific self-correction methodologies. They hand-wave about some abstract system we should all move to, but there is no specific articulation of what that system is, or more importantly, why it is the right system. Yet how can we know what they really mean to advocate if they produce no such formalism, and crucially, allow such formalism to be integrity-checked through a transparent and systematic review process? We would not try to land a spaceship on the moon without careful integrity-checking, yet people think they can run a society on their barbaric intuitions.

Such is the key to understanding the political mayhem of our era, and such are the real battle lines in the war for a humane civilization in the future.