Notes from the sheepfold

An email from a correspondent, who is not in Guam, reminds me to remind gentle reader of a truth I take for self-evident, but perhaps others don’t. We personalize the State. I do myself, when I refer to it as Big Brother, Big Sister, Twisted Nanny, &c. But this is a conceit. As anyone caught in the jaws of Big Shark should realize, it doesn’t think like a human. It thinks more like a mechanism. Of course, when the mechanism has selected one’s own person for food — I am thinking here of the Revenue Department, but government agencies are all much the same — little can be done. One might beg for mercy, but the thing is not designed to dispense mercy. That is not its function. Its function is to absorb protein.

Guvmint agents themselves — the cells and their switches — are task-oriented. Each signed off his right to make humane judgements when he took the job.

We used to have reactionary courts, to restrain the creature. Now we have progressive courts, to urge it on.

Among the foibles of democracy, is the notion that “the peeple” are somehow in control. The people, however, consist of persons, with their quite various moral flaws, which tend to cancel each other. They elect politicians for show. This helps them put a human face on the enterprise, so they have someone to blame at the electoral intervals. It is true that a government with a majority and a will can alter the course of history: usually by putting more sharks in the tank. And that the policy wonks are, arguably, human. But they are cells themselves, within Leviathan.

We live, I say from time to time, in an age of “total war” and “total peace.” The one condition resembles the other: a command economy, focused on results. We have, as it were, totalitarianism with a human face. It is a kind of smiley face, painted on the tip of the missile.

When, as yesterday, I give pointless advice to our political “masters” (themselves operating within greater constraints), I do not imagine it will be taken. I cannot even know what they know, in the control room they briefly occupy, trying to override this automated switch or that.

More fundamentally, I do not think that the morals which pertain to the individual conscientious human, can apply to Leviathan. This was never possible, though a simple absolute monarchy comes closer to the humanized ideal. Properly constituted, a State is only a protection racket, for a group of “citizens” legally defined. Its job should be to eat sharks and not men; or sheep and not men as Thomas More put it, noting in the first age of Enclosure that the attraction of fine wool was so great, that pasturage was erasing husbandry, so that in practice sheep were now eating men.

We’ve come a long way since then — five centuries long — in the art of Enclosure. Each advance of the so-called “capitalists” was made possible by extension of government fiat, to support the development of economies of scale. By now the supply of fine wool is assured; and all we ask is for sufficient “employment,” that we may fatten ourselves for the next cull.

I wish that we could ask for more; I wish we could be treated as more than livestock. But I am not under the absurd impression some politician can provide this liberation. Things are as they are. It is true I am something of a “libertarian” and a “distributist” — a goat in the sheepfold perhaps — but I do not think we can save ourselves.

My Catholic Sola is Our Lord: Christ alone can save us.