The American political system and the political elite who inhabit it have failed. They have shown themselves unable to effectively govern the American empire and its people and are unresponsive to feedback, democratic or otherwise. This isn’t a temporary, localized failure, or an aberration; it is failure of the entire paradigm of modern liberal-democratic politics. The whole thing needs to be replaced.
Restoration of order and sanity will be a long incremental process of careful and responsible reform, cultural regeneration, political deescalation, decentralization, financial austerity, and so on. This process could occur if the American government were secure, effective, and committed to the path. But currently, that is not the case. So, the real root of our problems, upstream of other social and civil problems, is the problem of American political dysfunction.
Let’s take a look at how the problem of American political dysfunction might actually be solved. There is plenty of empty fame and fun to be had complaining about it, and mobilizing people who realize that there is a problem behind ineffective solutions. But those approaches are not aimed at the actual problem and don’t work very well to solve it. What would we do if we took the problem seriously and seriously intended to solve it?
There are four sub-problems in American political dysfunction:
Political Disorder. The state of politics in Washington is a prolonged trench war for power between multiple factions, who are at the same time trying to govern the Empire. Responsible governance unfortunately takes a back seat to gaining political ground, and where will exists, there isn’t the concentrated authority to get anything done effectively. Apolitical civic institutions are politicized for the fight to the detriment of their proper function. Personal authority is blocked and routed around by factions in opposition.
Republican Political Structure. More specifically, the republican features of democracy, limited government, and separation of powers. The entire official and unofficial constitution of the United States inherently leads to faction and political disorder. The founding fathers tried to solve political dysfunction with a republican design, but the republican features don’t accomplish what they were supposed to, and instead create faction, corruption, and bad incentives.
Hostile and Corrupt Political Elites. Many of the members of current political elite factions are the wrong kind of people. They are corrupt careerists, pedophiles, politicians, lawyers, hostile minorities, etc. Circumstances have bred a political class with little honor or nobility that has contempt for its base. Even those who have the right fundamental disposition are trained and invested in entirely the wrong kind of politics. These people aren’t real statesmen. They will not be able to solve our problems, even if reorganized.
Modern Progressive Pseudo-Statecraft. The superstructure is powered by the ideology of progressivism, which is a system of popular justification for the destructive actions of the elite, not a system of responsible statecraft. Any working traditions of statecraft remaining have to cloak themselves in lies because of their incompatibility with the public ideology. Knowledge of the superstructure is scattered throughout and corrupted by the extended system around Washington of propaganda organs, political organizations, elite dynasties, power networks, blackmail cults, “philanthropic foundations”, think tanks, NGOs, intelligence agencies, “public policy research”, “economists”, big banks, lobbyists, bureaucrats, non-profits, top academics, and so on. This fragmented organization and pseudo-statecraft is inadequate to govern the empire well.
Each of these is a problem on its own. Solving any of them would be an improvement. But the improvement wouldn’t last; these problems generate and reinforce each other. Attempting to replace the elites or achieve political order without systemic change would quickly decay back to business as usual, as structural instability and bad incentives corrupt the fix. Again, it would all have to be replaced to solve our problems.
However, it would be grossly irresponsible to destroy the current superstructure without a viable alternative. America has the governmental equivalent of a dysfunctional car; the solution is not to trash the car further, but to acquire a new car as a replacement. Likewise in politics; destroying the current order is just chaos. The way forward is to imagine and build alternatives.
The key to solving the problem of American political dysfunction problem is a viable replacement for the current political system. The solution should address the four problems described above:
The Mandate of Heaven; Political Order. The new government needs to actually be in charge. The goal is Political Order, which means that there is exactly one faction within the state, no factions outside the state that can effectively challenge its authority, and a general understanding that the government is in charge. Heaven has found the state worthy and awarded it with the Mandate. Good governance cannot proceed until political order is achieved.
The New Structure. Some organized authority structure has to make all this happen and in the process become the new government. A new government and new elites aren’t much use if they aren’t internally well-organized and coordinated. The historical norm for political refoundings of this type is that there is some incoming organization, usually a political party, that then becomes the core of the new structure.
The Thousand Statesmen. We need enough statesmen to staff the new government. Men who know how to govern an empire, how to cooperate, how to gain power, and how to stay in power. A thousand is a rough estimate of the number of coordinated and reliable statesmen needed in key positions in the U.S. government to form the core of a viable transition government that wouldn’t get bogged down in the political trenches.
The New Tradition of Imperial Statecraft. Underlying all of this, the Thousand Statesmen need all the knowledge to keep control of and govern the American Empire. And before those statesmen can be recruited and trained, there must be at least the seed of a visionary system of imperial statecraft to guide them. Strategies, programs, plans, a shared worldview, ideology, deep knowledge of USG, deep knowledge of the global strategic landscape, deep knowledge of America, statecraft theory, practical wisdom, a new imperial cult, a new American civic mythos, etc. This needs to be what we call a “living tradition”: a body of knowledge and methods and perspectives actively maintained by a living body of men. Our knowledge of statecraft must be restored from the last uncorrupted backups and then updated with the knowledge we have learned since then.
For shorthand, we can call this entire alternative proposal “the Thousand Statesmen”, because it is nearly inherent to the concept of a thousand statesmen that they are well-organized in political party or government, that they have expertise in statecraft, and that they seek the Mandate of Heaven. It is necessary to construct these parts to be able to fix the American system; anything less than a full replacement with these parts is a quagmire that ends with more of the same failures.
How to produce the Thousand Statesmen is difficult, but comprehensible. It’s a matter of gathering men of vision who are already committed to the general program of fixing America’s problems, organizing them to do the relevant statecraft research, building an organization that can train and recruit further such men, and scaling up from there to do all other necessary things. But given the Thousand Statesmen, how would they end up installing the New Structure and achieving the Mandate of Heaven?
The big secret is that power flows to the worthy. If the Thousand Statesmen deserve the Mandate of Heaven, in that they are better prepared to use it well than any other faction or system, then one way or another, they will receive it.
This is a big claim, but imagine that the Thousand Statesmen had been ready when Trump needed men to staff his government. Instead of a disorganized rag-tag team of warmongering neo-conservatives, assorted business contacts, and disloyal establishment Republicans, he could have had a thousand trained, organized, and loyal statesmen, ready to go with a new imperial vision for America.
And that’s just one example of an opportunity to accept power, given readiness to wield it well. More opportunities can be found, especially as the American Empire sinks deeper into its present crisis.
The current system and current elites have no incentive to “fight back” against this transition, no organized will to do so, and no expertise with doing so. They are stuck in the trenches trying to gain and hold little bits of political ground and accrue personal benefits. A real alternative that could resolve the conflict would come almost as a relief. The Thousand Statesmen can offer a very satisfactory retirement deal to those in charge in exchange for cooperation. There is no need to think of this situation in purely zero-sum terms. The deal could be made to be good for everyone involved. If a positive-sum political transition deal is viable, we can expect that it would occur.
The Thousand Statesmen strategy is the core of a good plan.
While we’re defining key strategic concepts, the “Restoration” is the political event where America’s system of politics is rebooted with something that will be able to fix our problems. The Restoration is so called because it will necessarily be a restoration of many traditional Western statecraft concepts. It will also be the modern analogue of the classic Western “Return of the King” historical and mythological archetype, which is usually called a restoration.
In this case, we are imagining Restoration by the Thousand Statesmen strategy. Restoration would be the event when the Statesmen are installed as the legitimate government, and inherit the powers of the current USG.
The Restoration by the Thousand Statesmen strategy is a great target scenario for statecraft research, once the strategic outline and strategically-independent questions of statecraft have been settled. The questions given this target scenario are, given Restoration, what can and should the Thousand Statesmen do with the powers of government to improve our civilization? And how do we get there from here? Without a viable high-impact target scenario, statecraft research will get bogged down with isolated “policy proposals” and blue-sky fantasizing. A shared target scenario for strategically-contingent statecraft research gives a viable application, a shared scenario to work towards so that collective efforts can synergize, and a large enough impact to make the investment in serious research worth it.
So, to solve the problem of American political dysfunction with the Thousand Statesmen strategy: answer that core question of statecraft given Restoration via a Thousand Statesmen, train a Thousand Statesmen in the resulting system of plans and practices, organize them into something that can become the New Structure, and find an opportunity to install them.
Of course, research should continue in other possible plans, and in the areas that don’t depend on the particular strategy to be employed. But this is one possible plan that could resolve strategic uncertainty and provide a viable target scenario for statecraft research.
Interestingly, contra the usual ideas on the subject, this plan contains no violence, law-breaking, mass brainwashing, unconstitutional change, or revolutionary intent anywhere. It can be done entirely outside of the system, with no political power, no permission, and very little legal and political risk. And yet it would work. Lack of a thousand real statesmen is all that stands between America and her destiny.
The beauty of this constructive approach is that it would mean the effort would find fewer committed enemies, it wouldn’t have to evade the watchful eyes of friends in the official security apparatus, and it could even cooperate with loyal people in the state. Besides, it allows the core focus to be aimed at the necessary research, recruiting, and organizational tasks, instead of getting bogged down in distracting public conflicts and spectacle.
We don’t need more voting, better candidates, a magical return to the Constitution, or attacks on the informal apparatus of the current system; we need a new tradition of imperial statecraft, a thousand statesmen, and serious organization. This is difficult, but in the big picture, as these things go, it is not such an impossible task.
The alternative seems to be increasing political disorder, or further decline into eventual political collapse. The Thousand Statesmen plan is really quite a mild treatment in comparison.