Should Caitlyn Jenner be Donald Trump’s Vice President?

English: Abraham Lincoln, president of the Uni...

English: Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States of America. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the surface, the pairing seems improbable if not impossible. What, if anything, do they have in common? They appear to share little except their celebrity status. Beneath the surface, though, they are animated by the same thing, a disordered eros. [1] Our eros is what drives us to be complete as a person. In turn, when ordered correctly, this desire to be complete leads us to a life of virtue as citizen within a commonwealth since that is where we live and our lives are expressed. What connects them is not eros simply, but the disordered eros in what it completes them does not support a life of virtue as a citizen. To express this crudely, neither sees a limit to what their eros directs them to achieve, which is a point that Andrew Sullivan made in his essay about Donald Trump.[2] He invoked Plato with his reference to the Republic where the tyrant emerges from a decaying democracy. Sullivan only touched the surface for the question is what creates the tyrant, for he did not look at what creates the tyrant. For Plato’s the tyrant is characterized by eros, one could suggest that he is eros incarnate[3], which leads us to another Platonic dialogue with eros as its focus–the Symposium. The dialogue provides us an analytical device to understand how eros brought Trump and America to this point. In particular, it helps us understand why Sullivan overlooked how Trump expresses what has changed about America’s eros especially since 9/11.[4]

Trump would date his daughter and America embraces him.

If we follow Plato as our lead, then we begin to see that Trump’s eros, like America’s, is not limited by anything such as convention or nature. As Trump said, his daughter is so hot he would “date” her.[5] His criteria for his prospective partner appears to be how hot she is without concern for a genetic relationship. The hotter they are the more his eros is satisfied. In Trump’s thinking what father would not want to “date” their daughter if they were as hot, if not hotter, than Ivanka? Moreover, as is clear from Trump’s life, if she is not “hot” then she should turn to the medical and surgical enhancements to become hot. Who, after all, would be seen without a “hot” sexual partner? That his statement is seen as a “joke” and does not disqualify him from office or even lessen his support shows how far America has developed a disordered eros. As long as a woman is hot, it does not matter if she is married or your daughter, it is ok to publicly comment on her desirability as a sexual partner.[6] Many supporters and commentators excuse Trump’s statement as a joke because they want to separate his personal appetites from his political ambitions. Yet, his eros animates both in that what he believes influences his behaviour. In political terms, the desire to rule over others is the highest eros which is usually mitigated or restrained for it has to serve the community’s best interest to retain the consent needed to sustain the rule. Is there any other political office that fulfils the desire to rule others than the President of the United States of America who holds the power of life and death over the world? As we know, power is the ultimate aphrodisiac that corrupts so if we translate Trump’s eros to the political domain, he wants, literally or metaphorically, to “date” America.

If Oedipus had a hot daughter?

In ancient Athens, Trump’s statement about incest would be met with indignation. When the topic was broached in the play, Oedipus Rex, a similar story except this time the son killed his father and slept with his mother, the audience reacted with horror. The play explored the deepest taboo within a family for incest destroyed a family’s integrity and in doing so unravelled the community’s fabric.[7] (Is Trump keeping an eye on his sons since his wife, their step-mother, is hot and what man in Trump’s world, would not want to “date” her?) The play’s political lesson is that tyranny is like incest for it destroys what allows the community to survive, the fellow feeling of citizens that sustains decent political life. In practical terms, incest destroys the family and what it produces, children, which are necessary for the community’s survival.[8] In political terms the tyrant’s immoderate thought and behaviour undermined the community.[9] The tyrant was identified by sexual excess and extreme sexual appetites both of which the people feared would be used to obtain any sexual partner such as their wives, brothers, sisters, daughters or sons.[10]

“[I]t is impossible to segregate the tyrant’s sexuality from his political power: each symbolizes the other. His notorious perversions (adultery, bigamy, rape, incest, sadism, necrophilia…) are the sexual manifestation of his extraordinary relation to the laws and norms of the polis.”[11]

In any other era, constraints such as nature (incest leading to deformities) and social restraint (societies and families enforcing norms) would limit Trump’s behaviour. In the modern era, marked by modern natural science, such behaviour can be tolerated if not celebrated publicly. Today, it would appear that there is no sin greater than that which denies you becoming what you want to be for that destroys the very freedom that America was founded to deliver.

The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.[12]

The same desire, which drives the tyrant, undermined the ancient communities since the instability it create made the community vulnerable to internal factions, such as a tyrant or other faction that would overthrow it, or be destroyed from outside by rival regimes, as internal harmony dissolved. America, today, appears to offer an exception to that rule. Or does it?

Trump appeals to and expresses the public’s deepest longing the tyrant’s life.

Trump’s approach, revealed by his comment about his daughter, brings the tyrant’s life to the American voters and his supporters love him for it. Trump appeals because he offers the hottest girls[13], the fastest cars, the biggest deals, the best of everything. His current wife is a MILF embodied. He lives the life that many of his followers aspire to live. For them, Trump embodies everything they cannot have and they blame those who tell them they can’t indulge their desires. Be it a big house, a fast car, a hot wife, the availability of a wide pool of sexual partners, vast wealth, or the ability to speak his mind without fear or favour, all of these are available for the taking. They believe that he will make these more accessible for they have been habituated to believe what he offers defines a complete life. He appeals to the average person’s desire to live the tyrant’s life. For his elite followers, like Peter Thiel, he offers the chance to suppress that which he dislikes about democracy or the government inefficiency that inhibits his “freedom”.

More than positive desires, Trump followers want the negative desires

In addition to the “positive” desires he offers, Trump offers to indulge the “negative” desires. Many of his followers are driven by the eros to punish political opponents preferably through physical violence. They want to hurt those that keep them from what they believe they need to be complete. Some followers hate the government for it limits their “freedom” to either dominate by rule over their “inferiors” or because it allows inefficiency to flourish. In both cases, his followers resent those they believe have advantages they are denied or receive benefits at their expense. They believe they have to live as inferiors if they cannot dominate others which would allow them to be respected as being superior. Above all, they do not want equality since that is as much an insult as inferiority. Even though their inferiority or potential superiority is an illusion generated to mask the reality, they want to satisfy that longing, that erotic desire, to punish those who keep them from enjoying their “freedom”. Most important of all, they want to punish those who they believe act as their superiors, the modern aristocrats, or elites, who appear to have the unfair advantages. In this, the Trump supporters reflect the very ancient origins of a tyrant as the people often turned to a powerful individual to “punish” the aristocracy for failing to rule fairly.

“Many Greek cities underwent a tyranny that we naturally look for some general cause in the circumstances of the time. The causes are largely internal, to be found in the oppressiveness or inadequacy of the aristocracies which held power in the early seventh century.”[14]

Trump seduces violently or gently depending on the audience.

To achieve power over others through the public office requires Trump to seduce the public violently or gently and it is a seduction where the beloved submits violently or gently. Trump knows how to excite or arose his followers accordingly. When necessary he threatens violence. When he requires charm he parades his wife and daughter to show his erotic prowess or his wealth to show his success. The erotic longing by his followers is not simply Facebook envy.[15] It is an eros no longer moderated by or guided by the common good. They want their private passions indulged at the public’s expense. In this manner, Trump’s followers will also include those elites who will benefit from him, the oligarchic faction who will gain from Trump’s victory, for they too dislike the common good to the extent it limits their pursuit of wealth and satisfaction. What animates Trump’s followers is a disordered eros, one that wants all the trappings of tyranny not virtue or moderation required to sustain a democracy let alone a republic. What they want is the freedom and prosperity that marks democracy’s late stages. For a limited few, Trump appeared to provide the chance to recover the lost virtue, to rekindle the republican dream that has animated America since its founding and shone brightest in the moments of greatest need, but which has become dimmed in the current age. These few are the democrats who fear the extreme democracy that appears to infect America. The majority of Trump followers are those who would rather turn away from the pursuit of virtue that requires them to control their appetites and embrace the apparently easier life under the greater glory of the American liberal-progressive empire that rules at home and abroad. For this group, the demos, the globalisation benefits need to continue to fuel their desire to live a life beyond their means. They want to escape any natural limit to their desire or any criticism by turning to modern natural science. Their demand for more, for any excess, will be satisfied by a modern natural science that will “legitimate” their behaviours or desires as it will “rescue” them from any natural or political consequence.[16]

Modern natural science enables modern tyranny

Modern natural science aids the disordered eros for it mitigates the consequences of pursuing translegal desires either individually or collectively.

“Translegal desires”, “are desires that violate the fundamental requirements of the city and acknowledge fully the fiction of the city.”[17]

Condoms or birth control pills would limit the chance that incest leads to a child. If nature were able to overcome the condom and the birth control pill, then an abortion would remove the natural consequences. In practical terms, if you want to fight a war, technology driven by modern natural science, allows you to execute it without great cost to the demos who might object. Today, they can enjoy a secure life without even realizing the war’s effort, cost, effect or consequence. What was previously a constraint, casualties, can be ignored. Whereas the natural constraint from dead soldiers would encourage the community to restrain the elite’s imperial eros, the technological advances allow the state to overcome it. In the same fashion, technology will enable us to execute financial transactions that escape the regulator’s scrutiny thereby avoiding the taxes which sustain the city. The immediate constraint imposed by the community can be overcome. Beyond the community’s constraint, the law, anything else is simply a personal prejudices since science poses no limit to what you want to achieve. Your religious hang-ups are the only thing that keeps you from enjoying the “forbidden fruit” since science has “debunked” their forbiddingness.[18] Instead of the law, which reflects the community’s collective opinion about morality, what is right and wrong, the community will be ordered by science instead of the law.[19]. In effect, modern natural science indulges the disordered eros since if it feels good, just do it. If you fail to do it when it feels good, then you are denying your eros and there is nothing worse for an individual to experience since the best life if one of love defined as pleasure?

Why Caitlyn Jenner would be the ideal VP for the Trump presidency.

Modern natural science is what brings us to Caitlyn Jenner. S/he is following an eros which drives her to overcome what nature provided. Nature is no limit to what she wants to become. There is no need to live with constraints natural or suggested by the community for science will relieve her painful longing to be complete. In political terms, Jenner satisfies strategic voting demographics, for she helps Trump defend against charges that he is a “hater” or simply insensitive to the liberal progressive dream that animates most of those in the Democratic party who would oppose his candidacy. Moreover, Caitlyn Jenner reflects the same disordered eros that animates Trump’s campaign. She wants to transform from a man into a woman, overcome nature; she wants society to celebrate her change, it must be enshrined in law; her success is driven by her belief of what can be achieved. Plato, though, would suggest that she has replaced public moderation with private immoderation. She wants her choice to be enshrined in law so it becomes the public morality. When eros is wedded to modern natural science, there is nothing the heart desires that it cannot achieve for there are no limits, natural or divine, to what can be achieved. If it can be conceived, then it must be achieved and when achieved it must be accepted and celebrated by society.

A man into a woman, a man into an insect, is there any scientific limit?

Harry Neumann, writing in 1991, described this phenomenon.

Sometimes I ask students (or faculty) whether there is anything science cannot or should not do… for example, the human engineering in Auschwitz or the Gulag. Can or should genetic engineering or robotics turn men into robots or robots into men? Can it transform men into insects in Kafka’s Metamorphosis? Usually academics see nothing in principle to prevent this or any possible experimentation. Moral-political passions will be outraged, but has this outrage any significance, however strong it may appear, in a liberal world devoid of non-arbitrary moral-political standards?[20]

Jenner is the academic belief that has become the public reality. There is no natural or divine limit to what she can become. If Jenner wants to become a woman, why not? If she, or anyone else, wanted to become an insect who would say no? There are no scientific reasons to keep them from becoming the insect they desire to become. With science, there is no limit to what she can do to satisfy her erotic longing to be what he believes will relieve the painful longing to be complete. The desire and the painful longing to satisfy it are eternal questions since all human societies have this story. What is different, though, is that what would have been a private longing is now made public and the public eros is to be directed to satisfy that individual longing. In America it is not enough for it be privately accepted and publicly tolerated, it has to be enshrined in the law. It has to be a right that will require society to respect and celebrate the individual’s desire no matter the consequence for society for society must accommodate their “freedom”. Instead of eros directed to a life of virtue in accordance with the community and the full life of the citizen, eros is now directed at individual pleasure with no distinction between base or noble loves or pleasures.

Could Sophocles have imagined the Kardashians?

In the past, the poets warned of the consequences should the natural or divine limits, the moderation necessary to sustain a decent political life, be breached. To enforce these warnings, they set out the most extreme examples they could imagine. The poet Sophocles famously set out such warnings in plays such as Oedipus Rex and Antigone. Yet, even he could not imagine a character such as Caitlyn Jenner and her immediate familial relationship. Jenner, once married to Kris Jenner, was the stepfather to the Kardashian children. Sophocles’ greatest work Oedipus Rex, where a son kills his father, sleeps with his mother, and becomes king, pales in comparison. His was a cautionary tale to warn Athens about tyranny. Today, a more outrageous family is celebrated as entertainment if not an example to follow if not emulate. They live a life with the characteristics that Trump followers appear to aspire, celebrity, fame, freedom, and the choice of sexual behaviours, partners and identities. In the Kardashians there are a case of characters and episodes that would be hard for Sophocles to imagine let alone invent. We have a stepfather who is becoming a woman. One step-daughter’s main claim to celebrity notoriety is her pornographic video. The mother “pimps” her daughters providing them advice on prospective sexual partners and business deals without being clear where one begins and the other ends. The family publicizes their eros through a popular reality television show that captures their antics without shame or modesty. Their eros is to satisfy the painful longing to be famous and “successful”. The unquenchable thirst[21], the gnawing hunger, to be “successful” and a “celebrity” drives them to seek out activities that will fill their longing to be whole. If their behaviour was private, they would simply be another eccentric family found in the works of William Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor. Instead, they operate within the public domain, their “celebrity” funded by advertisers who profit from a public that consume this “entertainment” seeking to emulate it if they cannot participate in it.

Trump jokes of translegal desires to signal his beliefs.

Even though societies have always had private behaviours, the translegal desires, that have the potential to undermine society, these have always been contained or limited either by law or by practice. Where they have existed, the behaviours have remained within the private domain, publicly tolerated but never publicly accepted nor enshrined in law.[22] They share the same disordered eros, which generates Trump’s appeal and the Kardashians celebrity. However, if we believe that the eros simply expresses a sexual desire, we misunderstand the symptom for a cause for it also explains the love of gain such as financial gain. [23]

Trump’s eros is not a cause, it is a symptom.

The disordered eros is not simply sexual behaviour for that is a symptom. Trump’s private desire made public, to become President so as to dominate others, and Jenner’s, to rule over her nature, presents an elegant symmetry. In an era of excess from Wall Street to Silicon Valley; from the Porn industry to the Presidential campaign, what better pairing than Trump and Jenner? There is no natural, scientific, religious, or social limit to your desire and Trump and Jenner once elected can show you, the voter, that you can have what your heart desires for America is there to serve you and satisfy your desires.

Does America have an alternative?

No candidate offers a return to the Republic where the idea that as citizens we serve a higher good than our own desires was the source of our patriotism. Imagine the hoots of derision, especially from the baying libertarians, if a candidate were to say:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.[24]

Trump does not love America so much as he loves himself just as his followers confuse their love of self or hatred of those who deny them what they desire with love of their America. Instead, their unconstrained desire is what has animated an imperial Presidency over the past 80 years to satisfy the public’s increasingly imperial longings both at home and abroad. The public and the elite want their heart’s desire, their “freedom” even at the cost of democracy. In response to the global threats and the challenge of sustaining a decent world order, the liberal-progressive empire at home and abroad has increased with each decade. The external demands have been met by an equally voracious domestic appetite for “freedoms”, which successive governments, almost without exception, have been happy to satisfy so long as they could sustain focus on the external threats. Even if the external empire has to be sacrificed, Americans what their “freedom” at home as we see Trump promising to redefine the alliances, build walls, and punish “enemies”. In the past, a democracy would turn away from imperialism, even a liberal progressive empire, when it threatened their democracy. For more than 80 years, such a choice never occurred since the public was unaware that the liberal progressive empire growing abroad was expanding at home for they believed domestic prosperity was the same as republican virtue. With Trump it now appears that America is willing to forgo its democracy for it no longer has leaders who challenge the public to love their country more than their personal desires or to live as equals rather than masters or slaves. To live as equals is too much effort for Trump appears to offer them the chance to live as masters since they can impose their politics on their enemies foreign or domestic for that is what they have been habituated to believe politics has become—an arena to impose your politics.[25] Some would turn to Hillary Clinton for her devotion to politics but she presents a milder form of the disordered eros. She has devoted her life to expand the liberal-progressive empire at home. How can she stand in the way for Trump/Jenner expresses what has animated the Democratic Party since 1968? Even if she is elected does she provide anything fundamentally different? A vote for Trump/Jenner is a vote for Hillary or is it that a vote for Hillary is a vote for Trump/Jenner? More importantly, neither alternative offers a vision for how to govern or how to inculcate a republican statesmanship that draws on a love of America rather than satisfying the factions needed to rule. No matter the choice, America will never be the same for the political consequences of its disordered eros have become apparent.

America’s imperial seeds were planted in 1932.

Since 1932, America has been building to this moment as the imperial legacy of a presidency built to deal with potent external threats now emerges in the domestic realm to deal with threats from the incoherent extreme democracy that has grown since 1989 and became particularly virulent after 2001. In this development, Trump is a harbinger for he shows us what will follow regardless of who is elected. To fend off existential threats from abroad, America abandoned a republican foreign policy without realizing it had planted the imperial seeds which slowly, but surely, uprooted republican institutions that sustained a moderate domestic policy that kept extreme democracy from emerging. As the existential threat disappeared the imperial foreign policy that served the country’s oligarchic faction is now fully expressed in America’s extreme democracy. What this means is that any future candidate will be, is already, encultured into this view as the reigning imperial ethos, either in domestic policy or foreign policy means they cannot be elected without consummating their loyalty to it. No candidate has emerged who promises moderation in domestic and foreign policy. There have been some that will offer the appearance of moderation in either realm but moderation in both makes the candidate unelectable. In a domestic realm where America has removed any limits to its private desires, it follows that it would now seek a president who will satisfy those desires publicly.

America is now getting what its heart desires, but not what it soul requires, nor what its founding promises.

[1] “Howland (The Republic, p. 38).  “The root meaning of eros is sexual desire; more broadly, eros designates other kinds of passionate desires as well. Just as the depths of human sexual desire contain more than mere lust, so that eros is often translated as ‘love,’ eros in its distinctly human forms transcends mere appetite. Eros is definitive of the human condition: it is not a specific, discrete desire of a part of the soul or body, like thirst, but a mysterious longing of body and soul as a whole for whatever it is that will provide us with comprehensive satisfaction.” Jacob Howland, The Republic: The Odyssey of Philosophy (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993), quoted in Beyond the Tripartite Soul: The Dynamic Psychology of the “Republic” Laurence D. Cooper The Review of Politics, Vol. 63, No. 2 (Spring, 2001), pp. 341-372 Cambridge University Press for the University of Notre Dame du lac on behalf of Review of Politics

[2] for some contrary views consider and

[3] See Republic 573b-579d

[4] See for example and more generally What has changed in particular is that the family is being destroyed in a way described in the Symposium. Steven Berg describes this change when eros is made a public topic

“Heterosexual eros—which always, even I the case of the prostitute, implies the possibility of the generation of offspring and so points to the family and the establishment of the private realm—is to be abolished in favour of nongenerative homoerotic unions. But the elimination of women and the family means the elimination of the sacred—its rooting ot from public and political life.” p.12 Steven Berg Eros and the Intoxications of Enlightenment (New York: State university of New York Press 2010)

[5] What is curious is why people assume he is joking. Even if it was a “joke” it demonstrates the thought necessary to draw attention to his desires. What parent jokes about “dating” their children? In this case if we follow Freud, the “joke” appears to be an unconscious desire.

The term “date” in Trump’s world is best understood as “fxxx” since he has not displayed anything resembling chaste behaviour.

[6] Or fondle her if you are a celebrity or politically powerful. Consider the case of Vice President Joe Biden who enjoys fondling women while their husbands or parents are nearby.

[7] In America as well as the West, the family as the foundation for the community and the potential for the common good is under assault. The family is seen as something oppressive from which the individual needs to be liberated.

[8] In the Symposium, the discussion about eros shows the threat to the family and the need to dismantle the family since it acts as a constraint. The family is supported by the law to sustain the political stability and the community’s continued prospects for survival. When Steven Berg describes Pausanias’ proposal in the Symposium, we can see the issue for America.

“It is in discussing the lovers of pre-adolescent boys and the laws surrounding marriage that the issues of compulsion and, therefore, punishment slip into his speech for the first time (181e). Pausanias rightly links the discrimination of the just and the unjust that the law makes (182a) and the compulsion it exercises in order to give this discrimination force to the issue of heterosexual eros, marriage, and the family. For it is not the “nobility” of marriage and family life that the law acknowledges in lending legitimacy to the union of man and woman, but rather the necessity of the family as a basis for the city and the consequent political necessity of proclaiming unjust and laying down punitive sanctions against any form of eros that runs counter to the family and acts to dissolve it. Pausanias’ proposal, then, to replace the distinction between the just and the unjust with that between the beautiful and the ugly as the primary distinction of the law, is a proposal to turn the city on its head in regard to erotic maters: heterosexual conjugal union will no longer receive the law’s stamp of approval, but will be rendered “unlawful” in the weak sense—that is, shameful (181b)—and pederasty, which, in Athens, currently exists in a legal no-man’s-land somewhere between outright prohibition and grudging acceptance (182d-183d), will be held up as the model of lawful conduct (184d-e).” p.29

[9]  Who is this tyrannos about whom the Greeks speak?8 We learn from Herodotus that the tyrant is the one who “moves ancestral laws [patria nomia] and forces himself on women and kills men who have not been tried” (3.80.5 [1927]). From Thucydides we learn that Alcibiades was considered the potential tyrant: “Most men, fearing the greatness of his lawless-ness paranoiai] with regard to his body, his daily habits, and the intelligence he showed in whatever he did, set him down as desiring a tyranny” (6.15 [1900]) The Tyranny of Reason in the World of the Polis Arlene W. Saxonhouse The American Political Science Review, Vol. 82, No. 4 (Dec., 1988), pp. 1261-1275 (p.1263)

[11] Wohl, V. 2002. Love Among the Ruins: The Erotics of Democracy in Classical Athens, Princeton and London: Princeton University Press. Love Among the ruins Wohl (2002), 221. quoted in Annie Larivee the International Journal of the Platonic Tradition 6 (2012) 1-26 The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition Eros Tyrannos: Alcibiades as the Model of the Tyrant in Book IX of the RepublicAnnie Larivée p.9

[12] 576 U. S. ____ (2015)

[13] Robert Crumb’s cartoon captures Trump’s behaviour.

[14] Antony. Andrewes, The Greek Tyrants London Hutchinson 1956 p.8 London 1956

[15] The article captures the essence of the Trump follower yet does not connect this to the eros that drives Trump and his followers.

[16] See for example, the discussion of modern natural science and modern tyranny here: Thomas Pangle December 1, 2003 AEI Bradley Lecture Leo Strauss’s Perspective on Modern Politics

[17] Seth Bernadete Plato’s Second Sailing 1989 p. 205

[18] When people want to argue against those who promote this vision of eros, they find they are literally tongue tied because they are told they are in the way of love since the public criteria for judging an act is whether it is beautiful or ugly rather than is it just or unjust. Love is always beautiful in this argument and to oppose these political and legal decisions, one is opposed to that which everyone wants and needs love. Yet, this removes the key issue the distinction between noble or base loves or between just and unjust loves. Today, so long as the love is endorsed by enough people it is just. The key criteria or the love is that it does not “harm” anyone without considering that it would harm society by undermining the family. As a result, opponents are unable to argue otherwise since public speech is debased to the point where disagreement is categorized as homophobia (a mental illness), bigotry, hypocrisy, or “unscientific” prejudices. These positions emerge as public discourse can no longer sustain reasoned debate. Steven Berg describes this

In those regimes in which pederasty has been made entirely lawful, the cause is to be found in the incapacity of their citizens for articulate and persuasive speech: tongue-tied lovers forming a legislative majority have removed all obstacles in the way of the gratification of their desires.” P31

[19] See Eryximachus’ speech in the Symposium “ Eryximachus’ speech as a whole, then, advocates the displacement of the rule of law by the rule of science. He recognizes, however, that if law is to be overcome, it must be confronted on the deepest level, a level to which Pausanias did not descend: sacred law (themis)”. Berg p.38 In the America context, we can see this attack on the sacred law as the attack on the Declaration of Independence principles with the belief in the laws of nature and nature’s God as demonstrated by Obergefell

[20] Harry Neumann Liberalism Carolina Press 1991 p.127

[21] On the Great Thirst see James V. Shall, “The Great Thirst” The Catholic Thing

[22] Athens enshrined such behaviours in law as translegal behaviours became publicly acceptable. In time, Athens was defeated in the war with Sparta as the demos balked at sacrificing their democracy, their freedom, for what was required to sustain the Athenian empire. What is different with America is that America is sustained by modern natural science which allows it to delay the Athenian fate. What science does not do, though, is make a translegal desire less corrosive of what sustains the community. Therein, the problem for future presidents for they must reawaken the old love of country and its scared laws or at least channel the powerful democratic eros to a goal or goals that sustain the common good. Trump’s success suggests this is increasingly unlikely

[23] Thomas L. Pangle, (1987), The Roots of Political Philosophy: ten forgotten Socratic dialogues, page 78. Cornell University Press.  See also  A. Tipton’s Love of Gain, Philosophy and Tyranny: A Commentary on Plato’s Hipparchus Vol. 26/2 (Winter 1999) Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy for a general overview see


[25] Plato set the Symposium in the year 416BC which is also the year of the Melian Dialogue in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War where the Athenian Ambassadors to Melos declared it was a law of nature that the strong rule the weak. See Seth Benardete’s translation of the Symposium (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2001)with his interpretative essay On Plato’s Symposium p. 181.

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Why is the Queen silent on Hillsborough?

Queen of United Kingdom (as well as Canada, Au...

Queen of United Kingdom (as well as Canada, Australia, and other Commonwealth realms) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Queen has not made a public statement about the Hillsborough finding of fact. Despite, 96 citizens being unlawfully killed, she is silent. In 2007 when 56 UK citizens died in a terrorist attack, she and other members of the Royal Family spoke publicly.[1]

These statements were fit and proper. She is both the Head of State and the Commander in Chief of all military services.[2] It is her job, through her government, to keep the public safe. If neither her nor her government cannot keep the public safe, then their legitimacy becomes problematic.[3] Why should the people obey a government or a Monarch if it cannot protect them?[4]

What about Hillsborough?

At the Hillsborough Inquiry, we learned 96 UK citizens were unlawfully killed by the South Yorkshire Police (SYP). So how does this connect to the Queen? Why is this something she has to address? The SYP officers all take a loyalty oath to the Queen. They do not swear an oath to the public or Parliament. In effect, they are the Queen’s police. In the same way that it is Her Majesty’s Government (HMG), so it is Her Majesty’s Police Force because the police draw their authority from the Crown not from Parliament nor the People.

Will the Queen speak so the voice of justice is heard?

The police officer cannot become a police officer, gain their powers, without taking, giving, or attesting the following oath of office.[5]  Most importantly, the police do not derive their authority from the law. The Police derive their authority from the Queen. Statutes provide them legal powers, but their authority is derived from the sovereign.[6] It is not derived from Parliament. It is not derived from the law. It is not derived from the people. The Queen, as the source of all laws and justice, provides them with their constitutional existence and authority.[7] .

Is the executive silent for to speak would invalidate its legitimacy?

The Coroner’s Inquest found as a fact that the South Yorkshire Police unlawfully killed 96 UK citizens. Innocent people died from police acts, yet, the Queen has not made a statement. She has not expressed the same public sympathy for the victims as she did for the 56 after 7/7. In the UK, all the coercive powers rest with the executive; that is, with the Monarchy as expressed through HMG. Parliament does not have a police force. Parliament does not have a military force. At most, Parliament has a ceremonial force in the person of the Serjeant of Arms who can take someone into custody for refusing to attend Parliament.[8] With this coercive power comes great responsibility. The Crown holds the power of life and death over all citizens. If the Crown declares you a threat it can kill you in self-defence. There is no appeal and more importantly, the Crown does not have to justify its use of self-defence.[9]

When a stranger does it, we speak, when we do it, we are silent. Why?

What is it that makes it necessary to speak about a terrorist attack yet remain silent about an injustice by agents of the Crown that killed 96 citizens? Does the Crown’s silence signify that it cannot answer that question? Is it silent because it knows that to condemn the police would be to condemn itself? If the Crown cannot speak to the victims of the Crown’s misdeeds how can it be held to account? Are the people safe when power acts with impunity? Is that just? Why should people obey authority that acts with impunity and refuses to admit when it has acted contrary to justice?

What is the Crown’s highest duty in peacetime?

In peacetime, the ruler’s highest responsibility is to ensure justice. Justice is the common interest that serves everyone. When citizens are killed by terrorists, they suffer an injustice. The Crown reacts to that injustice. In response to the injustice of the 7/7 attacks, the Queen spoke on the issue. For consistency, one would expect the Queen to speak about the injustice her citizens suffered 27 years ago which left 96 people dead. More importantly, one would expect her to comment on the 27 years of lies, denials, and cover-ups by police. Will she speak out about this injustice?

Is it politics or common decency?

Some might object to such a question to say that the Queen does not get involved in politics. In this they would be correct. The Queen has been careful to avoid engaging in politics to avoid a constitutional crisis with Parliament. Yet, where are the People in this equation? Do they not have an advocate in the Queen?  Is it politics that keeps her from comforting the victims, consoling the survivors and reassuring the public? She did call Margaret Thatcher when she hurt her feelings after it appeared she criticized her as uncaring.[10] Is it politics to reach out those who have suffered and endured for 27 years overcoming every obstacle the Crown has created. Moreover, those who have campaign for justice have done so with a dignity and restraint. In this they have embodied the best of the British spirit defiant in face of adversity, resolute in the pursuit of justice, and faithful to the idea of common decency. The Queen did award honours to two of the family representatives for service to the victims.[11] What is the point of the Monarchy if it cannot recognize the damage to the body politics, to her loyal, long suffering, subjects and comfort them at the point where they have been vindicated? What is the difference of suffering when 96 people are unlawfully killed to 56 killed by terrorists?

The Queen’s silence

If the Crown cannot speak publicly on this issue, what issue can it speak on?  The 96 victims have the silence of the grave, perhaps it is time the victims families and the survivors heard the Queen’s voice?

[1] “     Queen Elizabeth II issued an official statement, saying “I know I speak for the whole nation in expressing my sympathy to all those affected and the relatives of the killed and injured. I have nothing but admiration for the emergency services as they go about their work.” On July 8, the Queen visited the Royal London Hospital, near Liverpool Street, where she visited some of the victims of the attacks, and emergency staff who responded to the attacks. She later made a speech described by the BBC as “unusually forthright”, in which she called the bombings an outrage, and said that “those who perpetrate these brutal acts against innocent people should know that they will not change our way of life.” On July 10, the Queen again commented on the attacks, during the UK’s commemoration services for the 60th anniversary of World War II. The Queen also ordered that the Union Flag on Buckingham Palace fly at half-mast.” [Emphasis added]

[2] J1.001.

The government and command of each of the fighting Services is vested in Her Majesty the Queen, who has charged the Secretary of State with general responsibility for the defence of the Realm and established a Defence Council having command and administration over Her armed forces.


[3] We note that parliamentary governments have fallen for their failure to respond effectively to public safety issues. In history we know of regimes that have been overthrown because of their inability to protect the public.

[4] This social contract is as old as the idea of government.

[5] “’I………………..of……………… solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold the said office I will, to the best of my skill and knowledge, discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law.’”

[6] To believe otherwise forgets the imperial nature of UK policing. Even if we look a the statute that “created” the police, we misunderstand the nature of law enforcement in that the police do not serve Parliament or the People for they do not owe them an oath of loyalty. As an imperial instrument, the police reflect power not the law. Even thought they are “legitimated” in common law or Parliamentary tradition, it embodies a colonial or imperial tradition.

“An appreciation of the imperial context permits a fresh appraisal. More sense can be made of the police public order role in present society by inserting the material omitted from most police histories—the centrality of colonial conquest and of imperial legitimation to institutional development in Victorian England. “The history of England is also the history of our colonies . . .” (Sumner, 1982, p-8).” p.5

Mike Brogden, THE EMERGENCE OF THE POLICE—THE COLONIAL DIMENSION The British Journal of Criminology, Vol. 27, No. 1, WHY POLICE?: SPECIAL ISSUE ON POLICING IN BRITAIN (Winter 1987), pp. 4-14

In many ways, this is the source of much of the UK police residual legitimacy problems. How does it transition from an imperial relationship toa  democratic relationship where it derives its power from the people and their true consent and not the myth of consent.?

[7] See for example*/

[8]  Select Committees and Coercive Powers—Clarity of Confusion? Richard Gordon QC and Amy Street p.36

[9] see also  for the self-defence claim see the letter to the UN

Ibid “Barack Obama has since faced repeated questions about the constitutionality of such killings, with accusations that the US is engaged in extrajudicial assassinations.

The UK has no such constitution protecting individual citizens.”


[11] Seh also backed a public display to remember the Hillsborough tragedy.

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Social media’s corrosive effect on UK Monarchy’s legitimacy

Map of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and...

Map of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in comparison to the European Union and Continental Europe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since 2008, Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) has opened up a number of public inquiries into long running scandals that have been a cause of public anger. For decades, HMG resisted such calls. The official story had closed these events and rendered a verdict. Yet, the public were not satisfied. Then, starting around 2010 the government started to address these long simmering issues.

Each of these issues involves state bodies or its agents. They point directly to failures by the government or its agents. They point to abuse of power. Most importantly, they point to grave injustices.

Is the regime founded in consent or coercion?

All regimes are based on a mix of consent and coercion. No regime is based solely on consent and no regime is based solely on coercion. If they have existed, they have existed briefly for they disintegrated under the extreme ethos. The UK monarchy, is not based on consent. The Queen, who is the source of all laws, is not on the throne by consent. The public did not elect her. They will not elect her successor. In this role, she has no mandate save that which force of arms and tradition supply. So long as she acts with justice, keeps the people safe, and respects the laws she will continue to rule.

The Coronation Oath sets out her responsibilities.

Archbishop. Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the Peoples of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, and of your Possessions and the other Territories to any of them belonging or pertaining, according to their respective laws[1] and customs? [emphasis added]

Queen. I solemnly promise so to do.

Archbishop. Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements?

Queen. I Will.[2]

As such, the legitimacy of her reign, her ability to stay in power, rests on the ability to deliver justice.

The official story once unassailable is now openly challenged and changed

In the past, the official verdicts by HMG or Her Majesty’s Police were the final verdict. There was no appeal beyond it. Social media has changed that completely and irretrievably. No longer can she or her agents rely on their authority or their control of the public or official memory. Social media has allowed the public to share information, develop networks, and investigate official records to create a counter narrative. The public now can create and access a rival public memory to challenge any statement, fact, or claim proposed by the government. For example, the victims of the abuse of power by the undercover police investigated and unmasked the perpetrators. They were able to do this only with the help of social media. Without that platform, the task would have been impossible for an individual even one with extensive resources. The survivors of institutional child sex abuse were able to challenge the government because they could create a rival memory to the one created to defend Jimmy Savile, Cyril Smith, and even Lord Janner. Today, the balance has shifted. Individuals who work together can created a rival or alternative narrative to the official story. They have forced HMG and the Monarchy to respond when before, they would have been met with silence or denials.

The UK media patrol the public domain protecting the Crown from challenge

The government’s denials and their official history succeeded because the media helped to defend it. On occasion it did challenge that narrative. However, it was usually a local issue or one that was within the proprietor’s interest. The media rarely challenge the official narrative. They rarely created or sustained a rival memory to challenge the official memory. Although there are rare examples where a journalist or even a group of journalists did challenge the system, they were an exception. With the advent of social media, the media have been challenged directly because they no longer have a publishing monopoly. They may have the largest share but they now have to accept the rival voices across Twitter, blogs, and Facebook that challenge them even as they try to co-opt it to their ends. The old establishment relationships are fracturing. However, the issue is more than the media losing money, instead it is that the Crown is losing its legitimacy.

Social media challenges the Crown’s legitimacy by broadcasting its injustice

Social media is now challenging the Crown’s legitimacy. Social media reveals that Crown has been complicit. In these scandals it has been shown to lack justice, to abuse power, and to flout the law. The Crown has ruled by law but it has not accepted the rule of law. Social media has shown that the Crown has usurped the people’s power, popular sovereignty. The Crown’s title to rule is no longer valid. To shore up of its legitimacy, to burnish its valid title to rule, the Crown has sought to address the long running, deep seated, injustices within its system. In particular, the following investigations which challenge the Crown’s legitimacy and the legitimacy of its bodies would not have happened without social media.

  • The Hillsborough Inquiry.
  • The Goddard Inquiry into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse
  • The Daniel Morgan Murder Independent Panel
  • The Pitchford Inquiry in to Undercover Policing (SpyCops)

Instead of lancing the boil of popular discontent, the inquiries have shown the full scale, scope and depth of the Crown’s corruption. Instead of shoring up the Crown’s legitimacy, the inquiries, panels, and inquests have eroded it further. The outcomes have shown the Crown, its institutions, and its agents have had scant regard for the public good, the rule of law, or justice. They have shown the British public that the Monarchy is an outdated institution. Why should someone in the 21st century obey an unelected person whose claim to rule is based on a 13th century standard?

When authority is questioned can it justify itself?

Social media challenges the legitimacy of all rulers and governments. Those that can answer the public coherently and convincingly will retain their legitimacy. To answer, the rulers show that they rely on the public’s consent. Those that cannot answer show they lack the public’s consent. What social media has shown the public is that Crown does not exist by their consent. The Crown cannot explain why the UK requires an unelected monarch. The Crown cannot explain why the Parliament rules by law but will not accept the rule of law[3] The Crown cannot explain why it should be considered legitimate when it is not based on consent.

The Crown is unable to justify an unelected ruler in an age of hyper-democracy

In time, the Crown will have to reform or be replaced, yet to do either would repudiate its legitimacy. One thing is clear. The Monarchy has survived for over 1000 years because of its ability to change in response to challenge or assimilate the challengers. In doing so, it has always ensured that it ruled. Yet, social media demands an equality that invalidates the Crown’s prerogative. The question is whether the Crown can manage that change. So far, it has responded with increased surveillance, laws to punish extremist speech, and a system of institutional informers. All of these are done within the law, but none increase the Crown’s legitimacy but only go to show its increased fragility for the reflect the need for public safety without delivering justice. Despite the political reforms to lance the boils of public discontent, the Crown has been unable to justify why it is legitimate. The Crown cannot answer the question of what justify its continued existence as a regime without consent. No matter the answers its provides, the Crown cannot stop the social media revolution or divert it from the demand for equality. We have begun to see the beginning of its end.



[1] That a monarch agrees to rule according to the laws separates them from a tyranny. A king has been able to transform their usurpation of power, the public’s power or what is known as popular sovereignty, and transform it into a valid title to rule. The validity of that rule is enhanced by the Monarchy’s willingness to rule according to the community’s laws.  As Leo Strauss explains in On Tyranny, a tyrant is differentiated from a king on the basis of ruling over willing or unwilling subjects and whether it is according to the community’s laws or the ruler’s will.

“Tyranny is defined in contradistinction to kingship: kingship is such rule as is exercised over willing subjects and is in accordance with the laws of the cities; tyranny is such rule as is exercised over unwilling subjects and accords, not with laws but with the will of the ruler.” OT p. 68


[3] Lord Neuberger recognized this point when he quoted Lord Justice Laws,

“It may be that my perceptive and far-thinking colleague, Lord Justice Laws, will one day turn out to be right when he argued that, through judicial development of the common law, ‘a gradual reordering of our constitutional priorities [may] bring alive the nascent idea that a democratic legislature cannot be above the law.61 ’ But we are not there yet.” (the footnote is from: Laws, Illegality and the Problem of Jurisdiction, in Supperstone & Goudie (eds), Judicial Review, (Butterworths) (1997) 4.17 cited in Goldworthy, The Myth of the Common Law Constitution in Edlin (ed), Common Law Theory (CUP) (2007) at 204)

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Hillsborough and the cognitive dissonance of UK police response

In psychology there is a term called “cognitive dissonance”. The term refers to the symptoms a person faces when their behaviour does not match their thoughts, attitude, or beliefs.

Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors.

This produces a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance etc.

For example, when people smoke (behavior) and they know that smoking causes cancer (cognition).[1] [emphasis in the original]

When we look at the senior officer statements on Hillsborough and the “lessons learned” see this dissonance, a dissonance that borders on schizophrenia. The cognitive overload created by the gap between public rhetoric and internal attitudes, beliefs and acts. One could go so far as to suggest this is the leading cause of stress within the police. They are told to think one way and they have to behave another way.

“Uphold the law, but cover for your colleagues”

“Tell the truth, but make sure your statements match.”

“Treat people fairly, but the [insert local minority] are a problem.

To deal with such cognitive dissonance, a person will seek to focus on that which creates the most harmony. They will focus on what they can control and is easier to reconcile. The person may become focused on a specific part of their behaviour such as great attention to personal grooming even though their house is in disarray. The police are no different.

When we consider the response to Hillsborough verdicts earlier this week, we see cognitive dissonance at work.  On the Police Professional web site, we see an article quoting a number of senior officials involved in the South Yorkshire Police and nationally. The statements help us to understand some of the reasons why the public have less trust in police to reform. The following remarks are based on the article that is found at this link.[2]

Hillsborough as a health and safety case study.

The comments focus exclusively on the police response to the way events are managed. They explain that they have learned lessons from Hillsborough. One would expect nothing less. Their professional role is to manage these events safely. No one disputes their success as large public events are safer. Indeed, from the litany of comments, one would believe that health and safety was the sole issue to Hillsborough.

Except that is not the issue The survivors did not have to wait 27 years for a health and safety ruling. Health and safety for events was not at issue. We know that was not the issue because the health and safety lessons were applied immediately and continually after the disaster. No one waited 27 years to start to admit health and safety changes were needed or to implement them. Yet, this is what the police statement would have us believe if we did not know anything about the issue. Here are the statements.

“The Hillsborough disaster changed the way in which major sporting events are policed and very many lessons have been learned.” But he added: “Today, with improvements in training, communications and technology, it is almost impossible to consider how the same set of circumstances could arise again.” David Crompton Chief Constable South Yorkshire Police

“Officers would not be in the same position of commanding a football match without being trained by their professional body, the College of Policing.”  Chief Constable Alex Marshall, College of Policing CEO

Hillsborough “shaped how we police football matches”, adding: “Sadly the changes we have made since then can never take away from the seriousness of the police failures at Hillsborough.” Sara Thornton, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) Chair, Chief Constable

“Today’s policing standards — such as strict procedures, improved equipment and health and safety standards — were simply not in place 27 years ago, nor indeed the current ability and frameworks for junior officers to question senior officers’ decisions.  Neil Bowles, Chair of South Yorkshire Police Federation

What is the elephant in the room?

The public distrust the police because they appear institutionally unable to talk about the elephant in the room. They cannot talk about systemic corruption, a culture that is simply unable to hold itself to account except in a superficial way. No matter how grave a police officer acts, the first response is always “They are a rogue officer” as if they emerge spontaneously without anyone noticing or intervening until it becomes unavoidably obvious. There has never been a police force or a Chief Constable that has stood up and said “We have a toxic culture and we are going to change it.” The failure to be honest with themselves and therefore with the public is what creates the crisis of legitimacy. It is what is at the heart of Hillsborough except the police appear unable or unwilling to talk about it.

Two issues are at Hillsborough’s heart. First, the police unlawfully killed 96 people. Second, the police covered it up, denied it, and lied about it for 27 years. These are the issues that matter to the public, yet no senior police officer has publicly condemned either of these behaviours. None have said “There but for the grace of God goes our police force.” They may have said that quietly in the dark to themselves, but they will not discuss that openly within their force or publicly. No senior police officer has publicly condemned the institutional lies that were sustained for 27 years. A culture that ensured the truth would be covered up.

How have the police responded?

The police respond by pointing to ongoing criminal investigations. They claim they do not want to prejudice the cases. Yet, this troubles the public. In any other cases involving the public, the police have commented publicly and freely about alleged perpetrators. When it comes to their own “dirty laundry” they go quiet.

What is undeniable is that officers lied. What is undeniable is that South Yorkshire Police have a culture that tolerates cover-ups. We know from Hillsborough and Rotherham that the culture is flawed. The same abuse of power is present in both cases. In the latter, it is now apparent that police officers were involved in the abuse. Yet, no senior police officer has spoken out about 27 years of a culture in denial. Even when judgements are rendered, it is now a fact that the South Yorkshire Police force unlawfully killed 96 people, no senior police officer has condemned the force.

Here is what Sara Thornton said on the day the fact was verified in law.

“The impact of the tragedy at Hillsborough was felt across policing. It has shaped how we police football matches because we are committed to doing all we can to prevent anything like this ever happening again.  Sadly the changes we have made since then can never take away from the seriousness of the police failures at Hillsborough and what that has meant for so many people over so many years.”[3]

There is no mention that she condemns a police force that could kill 96 people. She does not condemn a culture that denied this for 27 years *even though* a senior officer admitted to the lie. Perhaps the hope is that the criminal investigations will reinforce the comforting myth of “rogue” officers or the equally comforting myth of “a string of blunders so no one is at fault.”[4] These are comforting myths because they point to only one thing that no one wants to discuss publicly—the system. The system is the culture, the way things are done, which is not discussed. What the public want to know is why? Why are the police unable to condemn or discuss publicly a corrupt culture that lasted for 27 years?

That which we cannot talk about us is what haunts us

Why is it that senior police officers cannot talk about a corrupt culture? A culture that denied the truth for 27 years? A culture that encouraged silence despite officers knowing that it was a lie? For 27 years South Yorkshire Police lived and defended a lie. The lie is known but no senior officer will talk about it. Instead, they talk about better event safety, about better event communication, about learning the lessons of event planning.

Cognitive dissonance on a national scale.

What we have is cognitive dissonance on a national scale. We have a problem that we cannot talk about so we will talk about what works.

South Yorkshire Police are not a rogue force. If this becomes the belief, you begin a journey that ends with a dangerous truth. If you scale the rogue officer defence upwards to the police force, you will arrive at a constitutional crisis. Perhaps senior police officers and Government ministers know this instinctually.

Even if that truth is not to be discussed openly, one thing is clear. There will continue to be cover-ups, lies, and corruption until the cognitive dissonance is treated. The cognitive dissonance will create more officer stress, more abuse of power, and increased public distrust. Until the police can openly discuss a cultural problem as clear-cut as Hillsborough, the police cannot regain the trust that has been lost. Their public behaviour will never match what they know privately.


[1] Cognitive Dissonance by Saul McLeod published 2008, updated 2014




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To whom is the UK government accountable?

The question seems simple and the answer seems obvious. Yes, the UK government is accountable. If we understand being accountable as fitting one of the four types that Lord Sharman recommended, then it appears accountable.[1]

  • giving an explanation
  • providing further information
  • reviewing and, if necessary, revising
  • granting redress or imposing sanctions

For the most part, this seems to be the way the UK government works. It justifies itself before Parliament and the people through a variety of methods and means. Parliament can hold it to account through select committees while citizens can use such things as judicial review. However, recent cases suggest a worrying trend to resist anything but superficial accountability.

The Crown will not explain itself when it kills its citizens.

The case is the drone strike that killed Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin[2] who were both UK citizens. The drone strike was targeted at Khan. The PM justified the killing as self-defence.[3] The UK, a nation state, had to defend itself against an individual, a citizen, by killing them with a drone strike.[4] The UK also claimed that the strike was required to defend Iraq from ISIL.[5] The citizen has no redress in this situation. They received no warning, no trial, and no appeal. The state decided to kill them without the constitutional recourse which is available in the United States.[6]

When asked, the UK government refused to publish the legal advice that justified killing a UK citizen. If the government will not publish the reasoning or the legal advice that justifies the killing, can any citizen be safe? The highest duty within a state is justice. If the state cannot provide justice, can it consider itself legitimate? The state already holds vast power over the individual, including the power of life and death, so when it uses this power it must be accountable. If a government is unwilling to justify itself to its citizens, is there a difference between it and a gang of robbers? The UK government justified itself on “self-defence” without explaining why it delayed telling the public of the killing.[7]

The UK government decided that a UK citizen was a threat to national security and killed them. The principle is that the Crown will kill people who threaten its security, the national security. In such a society, is political opposition possible? A few months later David Cameron said that the Labour party, was a “threat to national security”.

Does this mean that the government can kill them for the threat that they pose? Is it possible that Jeremy Corbyn can be killed by the Crown in self-defence? The UK took centuries to develop the practice of decent politics where political opposition to the Crown was not potentially punishable by death. Are we reverting to that earlier era?

No one is accountable, but we have learned lessons.

When a government does not account for killing its citizens, can the citizens expect justice? More to the point, can they expect someone to be accountable? It would appear not.[8]

When Jean Charles de Menezes was killed, the state denied responsibility. They argued the killing was justified by the threat they faced. They claimed the Police Officers acted in self-defence against a potential suicide attacker.[9] His family challenged the state’s claims. They brought their case to the highest court in Europe to which the UK is accountable. The judgement found there was not enough evidence to prosecute anyone for his death. He died because of the systemic errors, omissions, and missed opportunities but no individual was responsible for that outcome. The judgement means that like the 7/7 attack no one is responsible. If no one is responsible, but all parties involved were state organisations, then the state is responsible, but has it been held to account?

These two cases show the way in which the state can kill citizens and strangers without being accountable. In both cases, the state claimed self-defence. If self-defence justifies the act, does this explain enough to the public? Are the public, or the victims, able to hold the state to account. If the most you can expect is an apology, what does that do for the living? Are we to be grateful it is not us?


[1] Lord Sharman of Redlynch Holding to Account The Review of Audit and Accountability for Central Government (February 2001) p16  Lord Sharman was quoting from Barbaris P (1998) ‘The New Public Management and a New Accountability‘ in Public Administration, Autumn. Also Neale A and Anders on B (2000) ‘Performance Reporting for Accountability Purposes – Lessons, Issues, Futures’ paper at International Public Management Workshop, Wellington, Ne w Zealand


[3] “So on this occasion we ourselves took action. Today I can inform the House that in an act of self-defence and after meticulous planning Reyaad Khan was killed in a precision air strike carried out on 21 August by an RAF remotely piloted aircraft while he was travelling in a vehicle in the area of Raqqah in Syria.

Mr Speaker, we took this action because there was no alternative. In this area, there is no government we can work with. We have no military on the ground to detain those preparing plots. And there was nothing to suggest that Reyaad Khan would ever leave Syria or desist from his desire to murder us at home. So we had no way of preventing his planned attacks on our country without taking direct action.” [emphasis added]



[6] Ibid  “Barack Obama has since faced repeated questions about the constitutionality of such killings, with accusations that the US is engaged in extrajudicial assassinations.


The UK has no such constitution protecting individual citizens.”

[7] The attacks occurred on 21 August 2015 but the official notification was on 7 September 2015.

[8] Instead, it would appear when something does go wrong, we are told that lessons will be learned. Just as with the 7/7 attack when the government failed to protect its citizens, despite its extensive powers, it deflect accountability.  As the article notes, “The twin reports into the London bombings of 7 July 2005 are marked by the characteristically British habit in these types of inquiries of listing a long series of failures and then not blaming anyone.” It then quotes the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report with the now classic Civil Service response: “We believe that lessons have been learned.”

[9] The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) did find the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) had breached the Health and Safety Regulations and were fined 175,000.

The family had settled a legal claim with the MPS out of court with the MPS paying them a sum just over 100,000 and their legal fees in return for the family dropping their suit.

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Does the United Kingdom have the rule of law?

The Magna Carta from 1215 is an early English ...

The Magna Carta from 1215 is an early English form of encoded social and legal rules. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

‘Wherever law ends, tyranny begins’. –John Locke

The question seems odd, almost quixotic. In a country that prides itself on Magna Carta with a long history of common law, it seems a question that need not be asked. this seems an odd question. The common understanding is that the United States of America, which prides itself on the rule of law, inherited its faith in the rule of law from the United Kingdom (UK). Although both countries may appear to approach it differently, the question would not be raised. America was founded in the belief that the rule of law backed by judicial review, where a written constitution would be the highest law, would be the highest authority. As Harry Jaffa explained, the social contract, America’s founding, where individuals left the state of nature and entered society was based on the practice whereby each citizen recognized the equal natural rights of all.

How can they enter society, except by a social contract—or compact—in which each recognizes the equal natural rights of all, in a society dedicated to preserving the equal natural rights of each? It is this mutual recognition which is the foundation, at once, of majority rule and minority rights, of the rule of law.[1]

The citizen could appeal to this social contract, the constitution, while the government, organised to secure to the rights of the citizens, would have to justify itself before it. The writings that defend, promote, and explain that founding, rely on the rule of law as touchstone. In the same way, the United Kingdom despite lacking a constitutional moment or a written constitution, holds the rule of law as a central tenet of its constitutional system.

Equality before the law applies more to the US than the UK.

The rule of law, as explained by is greatest modern proponent Albert Dicey, is based on three interrelated ideas. First, the supremacy of regular law over arbitrary power, equality before the law or equal subjection of all classes of person legal and natural, and the government bound by, or constituted by, the law. The definition appears to capture the way the law shapes the constitutional relationships within the regime. Yet, he appears to overlook the way in which the law in the United States derives its just authority from the ends to which it serves, the ends to which the citizens consented through their constitutional moment. In the United States, the people consent to the means by which the law are made and enforced for they are the source of the law. Curiously, Dicey tries to make the same argument for the United Kingdom to argue that the people decide the laws and are sovereign as expressed through Parliament. Yet, this fails to consider the Crown’s prerogative power and Parliament’s legislative supremacy. The people do not constrain Parliament’s will. Only Parliament can restrain its will. Thus, consent is an important difference between the United Kingdom and the United States of America regarding the rule of law as consent or its absence shapes the laws, as well as the understanding of the rule of law.

The feudal inequality remains in the UK.

From that consent, the idea of political and legal equality emerges. A citizen participates equally in the public domain when they consent to and obey the law which expresses and recognizes their mutual political equality derived from their equal natural rights. In this approach, America is marked by the idea of and belief in political equality defined through a constitutional moment. Through political equality, America broke with the European imperial tradition, which was based on a natural and positive inequality derived from the absolutist view of the divine right of kings. Thomas Jefferson noted this difference in his defence of the American political system.

“That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favoured few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.”[2]

The rule of law through a constitution tells Americans that no one was “booted and spurred” ready to ride them by their divine right. In particular, Americans believe and know, that no one is above the law, all are equal before the law, and all have to answer to the law when required.

Rule of law and respect for the law are mutually reinforcing

The rule of law was tested by a great civil war. In that war, America had to decide whether it would retain its constitution, the rule of law, or the Union would be destroyed so a slave state could emerge. The war and its outcome settled that question. Through it, Lincoln re-founded America on a different basis, which expressed the reverence for the laws needed to sustain America’s political institutions.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap–let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs;–let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.[3]

Founded in a revolution and re founded in a brutal civil war, America’s great experiment in self-government based on the rule of law would flourish. The constitution, the highest law, survived. However, it has continued to be tested. Two cases in particular show that the rule of law, with the belief that no one is above or beyond the law, is a core political institution for America that expresses, defends, and sustains the common good.


The first case is that of President Richard Nixon. He refused, for a full day, to respond to a subpoena by the House Committee investigating him for Watergate break-in. They asked that he turn over documents required for their investigation. For several hours, he refused. Then, at the last minute, he complied. Barbara Jordan, on the panel, that would later vote to impeach Nixon, captured the constitutional tension quite eloquently. She said

“The fact is that on yesterday, the American people waited with great anxiety for eight hours, not knowing whether their President would obey an order of the Supreme Court of the United States.”[4]

Nixon complied with the court’s order. He respected the rule of law. However, Nixon resigned before he had to answer the law’s questions.


The second case refers to President Bill Clinton. Unlike Nixon, Clinton would answer the law’s questions. After extended legal negotiations, he agreed to testify in the investigation into the Monica Lewinsky case. The public saw a sitting president sworn under oath to answer specific questions about his relationship with Ms Lewinsky. He was called before the law to given an account of his behaviour. He could not avoid answering the investigator’s questions. Clinton answered the law’s questions.

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman Monica Lewinsky.

He could not opt out of them. Neither President said “I will decide what questions are appropriate or that I will answer?” Neither President attempted to tell the court what they would or would not answer. Despite their great political and institutional power, both presidents bowed before the law. They saw the Constitution above their status. They served the Constitution. The rule of law would be respected. They would answer the law’s questions.

What happens in the UK?

One would expect that the same would happen in the UK where the rule of law is supposed to have been born. For the most part, it does. We are encouraged to believe that the executive, the powerful, the privileged bow before the law so that anyone appearing before the court, under the rule of law, would answer its questions. They would not be entitled, allowed, or empowered to decide what questions they would answer or were appropriate.

If the Queen is above the law, how can we have rule of law?

In the UK the rule of law does not exist to the same extent, if at all, as it does in the US. For a start, the Queen is above the law.[5]

“Given the historical development of the Sovereign as the ‘Fount of Justice’, civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the Sovereign as a person under UK law. Acts of Parliament do not apply to The Queen in her personal capacity unless they are expressly stated to do so.” [6]

She is only covered by laws that directly apply to her otherwise she obeys the laws voluntarily. As she is above the law, a key tenet of the rule of law—equality before the law is missing. Her example suggests that obedience of to the law is a function of proximity to the Crown. Consider the following case.

If the Queen (and Parliament) are above the law, are their servants above the law?

During the Phone Hacking trial, where former News International employees Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks faced charges relating to phone hacking, one of the witnesses called to testify was Sir Michael Peat, Private Secretary to Prince Charles from 2002 to 2012. At the trial, the Crown’s QC asked whether an entry in the journal indicated whether he had an affair. He refused to answer the question. He argued that he did not see the relevance of the questions. Here is how Peter Jukes described the scene.

“Justice Saunders tried to placate him: “Your evidence is relevant to this case,” he told Peat. “However much you were nagged by the police, we would be grateful if you would spend a few minutes of your time to answer questions.” But Peat wasn’t having it. He said he’d be the judge of what he would answer: “As long as I feel it is relevant,” he said.” [emphasis added]

It was one of the rare moments the hacking trial judge showed the steel beneath the charm, a flash of the ceremonial sword on the wall, usually obscured by his silk robes. “It is not your decision if it is relevant or not,” Justice Saunders said: “It is not your decision. It is my decision – because I am the judge in this court. Let’s have the jury back in….”

As the jury returned, Justice Saunders explained the reason for the hiatus: “We have done our utmost not to require people to answer questions about their personal life. Sir Michael does not want to answer the question. We will carry on without the question being asked.” He indicated the Crown barrister should continue. Bryant-Heron said flatly: “I have no further questions. Thank you my lord,” and sat down.” [7] [Emphasis added]

The judge and the QC appear to collude in not applying the rule of law. The judge does not require him to answer the question nor does the QC revisit the question. Sir Michael does not want to answer the question, as he does not see the relevant, so the QC and Judge allow him to avoid it. He does not have to obey the law because he does not believe it is relevant. He will decide what is relevant not the court, nor the judge, nor the QC. No one responsible for the rule of law, the judge or the QC challenged him. They simply accepted that the question was not relevant because Sir Michael had said so.

In the UK, the behaviour passes with barely a comment. I can find only one reference and it does not focus on Sir Michael’s refusal to obey the law. It suggests that the judge ruled he did not have to answer the question, which reverses the exchange. The judge is doing Sir Michael’s bidding as he was not asking the judge for permission.[8] The judge may have reminded Sir Michael of the law and the court, but he did not make him obey either. Moreover, the QC did not repeat the question and enforce the law and the court’s authority. Perhaps discretion is the better part of valour when the law defers to power. Can we think why this is acceptable?

Are inappropriate questions a sign the law rules?

The behaviour might be excusable if we accept that questions are inappropriate, which is for the witness to decide. If we do, which seems doubtful, is this approach open to less powerful witnesses? We have seen a rape victim, a vulnerable person, on the stand being forced by the judge to answer excruciatingly sensitive questions. If we compare this to the case of Abby, a 13-year-old girl who was questioned aggressively by seven consecutive barristers every day over three weeks, we have to wonder why Sir Michael was granted such discretion.[9] If they fail to answer the question their character and evidence are called into question. The court never hesitates to require an answer. The witness does not get to say “I do not think that the question is relevant.” The situation became so problematic with vulnerable witnesses being traumatized or even driven to suicide by the approach that the government had to issue guidance to restrain the behaviour.[10] However, the event appears to suggest that the weak seem to have a different status before the law and the court. The key difference appears to be the status of the witness and their attitude to the rule of law. The weak and vulnerable are not educated to view the law as an inconvenience. They are educated to obey the law.

Would anyone get away with this in the US?

In the United States, the political and legal cultures are different from the United Kingdom. The arrogance before the law would not be accepted for the law is king.[11] Even the President of the United States respects the law and the court. In the UK, the powerful do not respect the law in the same way. The Queen, as we note, is above the law and the Royal Household[12] is equally exempt to the extent that they, not the court, the judge or the QC, will decide what questions are relevant.[13] Instead, it is the law that bows before the powerful. It would appear that the UK’s courts are imperious to the weak and courteous to the powerful.[14]

One wonders if any other witnesses would be allowed to act as imperiously before the court. Then again, the Judge swears an oath of obedience to the Crown not to the law or to the people. If the Crown’s representative can display such contempt of the rule of law, the court’s authority, it makes us understand what Thucydides said 2500 years ago. “The strong do as they will, the weak do as they must. Only between equals is there justice.” The law creates equality, an equality that exists superficially, if at all, in the United Kingdom.

The strong do as they want, is what the law tell us in the UK?

The Royal family is not the only group beyond the rule of law. Parliament also exists beyond the law.[15] On an individual level, though, other Crown officials show a similar attitude and behaviour toward the rule of law. Consider the way Crown officials react to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). We know from the article “Most powerful person you have never heard of” that the law is flouted regularly, repeatedly without any concern of censure.[16] There is no desire to meet the letter or the spirit of the law when it constrains the political imperative. The approach reflects an attitude which becomes a common practice regarding the rule of law. Why is it a surprise that a civil servant would flout the FOIA when their ministers hold the law in similar disdain? Their behaviour suggests that the law only applies to those who lack the power to avoid it. The powerful do as they want while the weak do as they must.

Does repetition make a reality?

Despite their behavior, the UK’s legal establishment talks avidly of the rule of law as if repetition makes it a reality. They talk of a pious fraud. The rule of law exists by a fiction as it preserves the regime. The law serves to protect the powerful to maintain the public order without overt coercion. What supports this vision is the illusion that the Crown exists by consent and not force or fraud. The Crown exists by force even though it rules according to the law[17] especially when measured against the standard of the Declaration of Independence.

Is the rule of law mask for the arcana imperii?

The hollowness of the rule of law is arcana imperii, the secret knowledge, that drives the regime as the powerful know they are not beholden to the law. The laws constrain the weak as they serve powerful. The contrast with the United States could not be greater. In a land of a written constitution that is the highest law in the land no one would dare to act imperiously toward the law. In the UK where the Queen is the source of the laws so she obeys the laws voluntarily or by choice, the imperious relationship to the law remains.

When the law apologizes to power can we say that we have the rule of law? Is it that the law serves privilege for it rules by law?[18] Perhaps it is time the UK had the rule of law or is that too revolutionary of idea?

(Magna Carta is often suggested in the popular imagination that it embodies the rule of law. The illusion proves useful on occasions such as this.)

[1] (accessed 5 February 2016)



The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions: Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois January 27, 1838

[4] Barbara Charlene Jordan Statement on the Articles of Impeachment delivered 25 July 1974, House Judiciary Committee




[7] See Peter Jukes Beyond Contempt p101-102).


“Another note was also found at the address with Peat’s name and “affair?” written above, the court heard.

Mark Bryant-Heron, counsel for the prosecution, asked Peat whether he was “engaged in an affair” in January 2003.

“Could you just explain the relevance of this question?” he replied.

The jury, which was briefly sent out of the courtroom, was told by the judge Peat had argued the question was not relevant and did not have be answered.”



[10] One has to note that the situation lead to the Crown reviewing the way vulnerable and young victims were handled. one wonders if such guidance will be issued for powerful, well-connected witnesses.

[11] Tom Paine made this argument in Common Sense.

“But where, say some, is the King of America? I’ll tell you, friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Great Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honours, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the Charter; let it be brought forth placed on the Divine Law, the Word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king.” [emphasis added]

[12] The Royal Household is covered by the Crown’s prerogative to provide assent or consent to legislation. The Crown has refused consent to some legislation that would have limited its power or authority. In particular, the case in 1999. “In one instance the Queen completely vetoed the Military Actions Against Iraq Bill in 1999, a private member’s bill that sought to transfer the power to authorise military strikes against Iraq from the monarch to parliament.”

[13] The Queen and her Royall Household are exempt from most laws. They have the power to withhold consent to the laws, which means Parliament cannot pass them. The most recent example, is when Parliament considered a bill that would transfer the war making authority from the Queen to Parliament. The Queen and the Prince (her heir) can withhold their consent to any law. For more on this power see this guidance note:

[14]One only note the severity and alacrity with which the Crown dispense justice against those who were caught participating in the London Riots 2011. Some praised it declare that it helped defuse the riots. yet even that contained a note of caution that proportionality was being lost.

[15] Lord Neuberger recognized this point when he quoted Lord Justice Laws,

“It may be that my perceptive and far-thinking colleague, Lord Justice Laws, will one day turn out to be right when he argued that, through judicial development of the common law, ‘a gradual reordering of our constitutional priorities [may] bring alive the nascent idea that a democratic legislature cannot be above the law.61’ But we are not there yet.” (the footnote is from: Laws, Illegality and the Problem of Jurisdiction, in Supperstone & Goudie (eds), Judicial Review, (Butterworths) (1997) 4.17 cited in Goldworthy, The Myth of the Common Law Constitution in Edlin (ed), Common Law Theory (CUP) (2007) at 204)


[17] The UK regime is not founded with a constitutional moment. The Crown constituted itself through its natural right prerogative that the strong rule the weak. Even the revolution of 1689 which did much to constrain the Crown only served to place it on a surer foundation to give it a greater validity to rule.  See for example, Vernon Bogdanor The Crisis of the Constitution see also

[18] For a brief overview of the difference between “rule by law” and “rule of law” see


Posted in corruption, Government, justice, public opinion, republicanism | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Sir John Grieve and the Arcana Imperii: private accountability made public

English: Metropolitan Police officers on patro...

English: Metropolitan Police officers on patrol in London’s Trafalgar Square (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Records in an archives create a public legacy to hold public official to account. As records allow powerful figures to be held to account, there can be a desire to control what is held and accessible in archives. In a crude sense, there is a danger that archives can be hollowed out. The problem is more than someone literally removing content from the archives as there are laws against such behaviour.[1] Instead the issue is how public officials will influence what is accessed and before it is accessed what is sent to the archives. What is sent to archives becomes part of the official story so that to challenge the official record or story, an individual has to access these records and publish or broadcast them to a sympathetic audience. Technology that improve access archives will consequently increase awareness of what is in the archives. What is fundamental, though, are the record which become the political facts that cannot be refuted. Without these records as facts, it is harder to hold the public official to account or to present a counter narrative to the official story. Armed with these facts, a citizen can hold power and the powerful to account. Without these facts, the average citizen is at the mercy of the official story. Thus, there is a great concern when archives lose funding, organisations lose records, and the “official record” is sanitized to avoid accountability.[2] However, the same technology that provides access can be used to limit that access and filter what is sent to the archives.

If you change what an archives holds you can influence history.

When we see a headline about changes to archival disclosure practices especially if there is a claim that more information will be withheld, we probably never give it a second thought. Even if we read the article, we may assume it is simply a question of funding. Do we stop to ask, “Does reduced funding for archives mean less accountability?” Few people will see that reduced funding can lead to reduced accountability. Even fewer will consider that reduced funding can lead to reduced accountability. Such a thought, let alone such behaviour, is rarely expressed so brutally or openly. It is rare to see something as crude and direct as the Nordlinger Affair or the Heiner Affair.[3] Instead, the changes occur through the quiet word, indirect statement, gentle request to reduce funding, change the archive’s collection criteria, or alter the public records transfer policy. The public, already uninterested in archives, will be unlikely to express much interest. The public will always have other items to attract their attention. Perhaps records managers or archivists might notice but will they connect the issues?

Access is one challenge, how a record is used is as important.

The threat is more than funding. Technology, which also enhances access, can also limit that access. With technology, it is easier to review archival and records management systems to exclude “sensitive” documents. The records can be sanitised to protect, sustain, or defend the “official record”. Yet that is the public aspect of public records held either in the archives or within the government. Another aspect is what is done “privately” with these public records. Technology has not changed the arcana imperii.[4] The term, coined by Tacitus, refers to secret knowledge, in that the public is unaware of it, that is used to rule as well as the way the knowledge is used.[5] The term, with its dual meaning, clarifies the way organisations can use private information. We can see how organisations can use records to exercise power beyond their public role. In many cases, especially if the knowledge is in the archives, the public record is being used privately rather publicly. Even though the use is justified as being for the organisational or public good or have a public effect, the use is for the private benefit of the organisation or its members. They knowledge can hold someone to account, but more in the sense to control privately than publicly.[6]

All societies rely on arcana imperii which has an effect on archives.

All organisations, and societies, in particular imperial societies, rely to some extent on arcana imperii. I do not mean as a general principle where the rulers work on the assumption that the public, the ruled, are unable to understand how government works.[7] I mean the information that allows those in power to exercise their power “privately” beyond their statutory power such as through personal favours, or knowledge of someone’s political or personal vulnerabilities that can be exploited. In turn, this use is justified as being in the public interest if only indirectly. The logic is that if it good for the leader, party, organisation, manager who serve the public then it must be good for the public. However, in most cases, such information is rarely written down yet it still relies on something that can be manifested, like a record, to enforce the memory. For example, when someone is vetted for honours such information is collected but then destroyed.[8] The work is done privately and rarely, if ever enters the public domain except perhaps through its consequences. However, some arcana imperii do find their ways to the archives. When this information becomes known, individuals and organisations will, in reaction, scour the archives to find more to protect their power associated with the information. Moreover, such an event will also encourage a greater effort to limit the access to such information in the future and it will lead to change in the way records are vetted before being sent to the archives so that arcana imperii is not disclosed.[9] When arcana imperii is disclosed it lose its value to those who would have wielded it. The danger, then, is that governments and organisations will increase the control over what is sent to the archives where it can be access and subject it to greater scrutiny to ensure little, if any, arcana imperii get to the archives.

John Grieve a case study of arcana imperii at work?

To illustrate the idea arcana imperii and archives consider the Sir John Grieve case.[10] In late 2015, Sanchia Berg confronted him with a record she had discovered in the National Archives at Kew. The record of an arrest complaint showed Sir John, and other officers, had engaged in an abuse of power against an elderly Jamaican couple. The incident exemplified the institutional racism within the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) at that time. The officers exceeded their authority simply because of the subject’s skin colour. The story received minimal media attention. Sanchia Berg had made a historical record come to life by telling the story of its context. My concern is not the MPS racism. Instead, I want to focus on two interrelated strands. First, that such disclosures will create a response within the archives and the approach to archives as it reminds public officials to sanitize their past. Second that the information constitutes the ever present spectre of institutional or political blackmail, the issue of arcana imperii. Both of these have a direct impact on archives and the possibility of public historical accountability.

I am not a racist, but I did once …….

From the article and the related interview, we can see that Sir John was able to handle the issue adroitly. He has who served in many areas and issues where he has had to handle the media and be discrete. In general, his response shows he is adept at being held to account. Although he provided the stock answers that “Things were different then and we are now better” and “It was an isolated event many years ago” he was able to make it appear he was being disadvantaged to an extent. He was keen to stress it was just one incident without suggesting why this one incident was held or if there were other incidents. Most importantly, he gave the necessary reassurance that he welcomed accountability as part of the job. I have yet to meet a powerful person who has publicly said the opposite or enjoyed being held to account or being required to given an account except on their terms. Power bristles at the temerity that someone might challenge their account or require them to account for what they have done in a way they cannot control. For this reason, powerful people rarely willingly endure being cross examined, contradicted, or questioned closely.[11]

Why was the file retained? Perhaps Sir John does know why it was retained

With the lens of arcana imperii we have to consider why the file being retained. The article suggests it was retained because Mr. Grieve wrote to his superiors about the case. However, it is not clear why that should be the reason it was retained. When we consider that it could be used in the future to exert influence over Mr Grieve a possible reason emerges. It allows those who know the information exists, the superiors within the organisation or others, to use it. They can remind him of his past especially as Mr Grieve’s reputation is now based on his record of being a a strong anti-racism campaigner. One could suggest that the information would be used not so much to hold his reputation hostage so much as a point of leverage. However, that is harder to prove. Alternatively, the record may have been retained because he complained so that if something had emerged, if he had filed a further complaint, there would be a record of his letter. What is clear, though, it will raise the profile of archives for former MPS officers, as well as other public officials, if they have not considered it already.

Once the threat of accountability is revealed how soon before it is mitigated?

From the article, I would suggest that many people, especially former officers within the MPS[12], but across government, will want to avoid such “gotcha” moments.[13] I can see the possibility that people will want or expect greater vetting of their files before they leave. If they can, they will want to control their future accountability, which will put increased pressure on archivists and retention schedules. More to the point, they will want to consider what is held on them. If they do not know what is held on them, they will want to know if the files contain anything especially as Mr Grieve appeared to be unaware of it and was surprised that it existed.

If you have a problem with records there are ways to make it go away

To some extent, we can see this already at work in the furore around the missing child sexual abuse allegations within the Home Office. In response to that investigation, the Home Office and the National Archives reviewed their protocols for transmitting records from the Central Government departments to the National Archives.[14] No one has publicly stated that they worry about their historical accountability so as to suggest, at least not openly, a direct review of the archives.[15] They will not say “I do not want this getting out.” It will be something less direct but with the same outcome.

A curious foreshadowing on the career of John Grieve

As such reviews occur, the issue of arcana imperii emerges. As to records being used as leverage, which suggest a reason why they are collected and kept, we need to consider the case of Operational Othona. In this MPS operation, which investigated police corruption, a lorry load of documents was shredded in mysterious circumstances.

Roy Clark, who led anti-corruption at the time of Operation Othona, said: ‘I’d be shocked if it doesn’t exist. It was gold-dust stuff.’

Even though he retired in 2001 well before the records were destroyed for it was important the information was used to keep up the pressure on corrupt officers. He said: ‘How you can go to those lengths and spend all that money and it is not there, I am just amazed.’[16] [Emphasis added].

The officer admitted that the information was used for leverage or pressure against the corrupt officers. The information was held and it was used for purposes beyond the policing issue of rooting out police corruption. In that regard, Roy Clark who was one of the officers in charge of the operation was expressing the culture as well as the way the records, which would never become public, were being used. One would expect that officers involved in the operation would understand the purpose as Roy Clark did. In that it reveals, something curious about Sir John’s case.

The other officer in charge of Operation Othona? John Grieve.[17]



[1] In the United States Sandy Berger former National Security Adviser    went to the National Archives and removed classified documents and destroyed them. Readers will note that he likely only destroyed those that contained comments which he wanted to remove rather than remove the document itself from the public record.


[3] The Heiner Affair, which occurred in Australia, refers to the shredding of child abuse cases to avoid Government accountability for its failings. The Nordlinger Affair is the story of destruction of public records to avoid accountability. “If it became public, it would do neither me nor the PRO any good.  If, on the other hand, I abandoned my pursuit of the matter, I was promised that after the election the a/g head of department would personally urge an augmentation of my powers as Keeper and seek to obtain the support and resources for us to pursue such matters more effectively.”

[4] Arcana Imperii translates into secrets or mysteries of empire or of ruling. It connotes secret knowledge but also methods of ruling that are not seen by the public. They may be withheld as the public are not initiated in the ways of power and thus not competent to judge what is being done and why.

[5] “Thus the study of arcana imperii stressed not only the empirical collection of knowledge as the basis of politics, but the clever management of that knowledge.” Mining Tacitus: secrets of empire, nature and art in the reason of state Vera Keller The British Journal for the History of Science / Volume 45 / Special Issue 02 / June 2012, pp 189 – 212 DOI: 10.1017/S0007087412000076, Published online: 20 March 2012

[6] The UK Parliamentary Whips would use such private information to control politicians in Parliament.

[7] “To the old Greek or Roman of the republic there were for free men no arcana imperii. There was no problem of government which any citizen was incompetent to discuss, and no office of state for which he could not judge of any man’s fitness, if he could not fill it himself. The idea that politics is a mystery, and politicians ” a political priesthood,” grew up in the Middle Ages, when kings became the ” Lord’s anointed.” It was still strong in England, in spite of parliamentary institutions, down to the expulsion of the Stuarts. Queen Elizabeth rebuked, through the Lord Keeper, “those audacious, arrogant, and presumptuous members who had called Her Majesty’s grants and prerogatives in question, meddling with matters neither pertaining to them nor within the capacity of their understanding.” By the time the Reform Bill was under debate, the priesthood had passed from the king to the aristocracy, and the Duke of Wellington, as his lately published letters show, was unable to conceive of government administered by anybody but the gentry. During the debates, a bishop asked in the House of Lords “” p.392

The Civil Service Reform Controversy

  1. L. Godkin The North American Review, Vol. 134, No. 305 (Apr., 1882), pp. 379-394

[8] The article reveals the most powerful person you have never heard of in UK government. Sue Gray who is Director-General, Propriety and Ethics Team has a central role in vetting people for public honours as well as other sensitive matters.

[9] See Sir Arthur Lucas’ paper on Closing Historical Public Documents where he discusses the process by which government reviews and releases public records to the National Archives.

[10] Sanchia Berg describes, in her article How a 1970s policeman changed his mind, John Grieve’s change of mind concerning race relations.

[11] From Xenophon’s Hiero, c400 BC, where a wise man (Simonides) converse with a tyrant (Hiero) to the Leveson Inquiry 2012, powerful people do not like to be challenged in conversations where their power is questions or show to be suspect in some way. To put it directly, no one likes to be shown to be a fool as Socrates learned.

[12]I do not know if Mr. Grieve would have this reaction. However, such a reaction would follow the example of powerful people across the planet such as Wikipedia edits, archives being destroyed, records being removed.

[13]I do not think the article was written or approached as “gotcha” journalism. However, to powerful people held to account when they do not expect it, such an approach can appear to be an example of “gotcha”.


[15] Peter Hennessey did worry that the demand for transparency and openness could lead to archives being hollowed out as material was either withheld or destroyed so that the archives did not contain an accurate record of what had been agreed or discussed.



Posted in corruption, justice, transparency | Tagged , , , ,

Matthew Parris burnishes Boris Johnson’s leadership credentials

English: Mayor of London, Boris Johnson poses ...

English: Mayor of London, Boris Johnson poses for a photo prior to ringing the opening bell at NASDAQ on September 14, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday Matthew Parris wrote a column attacking Boris Johnson for his behaviour and his success.[1] More importantly, he wrote about his success as a result of his behaviour. For many commentators, the column appeared devastating, cruel, well-deserved, destructive, and damaging.

We must save the conservative party and ensure my views prevail

Mr Parris claims no personal animosity for Mr Johnson as a politician. Instead, he attacks him for he fears that Mr Johnson will harm the conservative party’s chances for success in a future election. His article appears more as an opportunist attack; Mr Johnson is for leaving the EU while Mr Parris does not. More directly, Mr Parris is upset Mr Johnson had no shame in using the LBGT community to campaign for the EU exit even though he was previously opposed to them concerning Article 28.

An attack on a politician’s ethos, his soul, assumes such things matter.

The attacks would like to point to his marriage infidelity, his sexual partners one of whom bore him a child while the other had an abortion, as well as his inability to make a defining political project. Yet, none of these matter anymore in a UK political society devoid of any shame or standard. So long as Mr Johnson does not fiddle his expenses his personal behaviour seems unlikely to bar him from office or success.

Why does Mr Johnson succeed?

He embodies the Etonian ethos that has brought him success. As Dominic Lawson (who attended Eton for a year) pointed out in 2006, in quoting Nick Fraser,

“Nick Fraser, himself an old Etonian, has a different take on the matter: “Etonians are the ultimate pragmatists, totally free of ideology. Other than the means of getting and gaining power, no conspicuous motives inspire them. It’s not clear that Etonian politicians really believe in much except themselves…” ***

Mr Fraser may as well have been describing Boris Johnson. Mr Johnson has succeeded by applying what Eton has taught him. Eton’s clubs award entry by election which requires the ability to “oil” one’s peers and superiors.

“Aitken pointed out that Etonians compete for office within the school–even the Eton Scientific Society admits by election, rather than mere intellectual ability. According to Aitken, this “breeds a certain speciality of behaviour. You know how to get elected. You know how to please. You have to learn to oil. And at Eton you do learn.”” ***

Mr Johnson’s soul reflects the political regime that formed him and rewards him.[2]

The attacks will not harm Mr Johnson for they show his success as well as the public’s appetite for, if not receptivity to, his antics. They show that despite his past, he only need to please, charm, and cajole the electorate to win. He does not need a vision, he does not need a manifesto, he does not need to be moral for politics has been drained of these in part by the efforts of commentators like Mr Parris. Boris only needs to oil the public, which he does so very well. He understands the public through the media. A media, dominated by Rupert Murodoch, which has shaped the public mind to be habituated to what he offers. The public have been shaped by the media to accept the immorality of such men so long as they charm. For he understands government as public relations. He succeeds by creating the image of charming competency. The media want him to succeed for it reflects their importance for politics.



[2]Boris Johnson as an Etonian and Oxonian reflects the best training the UK political regime can provide. His behaviour, his success, and his ethos all reflect the education he has received. The Ancient Greeks approach to education, which Eton and Oxford have brought to the 21st century is based on the idea that character formation of children is reflected in their adult behaviour. Leo Strauss makes this point in his book The Argument and Action of Plato’s Laws.

“Education is guidance of children through play to the things which they are to be good when they have reached manhood; the playing must include the serious study of preliminary subjects without the command of which the very playing is impossible. Education must lead the soul of the child at play to passionate desire for that in which he must be perfect when he has reached manhood, i.e., in virtue, in being a perfect citizen who knows both how to rule and how to obey in accordance with right. The Athenian will have to show that education, as he delineated it, is greatly assisted by symposia and that symposia have this effect by promoting moderation.””P. 17


Posted in Government, philosophy, statesmanship | Tagged , , , , ,

Institutional CSA, Critias and the Queen.

Margaret Thatcher with Ronald Reagan at Camp David

Margaret Thatcher with Ronald Reagan at Camp David (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you live under a tyrant, it can be difficult to criticize them. Even in the current age governments tolerate criticism only so long as it does not encourage physical violence. Even democratic governments, traditionally believed to be tolerant of free speech, have limits as individual politicians will seek a variety of tools or methods to quiet if not discredit their harshest critics. To escape that fate, a critic may have to make indirect or oblique criticisms especially in the public domain. Such an approach does work, up to a point, as Socrates demonstrates.

How to criticize a ruler

Leo Strauss described how Socrates was able to criticize a tyrant and survive. In the episode, described below, Socrates makes an oblique, almost metaphorical, criticism.[1]

“When the thirty were putting to death many citizens and by no means the worst ones, and were encouraging many in crimes, Socrates said somewhere, that it seemed strange that a herdsman who lets his cattle decrease and go to the bad should not admit that he is a poor cowherd; but stranger still that a statesman when he causes the citizens to decrease and go to the bad, should feel no shame nor think himself a poor statesman. This remark was reported to Critias….” (Xenophon, Memorabilia I 2.32-33)

When we consider this quotation and what Socrates was doing, we have to reflect on our own time. The criticism can be levelled at any ruler. A ruler is responsible for their reign. Their reign is measured by the health or goodness of their citizens for the ruler shapes the regime which forms the citizen. In this role, they are indirectly accountable to their citizens even if they have no formal accountability under the law. In extreme cases, where a ruler fails to help his citizens, the citizens may use a revolution to replace the ruler. With that final sanction always in their mind, a ruler will often moderate their rule to ensure the people are satisfied or fearful enough to avoid revolution with some rulers using both in equal measure. Whatever the case, the question is how has the ruler cared for their people to ensure they do not diminish or go bad.

Sixty Years on the throne what has been done about institutional CSA?

In the UK, we live under a monarch who has reigned for 60 years. In that time, the crisis of institutional CSA has constantly recurred. In 2015 it reached a crisis point with the Goddard Inquiry convened to address the issue. Even though the Inquiry will cover all public institutions and even include the Royal Household, which was added after it was announced[2], there remains an outstanding question. The question is the one posed about Critias.  As the final authority within the country, the source of its laws,[3] has she considered the failure to address the ever present if not well publicized crisis of institutional child sexual abuse during her reign?

Did the Queen’s personal intelligence system alert her to institutional CSA?

Every week for the past 60 years, the Queen received a briefing from her prime minister. Of nearly 3000 meetings between the Queen and her prime minister, did she ever discuss institutional CSA? Even when Margaret Thatcher’s government was threatened by the allegations of CSA, did Margaret Thatcher describe this threat to explain how Her Majesty’s Government dealt with it or seek advice on how to deal with it? If Margaret Thatcher did not raise this potential threat to Her Majesty’s Government, why not? If she did, what did Her Majesty do about it? In that 60 years, did the Queen, the Royal Household[4], or her prime ministers ever raise the issue of institutional CSA? If not, why not? If they did, what was the outcome? As the Queen has the right, the prerogative, to give as well as receive advice from her ministers, did she ever exercise her prerogative to provide or receive advice about institutional CSA especially when it potentially involved one of her ministers?

What did her Lord Lieutenants tell her of institutional CSA?

The Queen, and the Crown, more generally had a wider responsibility during her reign. The Queen is supported by Lord Lieutenants, there are 98 in total, who report to her on events in their areas. When the Queen visits they will give her background information on local events or issues.[5] In the last 60 years did any of her 98 Lord Lieutenants send her information on the institutional child abuse occurring in their areas? If not, why not? If they did, what was done about the information? Were the Lord Lieutenants directed to act on the information? If the Lord Lieutenants did not pass her information, especially on children’s homes within their areas, why did not they not report on these issues to the Queen? If the Royal Household was managing this communication, what did they do about it?

Was institutional CSA ever a factor in refusing to award an honour?

When the Crown awarded honours did the honours committee, or the Royal Household, vet those receiving honours? Did they ever ask if those who were to receive an honour were involved or potentially involved in institutional CSA? If it did turn someone down for an honour, was the Queen informed of the reason especially if it involved CSA? Moreover, were the wider reports by the Lord Lieutenants included in these considerations? In the last 60 years were any of applications not supported from information given by Lord Lieutenants? As the information on these matters are destroyed, we will likely never know.[6]

Who will ask these questions?

These are questions that need to be asked and answered. If the people cannot ask these questions nor can they receive an answer, can the country claim to have the rule of law? If the Queen, or the Crown, is not accountable to the people, to whom is she accountable? If she is only accountable to God, then does she believe she has done enough in her reign to satisfy his commands to “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.”[7]

In the twilight of her reign, as God’s judgement draws closer, as her thoughts turn to her legacy, what will she answer?

[1] Jerusalem and Athens Some Preliminary Reflections


[3] “Given the historical development of the Sovereign as the ‘Fount of Justice’, civil and criminal proceedings cannot be taken against the Sovereign as a person under UK law. Acts of Parliament do not apply to The Queen in her personal capacity unless they are expressly stated to do so.

However, The Queen is careful to ensure that all her activities in her personal capacity are carried out in strict accordance with the law.”

[4] One of Rolf Harris’s victims wrote to the Queen to warn her about him. There is no evidence that the letters were acted on beyond passing them to the Metropolitan Police Service

[5] “Lord-Lieutenants are also responsible for ensuring that The Queen’s Private Office is kept informed about local issues relating to their area, particularly when a Royal visit is being planned.”


[7] Psalm 82:3

Posted in corruption, Government, justice, statesmanship | Tagged ,

Donald Trump’s imperial origins: a response to Eliot Cohen

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan.

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Donald Trump is causing a stir. His success has unleashed the expected counter attack from the political establishment. In many ways he represents the final logic of the political establishment where its political immoderation is masked as effectiveness, fairness, and delivery. Each party and each successive administration have claimed they have delivered for the people; prosperity, jobs, education, safety and hope. Yet, they have succeeded to the extent they have undermined the political consensus based on political moderation.[1] They have feasted on the extremist talk shows, the politics of personal destruction as if it is a casual sport, and sought to pitch hatreds against hatreds. However, this is more than the chickens coming home to roost. The problem is much deeper.

A rot created Trump but it goes much wider than we imagine.

Eliot Cohen in his essay The Age of Trump[2] touches on what he believes to be the deeper issue. He argues there is a political rot, a cultural rot, that has allowed Trump to emerge. He blames this rot on our popular culture, the decline of academia, and the celebrity culture. Yet, he does not explain the source of this rot. He cannot explain what caused it. What is clear, though, he wants to indicate he had no part in this. It was the other guys, someone else caused this rot. The liberal permissiveness, the liberal permissiveness created by those opposed to the conservative movement, created the rot from which Trump emerged. He wants to have clean hands, he wants to say “Look, I told you so, this is what happens when sober, small government, republican and democratic conservatives are ignored.” If only that were true.

The conservative movement is in denial.

Eliot Cohen is in denial. Like other political elites, he cannot see the beam in his eye for the mote in everyone else’s eye. He and the others in the political establishment have created this rot. They have a full hand in it. That he cannot see it shows how deep the denial is. The moral blindness of the political elite is shown by the strength of their reaction to the public’s demand for something other than the nihilistic banalities both parties have peddled since 1988. That Cohen and others, like Tom Nichols, cannot explain the rot or their role in it, speaks volumes about the scale, scope, and intensity of the infection in the political establishment and the academic establishment. What we are seeing with Trump is a public trying to find a way to rise up against that rot, which has not yet infected them, as they resist the social engineering, the foreign policy adventurism, the globalisation and the Wall Street excess which benefits the wealthy, the politically connected, and their foundations or think tanks. It is the public that wants Trump not because they want him, it is because they have no one else who speaks to their concerns. They know the source of the rot even if Cohen and Nichols do not.

What is the source of the rot?

The political rot is the political immoderation at the heart of the political establishment which is now infecting the political regime. Cohen decries the domestic political extremism, the cultural rot, the liberal permissiveness. Nichols criticises the “Star-struck, low-information[3] celebrity cultists” voters who are so stupid they will vote for whomever promises the bread and circuses. What neither explains is the source of this rot nor do they accepts is *their* role in this rot.[4] They want us to believe that the conservatives are without sin, without a hand in this political rot.

Even though they are not encouraging a liberal permissive culture or Epicurean politics; they are benefitting from it. They express the same immoderation as the domestic political elite except they do it in foreign policy where conservatives excuse it as “realism” or hard-nosed strategy. Yet, conservatives have forgetten the core lesson for anyone who wishes to practice foreign policy or international relations. Foreign policy is and always will be an expression of the regime. Their foreign policy positions have accepted the American regime’s politically immoderate behaviour. In this they have accepted the same premise as the domestic political immoderation. They assume that the domestic cultural rot is unconnected to the foreign policy adventures they have supported if not championed. More importantly, they never stop to consider how the foreign policy adventures they have supported and encouraged are exacerbating the domestic cultural and political extremism. To put it philosophically, Eliot Cohen and Nichols have both championed Pericles’ Funeral Oration. Neither has ever championed Plato’s Menexenus. The foreign policy rot did not start with Reagan. Indeed, he actually tried to end it by winning the Cold War. Had his success been fully realized, the United States would not have an immoderate foreign policy establishment. Instead, despite the end of the Cold War, no one within the mainstream foreign policy community talks of a republican foreign policy. They are wedded to an imperial foreign policy even if they know they can no longer sustain it. George W Bush recognized this when he tried to find a way to balance his foreign policy and his domestic policy when he struggled to limit the response to the 9/11 attacks from an imperial adventure to remake the world. Barack Obama has tried to moderate American foreign policy with as much success.

What is the source of the immoderate ethos?

The proximate source of the immoderate foreign policy is the Vietnam War. There, in 1965, America faced the choice of republic or empire. LBJ fudged the choice and accepted an imperial domestic policy, the Great Society that expanded the Federal Government into all parts of American life, as he pulled back from an Imperial foreign policy. It took Ronald Reagan to complete the foreign policy strategy by winning the Cold War. However, Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War were only a symptom of America’s role after World War 2 when America took responsibility for a decent world order with the founding of the UN. Since that time, America has built of an imperial system even as it retained a democratic system at home. Like Athens before it, it created a league of like-minded allies to fight the greater enemy. To fight that enemy, though, America became what it sought to destroy– an imperial state in all but name. With the Cold War over and the international system uncertain, America has the wolf by the ears and cannot let go.

Trump as a harbinger of the Imperial Republic’s demise.

With Trump, we arrive at the first harbinger of the imperial republic’s reckoning. Trump will not end the Republic. He does show us how it will end and why it will end. The disorder wrought by the immoderate domestic policy and the immoderate foreign policy have come to a political head with Donald Trump. He is not a singularity; he is a harbinger. Even if he is defeated, American and the establishment have a deeper problem. America is being pulled apart between those who want a moderate regime both at home, they want jobs, security, hope against those who want either an immoderate domestic policy, the pursuit of private vices publicly accepted and funded, or a foreign policy extremism in which war becomes the norm rather than the exception. Those who want to scale back America’s imperial posture with those who see any moderating step as a sign of weakness bordering on surrender. What connects the domestic and foreign policy extremism is a disordered eros, which surged after the 9/11 attack, it is slowly but surely devouring the American common good. The foreign policy view only sees the external threats Putin, China, North Korea, ISIS without considering how America’s domestic political ethos, the distorted ethos, is driving that foreign policy or how it has to react to those threats. We have people, who I thought were serious foreign policy scholars, willing to entertain talk that ISIS poses an existential threat to the United States. When that type of talk enters the policy realm as an acceptable view, it reflects a problematic view of the United States and the threats its faces.

What Cohen and Nichols believe is that they are moderates, conservatives, without realizing they are championing the immoderate ethos, the disordered eros, within the imperial foreign policy. The same disordered eros animates the liberal progressivism, equally imperial in its ethos, in domestic politics. (***) Both men have benefitted from the opportunities that imperial ethos, the distorted eros, (Cohen was at the Naval War College, Nichols currently teaches there) and both have championed it (Cohen famously created the think tank (Project for a New American Century).[5] Both work within a foreign policy community that shares this underlying consensus. Even the disagreements within this community are still caught within the imperial framework. The community denounce those who want to scale back, and there are some silly proposals, as isolationist, irresponsible, and in some cases crazy. To even suggest a moderate foreign policy is to elicit charges of isolationism, defeatism, if not betrayal.

Recognising the problem is the first step to recovery

Until the establishment sees their own hand in this immoderation, they will never fix what ails America that creates a Trump. Electing Hillary Clinton will only make this worse as she does not seek reform or moderation. Even electing Donald Trump will not fix what ails America. Trump is the symptom of a deeper problem. Within the Republican party the problem was exemplified earlier by Mitt Romney who was touted as a conservative or even representative of the Republic party ethos. The party no longer represents its base or huge swathes of the country. The frightened, ignorant, low information votes are not getting coherent answers from the Republican party for their questions, fears or hopes. They do not hear anyone but Trump in his bombastic posturing explaining anything that will address their situation. They have no alternative to the nihilistic establishment candidates who can only project DC to them so they turn to the nearest person who seems to understand what they are feeling and appears willing to do something about it. Their fear over immigrant workers is real. It is not nativism or racism. The Trump supporters are likely to be people who are threatened by immigration labour. They know that immigrants keep their wages down. They know they are preferred as the employer can avoid taxes. What is the Republican party doing for this voting bloc that it takes for granted when it seems to side with capital and the corporate directors? The Democrats, like Obama, are not going to help them as they believe this constituency hold on to their guns and religion.[6] The public are dismayed, confused, and left adrift by a democratic elite that promotes a disordered eros where homosexuality is enshrined in law. Where identity politics, gender politics, and the gender wars are driven by a vicious political Epicureanism in which pleasure is the only standard of right. For people from communities where honour, fidelity, duty, such an approach is anathema. They want a country that once existed, one based on nature and nature’s God instead of one where the government is captured as a weapon for the war against their virtues. When chastity, honesty, and thrift are ridiculed by the elite progressives as old-fashion morality, the people will want someone who can defend them and their children. Both parties through their relentless campaigns of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, have forced the electorate to turn to a candidate like Trump.

Trump may appeal to Republicans, the next one may unite all the dispossessed.

On the other side of the aisle, not necessarily Republican voters, but still potential voters for a populist like Trump, are those who have also been abandoned by the Democrats. Consider other “low information voters” the residents of the Chicago’s West Side. They face a bleak future of high unemployment, low education, and short life expectancy. Yet, they are taken for granted by the Democrats as they are expected to vote for the party. The Chicago political machine, the Democratic party in a microcosm, has betrayed them for decades while they serviced the Oligarchic faction within the city. They are taken for granted by the Democrats who pursue cultural political policies in the name of “freedom” and “equality” that offers no benefit to these communities. Instead, they have suffered from the horrors of the liberal progressivists cultural theories as their families are distorted by welfare systems that rewarded promiscuity, a disordered family life where abortion as taken a desperate, near genocidal toll, and educational experimentations that have created illiteracy, innumeracy, intellectual decay for generations. The communities are ignored by the Republicans and dismissed by conservatives. What Republic candidate let alone President is going to reach out to them? Chicago is and has been one of the most highly segregated cities both racially and economically. Its racial policies are an insult to the legacy of Martin Luther King. The fate of the black population is bleak and it has been bleak for generations with no end in sight.[7] Forget the fate of the conservative movement, the fate of blacks in Chicago has been devastating reality for 60 years reflecting the immoderate imperialist ethos applied to the domestic realm. Yet, the conservative movement, when it does talk of their fate, it is only to ridicule their suffering as feckless, self-inflicted behaviour a just reward for voting Democrat, or to castigate the Democrats and progressives for their failures.[8] Where have the conservatives or the republicans improved the fate of the West Side of Chicago? They never stop to ask “Where are the conservatives attempts to rebuild these cities, to reach these citizens?” For a city like Chicago with several of the wealthiest families[9] in the America (if not the world) to have this degree of segregation, poverty, brutality is like something out of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Dickens Tale of Two Cities, or Hobbes Leviathan. Chicago is a city ruled by a tyrant in the guise of a mayor. It is literally a tale of two cities one rich,[10] the other poor; one white, the other black. The life in the black communities have become a Hobbesian state of nature which is lonely, nasty, brutish, short and poor, except today the poverty is as much a white issue as it is a minority issue.

Our inability to address the intrinsic injustice reflects the disordered eros.

You never hear the conservatives talking of the two cities, the inequality, the injustice. Even if that is excused as political reality, it is a democratic stronghold so any effort is a wasted effort, there is a deeper story which neither Nichols nor Cohen are willing to address, not them personally but the position they offer. The divide is no longer racial or economic. The common good that might have overcome this inequality is frayed as the middle class, which might have formed a moderating role, is being left behind. There is no chance for the working class kids to make it to the middle class even if they enrol in one of America’s wars or its universities for both are now battlefields one military the other cultural. The middle class is being squeezed by the same economic and political forces that the lower working class suffered. They are being left behind economically. They are being segregated and no one has stood up to speak for them. The only viable candidate not from DC in this election is Donald Trump. Is it any wonder that these voters would turn to him? In particular, when the conservative foreign policy takes their support for their military adventures for granted in the same way that the Democrats take their supporters for granted on their domestic adventures?[11]

The issue is not simply a party political one. The issue is that common good is no longer defended or even understood. The political realm is now zero sum so that any victory for the other party is a defeat for the other. It is not just a defeat; it is a catastrophic defeat in where the worst consequences possible will occur. Moderation is a weakness; compromise is treason. What we have is a democratic civil war. There is no intent to work together when one can savage an opponent’s personal life where nothing is beyond the political operatives seeking to destroy their opponents. The scenes that Thucydides described with the civil war in Corcyra with the physical violence and ideological extremis are occurring with the political domain with similar consequences.[12]

Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence, became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. [5] The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries. In fine, to forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a crime where it was wanting, was equally commended, [6] until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve; for such associations had not in view the blessings derivable from established institutions but were formed by ambition for their overthrow; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any religious sanction than upon complicity in crime.

The issue is more than just politics or the idea that faction checks faction so that a moderate compromise emerges from the interplay. To dismiss the West Side voters as getting what they deserve or the middle class as being rubes needing a cultural re-education in the gender studies, misunderstands the threat. The issue is not the democrats or republicans will win. Instead, it is that without a common good, a common standard of decent behaviour, without a publicly upheld common morality through an agreed understanding of what is good or evil, the community is ripe for tyranny. No candidate is speaking for the common good. We have an age where everyone wants the right to do as they choose and in particular choose what is good or evil and each party indulges that belief in their own way. The individuals are encouraged, if not educated, to decide what is right or wrong and the community must respect if not celebrate that choice. In a word, the domestic realm has become as immoderate are the foreign policy realm.

Who will deliver America’s funeral oration?

For conservatives like to decry the cultural rot and overlook their hand in it shows a deep disconnect from the political reality that created Donald Trump. If the conservatives continue to put their heads in the sand, they will have worse than Trump. Trump is not the answer, but he is a harbinger. However, their attacks on him have destroyed the conservative movement for they reveal that political expediency is better than speaking directly to the fears, hopes, and problems that created Trump. It shows why no other candidate could stand up to Trump. Instead of fielding a candidate who could stand up to Trump, who would have prevented Trump, the conservatives now talk of openly embracing Hillary Clinton as a viable alternative. To the conservatives infected with the imperial immoderate ethos, she now appears normal, effective, efficient when compared to Trump. The conservative’s “strategy” [sic] suggest that it is more important to sustain a seat at the DC trough, than confronting what makes Trump a success. Even if the conservatives survive Hillary, which is doubtful as the liberal progressive movement only faces a reckoning if the regime faces a military defeat, which the conservatives do so much to avoid, they will have nothing to conserve. By attacking Trump and supporting Hillary, they ensure Hillary wins.[13] The people will turn away from the conservatives in favour of more immoderate forces who will answer their questions. Until a party is able to rebuild the common good, another demagogue is a certainty at the next election. If the conservatives believe that they can remain clean by insisting that the cultural rot is a domestic political issue and they can retain the “purity” of foreign policy strategy, they will deserve the failures they have created. More bluntly, the conservatives have learned and taught the wrong lesson from Athens, Thucydides, and Pericles’ Funeral Oration.

*** One could suggest that America’s domestic politics has become a democratic tyranny. James V. Schall described this future in his essay A Reflection on the Classical Tractate on Tyranny: the Problem of Democratic Tyranny

[1] See the Pew surveys showing the increased polarity within the American polity.


[3] Low information here means stupid. The low information voter is usually moderate and focuses on issues of personal appeal or other characteristics and not policy proposals.

[4] (Disclaimer: I know Eliot Cohen and Tom Nichols. I attended one of Professor Cohen’s summer workshops and he is a decent, intelligent, patriot man. I have known Tom Nichols professionally for over 20 years and I admire his expertise, wit, writing, and intelligence. However, I have to follow intellectual probity when I disagree with both for there is a higher duty for a scholar and a citizen.)

[5] There is nothing intrinsically wrong with such work. My point is only that the work is a function of that ethos. Without that ethos, neither the NWC nor would PNAC be as robust as they are.

[6] What is sad to know is that Obama has done little to overcome the problems he saw. He simply identified their problems, to explain why they act as they do, and then continued on as he intended without addressing their jobs. We can see the Pennsylvania unemployment rate has only begun to drop in 2014.


[8] See for example and Yet, even the call to save the cities is faint in comparison to the thunder aimed at Trump. If the conservatives were fighting for the cities, would Trump have even emerged?

[9] #7 Pritzker family 13 Billion #27 Crown family 8.8 Billion and #28 Reyes family 8.6 Billion and #46 Smith Family 6.3 Billion.


[11] Which conservatives are able to explain and defend a coherent world view that sees the benefit from initiating the revolutions across the Middle East? Too many conservatives have apologised for the Iraq War in the vague belief that they can win an election.

[12] [3] Revolution thus ran its course from city to city, and the places which it arrived at last, from having heard what had been done before carried to a still greater excess the refinement of their inventions, as manifested in the cunning of their enterprises and the atrocity of their reprisals. [4] Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence, became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. [5] The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries. In fine, to forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a crime where it was wanting, was equally commended, [6] until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve; for such associations had not in view the blessings derivable from established institutions but were formed by ambition for their overthrow; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any religious sanction than upon complicity in crime. [7] The fair proposals of an adversary were met with jealous precautions by the stronger of the two, and not with a generous confidence. Revenge also was held of more account than self-preservation. Oaths of reconciliation, being only proffered on either side to meet an immediate difficulty, only held good so long as no other weapon was at hand; but when opportunity offered, he who first ventured to seize it and to take his enemy off his guard, thought this perfidious vengeance sweeter than an open one, since, considerations of safety apart, success by treachery won him the palm of superior intelligence. Indeed it is generally the case that men are readier to call rogues clever than simpletons honest, and are as ashamed of being the second as they are proud of being the first. [Emphasis added],0003,001:3:82

[13] Nichols’ strategy has two deep interrelated flaws. The first is that it assumes that conservatism will survive Hillary. Second, it accepts as its implicit premise the DC establishment must be defend for the only candidate who might change it is Trump.

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