The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or Curtis Yarvin. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.
Jim: Today’s guest is Curtis Yarvin, author of the Gray Mirror Substack, which I subscribe to and have since it came out. He previously wrote the Unqualified Reservations Blog under the pen name Mencius Moldbug. As Moldbug, he was the founder of the anti-egalitarian and anti-democratic movement known as neoreaction. You sometimes see it abbreviated as NRX. Welcome, Curtis.
Curtis: Hey, Jim. What’s up? Pleasure to be on your show again.
Jim: Yeah. Great to have you back. Today, we’re going to talk about Curtis’s proposal to replace our current government with a monarchy. And he ain’t fooling around. This is not a metaphor. We’re talking about a fucking king. And this episode is part of an ongoing series of explorations that have been undertaking on the problems of our current representative democracy and possible alternatives. Way back in EP 32 I talked with Jason Brennan on his book, Irrational Democracy, where he laid out some rather radically different alternatives to democracy. And quite recently, in EP 153, where we had Forrest Landry on and he laid out some of the non-obvious problems around voting as a method, particularly the fact that 48% of the people are pissed off most of the time. And we talked quite a bit about alternatives to voting as a way for making decisions, though, we were focusing in that episode more on small groups rather than at the polity level.
Jim: Finally, before we hop in, I should say that my own personal orientation as regular listeners will know, starts in a different direction, more egalitarian and less centralized than what we have today. And my, at least initial, inclinations are not towards the top down or centralized scheme-like monarchy, even though many of us may find Curtis’s ideas outrageous or even dangerous. I’ve been reading Curtis for a long time, all the way back to the Moldbug days. And while my initial positions are different than his, I can say with a high degree of confidence that he is no fool and our conversation will be an interesting one.
Jim: So with that let’s top in. First, a couple of references. We’re going to talk about different of his subsstack essays and some of the other essays, but from the starting point are two essays, one titled, Policies of the Deep Right, and the other one, Monarchism and Fascism Today. So let’s start out with the Yarvinian, if that’s a word, assessment of the current situation of our society.
Curtis: Before the show, you chatted a little bit about the system that was developed in Germany called liquid democracy. And you’re a fan of liquid democracy. I read your medium essay. You’re a fan of liquid democracy, as I understand it. And I’ve always thought that this design of liquid democracy really emphasizes… It’s a wonderful thought experiment for sort of understanding what I see as a sort of the gap between the sort of symbolic and objective realities of politics in our time. Should I try and describe liquid democracy? Or do you want to give it a shot?
Jim: I would maybe do it very briefly. I didn’t really want to get bogged down into a discussion of it. But essentially, it’s direct democracy. Every person can, in theory, vote on everything. But the expectation is very few people will. And you can proxy your vote to somebody else. And at least in my version of liquid democracy, and there’s various flavors, it started with the pirate party in Germany, I propose having multiple categories about equal to the number of federal departments today. And so you have, let’s say, 20 proxies, one for defense, one for health, one for education, et cetera. And you can proxy any of those 20 to whoever you want and they can re-proxy them.
Jim: So the example I like to give is you might give your defense proxy to your uncle, the Air Force colonel. You might give your education proxy to your favorite third-grade school teacher. And you might give your healthcare proxy to your doctor. The idea is that most people would pass their proxy up the gradient of knowledge, because clearly, most of us don’t know jack shit about most of the things that go into making good policy. And so the idea is that recursively, these proxies move towards people who know more than we do. And then those people actually propose laws and vote on them. So it’s essentially, a way to implement direct democracy at scale via proxy. That’s in short.
Curtis: Right. That, I think, accords pretty well with my understanding of the design. So one way to look at that design is to say, what are the goals of this system? What are the sort of purposes that it fulfills in the minds of its supporters and your mind? And let me try to model those goals and see if you’ll agree with those goals. So in my mind, basically, the goals of a system like this, or the goals of democracy as understood by this is first of all, you’re trying to collect the wisdom of crowds. You have this enormous crowd out there, which is the crowd of voters. And you’re basically saying, “Okay, there’s some wisdom out there.” The purpose of democracy, correct me if I’m wrong, the purpose of democracy is to have a government that works well. Right?
Jim: Yep. And to give the people what they want. Let them discover what they want and give them what they want. As H.L. Mencken used to say, “The art of democracy is giving the people what they want, good and hard,” right?
Curtis: Yeah. Yeah. And Mencken also said that in a democracy people get what they deserve and get the government they deserve. And so he really had a fine edge to him. I wonder what he’d think of Baltimore today. I like to imagine H.L. Mencken, in this age of Baltimore, which was a largely German city. I don’t know if you knew this. At the time, there was a huge German population. I like to imagine H.L. Mencken watching The Wire. But-
Jim: Yeah, I’m, by the way, a huge Mencken fan. Have every one of his books, including oddities, such as his Baby Book.
Curtis: His Baby Book. Wow.
Jim: Yeah. He wrote a book, purely a pot boiler, for how to take care of babies. It’s hilarious. And I even have his book by his brother called, By the Neck: The History of Hanging. How about that?
Curtis: That’s great. That’s great. You should try a peer of Mencken’s, Albert J. Nock. He was sort of one of the fellow editors of the time who sort of went in an off message direction. I really, really recommend his memoir, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man. Absolutely wonderful reading. So anyway, let’s get back to liquid democracy. So basically, there’s two goals here. One is to collect the wisdom of the people and funnel it into making effective public policy. And two, I’m going to sort of translate your goal into more, I guess I would say, realistic or Machiavellian terms. The other goal, which is also very, very important to a lot of people is simply making people feel that they’re in charge, giving them the feeling of importance, which they get from democracy. And that feeling of importance is very emotionally dear to a lot of people.
Curtis: If you told someone that they would lose the right to vote, for instance, they would not calculate that in terms of, “I’m losing the right to vote. Therefore, my effect on the wisdom of crowds will no longer be heard. Therefore, the crowd will be slightly less than wise. Therefore, I would be governed slightly worse.” Nobody thinks that. They think instead, “Oh, I’m losing my right to vote. I’m losing my power. I’m losing this sense of power that this had. And even though this is negligible in a sort of overall game theoretic sense, it gives me this sense of importance, which I really value as a human being. My sense of importance has been taken from me. I feel castrated.” And so the thing is that one of the things you have to acknowledge that democracy is feeding is basically this human power drive, which is a very, very important and very neglected part of human psychology.
Curtis: People want to feel important. They want to feel like they matter. They live for several million years in basically chimpanzee societies where the chief chimp reproduces and the alpha female gets the chief chimp. And anyone who’s not high up on the power scale gets hosed. And so they really, really crave power. Or they crave the feeling of power, at least, because no one craves the thing, they crave the feeling of the thing. Sound good so far? So, okay. So here are the unexamined assumptions behind liquid democracy, which make complete sense if you don’t examine the assumptions. The primary unexamined assumption here is that the democracy is actually in control of the state. And so if the democracy is actually in control of the state and its policy is setting state policy, then obviously, if you want better government, your goal is to basically get the best policy out of the top.
Curtis: However, if democracy is either not in control or not fully in control of the state, you have a very different situation, because actually, if you have any power structure that is not in absolute control of the state and believes that it can do policy better than whatever form or faction or power or force is in control of the state, then the primary goal of this power… Let’s say that it has a small, but not large amount of power. The primary goal of its actions in any game theoretic sense should not be, okay, how do I gain the fruits of the power that I have, but how do I give myself more power? And so basically, in a real life political system, you can’t assume that any force maintains absolute power, or just because it has absolute power on paper has absolute power. Queen Elizabeth II has absolute power on paper. So literally, she has what’s called reserve power. She could call out the army tomorrow. And strangely, she doesn’t.
Curtis: And so when you’re basically saying, “Okay, liquid democracy is a very good thought experiment,” because basically, my point about liquid democracy is that it is not optimized to contend for power. And it takes, and this is the way most of the most people think about these political systems. They sort of take certain points as axioms. And they forget that if you take two plus two equals five as an axiom, you can prove all sorts of wild and crazy stuff. You can prove amazing things. And so to think about basically designing liquid democracy for a world in which democracy is one of several forces contending to control the state is a very different way of thinking about democracy, when you say, “Okay, we’re going to take it as an axiom that this force does control the state.”
Jim: And that’s a good point. And by the way, let’s not go too far. I mean, I did not intend to do this podcast about liquid democracy. So let’s wrap it up quickly and move on. I will say that liquid democracy has envisioned and talked about typically is to replace the legislative function and not the executive. And so it leaves open the question of the executive. And I was actually thinking about it when I was doing my prep this morning. One could, if one thought it wise, implement an elective monarchy via liquid democracy. There’s nothing incompatible between the two. You would just have to have boundaries on the monarch, ways to recall them, and all those kinds of things. So I want to make a few final comments about liquid democracy. I do really want to spend our time moving into your ideas on monarchy, et cetera.
Curtis: I want to actually segue from liquid democracy to monarchy.
Jim: Sounds good. Let’s do it.
Curtis: When you mention the legislative branch, it’s interesting, because one experiment and I encourage you to try or anyone listening to try this experiment in practice, is to go to DC and talk to anyone who works in government. And you can just say to them, “The government doesn’t really have an executive branch. It has a legislative branch.” And they’ll kind of look at you funny for a moment. And then they’ll be like, “Oh yeah, of course,” because what you call in DC the agencies are basically very tightly micromanaged down to very precise levels of policy and budget, by these bills, which we call laws. But, are in fact, sort of more like, I don’t, they’re not really laws, but the extent to which agencies…
Curtis: For example, my mother worked at DOE for example. So with DOE, you have a vast staff of people that are at the agency that are coordinating with the staff on the Hill. And they’ll come and testify before Congress. Nobody ever comes and testifies before the White House. All of these systems would actually work better without the White House. So you have this first sort of problem when you’re sort of imagining an executive and something like liquid democracy, which is that the executive branch doesn’t actually exist. We don’t have an executive.
Jim: That’s interesting you mention that. In one of my thought experiments with liquid democracy, there would not be a unified executive. Rather, each of the 20 domain areas would have their own executive and their own revenue sources. So you’d have 20 mini execs, like education, defense, healthcare, et cetera. And what each one would be funded separately.
Curtis: Jim, have you ever worked in the private sector?
Jim: That’s where I’ve worked my whole life.
Curtis: Can you imagine running a company that way?
Jim: Having it a single executive for a-
Curtis: No. Having 20 executives. So you’d have one executive for software quality. You’d have one executive for-
Jim: But I’ll tell you this is different, because this is more like having one executive for Tesla, one executive for Ford, one executive for Boeing. Because I would suggest that the 20 domains, the cross linkages are minimal, actually.
Curtis: Well, yeah. It depends what you’re doing, I suppose. Anyway, let me get back to my sort of point or thought experiment. So if we imagine for a moment that basically the power of politicians over this machine, which means that imagine we’re basically imagining something like liquid democracy, but we recognize that the power of politicians and thus voters over these machines that we call government is very, very minimal. And even the politicians in Congress, if you’re elected to the Congress, your staff… I was about to say your staff does all the work. Your staff doesn’t even write the legislation. Typically, when you have lines of legislation, it comes from either lobbyists, which are basically Republican groups meant to corrupt the process with money or activists, which are democratic groups meant to corrupt the process with power.
Curtis: It’s interesting, for example, that in DC, the NRA, which is an activist group technically, they’re always referred to as lobbyists, not activists, as though they work for Philip Morris. And so even in the Congress, if you’re elected to the Congress, first of all, if you’re newly elected, you have no seniority and thus no power, because the system works on a seniority basis, very similar to the good old Supreme Soviet. Secondly, as you’re probably aware, the House has an incumbency rate of roughly 98% and for the Senate, it’s in the low 90s. So you’re a freshman Senator with no influence or relevance. And as soon as you get into office, you realize that your job is fundraising, basically. That’s all it is. It’s fundraising. It’s basically, you’re elected based on the number of lawn signs and TV spots that you can buy. You want to keep that position. You want to keep being treated as a dignitary. And your staff does all the work.
Curtis: One time my stepfather worked on the Hill for many years. He was actually in Biden’s staff in the Senate in the ’80s. And he teaches at Hopkins now. And one time I asked him, I said, “Was there ever a time in your memory when a Senator was on the Senate floor and he was listening to another Senator speak and that speech was so convincing that he changed his mind and thus his vote?” And my stepfather, who is a very diplomatic gentleman, said, “I’m sure it must have happened at some point, but I can’t remember an instance.” And so these are not even parliamentary bodies. These are sort of bureaucratic bodies.
Curtis: And you’re basically, when you’re elected to them, much as if you’re elected to the presidency, when you’re elected as a politician you quickly realize that your job is basically being able enough to buy enough unearned media as you can, and looking good in the earned media. Or now, you can sort of be a right-wing maverick and your goal is to antagonize the earned media and look good in the conspiracy theory Fox news world.
Jim: Own the libs on Twitter, right?
Curtis: Own the libs on Twitter. But it’s a variant of the same thing. And so essentially, to sort of say, okay, democracy should work this way, or this is a better way of harvesting information to control this system, sort of ignores, I think, the much more salient fact that the steering linkage is actually really not hooked up at all. And so when you’re proposing modifications to democracy, either you’re proposing things that are changes that are purely symbolic to a purely symbolic system, or you’re proposing to turn this form of power back on. And if you look at basically turning something back on, you sort of want to go back and look at how it was turned off in the first place. One of the things that I always like to tell people is there’s this very interesting thing, which your mind can sort of twitch at for a while, where you have these two words, politics and democracy. And you’ll notice that one of them has very negative connotations.
Curtis: For example, Trump was just accused of politicizing the Justice Department. He wanted to put a political appointee who would do his bidding in charge of the Justice Department. This is clearly very bad to politicize this important agency of our democracy. And you’re like, “Wait a second then, but democracy and politics are synonyms. How can one of them be good? And the other one be bad? What would democracy without politics mean?” And when you basically start asking these questions, you’re like, “Okay, where do we get this strange idea that democracy is good, but putting politicians in charge of the government is bad?” The sort of negative characterization of politics goes all the way back to the early progressive era.
Curtis: I mean, it carries with it the great ring of truth, because before the early 20th century you did indeed have politicians in control of the government and they were indeed, it was the Gilded Age. It was a very China-like situation. Things were very corrupt. Things were very nasty. Things got done in a nasty corrupt way, as they do in many third-world countries. And the best way to think of late 19th century America is kind of as a third-world country. And so this idea of basically, we are going to disconnect the wires from the voters to power very carefully so that they still feel that they matter, but they still feel that they matter when they root for Ohio State in the PAC 10. It’s not in the PAC 10. What is Ohio S?tate in
Jim: Big 10.
Curtis: Big 10, there you go. There you go. See what kind of an American I am. I can’t even tell the difference between Big 10 and PAC 10. I know that there’s a 10. When they root for Ohio Sate basically, and when they root for Trump, there’s something very similar psychologically going on. They know that they can’t actually affect the Buckeyes down on the field. But they’re like, “I’m supporting them.” When you say you’re supporting something, you’re really believing that you’re giving energy to the Buckeyes. And maybe when you’re in the stands, you are. What you’re fulfilling is, you’re fulfilling that sort of second need of democracy, that need to feel like you matter.
Curtis: And when you’re cheering in front of your TV for Ohio State or for Trump, you feel like you matter. And people really believe that Trump would be the king of America and in charge of the government if he won the election. And he’s just a guy who reads cue cards, man. And so if you’re going to basically do something like liquid democracy less as a symbolic exercise and more as a practical exercise in restoring the power of democracy, that’s a very different way to optimize it and a very different way to look at the question.
Jim: Let me just rebut a couple things there, because you kind of mixed some things there. Our assumption of liquid democracy does not assume Congress. There was one version. I put Congress back into it. But in the pure form, there would be no Congress. Essentially, people would author legislation, themselves, experts, lobbyists, whatever. Eventually, it would filter up. Get approved. There’d be a prime minister for each sector who could be recalled at any time. And his job is to faithfully execute the laws as implemented, as voted upon by liquid democracy.
Curtis: So therefore, the first job of liquid democracy is to get these 535 people out of the way. And I don’t believe they want to get out of the way. I don’t believe they have any interest in that whatsoever. And so their jobs are very strange and have nothing to do with being statesmen or anything. But they like them and they intend to keep them until they’re… I mean, how old is Nancy Pelosi?
Jim: They got nice pensions, great healthcare. They have a good gym. Free bean soup in the lunch hall.
Curtis: Yeah, exactly! No, no, no, no. I mean, Diane Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden, to be honest, are sort of barely mentally competent. And they sort of don’t really quite see how much that brings the whole clown show into disrepute, but it’s a clown show. So, okay. So we want to optimize this thing, not just for using power, but for getting power and also for holding power. Because as soon as you have power, someone else is going to want to take it away from you. Makes sense?
Jim: Makes sense. Basic Machiavelli, right?
Curtis: Basic Machiavelli. So now we have this Machiavellian interpreter. We’re going to optimize liquid democracy, which is currently optimized with the incredibly beautiful, herbivorous assumption that it is not contending for power against any other force. And we’re going to optimize it to actually take and hold power. And so the purpose of our liquid democracy is going to become rather different. So our goal is basically to say, we have a large number of people out there and we’re building basically what we might call a power amplifier. We would basically like to take, let’s say, let’s imagine, Trumpism adopts this. We would basically like to say, okay, we have 70 million people. How do we generate as much power out of those 70 million people as possible? This is a very unfamiliar thought for the kind of thinking that goes into the kind of very… This is a carnivorous thought. This is not a herbivorous thought.
Curtis: And so really when I start with liquid democracy and do this, I’m trying to turn a deer into a lion. So, okay, how do we turn the deer into the lion? Well, how do you basically project power upwards? Let’s say all of your instincts for liquid democracy, which involve, for example, the delegation is the sort of the fundamental element of power projection, because 70 billion people acting individually on their own are like an army without a general or officers. They can’t do anything. There’s a huge coordination problem.
Curtis: And so basically, in order to solve this coordination problem, they don’t know what they’re trying to do. They feel that their enemies have taken power, which is true. And they’re trying to get that power away from their enemies, basic chimp politics. So how do you execute on basic chimp politics and basically make this 70 million man and woman, really, let’s call it what it is, a paramilitary army Hippolyte Taine, the great French writer of the late 19th century, sort of connected universal suffrage and universal conscription in history. And he was like, “As soon as the man can vote, he’s issued a musket and a ballot box.” Do you know the original meaning of the word ballot?
Curtis: Ballot and bullet have the same etymology. And so you basically have this paramilitary army of voters and you’re trying to concentrate its power. And you’re trying to amplify its power in such a way that you get a laser rather than a flashlight. And so to maximize the power of this force, for example, I’m going to make a couple of modifications to your design. The first modification I’m going to make is that in liquid democracy, you can change your delegation at any time. I’m going to put a lockup mechanism in that. I’m going to say, “No, actually your delegation is frozen for, let’s say, four years.” What does that do? What that does is it basically says whoever you’re delegating power to, instead of constantly watching his back as to whether, oh, do my people approve of this thing I did or that thing I did, he can act with much more confidence because he’s guaranteed your support for-
Curtis: … More confidence because he’s guaranteed your support for the next four years. The goal of liquid democracy is to delegate but not to delegate. It’s like, “Okay, we don’t actually want direct democracy because people won’t bother and they won’t care.” This is very realistic.
Jim: They don’t know anything either.
Curtis: And they don’t know anything, right. And this is not quite true, they know one thing, they want to smash their enemies and take power from them; that’s the one thing they know. And so basically, your goal in building a system like this is to help… It’s a user interface, you want to help all of these people fulfill what they actually desire. Normally, when you basically find people’s justification for supporting this policy or that policy, it tends to be a somewhat rationalized view of, “We want to smash our enemies and take power from them.”
Curtis: And the feeling of the American right, which is not necessarily untrue, is that all of this energy, for example, that’s put into gun control, I love the new speak on that is gun safety, and the feeling of 70 million Trump voters, by and large, is, “Oh, they’re afraid of our power and they’re trying to disarm us.” And they basically broadcast every school… I mean, school massacres are basically a thing created by publicity about school massacres, and this is broadcast far and loud because, basically, the real feeling among the American elite is that we’re these harmless pink little things that are surrounded by these gun toting peasants who can come and take our shit at any time and kill us. And that is basically the terrified feeling of the American elite, and it has been for most of the century. And so this sense of, “Oh, we want this policy or that policy,” or, “We want gun rights.” Why do we want gun rights? Lots of good reasons, maybe some bad reasons, but really, “No, actually, we can see this outcome where there’s a civil conflict and we’re trying to preserve our,” whatever.
Curtis: And so all of these policy struggles come down to, basically, “We want to humiliate and destroy our enemies.” And the better we realize that basically that’s actually the only thing that people are thinking about and move toward a system that is basically designed to fulfill people’s actual psychological needs, rather than the ones that they’re supposed to admit on TV, the better. So if you freeze re-delegation, if you say, “Okay, first of all, I’m going to say you can’t re-delegate your power. Your delegation is locked. You support whoever you support.”
Curtis: Secondly, in order to concentrate power and avoid conflicts between power, because, remember, you might have… Okay, maybe in a way you have 20 different separate agencies that are doing separate things, but actually you have 20 people that are all contending for power over these agencies. So even if they’re defense and education or whatever, they still have a common enemy, and their common enemy is whoever they’re trying to take power from. And so, in the goal of taking power, even if their nominal jobs are just these herbivorous, “Oh, let’s run the Ukraine war and then figure out what to do about transgenders in the schools and things like that,” their actual goal is to take power from their enemies. And if their actual goal is to take power from their enemies, or even if when in power their goal is to hold the power that they’ve taken from their enemies, they need to be on the same page. You can’t have 20 people fighting as individuals.
Curtis: So this basically argues again for a model where your delegation is focused directly on a single point and it’s as irrevocable as possible. In fact, if your delegation was for life, that would be even more powerful; moreover, because it would basically solve this problem of projecting your power up. And you’re projecting, essentially, it’s like when I look at something like liquid democracy as a power projection tool, I feel like I’m seeing an army that is trying to stab its enemies with arrows. And I’m like, “No, you have to shoot the arrow.”
Curtis: The delegation involves giving your power away. If you’re not giving it away, you’re keeping it, you still have a hand on it. And you’re like, “But I’ll lose the arrow.” I’m like, “Well, your arrow is useless unless you shoot it because an arrow is not a spear.” And so you actually need to fire that arrow by making this delegation. Moreover, when you look at basically what you’re delegating to your leaders, liquid democracy assumes a very, very low level of delegation of power. It assumes, “Oh, I’m going to let this person use my authority in a sense to vote on things, but I’m not going to give them any power over me. Oh no, no, no, no, I’m a free agent, I’m a free man.”
Curtis: One of my favorite political lines, which really was an epiphany for me, I mentioned Hippolyte Taine, he’s the great French historian in literature of the late 19th century. He wrote this wonderful book called Origins of Contemporary France. And in one of his histories on the revolution, he’s at the end of the passage on the Jacobins, and he’s like, “In 1792, 3, whatever, the Jacobins are just almost universally despised.”
Jim: ’94, yep.
Jim: It was the summer of ’94. They send them all to the guillotine, whack, whack, whack, right?
Curtis: Yeah, yeah. But even after Robespierre goes to the guillotine, it’s still moderate Jacobins that are in charge, this is still the revolution. And the fascinating point that Taine makes is he’s like, “Why do the majority of the French people not revolt against this tyrannical minority which has led them all, composed of disgruntled intellectuals and basically antifa types, that has led them just to perdition?” There’s another line where he’s like, “Basically, the French public at this time has defined deviancy down,” as James Q. Wilson would’ve put it, “to the point where everyone thinks he is well governed so long as he himself is not being killed.” And we haven’t quite reached that point in the US, but you can see various places in the third world where that’s kind of the no dire.
Curtis: So why do the majority of the French people not revolt against this? And Taine’s answer, which really stuck with me, is he’s like, “There’s no way that they can because the French people are as atomized as the dust on the roads of France.” And then he’s like, “There’s not one man in France who can command the unconditional loyalty of 100 Frenchmen.” And I read this and I’m like, “Jesus, Mary mother of God, there’s not one American in this country who can command the unconditional loyalty of five Americans,” even just their family, right?
Curtis: And so the sense that basically, in that time, the sense that the fundamental engine of political power is loyalty, and that if you don’t have any loyalty, you don’t have any power, you can’t be expected to have any power, was just kind of a fundamental axiom that was taken. The Romans, for example, assumed that to conquer a people, all they had to do was basically remove their king and their local aristocracy. Get rid of Vercingetorix, the Gauls are no longer a problem. And this is how you conquer people, by destroying this leadership structure and destroying the structures of loyalty that give leaders power. And if leaders of your enemy don’t have any power, your enemy has no power and they’re subjugated.
Curtis: So now we’re going to take liquid democracy in this slightly different direction and we’re going to say, “Okay, the goal for this thing is no longer the collection of the wisdom of crowds, but the projection of power upward, toward a center which can act decisively in, essentially, an entrepreneurial way.” Taine goes on in this history to point out, by the way, that the French people can do nothing, but one force that can do something, which is organized and does have central leadership and control, is of course…
Jim: The military.
Curtis: … The French army. Exactly, right. So this is how he segues into the age of Napoleon. So what we’re going to do with our liquid democracy structure, which is now assuming a new and extremely ominous form, but I’m going to make it even more ominous, is not only are you going to use this platform to delegate your power to this leader, the leadership or structure that you delegate to, you’re going to grant it absolute control over your vote. You’re going to grant it absolute control over all forms of political power that you can exercise.
Curtis: So the new form of voting is basically… Let’s say you adopt this in a purely private way, you build a liquid democracy structure, let’s call it solid democracy. We’re making it solid here, we’re crystallizing it. Let’s call it solid democracy, so you’re making this power solid. And so the first thing, and you’re doing it totally, this is not a constitutional change, this is just something people decide to do [inaudible 00:37:58].
Jim: Private club called the Solid Democracy Club.
Jim: They got a phone app and they’ve elected themselves a czar. All right!
Curtis: Yeah, they’ve got a phone app. So here’s what happens when you vote. What happens when you vote is you’re very irritated because it’s a data entry task. Basically, you have the party, the leader, whoever you want to call it, for every election in the United States has a candidate. And when you vote, you do not do any work at all, you don’t know anything about politics. You basically go to the polling booth and you fill out your ballot according to the sample ballot. It’s just pure data entry.
Curtis: You have actually delegated so much of your power that you’ve cut yourself out of the loop. And because you’ve cut yourself out of the loop, basically, you’ve shot that arrow. That arrow has gone up to the leadership. So what does the leadership do, for example? Do you know how AOC was recruited?
Jim: Yeah, they interviewed a whole bunch of people and…
Curtis: It was a casting call. It was a casting call.
Jim: Literally, literally.
Curtis: It was absolutely brilliant. It was literally a casting call. The Justice Democrats, I mean, communists, basically, are geniuses, right? This is another example of [inaudible 00:39:11].
Jim: Though interestingly, she revolted and fired them, which is quite funny, because they were on her staff and then she fired them.
Curtis: Yeah, right.
Curtis: I know, I know. It just shows how… Don’t try to do anything halfway, right? So basically, you’re doing this all the way. You’re doing it seriously. And you have serious money because, let’s say you’re, I don’t know, Donald Trump or something… The point at which I realized that Trump was a joke and wasn’t all in is when he didn’t sell his hotel businesses. I’m like, “This guy actually thinks this will be good for his motherfucking brand,” if you’ll excuse my French. And the-
Jim: Oh by the way, I’m still convinced that’s why he ran originally. He gets some free media to build the Trump brand, no chance in the world of getting elected, and then thing somehow was the right-
Curtis: No, it wasn’t somehow. It wasn’t somehow, it was that he got amplified by the press during the Republican primary, because the press was like, “This is how we’re going to sink the Republicans.” They were cackling maniacally to themselves as they gave him all the free air time in the world, right?
Jim: Yeah, billions of dollars. But also, also the loop here is actually quite interesting, because there was another loop going on, which is the memetics were being refined on the Chans, and then they were being echoed up through the Donald, but-
Curtis: And yeah, and they somehow got to all this…
Jim: [inaudible 00:40:26] got strong. They were strong memes.
Curtis: They got strong. Yeah, they were strong memes, they were strong memes, but Trump is not ultimately a strong man, although he’s very [inaudible 00:40:34].
Jim: No, he’s an idiot and a fucking coward, and a bully, and all these things. But he had some people who were smart enough, including Bannon to say, “All right, this interesting meme is bubbled up through three levels. We’re going to put this into the orange man’s mouth, he’s going to say it, it’s going to get broadcast over Fox. It’s going to get mutated into packaged memes, and they’re going to go out; the Chans are going to work on some new base memes and they’re going to come up.” It was an ecosystem that the cathedral did not anticipate.
Curtis: Yeah. And I guess I would say it was like the broken version of… I had this sort of John the Baptist, Russian revolution of 1905 kind of feel where you’re like, “There’s something there, but it’s firing on only one cylinder and only half the time.”
Jim: Good enough to have won though, despite it all, right?
Curtis: Good enough to win. But of course, when he won, he didn’t really win anything, right? He only, quote, “won”. No, no, no, no, this solid democracy thing that we’re building is a machine for actually winning. So, okay, you’re going to recruit, basically, 535… I guess filling the Senate is problematic because of the six-year thing, but the House can do a great deal.
Curtis: So you’re going to recruit… Let’s just stick with the House, the Senate will conform in time. You’re going to recruit 435 candidates and cast them, just the way AOC was cast, central casting. These people are not statesmen. They don’t have any real function, they’re just basically… You’re actually doing this in the UK when you vote for your MP; technically, you’re voting for this person, but you actually have no idea who the person is, you’re just voting the party line. One of the simplest ways to do this is to basically teach Americans… Is to convert the American legislative system into essentially a parliamentary system.
Curtis: And so in order to do that, you’re basically saying, “Okay,” you’re part of the 70 million member Solid Democracy Club, you install the app on your phone. Getting Americans to care so much about politics that they install an app on their phone, what a concept, right? And you wonder why democracy isn’t in control of anything, right? And so now they’re like, “I’ve taken the plunge, I’m going to install the app.” And basically, the app will be like, “Oh, there’s an election on such and such a day. Go here, fill in these little boxes, you’re done.” You are participating politically in a much more effective and powerful way than if you basically were one of those little ants pulling the breadcrumb in the direction that you want.
Curtis: So what you get is you basically say, “Okay, with this power, dominating the primaries is very, very easy,” because primaries have relatively low turnouts, people care very, very little. And if you’re basically like, “Okay, I want to go to my local primary for dog catcher and vote for Trump,” you now have a way to do that. We’ll just assume because democracy and populism are synonyms, we’ll just assume that this is being done by the Populist Party.
Curtis: And so you’re basically saying, “Okay,” you’re going to see… And let’s say only a third of these things succeed, so at that point you’ve got a third of the House of Representatives. Well, what you do then when you control this is, again, you recognize that democracy is a joke, and these people that you’re elected are not statesmen, they’re not listening to each other debate. They’re like Burke in the Parliament in 1795, they’re just pretty faces, they’re good looking. Why shouldn’t they be good looking? Their job is to be on TV. And they have a staff.
Curtis: And instead of doing the stupid thing that was done by Justice Democrats with AOC, you say, “No, actually, we’re going to do this a little differently. We’re going to have one combined staff for the whole Solid Democracy Party. And so what we’re going to have is we’re going to have a bloc in the House with extremely tight party discipline. And the goal of this bloc is not to get any policy returns or war lobbyists or whatever, the goal of this bloc is to be as powerful as possible. Because give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime; power is like that too. If you don’t have absolute power, the best way to use power is to get more power.
Curtis: If you know any theory of democracy, bloc voting has tremendous power because, basically, once you have a bloc that can commit in one direction or another, everybody who has a bone to pick wants that bloc on their side. And if that bloc can be moved in a single decision, it can be on either side of any issue and reinforce any power structure that it wants. So again, you’re basically saying, by delegating… By rather than electing like 200 representatives who are all pulling in different directions and trying to raise money and trying to whatever, you’ve basically created… You’ll notice, for example, when you look at the Congress, that you hardly ever see Democratic defectors on issues. You’ll see Republican defectors; Democratic defectors used to be a thing back when there were Southern Democrats. But basically, when you vote for a Democrat, you’re voting for the party, they already understand this. They basically understand this in a very… It’s not centralized, it’s not efficient, it’s not very coordinated, but they basically get it. And Republicans, who are literally the, small D, democratic/Populist Party in the US, don’t get it.
Curtis: But we can go even further than that. So now, we’ve basically converted this solid democracy into a system for automatically winning all old style elections. You have better turnout. In fact, at a certain level, people get tired of the data entry process and they’re like, “In the age of computers, why do I need to go to this ballot box and [inaudible 00:46:39] fill in my little ballot? Can’t I just register that I support Solid Democracy and let Solid Democracy vote for me permanently?” I mean, if I could change my delegation, sure, I’ll go for blue solid democracy.
Jim: Yeah, liquid democracy would allow that, right? So I give all 40 of my proxies to Curtis Yarvin, I don’t ever want to hear about politics again for the rest of my life.
Curtis: Yeah. Right, right, right. But the thing is, again, the less you can back out of that, the stronger it is; the less easy it is to back out of a marriage, the stronger the marriage is. And so basically, creating this unconditional power bond is the essence of real delegation. Because if your delegation is instantly reversible, if you can say, “I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you,” then what kind of security does your wife have? Right? And so, the more you’re willing to bind yourself, the more power you have. People don’t understand this, and yet it’s incredibly basic to the problem of contending for power.
Curtis: But let’s go one step further than this, okay? Because what you’re doing is you’re saying, “Okay, I delegate all of my political power to Solid Democracy. Solid democracy can do with me what I want, it owns my vote. Solid Democracy wants a dog catcher in my town who will do a kind of Soros move with the attorney generals, except for dogs. He’ll set the dogs free to prey on my political enemies, so we need to elect the right dog catcher, which is really not too different from what Soros is doing, which is brilliant by the way.
Curtis: Again, because the Democrats don’t believe in democracy, they’re free to hack it. And when you hack it in a way and use it in a way that it’s not intended to be used, it gets much, much more powerful. And the people who take democracy seriously and assume that it’s the way things work rather than a mechanism of power that can be used to make things work differently, always misuse it and don’t understand what a power mechanism it is.
Curtis: Let me take one step further, and now you’ll see the end of the line. The end of the line is, what if Solid Democracy, I delegate my political power to it, but not just my power to vote, my power to participate in the political process. So basically, “Hey, Solid Democracy, here I am. Here’s my address. Here’s my availability.” Okay, how would you use that? Let’s say that you use Solid Democracy to elect a new president. The new president gets in and he’s like, “I’m going to be a constitutional president. I’m going to be a new FDR. I’m going to be the CEO of the executive branch, because that’s what it says in the Constitution.” I’m well aware that there are many forces in the Congress and the Supreme Court that disagree with that.
Curtis: I read the Constitution carefully, I read it twice actually, and it doesn’t say anywhere that Congress is the boss of the president, doesn’t say anywhere that the Supreme Court is the boss of the president. The Justice Department, actually, with this new gun safety thing, just released this press release that was like, “Well, we disagree with the Court’s opinion and we’re going to keep promoting gun safety,” right? Which is just beautiful, right? It’s like full Andrew Jackson.
Curtis: And so you’re going to get elected president, and you’re going to go full Andrew Jackson, and the way that you’re going to demonstrate that this is real and proper is you’re basically going to do January 6th on January 20th. You’re going to have, basically, that you’re going to use your followers in a demonstration of force, which is what a demonstration is. That’s the whole point of a demonstration, “I have 500,000 people in one place.” 500,000 people can do anything. They don’t even want water cannons in this country, right?
Curtis: And so, I mean, January 6th was a… I believe, actually, we were podcasting on January 6th, when it was live, as I recall.
Jim: I think that’s right. Yeah, that’s right, that’s right, that’s right. Oh, that’s funny.
Curtis: And you had this great line where you were like, “Well, let’s see what it means. Let’s wait to see what it means,” which was perfect, and I really appreciate the wisdom of that line. It’s a wisdom that comes from someone with more gray hairs than me, and you were absolutely right.
Curtis: But now you’re basically saying, “Okay,” let’s say he’s a very imperfect vessel, Donald Trump is being inaugurated. And in his inauguration speech, and he’s been elected by the Solid Democracy thing, he’s got 70 million people who have voted, not just by voting, but by installing his app that tell them where and how to vote. And this app has requested location privileges. And so his app basically says, “I have 70 million supporters and notification privileges.” Remember the thing with Trump and the emergency broadcast system where people were like, “Oh, there’s some ways that he could use this that I don’t really like.”
Jim: You have your own private one. Yeah, so you have your private partisan militia broadcast system.
Curtis: Right, and so you’re basically saying, “I’m being inaugurated.”
Curtis: In my inauguration speech, I am declaring my emergency powers. The one government agency that actually works for me unconditionally, the Secret Service, is now fanning out across DC and seizing positions of power. The first one they’ve taken is the Fed, the Fed is now occupied by me. I will be funding myself, in fact, by simply having the Fed print dollars and spend them. It doesn’t say anything in the Constitution about the Fed. I mean, it’s not part of the legislative branch, it’s not part of the judiciary branch, so I assume it must be part of the executive branch. So I’m basically going to fund myself directly through the Fed. I’m going to create new institutions. I’m going to take over and shut down existing institutions, in much the same way that the fall of East Germany shut down the Stasi. All of these agencies are gone; you can’t reform them, you can’t fix them, and we’re locking the doors today.
Curtis: So who’s going to listen to this? Who cares? Nobody’s used to taking orders from the president except maybe the Secret Service, and they’re not used to taking orders like this, I can tell you that. But I got my app. So as I’m doing this, basically, I have a million people in DC. I have a million people, basically, and I’m like, “Okay, these people will walk into the Federal Building in every city and they will occupy it and they will take instructions from me.” I’m federalizing the police. I’m establishing direct control over all police departments, the military, of course, it goes without saying, the national guard. And all of this is happening at a moment when every Trump supporter is in the street.
Curtis: Every Trump supporter has a phone app telling them where they should be to make the revolution happen. Oh, they can click a little box also if they’re armed. And not only can they be directed, they could be micro directed. So you can imagine if Trump using this app, let’s say, wants to take the Capitol. Well, instead of 6,000 crazy nutbags who wouldn’t take any direction from anyone except weirdos, they’re all following their app. So he can just basically be a general and draw with a little gesture on his phone, he’s like, “I’m going to move 10,000 people in the Capitol right now, they’ll be there in 45 minutes.”
Curtis: This is a somewhat extreme example and is very different from the way Americans are used to going about this circus which they call politics, but I think the use of… I’m not necessarily proposing this. I’m not opposing it either. I’m just saying, “This is a thought experiment where we’ve basically taken this extremely herbivorous idea of liquid democracy, which is basically a sheep, and we’ve given the sheep fangs and claws and in fact turned it into a lion.” And so the question is basically, if you knew that you were a sheep and not a lion and that sheep ultimately don’t matter…
Curtis: And I believe the history of the Pirate Party bears this out, which is that basically liquid democracy as leadership structure level is a perfect recipe for infighting and chaos, and the absence of what a great political thinker of the 20th century, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, called democratic centralism, if you know the term. What happens to the Pirate Party is that, basically, because of this structure, even just internally, even just in the problem of contending for power, which is of course where the Pirate Party is or was, I don’t think there’s much left of it now, it can’t develop any sort of articulate leadership structure, and so it actually…
Curtis: … leadership structure. And so it actually devolves into this infighting about, not what government policies should be about, but about what its platform should be, and essentially cannot develop any leadership structure whatsoever, and therefore falls prey to the effect that [inaudible 00:56:24] describe in terms of the Jacobins, where basically you have these people that are vaguely disgruntled… It’s like Occupy Wall Street in 2008 or something, you have a bunch of people that are vaguely disgruntled with the system, or an even better example would be… Are you familiar with the yellow vest protests in France?
Jim: Oh, of course. I use that example all the time as the failure of Davos Man.
Curtis: No, that’s the success of Davos Man. Davos Man, completely succeeded. So basically what happened there… COVID finally ended those. What happened there is that they…
Jim: They raised the tax on diesel fuel, people got pissed off and said no, and they almost toppled the government. And they backed down, and they reduced the diesel tax. I would say Davos Man failed, basically.
Curtis: They didn’t even come close to toppling the government. And their goal was… Basically, imagine that you’re a battered woman and your husband is beating you. Basically, if your goal… And he threatens you with a knife, and you do something, whatever it is you do, and the result is that your husband doesn’t stab you. And you’re like, “I won.” No, you didn’t win. You didn’t even come close to winning. Your goal is basically… The fact that your husband threatened you with a knife shows that this relationship is dysfunctional, and what you actually need to do… Winning is actually getting out of the relationship, or changing your husband into a totally different person whatsoever.
Curtis: And so the thing is, you may have a little bit defended yourself, but what I saw in the yellow vest protests, is I saw basically what I would call cargo cult democracy. So you have these French people, they’ve been taught liberty, equality, fraternity, and they’ve been taught that the way political change happens in France is you get a lot of people in the street and make a big foofaraw. And they’re much better at making foofaraws in Europe than they are here, but they’re also much better in responding to them, because they have water cannons and other cool toys, crowd control toys. And we saw American crowd control technology on January 6th, and I’m just not impressed. I mean, maybe that was a little bit of a pulling the chair move, but…
Curtis: And remember the demonstrations were numbered. They’re like, number one, number two, and they got up to number 40 or something, and they kept going out on the airstrips and waving their orange paddles, because they basically getting people into the street is the way [inaudible 00:58:56] what about the Paris Commune?And it’s like, no, the people who actually run the French state, which is more or less run from Brussels anyway, don’t care. They just don’t care. They’re like, “This is a disturbance that’s annoying. Maybe we need to give these people something. Maybe we’ll reverse the diesel tax.” But coming close to gaining power… I think they came as close as January 6th to gaining power. It’s like horn Viking guy is going to mount the Senate podium and declare himself chief arch-priest of the United States or whatever the hell. And it’s actually a joke.
Curtis: There was an event in France in 1934, which in some ways marks… It was this massive right wing protest, the left wing government had been collapsing in the midst of a corruption affair, there were these right wing paramilitary organizations, the Camelots du Roi, the Croix de Feu, French speakers will know how to pronounce those correctly. And they basically have this massive… They come very close to a Hitler style seizure of power, and they basically defeat the crowd control forces and essentially take Paris. And then the leader of the Croix de Feu, Colonel de La Roque, is like, “Let’s not do this.” And they all go home. They’re like, “We’ve made our point.” And having made their point, they recede again into total obscurity. And again, there’s this emphasis on the symbolic rather than the real. And I think my goal in educating people about the realities of power is to get people away from their focus on this very Big Ten, college football experience of participating in politics, and be like, no, if you want to win, you actually want to win.
Curtis: Let me give you another example, which is Egypt. So in Egypt they had… I’m going to not make this story too long, but in Egypt they basically had this complicated set of affairs in the Arab Spring where Washington wanted to turn the country over to liberals. Liberals were like… So Obama’s wheeled out, he’s like, “Mubarak’s got to go.” Mubarak goes. If they wheeled out Obama and he said, “Merkel’s got to go,” he could probably start a civil war in Germany. And so we dump our satellite leader Mubarak, where the liberals are going to rule, but you know what? There aren’t enough liberals to elect anyone. So real democracy involves electing the Muslim Brotherhood. They elect the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Muslim Brotherhood, who they think are moderate Muslims, turns out to actually believe in this Muslim stuff. Wacky, I know.
Curtis: So basically, everybody’s fed up. Even the liberals are fed up. The liberals are like, “I don’t know what to do.” But fortunately Egypt can be rescued from this Hell, and they’re rescued in this very simple way. There was this movement called [inaudible 01:01:59] which is probably in some sense sponsored by the army, but nobody really knows. And [inaudible 01:02:04] had a very simple idea for political change. They were like, “We’re going to get a petition,” and in some ways an equivalent to solid democracy, they were like, “We’re going to get a petition, and we’re going to have everyone in the country sign the petition, and the petition is going to say, ‘Dear armed forces, we would like a different government.'” And they got like 60% of the country to sign their petition using phone trees and stuff, pre-internet technology, largely. Internet penetration was pretty weak. And then the Egyptian military was like, “Why didn’t you say so before?” And Morsi died in jail, the Muslim Brotherhood guy.
Curtis: And so the sense of basically saying, “If you understand political systems and understand that the basic job of a political system is first to contend for power, and then to hold power, and then to use that power wisely,” and if you basically say, “Our first job is to use that power wisely,” you’re in the land of Onan, because you never actually get any power. And when you think about democracy in the world of today and reforming that, and you’re starting with the assumption that this system is all powerful, rather than it is of negligible power, you’re really building castles in the air, in a way. And so when you pull back the camera really, really far… Let’s segue into the case for monarchy, here, finally, because of…
Jim: Let me make a couple comments before we move on. One, I followed your logic, and it’s interesting and scary, but I will say the idea of the orange man with 70 million militia folks is a fucking nightmare, a worst case scenario, and that every decent American should exercise their Second Amendment rights to prevent it.
Curtis: Yeah, let’s second that. Basically, I think that the orange man was given enough of a chance to show that he was a real CEO and that he had real leadership capacity, and he blew it. And some of us may say that’s a good thing, some of us may say it’s a bad thing. What really can’t be debated is that he’s a phony. And so really, what you’re imagining is not the orange man, but someone of real gravitas and stature and capacity in this.
Jim: Of course, that’s the problem with monarchy, which we’ll talk about. Plato. I suppose in theory, being governed by a philosopher king would be a great thing, but find me a philosopher king who isn’t a corrupt, nepotistic piece of shit, probably inbred after a few generations, et cetera, et cetera.
Curtis: Well, Jim…
Jim: Let’s now pivot, make the case for monarchy, and I will chip away at it with some of these critiques.
Curtis: Jim, have you ever heard of an executive search firm? If you go out and look at the Fortune 500, you’ll find that every one of these organizations is a monarchy.
Jim: Oh, yeah. By the way, I have been a public company CEO.
Curtis: There you go.
Jim: And I was recruited by a professional search firm, it was a very broad search of 60 candidates, and I was the last one standing in the [inaudible 01:05:20].
Curtis: There you go. There you go. See, the best of the Socratic method is really when you get the audience to answer their own questions. And so somehow, we’re presented with this specter of this being a really hard problem, but when we see it done in our own lives, actually not only is it easy, but it produces, I think, excellent results. I’m sure you’re an excellent CEO, Jim. And so what you’re seeing, basically, if you pull back from our solid democracy example, what solid democracy is doing is it’s basically taking a population which thinkers of a previous century would’ve said is basically not suitable for democracy as a system, because they have no… You can’t really get anyone to rule, whether it’s a king or priesthood or whoever, if they don’t feel they have the right to rule. And the American voter basically does not feel he has the right to rule. And he’s basically been taught that his government should not be politicized, which basically means that he’s been taught that democracy sucks. And the problem is that, when you go back in history and you look at when the government was politicized, it sucked.
Curtis: And so there’s a hard problem there, which is that, first of all, one of my basic views on power is that sovereignty is conserved. There’s always a power structure. And what you accomplish if you say, “We’re going to be a democracy, but we’re not going to be a democracy, we’re going to be a democracy, but we’re not going to have politicians run the government…” I always like to remind people that, if you go to the least democratic state in the world… What’s the least democratic state in the world?
Jim: Probably Saudi Arabia.
Curtis: I would go with North Korea.
Jim: Yeah, North Korea. [inaudible 01:07:23]
Curtis: Well, the official name of North Korea is the DPRK, which stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. So that’s three words for democracy in one place name, in the least democratic country on earth. And so really, when you boil down what does democracy mean in the present era, it doesn’t mean that you elect politicians who are in control of the government. It’s basically a claim to legitimacy. The name of the DPRK is basically legitimate, legitimate, legitimate Korea.
Curtis: And so what we’re looking at when we look at the situation of democracy today is we’re looking at a situation that seems transitional between historically unusual periods and historically normal periods. In historically normal periods, in most countries, at most times, most people have no interest in politics. They’re apathetic. It’s like the situation of the people in China today. Most people in China approve of their government. Congress has an approval rating of like 13%, the Chinese Communist Party has an approval rating of like 88%. And most people in China feel that they’re basically well governed, and they have no interest in politics. And this is not some genetic or cultural Chinese thing, as anyone can tell you who remembers the Cultural Revolution. A population can be politically activated and politically deactivated.
Curtis: And what we’re looking at today in the situation of democracy, democracy is weak in the 20th century because the population is mostly deactivated. You should think of democracy… The three political forms, democracy, oligarchy, and monarchy are basically political forces. Today, oligarchy is extremely activated, monarchy is dormant because there’s no monarchy, and democracy is extremely weak.
Curtis: So what we’re actually doing with this solid democracy design is we’re basically saying, there is a minimal level of political activation left in this population. People have no idea how to delegate their power. They have no sense of loyalty. For everything except the presidency, they vote on how many lawn signs they’ve seen. This is a democratic population whose democratic instincts are almost dead. They don’t even understand… It’s so dead that they don’t feel they have a right to rule, and they don’t understand what it means to depoliticize the government. They fundamentally don’t understand that depoliticizing the government means basically taking their power away from them, as surely as if the voting machines were hacked. Because the best way to hack a voting machine is not to hack the voting machine, it’s just to disconnect the wire that comes out of the voting machine. And that’s essentially the way D.C. works.
Curtis: And so in order to fix that, and in order to give democracy back its power, what we find is that democracy is so weak that we have to build a power amplifier that collects all of its power and uses it as efficiently as possible. One of the reasons that people make this mistake is they LARP the America of like 250 years ago, where everybody’s a militia man, everybody has… They’re all arguing about the legal details of the Constitutional Convention or whatever. These are not the Americans who exist. The Americans who exist are either part of the oligarchy, and they have these oligarchical pro-party responses, or they just want to grill. They just want to grill without their school pressuring their daughter into a sex change. And the problem is that they basically just want to grill.
Curtis: And so in terms of basically designing a political system that will allow people who just want to grill to be as effective as possible, and to use as much of their power as possible and focus as much of their power as possible on a central point, basically what the solid democracy thought experiment teaches you is that, at the end, you look at what you’ve designed and you’re like, “I’ve designed the ultimate in democratic power.” And then you’re like, “Wait, but I’ve designed a monarchy. I’ve actually constructed a monarchy without knowing that I was constructing a monarchy.” And at the end you look at it and you’re like, “Oh yeah, I see, I have to basically delegate all of my loyalty to one center, and I’ve recreated essentially the political contest of the pre-modern era.”
Curtis: The immediately pre-modern era was always this alliance of monarchy and democracy against oligarchy. It was the king and the people against the nobles. And basically the king was so universally popular… In the English Civil War, most people don’t know this, the people are like, it was the parliament against the king. The parliament’s claim during the whole Civil War was that it was actually the king in parliament, and they were actually fighting for the king who had been hijacked by a mysterious coterie of what they call malignants. So basically it’s as if blue state voters were like, “Of course we support Donald Trump, but we support the real Donald Trump, and we have to get him out from under the arm of Steve Bannon,” or something. And it was just completely nuts.
Curtis: And yet such was the popularity of the monarchy that this was the ground on which it was fought, even when they got to the point of trying and cutting off the head of the king, they really told everyone that they were fighting for monarchy. And so when you look at how… There’s a historical period, there’s a couple of historical periods, where we see basically this transition from democracy to monarchy, where we see basically the last force of democracy realize that actually the best way for the body of people against the nobles to get what they want is to coalesce behind a single force. And of course, the characteristic example of it, the example that really formed our world, Napoleon is a good one, but a better example is Caesar.
Curtis: And so what happens… Again, the reason for the rise of Caesar is not that this evil person destroys this thriving republic. The reason for the rise of Caesar is that this republic has devolved into a state where what republican government really means is civil war. And this is the same situation that we have here, except we’re a bunch of pussies and our civil war is cold. But the only thing that elections are doing today in this world is not deciding policy, not whatever. It’s simply saying, which side am I on in the cold civil war.
Jim: It’s Team Blue or Team Red. I use that all the time in my…
Curtis: Team Blue or Team Red. But the thing is basically, Team Red isn’t acting like a team. Team Blue is acting like a team. Team Red is still under the illusion that they’re in Norman Rockwell world. They’re like, “I will speak up in my town meeting,” that famous… “Against turning my daughter into a boy, and I will speak up.” They actually believe in this system. And Team Blue has spent basically the better part of a century hacking this system. And so you’re basically having this contest of naivete against Machiavellianism, and Machiavellianism is going to win that one every time. It doesn’t matter how many voters you have.
Curtis: And so when you basically take the logical endpoint of that, and you say, our first step is that Team Red is going to act like an actual team, which is utterly terrifying to Team Blue, utterly terrifying, because you’re basically taking this disorganized mob, and you’re turning it into an army. It may not be an army that physically comes out and does militia things. I don’t even think that’s necessary. I don’t even think your solid democracy app needs to have a little box you can click to say, “I have a gun.” A million people in a city can do anything. They can go anywhere they want, they can do anything they want, no-one can stop them. And that’s the specter that really terrifies the American left, and just produces… Anyone like me who had a basically aristocratic leftist upbringing hears something like that, and we’re all going to be skewered on the pitchforks of the peasants.
Curtis: So do I want to be skewered on the pitchforks of the peasants? Do I want my blue state Bay Area friends to be skewered on the pitchforks of the peasants? Absolutely not. And this was the second innovation of Caesar, and also of Napoleon, where they realized that before Caesar, there was this sort of… One of the biggest civil wars was between Marius and Sulla, and they went back and forth.
Jim: They’d been buddies at first and then they fought it out.
Curtis: And then they fought it out. And Sulla was the representative of the aristocratic party, we might say Team Blue, and Marius was the representative of the populace party, we might say Team Red. And the failure of imagination of both of these men, and the reason they were not Caesar, was that when they came to power, they governed as the leaders of their faction. And by governing as the leaders of their faction, they did what was kind of normal Rome at that time. The first thing to do is basically kill all of your enemies, take their stuff, and give it to your friends. Pretty basic chimpanzee politics. But it was also not really very farsighted, because it couldn’t actually eliminate this political… The system that caused the conflict was still there. You couldn’t kill your way… Nobody in Rome was really ready to.. I mean, imagine Team Red wins and tries to genocide Team Blue, or vice versa. It could never happen. Even in that time, which was much more bloodthirsty than ours, that was not a solution.
Curtis: In our time, you can’t have… Political change and violence are almost orthogonal. Actually, any regime change that you would ever see in this country in our time has to be this joyous, peaceful movement, very like 1989 in the Eastern Bloc. And my solid democracy thing basically will feel like that.
Jim: Well, your description of it, it didn’t certainly sound very joyous. They sound like a bunch of fucking thugs, right?
Curtis: No, no, no. When you have a million people in the street… There aren’t a million thugs in this country. When you have a million people in this… The atmosphere of January 6th was joyous, was immensely joyous. When you have a million people in the street and they have this feeling of power, that feeling of power is not violence, but joy. And basically the feeling of the crowds that filed into the Stasi building was not violence, but joy. And do you know what happened to the Stasi officers? There were just retired. Many of them are earning pensions to this day. I think there may actually be even Wehrmacht officers earning pensions from the German state.
Curtis: And that’s basically what Caesar understood. What Caesar understood is that the whole purpose of a monarchy… This is a debate I often have with Michael Anton, where he’s like red Caesar, blue Caesar. I’m like no, there was red Marius, blue Sulla, but there was only one color of Caesar. Because Caesar understood that once he’d won the war, the Republic, not in name, the Roman Empire always called itself the Republic until like 600 A.D., but the actual process of republicanism was at an end. It was at an end because basically the Roman people wanted peace and good government much more than they wanted power. They didn’t want to be Big Ten fans any more.
Jim: Let’s clarify here. You’re talking about Augustus or Julius? Julius was a popularis, obviously, and Augustus was this more unifying figure, right?
Curtis: Caesar came out of the populares, but Caesar actually… And Augustus is part of the Triumvirate, is persuaded to order these prescriptions, but that’s Mark Antony’s doing a little more. Caesar does not do any prescriptions when he gets into power. His whole point is basically, “I came out of the red state forces,” but he himself was an aristocrat, the populares are still led by aristocrats, and he’s like, “I’m going to govern all of Rome. I’m not going to basically say, ‘I’m this red state, guy and you’ve been trying to turn my straight kids trans, so I’m going to be a red state Caesar, and I’m going to basically take your trans kids, blue state people, and I’m going to convert them back to straight.'” For example. That would be an un-Caesarlike thing to do. Caesar instead would basically be like, “Why are we even arguing about this? Who cares how anyone else raises their kids?” And basically de-escalate that fight.
Curtis: And one of the things you notice after the rise of the Caesars, Augustus is basically continuing the policy and directions of Julius, is that politics in Rome just disappears, and this whole red versus blue conflict, which under various names has disturbed the peace of Rome for hundreds of years, really 400 years, 500 years since the Aventine Secession or whatever, it’s gone. It’s over. It’s dead.
Jim: Okay. Now we’re getting to the heart of, as I’ve read it… Let me push back here a little bit, because we don’t have infinite amount of time, because I want to get to the meat of [inaudible 01:21:46].
Curtis: Let’s get to the meat.
Jim: [inaudible 01:21:47] read all these various essays that you wrote, and listened to a good part of one of the podcasts. I think you’re now heading towards what I would call the strong part of your argument, which is… It may be possible, I’m skeptical, but maybe it’s possible to have a monarch who takes the view of the whole people. And as you point out, history has been riven with class conflict, all the way back…
Curtis: Race conflict. Let’s not forget the race…
Jim: Race conflict, ethnic conflict, religious conflict, et cetera. And you put forth, I believe you lifted it from the Dutch pillarism as a potential, to get at that.
Jim: So I think if you’re going to try to put a positive spin on monarchy, somehow this idea of being a truly unifying force might be your best tail.
Curtis: Oh, sure. I mean, it’s absolutely… It’s only the first dividend of regime change, but it’s the most obvious dividend. The way I would state it is that basically, it’s like if you look through the door of your microwave, if you put a cup of water in there, you’ll see the water boiling. And you might assume, if you were a very simple, primitive person, that the water wants to boil. It doesn’t want to boil. It’s being agitated by the microwaves. And what’s causing all of this factional conflict, basically the mindset of Americans when they vote today is, I have to defend myself against the other. The main voting energy that causes people to go to the ballot box is a sense of collective fear.
Jim: [inaudible 01:23:22] true at the moment. It hasn’t always been true in my lifetime.
Curtis: Hasn’t always been… Yeah. And before your lifetime, it was still less true. So it’s basically a long term trend of getting more and more true in general. You can go back to…
Jim: Nixon versus Kennedy, neither side worried that the other was going to put the other in camps, for instance.
Curtis: Well, Nixon didn’t expect basically to be the target of lawfare, and he’s like, “I’m the president. I get to do everything that LBJ got to do.”
Jim: No, I’m talking about the original one. [inaudible 01:23:55]
Curtis: Oh, the original one. The original one. Yeah, but again, I think if you look at, say.
Jim: Wait a minute, let’s go back. Let’s go back.
Curtis: I think if you look at, say-
Jim: Wait a minute, let’s go back. Let’s go back to the idea of somehow your monarch will actually be a good faith representative of everybody and somehow overcome these millennial long conflicts.
Curtis: Even the word representative basically, of course, comes from democratic thinking. Augustus was not the representative of the Roman of factions, he was the ruler of Rome. And he basically took responsibility… they say he found Rome in brick and left it in marble. He took responsibility for the state of Rome, but the whole idea of the leader as the representative, is a fundamentally sort of democratic conceit, that is designed for a democratic age. And that’s not the way… when you look at the way people, the oligarchical networks who actually control public policy in the US today, they don’t think of themselves as representatives, they think of themselves as custodians of the public good. And that’s how it actually works in DC.
Curtis: So that thinking… the revolution already happened. Democracy was basically vanquished in 1933, when FDR essentially becomes a monarch and seizes his personal power. And to sort of ignore… what we’re looking at in DC, is basically the remnants of the personal regime of FDR. And one of the simplest ways to sell monarchy to a liberal is just to say, America needs a new FDR. Discuss. And they’ll be, of course America needs a new FDR. And I’m, but FDR was a king, man. And they’re, what?
Curtis: And so we actually live in the ruins of a monarchy that decayed into an oligarchy. I mean, FDR was a politician and he never was absolutely in control of the state in the way Stalin and Hitler were. He was just a thousand times more in control of it than say Joe Biden is. So yeah, did he do very Machiavellian things as a politician? He did. Did I like his choices in leadership? No, generally I don’t. But was he Hitler? No.
Curtis: And so you’re basically looking at… most people expect that in a transition in the United States from democracy to monarchy, you would have a great number of people who would resist this, probably by force. They would rise up in the streets. And that is very much a LARP. That is imagining… why don’t they rise up in the streets now? All the power has been taken away from them. The power has been taken away from them by sort of hidden oligarchical policy networks rather than a single leader that they can focus their hate on. Basically, these are just not people who rise up and get violent. Very, very, like the population of the Roman Empire, and in fact, basically all monarchies throughout time.
Curtis: And so you’re basically saying, when you look at monarchy, this is the natural system of government for a fundamentally apathetic and disengaged population who just wants to grill. Moreover, most of the people that care about politics care because they fear the other side. And if that fear is gone, if it sort of becomes very quickly clear that this is Caesar and not Sola, once that fear is gone, and once you have a sense of oh, I see, the right wing nutcases are not actually trying to change the way I live or make lesbianism illegal or whatever. They’re not trying to turn me into Saudi Arabia. They’re just trying to keep their own stupid peasant culture that they have as peasants. I’m, okay, I don’t feel threatened by the peasants being peasants. I think it’s sad that they treat their children this way, but they think it’s sad that we treat our children this way, fine.
Curtis: And sort of all of the remaining air in this bubble of sort of apathetic people whose only exception from apathy is fear and once that fear disappears, its universal apathy. And people are, why do we have this crazy system in the first place? Moreover, as basically efficient government takes hold, they’re seeing everything get cleaned up, everything work better. You’ll go to San Francisco and you’ll be able to lick the streets and… try doing that now. And the appearance of basically chaos and ruin kind of being reversed. I don’t know if you… as a CEO, you probably spend some time traveling around the world and Donald Trump made this remark, that people were, what? He’s, when you fly back from Shanghai or Dubai to America, you feel you’re flying into a third world country.
Jim: Yeah, JFK always felt like some piece of shit in the Congo or something.
Curtis: Yeah, exactly. Exactly, exactly. And so the thing is, you have this thing that people… the French had under the Jacobins, where it’s they feel that they’re well governed so long as they themselves are not being killed. And then you start defining deviance up, and you’re just holy cow, year after we did this, I can walk safely in any city in America, anywhere, at any time of day or night. Wow. That’s normal. That feels normal to me. That feels normal and right. But what was this thing we had before? That was not normal and right. That was weird. And that’s how the people in sort of the post Soviet world regard the Soviet past, is this sort of nightmare that they were living in, but didn’t know how to awake from. And so you have… you’re going to have this sense of sort of awakening from this nightmare that you didn’t even know was a nightmare.
Curtis: You’re going to be in New York, but the subways are going to look the subways in Shanghai and you’re going to be wow. Oh, I remember when this was scary and filthy all the time. And I was oh, it’s normal. This is just part of living in a major city. If it wasn’t scary and filthy, we would have no culture and you’re what? That makes no sense. And so to sort of see this basically national nightmare ending concretely in front of your face, is a feeling that Americans have never experienced. They have never experienced anything like it. And so basically that takes their remaining sort of fear energy, reverses it into a sense of gratitude, that is added to the fact that they’re not… these are not people that are sort of used to contending for power in any real sense.
Curtis: Basically blue state people just want to live their nice fancy cosmopolitan lives. Red state people just want to raise their families and grill. And now you can live your nice… you’re a blue state woman, you can get an abortion because that’s your culture. And if I’m from Utah, I find that weird. And if you’re from Utah and you find that weird, maybe it’s time to switch cultures. The sense of, if you’re really thinking about how to devise peace, you basically realize that it’s very easy as long as that microwave isn’t on and making the water bubble. And what’s making the water bubble is that basically you have a political system that gives each of these parties a way to hurt the other. And so basically kind of the case for monarchy, to sum up, is that it’s a much more sustainable system than it appears.
Curtis: And one of the reasons why monarchy looks very unsustainable in the modern world, is a simple factor that most people haven’t considered, which is… I heard this joke told somewhere, in some foreign regime… why is the US the only country in which there have been no revolutions in the last 250 years? The answer is very simple. What is the only country in which there is no American embassy?
Jim: Probably some truth to that.
Curtis: Right. And so the thing is that basically it’s like when I was in Portugal recently and I was talking to some of the local Portuguese dissidents, and I’m basically, look, 1989 is the closest equivalent you have for how the system changes. And the lesson of 1989 is that it can’t change from the periphery. It changes from the center out. All attempts to overthrow the communist system in the Eastern block until 1989, failed because they were basically premised on the fundamentally false belief that these were independent countries rather than provinces of the Soviet union. And similarly, if you proceed in Portugese politics with the assumption that Portugal is an independent country, you’re sort of doing math from the basis that two plus two equals five. It’s like when we talked about it at the start of the podcast, redesigning democracy with the assumption that democracy is actually in command. And then you can prove anything if you assume two plus two equals five. But two plus two is not five.
Curtis: But when you basically… in the EU, they actually talk very explicitly about the democratic deficit, because the EU is the most undemocratic democracy ever devised. There’s this EU Parliament, which basically has the powers of Queen Elizabeth II, not the first. And then you have the European Commission, which is like the deep state, but it’s actually a better centralized, deep state. And everything comes from the European Commission, which is completely profoundly utterly… there isn’t even a pretense that these people are appointed by politicians. They just appoint themselves. It’s the final stage of oligarchy. And the thing is, once people realize that it’s actually fine… life in Europe now is basically fine. It kind of sucks in some ways there’s… it’s not sustainable. There’s some-
Jim: It’s behind the curve.
Curtis: It’s behind the curve, but it’s still basically fine. And so-
Jim: It’s a museum. It’s a museum of Western culture as it was, sort of.
Curtis: Yeah, it’s a theme park. It’s a theme park. I always compare the state of say, Paris today, to the state of Athens under the Roman Empire. What is Athens under the Roman Empire? It’s Athensland. It’s a theme park. Go to Paris. You’re going to Parisland. And so actually the voters have already accepted that they can delegate their power to someone else and not get it back and not have it. And life can be fine. And basically they can grill. And the only problem with oligarchy is not that it’s not democratic, it’s actually brilliantly designed to oppose and resist democracy, AKA politics. I find it’s just a really good sort of exercise to keep reminding yourself of the equivalence between democracy and politics, because it’s one of these things that you’ll forget in five minutes because you’re sort of so programmed against it.
Curtis: But the European system of government is even better fortified against politics than the American system of government, which is extremely well fortified against politics, as Donald Trump discovered, and his voters discovered it. And so you basically… once you acknowledge that it is possible to live in a normal country, which is not in practice democratic, all you’re discarding, when you discard democracy, is you’re discarding the empty husk of this theory. You’re discarding sort of a tradition of legitimacy, which is the same tradition of the legitimacy that causes North Korea to call itself the DPRK. And that tradition sort of doesn’t mean anything anymore, concretely. It doesn’t… it would almost be acknowledging that Ohio State is actually an NFL minor league team. You’re, oh yeah, this actually has nothing to do with the university. These players are not being educated. This is just minor league football. And you can still root for Ohio State, knowing that it has nothing to do… it’s just the name. Maybe the university no longer exists, but the team is still called it Ohio State for historical reasons.
Curtis: And it’s just… you have this sort of hold on this feeling of democracy that comes from sort of… remember when we started talking about liquid democracy where I was talking about the two objectives of it… one is to collect the wisdom of crowds and the other is to make people feel powerful. And it’s giving people this sort of feeling of relevance in this kind of way that’s very similar actually to pornography, because you’re basically sort of, okay, you know when you root for Ohio State that you’re not actually on the field, you’re not actually supporting them. You’re just clapping in front of the TV, but it feels you’re part of the Ohio State army.
Curtis: And there’s something deep in your genetic code, that response, that feeling of being part of the army, and to basically sort of have the maturity and the adulthood to abandon that illusion and say, I don’t need that illusion. I don’t need my porn anymore. I’m going to go get married instead of having porn. And marriage is, you’re marrying a real person, they have real issues. It’s not a fantasy. Their body isn’t perfect. And yet there’s a sort of maturity to that.
Curtis: And so the maturity of actually letting go of this thing that has sort of become a fake and instead saying, well, I’m going to direct my collective energy toward creating a government that actually works. And doesn’t do crazy shit like starting a civil war in Russia or deciding it needs to collect all the bat corona viruses or other just whack ass stuff, that’s really started affecting everybody’s lives in not a good way and is not getting better. You basically say, no, actually we’re going to decide, look at this American experiment, and we’re going to put it in context. And we’re going to revert to the political system that most human beings have used for most of history. And we thought we were better, but we’re actually just normal human beings. And I think that’s a very mature decision.
Jim: Let me push back. This will probably be the last bit, because we’re at our time limit now. Now, one… I would hit a few points here. One, I would suggest that our current broken politics is a function of the game theoretic predictable outcomes of our institutional structures when in the case of no strong foreign adversary. And that it is our institutions that, by the way they’re designed, produce this pulling away and polarization, and then you get a band wagging effect that you’re either in team red or team blue, or you get fucked by them both. So I think there are some ways to fix the problems we currently have without going to a monarchy. Next, the closest benevolent templates I can find in recent history for what you’re suggesting, are-
Curtis: Why are you focusing on recent history?
Jim: Well, because, recency effect, right? Let me give two examples and then I’ll give you some counter examples. Two good examples, I suppose, for this kind of benevolent, good of the people governance, would be Singapore since it’s founding basically and Hong Kong prior to about five years ago where they had the pretense of some sort of democracy, but everybody knew there wasn’t any, and that Singapore, you could literally lick the sidewalk if you were so inclined. On the other hand, and this is, of course, the most obvious, easy, and maybe puerile objection… let’s look at the people that centralized power in the recent history, say, the last 100 years, wonderful folks like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, et cetera. So the mechanisms-
Curtis: First of all, I don’t really understand this obsession with recent history. And the thing that you observe in, sort of, with this recency bias is that when you look at these powers, you see two things. One, is that all powers in the last 200 years that have set themselves against, quote, democracy, have actually set themselves against the Anglo American international community. And so they’ve been in a state of rebellion against power. They’ve essentially been war time regimes, whether they liked it or not. The ability of… for example, when you could say, compare Hitler… well, let’s compare Mao to Deng Xiaoping… Deng Xiaoping takes the power that Mao establishes where the goal of Mao’s ruthlessness is to reestablish Chinese Imperial sovereignty by disconnecting himself from the American and Russian empires. In order to disconnect himself from the American and Russian empires, he basically has to destroy everyone in China.
Jim: A good chunk of them, at least.
Curtis: Who is a servant, who serves that empire rather than his empire. There’s sort of nothing equivalent in the world that we live in. There’s no empire that our empire is revolting against. There’s no sense that okay, if you have an American Caesar, he needs to destroy all the sympathizers of China and all the sympathizers of Russia. This internal opposition simply doesn’t exist. And so when you look at sort of more objectively at these regimes, and I agree that they were terrible regimes, but they basically faced a situation where their grasp on sovereignty was so weak and so limited. And basically Germany and Japan in the 1930s, I’m not talking about Hitler, who was kind of a nut bar, but Hitler’s basically nut bar stuff wouldn’t have been possible without support from sort of an old German deep state and the old German deep state, really a WWI and before, era thing, was primarily focused on attaining sovereignty as was Hitler in his own crazy way.
Curtis: And so that sense of this sort of this being this line of revolt against the global order is already very present in the 1930s. And it’s also present in say, Orban in Hungary, in Franco, in Spain, all of whom are kind of lesser Hitlers and are less crazy Hitler, certainly by any means, all of these things seem doomed to me. And I think when things are doomed, they’re doomed peacefully, if they’re doomed without a whole lot of violence. My favorite 20th century dictator is Salazar in Portugal who was an economics professor basically.
Jim: People don’t know this, but Salazar actually killed off the fascists.
Curtis: Yeah, sure, sure.
Jim: Some people say that Salazar was a fascist… now actually he actually isn’t. It’s an interesting example. I actually knew a little bit about Salazar, is that he was an example of someone who tried to be nonpartisan. He literally liquidated the fascists.
Curtis: As did Franco. And he also liquidated the communists and he was just, no, we’re going to have a new state in Portugal. And things are going to be basically at peace. And if you look at the history of Portugal before Salazar, look at Portugal’s experiments with democracy, they’re not pretty. And so you really, even in the 20th century, even when you accept this sort of deranged recency bias, and you’re, we’re not going to talk about Louis XIV. We’re not going to talk about Elizabeth I. We’re not going to talk about Napoleon. We’re not going to talk about Caesar. That’s all old stuff. Who cares about that old stuff. Only young people matter. If you accept this crap, never trust anyone over 30, right? You’ve heard that. And maybe even once believed it.
Jim: I still believe it.
Curtis: You still believe it. It’s better if-
Jim: Not really.
Curtis: It’s better if you just never trust anyone. Then it’s a fortiori.
Jim: And then you’re never disappointed.
Curtis: Then you’re never disappointed. That’s exactly right. And so yeah, the sense that even when you look at the 20th century, number one, you can find examples like Deng Xiaoping, who, he did learn a lot from [inaudible 01:45:27] but I think that Deng Xioping has to be regarded as the greatest political leader of the 20th century, just in terms of his track record and absolute power for 30 years. And he took that absolute power that Mao had created in this very bloody and ugly way. And he actually used it for the good of China. So for me, it’s really the Hitlers and the Stalins are these anomalies.
Curtis: These are sort of attempts at monarchy in the age of democracy and within the context of a global democratic really oligarchic, essentially, empire. That is very different from the fall of this empire when the fall comes from the center. And when the fall comes from the center, instead of being like the Hungarian revolution of 1956, which is this ugly, violent, failed thing that nobody should have participated in, it becomes the Hungarian revolution of 1989, which is like pure joy and nobody has been ripped limb from limb by the mob or anything like that. Nothing that. And so if anything, that revolution is a little too weak and doesn’t sort of get rid of all the pockets of old officials or whatever, but even if it did, it wouldn’t do it by hanging them in the streets. It would do that by saying, okay, your building’s closed. Here, we’ve transitioned you to a new pension plan. You must have beautiful roses in your garden. Why don’t you work on those? And they did.
Curtis: And sort of that sense of a like sort of joyous… people always associate regime change with the kind of feeling of tension and violence. And it’s actually a feeling of relaxation. It’s a feeling of opening. It’s a feeling of as soon as I stop caring about this thing, it just falls and developing that sort of mindset of sort of the peaceful overcoming in that sense, but a peaceful overcoming that involves coming together, I think that any experiment in monarchy that doesn’t have that feeling is doomed. And I think it’s a bad idea. And I think that as soon as you’re on that track, you’ll basically feel the rightness of that track.
Jim: All right, I’m going to wrap it up here. I’m going to finish with a final statement or two of myself, which is, all right, I can see that it’s possible that one could have a benevolent monarchy, however, looking at history-
Curtis: Recent history.
Jim: Or even deeper history, that in general, I’m sticking with Churchill. Democracy is the worst system, except for all the rest. But our current institutional structure is very clearly broken. On that, I think we agree and that we need some new thinking. I would suggest new thinking in better forms of democracy. I would say I was intrigued to dig into your ideas. And I think that you have something very interesting things to say, but at the end of the day, I was not convinced.
Curtis: Great. Wonderful, Jim… I thank you so much for agreeing to disagree, and it’s been a huge pleasure being on your show again. And next time, perhaps we can dig in a little more to this question of what makes a monarchy a benevolent, as you say, and how you keep it that way, because I agree, that’s a very important question.
Jim: That would be very interesting. All right.