Thursday, June 4, 2009

How Universities Systemically Expand State Power

Bertrand de Jouvenal's argument concerning the relentless expansion of the state since the Middle Ages is based on the unfolding of monarchy from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries. In the nineteenth century monarchy changed its form of sovereignty from the divine right of kings to popular sovereignty, and the realization of sovereignty from the monarch in flesh to a reified "national will" that, of course, becomes the property of elites. De Juvenal points out that Philip Augustus, the king of France from 1180 to 1223, had to live off his own resources. His only army was a small bodyguard. He had no officials. He depended on Church resources for all official business. But by the reign of Louis XIV, the French king's army was 200,000 men. "He gives out laws and sets his dragoons at those who do not worship God in what he considers the right way; an enormous army of officials animates and directs the nation." (p. 141, On Power).

The expansion of the state continued unabated until World War II. Hitler, in 1939, could command the entire German nation to destroy itself and to murder entire ethnic groups. Since then, there has been further growth in state power in many parts of the world. In terms of relative size, the Soviet- and National-Socialist states could not push power further because those societies were 100% socialized. But in terms of absolute size, the creation of technology in the non-socialist states has been used to increase the state's size. In the United States, the process of monarchization of the nation has proceeded unabated. Government today is far larger than ever before.

One of the concomitants of increasing governmental size is political correctness or mono-thought across a large swathe of the population. The famous argument in Davud Riesmann's Lonely Crowd is that a psychological change occurred from inner to other-directedness. But this may be most characteristic of America, where monarchical power in the name of popular will replaced Lockean liberalism, not monarchy. Likely, other-directedness always had been characteristic of aristocratic Venice, London and Paris.

De Jouvenal makes a crucial point--that there is a direct relationship among social theories, mass movements and state expansion. That is, the groupthink of other-directed political movements that generate widespread unison of thought by its own nature generates state expansion. Moreover, universities that advocate simplistic ideological cure-alls for society such as Keynesian economics, social work, government regulation and the like are inevitably generative of state expansion. This is so because of the combination of the egos of government officials, who derive gratification from imposing their ideas and their will on society; and the simplicity of the ideological solutions that universities propose and seldom if ever work. Big egos need simplistic solutions in order to feel good about themselves.

One of the ramifications of this is the derivation of ego-gratification by mass followers of Power. The majority of the population does not have a crack at implementing its own ideas and experiencing the ego-enhancement that power brings to the powerful. Rather, it is through psychological displacement that large numbers of people identify with one or other of the ego-elements in society--Barack Obama or George Bush--and gain ego-fulfillment by identification with a stronger element, father figure or the like. By parroting the half-baked claims of Harvard economists, members of mass society gain ego fulfillment by feeling that they are identified with the media or intellectual elite. For Democrats and RINO Republicans this is the role that the New York Times plays. For Republicans this is the role that Rush Limbaugh and other talk radio announcers play.

Of course, the theories of both Democrats and Republicans are wrong. Simple theories do not generally do well when confronted with reality. Rush Limbaugh claims to be for smaller government, but when his candidates are elected they expand government to a much greater degree than the candidates he opposes. Barack Obama claims to be for the middle class and poor, but when the opportunity arises to hand several trillion dollars to the very wealthy at the expense of the middle class and poor, he leaps at it like a terrier leaps at a Porterhouse steak.

Universities generate not solutions but ideologies. The powerful pick up on the simpletons' ideologies that universities generate and use state power to enhance their egos. Universities benefit from the support that power confers on them.

De Juvenal writes (p. 144, On Power):

"In the realm of nature there is nothing else to satisfy the human spirit's primitive passions. In love with his own experiments, with the simple relationships and direct causations his brain can grasp, and with the artless plans which he is wise enough to construct, man wishes that the whole created world may show itself built not only with the same instruments as he possesses but also by the same turns of skill as he has mastered. Rejoicing as he does in all that can be brought to uniformity, he is forever being disconcerted by the infinite variety which nature herself seems to prefer, as instanced by the chemical structure of organic bodies.

"It is an agreeable game, imagining how man, if he had the power, would reconstruct the universe--the simple and uniform lines on which he would do it. He has not that power, but he has, or thinks he has, the power of reconstructing the social order. This is a sphere in which he reckons that the laws of nature do not run for him, and there he tries to plant the simplicity which is his ruling passion and which he mistakes for perfection."

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