I recently wrote about what might happen after an American Caesar, a radical reconstructor of our polity, arose. And in these days of American humiliation and accelerating decay, a Caesar is viewed by many, if in quiet tones, as a kind of solution. But is Caesar, Michael Anton’s Red Caesar, merely a coping mechanism for the Right, a fantasy meant to replace the dead hope of a restored American founding? Is Caesar an encouragement to eschatological passivity, our equivalent of the Twelver Shia hidden imam, who when everything is at its worst will arrive to set the world aright, without any action needed by us? No, and today I will tell you why.
This is not to say that Caesar is necessarily inevitable, or if he is inevitable, imminent. Nor can our future be precisely derived from studying the past—what happened in the time of Julius Caesar, or at other historical moments, shows us tendencies, not prophecies. We will not closely examine the career of the original Caesar, for that produces tunnel vision. To be sure human nature does not change, and reality will always reimpose itself, so we can learn much from broadly studying how these truths have made themselves known to past generations. Yet societies are different, one from the other, and the wholly new aspects of modern technology, in particular, mean that the past can only be a rough guide to our future.
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As a threshold matter, we should sharply distinguish the rise of a Caesar from a coup d’état. The latter, as Edward Luttwak outlined decades ago, is merely the transfer of the existing structures of power to new leadership, often with little violence. The former is the creation of wholly-new structures of power, along with the substantial transformation of surviving structures of power, often following a great deal of precursor violence, and itself frequently involving much violence. A coup may be led by a powerful, charismatic individual, usually a military man and certainly with military support, but as with Carl Schmitt’s vision of commissary dictatorship, his goal is to have the nation recognize the need for his rise to save the nation and its constitution, its governing structures. A true Caesar, however, is a sovereign dictator, who channels the constituent power of the nation to create something that did not exist before, with a fresh constitution. He begins the new.
The assumption I make here is that Caesar, whatever may be his drawbacks, is a solution for our current problems—a Gordian Knot solution, to be sure, but still a solution. Today I will mostly ignore three other possible solutions—renewal, civil war, and coup. Renewal, the restoration of the American Founding within the current system, is a chimera; given the massive forces arrayed against the principles that founded America, renewal could never happen except through extreme violence, and that violence itself would ensure that an attempted renewal would not renew, but rather create something entirely new. A civil war not involving a coup or a Caesar is certainly possible, even likely, and it might result in solving our problems, by renewal or otherwise, but it is not our topic today, except inasmuch as the rise of Caesar may be the cause or result of such a war. A coup would not solve any of our problems, because our national government (and all other national structures) is utterly Left-ruled, corrupt, and in denial of reality. Simply changing the men at the top would have no effect at all on our current Cthulhu State’s unhinged and massively destructive malice. (If you believe that our society is on the correct path, more or less, or if you believe history has an arrow and that it points Left, you will find nothing here of interest.) Most likely, therefore, the fastest, cleanest, least destructive, and most effective path to real necessary change in the lands currently known as the United States is Caesar.
Because Caesarism is in the air, many mentions of the possibility float around our chattering classes. Most of these mentions are not in fact discussions of Caesar, but lurid glimpses into the mind of the Left and their hangers-on and fellow-travelers. Lately the mention of Caesar in the regime press is an excuse to spew fear-soaked bile about the (fantastic and excellent) Electoral Justice Protest of January 6, 2021, with the goal of present-day political advantage through weaponizing the federal government against normal Americans. All this babbling is boring and not relevant to our discussion, which is a purely practical exploration.
The rise of Caesar is necessarily an opportunistic one, where he takes advantage of, or is forced to take advantage of, the opportunity to overthrow a governing regime to establish personal rule. Caesar cannot force the circumstances necessary for his success. Moreover, successful Caesars are, if you think about it, surprisingly rare. In the West, the standard candles of Caesarism are Julius Caesar himself and Napoleon Bonaparte. I do not count as Caesars somewhat similar heroes who saved their country from internal threats, such as Francisco Franco and António Salazar; they did not create something new, rather they beat down the evils of the Left, and that only temporarily. They were agents of (unfortunately) transient renewal in nations that had not yet reached their end (though they are getting close). They were not wholesale reconstructors.
Probably the closest thing to a modern Caesar is Vladimir Lenin—not an example that springs to mind for most, but one that is largely accurate, at least as I have defined Caesar. And to Lenin can perhaps be added several other Communist killers, from Mao to Fidel Castro. Not all successful Communist killers, however—merely leading a revolution does not make one a Caesar; a man must of himself remake the society in his own image. Thus, the French Revolution, despite the very great changes in governance it wrought, had no Caesar. Nor is one a Caesar if one is a bought and owned client of others, which makes most Communist dictators, and all those in Europe, not Caesars (and might also disqualify Castro, but we need not settle that today).
One might claim that this is too narrow a lens—that, for example, the French Revolution suggests that a nation can be remade by a group, a type of oligarchy, obviating the need for an individual, a Caesar. Perhaps, but this seems as if it can only be true if the oligarchy is bound by a revolutionary Left ideology to a degree allowing its members to act in unison, even though normally a change in the oligarchy is only a coup. (The American Revolution lacked such a binding ideology, even if it had Left lines of thought among some of its leaders, and was therefore less than a wholesale remaking of political structures, but still more than a coup. The lines are not always clear, but that does not mean the lines do not exist.) Ideology as a substitute for personal rule is not an option for the post-Enlightenment Right, which because it is based in reality has never had an ideology that can of itself tightly bind a ruling group. (And as I have discussed elsewhere, for the same reasons Red Caesar is very unlikely to be an ideologue.) Adolf Hitler’s rise might be adduced as a counter-example, to the extent National Socialism may be considered a Right ideology, but his rise was also much more in the nature of a coup than of Caesarism.
Despite the claims of some to the contrary, there has never been any type of American Caesar. Neither Franklin Roosevelt nor Abraham Lincoln, despite strong use of executive power, was a Caesar. Their extensive modifications of the American constitutional system were organic developments based on political processes, following on then-irresistible currents in the world at large, not ruptures in the system.
Finally, we should also remember that what follows Caesar, either a monarchy or other individual coming after him, is not Caesarism. What distinguishes Caesar is his rise from chaos and his taking advantage of that chaos to make great changes. True, his successors may make more changes, and refine the ones he made, as did Augustus. But successors are downstream, in time and action, of Caesar, the man.
On to the main event. Recently, in May of this year, Michael Anton lent his intellectual heft, and that of the Claremont Institute, to a serious discussion of Caesarism, in a discussion with Curtis Yarvin (and Anton had earlier discussed the same topic with Yarvin on the Jack Murphy Live podcast). Now, as most know, although I regard Yarvin as a useful and interesting figure on the Right, I am skeptical of much of Yarvin’s work product, and his performance in these discussions did nothing to change my mind. (Of course, far more people listen to Yarvin than to me, so perhaps this is mere sour grapes.) While he offers some interesting, even valuable, thought experiments, his history is often bad, or at best a little knowledge is very often used to draw wrong conclusions, usually without much, if any, reasoning, which are declaimed vociferously and with absolute certainty while talking over his interlocutor. For example, Yarvin constantly claims that the Soviet Union “fell in favor of the West,” in a turn to “Western competence,” and subscribes to the crucial importance of blue jeans in the process. This is completely false, as is basically everything else Yarvin says about the fall of Soviet-bloc Communism. In short, he has an essentially gnostic approach to history, where the hidden knowledge he purports to reveal is invisible because it is not knowledge.
What is more, I disagree profoundly with his philosophical core, which is that men should be used as instruments. Yarvin, a materialist and atheist, seems to regard most of mankind as NPCs; aside from its inaccuracy, this approach can never lead to societal flourishing. As a result of this lack in his thinking, Yarvin simply does not grasp virtue politics. He thinks he’s a Machiavellian, but ignores that a pure focus on power doesn’t work without adequate virtue in both the people and the ruling classes. He does not understand that the problem of the West is the Enlightenment, and treats it as a surprise that Communists throughout the twentieth century had a lot in common with the West’s rulers; he should read some Ryszard Legutko. But enough of this inside baseball, for it is Caesar we’re talking about today, not Yarvin, and my point is that Anton’s and Yarvin’s discussion illuminated the topic, and thereby inspired some of my thought that follows.
One main objection to the viability of Caesarism revolves around the claim that our current regime is, despite appearances, in fact very strong and able to continue indefinitely in total control of the lives of the people. It is noted, accurately, that the Left occupies all positions of power in our society, and appears to control a form of panopticon, only growing in intrusive power. Therefore, the claim runs, Caesar could not possibly gain any traction—any potential Caesar will be identified and quickly either erased or co-opted. In short, this is a claim that the regime, despite appearances, universally observed, of sclerosis, insanity, incompetence, and administrative decline, is strong, and those appearances are just that, appearances.
No serious person can maintain this position. Not even Yarvin actually maintains this position, although he feints often in that direction, no doubt thinking it makes him daringly contrarian, when it mostly just makes him look like a man lost in a forest. When pressed, essentially all on the Right will admit that the regime is in fact fragile—but then some deny that the fragility shown by what are advanced symptoms, not mere appearances, will or can lead to any kind of regime collapse. They will ask rhetorically what such a collapse would look like, using the inherent vagueness of specific factual predictions about the future to implicitly make the logically unconnected claim that collapse is not possible, and therefore that something resembling the status quo is likely to continue indefinitely.
This is a failure both of historical memory and of imagination. In point of fact, anyone who admits that the regime is fragile is necessarily admitting that it is likely to shatter. That a fragile regime has not yet shattered proves nothing, because in all relationships, political and personal, inertia carries the present situation forward as long as external and internal conditions maintain the status quo in equilibrium. It is only when a crisis arrives that failure becomes a possibility; by definition something that is fragile will fail in a crisis. And a crisis, also by definition, cannot be predicted in advance—but once it arrives, in a type of phase change, it seems as if nothing else was possible, and without a doubt, now everything is permanently different. The days of status quo then seem like a dream from long ago. The right man, at the right moment, changes everything—and that we cannot precisely discern the details is irrelevant.
Why, and in what precise manner and along which axes, our regime is fragile is a larger topic for another day. There is no unitary cause—some of it is mere complexity; much of it is ideology, of the Enlightenment and of the modern Left specifically, which, being anti-reality, is inherently incompetent; some of it is terminal grifting. Ultimately, all causes feed into regime incompetence, and as I say, mere incompetence is itself fragility, because it cannot survive a crisis. It is not the case that pointing this out is a Whig approach to history, or offering as a solution a deus ex machina. Those claims are obtuse, a form of invincible ignorance masquerading as sophistication. They ignore that history is an accurate predictor, of some events if not of their timing. We can be sure, given its fragility, this regime will disappear, and that right soon—not measured in centuries, or even decades, though perhaps in a small number of half-decades. What appear to be powers, such as the panopticon, are exaggerated in scope and importance, and anyway require competent, dedicated government servants to operate, which are in vanishingly short supply, and moreover can be turned back against the regime. The crown will be in the street; this much is sure, because that is the inevitable end of a fragile regime, and there is no way back.
Some argue that the only regimes that collapse are those where the ruling class does not believe in its own ideology. There is some truth in this, but the American ruling class does not, as a whole, actually believe in any ideology. Elements of it do—but for the most part, the truly ideological, those actually strongly dedicated to the Left, are not the ruling class, but exist in symbiotic relationship with the ruling class, in order to jointly control and rob the productive classes of America. When there’s a new fashion in town, much of the ruling class will change their political tune—especially when given the correct incentives, and especially when those who don’t become unpleasant examples.
So, in answer to the question what a regime collapse could look like, and how as a result the rise of Caesar could occur, let’s consider what will be the necessary characteristics of any future happening. We must appreciate that we need not posit any type of conspiracy, and that in fact most conspiracies by elites to create regime change are merely retconned histories of regime change that began despite, not because of, those conspiracies. You only need four ingredients for the viable possibility of a successful Caesar. First, societal instability that creates chaos, leading to an undesirable situation for many people. Most commonly this is the inability to feed one’s children; it can also be oppression of some kind that leads to a spiral of violence, or a catastrophic regime failure such as accidentally forcing some kind of poison on the population through greed and incompetence (the trigger mechanism in John Michael Greer’s future history in Retrotopia, and today one that seems more imaginable than it did eighteen months ago). (I note in passing that anarchy is not a possible outcome to chaos. This will never happen; anarchy is unnatural and has never existed to any relevant degree in any Western society.) Second, the desire of a significant number of ordinary people to improve their situation. Third, a belief of those people that regime change will improve their situation. Fourth, the emergence of a ruthless, more-or-less sociopathic, leader who desires to take personal advantage of this situation. As José Ortega y Gasset famously said, force follows public opinion, and once Caesar gets going, he will experience a preference cascade in his favor, among all levels of society. QED.
When pondering how Caesar could come to power, we have to understand that Gordian Knot solutions work—in fact, in most political situations, they are the only solutions that work; all others are playacting. Thus, for example, some point to the massive federal bureaucracy that orbits and milks the federal government, as if it were some immovable object that would defeat any rising Caesar, simply by staring at him in their millions with their gimlet eyes encased in fat, from the windows of their Class A office space. Certainly, these are among the people least likely to feel the need to improve their situation, since in any crisis they will make sure they suffer last, and they will not eagerly follow the new order. No doubt Caesar will require the services of some of the federal bureaucracy, though only a small part, and the rest will have to find different jobs, that are actually productive of social value. A combination of carefully-applied force to shut down most of the bureaucracy, permanently, simply by locking their doors, erasing their computer systems, and stopping their paychecks, along with the opportunity being offered to change one’s views and join the new regime for those parts of the bureaucracy whose continuation is desirable, should do it. The legions of parasites we have today will get with the new program, or they will starve. Nothing more is necessary; just some vigorous incentives and, most crucially, the will to follow through.
It is not the case that the people, the masses, are too apathetic to sign on to the rise of Caesar, at least given these quite simple preconditions. Some argue that consumerism and Netflix will prevent any mass support for Caesar. This is the old error of predicting the continuation of the thing that is happening. It is merely that at this moment the masses, whatever their class or social position, who oppose the regime see no way that they can improve their situation by action, and for most of them, no truly desperate need to do so. But they will, no matter how rich and lazy most of us feel now (and far fewer feel rich and lazy than the regime media would have us think). If we focus on those who complain online at present, and wonder why they are not Doing Something, and conclude from that that nothing can or will be done, we are making a basic category error, because those who complain online, or who have many Twitter followers, are not those who will decide the viability of Caesar.
Another frequent objection is that Caesar must have military capacity in order to resist extermination by the regime, and to replace the regime, yet, supposedly, he cannot obtain this, because the military is commanded and dominated by the Left. Or, put another way, where are the future Caesar’s legions? It is doubtless true that Caesar must have military capacity, but this is in fact unlikely to be a problem. Certainly many American officers are indistinguishable from the obese, loathsome Mark Milley, and this problem likely extends both into mid-level officers and into the ranks themselves. Nonetheless, I think it clear both that many military men would hew to Caesar, either simply to advance themselves, seeing the main chance, or because of their opposition to the Left. Moreover, as others have pointed out, even without defections, the military has surprisingly few soldiers who can actually fight, and in the country as a whole, there are far more men with military experience who could be quickly organized and given light weapons. No, Caesar will have no problem accumulating the necessary military force, especially because tanks and F-16s will not be relevant to any significant degree. True, given the technological abilities of the regime, a rising Caesar would be very susceptible to assassination, and as seen by the terrorist behavior our regime already engages in, they would certainly not hesitate to exercise this option. This last is a variant on the argument that the regime is prepared for the possibility of Caesar, as the most notable possible threat to the regime’s survival, and will therefore take all necessary steps to preemptively defeat any possible Caesar. True again, up to a point—but then, such steps tend to precipitate the very thing they aim to prevent, as ambitious men see that their only option is to turn against the regime that has identified them as a threat. For every action, a reaction, and this will carry Caesar, some Caesar, through the fire.
Yes, for Caesar to rise, it will require a daring man, and a lucky man. Or men, because not every Caesar is successful, even against a fragile regime. But throughout history, in times of turmoil, such men are never in short supply, and the greater the turmoil, the more likely Caesar will emerge. Maybe our age, wealth, and diminishing testosterone make this less true now. Still, I doubt it. We have seen recently a possible small glimpse of the future in the actions of an obscure Marine lieutenant colonel, one Stuart Scheller, whose short video attacking the incompetence that has so humiliated America in Afghanistan resulted in his court martial, and more importantly the entire hysterical regime coming down on him, and only him, not on those responsible for our national humiliation. Yet Scheller’s ability to reach the masses proves that the technology of communication cannot be controlled, at least not by our regime, and were his message to be one not only of complaint, but one tailored to convince the masses that their situation could be improved by following him, such a man could easily, overnight, become a force to reckon with.
Some argue that Caesar must appeal to at least some elements of the ruling class, yet given that our ruling class is so unprecedently rotten, there is no structural path to Caesar’s rise, because he will have to depend purely on the will of the masses. This ignores that fashions are easy to change in fluid times, and the most competent, and least ideological, of the ruling class, including those segments who have been forced to stay silent in recent decades, will quickly see which way the wind is blowing and which way opportunity lies. (This famously happened under Napoleon.) A segment, the most competent segment, of the ruling class will quickly detach itself, shaking its dust from their sandals and defecating on the rainbow flags forced on them by the myrmidons of globohomo, as they exit stage right to join Caesar’s entourage. The rest of the ruling class will be wholly stripped of assets and power, exiled or rusticated (if they are lucky), and lustrated (if they are allowed to remain in the country).
Yet another objection is that we have not been adequately prepared as a society, in the way that Rome was by Marius and Sulla, or France was by the Revolution and the chaos and wars following. Rome was exhausted from a century of actual civil war, after all, while we are only exhausted by the stupidity of our ruling classes and the ennui that comes with modernity. Perhaps. But technology, both in the speed of communications it enables and in the interconnectedness it creates, which means undreamed-of complexity but also therefore undreamed-of fragility, is likely to foreshorten the time of troubles that necessarily precedes a Caesar. Moreover, the ground is a lot closer to us than it was in Rome, and it will come up fast as we fall into chaos. In ancient times, the average person was relatively little discombobulated by the civil wars–or rather he likely was to some extent, on some occasions, but did not worry about getting enough to eat, and he got advance warning when the troubles were about to roll over him. A total collapse of our society is much easier to envision than was a total collapse of Roman society. Our Caesar will be different in the details, therefore, but not in kind.
How Caesar might come to power is not preordained. Julius Caesar and Napoleon swept to power, riding the tide of destiny. Others, Lenin and Mao, took a more circuitous path, more dependent on outside circumstance and support, tied ultimately to a grinding civil war. We will likely see. And what then? Well, that’s not really my concern, but we can be sure Caesar isn’t likely to restore America to a place of global preeminence. Those days are gone. More likely he will only rule over a part of what is now America. I, of course, want him to remake America along Foundationalist lines; that’s also not very likely, but certainly some elements of Foundationalism will be implemented, because Caesar will return, of necessity, to reality. He’ll restore the politics of virtue; he will eliminate the feminization of our society and government; perhaps he will take us to Space, binding us together in a common goal. Maybe, with dramatic enough changes, he can found a new nation that will accomplish great things. We cannot know the future, but because we know the past, we can be sure that a new Caesar is a wholly plausible future for us.
I’ve read a few dozen of your posts and wanted to add some various comments.
– The problem with your overall analysis, and with the whole concept of Caesarism being a viable or even likely scenario, doesn’t take technology into account. I think this is a common mistake made by well-educated/well-read people, as they start to see current events in terms of the French Revolution or of Antiquity or of X historical event. It sort of makes sense, there are illustrious figures with inspiring stories and well-developed theories, so we fall into a trap of assuming that this will inevitably happen again. But it’s fundamentally a flawed approach.
– This akin to analyzing politics in the 1500s without taking the Gutenberg printing press into account. The printing press was a massive change in the way that information was shared and directly led to the Reformation. The internet is doing the same thing, except at 1000x the speed. And we’ve only just begun using it; ±25 years is _nothing_ on a societal timeline.
– There is also the question of how much energy “the people” have to get involved in any sort of serious political action. My guess is: not much. Most Americans are overweight, distracted by social media and Netflix, and really don’t want to get involved in a years-long conflict that is basically just values-based, not survival-based. I don’t see this changing, even in the face of serious economic troubles. Most people can’t be bothered. The idea of raging civil wars is again, an image from previous eras that doesn’t fit the modern West _at all_. And widespread gun ownership adds an element of “stalemate” to the entire situation, leading to an entrenchment and castle mentality.
– Combined with trends like individualism and decentralization writ large (e.g. bitcoin) and we’re running toward a world that is increasingly pulling itself apart but lacks the societal energy to actually do anything about it or even want to care enough to do anything.
– So in conclusion, the most likely outcome for America that I see is a quasi-Brazil like situation, where everything is highly decentralized (including security), the federal government has increasingly less power, and local states (and corporations) have more power. I believe you can already observe this happening RE: Texas and just in the general lack of trust in federal politics from the average person. This is not all that different from the medieval era, which is a far better conceptual vision of where we are headed than Antiquity or the French Revolution.
You may enjoy this essay, which I found quite convincing: https://jacobitemag.com/2019/07/15/disintegration/
– Just as a side note, I really recommend reading more philosophy. You’ve made some comments on philosophers (especially Nietzsche) that have basic mistakes and misconceptions. You seem pretty well-read, so I don’t quite understand why you willingly leave this massive hole in your thought.
Well, happy to have comments, although being lectured on how I should read more philosophy from someone who tendentiously names himself “The Philosopher” is a little rich. But your comments show that you either did not read, or did not absorb, this piece. In fact, I specifically and repeatedly call out technology as a reason today is different than the past, and reject that I view things in terms of the specifics of the past. Thus, the “flawed approach” you cite may indeed be flawed–but it is not mine. I also address, specifically and at length, questions about the “energy of the people,” Netflix and so on.
Your Brazil claim is one Yarvin makes. It is not convincing, for reasons Anton has repeatedly had to demonstrate to Yarvin (you can listen to the linked podcasts). You also do not understand the “medieval era” at all, again like Yarvin (and what “medieval era,” where, is that, anyway?)
“– So in conclusion, the most likely outcome for America that I see is a quasi-Brazil like situation, where everything is highly decentralized (including security), the federal government has increasingly less power, and local states (and corporations) have more power. I believe you can already observe this happening RE: Texas and just in the general lack of trust in federal politics from the average person. This is not all that different from the medieval era, which is a far better conceptual vision of where we are headed than Antiquity or the French Revolution.”
That is unlikely to happen in America. This phenomenon is ocurring in Brazil as of now due to contrasting desires in the Legislative and Judiciary branches of power, plus the virus which gave the Supreme Court a green flag to outpower the president and hand over abusive emergency-state powers to states. Plus, the Congress (the Legislative branch) also managed to take down the federal government to the point the federal government must bankroll all debts from the states without any repercussions. It was a maneuver from the deep-state to hijack the Federal Government that has only succeeded due to a particular event (Bolsonaro being the president), where in the past there was harmony with the three powers converging when it came to supporting leftist President Lula and his successor Dilma Rousseff, both individuals who named the current cabinet of the Supreme Court and also handed obscene amounts of bribes to the Legislative branch (read about the Mensalão crisis).
Brazilian politics do often follow the Federal Government’s actions, with more than 70% of the congressional discussing regarding policies taken by the federal government. The current situation in Brazil is abnormal, where the Deep State is trying to expel the outlier that managed to move in, and this outlier did not have the Caesar in him to fight back in the name of the people and fight with us against tyranny.
It seems to me that Brazil is different from the United States, that is, our future cannot be that of Brazil, in other ways (I know nothing about Brazilian internal politics, of course, but what you say makes sense). First, as Anton has pointed out, third-world countries that would otherwise collapse are prevented from collapsing by the existence of the United States as hegemon. Without that (and China is unlikely to provide an alternative), it is not clear countries like Brazil could stagger on. Second, Brazilian culture is not American culture. True, part of America is well on its way there, but large parts of America, if separated, are still the unique America of the past—troubled, to be sure, but capable of quickly springing back under the right leadership, and if released from the tyranny of our globohomo overlords.
And yet on Jan 6 2021 we had a possible Caesar at the head of an army 600k strong, and all he had to do was embrace history instead of run from it to be that Caesar. And there is not a thing all that tech could have done to have stopped it.
“Those who complain online, or who have many Twitter followers, are not those who will decide the viability of Caesar.”
Yes, true, but who decides the viability of Caesar? It seems that you are suggesting the masses in that paragraph?
The masses, in a time of chaos, will always in effect have a veto power; as I also outline, elite buy-in is also necessary.
I have been thinking about this a lot recently and I am admittedly becoming more skeptical of Caesarism. And this is because of the fourth ingredient, Caesar himself. Caesar, Napoleon, Alexander (I personally consider consider him a Caesaresque figure), even Hitler, were all extremely unique men, one in ten million. They were all forged in a very unique circumstances that gave them the perfect combination of hardness through adversity and fortune through luck/birth.
I am not sure our current culture/society can even produce a Caesar – none arose during the fall of the Western Roman empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Chinese dynasties, or countless other collapses of major civilizations – in short Caesarism seems to be the exception rather than the rule, which you do point out.
So when faced with these odds, I feel like Caesarism is like buying a lottery ticket and expecting to become wealthy – it would be great to be sure, but not a good plan to actually become wealthy. I fear the actual road to progress will be uglier, more chaotic, and more violent, with factionalism and mistrust ripping apart any coalition of the Right before it can truly unite (which is the greatest benefit a Caesar gives imo, unity amongst the dissidents).
Yes, this is true, which is why there aren’t that many historical Caesars, at least as I define them. At a minimum, not dissimilar to a black hole, it seems to require the relatively high-speed collapse of a large and advanced civilization or country, and more common are the other possibilities I mentioned, notably civil war and coup. The “benefit” of Caesar is that it gives the opportunity for renewal—but Caesar is not at all the only possibility for a fragile, failing regime.
Thus, I agree, hoping for the right Caesar isn’t a plan. The point is analytical, not proscriptive. But you are correct—for those leaning Right, some type of Caesar is optimal. A civil war or coup with those on the Right coming out on top is second best, but certainly better than our current path.
My outlook has become more, dare I say it, optimistic since I began reading your essays on Worthy House. I am particularly interested in your commentaries on Carl Schmitt (I recently published an article “Cigarettes, Same Sex Marriage and Vladimir Putin: Reflections on Carl Schmitt”). Your reflections on Schmitt are thought provoking, helpful summations. You are facilitating fresh thinking on this web site and providing material for the necessary discussion preliminary, I think, to future action. Some of my confidants have been discussing secession as a viable path to incapacitating the present corrupt and hypocritical regime. The actions of Southwest Airline pilots to the company’s implementation of the “vaccine mandate” reminded me of another tactic. Though an apocalyptic dream of the Left (G. Sorel, “Reflections on Violence”), maybe a Right wing, freedom grounded version of the General Strike would cripple the regime more than secession and in a more timely fashion. Thanks again for thinking “outside the box”. Sadly, Angelo Cordevilla’s voice is now silent, but other opponents of the political orthodoxy, such as the Bionic Mosquito, still provide inspiration and practical advice.
Glad to hear that optimism is on the rise! Can you point me to your article? It sounds interesting.
The very fact that anyone discusses secession, that is, normal people in open discourse, would have been unbelievable even a few years ago, and is indicative of good reason for optimism.
If you have not read it I strongly suggest reading Georges Sorel’s “Reflections on Violence”, specifically his third edition which contains the introduction to the American edition and his letter to a friend. Sorel’s realistic pessimism and contempt for the commonplaces of twentieth century politics (including that of the socialists, in fact he considered the criticisms of Ludwig von Mises and Joseph Schumpeter of more value read anything written by socialists of his time) puts him strikingly at odds with the Whig nonsense which infests the so-called Right in America today. In fact, putting aside the superficial Boomer categorization of left and right based entirely on economic programs, Sorel the anarchist socialist is patently more ‘right wing’ than practically anyone you’ll find in contemporary western social thought. He also explicitly frames the general strike as a mythology, he was not so delusional as to promulgate Marxist fantasies of inevitable worker revolt, instead seeing the myth of the strike as a point of pursuit and motive for militaristic aggression which would lead to many great accomplishments regardless of the practical likelyhood of actually attaining universal economic independence for the laboring masses. He also defended the critical importance of the family and ‘private’ institutions which directly engage the members of the community, and had no thought of some bureaucratic monstrosity of either a Politburo or continental Republic as guarantors of liberty.
Not correct. Twenty-five years ago, my brother (who founded his own “citizen’s militia” in the northwest) was raving about the imminent secession of Alaska from the union. He was wrong, of course, just like he was wrong when he claimed our Congress was so left-wing it was indistinguishable from Maoism. He also claimed to see black helicopters circling his rural property. I ran that past a Special Forces friend of mine, and he laughed and said, “That’s right. All our helicopters are black. We don’t like people seeing them.” I relayed that to my brother, who said, “He would be trained to tell you that.” In short, I am very familiar with the near impossibility of penetrating the conspiratorial, paranoid mind-sets of True Believers!
I’m pretty sure that’s not “normal people in open discourse.”
The Independent Review, v. 20, n. 5, summer 2015, pp 85-98 (William P Baumgarth
This is excellent stuff, Charles. I’ve also enjoyed William Baumgarth’s thoughtful piece as well. Thank you, gentlemen! You made my Friday.
Charles, a minor observation if I may. I find it interesting that it is Lenin that you mention as a modern Caesar and not Stalin. Without question, Lenin and the Bolsheviks destroyed the old system and created something new. However, I am not entirely sure the nascent Soviet experiment was made in Lenin’s own image (which, as you say, is one of the hallmarks of Caesar), and perhaps he died too soon to leave his mark as a true Caesar. As for Stalin, you might argue that he simply took over from Lenin and did not create something new. Actually, just like Napoleon (who put out the fire of the French Revolution and eventually made himself an emperor), Stalin “neutralized” the revolutionaries and tilted the country towards a Red Empire. He gave up on the idea of a world revolution and, like Napoleon, made himself a Red Emperor of sorts. Though the ideology of the Bolshevik state was naturally anti-monarchical, Stalin enjoyed seeing himself as a tsar and was flattered by comparisons with tsarist Russia (he was, for instance, prone to tolerating literary works that played up such comparisons, even they didn’t explicitly endorse the Bolshevik state — e.g., Bulgakov’s play The Days of the Turbins). And Stalin certainly made the state he ran in his own image: paranoid, vicious, and basically a giant prison in many ways. My $0.05, for what it’s worth.
Thanks, Eugene. The Worthy House is playing a vital role in educating me on subjects about which I knew next to nothing. The Spanish Civil War is one instance: the success in keeping the economy going and keeping food on the tables was key to the victory of the Nationalists, not simply a question of ideological concerns. Governor DeSantis seems to grasp the importance of this. The Worthy House also serves to assure us that we are not alone in our rejection of the woke State, that others share our values. We need public discussion before citizen action, many such discussions with many such citizens. I email The Worthy House articles to interested friends routinely.
Oh yes, the Worthy House is a real gem. I’ve been a devoted reader ever since I discovered it last year. The reviews and articles are first-rate, the ideas are always fresh, and the podcasts have made things even more interesting. Also, to Charles’s great credit, there are no annoying “please support my content on Patreon” reminders or asinine ads. As a bonus, I am also continuously introduced to external individuals/material (I am thinking here of Alex Kaschuta’s podcast and articles such as yours!).
@Charles In my previous comment, there was an infelicity of sorts: I should have parenthesized the word “Red” when I wrote that Stalin, like Napoleon, made himself an emperor. Obviously, Napoleon was no Red emperor! I figured I would make that clear, lest you should think I have taken leave of my senses!
I had not thought that!
More emailing! We are most definitely not alone.
Thank you! A fair question, and an arguable point. In fact, I have just finished McMeekin’s Stalin’s War–review coming soon, and maybe I will discuss this!
Looking forward to it, Charles!
It’s not entirely the case that Stalin had so much influence as people suppose. A great deal of the shape of the Soviet security state was inevitable, in that such a Babeufist-Marxist state born foremost out of war and a power vacuum had to institute a violent and paranoid program or it would be ruined by its own horrible incentive structure and inefficiency. Stalin was in many ways a prisoner of the system he took over, and we know his name because he was the only person pathological enough to function at its apex.
There’s a book called “The Political Economy of Stalinism” that deals with some of the alternative schools of thought on this.
Ludwig von Mises had an economic critique of socialism (which was not the same as Hayek’s, despite mainstream conflation of their views), but in reality the USSR never reached total socialism because of international and black /gray markets. Bryan Caplan offered an alternative critique, on that the great danger of socialism is not its inability to economize, but in the sort of people who are attracted and capable of maintaining power under such a system which demands ruthless control of other people, it’s essentially designed to attract sociopaths and criminal types.
A great article! Even more so, given its prescience from six years ago. I have taken the liberty of linking your comment to a PDF of the article. And The Concept of the Political is coming up, so I will refer to this as I write . . . .
Happy to be of help/.
Your best and most incisive essay yet Ser Charles.
They don’t have the military, they have some Generals. Who are not respected or trusted by the Troops. The military did not move on Jan 6, in desperation they called Democratic Governors for their National Guard, who they sent without bullets; it would not have held 15 minutes. If you think the Capitol cops caved, the NG was pure bluff. The Troops were disgusted by the entire thing.
The Colonels didn’t come either, nor the Sergeant majors. They “supported the Warfighter “. I wonder if DC didn’t want a Colonel running around with his own troops.
We would have followed Trump, had he asked. It all was bluff, I was there. Won’t work again. Didn’t help they snubbed us, and showed visible fear at our weapons (that is pure madness- summon troops when guns scare you- your Caesar may be a 19 year old private who saw that).
As far as Yarvin he is scared. He quite loathes them but now that the moment is closer…
Thank you. In fact, much of this article was inspired by thinking about your earlier comments on this topic and related topics, so thank you! Interesting data . . . Let’s hope. I sense the wheel turning.
Our people were stunned into quiet acceptance. But then the lunatics had to start with the COVID, CRT, Tranny and DIE crap again.
If I were advising them I’d tell them they are duplicating 2003 Iraq/Afghanistan here, they’re past their culminating point- 🛑 Stop.
But they cannot, truly they are mad.
They will leave us no choice, nothing for it then.
As someone in the military I’d say the Left/govt deep state/bureaucracy has most generals who are not respected by most of the troops who count. I have meet many who support said pieces of garbage like General Mi Li. They almost always tend to be in support positions and barely know how to operate a rifle, or have actually never touched a gun in their lives. Many recent enlistees in the military have never touched a gun as during their basic training going to their one scheduled day at the range was considered a “covid hazard”. Of course these are generalizations and there are always exceptions but the trend I see is that the actual fighters are fed up. The question is of course how long they will put up with govt mandated bullshit.
Of the vast majority of the military that don’t do much fighting the ones that matter the second most are those like myself who aren’t in frontline jobs but through means outside the military know their way around weapons. They also tend to dislike the Leftist takeover of the military.
I wonder how many of even the support troops aren’t just mouthing words to avoid trouble.
I can’t think of an actual support troop in my life, or motor sgt, or medic who’d actually you know *support* that would respect our Generals at all, never mind this spineless jellyfish Milley.
Milley is Willy Loman, aka Death of a Salesman.
Milley Loman – fits.
In my experience a lot of all ranks and jobs are mouthing words (or just saying nothing at all) to try to stay out of trouble. If the US military were to splinter due to political destabilization in the future my guess is that the most important people in deciding where the military goes are not the generals, but CGO’s and SNCO’s, especially in fighting roles such as infantry, armor, and MP’s. Second most important would be support roles that actually have real world skills such as civil engineering and maintainers. Fighter and bombers will be mostly useless in a civil war (at least until front lines form) but keeping infrastructure and vehicles running (most importantly transport trucks, tanks, and helicopters) will be vital to winning (see Spanish Civil War on better Nationalist infrastructure).
In truth; the people can provide our necessary and essential logistics Sir (Sarnt) – the people do logistics better than we do, and this would engage their essential support. I did not just endorse democracy, I said engage their support .
If only we had a few thousand Toyota Hiluxes – gas- food- distribution logistics- we keep moving they can shove effective Air or Drones – if they even get anyone to fight for them.
The enemy cannot and does not trust their troops or the police, with good reason. Screw politics, these people betrayed us, and profited from the betrayals.
As for the leaders they’ll follow the ones that kept faith with the troops and face danger (I know you know, this is for the readers).
Maybe someone like you can be Red Caesar.
Excellent job meeting the detractions to the Caesarism… some of which I was trying to think through myself.
Strongly agree: the restorationist project, though inspiring, is an illusion. To bring back the conditions of virtue and social cohesion that the founding principles require, would require nothing less than a project of forced conversion to Christianity. But Christianity is not Islam… so that whole forced conversion thing would be a problem. John Adams was not speaking in hyperbole when he said the Constitution was created for a religious (meaning christian) and moral people.
On a positive note, most people who spew the restorationist rhetoric on the right (I’m thinking the claremonsters in particular here) do so with a wry Straussian smile.
Thank you. And yes, all true.
Perhaps the next Caesar is not a person, but an image. In this technological world, maybe a Max Headroom sort of persona becomes the next Caesar. The success of a potential Caesar is not who he is or what he stands for, but in the manner and breadth in which people coalesce around him to support him in his efforts. Perhaps the future rests on the creation of an entirely fictitious person, who can be arbitrarily shaped to meet certain crowd preferences and deep desires.
Given recent history and the skill of the Left in gaslighting everyone and manipulating outcomes, I fear that the holographic Caesar would emerge from their ranks. But then, when I look at the ineptitude of their leadership, and I assume that at least part of that dumbassery is real and not contrived, our chances look a bit better. But, then, a Caesar not widely followed or accepted is not a Caesar at all, which puts us right back at square one. Personally, I think it is simply normalcy bias and a lack of imagination on my part, not being able to properly perceive things.
A heroic Caesar-like figure cannot arise on the Left because everything the Left values is antithetical to the individual heroism found in a Caesar – the Left is “democracy” in its most base form. This is why their leaders are Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
This doesn’t make them not dangerous, just not in the way a Caesar could be. And no digital avatar could ever replicate a true Caesar.
This no Blue hero is possible is a dangerous assumption. See COL Robert Bateman, Andrew Exum, possibly HR McMasters, even Mattis.*
*better at his PR than war.
I imagine the West Coast (especially California) will definitely not be part of a future Foundationalist state but rather the Somalia of North America!
Or a Chinese satrapy/resource extraction point.
According to Oswald Spengler (“The Decline of the West (1918/23)), Caesarism is often accompanied by the “Second Religiousness”. John Michael Greer believes Orthodoxy is a good candidate for this.
Very interesting. I have a (third-party) piece coming up on Christianity, Spengler, etc.; I’ll fit this in.
There are hard men in law enforcement who also fought in Af/Iraq. They are disgusted by the behaviors and ideology of the ‘rulers’ in the last few years. Using your criteria… I can see leaders arising out of the crisis. Whether local, regional, or national, they will have, uh, soldiers. And when individual bodies are not investgated… hoo boy. It will get frisky fast.
Let’s hope. I am perfectly well aware of the downsides of this, to be sure.
One thing I’d like to hear more about is what qualifies a Caesar as a Caesar worth following? You mention “making people’s lives better” but shouldn’t the Right have some qualifications to differentiate a Caesar from a grifter?
Many hoped Trump was a Caesar, that he would “cross the Rubicon” and extralegally end our corrupt regime. He didn’t. There were signs all along that he wouldn’t. Then again, the future isn’t set. He could have if surrounded by the right people, provided the right intel, given the right impetus at the opportune time.
Every potential Caesar is a gamble to some extent, but you should tell us your sine qua non checklist that would determine your decision to back a contender or not.
Well, the short answer is that he should wholeheartedly endorse and implement Foundationalism. The somewhat longer answer is that he’s worth following in proportion to the extent he implements Foundationalism, or similar principles.
I never thought Trump had any chance of being Caesar. Nobody notable in public life today has the least chance of being a Caesar. Nobody who has a law degree has any chance of being Caesar, unless he never practiced law, which disqualifies the vast majority of today’s politicians.
So my checklist is as above, with of course a set of more abstract questions, such as “is this person a winner?” and “is this person reliable?”
Back any contender the people and especially Vets follow. Time is short, any leaders will have to do – but they must have proven courage- unlike Trump.
The criteria now is survival.
Very well argued piece. What are your thoughts on the role foreign governments and foreign volunteers would play in such a crisis? I think it would be significant, as in the Spanish Civil War.
Of course this is just speculation but I would guess that at least initially the Left would get foreign aid from Canada and Europe in the form of supplies. This is especially easy as the Left would (at least initially) control both coasts (it also would depend on who the US Navy sided with, though the navy would not run long without supplies with the exception of the nuclear powered ships). If any captains of ICBM subs sided with the Right however that would likely greatly deter foreign aid. They might not want to give cause for a vengeful captain to push the button on their country. Any foreign troops crossing the northern or southern boards I would imagine wouldn’t get far if enough of the country’s gun owners started picking them off.
Russia might side with the Right, with the rest of Europe siding with the Left. China could go either way. It might want to support the Left because a victorious left would be a very weak America. On the other hand a victorious Right might be a very isolationist America giving China free reign in Asia, especially as a victorious Right would be unlikely to keep troops in Korea and China after a bloody civil war.
Seems to me China would likely get what it wants in most iterations on internal US violence. That’s life and would be fine; as Alexander said on his deathbed when asked to whom his conquests should go, “To the strongest.” That’s not us and it won’t be; and at least the Chinese won’t force globohomo on everyone.
This type of crisis would likely de-stabilize Canada and Mexico as well. Canada would face a wave of refugees along with its own internal divisions. The Mexican narco-warlords would certainly play some kind of role. It would partially de-stabilize Europe because it would polarize them. Remember the BLM protests in Europe? Why did that happen if not for some kind of emotional stake in the US? Europeans would get involved; to what degree I don’t know. Europe may prefer to turn inward.
Conflict exposes hidden fault lines. Right now these fault lines are suppressed by constant propaganda, as Bernays pointed out in the 1920s. This thick layer of propaganda is like a fog that prevents us from seeing them clearly. Ideology might provoke a crisis but such a crisis won’t remain ideological for long. Regional and local interests will enter the mix producing something we can’t truly imagine now. The California Water Wars, for example, might return with a vengeance.
This type of conflict will also replace loyalty to abstractions with what John Robb calls “primary loyalties”. These are loyalties to local groups and organizations that you depend on for survival. Look at Iraq, Yugoslavia, Haiti, Somalia, Libya, or any country with a high level of instability or conflict to see what primary loyalties look like. Your local Neighborhood Watch might become your primary loyalty.
Good question. I don’t think any Western military would do much; they are small and incapable, and feminized. Maybe the Russians and Chinese—the latter would certainly take Hawaii. I don’t see “woke volunteers,” but maybe some non-woke ones. But the Spanish Civil War was much more a proxy war for giants; that would not be true here.
The Chief Strategic problem of Canada and especially Mexico is staying neutral, if they wish to survive. Particularly Mexico because 1) Remittances
2) 10% of Mexico is here.
If either Canada or Mexico takes a side including and especially the winners, they will be dismembered and destroyed. They exist only because they’ve never been a threat. Let them become involved the threat will be eliminated no matter how instrumental they were to victory, the Anglo Blue or Red brooks no challenge to power- see England, Ireland, World Wars 1&2 – which were crushing the uppity Germans.
Interesting article by Mary Harrington on Unherd today titled: “Do we need Caesar Elon Musk?” https://unherd.com/2022/04/do-we-need-king-elon-musk/ It’s about the Twitter wars, of course, but Elon Musk is turning out to be an interesting character. But Caesar? Maybe not.
A good article, and one of the better summations of Twitter’s relevance I’ve seen.