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The Scales of Governance


In the modern age, a great deal of time has been spent by academics of political science and of sociology on the subject of government institutions and public administration. The seeming goal of these musings seems often to have been the development of a system of government capable of instilling an order into human affairs, while fulfilling the material exigencies of the human condition . While the particular paths to the goal have been many, ‘governance’ has largely been accepted as method by which the directionless anarchy of human existence may be transcended. What has been perhaps been lacking in the quest, however, is exploration of the theoretical shape and boundaries of this government ‘thing’, and the means by which its essential nature is made manifest.

When we accept to discuss the matter though, it is certainly behooving to work towards an investigation of the thing as it is commonly defined. To that end, and if a dictionary definition of the word is taken as authoritative, governance is defined as the act of ruling a population with the goal of instilling order and predictability into its conduct. By other words, governance can thus be said to be the art of administrating human beings and of organizing them into a functional troupe that can be stirred into action[1]. To do so efficiently and with the greatest effectiveness however - to meet the definition of order and predictability - the choreographs developed by the governors require a freedom of government action that is found only in the absence of dissent on the part of the actors.

If we accept this premise - that the best example of government is the one which may choreograph the steps and movements of its troupe with the fewest instances of individual error or of misconduct - then the question that naturally follows is ‘what are the characteristics of the ideal troupe members, and how does the troupe-master come into possession of them?’

The Ideal Actor

To begin to understand the nature of the ideal troupe-member we might begin by coming to an understanding of the troupe-master; something which might be done by examining the characteristics of the most extreme form of the authoritarian governor - the modern totalitarian dictator, as exemplified by such individuals as Joseph Stalin[2], Mao Tse Tung[3], and Pol Pot[4].

One trait that all of these modern tyrants share in common is an uncompromising demand for obedience from the people of the societies which they sought to order. Whatever the extremes of their pathologies, they must be admitted to represent the most fervent example of rule-by-command in modern times; wherever the will or ability to obey was not present, those unfortunates who found themselves disrupting the flow of change were perceived as expendable extras, and were prone to being removed from the stage altogether. For this reason we may take their examples as the most extreme limit of disciplinarianism, but one from which we may redeem certain knowledge that is apropos to the more general ideal of governance, including less morally suspect instances of it, such as those of a republic.

That being said, we may derive from the aforementioned histories exemplars of the actors most prized by the modern director, and they may be categorized according to four general archetypes. By this historical measure, the most highly prized actor of all is the one whom not only obeys direction, but whom is also a true believer in the play and is able to aid in its essential production. The second most highly prized actor is the one whom is able to take direction enthusiastically. The third most prized are they whom will take direction without complaint. The least prized are the actors whom must be cajoled or threatened into playing their assigned parts. Those whom fall outside of this spectrum, as we have seen, are the ‘undesirables’, for they are those whom will neither aid in the production, nor fall into their defined roles - they are the layabouts, the criminals, and - at the extreme end - the traitors and seditionists.

If we bring the investigation to this point, we may say that we have an adequate understanding of the distinction between the ‘desirables’ and ‘undesirables’ of a society under the governance of a great dictator. Should that be the case however, we are still left with the question of whether or not this understanding of the government of the dictator is at all apropos to the discussion of other forms of government, such as that of a liberal democracy. To this, we may answer with a qualified ‘yes’, for thus far our comparison has simply led us to conclude that, in the quest to govern, there are those whom are desirable in the process of governing, and those whom are undesirable. No particular attention has yet been given to the question of what characteristics make one desirable or undesirable beyond one’s ability to help or hinder the governor. Thus far, it should be no more than a commonsense observation that one naturally prefers receiving help to receiving hindrance, no matter the nature of one’s desires or plans, and that this essential truth is as true of a democratic representative as it is of a tyrant.

The main point of differentiation between the democratic representative and the tyrant would seem not to come at this fundamental level of ‘desirables’ and ‘undesirables’, which all governors apparently share in common, but rather at a more sophisticated level of consciousness - and by ‘sophisticated’, we should in this case understand the word to be synonymous with ‘more complex or nuanced’. The nuance, in this case, lies within the psyche of the governor and it makes itself known through the experiential communication of the governor’s unique desires to those around him. Despite the use of the term ‘experiential communication’, the observation is once again one of commonsense - a governor makes his desires known to others by his pronouncements and by his actions. Furthermore, it should not rub against one’s common sense to say that the desires articulated by one individual or governor will not necessarily be identical to those of another; depending upon the historical and environmental circumstances which have helped make the governor who he is, his desires may in fact be radically different from those of a governor from another continent.

Thus, while we may confidently say that all governors have desires, we must qualify this premise by stating that not all governors have the same desires. Furthermore, if we accept that different governors may have different desires, it is not a great leap of reason to estimate that one governor also may be either more or less inclined to tolerate the obstruction of his desires than his peer. To take historical cases as our guide, the governor of Czarist Russia - Czar Nicholas II - imposed much different desires upon his people than did Joseph Stalin, and had much greater toleration for the dissatisfaction of them; though both shared proclivities for managing local affairs from a central seat of power, it was the later who proved willing to declare war on the peasantry in order to fulfill his goals[5].

At this juncture, it is not inappropriate to ask - who is the governor of a liberal democracy such as Canada, and what are the desires that they are attempting to articulate? This is no mean question, to be sure, for in the case of a quasi-democratic federation such as Canada, it is no easy thing to simply identify the governor, let alone its desires. The reason for this is fairly straightforward, and we will attempt to illuminate it now:

The Many-Armed Director

Canada, as defined through its written constitution of law - and for simplicity’s sake we will limit ourselves to discussion of the British North America Act of 1867 and the Constitution Act of 1982 as currently codified and interpreted - is a federal state of ten provinces, three territories, and a federal government, together with a collection of quasi-autonomous aboriginal nations whose status within the federation is determined primarily through treaties[6]. For the purposes of our exploration it is most relevant to note that the ‘right’ to govern is split between the federal government and the governments of the provinces, with each ‘level’ of government maintaining particular spheres of sovereign authority to act - it is the proverbial Janus-faced institution, with all of its faces prone to arguing amongst themselves. Thus, we would say that the desires of Canada’s governors are legally circumscribed by the limitations pressed upon them; whatever the desires of the Province of Nova Scotia, for instance, it cannot legally fulfill them by raising an army in order to impose them. Such a ‘right’ to military action is reserved solely to the federal government, and its legal latitude to employ its military rights are themselves circumscribed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, among other things[7].

If we use this admittedly simplified model of the Canadian web of government, we could say that every resident or citizen of Canada has at least two, and likely three governors; the federal government, the provincial government, and a municipal government. The question then is if the number is actually correct - for is it accurate to describe each level of government as an individual governor, when each one is in fact composed of a great multitude of elected representatives, along with the technocratic staffs of a vast bureaucracy?

For the purposes of these deliberations, it is apparently accurate enough to answer ‘yes’. Despite the fact that sovereignty, at any level of government, is not invested in a single individual but rather dispersed through a small multitude of persons, Canadian government institutions have been shown to be remarkably adept at quashing internal dissent for the purposes of engaging in government business. For an example of this ‘consensus building’ system, one might look to the House of Commons; despite the presence of over three-hundred elected officials within the body of the Commons, public dissent with what is known as ‘the Party line’ is infrequent at best. Individual Members of Parliament are highly discouraged from voicing opinions that go against the positions staked by the leaders of the party with which they are affiliated. The penalties for dissent might range from a private reprimand to official dismissal from the party, but the message is clear - tow the line or suffer the consequences[8].

Furthermore, as regards both elected officials and members of the bureaucracy, it is worth noting that those whom come to be accepted into the institutions which they join - be those institutions a political party, or a branch of the bureaucracy - are what we previously described as ‘desirable actors’. At the very least, it may be observed that Canadian government institutions are not in the habit of recruiting what they would think of as ‘undesirables’; it can scarcely be imagined that the civil service would begin hiring masses of individuals whom voiced intent to question and disrupt government business at every turn! Thus, it can perhaps be safely assumed that any undesirable actors who come to occupy a meaningful station within the government only come to do so by chance of not having been ‘weeded out’ at some earlier stage in the casting process. Such mistakes, however, are naturally to be avoided, and rectified whenever possible, by either dismissing the malcontents (common among the political wings of government[9]) or by insuring that they never obtain a position of authority through which they could threaten the flow of government business (a practice more common among the civil service).

Thus, while the governors of a complex, liberal-democratic federation such as Canada are in reality composite-beings composed of many individuals, it is safe to say that the casting choices that are made by senior members of the troupe are such that they create something of a cult of purpose. By weeding out undesirables over time, this self-perpetuating governor can be imagined to create and renew itself through the accumulation of like-minded persons motivated towards the same goal. While this strange, collective entity might seem to be an ocholocratic creature in nature, it should always be kept in mind that the tendency in the most successful of these institutions is to structure true decision-making authority according to a hierarchy; the greater the decision to be made, the higher-up the echelon one must go to find the decision maker, and, of course, the higher-level decision makers can always exercise their authority and influence to change any decision made by lower-levels which they deem to be wanting. What we have then is not a system of mass-will, but rather something that tends to more closely resemble an oligarchy or a tyranny.

The well-planned choreography

The most remarkable feature of certain liberal-democracies, however, is their sheer level of stability. No one would argue, for instance, that the Fifth Republic of France isn’t more stable than the First; it is comparatively rare for guillotinings to take place in the streets of Paris in the 21st century than it was in the wake of the French Revolution. But what is ‘stability’ really, and what makes one incarnation of a state more stable than another?

‘Stability’, in this instance, would seem to be a measure of how resistant a state is to sweeping changes in policy. Put another way, a state system is more ‘stable’ if it can resist any grandiose attempts to alter, disrupt, or reconfigure it’s internal order. To further our analogy, the best production is the one in which there are no unexpected changes in the script, no sudden purgings of the troupe, and no great tamperings with the choreography; a stable production requires predictability above all else[10].

Clearly, there is no doubting that the Fifth Republic is a more stable thing - at least by our definition - than the First. Still, the question remains, what makes a modern state such as the Fifth Republic so much more stable than other, similar entities?

The answer, it seems, is rather more surprising than one might immediately guess. Some have suggested that the secret to political stability within a liberal-democratic state comes from its ability to provide nonviolent outlets through which competing interests may make their claims on state resources[11]. Though this hypothesis has some intriguing merits, an alternate point of view might have it that the stability of a modern, liberal-democratic state comes not from its democratic norms, but rather from its oligarchic institutions.

To understand what such a statement suggests, it is helpful to review what we have thus-far stated with regards to the state and its governor. We have accepted a particular definition of ‘stability’ - that it is the measure of how resistant an order is to being reordered. Furthermore, we have said that the definition of the best governor is the one whom is best able to impose his will with the least amount of fuss, and that he could best accomplish this by insuring that he is surrounded only by malleable actors.

On the face of it, there appears to be no conflict between these two statements; by all appearances it should be possible to have a stable state that is ruled by our ‘best governor’. Upon reflection however, it would seem that there are points of conflict. If, for instance, we accept that the best example of a governor is one who can impose his will without restraint, what is the force that keeps him from continuously instituting the types of radical reordering that are anathema to the goal of stability? Clearly, in this case, the only reliable restraint is the governor himself, and we would be reliant on his not changing his mind with regards to his grand vision of what political order should look like. Furthermore, we should also hope that the governor is immortal, for, if he is not, then when he expires we run the risk of being taken over by a new governor who’s artistic vision is quite at odds with the former’s, and stability takes a blow once again.

Since it is unlikely that we will find such an ideal governor, and we have prized stability so highly, we should surely look to other arrangements in order to create the perfect system of governance.

The Hydra

By all indications, it would seem that the best governor would not be a man, but rather a monster.

If we step back for a moment, we can perceive mythological examples of creatures which exemplify the characteristics that we are in pursuit of - immortality, single-mindedness, renewability - and perhaps the best example that we might borrow from ancient Greek myth is that of the Hydra[12]. The multi-headed serpent that once threatened the well-being of Heracles is more apropos than might seem evident at first blush. The Hydra, if we recall well, was a serpent of many heads that nevertheless managed to pursue its goals as if it were of a single mind. Furthermore, with each blow that Heracles struck against the creature - cleaving a head and neck from its body - our monster renewed itself by sprouting two more, who were also in immediate accord with their fellows and their existing goal. Finally, the final head of the Hydra possessed that trait which we are most in search of in a governor - the gift of immortality - and which even the mighty son of Zeus could not overcome; at the end of the tale of their battle, Zeus’ son was forced to content himself with burying the awful, undying head beneath a rock in hope that it would never escape.

Seeing as this creature would at least seem to have an analogy of the traits that we desire of a governor, it would seem relevant to ask ourselves how we might give him something of the Hydra’s essence. This task would demand that we answer three fundamental questions: how do we give our governor many heads, how do we make those heads of one mind, how do we give him renewability and immortality?

Fortunately, it seems as if some answers to these questions seem to have been discovered for us. If we turn our memories once again to the example of the Canadian government, we could certainly not argue against the fact that it possesses many heads perched upon the necks of many government Ministries. Still, the mere having of many weights upon many necks does not guarantee concordance - what natural force would prevent one head from snapping at another after all? Making the heads of one mind seems to be the most difficult aspect of this problem, and we should turn our heads once again to the provided examples to discover how it has been accomplished in history.

In the case of our mythological Hydra, the concordance reached among its heads seems to have likely been inspired by a divine source, for it would certainly not have been suited to its nature if it had been created with the spark of internal discord. Since we most likely cannot depend on the intervention of a god, it is likely more fitting to our discussion to turn our attention to the example of the Canadian government. In its case, we have already observed that its many heads - the various organs and institutions that constitute the government - have developed the answer to our question of renewability by continuously recruiting new actors into their midst, and insuring that they are of a desirable disposition.

The mystery that is presented is one of determining how it came to be that the Government’s many organs came to be in concord - for we could not say that they are truly at war with each other; one does not often hear of the Department of Justice launching bloody, piratical raids against the Treasury. The remarkable level of concord that does exist seems to have been handed-down from some hazy moment in history, though we can observe many of the conditions that maintain it in the present. In spite of the many differences between organs - owing to their varying responsibilities, differences in institutional culture, and so on - there seems to be a broad agreement in principle on the types of new actors who qualify as ‘desirable’, and whom should be incorporated into the existing bodies. ‘Desirable’ traits include attention to detail, observance of established rules and regulations, the ability to follow orders, and so forth. ‘Undesirable’ traits would thus include inattention, anarchism, and intransigence - all of the negatives of the desirable features. More to the point, this common definition of what is desirable helps us to explain the relative lack of inter-organ warfare, for it’s within the commonality of the many rules and regulations of Canadian executive-government culture - as laid out in the positive-law of Canada and in its common-law - that we find the seed of concord. One might say, therefor, that one reason why Canadians don’t often see soldiers of the Agricultural Department setting the grizzly head of the Deputy Minister of Finance on a pike is that it would be against the instincts of the former to so egregiously break the rules by, say, raising an army and committing homicide. That is not to say that Ministry workers might not be capable of expressing loftier rationales for not beheading deputy-ministers than simply ‘it would be against the rules’, but it does make the point that individuals who were not capable of internalizing the basic observance of norms would not likely find themselves welcomed into fold.

Having already discovered the secret to renewability, we have now approached the secret of concordance - for in the case of the state of Canada, certain social and institutional norms were handed-down, fully-formed, from the British Commonwealth, and by the domestic political elites who were primarily responsible for the negotiation of the essence and wording of the written Canadian constitution. The rules, having been set from the beginning, were the basis for testing potential members of the bureaucracy or of Parliament, and the failure to conform with them was the justification for refusing entry into the nascent institutions. From thence onwards, the process of rational renewal perpetuated the system as a whole, and when new heads were sprouted - upon the creation of new ministries for instance - they often started from an old neck, and were germinated from an initial grouping that included characters whom were already known to be ‘desirable’ - they were career bureaucrats and politicians who already possessed the technical expertise and institutional acculturation that would make them successful members of the established government order.

It can be reasonably seen how, by these somewhat natural mechanisms, the heads that sprouted from the government body were made to keep an essential amount of concord with each other, even as they underwent the tricky processes of splitting and renewal across time. Change, moreover, would necessarily be gradual as so-called ‘network-affects’ (human resistance to change) would set in. By observing the conservatism of the Canadian bureaucracy, we can infer that the network-affect has historically been strong in the executive branches. It would not be difficult to determine why - asides from the weeding-out process that separates the rule-abiding desirables from the anarchistic undesirables, the executive organs of the Government have the further characteristic of providing lifetime employment to their members, and a strict hierarchy of internal authority that one may climb only through processes of examination or patronage. In either case, the ability to not only submit-to, but to champion rules and institutional norms seems to have been most critical to becoming an authority within the system. Thus, it would be exceedingly uncommon for an effective leader to both come from the outside - where one could not have become familiar and habituated with the ins and outs of getting things done within the system - and to impose a radical agenda that would attempt to reorder the institutional organs from within[13].

The Canadian government would thus appear to have all of the features of the Hydra which are desirable in a governor: it is able to impose order, but it is not likely to change its mind about what that order should resemble; it is multi-headed, but its heads are in general concordance with one-another; it is self renewing, and thus each head is as close to immortal as is possible; lastly its many heads insure that even if one dies, there will likely be two others to carry on.

However, having said that, we are still presented with one weakness in the constitution of our governor that has yet to be addressed. As we recall from the myth, the Hydra was not ultimately brought low by stasis, civil war , within itself; rather, its power was broken by war with an external force - Heracles - which ultimately mastered and defeated it. Having then addressed the problem of making our governor a power capable of conducting its business in near-perpetuity so long as it is not challenged by a greater force, we are left with the task of discovering how to insure its invulnerability against external challengers. If we leave our Hydra vulnerable to mastery by outside forces we leave the task undone; for, having said that the best governor is an immortal one capable of insuring a perpetual and stable order, we’ll not have accomplished our goal if it is left prone to mass-decapitation and burial under a rock.

On the care and feeding of Serpents

If we consent that the Hydra should be our model of the best governor - owing to its power of regeneration and single-mindedness born out of many minds - we are still presented with the task with making it as invulnerable to polemos (externally focused war) as it is to stasis. Having already gifted our governor with many heads, powers of rejuvenation, a focused mind, and - consequently - virtual immortality, what else may possibly be done to make it proof against the depredations of its would-be slayers?

By drawing upon the myth once again, we may come upon something of an answer to the problem. As we recall, the mythological Hydra was ultimately put to its fate by its encounter with a superior power - a demigod no less - who was capable of bringing it low through the application of overwhelming force in addition to skill; no matter what one else one may say, it is apparent that few merely mortal heroes could have accomplished the feat of neutralizing the threat of the Hydra’s final, immortal head, seeing as how unlikely it is that any other could have moved a great boulder on his own, and employ it as a de facto gravestone to lay upon the head of the ancient beast.

While we may be able to conceive of other tactics by which other heroes, or collections of heroes, might have neutralized the threat of the immortal head, the general nature of the quandary that faces us remains the same; whether the specific threat is of burial, or being thrown into space, or of being atomized by a nuclear blast, the general essence of the threat is the potential of being faced with an overwhelming force. It is this threat of the overwhelming force that clearly must be contended with, and it would seem that there are two general, potential strategies for preparing for the confrontation with a Heracles.

The first strategy would be one of preemptive culling. To employ this strategy would entail two things; one, that we should gift our governor with the ability to assess the potential danger posed to it by others - including nature itself - and, secondly, the ability to reach out and remove the threat before it grows from being a potential danger to a true and imminent danger. Allegorically, we would wish that, contrary to the mythological Hydra, that our governor possessed the foresight and reach to eliminate the threat of Heracles before he had opportunity to grow into a danger.

The second strategy is one of titanic growth. By this formula, the tactic would be to encourage our beast to grow to such sizes and to achieve such power so as to dwarf those possessed by any conceivable threat. The implication to the myth is fairly straightforward; if the Hydra had been fed until it reached the size of Mount Olympus, then it might have swallowed Heracles whole, and spared itself its fate.

Of these two strategies though, we would likely find upon deliberation that only the second would be viable. For, though the preemptive culling of one’s enemies might seem the most energy-efficient and least dangerous course - encouraging as it does that one slay ones enemies in their proverbial cradles - it should be apparent that there are obvious difficulties in its implementation.

For one, there is the practical problem of determining how one would gift our governor with omniscience, for, without omniscience, how could one ever be kept abreast as to the new threats being born into the world at any moment. Try as one might, scientific knowledge and technological apparatuses are of only limited ability when employed to predict seemingly mechanical, natural phenomena such as extreme weather, earthquakes, or natural disasters of any sort. Given that state of affairs, and the essentially unpredictable results of human willfulness, it is even more doubtful that one could keep a full measure of purely human threats. No matter how many cameras one might install in however many bedrooms, along with however many spies in however many cities, one could never keep abreast with every potential threat posed by mankind unless by employing a number of spies equivalent to the number of human beings on the Earth so as to be able to watch them all. Even then, one would likely need to employ an enormous number of data collation specialists capable of sifting through the enormous amount of information collected, and determining what amongst it signifies a threat to the governor. And, above all, one must hope that no one in our spy agency makes any mistakes, and thereby lets an indice of an imminent threat float-by unnoticed.

Given that we have already determined that our governor must live within a bubble of perfect certainty, a strategy that relies upon hope is clearly of no use to us.

The second strategy is thus left for our perusal, and so we should endeavor to determine ways of making our beast of Titan-like proportions and thus unassailable by any mortal being. To this end, two manners of implementation come to mind - one which might be called ‘Bigger Than You’, and the other ‘All-Encompassing’.

‘Bigger Than You’, as an implementation of our strategy, encourages us to grow our government to a size that is no less than one-half plus one percent of the human population. The logic of this blueprint is quite simple; by outweighing the remainder of the population by sheer force of numbers, our government ensures that no other conceivable combination of the remainder will be capable of marshaling superior resources with which to assail its vitality. It would be, to use a phrase, ‘the biggest kid on the block’, and one capable of beating-up all of the other kids at once if need-be.

While the ‘Bigger Than You’ implementation seems to have merit - being both easier to accomplish than the ‘All-Encompassing’ blueprint that we shall consider shortly, and seemingly able to accomplish our strategic goals through a combination of the raw scales of force and the psychological impact of deterrence that such power might be assumed to have on potential threats within the non-government population - it has some defects. The chief among these defects is the tacit assumption that the effective threat posed by an enemy can be countered by the accumulation of resources that outstrips the enemy’s. While it may seem logical to say that ‘the kid with the biggest stick wins’, it is a fallacy to assert that one cannot win a fight by using a smaller stick; many amongst us know this for a truth, having as children observed one boy or girl physically triumphing over another despite a comparative lack of power. To understand this mystery, we need only recall that a smaller girl might score a victory over a much larger one by, for instance, outwitting an opponent into leaving themselves vulnerable, by demonstrating superior fighting skill, or by simply having luck on her side. Superior wits, skill, and luck are three attributes which a small opponent can gainfully employ to triumph over a larger enemy, and these are threats that cannot be overcome through the raw accumulation of power.

We might argue that this might very well be the case on the tactical scale of a fight between two children, but that it would not necessarily be the case on the strategic scale. After all, our Hydra would not be a single individual who might be defeated in a single battle, but a multitude capable of learning from the mistakes of one confrontation, and of employing that information to its advantage in the future. While this observation is compelling, it suffers from two flaws that render it from gold into dross. Firstly, the ability to learn from initial failures is contingent upon the ability to collect useful information from those failures in order to learn from them; though we might pose questions about the epistemological challenges of learning from an occurrence that one has not personally experienced, it is more fundamental to point-out the difficulties in gathering information during a battle, and transmitting it to others. Once again, we would be forced to hope that our implements of observation - be they human or mechanical - are reliable, and that they transmit to us the crucial information that is required. Having hung our hat on that hope, we then must hope that our governor can both recognize the crucial information, and then formulate some sort of new knowledge from the experience; we are thus bound by not one hope, but three.

Secondly, and just as critically, the ability to learn from mistakes is very much hung upon the hope that one has the opportunity to learn from past errors. Should the war be lost in a single battle however - as was the case in the myth - or in a sparse number of confrontations - as was the case in both the First and Second Persian Wars[14] - there may very well be no time to adapt and learn.

Given our resistance to relying on hope, it behooves us to consider other avenues, which brings us to the ‘All-Encompassing’ implementation. To describe this tact succinctly, we might best describe it as the way by which we would insure the longevity of our Hydra by transforming it into the World Serpent - the mythological beast of Norse myth whose coils surround the world, and whose jaws could swallow it whole. We would not content ourselves with the slumbering Serpent of historical times however; the beast that we would much prefer is the awakened Serpent who arises in the wake of Ragnorok[15]. This living beast, having digested the gods and the Earth whole, will be the great governor for which we have be searching for; it will have eliminated all enemies before it - potential, past, or future - and transformed them into mere cells of its great body.

Our model government should then strive to make of itself a ‘World Hydra’ of sorts. It will be the great, all-encompassing organism which has incorporated all others into itself, it will be self-perpetuating and rejuvenating, and with many heads who are of one concordance - thus eliminating the threats from without, the threats from within, the threats of age, and the threat of ‘brain death’. In worldly terms, it will be a super-institution sin pares divided into a number of great ministries . Its ministries will be headed and populated by a great bureaucracy whose members are acculturated to the goals of perpetual order as defined by institutional tradition, and no member of the population should be left outside of its walls. Institutional tradition and inertia will be the means through which the disharmony of heated competition will be avoided, while testing and examinations will be the means through which desirables are separated from the undesirables and the law-abiders are separated from the champions of the law - the later whom will be allowed to become ministry leaders while the former are relegated to the rank-and-files positions of the civil service. The appointment of an adequate number of supervisors will serve to monitor the doings of the all-inclusive bureaucracy, and the creation of departments of security will serve to provide the government with a means to contend with those instances of disharmonious or disorderly behaviour that are observed to occur. Furthermore, we may institute systematic regulations of mandatory reassignment to avoid the potential of the ‘individuation’ of ministries whom might accrete peculiar institutional norms and traditions over time. Therefor, like the Emperors of China, we will force the occasionally reassignment of managerial officials to new departments and ministries so as to give them the greatest breadth of experience while discouraging institutional myopia - for the good of the whole must always be made the priority of every Mandarin, rather than the good of a particular fief of the civil technocracy.

All The World’s a Stage, and We Are But Poor Actors

In the event that we accomplish such a great project, we will truly have made the best possible example of governance immanent upon the world. To paraphrase Shakespeare, we would truly have made all the world a stage, and all humanity but actors in a great troupe; though it would be expected that the great mass of individuals would play but bit-parts in the never-ending production.

Once the great production is underway, the benefits should become quite evident; having become acculturated to life within the government, and habituated to its strictures, no individual should be left with substantial doubts as to their place or future within its great organs. The vast human and natural resources brought under the control of the administration would ease its ability to contend with the material exigencies of the human condition, and respond to the depredations of natural disasters and the great unknowns of the cosmos. The social pressures for conformity with regulation might be seen as the great stake in the heart of ideological conflict, even as it molds new generations of humanity into a form that is conducive to the continuation of government administration. And, though individuals may fall by the wayside and the ribs of the great beast might expand and contract as it inhales new vitality from the human populace and expels the airs of decay, the mass of the organization will persist.

While such a living arrangement might not seem to meet the exact definition of Hegel’s ‘end of history’ - seeing as decay through sickness, chance and folly are inevitable possibilities in material existence - the functional illusion of such a time beyond time may indeed be instilled in the minds of, what PT Barnum once referred to as, “most people, most of the time”, and thereby eliminate the existential fear of the future, unknown and uncertain, from the minds of the great majority of persons; particularly when the governor can arrange for a similar solution to the uncertainty of the Final Unknown. Truly then our Serpent will have become the perfected example of governance in action.


1. Definition taken from ‘The Merriam-Webster Dictionary 1977’.

2. James Scott produces a range of examples to support the characterization of Joseph Stalin as an authoritarian dictator; in particular, one might reference [Scott, pp. 201-209] for an introduction to the subject of Stalin’s ‘war’ against the independent rural farmer, with its attendant deaths and sufferings.

3. Alan Lawrance has compiled a variety of sources that serve to demonstrate Mao’s preoccupation with steering the evolution of post-Revolutionary China unopposed; it’s particularly interesting to refer to speeches produced during the period dubbed “The Cultural Revolution”, during which many critics of the communist leader came to bad ends. [Lawrance, pp.183-204]

4. Pol Pot’s ability to dictate the fates of the masses of Cambodia is documented quite strongly by Kenneth M. Quinn; the exiling of three million urban dwellers from the city of Phnom Penh, and the subsequent mass-murders and human tragedies stand as stark examples of the capability of Pot and the Khymer Rouge. [Quinn, pp.180-208]

5. [Scott, pp. 201-204]

6. Constitution Act of 1867, sections 91-95, 146-147; Constitution Act of 1982, sections 35, 38-49.

7. Refer to sections 91-95 of the Constitution Act of 1867, and sections 1-34 of the Constitution Act of 1982 for specific examples of positive law that define the boundaries of government sovereignties with Canada.

8. Dobell draw s both broad and detailed pictures of the means and efficacy of political party discipline within the Canadian House of Commons; dismissal from the party being the ‘final solution’ to the problem of intransigent MPs. [Dobell, “Institutional Reforms for Representative Government”,pp. 41-70][Dobell, “Fixing Canadian Democracy”, pp.83-96]

9. Peter C. Dobell refers to two particular cases of federal, Canadian MP dismissals within the course of his thesis on political party discipline and reform; those of the Honourable Gilles Grégoire of the Ralliement des Créditistes in 1966, and of the Honourable Ralph Cowan of the Liberal Party in 1968. [Dobell, pp.45]

10. For a premier example of unstable, unpredictable governance and the resulting proliferation of violence and regime change, one might look no further than France following the Revolution of 1789. [Burleigh, pp. 23-112][Burke]

11. The thesis of democracy (or democratic rituals) as a nonviolent outlet for the expression of the varying and conflicting interests of different parties is a subject that has been explored by Amartya Sen, Giovanni Sartori, and Marc Plattner, among many others.

12. For a brief introduction to the myth of the Hydra, refer to [Hesiod, The Theogony, ll. 306-332]

13. In particular, one might refer to [Scott, pp.256, 310-311] for examples of how ‘work-to-rule’ practices have been skillfully employed to disrupt institutional work without violating formal regulations or positive laws.

14. [Herodotus, Books VII-VIII]

15. The ‘World Serpent’ is alternately referred to as “Jörmungandr” or “The Midgard Serpent. For details, refer to [Munch, pp.108-112].


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