Today’s Quotations

We are, undeniably, tool-using creatures. Eldrae sómintár. More, we are undeniably creative creatures, builders and makers – eldrae mahavár – who build in order to have tools, and have tools in order to build. An endless cycle of creation. Observe, too, the lesser Flames: the problem-solving ingenuity of the bandal, the hunting tools fashioned by the vorac, the multifold creations of the cúlno.

Creation, then, is the nature of the Flame.

Is it not then clear that both the tools of creation and the fruits of creation, to such poor extent as they may be distinguished, are necessary parts of the inviolable self? These are the means by which it acts upon the world. One who does not control these means is reduced to the level of the naked savage, less than the lowest of animals, denied the ability to express or to better their inner nature.

Beware, O students mine, of he would would take, control, or deny you means, for in this way he would make himself your master…

Nephrite, student of the philosopher Sardonyx

Governance is, fundamentally and always, a technocratic art. The questions of how to deal with a recession, or a pandemic, how to manage the infrastructure of a city, how to regulate the value of a currency, how to keep the peace – these are no more matters of choice than the structure of an aqueduct, the foundations of a highway, the cure for the bloody flux, or the value of pi. They are technical problems with technical solutions, even when the solutions are known poorly, or not known at all. Even ethics – for those who do not confuse it with morality, into which realm we may not trespass – is a scientific field whose implementation is a technocratic matter, not subject to popular preference.

The wise man does not seek the agreement of his neighbors before shuttering his house against the storm; the doctor does not consult onlookers before cleaning a wound; the good man does not ensure the victim was well-thought-of before saving a life; and nor then ought we to require such before executing the duties of our offices in accordance with our merits.

This is the fundamental flaw of democracy: it trades away competence – and, indeed, reality – for a fool’s pleasant illusion of control. And, of course, for someone to blame when it turns out that you needed competence after all.

Sardal Amanyr-ith-Amaranyr, Minister President of the Council of Ministers, 1651-1739

Notable Replies

  1. As I understand it, Imperials would argue that such accountability should be self-imposed. A technocrat who does not seek public opinion as data-points to inform their decision-making is not doing their job, and should recognise and redress this wherever possible, be it via tools for info-gathering, grassroots meetings, or setting up accountability systems to automate its enforcement.

    Seen in this light, democracy is hardly the only way to generate the most optimal policies for a large community of people. And indeed, because the brand of democracy Sardal Amanyr-ith-Amaranyr seems to describe is the sort where you choose your leaders and trust them to be technocrats anyway, it would seem like a remarkably sub-optimal system since in the vast phase-space of possible policy combinations you’re limited to the handful that each of your particular choices of leadership espouse.

  2. I think the first thing they would note here is that under any system of governance they would recognize as civilized, this is not the class of thing that you get to make political decisions about - see “Society of Consent, A” - and that any system that let people make political decisions about them was, eo ipso, already hopelessly authoritarian.) And, indeed, that their governance is strictly forbidden by the Imperial Charter from making any sort of political decisions in that area.

    Or at all, really, since “governance” in the local lingo is an approximate translation for “right-and-obligation enforcer smushed together with infrastructure maintenance organization”. So, y’know, what’s left in terms of decision-making is principally matters of technical fact (“What is the required type and quantity of maintenance to keep six nines’ uptime on Kanatai Regional Electrical Power Grid Number Seven?”), voting on which would be like voting on the value of pi, or whether a bridge will stay up: you either vote for the right answer, in which case it is redundant, or for the wrong answer, in which case reality exercises its veto.

    Citizen-shareholders asked this sort of question tend to respond somewhere between “Do I look like an electrical engineer?” and “If I wanted to figure out how to allocate traffic across the Interprovincial Highway System, I wouldn’t have hired you to take care of it. Are you sure you understand how this client-service provider relationship is supposed to work?”

    From the other perspective:

    “Agricultural policy? Our agricultural policy is that we have this group of specialists who have devoted their careers to the pursuit of growing food, and as such should probably be trusted to get on with it without the unwelcome assistance of the 1,812 Senators of whom maybe half a dozen have grown anything more than a houseplant.”

    “That’s what you always say about all your policies!”

    “Has it become less true?”

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