6.3 The roots of hierarchy

Since authoritarians seek authorities that are more competent, they spontaneously organize in hierarchies. And these are typically structured according to Stenner’s continuum: between minimally autonomous authoritarianism at the bottom and highly capable libertarians at the top. Some capable authoritarians may rise through the ranks to management positions, but the more natural way is that highly (liberally) educated people enter at midlevel and shortcut to the top.

Libertarians can be a dominant force that keeps the hierarchy rational, focused, and efficient. But hierarchies that become dominated by authoritarians — typically by replacing highly skilled and expensive libertarians by lower skilled and cheaper authoritarians — purge understanding in favor of regulations, procedures, order, and control. This entails that budget cuts typically lead to an increased role of authoritarians. Their minimal understanding in combination with the underdeveloped conscience of the authoritarians leads to rot from the inside: the well-known bureaucrat or corporate employee who blindly executes protocols and is incapable of sincere empathy. If the higher echelons of the hierarchy do not correct this tendency it will lead to hierarchies that become increasingly self-serving.

Worse even, the infatuation of authoritarians with their chosen leaders and their lack of understanding makes them highly vulnerable to exploitation. Their fragmented and incoherent minds are wide open for ideologies, propaganda, advertising, and “solutions” from which they themselves experience no ultimate benefit because these end-up near the top of the hierarchy. Now the originally benevolent and maybe even idealistic organization has turned in a (more or less) subtle force of extortion in which the lower echelons contribute to the extortion of others as well as themselves. All hierarchies, corporate, public, as well as state, where the lower and middle echelons do no longer understand the workings of the top are candidate extortionist organizations. Only an educated mind and considerable study gives access to this level of understanding of these organizations. The authoritarians of “the rank and file”, incapable of truly criticizing superiors, will as usual appear infatuated by the very people that extort them via indirect means.

The dynamics of hierarchy are known for probably millennia, For example the intellectuals of the Milner groups that spawned many of the think tanks of the twentieth century (Quigley, 1966; 1981) fully understood the contrast authoritarianism — libertarianism and its relation to the very existence of the state. For example Lionel Curtis (1918) writes:

The state differs from any other form of human organization in that the authority which it claims over the conduct of its members is unlimited. It assumes the right to deprive them in the public interest of their property, of their liberty, and of their lives, and it is only while that claim is admitted to a sufficient extent by a sufficient number of its members that the state can exists. For, to put the matter in a nutshell, government can only continue so long as it can depend upon the willingness of a sufficient number of its subjects to sacrifice their lives to the enforcements of its commands. (Page 6)

This goes to the very core of the strategy of behind Wilson’s wish for an impoverished education: with it comes a craving for authority, a strengthening of the state and with it a willingness to be deprived of property (increasing inequality), liberty (progressive curtailments of constitutional rights), and lives (military adventures against non-threatening parties). In addition the main danger facing a state is its citizens not depending on it except for the barest minimum.