Theyocracy: The argument

My dear junior McStudges, field operatives, and propagandists,

Here follows, for your benefit, a short treatise on the Myth of Government. It does not describe, except incidentally, the so-called art of Government itself. What the humans believe about government, you can discover for yourself quite easily. They have an entire profession called Political Science, the practitioners of which are too weak-willed and scrupulous to be politicians, and too stupid to be scientists. If you want to know the fifteen prevalent superstitions about government and its alleged uses, you can go and waste your time with them; but I do not recommend it, except as a source of cheap laughter to help your digestion. What government is really about – the final end which we have in view when we spread this particular vice among the humans – is a secret kept, successfully so far, by wiser heads than yours. That information is distributed strictly on a need-to-know basis, and you do not need to know.

However, you do need to know what government is; and you also need to know the Myth. For by this Myth we keep billions of humans in a constant state of frustrated hope, expecting their government to shower them with blessings which it can seldom or never provide; and millions more in a state of embittered cynicism, too experienced to believe in the swindle, but too damaged to fight against it. In this matter, most humans are at least part-time cynics. In the English-speaking countries, for instance, nearly everyone knows the joke about the Three Great Lies:

1. ‘Of course I’ll respect you in the morning.’
2. ‘The cheque is in the mail.’
3. ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’

In their saner moments, most humans know that this third statement, like the other two, is a lie. Our job, and the function of the Myth, is to keep them from facing this knowledge squarely and honestly; to distract them with trifles, to lull them with lies and fuddle them with flummery, so that despite all the evidence, they will go on thinking of the government as a thing that is there to help. They can then be kept in that useful state of frustrated hope, and we McStudges can exploit them, unseen and (usually) unsuspected, for our own purposes.

The Myth, in its shortest form, is that government exists to help people.

The fact of the matter, in its shortest form, is this:

Government is a monopoly of lethal force exercised by a group of humans in a defined territory.

By definition, a government exists to kill people and smash things.

A government may happen to do other things. If its proprietors are clever, it certainly will do other things. Killing people indiscriminately is a good way of making enemies, even among humans. Instead of smashing things, a government will steal some of them, and instead of killing people, it will bribe some of them with the loot. This divides and confuses the people, and prevents the government’s enemies from combining to overthrow it. This, in a nutshell, is what government does. The art of government consists in doing it quietly and indirectly, with plausible and soothing excuses, so that the game may be played with minimum risk and maximum profit.

In other words, the art of government is to propagate the Myth of Government.

In the chapters that follow, I shall trace the origin and development of the Myth through human history. In the process, I shall have to retell a good deal of that history. I do not apologize for this. The decision was taken long ago, by authorities much deeper in the machinery than I, to make the humans as ignorant of history as possible, and what is more, to make them proud of their ignorance. It is not my place to argue with that policy. But it does require me to make my argument at greater length, because the tapestry of the historical record, which was once known in a general way to every literate person, is now torn into a thousand ribbons, each jealously guarded by its own little band of specialists.

Not two months ago, as I write this, a U.S. Senator (the very title is fraught with historical associations, of which the average American, fortunately, knows nothing) repeated almost verbatim, in the course of a debate, a speech by a far more distinguished Roman senator. This speech was once world-famous, and justly so; in the days when schoolboys learnt Latin, nearly every one of them was set to learn it by heart. No longer. Our modern Senator was roundly abused for quoting something so old and obscure. Some of his opponents called him a plagiarist, and some called him a fogey and a clown, and some said his speech proved that his entire party was ‘out of touch’, lost hopelessly in the past, unable to tackle Real Issues with Real and Progressive Urgency in the All-Consuming Now. Even his friends were vaguely embarrassed by this deplorable lapse of protocol. In the seventeenth century, as a certain Trevelyan said, Members of Parliament quoted the Bible, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the classics, and in the twentieth century, nothing. In the twenty-first century (which that unwholesomely intelligent human did not live to see), the rules have relaxed just a little: politicians are permitted to quote each other’s Twitter feeds, or even popular television shows. But Cicero’s Oratio in Catilinam Prima remains firmly beyond the pale.

We have brought the humans to this state, that they now think a knowledge of classical literature, and an understanding of history, and an ability to learn lessons from history and apply them in daily life, are not only worthless accomplishments, but actual proof of imbecility. It is good, for our purposes, that the humans should be such fools. But let us not be fooled. Our field operatives, in particular, are constantly immersed in the propaganda that we manufacture to keep our livestock from becoming conscious. There is a constant danger that, merely by this continual exposure, our people may come to believe some of that propaganda themselves. I have known sad cases. The purpose of this work is to remind you all of the bigger picture, and some of the facts, so that you may be on guard against ‘going native’. As one of the cleverer humans has said, it is a poor propagandist who drinks his own ink.

   H. Smiggy McStudge


  1. I realize it’s unreasonable to expect a demon to supply links or evidence.

    I looked up Cruz’s speech, and it seemed like a bunch of insults, and lacked a description of what Obama had done which was so awful.

    I found the above, which claimed that Cicero was pushing for insurrection, and Cruz quoted him with that in mind. This may or may not be true, but it’s certainly not a general attack on politicians using classical quotations.

    What are your sources?

    • I am leaving this one for Smiggy to answer himself. Watch for a post to that effect. Be warned: he will be infinitely rude about it. He is not doing it out of regard for you or me, but merely because he wishes to hold you up to his fellow McStudges as an object of derision and a fine example of the work being done by their Propaganda Division.

  2. Stephen J. says

    Hm. One of Lewis’s warnings occurs to me: “Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own perspective. There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth.”

    My counter to the Eminently (Dis)Honourable Mr. McStudge would probably be to point out that with typical devilish cunning he translates a formal definition into a colloquial one just close enough to the original to deceive, and makes us think we are still talking about the same thing when, in fact, a clever elision has taken place. That a government is a monopoly on lethal force is true. That its only purpose is to use this force is not.

    Rather, its primary purpose is to limit others’ abuse of force — which it can do as well, and in fact better, by promise of use solely as a consequential reaction on conditions than by active initiation of use for its own purposes. In short, a government is not about killing people and smashing things — it is about keeping the level of killing and smashing to the minimum possible by guaranteeing that anyone in its domain who does so will get worse, once found. And paradoxically, it is most effective when least tested by its citizens, who in their turn are least likely to test it when they consider themselves voluntarily committed to its rules by their own choice rather than compelled to those rules by fear of the consequences of being caught breaking them.

    This is why a government that breaks or ignores its own laws, or uses force upon a subject who has not himself broken a law first, is, by definition, not a government. A corrupt government may deliberately shape its laws to permit loopholes benefiting itself or its cronies; an unjust government may pass laws that treat subjects unjustly or inflict unjust degrees of punishment; a bureaucratic government may pass so many laws that no sensible citizen can hope to learn and keep them all; but so long as the majority of its agents do not openly flout their own laws (or the majority of the citizenry believes this to be tolerably close to true, at least) they can still be called governments. Which is why the power to determine whether a proposed law is “constitutional”, i.e. does not break the higher laws the government has promised to uphold, has become such a political football in this day and age — it is confirmation that the government has not contradicted itself, is therefore still valid, and therefore is entitled to our obedience to our contract with it.

    • It will be the McStudge’s contention (for he has, I fear, a great deal more to say on this topic) that Stalin’s Russia and Genghis Khan’s Great Horde are more truly typical governments than anything we happen to live under in the modern West. As for this:

      This is why a government that breaks or ignores its own laws, or uses force upon a subject who has not himself broken a law first, is, by definition, not a government.

      By that definition, the vast majority of countries in the world, both today and in the past, had no governments at all. The idea that the king is not above the law is a relatively new one in human history.

    • Ironmaw says

      Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that the sole purpose of government is to maintain its monopoly on force, which entails the constant use of force. As they say, If you don’t use it you’ll lose it… Otherwise Government would be in every other way irrelevant.

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