"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

The Ruling Class: Why Changing Rulers Doesn’t Change Society

The first job of the ruler isn’t to rule well or make anybody happy.
First they have to keep themselves in power.
Next is to keep some kind of society going from day to day even if it’s a shithole, so they have something to rule over.
Finally, they have to worry about competition from other rulers.
The other stuff is mostly optional extras.

From this point of view, most rulers are actually pretty good at what they do and are on top of the pyramid for a reason.
When discontented members of the upper middle class have a successful revolution, they always try to focus on the optional extras first but find that the three fundamentals of being a ruler are deceptively difficult to achieve.
They get way ahead of themselves trying to bring about their ideal world of peace and equality but are smacked in the face with reality when they can’t keep a currency solvent, can’t settle on a stable form of government, counter-revolutionary movements start springing up within the country, and the state’s neighbors eagerly mass armies on the border to take advantage of the chaos.

The American Revolution is a remarkable exception, because it wasn’t started by jealous skilled professionals.  It was begun by a ruling class.
Because of the distance between the American colonies and Britain, a de facto ruling class rose up in the colonies.  Of course, no place can have two bodies of rulers.  The American Revolution was the conflict that resolved this contradiction.
Guys like Washington and Jefferson weren’t well-paid slaves, they were aristocrats.  They already had the experience, broad education, and mentality of mastery required to actually run a place.
We see a lot of crossroads in the early American state where unsuitable rulers would have careened from one excess to another.
Fractured into 13 weak governments, surrounded by hostile Indian nations, all the European nations circling like sharks, faced with internal revolts such as the Whiskey Rebellion and Shays’ Rebellion, with no clear center of government or finance…
They faced all the classic problems that confront yuppie revolutionaries but with their wider wisdom avoided, or at least managed to mitigate the damage of making the same mistakes.
Already aristocrats of their local regions, they were within a couple decades able to figure out what needed to be done to establish a viable state.
They even went further once they had most of the basics under control and made an attempt at fulfilling their ideological goals.
A glimpse at the dismal history of states tells us they didn’t do so bad.  They sailed through reefs riddled with wrecks and survived.

Rulers cannot wield power wantonly.  They’re forced to tread carefully and react to the realities of the world around them appropriately or they don’t stay in charge for long.
Their struggle is not to chafe under a boss, but to work against the limitations of nature.  It’s them against the world.  They can’t call the police if they have a problem, the police call them with their problems.
Ironically, the unsheltered life of the ruling class shares much in common with underclass gangsters.
While wage earners can’t comprehend the life of rulers and idolize the upper middle class, gangsters dream instead of ruling. Indeed, gangsters are opportunists always trying to set up their own shadow state right underneath the ruler’s nose.

Because rulers just do a few simple things and react to their environment to achieve those goals.  It’s up to the people to achieve those goals.
If a population is ignorant, unorganized, and easily ruled by violence, a violent state results.
If you or I rose to power in such a state, we’d do no differently out of necessity.
The USA discovered the hard way that Saddam actually governed Iraq pretty much as it ought to be governed to hold it together as one state.
If we tried to govern through softer methods when violence is more effective, someone would soon come along with no compunctions and quickly depose us.
If a population is smart, conscientious, and organized, the ruler has to drastically change his strategy to stay in power.  He encourages a relatively affluent society instead of a brutal kleptocracy not out the goodness of his heart—sentimental rulers don’t stay alive very long—but because it is more beneficial to him to have a stable, wealthy society that keeps most people content.
If we imagine the ruler as a man in the wilderness, we can suppose the weather represents the people.  The ruler merely reacts to the climate, staying in when there’s a storm or traveling when it’s sunny.  In the largest sense, every government is representative.
Peoples truly do get the government they deserve.

The problem with mass governments, is each of us is just a drop in the ocean, unable to exert any sizable influence.  But for the fear of bigger organizations, it makes a lot more sense for people to organize on a much smaller scale so the nature of their society better moves rulers to act in their interests.

The problem with revolutionaries is they try to change a people by changing the government.  The key to any real change is not the rulers, but the composition of a population.

23 responses to “The Ruling Class: Why Changing Rulers Doesn’t Change Society

  1. Pingback: The Ruling Class: Why Changing Rulers Doesn’t Change Society | Neoreactive

  2. Mycroft Jones June 14, 2015 at 6:10 am

    Another excellent insightful post. You should do a speaking tour. Love to meet you.

    Have you read Jim Penman’s latest book on Biohistory? What you are writing almost sounds like a response/reaction/synthesis of his material. I came up with “People get the government they deserve” years ago, then noticed the meme spreading, especially recently. Because governments are made up OF the people.

    Your explanation of that meme is one of the best I’ve seen.

    • Giovanni Dannato June 14, 2015 at 1:36 pm

      I’ve never heard of the Penman book and it looks like it may be of great interest. Thank you for your recommendation. I find it encouraging if others are noticing the same patterns.
      Quotes concerning people getting the government they deserve have been around since the 19th century, not a new idea, but I found it appropriate here.

      I live in the DC area for now. If you’re in the area, I figure I would be possibly open to meeting someone over a beer or a coffee.

  3. Sam June 17, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    You’re on a roll. Your post have an enormous idea mass to quantity ratio.

    Penman is much smarter guy than I but I think his theory is not predictive. Not necessarily completely wrong but not predictive. Unless I’ve got it wrong he says better foods combined with child raising patterns lower the competitiveness of empires and they fall. The competitiveness or uncompetitiveness triggered by epigenetic changes in the generations related to diet.

    A much simpler answer why empires generally fall in ten generations is bureaucracy and rent seeking. The burden gets higher and higher as officials get more and more numerous. Eventually the society can not handle the burden. I think it’s possible that psychopaths can play a large role in this. Psychopaths don’t fair well in small groups but would do great in empires. The only direct evidence I have of this is the present US and the actions of Alcibiades in Athens. You can make a good case for Alcibiades being the fulcrum of destruction of Athens. His actions and behavior can be easily seen as psychopathic.*.html

    “…He had, as they say, one power which transcended all others, and proved an implement of his chase for men: that of assimilating and adapting himself to the pursuits and lives of others, thereby assuming more violent changes than the chameleon. That animal, however, as it is said, is utterly unable to assume one colour, namely, white; but Alcibiades could associate with good and bad alike, and found naught that he could not imitate and practice. In Sparta, he was all for bodily training, simplicity of life, and severity of countenance; in Ionia, for p65 luxurious ease and pleasure; in Thrace, for drinking deep; in Thessaly, for riding hard; and when he was thrown with Tissaphernes the satrap, he outdid even Persian magnificence in his pomp and lavishness. It was not that he could so easily pass entirely from one manner of man to another, nor that he actually underwent in every case a change in his real character; but when he saw that his natural manners were likely to be annoying to his associates, he was quick to assume any counterfeit exterior which might in each case be suitable for them…”

    Our present military is a microcosm of our countries bureaucracy. I read that out of all our troops we can only field about 50,000 at a time in battle. I think it’s a general rule you need three of anything to fight. One to fight, one to recoup and one getting ready to fight so 150,000 combat troops total. No wonder we can’t conquer anyone. We just don’t have enough men. Whole societies can be the same way where enormous staff exist with almost none of them doing anything productive.

    Another simple explanation is a bunch of people move to the empire who have no real interest in the empire. I can’t remember what Roman senator it was but he said that there were almost no Romans in Rome. The US is becoming the same way. There’s way too many foreigners and they don’t give a damn about the country.

    An interesting question is could America carry on as a great power much longer if instead of trying to expand we cut our losses? Abandon all bases not directly related to our immediate defense. Deport all the aliens and many of the newly immigrated. It would seem that concentrated study of the Eastern Roman empire, which didn’t fall, would be an imperative for the US. What did they do right?

    • Giovanni Dannato June 18, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      Sam, I cannot thank you enough for this high quality, well thought out comment. This is what I live for. I value your contributions here.
      I waste my time on these writings in hopes I can collaborate with others and work my way closer to the truth and the nature of reality.

      Thanks to you and Mycroft, I find myself compelled now to become familiar with Penman’s ideas. Looks as though I can have him on my kindle for about 10 dollars.

      I’ve actually written on Alcibiades and his implacable rival, Nicias before. Both were psychopaths whose war against one another destroyed the overwhelming power, wealth, and culture of Athens forever in just a generation from the death of Pericles.

      I love your insight into the personnel problem on the military. What sources did this information come from? You’ve whetted my curiosity.
      Years ago, I focused on the disproportionate cost of waging war with modern weaponry against poorly equipped insurgents. Your analysis adds another dimension to the problem.

      The Eastern Roman Empire did collapse. Excessive politicking and bureaucracy definitely played a role. To this day Byzantine is used as an adjective to refer to a corrupt court culture with excessively elaborate schemes for power.
      After the battle of Manzikert, lost to vigorous, barbaric Seljuks, the Greek rulers of Byzantium were in retreat for centuries.
      They also were unable to contain the Rashiduns in the first few generations of Islam in its age of greatest conviction and fervor.

      But I get your meaning, Sam. The Eastern Empire lasted nearly a thousand years and fostered a culture that continues today in Eastern and Southern Europe. They’re perhaps the most durable empire in history. What was their formula for success? Now you have me thinking. I can pay you no higher tribute.

      • Sam June 19, 2015 at 1:51 pm

        I can’t remember exactly where I got the military info but found this article on “tooth to tail”. See on page 52 and the next pages. 28% actual combat troops with the rest support or administration. The figures on 1/3 effective I also can’t remember where I got from but are just common sense anyways. Men can not remain in combat for too long. Comes out to around 10% actual in continuous combat.

        It’s not that the Americans can’t fight or don’t have good equipment we just don’t have the troops. I read a review of American troops from a Frenchman that fought with them in Afghanistan and he had nothing but praise. Deeming us “fierce fighters” but you can’t be everywhere. The same deficit of Men caused the fall of the Spartans.

        I think the British were much better at using native troops because of their class structure and the belief that the Empire was of great economic value to them. Us…what’s in it for us? Not that much. A few make money but there’s no great support for Empire in the US. We’re pouring out Men and money for…What?????

        Some books influencing my thought on military affairs has been “The Great Reckoning…” and “The Rise and Fall of Great Powers”(James Dale Davidson). TRAFGP seemed to be incorrect but it’s now kicking in with a vengeance. Carriers are death traps but are majestic, like the battleship. They look so powerful it just seems nonsense to get rid of them and think of being an Admiral driving around in one of these things. Tough to get them to give them up and ride around in small boats or submarines. They’d rather sink and go down with the ship. The Air Force wants to get rid of a perfectly good A-10 so they can zoom around in fast fighters.

        The Swiss have defense all figured out. When a German general asked what the Swiss would do if invaded they replied they would each fire one shot and go home. I’ll bet the Swiss defenses suck, Bad, old outdated equipment. etc. but could you conquer them? I doubt it. You’d have to kill them all.

        A super good paper on defense and the future is “Dennis M. Bushnell, Future Strategic Issues/Future Warfare [Circa 2025] “. Don’t miss this.

        Page 70 gives the computing power trend and around 2025 we get human level computation for $1000. The only way that this can have no meaning is if computers go crazy with human or higher than human level computation. This idea comes from Larry Niven, Pournelle, etc. great Sci-Fi writers in the grand space opera tradition. I just don’t believe it. Every since this computer trend has been established Sci-fi has had a hard time dealing with it. Greg Egan has a great series “culture series” where the computers become partners with us but we have no assurance that this is the case.

        Probably the most important question for the US is how did the Byzantine Empire last so long. I don’t know. It would be worth a great deal to our country to find out.

        It may all be irrelevant though. I have little faith in the future. If the psychopaths that run things don’t decide to kill off most of the world’s population the AI’s will do so. I don’t see us lasting more than another 100 years at the greatest.

      • Giovanni Dannato June 20, 2015 at 3:59 pm

        @Sam’s reply concerning the US military.

        I’m pretty sure all armies have the same characteristics where only the tip of an advancing column is combat ready troops while trailing behind them are vast supplies and reinforcements.
        Armies in the US Civil War or the World Wars faced these challenges, but they had hundreds of thousands or even millions of troops in the field at a time. Even a fraction of their strength dwarfed US military manpower.

        I suppose it is the high cost of a single modern soldier that makes it impossible to field the millions of men required to really invade a place.
        The US military is an elite fighting force, one of the most effective in the history of the world. But elite forces are for securing key objectives that justify their cost. They can’t win a war by themselves.
        For all the progress of technology, whether it’s a soft invasion such as a neighborhood tilting towards an illegal immigrant majority, or a military invasion, boots on the ground still make the world go ’round.

        I wonder, though, how much the average British person actually did benefit from the empire? There was no shortage of poverty in Britain during the colonial age. Most of the wealth from colonies went into the pockets of the rulers. Yet it’s undeniable that British people felt far more investment and pride in India than American citizens do in Iraq.
        I suppose the empire did provide something of a frontier and opportunities for upward mobility. Look at a guy like Henry Morton Stanley who came from a dirt poor Welsh family and became a world famous explorer.
        Or look at all the famous thinkers and authors who were connected to or came from families connected to India and South Africa. Everyone from Kipling to Tolkien.
        But it still seems most English people were little affected by the colonies.
        Perhaps it was something in the leadership of the British ruling class that allowed ordinary laborers to imagine themselves as proud participants in the empire.

        America already is one of the longest lived and most successful republics in World history. The Athenian democracy only really lasted a couple of generations. The Roman Republic in the same amount of time was likely barely recognizable as a republic anymore.
        Still, it seems like it may not persist as long as some of the more successful monarchial dynasties.

        Yes, I too was skeptical about an extra expensive prototype fighter replacing cheap A-10s with their greater armament, sturdy frame, twine engines(in case one gets disabled), and titanium bathtub for the pilot. Pretty much a perfect design for what it does. I guess one of the main arguments for having an all-purpose plane, that’s not as effective in any one role, is that it greatly simplifies logistics.

        I too worry about the future for very similar reasons. It’s one of the main reasons I try to encourage critical thinking and awareness in the world. Soon, most human labor will be obsolete. The common laborer will find out what it was like to be a horse after cars came along. The ability of people to organize and defend their interests may decide whether there’s a great genetic bottleneck event as obsolete humans are starved out or a Butlerian Jihad type revolt. The best outcome would be rulers agreeing to distribute a guaranteed income, but I’ve read too much history to believe it could ever be this simple.
        When I was looking around on google for other people thinking about the same issues I found a /pol thread. My favorite part went something like this:
        Someone brought up guaranteed income to which someone responded something like:
        “No one is going to pay you to fap to anime all day. Period.”
        This anon’s words summed it up eloquently.

      • Sam September 10, 2015 at 9:18 am

        Whenever I see anything about the Byzantines I try to figure how they held on so long. I found a book review,

        that says they kept interest rates down and I’ve read before they didn’t allow the Jews to have anything to do with banking there. With interest rates down lenders would be a lot more cautious about lending. This would also make it less likely people would be ruined by debt. Slow the concentration of wealth perhaps? He comments that ,”…There is no economic mystery here. Whenever interest is tightly controlled, the continued compound leakage of cash to banking centers does not exist. This financial hemorrhaging means that value remains where it belongs: with the small businessman and small landholder. Without the geometrically increasing mass of interest, a fraction of today’s total labor was sufficient to maintain monetary stability, necessary supplies and a nobility forced to serve the state rather than rule it. Within the modern system of usury, centralization is unavoidable as compound interest continually increases the flow of real value out of the economy and into the coffers of the cabal…”.

        I remember when credit card rates were controlled. Didn’t have as much credit cards then but less people went broke with them also. I like these guys monetary ideas. Public control of money creation. After all we gave the FED all our gold, all credit creation and pay them interest and what do we get? Nothing. We could put that money in our pockets.

  4. Mycroft Jones June 17, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    I think Penman’s theory could be predictive if it is combined with the larger perspective on the effects of usury, and customs related to land ownership. Debts, and debt forgiveness, are big stressors. Also, land ownership laws directly tie into fedundity and the Behavioral Sink effect documented by Calhoun in his Rat Utopia experiments. My takeaway from Calhoun’s work, and backed up by Penman’s description of Gibbon vs. Baboon is, to maximize population, people need to a) work for their food b) be tied to their land/territory. The Biblical system of Jubilees restoring family lands, of land being non-transferable property except through bloodline inheritance, was aimed directly at maximizing population in all the best and most stable ways. Even the custom of polygamy was aimed at making sure wealth didn’t get too concentrated, and that as many people as possible were enfranchised and had something worth fighting and working and living for. The Bible dream was “Every man sitting under his own vine and his own fig tree”, building a house and living in it, marrying a wife and enjoying her, having the children grow up then live and work close by.

    • Mycroft Jones June 17, 2015 at 9:47 pm

      Further on this line, notice how Orthodox Jews and Amish people limit the scope of their daily travel; they must live within walking distance of synagogue/church. And both groups are very fecund.

    • Giovanni Dannato June 18, 2015 at 11:21 pm

      Have you read Debt: The First 5000 years by Graeber? It extensively delves into the influence of debt, credit, and jubilees in world history. He tackles why emerging systems of finance resulted in Plato, Aristotle, Lao Tze, Confucius, Sun Tzu, and the Buddha all living within a few centuries or even as actual contemporaries.

      • Mycroft Jones June 19, 2015 at 12:52 am

        Thank you, looks like an interesting book. Does it go into the importance of being tied to a local bit of land, and being able to get your food from that land? I think that is an often overlooked piece of the puzzle.

        On the other hand, feudalism tied people to the land, but didn’t handle the debt forgiveness side of the equation. So feudalism also isn’t an answer. But the perfect balance of regular debt forgiveness plus strong ties to a land territory is. (see Penman’s description of the difference between Baboon and Gibbon)

        It is great to see the research all coming together. I feel we are at a time in history when a bunch of different schools and synthetic tribes will emerge. I myself prefer the soon-to-emerge Hebrew-Amish tribe. If I told you their real name you’d laugh, sounds too science fictiony.

  5. Giovanni Dannato June 19, 2015 at 1:09 am

    Just like with the printing press, people have barely even begun to understand the implications of the internet. I am a small time blogger, but that still means over a million people all over the world have encountered my writings over the last 6 years. Without the internet, I would have been completely isolated and voiceless. Who knows if I’d even still be alive.
    The internet is a lifeline to those who would formerly have been exterminated through exile from the group.

    Mycroft, why don’t you just e-mail me? My gmail is giovannidannato.

    • Mycroft Jones June 19, 2015 at 1:27 am

      The Puritans understood the impact of the Internet very well. There is an old law, to not run up and down in the land spreading tales. Causes chaos, you see. When they shut down the theaters, that was their equivalent of nationalising radio and tv (and internet). Although this isn’t generally spoken out loud, shutting down the theaters and exiling the actors was also their way of “driving the sodomites from the land”. The Internet is limited by the capacity of the human brain. And that limit is much less than we like to think. Patterns of human interaction described thousands of years ago merely repeat themselves on the internet, in fractal fashion.

      But you are right, it is fantastic how we can reach out to each other; in other times we wouldn’t think to form our own synthetic tribe, we’d have to knuckle under and fertilize our neighborhoods where-ever we are.

      • Giovanni Dannato June 19, 2015 at 3:08 am

        Most traditional peoples, I think understand the importance of controlling ideas and memes.

        This is a topic I wrote on some years ago, observing how strictures against things like witchcraft, regarded as superstition in the 1st world serve as rituals of the enforcement of social custom.
        This truth seemed clear to me because of all the places and jobs I’ve had to leave because people sense I think and feel differently than they do.

        Societies that drive out all their potential dissidents, or just let them leave like the Amish do, cull the populace each generation into a more perfect tribe, more able to act in unison.

        The Amish started with a handful of people and now they are a significant ethnic group numbering some hundreds of thousands. They prosper while atomized individuals suffer. It gives us some clues about the future.
        When you have millions of helpless individuals without any tribe to back them up, the first organized group to come along sweeps them aside effortlessly.

        It pays to defect when everyone is cooperating. It pays to cooperate when everybody is defecting.

        If the fractal pattern remains the same, it’s deeper, with finer layers than before.

    • Mycroft Jones June 19, 2015 at 2:53 am

      Also, I have emailed you ask requested. Hope it arrived.

  6. Mycroft Jones June 19, 2015 at 9:07 am

    Giovanni, I’d say there are more like 6 million Amish now; not just a hundred thousand. A very similar group that started at the same time is the Hutterites. They are just breaking the hundred thousand mark. The difference? They are communists. Communism is self limiting. Just human nature. There are a lot of Amish millionaires.

    The “twelve tribes” group is like a reboot of the Hutterites. They went from 6 people 30 years ago to 30,000 today. People are hungering for tribe and community.

    I put Graeber on the wishlist; next cheque I’ll get his book in hardcopy.

    I come from Amish roots and know a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t work tribally. Unfortunately my IQ is in that sticky spot where it is high enough to see patterns most others can’t, but it isn’t high enough to come back down from the mountain and explain it in a way regular people can understand or grasp on the emotional level. Not by myself….

  7. Sam June 19, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Forgot, “…I waste my time on these writings …”. Please don’t be modest. Your writings are extremely good. Amazingly good and with great clarity in reviewing complicated subjects. It’s very difficult to explain complicated ideas in a straight forward manner. To do so shows you really understand them. Thank you for your efforts.

    • sunhater June 20, 2015 at 1:46 am

      Giovanni, with the proper psychotrope and the right dose of cryptic language you can become the Nietzsche of this generation.

    • Giovanni Dannato June 20, 2015 at 3:27 pm

      I guess I’m not trying for false modesty, I think I’m pretty good at what I do. I’ll judge myself of consequence when results support such a claim. Were I to earn bragging rights, perhaps I’d partake of them.

      If anyone has any ideas for where I might publish this kind of stuff to find a bigger audience and to make money, I’d be quite interested.
      I am concerned that unorthodox ideas about topics most people don’t care about will have trouble finding a publisher, or even if published might not go far.
      Writing these kinds of things outside of an academic guild is regarded as the realm of nutjobs.

      • Sam June 21, 2015 at 9:39 am

        I’ve got this tab open in my browser because I wish to buy this book. You might try them. They say,”…Castalia House will be publishing more non-fiction books on military history, economics, physics, philosophy, and other subjects later this year…”

        They have non-fiction. The book above is a continuation of the “There Will be War” series put together by Jerry Pournelle. Extremely good. Strategic Sci-fi??? I found a bunch of used copies outside of an Army base and since I admire Pournelle quite a bit I bought them all. I think there’s ten or so of them. There’s also a three book set on Empire. In case you don’t know who Pournelle is he wrote a lot of Sci-fi and also military stuff. He wrote “The Strategy of Technology” which was influential in the defeat the Soviet Union. Used to be required reading at the Air Force Academy.

        One thing you said,”…disproportionate cost of waging war with modern weaponry against poorly equipped insurgents…”

        Be assured that if we were in a knock down “this is it” type war we could crush any insurgency immediately. Just do like the Romans and waste everyone. Even with less troops we have LOTS of artillery, tanks and planes. I know you know this but I couldn’t resist adding it. Even with the complete stupidity of our latest Defense acquisitions we still have a force that completely outclasses anyone else. That capability is eroding quickly though.

  8. Sam July 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

    You’ve said a great deal about the proles and the inadequacies of the middle class to rule but…just who are the rulers? How do they come to rule?

    I say this as Donald Trump is causing great discomfort to the present rulers. I’m enjoying it immensely. It’s too much to hope for but if he’s elected he surely must know the whole 9-11 story is a fairytale. It would please me to no end to have these vile characters burned at the stake. It bothers me immensely that my country is doing things so stupid as to defy belief. It’s so bad I would even vote for a blowhard like Trump. If he just got a hold of trade, stopped illegal immigration, stopped the endless wars and totally screwed up everything else the whole country would still be in vastly better position for the coming singularity than the Oligarchs we have now.

  9. Eric Patton August 8, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    That’s the thing nobody understands about debates: You don’t watch a live TV debate to hear someone’s position on various issues. We go there to watch a candidate get his balls busted on live TV. It’s a test of character as preparation for Presidency.

    A focus solely on “issues” is excessively technocratic, the deck of options that a leader gets dealt to execute is too small AND the scenarios they will have to deal with are too unpredictable to wire it down to a small number of “if this then” responses.

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