Open Thread: the Sufficient Conditions of Justice

Skeggy Thorson points out that the monstrous Aztecs had patriarchy, monarchy, an aristocracy, an ancient, venerable and sophisticated state religion, a highly evolved patrimony of arts and crafts, and I suppose many other characteristics of a traditional society. The same could be said of the formidable and revolting Canaanites, Carthaginians, and Phoenicians.

More than that is needed for a just society, or a good society, and especially for a noble society.

What then, are the de minimis characteristics of a traditional society *that is also good* – and that, therefore, has a shot at nobility?

Some tentative suggestions:

  • Nationality – genetic affiliation (literally, brotherhood of sons of a father[1]), with common proprietary Borders, Language, Cult, Culture, Patrimony, Fatherland.
  • Hierarchy.
    • Patriarchy.
      • Monogamy.
      • Marriage.
      • Familiarity, and even clans and tribes: the notion of a House that perdures across generations, like the House of Jacob or of Stuart.
    • Aristocracy.
      • Oligarchy of noble men. Something like the Sanhedrin, the Senate, the Lords, the Areopagus, the Town Fathers.
      • An ordered, porous hierarchy of nobility: Squires at the bottom, a monarch at the top, barons, dukes and princes (and abbots and bishops) in between.
        • Porous, so as to allow for social flux, that good men may rise to any estate, and wicked men fall. No hereditary castes or offices.
        • Ordered, so that there is stability and continuity, and maintenance of community memory. What is needed is sticky porosity. It should be difficult to rise, difficult to fall. A good man should not be stripped of all social authority on account of a single poor business decision, or a fool promoted because he got lucky.
      • Franchise / Citizenship limited to nobles and proto-nobles – literally, to those whose lives have manifested their knowledge and sagacity, one way or another, by some commonly accepted measures.
        • Again, ordered and porous boundaries to citizenship.
          • Cf., e.g., the Roman practice of granting full citizenship to any legionary who had completed 25 years of service to Rome.
          • Cf., e.g., the American practice of stripping felons of their right to vote.
        • Citizenship entails
          • Economic benefits
          • Economic burdens, in the form of duties.
  • Christianity.
    • Christian moral order: the Summary of the Law, and the Decalogue, essentially.
      • No human sacrifice.
      • No scapegoats.
      • No natural persons treated as mere means to ends: servitude, but not chattel slavery.
    • Authoritative hierarchy: deacons, priests, rectors, deans, bishops, archbishops, and patriarchs, by whatever names their offices are dignified.
      • Church discipline
      • Authority of Church over State
        • Church endows with temporal authority a monarch (king, or Judge, or president, or dictator – the title doesn’t matter so much, but “king” is the most evocative, as deriving from “kinning”) somehow selected from among the Sanhedrin.
        • Monarch appoints ministers from the Sanhedrin.
        • Sanhedrin may remove the monarch; but so may the Church. Either way, a new round of monarchical selection is triggered.
      • Canonical dogmatic teachings – at the least, Mere Christianity.
      • Monastic and eremitical orders that domesticate mysticism to the teaching authority of adepts (and the dogmatic authority of the Church), educating it so as to prevent heretical enthusiasms, and thus schisms. Mysticism can end in schism because it begins in mist impenetrable to sublunary ratiocination, which being ordered to the resolution of mysteries naturally insists on doing its best to parse what has been revealed, resulting in all sorts of errors among the ambitious, the confident, the untrained, the undisciplined, and the unschooled.
  • Subsidiarity – which, let it be noted, subsumes the whole of Hayekian economics (on account of the fact that the individual person is the basic subsidiary of all hierarchies, to whom almost all social decisions are referred), without being devoured thereby.
  • Rule of Law – i.e., of formal, ritual discourse.
    • Valorization in all discourse (whether formal, ritual, or otherwise) of reasoned science in its proper, traditional sense, as denoting demonstrable knowledge rather than opinion, preference or the persuasions of mere rhetoric. I take “demonstration” to include, not just formal, logical or mathematical demonstration, but empirical demonstration, game theoretical demonstration, Bayesian inference, and the like.
    • Valorization in all discourse of the Decalogue.
  • Popularity: the organs of government treated as an expression and endeavour of the whole people, rather than of a particular faction – not just ostensibly, but *operationally* – with, i.e., real, direct and explicit economic consequences for every natural person.
  • Property.

What else?


[1] … “adoption,” … noun of action from past participle stem of Latin affiliare “to adopt a son,” from ad- “to” + filius “son”. Figurative sense of “adoption by a society, of branches” first recorded 1799 (affiliate in this sense is from 1761). – Online Etymology Dictionary

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42 thoughts on “Open Thread: the Sufficient Conditions of Justice

  1. Kristor, I found the original comment about the Aztecs objectionable. They were far from the worst monsters the world has ever seen. After all, who among us doesn’t find a human sacrifice every now and then somewhat cathartic? But seriously, were they any more demonically possessed than the contemporary West? As you might say, the Cult of Moloch has devotees in all ages.

    Your list is a good start, though I think that there is something (well, a lot) to be said for hereditary castes and dynastic titles. One may still have a “porous” system with such inheritance so that the children with gold in their blood might enter into their proper service for the city. There are various mechanisms possible for this, from title granting to those noble in soul and accomplished in deeds to adoption to marriage. Even in the “static” middle ages, a man like Maurice de Sully could come from a poor family and become one of the greatest churchmen in the West of his time.

    Also, what do you think about the required economics of our noble society in bytes? Is such a society possible in an industrial or post-industrial state? For a time, surely, but I wonder if a good society can long endure when its wealth mostly results and resides in the commerce and production of “evolving” goods. What are your thoughts on that?

    • You have a point about the Aztecs versus us. Still, we do not cut people up in public rituals. Acts of abortion are not yet celebrated as sacred and salutary rites in the central plaza. In that important respect they were vastly worse than we are.

      I see no reason why a good society is ruled out by either high technology or great wealth. It does seem to me that moral discipline is more difficult to maintain under conditions of great wealth, but I doubt it is impossible. A strong and pervasive belief in the afterlife would seem to do the trick.

      I’m all for noble dynasties and noble houses. But it seems to me that it were better if they rose and perdured organically, as they tend to do, rather than by artificial fiat. I think it us OK to inherit noble title, as pertaining to property (that’s how we do it now in America, albeit only really and not ostensibly). But it ought to be possible to lose it by other means than feud or war.

      Hereditary castes on the other hand seem a really bad idea.

      • Thanks for the correction. By caste, I did not mean as in Hinduism. I meant rather the Continental system of nobility, where you are a noble by belonging to a noble family rather than by having a title. In the British system, as I understand it, everyone is born a commoner. The European system seems better to me in that the house seems to have integrity on its own rather than being dependent upon the pleasure of the crown.

      • But in the real world, as distinct from the legal, that’s how things actually work. If you simply remove the artificial obstacles to inheritance, as well as the artificial assurances thereof, that’s what you’ll have. Noble houses will perdure in law so long as they remain truly noble in deed.

  2. Although it’s off-subject, I feel compelled to endorse Kristor’s first, unqualified characterization of Aztec society. Political Correctness will be at work until we automatically utter “Aztec,” “Nazi,” and “Bolshevik” in the same breath (while thinking of the Baal and Moloch cults). Joseph A. is not unjustified in condemning the modern liberal order for being as bad as the Aztecs (I paraphrase). Adding together the abortion industry, the murderous effects of leniency towards criminals, and other lethal aspects of liberalism, it’s entirely plausible to say that North America (to confine it there) sacrifices as many victims to Huitzilopotchli (er, I mean… Equality) in a year as Aztec society ever did. But modern liberalism is a pneumopatholgy afflicting an order that was once closer to a just order.

    The Aztecs are relevant to the discussion in another way. Aztec society was not an organic society; it was a congeries of prior organic societies that had been conquered by the single warrior-tribe that then installed itself (pardoning the metaphor) at the top of the pyramid. The Aztec aristocracy thought of itself as a superman-class and treated the lower classes with contempt. Everyone gets my point, I take it.

    One reason that a few Spaniards with ten small field-guns could topple Montezuma was that they were augmented swiftly by thousands of indigenous people who had been victimized and harassed by the Aztecs intolerably and delighted in seizing the opportunity to get rid of them. The end of the Aztecs came quickly. In this respect, Montezuma and his entourage resemble the Ceausescu dynasty in Romania.

  3. First thought:

    Part of the American experiment has been republicanism, in which sovereignty is in the people. I think that this is a good idea, though only insofar as we are “a moral and religious people” (President John Adams, October 11, 1798). Another part—the horribly flawed, and ultimately destructive part—has been democracy, i.e., semi-mitigated mob rule.

    I’m sure I’m exposing my ignorance here, but Is there a way to have an undemocratic republic? Can the people have sovereignty without some sort of democratic element for its expression? Or does the use of “monarch” in the proposal above implicitly reject republicanism, in which case I’m barking up the wrong tree?

    • There were the Nobles’ Republics in Poland and Novgorod which were more of a elected monarchies. Also the Republics of medieval and early modern Italy were highly aristocratic. I don’t know if that helps any. For my part I am a die hard monarchist, who thinks that any other government, except theocracy, is illegitimate just for not being a monarchy. Though I do have some sympathy for noble Republics in that they are sort of like a federation of monarchs.

  4. I think that any of your suggestions, if institutionalized, would go a long way in encouraging a just society, but all of them combined could not assure a just society even in the minimal sense that is achievable by fallen man. Conversely, I think a Just society could arise even without any of these things being institutionalized, though I cannot currently think of any that did not at least have some. A just society is just a population that is committed to being just (being loyal, having filial piety etc.) because it is just. I think what I am getting at, though I am not entirely sure, is critique of the sort of consequentialist reasoning used in a lot of political theory. We should have x institution because it will have y effect on society, rather than we should have x institution because it is intrinsically just. No institution can make people just, but just people will gravitate toward certain institutions. I hope that makes since, sorry for the ramble.

    • However even for thing like one’s ear wax being wet or dry it is dependent on many genes interacting, and even when they all align correctly it can still be altered by environmental factors.

      Environmental factors, like say like education, have done zilch for Amerindians. It’s just more bureaucracy being set up to help those “poor, oppressed” people. And the middle-class suffers more, because it sure isn’t the money of the ultra-rich (who hide their money overseas or in certain bank accounts) paying for those people.

      This is true even more so for individual behavior, and is also subject to said person’s volition, which can go against both his genes, upbringing, and current environment. I don’t see why whole societies rather than being more complex and dependent on an even greater number of diverse foundations should be reduced to merely its genetic makeup.

      Individual behavior is just that. Individualistic, and perhaps, exceptional. But that’s the thing. Individuals make up communities and groups (even if small). Societies are then made up of communities and groups on a macro scale. All together. Societies have “diverse” foundations in the sense that a body is made up of a head, hands, abdomen, legs and so forth.

      But that “diversity”, isn’t the diversity of thinking that say, the tail of a lion, or the eye of a fish, is on the same level as a human being, and part of the same structure.

      This isn’t reductionist Darwinian evolution, where English people created the “one drop rule” in America a couple of centuries ago, and now all of the sudden centuries later, they love black people. Or continually cry about those poor, sad, oppressed and peaceful Amerindians.

      • The diverse factors I speak of include the society’s history, regional environment etc. It was not necessary for Constantine to convert to Christianity then become the sole Emperor of Rome, yet it fundamentally altered western civilization for the rest of history. whereas if western culture was founded primarily in Europeans genetic make up Constantine would have been irrelevant because Europeans would not have been able to alter their behavior, They would either have always behaved like Romanized Christians or they could never have behaved like Romanized Christians. It is the same for any culture it is shaped by its great people and its great people are shaped by it. and whether a new form of thought or behavior catches on or not is in part determined by the current social and historical circumstances that it arises in. Mircea Eliade once noted how almost every religion at one time or another produced the same ideas and reform movements as each other and that their ability to adapt themselves to their climate or make their climate adapt to them determined whether they were successful or not. This is not just true of western civilization but all cultures. Furthermore I do not understand why you insist on suggesting that I am making the Aztec out to be noble savages or poor and oppressed when the whole point of my post was asserting that they were monsters.

  5. Skeggy Thorson has utterly misinterpreted Aztec society. They weren’t patriarchal and didn’t have a venerable state religion. That’s the “noble savage” lie all over again. Except, this is the Aztec Mexican version.

    Since language is dead and broken, terms can be deceiving. The USA is not importing Mestizo Hispanics. Their Mexican illegals, and even others, are just pure Amerindians. But they are all included under the dubious “Hispanic” category, with no separation for different castes.

    It reminds me of USA Americans who tend to put mixed mulattos near pure African blacks (under the “one drop rule”) or Mestizo Hispanics (who tend to separate from and aren’t Amerindian) near Amerindians and all into a bundle. No, Native Amerindians are not Mestizo. And Mestizos are on the same level as the original and true Hispanics, the Spaniards.

    • Apologies, I meant they didn’t have a venerable and sophisticated state religion. It wasn’t venerable, it wasn’t sophisticated.

      • To be fair, I did not say that Aztec religion was venerable, meaning worthy of respect, but traditional since they had some version of it since time immemorial, though I know they change it some when they became an empire. Also I never said anything about modern Latin Americans of any sort, caste, or current place of residence. You seem to think that complex social behaviors are due solely to genetics and thus information about current peoples can be used to extrapolate how their ancestors behaved, this bodes particularly ill for white people. However even for thing like one’s ear wax being wet or dry it is dependent on many genes interacting, and even when they all align correctly it can still be altered by environmental factors. This is true even more so for individual behavior, and is also subject to said person’s volition, which can go against both his genes, upbringing, and current environment. I don’t see why whole societies rather than being more complex and dependent on an even greater number of diverse foundations should be reduced to merely its genetic makeup.

    • They weren’t patriarchal

      We’ve been here before. You generally have no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to other cultures.

      • Yes, I do. I’ve been around Mexican Amerindians for a while (they’re Aztec Amerindians).

      • Yes, I do. I’ve been around Mexican Amerindians for a while (they’re Aztec Amerindians).

        Lol. For idiotic responses this just takes the cake. You just made my evening.

      • That comment is so stupid it’s almost beautiful. Like a pure mountain stream.

    • I guess you don’t realize how ridiculous you are. You are black yourself (it doesn’t matter if you’re “mulatto” you and Alte are just black, get over it) and to be honest, Amerindians are far superior to blacks in every way. There is a reason why the First Families of Virginia are PROUD of being descended from Pocahontas. Back in Colonial times, there was a huge problem of white Europeans running off and living with the Native Americans. I’ve never heard of such a thing happening in black Africa. Apparently none of the whites there were into “going native.” Also, in American history, both George Washington and Henry Knox expected the Natives to assimilate into white American culture but that was never the case with negroes. During the Civil War there were the Five Civilized Tribes who owned slaves and were far more literate than the surrounding white populace. The Yankees used negroes as a weapon against them as they did to the Southerners, forcing them to accept their former slaves as tribe members. Native Americans in America have shown much promise and ability. That can not be said of blacks anywhere. Hell, just about every white person I know has Native blood in them and just about every Native has white blood in them. Not so much the case with blacks. Whites may have had sex with them, but they sure as hell wouldn’t marry one.

      • On the other hand the Native Americans never had a leader with the brilliance and nobility, in the moral sense of the word, as François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture. Nor did any pre-columbian American civilization reach the heights in art, culture, and math as the Ethiopians, or the Malian and Songhai empires. Also many Blacks served the German Empire in World War I and The British Empire as the Natal Native Contingent in the Zulu Wars with honour and distinction. There is also the rather famous case during the battle of Vicksburg during the American Civil War, in which a Black slave serving in the Confederate Army killed a fellow soldier for insulting his master. He was let off without charges due to the loyalty his act displayed. Also there are black traditionalists like Alte and Elpeth and Kidist Asrat at Reclaiming Beauty, as well as many commenters at The Thinking housewife. Whereas I know of no such Native Americans on our side of the political spectrum, although there may be.

      • Amerindians are far superior to blacks in every way

        No they are not. Blacks are about one standard deviation below whites in IQ, Indios about one standard deviation below whites.

        Blacks are stupidly violent, but on the other hand, amerindians cannot hold their liquor nor control their drinking, so, all in all, it is a wash. You are a lot more likely to be beaten up by a black than an indio, but a lot more likely to be run down by a drunken Indio driving without license or insurance than drunken black. Indios are even more irresponsible than blacks.

      • Get over it Svar. I refuse American rule and am starting to despise Americans in general and on average thanks to this issue.

        I’m not and have never been “black”. American intervention in other countries is only going to make it worse.

        I’m not American. Americans should stop trying to go to other countries, particularly Central and South American countries, and impose their ridiculous one-drop rule and their racial categories.

        I grew up under Spanish and Portuguese racial categories. Here we are mixed-race and mulattos, not African black.

      • American Imperial rule concerning race and ethnicity on Central-South American countries through international/multinational corporations and companies plus NGOs will end up a disaster.

        On a personal note, I already disliked African blacks way before contact with Americans. Now Americans are calling me, a mixed-raced mulatta (a mestiça), a black person, is when I seriously lose it and became even more “racist” if that’s even possible.

      • Alcest, you’re just black. That is it. Sorry, but that’s just how it is. You’re not anymore special than the average full-blooded African even though you think you are.

        James, while that is true, OUR Natives have shown much promise.

      • Skeggy, there was Will Rogers, who I can remember was a Southern Democrat. And then there ws Stand Watie, a Cherokee Confederate hero.

        Also, Alcest, the only time you’d not be black is if you were like a Boer and was basically white with minor African blood. But you’re not. You’re just black and no one cares about your PC “mixed-race crap”. As if that matters and makes you special.

        It’s funny how you write with such seething hatred towards people you don’t even know about when you’re just another black.

      • It’s not “PC mixed race” crap. I’m not black. I’m biracial. I’m mixed.

        I’m also tired of Americans, alongside international/multinational organizations, going to other countries and imposing their ridiculous “one-drop rule” and the perception of some African-American racial struggle and civil rights movement on me and on the country I’m going to.

        American intervention is not making it better Svar. They’re making it worse. By calling me “black”, they just make me despise and hate African blacks even more.

        Between the political black Marxists power groups from the USA calling me black or the Anglo-Darwinian Evolutionists calling me black, both groups are wrong.

      • Svar, Americans don’t know what they are doing. Both Amerindians and African blacks aren’t seen as noble savages or saints where I come from. They’re both part of a lower caste.

        Americans just can’t go wandering around various countries in Central-South America and say, “There… you’re black.” or “There, you’re Amerindian.”

        It isn’t just right. And it only creates more hatred and more (actual) racism than ever before.

      • Alcest, it doesn’t matter. You look black, you are black. No one follows the one-drop rule anymore but your PC crap is annoying. Also, it’s funny that you think you’re better. In what ways are you better? We Americans do recognize a difference between half-bloods and natives or metis and natives or mestizos(“Mexicans”) and natives. That is a traditional thing especially in Texas and the rest of the South. There is, however, no such thing for blacks. A mixed black is just a black UNLESS they are basically some other race with minor black blood like many Australians and most Boer and white Africans and North Africans and some American whites.

        Your racism is ridiculous. On what grounds do you have to be racist? You’re black for God’s sake. You may be half-Russian but you don’t look Russian. You do, however, look black.

      • We Americans do know what we’re doing and we don’t need a foreigner especially not a black one to tell us that we’re wrong. I definitely don’t see blacks as noble savages(just savages pretty much) nor do I think much about the natives of Mexico but the natives of America are just fine. They either stay on their reservations and leave us alone and stick to their own culture or they come into the mainstream and try to become a part of us. And as the history shows, many have.

      • And you do? I’m just continuing what the other commenter said on another thread. He started talking about the “African patriarchy”. That’s when I got up and starting replying furiously.

        I have lived and travelled in Africa. On another thread, he was talking about the non-existent African “patriarchy”. A bigger illusion than the mirage.

  6. There are no sufficient conditions for justice – save for justice itself in each and every instance: a sufficiency which shall surely only be reached in the eschaton, which we, among all people, are most loathe to immanentize.

    It is more useful, I think, to articulate the necessary conditions.

  7. A just society might want to establish a religion, as James Kalb has suggested in the essay of his that he lately linked on this site. Post-1918 Austria and Hungary (sometimes referred to as Clerical-Authoritarian states) maintained decent societies before Nazism and Stalinism swallowed them whole. My hunch based on a lifetime in and around colleges and universities, is that a just society will write a special amendment in its constitution absolutely forbidding any state establishment of education.

    • If you are going to have a state religion, you need state education these days.

      Conversely, if you are going to avoid a state religion, you have to absolutely forbid state education, also state sponsorship of science, culture, and technology, except as the indirect consequence of buying stuff, such as weapons systems and spacecraft, that require high technology.

  8. Huitzilopotchli was a demon: He engaged in a multitude of extraordinarily over the top kick the dog activities. He not only returned evil for good, he returned incredibly, absurdly, extraordinarily, over the top evil for good. For example his friend and benefactor gave him one of his daughters as a wife to cement their alliance. He flayed her, dressed a boy in his wife’s skin, and sodomized the boy.

    The Aztecs had all the requirements and institutions of a healthy well functioning society, except that their gods were evil, insane, and insanely evil.

  9. This post is a noble (and noble) attempt at establishing a good and durable order. But, for the benefit of non academics, what the heaven is “sublunary ratiocination”?

    • Ratiocination is reasoning, literally an “attempt at reasoning.” The sublunary realm is the interior of the sphere of the moon’s orbit. In traditional cosmology, the sublunary realm – Earth and the sky below the moon – is the realm corrupted by the Fall. Another term for it is “the world,” as in, “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” It is because we undertake our reasoning as sublunary creatures that the most we can reasonably hope for is an earnest and honest attempt to reason.

  10. Economically speaking, I think that a reasonable litmus test for a just society is this: can a man who isn’t at all intellectually gifted still find dignified labour which allows him to support a wife and children? Fifty years ago the answer was yes throughout most of the Western world. Nowadays it generally isn’t.

    As for the rest, sign me up for a state with hereditary aristocracy and a king.

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