Alexandre Kojève, Tyranny and Wisdom (1950) in On Tyranny
Leo Strauss, “Restatement on Xenophon’s Hiero” (1959) in On Tyranny
Why not have a world government? If there is a single rational way to rule, why shouldn’t rationality rule the world? Progressive Russian-French emigré Alexandre Kojève, who helped lay the groundwork for the European Union, engages conservative German-American emigré Leo Strauss in a classic debate about the “universal and homogenous state.”
Following the Second World War Leo Strauss and Alexandre Kojève were both refugees from tyrannical dictatorships, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia respectively. They debated the role of academics, principally philosophers in politics. The text, On Tyranny, follows conversations between a philosopher and a king (Tyrant). Strauss’ main argument is that philosophers and academics have no place in politics, while Kojève relates to the only way to establish rule and reason is by aligning the two together. It should be noted that Kojève was one of the founders of the European Union and therefor this texts relevance to todays goings on is so important.
We broke down the discussion into some key points of discussion:
- Is there the possibility of creating a central global world order?
- Is there a single rational way for this world order to be run?
- Can tyranny be good? Are there any modern day tyrants?
- Why did Peter Thiel choose this specific text? What points is he trying to make?
Is there the possibility of creating a central global world order?
Taking points from the text, we see Kojève working towards this and believing the formation of the EU is a step in this direction.
The point we raised followed the trend that this would be for high level universal laws, war crimes and global warming were points that were raised as things that should be universal. The arguments for and against these were that we could all agree on war crimes being a universal world order, however, when it came to global warming, setting the same standards for the 1st world countries, having reached prosperity, be the same for those countries coming out of poverty having to adhere to the same standards. For example, should the US, the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, be reducing their green house gas contribution to that same level of that of India? India will need to advance without the same level of technology as 1st world countries, however, should it be expected to emit lower green house gases?
Many in the group argued that a global world order can prevent future war. Do we believe that this is the case? Europe experienced 2 world wars in the last ~100 year, and since the formation of the European Union there has been little to no wars having taken place. Is this due to a form of global world order?
Looking on to competition, do we believe that human progress comes from competitive markets and economic systems? The US currently being challenged by China in technological advancements, would we have seen this should there have been a global world order were in place? A point was raised that Gay rights spread throughout the United States due to competition. One state did it, then another, and snowballed into a nationwide legalisation. Similarly with marijuana.
Human are inherently competitive creatures, if the system were based on fairness would the majority be unhappy? Who decides what is fair and how do you establish the parameters which the general population will abide by?
The management of such a complex systems is potentially becoming available through technologies such as China’s Social Credit system, the blockchain, and AI systems of which will help best navigate political situations.
Is there a single rational way for this world order to be run?
The confusing part of all of the above arguments is which political system does one work towards? The democratic? The question with this is where do ones priorities lie, the way the 1st world countries prioritise global warming (sometimes) and 3rd world countries healthcare, education and running water. The west would say democracy, the east something else perhaps. One of the discussion topics that were raised was a way to find a better way to measure peoples values, can technology help us decide this. Using persona based algorithms to make ones decision for them, how far away are we from allowing technology to choose our MPs?
If it was to optimise equality for all, would we find that competition would fall and happiness would subside as happiness can be perceived to be relative. Technology is making good head way for allowing people access to information and opportunity. New technologies are constantly being developed taking steps in this direction, the blockchain, allows people to live in stateless environments, create forks to create new states all the while allowing competition to evolve as an effective state.
Can tyranny be good? Are there any modern day tyrants?
And back to China, Russia, the US, Brexit, and our modern political system.
Is China’s rise sustainable, if not, is their political system able to stand up to slower growth rates and perhaps a dissatisfied population? The Chinese do not question the government when growth is ~10% like it has been for the past 30 years, or Russia’s President when average household in income has grown from 700 rubles to 27000 PA.
Are all tyrants bad, can they be right or is this inevitable that it ends poorly always? Do we classify, Xi, Trump, Farage, or Putin as Tyrants in this modern age, and is this inevitably a negative outcome in the long term?
Why did Peter Thiel choose this specific text? What points is he trying to make?
We can’t help but draw synergies with Thiel seeing himself as the philosopher and Trump as the Tyrant. Potentially seeing that he saw an opportunity to play the role of which Kojève played in influencing, but rather in the end, the tyrant will do as they please and it lines more are Straussian in turn. He is a strong believer in his ability to tame the Tyrant.
Throughout this series we have seen the rising conversation again of technology. Thiel is a tech investor and a prominent figure in the Silicon Valley tech scene, however, he is opposed to a universal state.