The Siege of Government (Part 3)

”What do you have to say about the chain of command?” asked Glaucon.

”Let us begin with something of a definition,” said Oldar von Harm. ”We can say that an organisations chain of command defines who is superior to whom, and thereby who gives orders or directives to whom, and of course who, then, takes orders from whom. The lowest part of the chain shall be able to trace the authority over it in a straight line to the highest link, or else it is not a chain at all, but a disorderly network of conflicting jurisdictions. Every link in the chain, therefore, must have only one immediate superior, whether it be a person or a deliberative body. We can see, then, that a Sergeant Major answers to his Captain, a Decanus to his Centurion, a Vassal to his King, a Minister to his Chief-of-Government, a Prime Minister to Parliament, an MP to his constituency, and so on. In none of these cases do subordinates have multiple superiors with conflicting authority. A Sergeant Major does not have many Captains with the same authority over him, a Minister cannot be simultaneously appointed by Parliament and deposed by the Cheif-of-Government, a Vassal cannot be given one order by the King, and another by the Queen, both holding the same legitimacy, and so on. When a person takes orders from a deliberative body, it is from the body as a whole, and not from its constituent parts as individuals; One MP cannot contradict another when appointing a Prime Minister, for instance, but Parliament as a whole makes a collective decision according to the rules and customs that they are governed by.”

”That is a sufficient definition of the Chain of Command, I think. There is more to say on the matter, I’m sure, but let us keep to the matter at hand for now.”

”Indeed, it would be a digression to investigate the definition of the Chain of Command much further. Let us move on to how a Chain of Command may be used, and how it might best be implemented. Tell me, young Glaucon, why would you say a clear Chain of Command is advantageous?”

”It would appear that a well-organised Chain of Command is necessary for passing reports and directives up and down through the various administrative divisions of an organisation. A leader must know who to ask when he or she wants to know what the situation in a particular area might be, and a subordinate must know where to seek council when he or she does not know the appropriate course of action, and whom to obey. This creates efficiency and allows leaders to make informed decisions, and subordinates to carry them out with expedience. It is obvious that a Chain of Command must be clear, for to make it obscure would be contrary to its very purpose.”

”I say, I could not agree with you more! Now for the implementation. Tell me, do you think it necessary that every superior personally appoints his every subordinate, and that these appointees all personally appoint their every subordinate, and so on all through-out the organisation all the way down to the lowest link in the chain? Or is it your opinion that leaders can be appointed subordinates by others, such as their superiors, and not be able to demote or dismiss these subordinates at will, but be forced to work with them, but still be held accountable for the successful or failed execution of their orders?”

”The second option must be the wisest, surely. If a General is tasked with taking a hill and cannot appoint his own Captains, either personally or through appointed subordinates of his own, it can hardly be fair to hold the General accountable for the success or failure of the mission. Consider, for instance, if he orders a night attack, to surprise the enemy, but his Captains have no experience with fighting in the dark, or are cowards. If the General has power to appoint and dismiss subordinates at will, he can tell his Majors and Colonels to ensure that their companies are led by competent Captains, and appoint new Colonels and Majors if they refuse. This way the competent General will appoint competent officers, and the incompetent General might appoint incompetent officers, and so the competent one will be lauded as a hero for his inevitable successes, and the incompetent one shamed for his inevitable failures. If the General is not allowed to appoint his subordinates however, seeing them instead appointed by someone else entirely, it would be unfair to judge him if he failed to take the hill, as the Captains were incompetent to carry out his plan.”

”But surely, Glaucon, you must be aware of the frequency with which cases comparitive to this second example of yours appear? Did not the Ancient Greeks elect not one, but many military commanders of different rank, forcing them to work together without ability to depose one another? Did not our own Gustavus the Great lead a vast force of many armies to victory against the Habsburgs, as Supreme Commander of a great number of generals from many nations, with little influence over those officers’ rank? Did not Lord Wellington defeat Napoleon while commanding international allies in much the same way? Did not Europe in ruder times see countless Kings behaving like papist puppets despite their alleged Divine Right to their thrones? Are not Ministers even to this day instructed to run their departments soundly, despite being wholly disallowed to appoint any of the civil servants tasked with the execution of the Minister’s policies? Are not Legislatures in presidential democracies expected to see their laws upheld, despite their lack of influence over the Executive branch of government? Why, the historical proliferation of such circumstances is so great that only a complete ignoramus or an unscrupulous revisionist would overlook them!”

”I am well aware of historical precedents, Oldar, but history, as you know, is not the same as merit.”

”Quite. Tell me, though, who would you say is more competent: He who leads his followers to success even though they are incompetent to his original designs, or he who leads his to success followers that are in every way competent to execute his plans?”

”The former must certainly be the more competent.”

”And who is more competent: He who tasks his subordinates with things they can do, or he who tasks his followers with things he cannot do?”

”Again, it must be the former who is more competent.”

”Then must it not also be true that the General who orders a night attack is less competent, whereas the General who attacks in the day is more competent, if their Captains cannot lead their companies in the dark?”

”I say, Oldar, that is a valid point, but what if the Captains are cowards, or in every other way incompetent to take the hill, no matter which tactic their General chooses to employ?”

”In this instance, the General must opt not to take the hill at all or, if his orders are very explicit, appeal to the appropriate authority for better Captains, or attempt to take it in such a way that losses are minimised in the event of defeat, or resign in protest. In any case, the General who acts competently, shall run no risk of punishment even if he fails. If he does run such a risk, is it not a flaw in the legal system within which Generals are judged, rather than a flaw in the Chain of Command?”

”Yes, but would not the flaw be in the legal system only if the General could not appoint his own Captains, or at least his own Colonels and Majors?”

”Tell me this: If a General appoints a Colonel who appears to be in every way competent for his job, but turns out to be a spy, is this the fault of the General, assuming he had no way of knowing, or attaining knowledge of, the Colonels true allegiance?”


”So he should not be punished? The General is who I refer to.”

”Indeed not.”

”Could we say that this should be a general rule; that Generals, or any one for that matter, should not be punished for things he or she has no control over, or cannot possibly know about?”

”That seems like a good general rule, yes. Only unjust lawmakers seek to punish people for the events they have no knowledge of, or control over.”

”In other words, a General cannot, under just laws, be punished for the incompetent behavior of his Captains, if he had no influence over the incompetence?”


”Is it not true then, that regardless of whether a General may appoint his subordinates or not, he cannot under just law be punished for that part of their possible incompetence over which he has no control?”

”It would appear so.”

”But if no man can be punished for incompetence he has no control over, or no way of knowing of, it cannot matter to the General whether he may appoint his own subordinates or not, in terms of fearing punishment for failure.”

”This is true.”

”So when choosing between allowing superiors to appoint their every subordinate – or at least their immediate ones – and allowing them to appoint none at all, or very few, instead having another person or deliberative body appoint the subordinates for them, the first choice is not necessarily the wisest?”

”Verily, you seem very much to have proven me wrong!”

”I seek only to rectify misunderstandings of the world.”

”Oh, humility!”

”Like patience, an underestimated virtue in our times.”

”Quite. But the original question still stands: Which way is best for appointing subordinates?”

”At this point, I think we shall have to investigate the siege metaphor more closely, as the practical purposes of armies and parties are different. An army’s purpose being military, there may be certain circumstances, or even many circumstance, where granting officers nigh-absolute power over their subordinates is necessary, as war is a matter of quick life-and-death decisions. A party’s purpose being political, however, such circumstances are much rarer, or perhaps even nonexistant.”


”A political party is somewhat like a military democracy, or a military dictatorship. In a parliamentary democracy, leading members of the military rarely coincide with positions of civil power, but in a wholly militarised society, officers of the army often hold much power of civil life. So it was in the Roman Republic, where the Consuls and Senators were politicians as well military commanders, or in the Ancient Regimes of Europe, where the Kings and their Vassals commanded both their armies and their states. In societies with militarised rule, attaining victory, wealth, and glory in war does not only lead to promotion within the army, but greater influence in policy making as well, but in a Parliamentary Democracy this is not the case. Parties are like militarised societies, because achieving high standing in the organisation also entails greater chances of political power outside the party organisation itself. For instance, the party leader will be the first candidate for Minister, if the party becomes part of a government coalition, and the leaders immediate colleagues, such as the party board, are likely to be the highest candidates for other public offices, such as service in Parliament. That is, unless the party has special separation of powers, but that is for a later discussion.”

”Certainly. Let us focus on the Pirate Party for now – how would you say it is organised?”

”As I will explain, it is organised as a Feudal Military Dictatorship.”

Det här inlägget postades i Piratpartiet. Bokmärk permalänken.


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