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Nobility in the age of the Psychopath - Elf M. Sternberg
Nobility in the age of the Psychopath
I realized the other day that there's a line of thought in David Weber's Honor Harrington series that is never coherently explicated, but it's clearly there.

We, now, live in the Age of the Psychopath. Almost all the restraints that prevented psychopaths from clawing their way into positions of authority are gone; books and magazines on the subject remind us that one out of twenty people is a psychopath-- usually above average in intelligence, unrestrained by common communal or instinctual fear or guilt about mistreating others, and in our hyperindividualized culture, plunked down straight into a mass population of ready victims. Most psychopaths aren't like those in the movies; they're not murderers, for example, because they're mostly above average in intelligence and know that's a crime they're unlikely to get away with.

One of the premises of the Manticoran system is that of entailment, the idea that there is an inherited nobility, with inherited responsibilities and rights, that cannot be transferred out of a family. And one of the follow-on premises is that the nobility, with their own house in Parliament, is a firewall against psychopaths.

If a significant amount of power in the government rests with the House of Lords, and the House of Lords is made up of men and women who inherit their positions from their progenitors, then it follows that, unlike the House of Commons, the House of Lords is made up of a population that, by now, has the same number of psychopaths as the general population.

That's not to say that psychopaths won't rise to the role of Whip, or some other leadership role within the House of Lords, but the house itself is made up mostly of neurotypicals. And their main job is to be a brake as the House of Commons barrels along, determined to make the concentration of wealth and power by means indistinguishable from sadism.

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5 comments or Leave a comment
resonant From: resonant Date: February 22nd, 2016 01:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
That is disturbing to think about.
lovingboth From: lovingboth Date: February 22nd, 2016 02:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Most of the hereditary peers were got rid of some years ago. Only 92 of them are left, plus 26 bishops (aka people who've fought their way to the top of the Church of England). The rest of the 800-odd are life peers (aka people who fought their way to the top of political parties plus the odd 'fought their way to the top of a profession').

elfs From: elfs Date: February 22nd, 2016 04:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Psychopaths will work together to provide for their own, if only to eliminate barriers to themselves, to make the game interesting in its own right. It makes complete sense that in the name of "fairness" and "egalitarianism," entailment has given way to conveyance; neurotypicals will accept the argument readily, and the psychopaths are eager to sell it.

I don't mean to say that there's anything conspiratorial about this. It's just the way things worked out. I'm sure one or two, or possibly even many, people saw this as the inevitable outcome, but I don't think they conspired together to knowingly introduce the laws of conveyance as a way of eliminating that pesky firewall.

en_ki From: en_ki Date: February 23rd, 2016 01:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Why wouldn't the Lords be psychopath-enriched as much as the Commons? Ways to get into the nobility include:

- killing people for your master
- getting wealth and power as a commoner to the point that you are worth marrying
- being born to someone who did one of these things
elfs From: elfs Date: February 26th, 2016 04:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, the premise in Weber is that a Kingdom is a deliberately hereditary governmental organization for corporately-funded interstellar colonies in an era of STL travel. Yes, the initial nobility were titans of industry, but after a few centuries of interbreeding, and so likely to be psychopaths.

When the government is founded, the House of Commons is the brake against the Lords' excesses. Eventually, as the Lords' marriages slowly make the psychopathic disposition less likely, thus elevating more non-psychopaths to seats in the house of Lords, the Commons will succumb, moving from a progressive and enthusiastic democracy into a self-serving pit of psychopaths.

I think it would make for an interesting story to capture that moment, when the two houses switched roles.
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