Weber’s Three Types of Legitimate Rule Made Four

Weber’s three types of legitimate rule can be extended as illustrated below:

Characteristic Charismatic Traditional Legal-Rational Economic
Type of ruler Charismatic Leader Dominant Personality Functional Superiors or Bureaucratic Officials “Hired” For Ability To Perform
Position Determined by Having a dynamic personality Established
Tradition or Routine
Legally established authority Demonstrated skill in forecast and management
Rules Using Extraordinary qualities and exceptional powers Acquired or inherited qualities Virtue of rationally established norms, decrees, and other rules and regulations Contracts, agreements, credit, money, order and promise of prosperity
Legitimized  Victories and successes to the community Established tradition or routine General belief in the formal correctness of the rules and those who enact them are considered a legitimized authority. Impartiality in producing shared economic benefits for the good of all.
Loyalty  interpersonal/ personal allegiance and devotion Based on traditional allegiances To authority / rules To morality of common benefit.
Cohesion Emotionally unstable and volatile Feeling of common purpose  Abiding by rules (see merton’s theory of deviance) Debt Participation and property ownership
Leadership Rulers and followers (disciples) Established forms of social conduct Rules not rulers Agreements not laws

I don’t agree that legitimacy is necessary for a government. People will justify anything as long as it is not intolerable. And whether something is intolerable or not, has to do only with the difference in perceived costs of change. So, power can be held by numerous means. And legitimacy will evolve from that social order as long as no one can profit from altering it.

North Korea and any number of the Islamic states have managed to hold power. The only thing that toppled the arab tyrants was the increase in food prices that made inaction on the part of the population impossible. It was not moral conviction. It never is.

To say that legitimacy is not necessary is different from saying that we do not desire a legitimate government. All of us do. But what is legitimacy?

I personally do not find the US government legitimate. But it has power. And it is not intolerable enough that people will replace it.

Legitimacy is the use of the state for ends with which you agree, and not for ends with which you disagree.

This means, in practical terms, that outside of small, homogenous, monarchic states, legitimacy is questionable without the presence of an external threat. It is impossible across an empire.

The USA federal government is not a state. It is an world wide empire that counts the fifty US states as provinces. Sure, that might sound extreme. But hyperbole is useful when you’re trying to make someone look at the world through a different lens.

What we have learned, and what Hoppe has explained to us, is that Democratic institutions create a tragedy of the commons: they shorten everyone’s time preference. They exacerbate consumption. They send everyone running for the trough, and the impressive achievements and monuments that we use to iconify our virtues and by which we remember previous civilizations are abandoned in favor of grabbing what we can before someone else does.

In this diagram I’ve tried to suggest that rule by credit is just as legitimate a method of rulership as are the others.

DEBT PARTICIPATION as a means of social cohesion is a vehicle for greater prosperity, better and more distributed calculation, and greater consumption – and epistemically, it does not require a shared belief in anything other than the institutions that made that debt participation possible. Nor does it require observant law enforcement. Social cohesion is created as a byproduct of the incentives credit gives each of us. Cohesion is created by market incentives, and ostracization is by market punishment.

Credit is not only meritocratic, but one can choose one’s level of reward. There is simply no one to go to for “favors,” even if that favor is simply instruction, and once you’re behind the curve of personal development, it gets increasingly difficult to change your position. There is no codified means of increasing your position or status. In fact, that’s the hallmark of the system: not only is success not codified or political, it’s almost a lottery. So the system favors people without political alliances almost as much as other systems favor people with alliances – the impact of this difference in alliances being that it is less easy to determine social mores and standards, and adherence to those standards is not as indicative of success as it might have been in the past. Social cohesion is demonstrated by the individual not so much by adoption of habits that demonstrate fealty as it is by undermining habits and seeking advantage in them.

The only real problem we have is preventing the state from farming the land and thereby grouping human beings by productivity and age group. This is what certainly appears to be happening today, at least on the US west coast.


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