Cameralism: Precursor to Socialism?

“The cameralists of the books, as distinguished from the cameralists of the bureaus, although the former class was usually recruited from the latter, were the men who worked out for publication, and especially for pedagogical purposes, the system of procedure in accordance with which German governments were supposed to perform their tasks. As a rule these men were employed in administrative positions of some sort, and spoke to a certain extent from experience. They were not mere academic theorists.

We may characterize these Cameralists of the books as the group of writers distinguished from their contemporaries and from earlier and later theorists by constructing a “science” or group of “sciences” around the central consideration of the fiscal needs of the prince. We might coin the name “Fiscalists,” and it would be more appropriate to their actual character than either of the terms by which they have been known. Under the circumstances to which we have referred, the most constant and pressing need of the ruler was ready money [Read: Actual Geld].

The men who elaborated the theory of government for these German states had virtually to answer this question: What program must a wise government adopt, in order first and foremost to be adequately supplied with [Actual Geld], and thus able to discharge the duties of the State in their various orders of importance? The most typical of these men expressed this paramount consideration very positively and frankly.”

Melchior von Osse

The first person whom Small cited was Melchior von Osse (written as simply “Osse” in Small’s book), a 16th century Cameralist from Leipzig. The importance of von Osse for my field, Political Science, cannot be understated because Small was describing the historical example of a man whose works I have discovered to be influential within the later political-economic philosophies of Friedrich List and Alexander Hamilton. For List, von Osse was one of the key influences behind his distinct conception of “National Economics,” through which Hamilton’s own political-economic Weltanschauung proved to be a natural match. But the idea of Hamilton being influenced by ideas which originated from von Osse seems unlikely for my American readers. But as with a lot of things associated with Hamilton, we are delving into a realm within US History that is not well-explored or even well-understood by most historians specializing in US History.

From the standpoint of economics, the whole crux behind Hamilton’s Weltanschauung is the advocacy of a more centralized Federal Government presiding over the State Governments. The economic and financial affairs of these United States are political matters to be overseen as one of the official functions of the Federal and State Governments.  

Here, we find the Hamiltonian conception of the US Federal-State Civil Service as a “Vocational Civil Service,” creating social structures that mirror those of American Federalism and Pure Socialism. These conclusions were outlined in a number of academic research papers, but “Alexander Hamilton’s Philosophy of Government and Administration” is the most relevant here. As its author, John C. Koritansky, repeatedly maintains throughout that particular paper, every aspect of Hamilton’s Weltanschauung saw economic matters as political ones. What was not mentioned by Koritansky is the connection this has with Cameralism and Socialism in particular. That in turn is where the concept of the Vocational Civil Service was further elaborated in The Work-Standard becomes relevant.   

Initially outlined by John Jay’s Federalist Papers, specifically No. 4 and No. 5, and further elaborated by me in The Work-Standard, the Vocational Civil Service is defined by Social Rank and Achievement. Expanding the concept further in The Third Place, I incorporated the Path to US Citizenship and the Federal-State Educational System into the same Vocational Civil Service as integral to the rejection the Jeffersonian ethos of Jus Sanguinis (Blood & Wealth) or Jus Soli (Blood & Soil). Our prosperity or downfall is measured by whether every American, regardless of their State, People’s Community or Family, realizes their Vocations, builds their futures, realizes untapped potential, and enters the annals of US History in the Pursuit of Eternal Glory.

Outside of that distinctly all-American context, we need to understand that the VCS predated Hamilton and the Federalist Party. The historical origins are much older, which we can trace back to von Osse, who was already advocating for its antecedent within the German Reich during the 16th century. It was also von Osse who conceptualized the antecedent to the basic premises and ideas that later became the Political Organization Problem of Martin Heidegger and Ernst Jünger. I can also argue that von Osse provided the metaphysical basis behind Josef Stalin’s Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, which included “‘Proposals for the Improvement of the Draft Textbook on Political Economy’” among other things, not to mention Mao Zedong’s Reading Notes of that same textbook. All of these concepts and more were discussed by von Osse within his magnum opus, Political Testament, which was centered around the problems of Legal Jurisprudence and Law Enforcement in the major German States within the German Reich.

Fortunately for us, Albion Small in The Cameralists provided a lengthy reading of Political Testament, much of which is relevant to the Coronavirus Pandemic and Death of Bretton Woods. There is a lot of information to unpack, so bear with me.

“Osse begins the Testament with a paragraph which we translate as closely as possible: ‘It is among all wise people beyond dispute, that every magistracy (Obrigkeit) may prove and make evident its virtue and aptitude in two ways. First, in time of war, through manly deeds, good sagacious projects, and protection of their lands and subjects, second, in time of peace, through ordering and maintaining of good godly righteous government, judiciary, and Policey. For with these two every magistracy should necessarily be adorned and supplied, in order that in every time of war and peace they (sic) may be able well to govern, protect, control and defend their own.’

Osse then enlarges briefly upon the duties which belong to the ruler in time of war; but he dismisses this side of the case as beyond his competence. As to the other class of duties, he continues (p. 33): ‘As to what concerns the government in times of peace, I will write, as much as God vouchsafes me grace, for He is the ground on which all must be built which is good, and wherever such ground is lacking there follows no permanent building.’”

Small mentioned that von Osse wrote Political Testament regarding his experiences with five different State-Electors from the German State of Saxony. This is significant insofar as those State-Electors were once part of the old Electoral College within the German Reich. I should note that von Osse was as much a Jurist as well as a Theologian. Since much of his writing was colored by the circumstances of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counterreformation, I decided to include the most relevant passages from my readings of Small’s The Cameralists. Below are two copies of maps from the 19th century depicting the geographical location of the State of Saxony within the German Reich.

“A little later (p. 37) the conclusion is drawn still more distinctly: ‘Hence follows that it is a human duty to hold the common rights and laws in honor, to esteem them high, and to subject oneself to them with patience, as the means whereby common peace, repose and welfare are maintained. And that also the established magistracy is under obligation to protect such right and law, to enforce it and to govern according to it, not oppressing anyone by acting contrary to it[.]’

Yet in spite of all these blessings, the author finds that it is possible for abuses to creep in. He finds this danger first in the administration of justice. His earliest attention is given then to the means of avoiding these evils. The caution with which he approaches the subject is again outspoken in protestations of obedience to the command of the prince; and the author refers besides to the demands of the common welfare (gemeinen Nutz) of all classes in the country, and of many surrounding countries, as justifying attempts at improvement, in spite of the opposition of those whose selfish interests are on the side of things as they are. Osse finds the root of all the difficulties which he has in mind, in the lack of properly taught and trained men to take the places of responsibility in the state. This fundamental opinion accounts for the extent to which his argument turns upon improvement in the universities.”

Small then went to cite four “unsatisfactory conditions of public life” as described by von Osse, all of which the latter insisted will provide the necessary justifications for restructuring the education of the youth.

  • The first was “defective training of children” (which we can assume are adolescents because the word “teenager” was never invented until 1944).
  • The second was the “omission to admit young men to the councils of their elders.”
  • The third was the “frequent changes in office” (which we can also assume to be related to the Legislative Branch).
  • And the fourth was the “favoritism to relatives and friends.”

Worthy of mention here was the description of a seven-page treatise, Entwurff einer wohleingerichteten Policy, which roughly translates into English as “Draft of a Well-Ordered Public Policy.” Its author, deriving his conclusions from those of von Osse, argued that topics related to finance and economics are political matters of the State regarding “Policey, Fiscus, Commerce, and Taxation.” As Small stated:

“The Policey has to do with the internal and external condition (Verfassung) of the State. The internal condition consists in part of a vigorous society, namely, (1) in a vigorous growth of the inhabitants, partly in a joyous life, both of the soul, namely, (2) in a religious worship, (3) in virtuous conduct, and (4) praiseworthy education; and of the body, in its sustenance, and satisfaction, through (5) abundance of necessary, useful, and superfluous means-of-life, (6) robust health, and (7) peaceful security. The external condition consists (8) in the good order of people, things, and places, and (9) in a convenient ornamentation of city and country.

On the contrary, every state is disintegrated and disordered through (1) decline of population, (2) disregard of religion, (3) vicious life, (4) neglect of education, (5) lack of sustenance and increase of the pauper class, (6) epidemics and plagues, (7) turbulence, revolts, and private quarrels, (8) irregular confusion of social strata, affairs, and places, (9) uncultivated lands and badly ordered towns.

For promotion of the different kinds of good works, and removal of the evil, the author proposes in general the establishment of a Policey bureau, the members of which should be charged with (1) giving their earnest attention to the above points, (2) averting harmful occurrences, (3) controlling disorder, or (4) bringing complaints before the proper tribunals, (5) maintaining reliable watchmen and detectives, (6) conducting unexpected visitations and inquisitions, (7) keeping a watchful eye on peaceful persons, things, and places in the State, (8) to that end drawing useful ordinances relating to persons and things, (9) responsibility for observance of the same.”

In essence, the author stated that there exists a specific criterion by which we can judge the merits of specific governmental policies related to economics and finance.

  • Every Individual demonstrates the necessary qualities of both self-development and self-reliance, rather than choosing either (q.v. John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman).
  • Social harmony prevails within the daily interactions between the Self and the Totality.
  • The Totality must be able to sustain themselves, reach their fullest potential in Life, and have access to the best-possible education, economy, finance, healthcare, infrastructure, police, defense, electricity, Internet access, and so forth.
  • The Totality, acting as the real power behind the State, provides them to the Self, who is in turn expected to do their part in this reciprocal social relationship.

With this criterion in mind, it becomes feasible for me to gauge the merits of differing policies and proposals under the Work-Standard. Any policy which realizes the aforementioned conditions should be supported. Whatever does not realize all four should be opposed.  



Categories: Politics

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