Constitutionalism is dead. For many years, in the United States traditional Rightist concerns about national decline, social pathology, and the corruption of morals were articulated in the terms of a master narrative of an ongoing erosion of Liberty writ large at the hands of Big Government, as it was called. The etiology of this phenomenon was traced to a distortion and perversion of the plain original meaning of the basic law of the land, the United States Constitution. Intended by its framers, the hallowed Founding Fathers, to enshrine the principles of personal responsibility, self-reliance, limited government, and above all, democratic equality, according to the narrative it wound up hijacked by a cabal of shyster lawyers, revisionist academics, special-interest groups, judicial activists, and central planners in Washington. Together these parties conspired to abuse the Constitution in order to inflate the scope and reach of the power of the Executive against that of Congress, the Fed at the expense of the rights of the several States, and government in general at the expense of individual rights. The erstwhile sweet land of Liberty thus stood in imminent and perilous danger of being crushed by an enormous centralizing jackboot, with the democratic right to self-government usurped and replaced by the rule of unelected technocrats and jurists appointed by the Executive branch. Every other social pathology and problem facing the American republic was either conceptually assimilated into this existential threat or made to recede in importance before it.
The proposed solution, predictable in a country in which the influence of the fundamentalist and literalist tendency in Protestant religion loomed so large, was to restore the Constitutional logos to the pristine purity of its original text and intent, stripped of all the clerical sophistry and self-serving manipulations of Power that had obscured its plain meaning. This process of purifying the God-given basic law of the merely man-made innovations superimposed onto it was to be carried out by the so-called "People" against whose will the innovations had been imposed, and through which the true voice of the Constitution in addition to that of God was held to speak ("government of the people, by the people"). The Second and Tenth Amendments in particular were to be rescued from the oblivion of desuetude; the plenary unity of the public power dissolved into a set of strictly limited "enumerated powers", as delegated exceptions to an original right of Sovereignty otherwise jealously reserved to "the People" (i.e. State power as a delimited exception to popular-individual rights, not the other way around); and ultimately, if all went well, positive law made to give way to Natural law ("We hold these truths to be self-evident...").
Since all other social problems were held to be so many phenomenal manifestations of the erosion of Liberty, it followed that restoring Liberty would solve them all at once. With the regulatory/police power of the State whittled down to a few exceptions to a general rule of freedom, the productive forces of the market, freed at last from the fetters of technocratic regulators in Washington, would be unleashed to yield economic growth of 10% per annum or more and usher in a new golden age of prosperity and full employment that would never end. With individual rights restored and dependence on the paternalistic State ended, the old pioneer spirit of self-reliance and personal responsibility would return, and men would begin take care of their families again. Armed citizens would, through the miracle of the invisible hand, provide between them a sort of distributed security apparatus that would keep city streets safe, yielding a public boon even as each citizen intended only to protect himself. Finally, the devolution of decision-making power back to the Legislature and the People would decisively frustrate the irresponsible and totalitarian ambitions of various central planners and wannabe philosopher-Kings.
There was, in this Constitutionalist agenda, much that was very reasonable, indeed admirable; much that was as silly and Utopian as anything the Left ever dreamed up; and much that was downright pernicious. Little of it ultimately amounted to much, though. The size and scope of the bureaucratic/regulatory State apparatus has continued to hypertrophy like a hippopotamus on steroids. The First Amendment has not only proven utterly impotent in the face of unprecedented recent legal assaults on freedom of speech and religion but made to lend them the sanctity of Constitutional legitimacy (e.g. the infamous ruling in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover), while extra-legal vigilante actions against Rightists in the form of doxxing and, recently, outright mob violence take place with the tacit, and sometimes explicit, blessings of formal authorities.
The revival of the Second Amendment from the 1970s onward has experienced the greatest success by far, culminating in the 2008 Haller ruling in which the SCOTUS grudgingly but finally acknowledged that the Amendment actually says what it says; but the gun-rights movement has nonetheless had to continue its tooth-and-nail political struggle to prevent the anti-gun crusade, unfazed and indeed revitalized post-Haller, from carrying out its avowed aim of achieving total civilian disarmament. The militia movement, after a promising start in the late 1980s, went into a tailspin a decade later under a blitz of media alarmism linking the movement to the Oklahoma City bombing, and never recovered.
Efforts to deploy the Tenth Amendment and other means to thwart Federal overreach, meanwhile, yielded scant and mediocre results at best. The failure of the Constitutional challenge to the "individual mandate" of the Affordable Care Act in the 2012 Sibelius ruling struck a terribly demoralizing blow to the enumerated-powers crowd, and to the populist Tea Party movement with which it was closely associated- which itself fizzled out as it was picked clean by professional fund-raising vultures, and in any case made into a public laughing-stock by allowing itself to be publicly represented by a series of notoriously ridiculous women. The final nail in the coffin of Constitutionalism was hammered in when Ted Cruz was defeated in the 2016 GOP primaries.
The decline and eventual death of Constitutionalism went hand-in-hand with a remarkable transformation of the politics of the Right: the rise of a new Reactionary synthesis that has decisively turned its back on Modernity in pursuit of a future more sustainably agreeable to the Nature of men and things, and accordingly has little use or respect for a Constitution indelibly bound up with the Enlightenment and its attending social, political, and philosophical baggage. This paradigm shift in politics has entailed a corresponding transformation of Rightist social criticism, in which problems and pathologies such as globalizing threats to peoples and traditions, anomie, the degradation of arts and letters, the decline of religion and the family, turpitude of social elites, systemic dysfunction in the polity, etc. now occupy centre stage, and the erosion of Constitutional rights is no longer seen as the etiological font to which any social problem can be traced, nor their restoration as the solution.
A predictable rear-guard response to the new synthesis, then, is to accuse it of harboring a despotic yearning to suppress the individual, do away with freedom, and institute a collectivist tyranny of the 20th c. pattern. Jeffrey Tucker, a Libertarian, thus derides the new synthesis as so much "totalitarian thinking" that "stands in violent opposition to the idea of individual liberty" and finds its true intellectual pedigree in the arch-Statist philosophy of Hegel and, of course, Fascism. There are more things wrong with this facile generalization than can be addressed in this space or need be- but the fact that it is possible for an author like Tucker to take these kinds of cheap shots at all speaks to a certain reality, namely that the new Reaction often really does give short shrift to the subject of liberty in its analyses and critiques. The struggle to establish a foundationally self-sufficient space of non-Liberal thought in a world in which Liberalism is the overwhelmingly dominant ideology and pervasively colonizes political, philosophical, religious, and even scientific thought has caused the very word, "liberty" to leave a bad taste in the mouths of many, who see it as a potential Trojan horse-style point of entry for subaltern forms of Liberalism (Libertarianism, Conservatism, etc.) that seem compatible with Rightism but are intrinsically doomed to drift ever-more Leftward along with the main stream of the Liberal tradition, and moreover in the process attempt to drag everyone else there, too.
As perfectly understandable as these concerns are, the Reactionary synthesis is sooner or later going to have to do more with respect to this issue than make a few platitudinous passing references affirming the principle of subsidiarity or acknowledging the folly of domineering State micromanagement here and there. Although I have said that the Constitutionalist movement as it was known in the late 20th./early 21st. centuries is dead, its keynote themes are nonetheless part of a cultural tradition and mythological-historical memory that runs very, very deep in the English-speaking world- one that was already being theoretically formalized in the thought of e.g. John Fortescue as early as the Renaissance, and which finds both its founding myth and working prototype in the Magna Carta long before that. This tradition, then, traverses almost the entire history of the Anglo-American State across the dramatic changes in society, economy, and polity that obtained during that history; there is no more reason to think that this constant feature will simply disappear in the next round of qualitative restructuring, the Restoration, than there is to think that people will suddenly forget how to speak English.
In any case, new ideological systems of whatever type never just irrupt fully-formed as though conjured out of nowhere by thaumaturgy; in thought, no more than physical matter can one make something out of nothing. New ideologies do not, in the course of emerging, introduce absolute discontinuity with what immediately preceded them. Rather, the predecessor ideology is dismantled and made to serve as a source of parts, some of which are discarded, some retained as- is, and some reworked, modified, and re-purposed. Additionally, since truly radical innovation is sociologically very difficult to legitimate (it is only in exceptional cases that legitimation can altogether avoid referring to the past; even Liberalism, with its cult of Progress, doesn't do this), the new ideology will self-consciously emphasize its continuity with the predecessor even as it avowedly breaks with the latter decisively (e.g. the veneration of Magna Carta in Liberalism, Jesus in Islam, etc.).
The new ideology, then, by positioning itself as embodying both continuity and discontinuity with respect to what came before it, will claim less to altogether abolish its predecessor than to have superceded it, to comprise its fulfillment, completion, and perfection. The new ideology will claim to circumscribe the old one, to rectify the latter's errors, fill in its gaps, and define its domain of validity while also going far beyond it, all on the basis of a new set of foundations with respect to which the older foundations can be shown up as either false or epiphenomenal. (The exact same process can be seen in the development of modern sciences, which also involves a relationship of continuity/discontinuity between successive conceptual systems).
The new Reaction is probably already mature enough to be able to independently define, on its own irreducibly self-sufficient grounds, exactly what is and isn't worth salvaging in the old Constitutionalist tradition, and to incorporate the salvageable parts into its synthesis- that is, to identify and assimilate the best of Liberalism into its structure without being assimilated by Liberalism. Again, safeguarding the autonomy of Reactionary thought cannot and need not be a matter of ensuring that it never overlaps with the Liberal tradition at all- which would amount to condemning itself to holy impotence out of fear of becoming ritually defiled by coming into direct contact with the enemy, when the whole idea of intellectual sovereignty (as with any other kind) is to conquer the enemy and annex its territory. The new Reaction will be in a position to succeed once it is strong enough to intellectually colonize Liberalism as opposed to the other way around, which position of strength can't be achieved by striking words from the record or other purity-spiraling behavior that betrays a lack of self-confidence. The signifier, "liberty", by itself, has no intrinsic essence indelibly binding it to Liberalism; like any linguistic signifier, it acquires a signification only in the context of particular signifying systems.
I shall say that in both theory and political practice Reaction is in no way antithetical to the cause of liberty, but on the contrary its guarantor and champion. The new Reaction is uniquely qualified to succeed in this role where the now-obsolete Constitutionalism failed. The latter was the product of Liberalism, and thus its prisoner; as such, it was destined to prove impotent against the Leftward drift inscribed in the developmental trajectory of Liberalism, which over time in the course of that drift discards e.g. the right to bear arms, property rights, the sanctity of religion and the family, etc. that when suitably weaponized were once useful to Liberalism in its struggle for supremacy against the ancien regime and later, against rival modalities of totalizing Modern power (Soviet Communism, Fascism, etc.) but now either vestigial or downright counter-productive as far as the present globalist-Davoisie hegemony is concerned. The new Reaction, by contrast, is in no way parasitic or derivative of Liberalism, and thus can mount, from a self-sufficient space of exteriority, an intervention to save liberty from a Liberalism which has no further use for it and now openly demands its abolition.
Part of this intervention is to red-pill the idea of liberty. The blue-pill conception of liberty given in Liberal ideology rests on an opposition between liberty and personal power (the "rule of law" as against the "arbitrary will" of the Prince, the lord, the priest, the husband), so that freedom is always understood as freedom from power enjoyed by the "private" individual, who himself by definition has no lawful power whatsoever. (Hence the exalted, almost sacerdotal, status conferred by Liberalism on those traditionally excluded from authority: women, conquered/enslaved races, migrants, sexual deviants, criminals). Since personal power is bad, something nobody ought to have (cf. "slave" or "herd" morality as described by Nietzsche), it befalls the depersonalized and faceless bureaucratic State to maintain a rigorous "public" monopoly of power ("the rule of law not men") in order to see to it that the mass of private individuals remains "free" and "equal"- viz. impotent and isolate, completely independent of one another and completely dependent on the State, as per Rousseau's famous dictum. That this is all inherently totalitarian goes without saying- as does the fact that by design it produces many more cat ladies, dindus, and NEETs by way of a citizenry than it does virtuous Cincinnatuses of the sort envisioned in various Constitutionalist imaginings.
Finally, under blue-pill liberty the internally divided power of the State (the cherished Constitutionalist principle of the "separation of powers" designed to keep the full complement of Sovereign power from coalescing in any particular person), together with the Liberal first principle that the sacerdotal powerless are the rightful masters of the State to the very extent that they are powerless ("government of the people, by the people"), see to it that State policy is dictated by an informal network of professors, technocrats, crusading women, rent-seeking NGOs and philanthropic foundations, lawyers, and other private actors outside the formal State apparatus- the infamous "Cathedral"- on behalf of the sacerdotal powerless, and at the expense of the "privileges" of those deemed congenitally in possession of personal power, viz. White, native born, Christian, heterosexual, and law-abiding male citizens not wealthy or connected enough to buy absolution from their collective guilt as "oppressors". Every article of Constitutional text put together is impotent to stop, and often even to regulate, this process of stripping of the putative oppressors of their rights and freedoms, since the Hobbeso-Lockean theory of social contract that furnishes the juridico-political foundations of the Constitution, it so happens, explicitly endows the State with an unlimited competence, given in the very idea of popular Sovereignty, to alienate the inalienable rights of the individual as long as the three branches of government are in agreement about it, no matter what the written Constitution does or doesn't say- since the State founded on a putative contract between isolated individuals in the juridical state of Nature is by definition a public power that, as Hegel famously put it, "has supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty it is to become a member of the State". (The doctrine of "enumerated powers" can no more alter the Nature of the modern State, which by Nature is a public power, than it can change a cat into a dog by means of a Constitutional amendment).
A red-pilled, Reactionary conception of liberty might, instead of seeing liberty as freedom from personal power, return to the traditional definition of liberty as personal power over a set of subordinates over whom one has jurisdiction and a duty of care, but on whose will one's actions in no way depends. In other words, "liberty" would be understood in the strong sense of sovereignty (cf. Nietzsche's "master morality"). This intervention would have the effect of providing much more secure sociological foundations for liberty than is presently the case, and of preventing the cause of Liberty from short-circuiting and deconstructing itself the way it inevitably must under the blue-pill conception.
Under the blue-pill conception of liberty=freedom-from-power, by definition there can be no such thing as legitimate natural relations of authority- since power is bad, something from which the individual must be liberated. Since there can be no social relations without power, it follows that there can be no legitimate natural social relationships of any kind. State and society are therefore seen as the purely artificial products of a "social contract" in which the State is created in order to bind together, by means of positive law, a mass of individuals held to be intrinsically asocial and antisocial, and who have no social relationships in the "state of Nature" aside from the efforts they make to dominate and destroy one another. It follows from this conception that:
positive law issuing from a central public monopoly power is seen as the sole and unique mechanism of social cohesion, the only thing holding back the Hobbesian nightmare of a war of all against all.
The State must be forever vigilant about policing and suppressing expressions of the "state of Nature" always perceived to be menacingly lurking immediate beneath the thin and fragile surface of "civilized" society, and has no other instrument with which to do so other than positive law.
The resulting totalizing juridification of social and economic life by the State is guaranteed to be experienced, not as an imposition, but as the very essence of freedom by politically significant subsets of those subject to it (esp. women and minorities)- who accordingly may very well demand the imposition as their "human rights" (e.g. "hate-speech" laws, strict gun control, etc.).
Hence the almost comically bloated and meddlesomely micromanaging totalitarian government overreach of the present, against which appeals to the Constitution are generally useless (the police power of the State, according to standard-model Constitutional theory, cannot be limited), and which goes on not in spite of democratic traditions of Liberty, but because of them, at least insofar as Liberty is understood as freedom-from-power.
Under the red-pill conception (liberty=freedom-as-power), there would be a sea-change in social thought that would entail a return to the concept of "natural sociability". Since personal power would be seen as the genetic principle of society as opposed to its prehistory and limiting case, the State would appear, not as the box enclosing a jumble of equal and homogeneous atoms, but as the summit of a pyramid of asymmetrical but internally complementary natural relationships ordered under their own sui generis authority: husbands and wives, parents and children, teachers and students, patrons and clients, pastor and flock, and so on. These organic social units, since they have their own internal sources of authority and effective norms and rules of conduct, are relatively self-sufficient, and would not be seen as standing in need of continuous external micro-management in order to stop them from exploding. Public/positive law would be but one instrument for ordering human affairs among others; and the old ideal of a robust "civil society" of "intermediate powers" interposed between the individual and the State would finally become more than the mere pipe-dream of some Liberal academics.
An excessively ambitious and domineering Sovereign would quickly find out that it's a lot harder to tamper with the rights and privileges of solidary and organized corporate units capable of putting up collective resistance than it is to push around a bunch of neurotic and enfeebled cat ladies who spend their lives cowering in solitude right along with their cats. Those with social authority are more likely to take themselves seriously and be taken seriously, and their dependents likely to rally behind them as their own point of honour, inasmuch as that honour is bound up with that of the superior man (one of the primal human tendencies that make social life possible).
In any case, the Sovereign's own power-interests would weigh against any such attempt, since the legitimacy of his own authority would itself be predicated on the Natural character of the relationship between ruler and ruled, leaving him unable to usurp the authority of subsidiary powers without calling his own into question (e.g. a King who styles himself father of the Nation will be that much more hesitant to try to enlarge his power by undermining the rights of fathers than the impersonal State founded on the fiction of social contract, which does precisely that as a matter of Hobbesian precept long before feminism arrives on the historical scene).
Finally, liberty=freedom-as-power, since it would jettison the opposition between liberty and power, would in one and the same stroke render the dilemma between freedom and authority- a generic feature of the Liberal order and a source of endless philosophical hand-wringing and political conflict- irrelevant. Liberty=freedom-from-power guarantees permanent structural conflicts and pathology of a more or less serious character inasmuch as, as we have seen, freedom and power are seen as mutually-exclusive and zero-sum quantities, so that X wins freedom if, and only if, Y suffers a corresponding loss of power. Some characteristic results are:
the well-known "high-low against middle" game in which elites elicit political support from socially disadvantaged strata by undermining the power and prestige of intermediate strata in the name of liberating the lower strata, which strategy works even when it does nothing to help, or actually harms, the lower strata. For example, indulgent criminal sentencing policies, while frankly devised out of elite spite for the White middle-class and its populist notions of justice, and to transfer as much power over penality to academic criminologists and criminal justice system functionaries as humanly possible while shutting the concerns of victims out completely (aims all explicitly registered in the maxim, "private vengeance has no place in public policy"), were successfully pitched to the Black community as a "civil liberties" remedy- even though the great majority of Blacks are law-abiding themselves and moreover, the chief victims of crime.
the irrational tendency of the likes of the Constitutionalists to lay all the blame for incursions and outrages against Liberty at the feet of the Executive even when the driving force clearly lies elsewhere, and to therefore simply assume that devolving power to lower branches and levels of government will automatically restore Liberty- even when the total effective power of government is conserved intact, and those to whom it is devolved as much or even more indifferent or downright hostile to individual rights.
the rise and persistence of dangerous revolutionary and Utopian ideologies which promise, in the interest of human "liberation", a Schlaraffenland in which power will be totally abolished, but from the French Revolution to Communism have a proven track record of delivering something rather different- namely the abolition of liberty and society by a State that does not wither away.
Liberty=freedom-from-power dooms the quest for liberation to spin about in the following self-defeating and logically inescapable paradox. My fellow man has power, so I lack freedom; therefore the State must monopolize power (Hobbes). But now the State has power, and so once again I lack freedom; therefore the power of the State must be limited, internally divided, and grounded strictly on the "consent of the governed" (Locke and the Whigs). Now my fellow man has power again, and so I lack freedom once more...etc. ad infinitum. An especially morbid social effect of this paradox has been the rise to paramountcy of the Cathedral, which to the extent that it is an informal authority can claim to stand untainted above the fray of power and politics, and in that capacity claim a privileged ability to "speak truth to power" on behalf of "oppressed" peoples- and in the process agitate against both individual rights and the State at once, to the detriment of both (hate-speech rules making it unlawful to critique uncontrolled immigration and other threats to national Sovereignty are very suggestive here, as is the phenomenon of "anarcho-tyranny" more generally).
In a liberty=freedom-as-power mentality, the legitimacy of the Cathedral would instantly collapse, since the powerless would no longer be exalted over the powerful, women not seen as morally superior to men, youth wiser than age, subordinates better than their betters, and the so-called people the rightful governors of their governors. The price of liberty would no longer be eternal vigilance inasmuch as society would no longer be composed of neutered "private" atoms seething with ressentiment and fear of a "public" monopoly of power that, as we have seen, is illegitimate to precisely the extent that it is legitimate and vice-versa. The bitter hatreds, jealousies, and rivalries that define much of our political and social life would disappear right along with the zero-sum games institutionalized within and between the public-private divide, and by it. The latter would be dissolved and replaced with a dispersion of Sovereignty across and throughout the body politic- something that the Constitutionalists always fantasized about, but which cannot even be conceived, let alone realized, within the limits of the Hobbeso-Lockean theory of Sovereignty (in which individuals surrender any and all personal Sovereignty they may have to the public power in the act of social contract). The destructive opposition between State and society, which makes Leviathan from the one and the Cathedral from the other, would disappear along with the public/private divide that created it.
Since freedom would no longer be opposed to power, the pride in service that for hundreds of generations of our ancestors bound inferiors to superiors at every level of the social pyramid would return; it would no longer be humiliating to have to take a rightful order, and Utopian fantasies of a world without orders would appear far less attractive to those legitimately empowered to give orders to inferiors by the same right that obliges them to take orders from superiors. Mutatis mutandis, and as we have seen already, by the very same token any attempt by superiors to usurp the liberty of inferiors would be folly tantamount to sawing off the branch on which one sits.
The last thing I will mention is that under liberty=freedom-as-power, the utterly odious theory and practice of the "separation of powers" would disappear, and with it democracy, feminism, the Cathedral, and a plague of other evils and errors spawned by this pernicious doctrine. Instead of mutilating and dismembering a Sovereign power which nonetheless remains a jealously unique and exclusive public monopoly through the process of being internally divided and depersonalized ("sovereignty is conserved"), an undivided personal right of Sovereignty would be duplicated, albeit of course on a much smaller scale, by delegation down the social pyramid (perhaps a better image would be circles within circles). Since authority at any level would be undivided, neither the greater or the smaller authority figures would be subject to strong and independent women, busybody moral crusaders, know-it-all journalists, and other back-seat drivers telling them their business. Since "liberty" would have the strong original sense of jurisdiction as opposed to the right of isolated atoms to make choices for themselves but nobody else (freedom from power), the best aspects of Federalist traditions in North America would be preserved and indeed amplified and extended.
This delegationist State would be the original and final source of authority, but not the sole authority; the liberties of the land, while their legitimate possession and enjoyment would certainly be held to originate with the State by whose exclusive authority they are delegated (and, in criminal justice, withdrawn from particular offenders), would nonetheless be impermeable to State intervention and meddling insofar as they assume the form of personal jurisdictions, and moreover held to comprise Natural relations. (Even under Liberalism, the Cathedral is presently generally unable to hector Leviathan into e.g. making treatment decisions for children against the wishes of their parents). Again, "liberty" would approximate fully-fledged Sovereignty, not just individual preference-maximizing as allowed by law. The police power of the State would thus have real limits (something utterly inconceivable under present juridico-political theory and practice); something very much like the "enumerated powers" of Constitutionalist fantasy would become a reality.
In the foregoing, I have been mostly silent about the biggest barrier to implementing these improvements to our traditions of liberty- namely, the cult of "equality". This subject merits a dedicated treatment of its own; here I can only pose a few rhetorical questions to Libertarians and other well-intentioned proponents whose sincerity I do not doubt. Do we have equality now? Does equality exist between a doyen of one of the world's great Universities and the shrieking undergraduate girl "activist" who hectors and curses him as though he were a servant, and in a way that would under the labour code comprise actionable harassment- if only that's what he actually was? Do equal rights accrue to the White male who has to feign gender dysphoria and show up for work in a dress as a legal fiction in order to gain the social status he needs to have access to employment that would otherwise be denied him as a matter of company policy, and even public law? When Antifa shows up- with a member of Parliament in tow, no less- to shut down a lawful rock concert, are the fans whose good time was ruined the equals of those who effectively decided the state of exception to the "rule of law" when they ruined it? Hierarchy and inequality are the fatality of the human race. What we have now isn't equality, but Nietzschean transvaluation; a Satanic travesty of the Natural and hierarchical order of things, in which the voice of Nature has the last word nonetheless in that hierarchy remains a constant. The choice, then, isn't between inequality and equality, but between good order and bad, health and sickness, function and dysfunction- and, when it comes to the Cathedral and its clientele of obnoxious sexual deviants, morally insane and baby-killing women, gun-grabbing social engineers, politicized street trash, and insubordinate students with a sense of entitlement that would embarrass a King: us and them.