Discover more from Myth Pilot
How to Found a Great House
and Become a Prince
Let's suppose you are a very wealthy man
No longer content with merely business success, you have aspirations of being something of a statesman. You want to have a large impact on society and, as you are a long-term thinker, you want your particular values to outlive you far into the future. Let us furthermore assume that your opinions are heterodox compared to prevailing sentiments. You are, after all, a contrarian. You made your fortune by making large bets on ideas that were discounted or even unimaginable by the rest of the market. You know that if you want to propagate your different ideas you are going to have to find a completely unprecedented vehicle to express them.
In this essay we'll examine a new kind of institution that can help you achieve your goals. We present this in the form of a thought experiment.
You begin by thinking about the existing things or institutions that could a) embody your values and b) survive for a very long time. You consider the following and discard each:
A business: You have already founded and sold/IPO'd several of these. Businesses are good for making money, but not so good for transmitting world-views because they are subject to so much government oversight. You must hire from the general public according to the law, and must therefore admit general-public-type ideas. You have indirect or no influence in choosing leadership for your public companies after you are gone, especially not after you are dead.
A school: You could found a university, but in order for it to be accredited you will also be subject to government oversight. You also have very little way of ensuring the school remains true to your vision after you are dead.
A charitable foundation: You could leave all your money to a foundation dedicated to a cause you like, but once again you have very little way of ensuring the fund administrators don't subvert your wishes after your death. You also don't like the idea of putting your descendants in charge of just doling out money for the next few generations (you have an aversion to professional philanthropists).
A book: You could write a book about your ideas, but you have no way of guaranteeing that it will ever be, or continue to remain popular after your death. The odds of having a book in circulation for more than 100 years is vanishingly small.
A monument: Massive stone structures have longevity on the order of tens of thousands of years (now we're getting somewhere). You could build a great stone pyramid inscribed with your ideas in several different languages, or even a clock.1 Depending on how large and grand your monument was, people would come from all over the world to see it long into the future. However, you discard this idea. You realize that while this is actually a pretty good way to get your ideas read, there is no way to guarantee they would be interpreted the way you want them to.
Politics: You could pour your money into a political campaign, either for yourself or a favored candidate. If you win, you get to use the power of state to express your values in the world at broad scale, and you might even cultivate a following who would revere you after your death. But you discard this plan as well. While it has some very attractive benefits, you tend to avoid competition, and you know that politics is the most competitive domain on earth besides naked warfare.
You decide you need something else entirely
You need an institution that:
a) Will faithfully embody your ideals - freedom to set initial conditions and create new systems as you see fit, with no compromise
b) Will grow over time - institution augments and becomes stronger with age, preferably at a compounding rate
c) Indivestable - cannot be taken away from you, is hard for other actors (including governments) to interfere with
You decide on the following, which you call the Great House Plan:
1. You will choose 150 men with families who are aligned with your ideals and of the best quality you can possibly find
2. You will give them monthly cash payments for the rest of their lives, in the form of a gift, conditional on their loyalty, agreement to embody and propagate your ideals, and commitment to having six children
3. You will support these families and see to their growth, and the education and development of their children
4. These men will generally be working, studying, and pursuing their interests and the interests of the network out in the world, but will come work for you when called into service. They should expect to work for you about 33% of the time over the course of their careers. While they work for you they will receive salary in addition to their gift payments.
5. These men will also be loyal to the other men in your network, and will work to advance each other’s interests.
6. This offer will extend to each man's male offspring upon reaching majority.
7. This arrangement can be terminated at any time by either party.
In short, you are going to play the part of the Godfather
You are going to translate your money directly into social capital by jump-starting a high growth-rate network of families who regard you and your descendants as their benefactor. You will not need to invent a new technology to do this; you will only need to broaden your time horizon. While there is nothing like this in the modern world there is a historical precedent for this institution: Roman patronage. You are going to be a patron and your beneficiaries are going to be your clients. You are going to start small so you can set initial conditions exactly how you like, but the network will grow at a compounding rate. You will provide the capital to bring the network together and once it reaches self-sufficiency it will continue on without you. Beginning with just 150 couples, after a surprisingly short amount of time (30 years) you will have a community of over 1,000 people who are elite, aligned to your ideals, and personally loyal to you. Your money has provided the catalyst necessary for family growth, which is compounding network growth. It’s also a selection gate: only you get to choose who you give your money to, so you get to be as selective as you want. Lack of demand for your money will not be an issue. You can select from among your closest associates, choose exclusively from your church or favored geography, use an IQ test, or make any kind of criteria you want. No one can tell you how to give your money away for free, not even the government. Lastly, your money is the primary (not ultimate) glue that holds everything together. Your offer is for life, and is even open to descendants, but can also be terminated at any time, ensuring maximum possible long-term alignment and long-term leverage.
Let’s have a look at how this network grows over time, assuming lifetime fertility of 6 children per woman and cash payments of $5,000 a month to each head of household:
As we can see, after 30 years your population has more than quadrupled. Your first generation of children has matured to adulthood and you have a working / voting population of about 1,000 highly elite people who regard you as their benefactor. You can now begin placing them in your companies, your political campaigns, or your cultural projects and they will see to your interests.
Your children meanwhile are well into their careers as full-time developers of human capital, because you have plans to make this whole operation self-sufficient by year 60. Therefore your descendants will not be trust fund kids. You are going to give away 100% of your money. If this project is to outlive you, they are going to be the guardians, spiritual and material leaders, and benefactors of a new people.
By year 60, the first children from generation 3 have started to be born. Your Great House can sway elections in small towns. Your network is also now self-sufficient. By this point, assuming your people are at least as entrepreneurial as Stanford b-school grads (about 30% founder rate) your network has founded more than 260 ventures, 10% of which will have been successful if you apply common startup rules of thumb. It will be up to you to work out exactly how individuals who have “graduated” out of your network continue to contribute, but with ties of gratitude and loyalty you should be able to work something out that includes a combination of options on in-network businesses as well as donations. And your people will donate back. People have extraordinary loyalty to schools they paid for the privilege to attend. Imagine how loyal they would be to a school that paid them. Incidentally, this will be a full-time job for many your children; they will work to ensure your people are healthy, happy, educated, and fulfilled. They will settle disputes, represent their interests, provide services, be a social nexus, and lead large-scale projects.
By year 120 the whole thing is being administrated by your great-grand children. Your people number 50,000 and they could field about two US Army combat brigades of manpower if they needed to. If they keep founding ventures at their historic rate, they will have founded more than 200 successful companies. They now comprise an elite minority, of the kind that tends to rule majorities.
By year 200, your voting age population can easily sway elections in any city the current size of Chicago and below.
By year 300 your people are a national constituency numbering at 27 million. They are a large elite who would have a major say in setting the agenda in any country in the world. If you started in the United States, their interests have international implications. It is unlikely that they remain as tightly coordinated as they were when you first gathered them together, but they are bound by affection for each other as a distinct people, and regard you as the historic figure who brought them together. They revere your founding ideals like we revere America’s founding ideals today, and maybe even more-so, because you’ve explicitly designed your system to use the power of descendance, which is very effective for transmitting beliefs across long time periods. Early Americans were suspicious of hereditary institutions,2 but your descendants will have a role designated for them: they are to be your people’s shepherds. They are to provide spiritual leadership. They will live from securing voluntary donations that are invested back into furthering your people’s interests. If they become avaricious, ineffective, or inattentive, the people fire them by ceasing to donate. In this way your descendants will always have a role in propagating your ideals, with a favorable population to receive them so long as they are good.
Among your people will be many successes. Depending on what you prioritize in early years their paths even far into the future will reflect your tastes, whether for arts, or science, or letters. Some will have gone into politics, their careers launched by their base of support. Hundreds of others are business owners. They will cooperate to offer each other favorable access to labor, expertise, and goods, and they will have created trillions of dollars worth of value. Yes trillions. To put things in perspective, the population of NYC is about 8 million, with a GDP of 2 trillion dollars. Imagine a city like NYC that is three times the size, much younger, and entirely descended from hand-picked elite founding stock.
If you can keep your community on track, you will have achieved your goals. You started small and made a clean break with current paradigms using a novel institution; you got to select for alignment with your beliefs. You used human nature to your advantage3 to help you pass on your beliefs to subsequent generations. Every year your community grows; modeled as a network, their capability increases geometrically for each new member. Compared to others, it is an extraordinarily connected and valuable network. They are uncommonly generous with each other; a reflection of your example. They are of above-average intelligence and they will have even gotten the benefit of a 60 year period of subsidy to get them jump-started. Once they number above a few hundred thousand, as long as they hold to cooperation and high fertility, it is unlikely that they could ever be eradicated. Your monument to the future will never die.
In exchange you’ve spent a little more than $1 billion in today’s dollars over the course of 60 years.4 You have a resource in the form of a human network and their goodwill that can’t be taxed and can’t be taken away from you. If your children are involved and maintain your level of care and investment in your people’s well-being you will be able to name them as your successors and pass this enormous good to them, also tax-free. You and your descendants could have all your wealth confiscated, your companies nationalized, you could even be thrown in prison and you would still have your people’s loyalty.
In short, you would have made yourself and your descendants into beloved Princes, with the power to lead, using nothing but the last act of sovereignty which can never be taken away; which is to give. This great act of generosity will be responded to with great loyalty. Standing at the head of your people, coordinating their efforts, and representing their interests, your successors will compete on the national and international stage. You, and they, will be remembered forever.
Further Discussion of Specific Considerations:
Loyalty: It seems simplistic to suggest that direct cash payments can inspire loyalty. After all, salaries are cash payments, and with very large salaries, most people would leave for even larger salaries if given the chance. The difference here lies in the nature of the transaction: the cash payment comes in the form of a gift5 and so it has an entirely different character. Yes, there is the condition that your clients be pro-natal, and the option on their labor, but you are a successful man: you are selecting for people who presumably want to work for you anyways. The situation is akin to a parent paying their children to do something that’s good for them and that they do regularly anyways, like brushing their teeth, in which case the gift is really an unnecessary act of generosity that functions as a reinforcement. Furthermore, this arrangement is freely chosen; by taking the deal your clients agree to its specific terms: loyalty in exchange for long-term support, and people do tend to feel gratitude towards benefactors; clan relationships are built precisely on this dynamic. You will be able to select for agreement to these terms. Lastly, the arrangement lasts for life, even to subsequent generations, and loyalty compounds over time: the longer the history of the relationship the deeper the trust. Imagine multi-generational relationships between families, how deep the trust and loyalty could be. Indeed, these kinds of bonds were once the basis for all political order.
As your network matures, you will also put it to use to effect change in the world. As your people do hard things together and achieve victories they will also tend to grow in loyalty to you and to each other. They will also intermarry. In this way the artificial bonds which you induce in the early stages of the project will gradually be replaced by deeper and more organic ties.
Cost: We have assumed cash payments of $5,000 per month. I have done some twitter polling that suggested that people would accept $7,170 per month on average in exchange for their lifetime loyalty, but I tend to think this estimate was influenced too much by the poll choices, so I adjusted downwards. People also do not tend to know that taxes are not required on cash gifts. I think that if you are able to present an inspiring vision you could adjust this figure downward even further, but it should not be zero. The point of the exercise is to give your followers resources they can directly invest into having more children. An interesting exercise would be to execute the plan at smaller scale. Starting with 15 families and a modest $12k per year subsidy, a miniature Great House would number about 450 people after 60 years, at a total cost $27 million, an outlay achievable for even moderately wealthy families.
Legibility: This institution has historical precedent but is unknown in our day and age, which gives an enormous advantage. The Great House Plan is illegible to the government in many ways. While the systems of oversight developed by governments for large companies, schools and even political campaigns are highly developed there is no corresponding infrastructure that mandates to whom you are allowed to give your money. As long as you are careful to make your filings and avoid any illegal activity within your network (in this you must be scrupulous) you will be free to build your following as you see fit. Because you are growing your own population you don’t have to go out and get converts from the public square: you will not be out antagonizing anyone. Also, the novelty of the program presents an advantage to the first mover.
Men and Women and Babies: The strength of the plan relies on the continued growth of the group. Because human growth is exponential, even small differences in the birth rate account for large differences in population over long periods of time. For example, a fertility rate of 5 children per woman rather than 6 would result in a population of 12,000 at 100 years rather than 21,000, a difference of almost 100%. For this reason, the plan assumes a culture that is optimized for having large families. In this case, we would emphasize stable and early marriages, high degrees of cooperation between families, and division of labor between men and women according to historic roles. Most important of all would be to cultivate a sense of optimism about the future within the group, where couples feel themselves embedded in a larger community that has a sense of purpose and optimism about the future. The long-term plan presented here as well as the material help offered by the patron gives powerful tools for the cultivation of this optimism. It should be noted that because child-rearing is so expensive, the patron’s subsidy will be unlikely to compensate completely for the costs of having a large family. Rather, the subsidy is an expensive signal that the patron is concerned for the family’s well-being and will contribute to the family’s growth in other ways: jobs, introductions for marriages, admittance to the network, spiritual leadership and personal care, etc.. The patron’s long-term care is a strong inspiration for each family; it feels good to be personally cared for. A patron should make every effort to select the founding group for their pre-existing intrinsic natal motivation; this motivation should only have to be encouraged, not induced.
Polygamy: System maximizers will immediately ask why we do not assume polygamy. The reason for this is that polygamy does not scale after the first few generations. In a system where a minority of men pair with the majority of women, too many young men remain un-paired, which is a problem associated with instability unless they can be induced to leave. It is a poor use of human capital to raise young men only to push them out of the community. Besides, polygamy is just weird and if you practice it your community will be labeled a cult.
Because this form of institution is unprecedented there are many outstanding questions about how exactly it would function and how feasible it could be. In subsequent articles I will explore some of these questions, including underlying theoretical frameworks, historical comparisons, and how a Great House would fit into a larger network of institutions, and society at large. I invite readers to ask questions and make suggestions: this is a thought experiment designed to get people thinking about highly independent institutions that could be directly focused on cultivating humans, in a way that works with human nature. It is vital that we find these forms, because so many of our institutions are dedicated to human elimination. Elements of the plan could always be reconfigured. Ultimately I am inspired by the image of the Great House: an edifice of noble men and women, decorated with their arts, who are deeply capable of effecting their aims. This is a romantic and stirring vision worth working for. It will not be machines or corporations or democratic governments that cultivate the family and our associated human potential, but great families themselves, families like enormous oak trees who make shelter for a thousand seedlings in their shade. This is how a mighty forest grows. It is more possible today than ever in history to plant a seed and make a fresh start.
You can read later posts where I cover GHP in more detail and from different angles here:
A Japanese visitor in 1860 is taken aback when Americans are indifferent to George Washington’s descendants.
Does this seem expensive? Compare this amount to the money spent on artificial intelligence with nothing to show for it.
These payments would be treated and declared as cash gifts. Incidentally, in the US, the recipient does not pay taxes on cash gifts, and has no obligation to report them to IRS, up to a lifetime limit of $22 million. You as the gift-giver will fill out Form 709 to track this lifetime gift-giving. At $60k per year, you would not hit this limit for any of your clients within their lifetimes.