Is some half-remembered Kantianism behind the clever person’s pseudo-clever rejection of the idea of “the Deep State”? Some misunderstanding of phenomenon and nuomenon?

Most of the institutions that make up the Deep State are known entities, with acts of Congress behind them, or public corporation status, and personnel and budgets and logos and the whole shebang.

But the essence of the Deep State is that much of it is secret, and the institutions we identify as Deep State are filled with secrets. So of course we must be circumspect and not pretend to know what we cannot. But we must not also pretend to not know what we do. And we know that secret powers and connections have their own properties. So even if we cannot know specifics, we know many of the principles that make the Deep State deep.

We have enough phenomena, and can make reasonable inferences, to understand the latticework of secrecy as a “thing.” The ontology is not too outré. And the fact that we do not experience its internal essences quite the same way we understand Congress or the Supreme Court or the local school board does not allow us to declare the Deep State unknowable, pompously intoning Wittgenstein’s apothegm “that whereof we may not speak we must remain silent.” Better Spencer, who inferred an invisible force and dubbed it The Unknowable.

But the Deep State isn’t that unknowable, and we certainly may say of its existential status that. It. Exists.


Illustration, at top, of Gustave de Molinari, the economist who saw states instruments of war and terror.