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Friday, March 10, 2017

Monarchy and the Search for Utopia

Monarchy and the Search for Utopia
 In modern times, we have been taught to think of politics in totally unrealistic, utopian terms. We have also been taught to think of economics in utopian terms. As such, the socialist will tell you that if everyone embraced, or was forced to embrace, socialism, everything would be perfect. The capitalist will tell you that if the government stayed completely out of economics, everything would be perfect. The democrat will tell you that if every country would embrace democracy there would be no more wars and no more strife in the world, that if all people could choose their government freely the world would be a better place and everyone would be more free in spite of all evidence to the contrary. The Fascist will tell you how Fascism would make for an ideal world under totalitarian states and the Anarchist will tell you how having no government at all would actually create an ideal world in which everything would work out for the best. And, if you tell people you are a monarchist, you will certainly be asked how monarchy would make for an ideal world if every country were to be ruled by a monarchy.



This is something which has caused me some degree of annoyance over the years. It is not, obviously, because monarchy cannot compete in such an arena. The monarchies of the world tend to dominate in most areas that one can judge the success or failure of a country. Monarchies tend to be more prosperous, tend to have happier people, tend to have greater economic freedom and, the odd Swaziland or Saudi Arabia not withstanding, monarchies tend to allow more freedom to their people than republics do considering that there are many more republics and thus many more examples like Cuba, North Korea or Iran than there are absolute monarchies like Brunei. However, in all fairness, such comparisons do not always tell the whole story. Absolute monarchies like Brunei or Saudi Arabia are certainly more prosperous than dictatorial republics like North Korea but we know that is because they sit atop oceans of oil, it has nothing to do with how much or how little personal or poiltical freedom the people have.

Do monarchies do better than republics? On average, the statistics say that, yes, they do. However, this takes things for granted which I think should not be. The fact that we even ask such a question shows how we have been trained to think. Oddballs such as myself might ask why it is expected that the government should be providing me with a better life at all. Why is my success and happiness not my own responsibility alone to provide rather than for the government to provide for me? If people live in a monarchy and are not successful, why is this blamed on their monarch and not their own life choices? A few will venture the opinion that when it comes to what sort of a society one lives in, the prevailing culture matters much more than the form of government as to how that society functions (though culture will certainly influence what type of government one has and how it functions). Whether you are talking about modern day immigrants or the colonial settlers of centuries past, people tend to take their cultures with them and wherever and whatever system they live under, their communities tend to be like the ones in the land they originated in.

Because of this, the expectations one has for government should be tempered by reality. Too many people associate monarchy purely with the romantic rather than the realistic. This should not be so. Monarchy has endured for thousands of years specifically because it grew up naturally and is suited to human nature. What I find totally unrealistic is the idea that 51% of the mob is the proper basis for legitimate authority. I find it more romantic than realistic that an unemployed, alcoholic, wife beating welfare bum should have just as much say in how his country is governed as an educated, informed member of society who contributes to the economy and owns property, giving him a vested interest in the success or failure of the country. The very idea of equality is far more of a romantic, idealistic notion than the very realistic acceptance of the fact that no two groups nor two individuals are equal or can ever be made so.

An Anglophile professor of mine, many years ago, said that communism did not work because it was fundamentally opposed to human nature. As he said, for proof of this, simply go to any daycare center and watch the babies. The first two words they learn are, “NO” and, “MINE” which rather proves the point. Likewise, I would say the same about equality. I have often been asked if an aristocracy is necessary, beneficial or detrimental to a monarchy. My response is that an aristocracy is inevitable, regardless of whether it is beneficial or not. There will always be an elite, the only question is what sort of elite you will have. One need look no farther than the world around us for evidence that this is a fact of human nature. Even in Soviet Russia, members of the politburo and Communist Party leaders lived much more privileged lives than their proletarian comrades. They did not wait in line for hours for a little bread, they did not live in tiny communal apartments, they drove big cars and had vacation homes on the Crimean Peninsula. The United States forbid a titled, hereditary aristocracy since independence and yet none would deny that there is certainly an elite in America.

If mankind cannot provide sufficient evidence to convince of this inherent inequality, look to the animal kingdom. It does not matter if one observes cows, goats, dogs, cats, lions or gorillas, there is always a hierarchy that works itself out. A German scientist studied this a great deal in chickens in the 1920’s and introduced into the popular lexicon the term “pecking order”. It is also worth pointing out that groups of animals become less violent towards each other once this pecking order is established. The point is that human beings are not equal and it is the natural state of the human condition to have a society that is hierarchical. At the most basic level, this means that the strong rule over the weak, however, human beings adapted, over a great deal of time, to this natural element of the human condition and channeled that natural drive toward something that would be more beneficial and humane. This is what was once called noblesse oblige. So, in the old days, membership in the aristocracy was given to those who had performed some great service for the country, such as to victorious generals or admirals. Today, membership in the elite is gained by fame and fortune or political manipulation. The elite is always present, it is only who makes up the elite that has changed over time.

Monarchy is not ideological and works in greater harmony with human nature than any other system. Monarchs, generally, have a natural drive to do their best for their countries because they do not wish their children to inherit a failed state. There are, of course, examples of monarchs who have not been so inclined just as there are some parents who abuse their children. Thankfully, however, these are few because, in order to propagate the species, parents are naturally inclined to take care of their children and want the best for them. The libertarian monarchist Hans Hermann Hoppe has illustrated this point quite well by comparing monarchs to someone who owns a house and republican politicians to someone who rents a house for a limited period of time. The homeowner wishes to maintain the house and add to its value so that his children will inherit a valuable property whereas the one who rents the house for a given time is naturally inclined to squeeze what profit he can from the house before he is evicted and another renter takes his place. Thus it is the reality of human nature that make traditional monarchs better stewards of their countries than elected politicians.

It was only really with the French Revolution and the onset of mass politics that competing ideologies came to replace natural systems which were most in line with human nature. Before this, all traditional institutions had sought to work with human nature, to direct it in a more beneficial way since they never imagined it could be fundamentally changed. The Church, for example, would take the basic desire people have for something sacred and directed that toward God. They did not try to change human nature but merely to limit its excesses. So, you can have sex but you can’t be Wilt Chamberlain, you can drink but you can’t be Foster Brooks. All things in moderation. It was also only when mass politics brought competing ideologies into government, with every government basically being locked in constant political warfare, that countries were faced with the two choices of stagnation or apocalyptic collapse. Even in totalitarian systems this was a problem since they were bound to an ideology and if that ideology crumbles, so does the entire country.

Traditional monarchies did not have this problem. In a traditional monarchy, new ideas could be tried, adapted to fit changing circumstances or discarded if they failed to produce results. Imperial China, for example, contains numerous examples of both free markets and state control of the economy. During the Ming Dynasty, state controls were steadily withdrawn but at the height of the Qing Dynasty, state interference in the economy increased. We have seen the reverse happen in the decades of Communist rule, however, because China is now a Communist dictatorship, there is only so far they can bend before they are flatly contradicting their own foundational ideology (and some would say they have already gone beyond that point and are living on borrowed time as a nominally communist regime). However, when you have warring political parties in every government, everything is a struggle. There are too many examples to list but everyone knows them. A party that favors one thing will then oppose that very same thing when the opposing party proposes it. A party will stridently oppose even what has been proven to be a good idea if it goes against their ideology. It is, I think, one reason why people in democratic countries are today so frustrated and dissatisfied with their governments which they themselves have chosen.

It also matters that, in the age of political ideologies, everyone has been promised a utopia if only everyone can be made to submit to their preferred ideology. However, because of mixed government, power-sharing, checks and balances and so on, the system also makes it extremely hard to show cause and effect. In other words, in a monarchy, which is to say a traditional monarchy in which the monarch rules, one person is ultimately responsible and is accountable for the decisions of the state. In a democratic republic or modern ceremonial monarchy, so many people are involved, elected politicians, appointed officials, hired bureaucrats and so on, that responsibility is dispersed to the point that no one can be held to blame if things go wrong. So, in the United States for example, regardless of who is President or even who is in control of Congress, if things go wrong the party in power can always blame the opposition party for thwarting them and causing the problem and their ideological adherents will likely agree.

Systems which work against human nature are bound to fail and unrealistic expectations only cause turmoil. The cause of traditional authority, generally embodied by monarchies, each grew up naturally in a way unique to their respective societies and cultures, are a product of human nature and not an effort to radically alter it. It can be seen in the way little girls dream of being princesses to the way that even republics inevitably take on the trappings of royalty. Monarchy thus offers a form of government aligned with human nature. It does not offer a utopia. This is something all people need to understand and accept. No system, no formula, no ideology can ever deliver perfection and those who expect it will only be disappointed and search in vain for the unobtainable. Even for traditional monarchies, a look at France or Russia or a number of others can teach us the same lesson. Even with the most upstanding monarch, the most saintly leader who genuinely wants what is best for his people, tragedy can still prevail if others fail in their own moral duty. It is not enough that a monarch leads in the right direction, his people still must be willing to follow him. No system will ever be able to take away the necessity of every individual doing what is right. There is no form of government so perfect that it will compensate for those who willingly act to thwart it and shirk their duty. That is a fact of life and of human nature that we all must accept. After all, utopia is “no place”.