In defense of Monarchy
Two hundred years after the accursed French Revolution, we see that the whole world has back-pedaled on governmental models. The absolute monarchies of old have all but vanished, and republics with universal suffrage took their place. Saying Western Civilization was founded on the Enlightenment is like saying someone was born when they got terminal cancer at 74. Enlightenment, upon which the French Revolution was based, promised equality for all and meant taking full responsibility for your life. However, how much freedom does the individual really have in modern democratic nation-states? Not much, one could easily argue. To the dismay of its proponents, and after two centuries of experiments, democracy has proven to be the antagonist of liberty, a rather expected outcome as rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else.
Disclaimer: in this essay, ‘democracy’ refers to the form of government where all the population rules, typically through elected representatives. ‘Democracy’ does not refer to the agglomeration of virtue and morals, despite what 21st-century democrats want everyone to believe.
For decades, negationism has been shaping our understanding of historical events and characters. Modern norms and perspectives have been projected back through time, altering our views of the past. In the contemporary democratic world, all notions of monarchy and autocracy are vilified, while powersharing is applauded. Monarchies are seen as cruel and unmeritocratic, and monarchs are more often than not portrayed as tyrants even with no relevant case to back that claim. It is therefore crucial to give the monarchs of old their due.
One of the sufferers of historical negationism was the local non-sovereign monarch Bashir Shihab II who ruled the Mount Lebanon Emirate between 1789 and 1840 shortly before the abrogation of the monarchy. Speaking of what came to happen following his rule, professor Philip K. Hitti (1886–1978) noted that things went downhill after Bashir II, the greatest of Lebanon’s indigenous rulers, invested in the mountain’s wellbeing, prosperity, and peace… The Ottomans made sure no “native” rule would emerge again. The official doctored up history teaches that Mir Bashir II was a tyrant and that his reign planted the seed for Maronite-Druze strife and the sectarian divisions that plagued the country ever since, when all the Emir did was to anger the Druze by trying to snuff their feudal authority, a standard practice for an enlightened monarch. Great rivalries, a dying Ottoman Empire, and France’s insistence that rule by native Lebanese be reinstated certainly added fuel to the fire, but without Emir Bashir, Lebanon had entered the cockpit of international politics. The Ottomans, adamant about not returning Lebanon to autonomous indigenous rule, purposely placed incompetent Kaimaqams at the helms precisely to prove to the French that native rule was bound to fail. And it failed. It may have not been all rosy all the time, but the able rule of Bashir Shihab and his Maanid predecessors made for a form of federal amity and unity.
The greatest victim of historical revisionism is perhaps the last emperor of Russia, the martyred Tsar Nicholas II. In contrast to Soviet propaganda portraying him as weak, indecisive, and bloody, Sergei Sergeiivich Oldenburg’s (1888–1940) 4-volume biography of the Tsar offers a completely opposite perspective. Oldenburg substantiates that the revolution interrupted the successful progressive economic development of Russia under Nicholas II: “in the twentieth year of the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, Russia had reached an unprecedented level of economic prosperity”. Instead of the feeble, irresolute nonentity obvious to most historians, Oldenburg found in Nicholas II a resolute and imaginative autocrat. The emperor’s weakness, he writes, existed only in the warped imagination and allegations of the hostile Russian intelligentsia. They distorted Nicholas’s unfailing generosity into weakness, and they twisted his gentle manner into indecision. The real emperor, according to Oldenburg, was a strong-willed independent-minded monarch who personally directed Russia’s foreign and domestic policies and who took counsel only with himself. He dominated his ministers far more than that supreme autocrat, his father Alexander III. Time and again his personal intervention resolved ministerial deadlocks on critical issues and moved government policy off dead center. The last Tsar, concludes the author, epitomized “the iron hand in the velvet glove.” Oldenburg’s fundamental historical research on the life and reign of Emperor Nicholas II, is sadly overlooked or simply ignored by Western historians.
Monarchies remained the most prevalent form of government for thousands of years, as they conform best to human nature and therefore constitute the most durable form of state. In every society, a few individuals acquire the status of an elite through talent. Due to superior achievements of wealth, wisdom, and bravery, these individuals come to possess natural authority, and their opinions and judgments enjoy wide-spread respect. Moreover, because of selective mating, marriage, and the laws of civil and genetic inheritance, positions of natural authority are likely to be passed on within a few noble families. It is to the heads of these families with long-established records of superior achievement, farsightedness, and exemplary personal conduct that men turn to with their conflicts and complaints against each other. Natural order would have each society organically develop into a monarchy if left to its own devices.
In the aftermath of the French Revolution and the establishment of the French client republics, a popular anti-Jacobin movement was organized, Sanfedismo. The counter-revolutionaries, in their famous ‘Canto dei Sanfedisti’, mock the ideals of the French Revolution: “ ‘Liberté, Egalité’. I rob you, you rob me.” It did not take two centuries for them to come to this realization, as it was evident that democracy was not a liberating tool.
It was evident, in fact, to most prominent Greek philosophers many centuries prior. Socrates insisted that democracy is inherently corrupt, as it gives in to the will of the people, which is inherently depraved. Plato stressed this idea, repeating it often: ‘Democracy leads directly to tyranny’. Aristotle categorizes democracy as a government that aims only to advantage the rulers.
Democracy and universal suffrage abolished the appropriation monopoly of monarchs and everyone’s property became a target to everyone else, a proposition most appealing to the covetous masses. In every society, people who covet another man’s property exist, but in most cases, people learn not to act on this desire or even feel ashamed for entertaining it. Under a monarchical rule, only one person — the king — can act on his desire for another man’s property, and it is this that makes him a potential threat. However, because only he can expropriate while everyone else is forbidden to do likewise, a king’s every action will be regarded with the utmost suspicion. Moreover, the selection of a king is by accident of his noble birth. His only characteristic qualification is his upbringing as a future king and preserver of the dynasty and its possessions. This does not assure that he will not be evil, of course. However, at the same time, it does not preclude that a king might actually be a harmless dilettante or even a decent person. In contrast, by freeing up entry into government, the Constitution permitted anyone to openly express his desire for other men’s property; indeed, owing to the constitutional guarantee of “freedom of speech”, everyone is protected in so doing. Everyone is permitted to act on this desire, provided he gains entry into government; hence, everyone becomes a potential threat. Envy was once considered to be one of the seven deadly sins before it became one of the most admired virtues under its new names ‘equality’ and ‘social justice’.
Today’s elected politicians are never scrutinized like monarchs historically were. Naturally, monarchs have always been subjected to harsher criticism due to an entrenched class consciousness that is solidified by the evident hierarchical structure of society. Society was clearly divided along the line of “them”, the ruling nobility, and “us”, the productive people. In the last century, this “us” versus “them” dichotomy was progressively abolished and replaced by the universal democratic “we” used to justify all governmental actions. Kings never collected a lot of taxes because people would rebel and burn down their houses and palaces. Politicians, on the other hand, via democracy and elections, give grounds for expropriation as the embodiment of the will of the people. It was historically rare for a king to charge more than 10% tax. Republics, on the other hand, can impose 50% taxes and people still ask for more.
The abolishment of class consciousness impacted another governmental activity as well: warfare. Democracy radically transforms the limited wars of kings into total wars. In blurring the distinction between the rulers and the ruled, democracy strengthened the identification of the public with the State. Once the State is owned by all, as democrats deceivingly propagate, then it is only fair that everyone should fight for their State and all economic resources of the country should be mobilized for the State in its wars. Private wars of feuding monarchs turned into wars of nations, and the abundance of citizens easily incited to fight made the individual lives of soldiers inhumanely dispensable in the eyes of their own governments. Knights and soldiers were a rare commodity, as they were hard and expensive to recruit, train, equip and replace. Subsequently, monarchical wars often were tactical wars that courteously avoided civilians. Modern warfare replaced the meticulous art of war with carpet bombings of civilians areas and mass destruction beyond belief. And since public officials in charge of a democratic state cannot and do not claim to personally “own” foreign territory (as a king can do), the motive for war instead becomes an ideological one — National glory, democracy, liberty, civilization, humanity.”
After World War 1, the great monarchies of Europe were purposefully overthrown by the allies. The Austro-Hungarian Empire fragmented, never to return to its former geopolitical prominence. The Prussian Monarchy abolished, replaced by the Weimar Republic that was held accountable for all that came to pass in the Great War. The Russian Tsardom turned to dust. With the deposition of the Habsburg-Lorraines, the Hohenzollerns, and the Romanovs, Europe was shortly due to identify one of the most important functions of a monarch: keeping tyrants at bay. With the abolition of the monarchies, the continent witnessed the rise of collectivist genocidal ideologies, with dictators at the helm. Germany fell under Adolf Hitler’s Nazi reign of terror, while Russia suffered under the cruelty of Communist Joseph Stalin. World War 2 would take the lives of nearly 80 million people, while communism would claim north of 100 million more throughout the 20th century. With monarchism out of the way, democracy showed how potent it is in creating genocidal collectivist ideologies capable of rallying people to their doom. All democratic governments still suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. Be it bloodthirsty warlords or thieving bureaucrats, It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible, or worse, the already corrupted. For centuries, monarchies have acted as a rather effective deterrent to wicked opportunists. Victor Hugo says “those who hate tyrants should love kings.”
A key dissimilarity between hereditary monarchies and democratic republics is the inherent difference in time preference of the rulers. Monarchies naturally eyed long-term planning, since power was out of competition, and monarchs who effectively owned the government were free to pursue actual development of the realm rather than squandering resources buying off voters with public funds or tax privileges. Democracies, on the other hand, operate based on an election cycle, and the worst of society are granted entry into government given they inflate their demagogic lies enough. Monarchical long-term planning prioritizes stability and favors progress, while democratic shortsightedness incentivizes division and troublemaking that allow politicians to leap in as “saviors of the nation” from problems they inflicted. Before the rise of modern nation-states, human society was organic and dynamic. Borders morphed continuously and people felt no animosity towards others across fictional borders. The monarchs despised each other perhaps, but not the commoners. Nowadays, citizens magnify their disagreements in the pursuit of political and social authority, painting the opponents as threats jeopardizing liberty and peace, and by doing so, dismantling the fabric that holds society together.
The time preference of the state not only impacts the social dimension of society but also its economic and monetary dimensions. The low time preference of the monarchical state will lower the time preference of the citizens, allow them to accumulate wealth and further develop their society. In contrast, the high time preference of the democratic state will end up consuming the previously accumulated wealth of society, leading to an economic recession and an impoverished population. Democracy would have it that politicians require the immediate gratification of the voters and the state as a monopoly enterprise, being as inefficient as it is, would be running on an ever-growing budget deficit funded by debt. Historically, monarchies were seen to decrease their debt in times of peace, and those who couldn’t usher reforms from within chose to debase the currency, which led to the collapse of the monarchy in a matter of decades. Debasing coins was looked down upon by the people as outright theft, and monarchs themselves were ashamed of having to resort to such monetary proceedings. It comes as no surprise that after centuries of monarchies failing to stray from a gold standard monetary system, it was democratic countries that eventually put the planet on the fiat standard of worthless unbacked banknotes. Debasing coins now takes the shape of inflating paper money by printing more of it to fund state expenditures. As mentioned previously, debasing coins was theft. Inflation, however, is a “strategy to stimulate the economy”; its only outcome ever had been the destruction of wealth and the waste of people’s life savings.
His Serene Highness Prince Hans-Adam II, the Reigning Monarch of Liechtenstein advocates for direct democracy and seeks to redefine it in a way fitting of this day and age. Prince Hans-Adam II is Europe’s wealthiest monarch despite reigning over one of the smallest micro-states in the world. However, Liechtenstein is the most industrialized country on earth, it has no debt, and it has the world’s highest GDP per capita. In his book, published in 2009, the Prince aimed to reconcile democracy with self-determination. Without the latter, the former remains defective. Democracy and self-determination must be closely linked and inseparable. If democracy is to serve the people, it cannot be high-handed and domineering. Either one believes that the state is a divine entity to be served by the people and whose borders are never to be questioned, or one believes in the principle of democracy and that the state is created by the people to serve the people. If one says “yes” to the principle of democracy, one cannot say “no” to the right of self-determination. The Prince proposes that secession be a constitutionalized right for all communities, and elaborates his vision of how the state should morph for it to survive and be a useful tool for future societies.
It is safe to say that the democratic experiment of the past two centuries has not come up to humanity’s expectations. With hindsight, it is crystal clear (to those open enough to consider) that popularity contests are not the appropriate way to manage communal and social concerns. The rule of one with barely any incentives for corruption was replaced by the rule of many with all the incentives in the world. It is not power that corrupts people; incentives corrupt people. The natural order, monarchies, must be re-instated bottom-up; and the world must be filled with thousands of micro-state sovereign citadels.
Jan Smuts states “if a nation does not want a monarchy, change the nation’s mind. If a nation does not need a monarchy, change the nation’s needs.”
We do need a monarchy, but is the nation willing to change its mind?