Home / John Médaille / Why I Am a Monarchist

 

The announcement that one is a monarchist is greeted with the same regard as the announcement that one has joined the Flat-Earth Society, or espouses geo-centrism, or has expressed a belief in a world only 6,000 years old, where God planted fossils in the ground just for fun. Politically, monarchism has a prestige just a tiny bit better than fascism, but not nearly as respectable as being, say, Amish. Therefore, it behooves me to cut directly to the chase, and state very clearly why I am a monarchist: “I am a monarchist because I am a democrat.” That is, I believe that the will of the people, their traditions and customs, their concern for their families, their communities, and for the future should determine the shape of any political order. And monarchy is the highest form of this democracy.

Now, the first response to that is likely to be, “That is what our democracy does, and what a tyranny doesn’t do; democracy enthrones the will of the people, while monarchy enthrones the will of the tyrant.” But it is clear to me, especially in this late date of our democracy, that it enthrones the will of determined and well-financed minorities, that it dissolves the customs and traditions of the people, and that it has no concern for the future. And a king may indeed be a tyrant, but such is the exception rather than the rule. Tyranny is a degeneration of proper monarchy and generally happens only in degenerate times, and even then, the king has to be speaking for some other and greater force, such as a strong army or a commercial oligarchy. A king, no less than a president, must consider the forces and interests in his kingdom. But a king is free to judge the justice of the arguments; a president is free only to count the votes. And while the president might attempt to engage in persuasion, in the end he himself can only be persuaded by power, that is, by whoever controls the votes, which is very likely to be the ones who control the money. A king may also be persuaded by power and money, but he is always free to be persuaded by justice. And even when a king is a tyrant, he is an identifiable tyrant; much worse is when a people live in tyranny they may not name, a system where the forms of democracy serve as cover for the reality of tyranny. And that, I believe, is our situation today.

This thesis requires some extended explication, and I will explore it in three parts. First, a critique of electoral democracy as it actually exists; Second, an explication of a monarchist polity, and; finally, an examination of American institutions which could evolve, in times of trouble, into more monarchical (and therefore more democratic) forms.

The Dogma of Democracy

Modern democracy has come to mean, in preference to all other possible forms, electoral democracy, where the officers of the state are chosen in periodic plebiscites determined by secret ballot. This is not the only possible form, but it has long since been the dominant form, so that it has become, in common usage, the only meaning of democracy. And in the last 100 years we have fought numerous wars to make the world “safe” for this form; it is as if we believed that the right level of shock and awe would turn the citizens of Baghdad into good Republicans and Democrats, or convert Afghanistan into a suburb of Seattle. Since this democracy is something we are willing to both kill and die for, it assumes the status of a religion, albeit a secular one. Like all religions, electoral democracy has its central sacrament, its central liturgy, and its central dogma; its sacrament is the secret ballot, its liturgy is the election campaign, and its dogma is that the election will represent the will of the people.

But is this dogma true in any sense? Is the “will of the people” really captured by 51% of the voters? Clearly, not everyone votes, so the will of the voters may not be at all be the will of the people. One might respond that it is the will of the people who cared enough to vote. However, that ignores the fact that there are people (like myself) who care enough not to vote; people who find no party acceptable, or worse, find that both parties are really the same party with cosmetic differences for the entertainment and manipulation of the public. I suspect that if there were a real choice on the ballot, such as a box marked “none of the above,” turnout would be higher, and this last choice the consistent winner. But in any case, it is not true that the will of a bare majority of the voters can easily be equated with the “will of the people.” Even if one equates 51% of the voters with 51% of the people, we can ask if that is actually a sufficient margin for any really important decision, one that commits everyone to endorse serious and abiding actions. For example, should 51% be allowed to drag the rest into war? Or into the continuing war against children that is abortion? Certainly, there are issues that can rightly be decided by bare majorities, but the important issues cannot fall in that category.

There is yet another problem with the dogma of representation, because there are clearly two groups which elections cannot canvass: the dead, and the yet unborn, the past and the future. In an electoral democracy, the interests of the living predominate. Now, as to the first group, some say that we should not be bound by the dead past, and that our first freedom is freedom from our parents. There is, of course, a grain of truth in this; death is there for a reason. Nevertheless, life is bigger than the present moment, and no generation, no matter how scientific, can grasp the totality of life, can completely discern the correct way of living in the world. The world as it is at any given moment is the result of decisions and actions that make up its past. The traditions we receive are the sum total of the distilled wisdom of the past about how to live in the world and with each other. It is, of course, an incomplete knowledge, and our task is to add to it, and to pass it on. Tradition therefore comes from the past but is oriented to the future. But democracies tend to erode traditions by pandering to current desires. G. K. Chesterton has labeled tradition “The democracy of the dead,” and a real democracy will accommodate this voting block.

In abandoning the past, democracy also abandons the future. We pile the children with debts they cannot pay, wars they cannot win, obligations they cannot meet; we allow the infrastructure to deteriorate and so weaken even their ability to earn a living. We vote ourselves large pensions at an early age, confident that we can live on the taxes paid by the children, even as we restrict the number of children we have, placing an even bigger burden on the ones that remain.

But in abandoning both the past and the future, democracy abandons even the ability to represent the present, because without the guidance of the past and the concern for the future, even the present moment loses its reality. The present moment is always ephemeral, because as soon as one grasps it, it is already history. Without tradition and an orientation to the future, the present moment becomes a kind of cultural Alzheimer’s, with no memory and no direction.

The Liturgy of Democracy

And if the dogma is wrong, the liturgy—the election campaign—is troubling. In truth, elections are markets with very high entry costs. To run for a party’s presidential nomination, a candidate might need $50 million in his pocket just to be credible. This will not come near his or her total expenses; it is just the down payment. It doesn’t buy the election, it just buys credibility, and without such credibility (i.e., money) one will not be covered by the press. The total expenses will be a multiple of that down payment. Indeed, in the 2008 elections, campaign costs were a staggering $5.3 billion, and that was just for the national races. There are very limited sources for that kind of money, and the political process must, perforce, be dominated by those sources. The corporations and organizations that fund elections do so as an investment, one on which they expect a superior rate of return. And they get it, in the form of subsidies, favorable laws and regulations, access to high officials, and tax breaks. It may be the best investment most big businesses make. But it leads directly to oligarchy, the opposite of democracy, a Republic of the PACs rather than a polity of the people.

And why is so much money needed? Because the political arts in a democracy are not the arts of deliberation and persuasion, which are relatively inexpensive, but are the arts of manipulation and propaganda, which are extremely costly. The appeal is almost never to the intelligence, but to raw passion and emotion. This is because the path to power in a democracy, the surest way to ensure the loyalty of one’s followers, is to exaggerate small differences into great “issues.” Candidates must find a way to distinguish themselves from each other, even (or especially) if they are in fundamental agreement. And the more irrational an issue is, the better it is for the purposes of manipulation. Real issues can be the subject of real arguments, and voters might be persuaded by such arguments, which would erode the fanatical devotion that politicians require. Thus, it is better to debate the issue of whether Obama is a Muslim rather than whether he grasps mechanics of a financial crisis; the former is the subject of a passionate and fact-free debate, but the later requires knowledge and intelligence.

The true path to power in a democracy is the creation of the demonic “other.” Those of a different party are portrayed not as people who in all sincerity start with different assumptions and reach different conclusions, but as deliberate and demonic destroyers of the social and political order. Reason is replaced by fear, and if the “other side” is always feared, then one’s own performance doesn’t really matter; no matter how inept one party proves itself, it can always make the appeal that the other party is demonic. To be sure, there are assumptions and opinions which do tear down society, but there are few, if any, who hold their opinions for the purpose of destroying the social order; rather they have a different, if often erroneous, vision of that order.

This demonizing tendency is most clearly seen when democracy is imposed on nations that have diverse ethnic, cultural, and religious elements. While there is always a certain tension in such societies, nevertheless, under the rule of kings, empires, or even dictatorships, they find a way of living together in relative peace. But with the coming of electoral democracy, each group and tribe demonizes the other, and the result is civil war, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. Indeed, ethnic cleansing has become the highest act of democratic order. I cannot recall a single exception to this rule. Well, perhaps Czechoslovakia, where the divorce was at least peaceful. We have truly made the world safe for democracy; unfortunately, we have made democracy unsafe for the world.

The Sacrament of Democracy

With minor exceptions, democracy takes place in the “sacred” space of the voting booth, which resembles nothing so much as the Catholic confessional. And indeed, this is the place where the voter, alone and isolated, confesses his true religion. It is, perhaps, the highest expression of the individualist philosophy of modern man. But surely it is not the only form of democracy. There are deliberative forms: the caucus, the town meeting, the group assembly. The major difference is that voting in these systems is public, and a space is allowed for deliberation and public persuasion. It is true that any group can be as irrational, or more so, than isolated individuals. Nevertheless, in a group there is always the possibility that persons of reason and temperance, trained in the arts of rhetoric, will be able to persuade their fellow citizens to a reasonable course of action, and overcome the natural tendency of democracy to passion and irrationality.

Is Democracy Democratic?

When we look at our political order, we may truly ask if this is what we really wanted, if the true will of the people is expressed in our institutions. Oddly enough, both Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, express grave doubts that this is so. Indeed, this may be the only point of agreement between the two sides; they both conclude that something has gone terribly wrong.

Let me suggest that the answer lies in modern absolutism. A thing is known by its proper limits, and a thing without limits becomes its own opposite. Thus democracy, sacralized and absolutized, becomes its own opposite, a thinly disguised oligarchy of power which uses all the arts of propaganda to convince the public that their votes matter. There is precedent for this. The Western Roman Empire maintained the Republican form and offices. Consul, quaestor, aedile, and tribune remained and there were hotly contested and highly expensive campaigns for these offices. The army still marched under the banner not of the emperor, but of the SPQR, “The Senate and People of Rome.” But of course it was all a sham; real power lay with the emperor and with the army and the merchant/landowning classes whose interests he largely represented, while buying off the plebs with the world’s largest welfare state. But at least the Romans could see their emperor, could know his name, could love him or hate him. We are not permitted to see our real rulers, and never permitted to name them. The democratic sham covers the oligarchic reality.

All that being said, one may still ask, “Would things have been better had we stayed with King George? After all, it doesn’t seem to have helped the British, who resemble nothing so much as the Americans.” This statement, while sure to offend my English friends, nevertheless contains a kernel of truth, and a question that must be answered. For in truth the notion of monarchy had, by that time, undergone its own period of absolutism to become its own opposite as well, and the German kings of England were there by the sufferance of oligarchic powers. To get a true idea of kingship, we will have to go back a bit, not merely to the middle ages, but even as far back as Aristotle. And that will be the subject of my next installment.

Reprinted from The Remnant Newspaper. The first of a three-part series.

 

About the author: John Médaille

 

John Médaille is an adjunct instructor of Theology at the University of Dallas, and a businessman in Irving, Texas. He has authored the book The Vocation of Business, edited Economic Liberty: A Profound Romanian Renaissance and just completed Toward a Truly Free Market: A Distributist Perspective on the Role of Government, Taxes, Health Care, Deficits, and More.

 

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15 Comments

  1. Mr Médaille.

    I´m going to recommend you a book although maybe I´m afraid you have already known or red it.

    Its title is “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning” by Rene Girard

    http://www.amazon.com/See-Satan-Fall-Like-Lightning/dp/1570753199/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1290080991&sr=1-3

    The book explains the human desire as mimetic and I would say that this has its implications in economy and specially in politics, although the book is centered in antropology (and theology).

    Maybe Even Pierre Lacour has written its implications in economy

    http://www.amazon.com/Mimetic-Desire-Theory-Value-Hedonic/dp/3639166418

    I say “maybe” because I haven´t red it (too much expensive for a spaniard in Santiago de Compostela) but I think that the consumerism capitalist is rooted in that and I invite you to explore these things and help us to integrate these re-newed trues that other great catholics as Rene Girard are trying to make the effort to remind us.

    Sorry for my terrible english.

  2. As regards your first sentence:

    My answer to one of the points:

    http://enfrancaissurantimodernism.blogspot.com/2010/11/mirabilis-cosmos-mirabilius-cosmou.html

    As for rebuttal about God planting fossils just for fun, English speakers have no excuse ignoring Creationists dispute not that fossils were once alive, but rather that it was all that long ago, as some guys “evolution experts” and so pretend.

    Finally: a monarchist is not likely to be flat earth society, if you notice the traditional regalia.

  3. Mr Médaille,

    A very good article. However, allow me to make one critique.

    Democracy does not require a 51% majority, or even 50% +1 vote. In fact, as it is practiced in most of the United States, only a plurality is require in most plebiscites.

    For example, Lisa Murkowski was just elected to the U.S. Senate with 40% of the vote. This is a far more common result that we like to beleive–Bill Clinton, for example, never received as much as 50% of the popular vote for President. This, more than anything else, is why the system tends to discourage 3rd parties.

    This, of course, takes nothing from your argument. Our system does, in fact, reward well funded and organized minorities within the polity for just this reason.

    Neil

  4. Insightful structure.

  5. We (the USA) were never intended to be a democracy, but rather a republic. The founding fathers distrusted democracy and established us as a republic to protect us from “democracy”.

  6. Mr. Médaille,

    Well put, I’d be interested in your thoughts, if you’ve read any of his work, on Hans-Hermann Hoppe, specifically his essay on Monarchy vs. Democracy (the exact name escapes me; I read it in “The Costs of War”), and his “Democracy: The God that Failed”.

    I doubt Hoppe would agree with Thomas Fleming’s characterization of him in a Chronicles book review as a “sentimental German monarchist”, although that is how his writings I refer to come across.

    They do help in discrediting democracy as we know it. The essay to which I refer was eye-opening for me in realizing that there are good arguments for monarchy over democracy, and they’re not just economic / libertarian arguments. (By no means am I endorsing his libertarianism.)

  7. Thanks Mr. Médaille for this valiant&brilliant article. It´s sad how many people nowadays don´t even see the diference between “form of election” and “form of goverment”, like if the first one legitimates any second one. I´m so much looking forward for your new installment in the matter, perhaps the Reformation had a lot of influence in the corruption of Monarchy by oligarchy, at least in the english case.

    T_Paz, thanks for the links about the books, as spaniard too I allways felt very close to french catholic authors, but never went further than Maritain and Mounier.

    Sorry for my english as well ;)

  8. This reminds me of a criticism Solzhenitsyn made of the West. He said that we take pride in our democratic system, yet it is the few men running the media that really drive the whole system, accountable to no one. Effective electoral democracy depends entirely on strong local power and weak federal power. Subsidiarity and a democratic government can work; federalization and egalitarian ideology never will.

  9. Yes, there is a “ruling class” (see the article on the “american ruling class” that ran on the American spectator website) and that ruling class prefers to think of themselves as the elite, the meritocracy, or rule by the highest expression of evolution.

    This is why the elitists cling to Darwinism so bitterly; it gives them a quasi-religious basis for their undemocratic and unethical ways.

    But as to your admission that you don’t vote I have to point out that besides our economic concerns there are more pressing Catholic issues at hand;
    Abortion, Marriage, end-of-life-care, and even gun control are all Catholic issues worth voting on. (Pope JP II taught against gun control)

    As to the idea of replacing our current system with a Monarchy it is attractive in theory, but the main problem is picking the “First King”

    The next problem is in this ultra corrupting age not many men can stand the acid drip of celebrity and power worship by our debased citizens.

    So while Poland’s First King was a peasant who chosen for King, that wouldn’t work here and now so well.

    As to the method that other Kings became King that was a slow process that ocured as Rome became more and more corrupt and people turned to local solutions and protection.

    So I’m with you in spirit; but I have some specific objections.

  10. Alfonso, you can buy “I See Satan Fall Like Lightning” translated into spanish in Anagrama editorial. The title in spanish is “Veo a Satán caer como el relámpago”.

    As you know Anagrama is a “left” editorial but Rene´s thought is being so important with his theory of mimetic desire that even the frech (and atheist) intelectuals have to consider him.

    Anyway he´s frech but all his carear as professor has been developed in EEUU.

    Mimetic desire implies people don´t desire by themselves. So everybody is pursuing the desire of someone else although they don´t know it. And that ends in retaliation between the two sides (and all kind of sins against the other)

    This is so important that God in the ten commandments ends with one that prohibits to desire the objetc of desire of someone else because if not you will end killing or stealing or lying or ..etc (the other ten commandments) for pursuing someone´s desire.

    Well the important thing is that what happens between two persons happens the same thing in society. You have to read the book because the mimetic desire explains how in the past previous Jesus, in all civilizations people worship a pantheon of gods instead of one and the necessity of Reveletion. Moreover it explain too how the Evil had chained the mankind using the mimetic desire.

    Although Jesus saves humanity because mainly he is charging with our sins, He as well comes to destroy the cycle of mimetic violence proposing a new model of desire.

    Well, these things has implications in economy mainly in the aspects of consumerism namely the violence that the marketing departments make againts us and the idea of competition (retaliation instead of cooperation between companies looking for the same target)

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  12. A rather nitpicking point, Carl: correctly defined, “federal” is quite compatible with subsidiarity. A federal state is one in which there are several layers of government for different needs. The confusion apparently began when a US political party whose philosophy/ideology was clearly that of “nationalist” or “centralist” found that people didn’t respond favorably to either of those terms. They therefore styled themselves the Federalist Party, and it unfortunately caught on.

    The original US Constitution was fairly federal or subsidiarist. The Senate, as you may recall, was composed of men selected by the state legislatures, not the popular vote. This gave the states a genuine voice in the congressional system. So too with the President, voted in by an Electoral College selected by, again, the state legislatures. How it came to be accepted that that meant several different bodies by each legislature, the different bodies distinguished by political party, i really don’t know.

    Viking

  13. That is right; it is called “Federalism.”

    One does have to be careful though because some folks get so caught up in Federalism that they would oppose the Supreme Court outlawing abortion because “abortion should be addressed by the states.”

    We have to live within the current system even as we strive for the ideal; this is a real conflict because if we get to comfortable we are just co-opted by one of the two parties.

    So really our only chance here is to “market” our ideas well enough to co-opt the two parties by steering the public opinion.

    The NRA has done this and the pro-life movement has started to do this. They each used different approaches, but you notice that the opinion landscape looks much different now than it did 15 years ago and the laws and lifestyles are beginning to reflect that.

    We can’t use concentrated wedge votes like the NRA did; so we probably need to start a targeted ad campaign at some point. Ads are cheap right now.

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