Monarchy: The Cure for Democratic Ills

“[Democracy] soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” — John Adams

“Men think that what is just is equal; and that equality is the supremacy of the popular will; and that freedom means the doing what a man likes. In such democracies every one lives as he pleases, or in the words of Euripides, ‘according to his fancy.’ But this is all wrong…” — Aristotle (Politics, Book 5, Section 9)

We are in the Information Age, yet we live in a time of mass disorientation. Stress and depression are said to be at record levels. Archbishop Charles Chaput recently noted that at least a quarter of millennials are disaffected. Posts about various sociopolitical ideas float around the blogosphere, all promising answers. Whatever their defects, they all recognize the same truth: something is wrong.

We are sick and in need of serious medicine. Hollywood pushes all kinds of degeneracy. Many professors and scientists trade their integrity for spots at the table, sometimes fabricating “studies”. Mainstream media outlets reward lies and detraction while they mock perfectly benign, even complimentary comments (think “binders full of women” in 2012). Social media promises access to influence the influencers, but it’s instead used by not a small number to shoot out vulgarities. Elites have been discredited, but there is no recourse. In this absence of reason and fairness, divisions in society have only increased in number and grown deeper. Brother is pitted against brother. Parties have turned on leaders they once revered. The intellectual is so despised that the very idea of “philosopher kings” can be denounced multiple times in televised debates.

Democratic options have proven themselves incapable. Conservatism in the United States is just another form of liberalism, another form of permissiveness. Speaking merely of numbers and statistics, neglecting the human search for meaning, is unsustainable. Speaking only of our “rights”, neglecting our corresponding duties — following the libertine path — fails similarly. These are not worthy of conservation. Modern liberalism, as it wins more battles, moves further and further down the path of socialism and false egalitarianism. (There will always be a cause or group to champion.) Modern conservatism, meanwhile, because it only seeks to maintain the status quo, is simply one step behind. On this course, positions shift inexorably toward the Left. G. K. Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy that “all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post.”

We cannot simply put ourselves under the “Alt-Right” banner, either. Catholics reject racism and biological determinism — we venerate St. Maurice, patron saint of the Holy Roman Empire — as well as a distorted nationalism which belittles other cultures and perverts virtuous patriotism into a kind of secular salvation. Fascism is, at best, a placeholder; at worst, it is tyrannical.

Instead, the best answer to all of this is monarchy.

Last year, I pointed out that monarchy is inherently sympathetic to traditional values, but this is about more than that. I once saw someone say that France’s “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” has become “Dette (Debt), Gabegie (Chaos), Fiscalité (Taxation)”. Contrast that with the findings of economists Timothy Besley and Marta Reynal-Querol, who reported last year, after doing a survey of leaders between 1848 and 2004, that “economic growth is higher in polities with hereditary leaders but only when executive constraints are weak”.

People have been deceived into thinking that democracy gives them power and prosperity, but the system’s proponents brag of its predictability and stability. While a bad monarch can be got at, in a democracy, it can be difficult to properly affix blame, since an admission of guilt could also condemn the voters who made the sin possible. And under monarchy, you must only convince one; under democracy, you must convince millions. This scale is only very rarely reached without the help of the existing establishment, which will always prioritize its own interests and shut out threats. So, the elites are kept generally safe, never held to account by a man more powerful than them. Complete equality will never come — we are limited by biology, time, space, and Providence — but a monarch can push back against unbridled oligarchs.

Democracy replaces an objective person with a subjective system. Democracy requires not just pluralism but also indifferentism: truth is up for votes. In practice, the burden of proof is put on traditionalists, rather than the change agents. Errors that would never otherwise be introduced can be raised by even a small segment. Every principle can be discarded. (No doubt, there is some connection between democracy and both the “dictatorship of relativism” and increasing calls by laity for clerical powers.) Again, while this is popularly believed to empower average people, it pats them on their heads and divides them up into unwieldy factions. James Madison, in the tenth essay of The Federalist, said that he wanted to ensure that factions “consist[ed] of less than a majority”, so no anti-establishment principles would ever be implemented, but he apparently had the false impression that mere paper could bind the hearts of men and that the establishment would remain conservative.

Democracy necessarily allows those with ill motives into decision-making and enables them to a degree that monarchy does not — there is no realistic way to root them out. This makes good government unlikely. Even in 2000, in an election fundamentally about nostalgia and decency versus pop culture and license, decency only won by a ruling of the Supreme Court.

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange complained that “democracy is a bit in politics what quietism is in spirituality; it supposes man has arrived, at the age or the state of perfection, even though he still may be a child. In treating him as a perfect person, democracy does not give him what is required to become one.” He wrote, “Election will most often appoint the self-seeking, ambitious incapables who will become ministers where there should be a Colbert, a Vauban, or a Louvois.”

We have the diagnosis, but is monarchy still possible? Yes. Perhaps it will come about organically, with the people’s consent at the ballot box, with the continual lifting up of some great, distinctly American family. Perhaps America will collapse and become a colony of another power. Perhaps it will happen as Charles Coulombe has imagined in Star-Spangled Crown. However it may happen, I believe that it can.

This is not to say that people stuck in our present system should be disinterested, or that democrats cannot be persuaded, or that we cannot bring about desired results (especially on a local level), or that I don’t have preferred candidates. (I’ve worked on campaigns.) This is no excuse to retreat from the world; we should have patriotism for the land in which we are placed and the people who surround us, and friends don’t let friends settle for the likes of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

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Matthew Olson is a student in the Diocese of Little Rock.

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Posted in Current, Politics
One comment on “Monarchy: The Cure for Democratic Ills
  1. I really enjoyed your article minus one minor point. Both nationalism, from the Latin nātiō (birth, tribe) and patriotism, from the Greek patriṓtēs (fellow-countryman, lineage member) are inherently familial. Monarchism is nationalism in its best form. This has nothing to do with “racism” as everything familial is endued from love not scorn. The belittlement of other cultures is a distortion of virtue but does not negate the virtue. That said, great article, I’ll look forward to reading your next one!

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