Popular National Monarchy: An Ideal of Government for Post-Revolutionary England
|Above: Emperor Napoleon was a fine example of a post-revolutionary popular national monarch.|
The earliest article to remain continuously published on this blog is a little ditty called "Constitutional monarchy is the most democratic form of government", in which a younger Rievaulx, new to blogging, defends democratic constitutional monarchy (such as we have here in the United Kingdom) on the grounds of being democratically superior to republicanism.
Little would you know that this article, while beginning life in late 2017, was highly censored by yours truly in early 2018 to represent democratic values. Before then, democracy had never made much sense to me, and the article proudly advocated a kind of executive monarchism which by 2020 I have finally returned to. Except now it has a new name - Popular National Monarchy.
Democracy is plainly bunk. Even in a nation with a peerless meritocratic education system, the highly educated will always be a minority. Of these, those who have any interest in or understanding of politics will be a minority within a minority. Of these, those who have a particularly deep, nuanced, well-thought-out interest in and understanding of politics - in other words, the people we really ought to be listening to - will be a minority within a minority within a minority.
Of course, different people have different levels of influence. But, even in a nation with a meritocratic education system, the highly educated for the most part can be expected to wield equal political influence. A professional political theorist, and a clickbaity journalist with only a half-hearted interest in politics, have an equal chance of writing an influential article that could change the course of an election - in fact, my money's on the clickbaity journalist.
And who are the voters these writers are trying to influence? Most of them don't pick and choose their political opinions scientifically (even scientists do not think scientifically beyond the laboratory - it's a difficult thing to do), but based on a mix of hearsay and gut instinct. We politicos do not understand this, because we tend to talk politics only with fellow politicos. We cannot understand your average British elector, who might support both Brexit and the Lib Dems, or believe that anyone who disrespects the Queen should be shot. Politics is not a science, because it is impractical to construct controlled experiments in government. The democratic battle of ideas takes place when opposing factions of the intelligentsia whip their unintellectual footsoldiers against each other. There is nothing inherently fair or progressive about it.
Universally, there are two means of ensuring good government: managing our leaders' motivations, and replacing them when they grow corrupt. Democracy attempts to do both these things with a single mechanism - the election. Democratic leaders are incentivised to win elections (which can also replace them if they grow corrupt), which will surely make them good leaders, right?
Democracy: The God That Failed by the libertarian philosopher Hans-Hermann Hoppe pretty effectively demolishes this line of thinking. Democratic leaders, being merely temporary caretakers with no stake in the long-term survival of the State, are incentivised only to plan ahead for the next four or five years of their term of office, and to win the next election. Subsequently, they are directly incentivised to short-term thinking - to take everything that isn't nailed down while they still have the opportunity - after all, after two terms of office maximum it will only end up in the hands of their political rivals. If their actions have long-term negative consequences, the public won't feel it until then anyway, and the majority of voters can't be expected to have the knowledge or interest required to analyse cause and effect so deeply. Hence, they'll get off scot-free. There is no incentive against short-term decisionmaking.
Thus, exacerbated as long-term oriented and productive voters will always be outnumbered by short-term oriented and unproductive voters, democracy inevitably becomes a feeding frenzy, where politicians make political and financial bribes to demographics in return for their votes, with no regard for the long-term political and financial ramifications. Hoppe gives as evidence for this the ballooning growth of State expenditure and national debt in states which transition into democracies.
This is contrasted to the State expenditure and national debt of executive (i.e. non-ceremonial) monarchies - in the monarchical age expenditure progressively grew, but never superseded 4% of GDP.* This is because a monarch, unlike a president or prime minister, is the private owner of the State - generally there is little to no distinction between State expenditure and the Royal Purse. This allows monarchs to enrich themselves and build fancy palaces (which would be considered corruption for any other public official), yet in doing so invests in them an inextricable long-term concern for the interests of the State, both political and financial, just as a homeowner (unlike a caretaker) will have a long-term concern for his property.
This long-term concern is intensified as monarchs reign for life, and with hereditary succession will likewise be incentivised to think decades if not centuries after their death for the welfare and survival of their progeny. But that's not all, as Hoppe explains,
"In contrast to a king, a president will want to maximize not total government wealth, but current income (regardless and at the expense of capital values). A king will want to avoid exploiting his subjects so heavily... as to reduce his future earnings potential to such an extent that the present value of his estate actually falls."
Therefore long-term thinking will not only benefit a monarch into the future, but raise the present value of his estate. Thus, even a shortsighted monarch who cared not a jot for his future self or his heirs, would still be motivated to prudent decisionmaking. Such an incentive would not apply to a president, who is only a caretaker and thus would be forbidden from enriching himself in such a manner. A president's only motivation is to make things good now, no matter what the long-term cost.
Here are some examples of the practical effects of this monarchical long-term orientation. To raise the present value of his realm a king would desire long-term economic productivity; therefore he would foster this by avoiding high taxation, and deriving his revenues primarily from Crown Estates, tolls and tonlieux. Likewise, a king may be dissuaded from a policy - say, the annexation of a particular territory - that while providing short-term benefit would become burdensome or destabilising by the time his grandson ascended to the throne. Meanwhile, examples of the short-term orientation of democratic leaders are manifold. Take Tony Blair's Belfast Agreement for instance - a short-term political boon which established the terrible precedent of giving in to terrorism. Or the occupation of Iraq in the wake of the Iraq War - ended prematurely before nationbuilding could be completed to satisfy the public mood, which has left that country a ruin ever since.
It should not need to be said that here I am only speaking of logical motivations. A particularly principled democratic leader may hold a concern for the long-term interests of the State at the expense of his political career - but this is precisely why we do not see many principled democratic leaders. Democracy rewards pragmatic, sociopathic, smooth-talking careerists bereft of ideas and ideals - it is a kind of natural selection which roots out the good and even the intelligent. The hereditary principle, on the other hand, as G.K. Chesterton argued, has a rather demarchic quality - the king is chosen randomly by the accident of birth. Therefore, there is an equal chance of him being a good man or a bad.
It was this natural selection which gradually killed noblesse oblige as the West democratised. In the monarcho-aristocratic era, without democracy to (poorly) hold leaders to account, far more value was placed in their inherent moral duty or worth - the Arthurian ideal, if you will. Only a truly good king can do that which a democratic leader never would - what is right, but unpopular. A righteous monarch will make any democracy look like fool's gold - nothing but highly organised mob rule.
Therefore, any return to executive monarchy must be accompanied with a restoration of noblesse oblige, otherwise we will not so much be returning to monarchy, but tyranny. I have already described how the monarch's interests would be one and the same with those of the State ("L'état, c'est moi", as Louis XIV apocryphally put it) - but the interests of the State do not always align with the interests of the people. To bind the monarch's loyalty not only to State, but to Nation - that is the role of noblesse oblige, and the reason I have termed my preferred monarchical configuration Popular National (or Patriotic) Monarchy. Truly, such an ideal has been sought after, and often achieved, throughout history. Henry St John, 1st Viscount Bolingbroke, called it the Idea of a Patriot King.
Another benefit of the hereditary principle is that it allows the heir apparent to be raised from birth for his role. Just as a family of carpenters will pass on their ever-improved craft from one generation to the next, a dynasty will pass on the accumulated wisdom of governorship. The historical monarchs of Europe were provided with unparalleled educations - at age 12 the future Queen Elizabeth I translated the religious work Prayers and Meditations into Italian, Latin and French, and it wasn't even very likely that she would become queen. But most importantly of all, prospective monarchs would be inculcated in a sense of duty - even religious duty, which the British coronation to this day represents. There must have been a very real sense in the minds of mediaeval kings that unless they governed fairly and well, they would forever burn in Hell.
We must reclaim this somehow, and strengthen it. My vision for an English monarch is one of sacral kingship - of a figure with all the spiritual significance, obligation, and inherent benevolence of the Pope or Dalai Lama. There must be some deep spiritual sense in which "The King is England and England is the King" - in fact, this maxim should traditionally be declared at his coronation. He must be raised a patriot - to consider himself the father of his people - to yearn for nothing more than to leave behind the legacy of a great king, so that his name may forever after be praised in the annals of history.
I have sought to model my English nationalism on the Japanese nationalism of the 20th century, of Yukio Mishima and Ikki Kita. Japan is an example of a homogeneous, folkish island nation - an honourable, ancient, post-Imperial power much akin to England in many respects. The English people must be spiritually entwined with their green and pleasant land through a restoration of their folklore as an English Shinto, at the head of which a King of England must take a spiritual role like that of the Ameratsu-descended Japanese Emperor. This is my vision of a nation and their land perfectly, spiritually, organically in tune, like a great family or tribe.
To remain a truly national monarch, the King must be forbidden by law to inherit foreign thrones (otherwise England would be at risk of absorption into an Austria Hungary-like multinational empire). As is already well-established with the British Sovereign, he must also swear sacred oaths to his nation, and to uphold the liberties of the people. Despite what Whigs would have you believe, there is a difference between executive and absolute monarchy - and England has rarely suffered the latter. The English, until the reign of Boris Johnson at least, were always keenly jealous of their liberty - the attempts of the Scottish House of Stuart to import continental-style absolutism all ended in failure, until the Glorious Revolution enshrined English liberty for good. Even then, the worst continental despotisms were as nothing compared to the modern tyranny of the majority. An 18th century pre-Revolutionary rural Frenchman could have gone through his entire life only ever encountering the State on the face of coins. The modern Nanny State, however, is omnipresent. As Jonathan Sumption put it in his 2019 Reith Lecture series, "We have made a leviathan of the State, expanding and harnessing its power in order to reduce the risks that threaten our wellbeing. The seventeenth century [sic] may have abolished absolute monarchy but the twentieth century created absolute democracy in its place". Tyranny is actually far easier under a democracy, because it obscures power, and fools the people into believing they are governing themselves. Monarchy, on the other hand, formalises and centralises power into a single, obvious individual, ever eyed with suspicion by his subjects.
However, democracy does have a place, in restrained form, under Popular National Monarchy. Thus far I have generally been speaking of managing the King's motivations to ensure good government - but what if the King were an idiot? What if all these motivating factors failed to encourage him to good kingship, and he instead became slothful or tyrannous? Such things happen, now and again, throughout the course of monarchical history. I never claimed monarchy was an infallible system - there is no such thing.
Idiocy could be prevented for the most part by introducing eugenics to the line of succession. Dynasties tend to prefer arranged marriages in any case - why not ensure that princes take only high-IQ brides to wife? Such a eugenic system could also factor in other desirable leadership traits, like bravery, gregariousness, or cunning, so that as the generations pass royal stock would forever be improving. The aristocrats of the past loved to boast of their superior blood (by which they really just meant inbreeding). Only now that we have an improved understanding of genetics do we have the power to make such a thing a reality.
Moral wickedness is far less easy to control. Men are a fallen race - depravity and selfishness can take hold of any one of us at any moment, including the King. This is where that restrained democracy comes in. As I explained in a previous article, I think as a broad rule lawmaking, as opposed to leadership, should rightly be conciliatory and based on compromise. The multifarious needs and wants of all the different people of the realm are complex and contradictory, and even a good King could not be expected to know them all or be able to disentangle them on his own. This is why all nations, even tyrannical ones, have legislatures in addition to legislators. It has always been the English ideal for the monarch to reign alongside a strong Parliament - a kind of diarchy with the monarch representing long-term State interests on one hand, and Parliament representing urgent national interests on the other. This balance was perfectly achieved in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The Stuarts, as mentioned earlier, had greater trouble with it, which led to the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution, after which it was restored under William & Mary and Queen Anne, who reigned executively while relying on Parliament and being sworn to the English Bill of Rights. However, the balance shifted irreversibly to Parliament under George I as Robert Walpole became the first de facto prime minister, and thus began England's long descent into absolute democracy - finally completed by Walpole's successor Johnson in 2020.
In my ideal system, the House of Commons would be elected by single transferable vote - this has all the benefits of first past the post (directly elected accountable representatives) with none of its defects (the spoiler effect). The House of Lords would consist of experts to scrutinise legislation in their respective fields, as well as hereditary peers to bring both a demarchic quality and tradition to Parliament ("Monarchy and the hereditary peerage were both ways in which past and future acquired a voice in present politics", Sir Roger Scruton). The relationship between Crown and Parliament would roughly be like that of President and Congress in the United States. MPs would petition the King and introduce bills for him to sign into law. There must be some real weight and power behind Parliament - it cannot merely be a kangaroo legislature to be dismissed at a whim, but likewise neither should the King become a puppet to it. Ultimately this struggle has been at the heart of English history. Perhaps, as in the United States, only a codified constitution could keep the balance in place. I am confident, however, that after democracy is shown for the sham that it is, the future Parliament will be dissuaded from going down that path again. Indeed, pretentious and power-seeking MPs will be smeared as "democrats" and "prime ministers", as if these are dirty words.
Democracy may be inefficient for ensuring good leadership, but at the very least it is not so crude as not to be able to identify a tyrant when it sees one (at least, so long as that tyrant takes the title of king, instead of prime minister). Therefore, matters pertaining to liberty and the constitution should absolutely be safeguarded by Parliament (for example, the English Bill of Rights required Parliamentary consent for the Crown to maintain a peacetime standing army - this is why to this day the British Army is not called something like the Royal Army). Additionally, Parliament should have the power to establish a Regency by a two-thirds or three-quarters majority. The Regent should come from the ruling dynasty - preferably the heir apparent - to maintain the long-term orientation of the hereditary principle, and to avoid too much power leaking from the Royal Household. Alternatively, if such a vote of no confidence is too democratic for your tastes, a Supreme Court could be able to establish a Regency through a kind of impeachment process. This would bring up the issue of sovereignty, however. As Charles I was eager to point out at his own trial, the King, as Sovereign, is from whom the courts derive their authority. Nevertheless, there are always constitutional workarounds for such a thing - the King would be bound by the oaths of his coronation, and those oaths would stipulate that should they be broken, either Parliament or some kind of Supreme Court would have the power to establish Regency. Therefore, the King, like an indebted man, would be bound up by his own promises. I desire a constitutional monarchy, only one in which the King retains executive power.
So, to recap our two means of ensuring good government - democracy manages motivations & replaces corrupt leaders both through elections. Popular National Monarchy, on the other hand, manages motivations through private ownership of the realm, the hereditary principle and noblesse oblige, and replaces corrupt monarchs through Regencies. It's now up to you to decide which system you prefer.
You may think it a little pretentious that I have chosen to give my monarchical ideal a name, but I find it's more useful than simply identifying as a "monarchist" - which could refer to support for any of the radically different, oftentimes either too weak or too oppressive, thrones of history - from the constitutional quasi-republican monarchy of Poland-Lithuania to the despotism of ancient Egypt. You could also call me a "LARPer" - this is the recourse of the incorrigibly dull to make fun of unlikely political movements and ideas. No doubt this slur could have been applied to all of the great political thinkers in their time (not to compare myself with them, of course). Speaking what you perceive to be the truth is a valuable thing in itself, even if your words are never enacted upon - and in any case, my thoughts are not bound by fleeting time or space. It's doubtful whether the liberal democratic order will last another decade, let alone a century.
All my political writings are marked by a faith in an English national revolution that will undo 1968 and even 1066. At the moment, my hopes are pinned to eliciting a class war that will eliminate the eternally oikophobic middle class once and for all, and establish a new English national state quite different to the old. My desire is that Popular National Monarchy will be its government. In all likelihood I am a raving madman, but unless my dreams come true England will cease to be a nation, and become instead a concreted, multicultural economic zone. Lost forever. So you had better pray they do.
Possunt, quia posse videntur.
Addendum: Patchwork - Popular National Monarchy's Ugly Sister
Another strain of thought, likewise derived from the revelations of Democracy: The God That Failed, is the Patchwork system of government devised by the neoreactionary leader Mencius Moldbug (aka. Curtis Yarvin). This is effectively Hoppe's anarcho-capitalism, except, unlike anarcho-capitalism where sovereign states are replaced with pick-and-choose justice companies untied to any particular territory (an obvious impracticality), sovereign states in Patchwork would be replaced with sovereign corporations with designated territory, wherein citizens would be tenants. The first three chapters of Moldbug's Patchwork thesis are a tour de force, but I'm afraid it all comes crashing down in chapter four.
You see, Patchwork runs on the assumption that the sovcorps would be microstates to ensure maximum choice for the consumer (i.e. the citizen or tenant). Without this, emigration, the only system of accountability in a Patchwork world, would be far more difficult, and without alternative systems of accountability like democracy (or, say, a semi-accountable, balanced system like Popular National Monarchy) the sovcorps would become unaccountable and inefficient, and generally miserable to live under. Microstates are a common minarchist wet dream - Hoppe also lauds them in a chapter of Democracy. Yet it is difficult to imagine how a world of microstates would be permanently ensured, when sovereign states (and corporations for that matter) are incentivised to grow ever-larger and more powerful, if not for their own enrichment, then to compete with their neighbours which will likewise expand sooner or later. As I stress in an upcoming essay for Bournbrook - Empire is inevitable. We may call this the Iron Rule of Empire, as a parody of the neoreactionary Steel Rule of Passivism (which I'll get to presently). Hoppe doesn't have a solution to this - he merely urges secession. But what does Moldbug have to say about it?
Moldbug advocates "including a promise of independent ownership in the realm’s resident covenant" (that is, the agreement of tenancy made between the tenant and the sovcorp). Fair enough, though it's difficult to imagine a sovcorp that would agree to establish such a thing (just like Moldbug's other suggestion that sovcorp shares should be given away for free to charities to make up for the absence of State welfare programmes. Are all these sovcorps being established by philanthropists?). But even assuming that wealthier sovcorps couldn't expand by buying out their lesser neighbours, what is there to be done about war - forceful conquest?
Moldbug kind of shrugs this off with the usual hyper-deterministic, utopian logic of libertarianism, in saying that war is unprofitable, and therefore that only irrational (i.e. democratic) states will engage in it. This is plainly false on too many levels to bother describing. In a world of microstates there may be a degree of "mutually assured destruction" if one little microstate tries to invade another of equal size (which I think is what Moldbug is getting at), but what if a group of microstates gang up on their neighbour and agree to divide the spoils? It is feasible to imagine scenarios where the spoils of war are greater than the degree of mutual destruction - even in a world of robot armies and nuclear weapons - especially if several states gang up.
There may be things to learn from the neoreaction - though I dislike its aforementioned determinism, and deterministic belief that any considerations for the collective whatsoever will inevitably lead to socialism (and therefore that the opposite, uncompromising hypercapitalist individualism, is necessary). Moldbug's sarky "ooh look how reactionary I am!" tone is dull and frankly insufferable for those of us, myself included, who have never been anything but reactionary. Moldbug and his internet-dwelling peers seem like progressives in reactionary clothing - their ideology is at root deeply, blindly logical, and therefore ironically seems to have little place for the inherently irrational aspects of human existence, like throne, nation and altar. Where it does include them, it misunderstands them.
In any case, neoreaction is a relic. It was as close as the alt-right came to an intellectual forebear or vanguard, and that movement is dead and buried. If we want a right-wing counter-revolution, we need something more than the same old masochistic contrarian liberals. We need a real alternative, not a heresy of the Cathedral.
The Steel Rule of Passivism will never get them anywhere. Neoreactionaries deterministically believe the democratic order will naturally self-destruct, and that by opposing progressives we're only giving them energy. Instead they seek to meekly formulate an alternative and let people come to it when they're ready. This provides an ideological basis for their online "mental masturbation", and it's doomed to failure. As Moldbug himself admits, politics is not a science, because it is impractical to construct controlled experiments in government (as previously described in this article). Therefore, politics will not follow a linear scientific progression as the sciences do, which after the last sixty years must be all too evident. Democracy will not magically mutate into Patchwork, just because it is the better system. The battle of ideas takes place, in politics and other non-scientific realms, when opposing factions of the intelligentsia whip their unintellectual footsoldiers against each other. Neoreaction's folly is that it has no unintellectual footsoldiers, at least not since the collapse of the alt-right.
*A rough estimate on my part. I tried skimming over Hoppe's work to find this figure again, but alas, I couldn't. I'm sure it was something like 4 or 8%, however. If you have a copy of Democracy: The God That Failed, feel free to correct me.
P.s. I could go into plenty more detail about the exact specifics of my ideal realm. For example, I favour male-preference primogeniture. I think male leadership is generally desirable, but it may be beneficial to add the feminine touch to government once every few generations, à la Elizabeth I. Male-preference primogeniture seems like a good middle ground between absolute primogeniture and a succession which excludes women entirely. But whatever, I'm no sage. If my ideas are taken up by others, they can fill in the dots.