On Monarchy, Democracy and Time Preference
According to Wikipedia, “monarchy is a form of government in which sovereignty is actually or nominally embodied in one or several individual(s) reigning until death or abdication. They are called the monarchs.” This definition is quite accurate in a general sense. Except it should be noted that the rule of several individuals of noble birth is considered an Aristocracy, unless of course we are talking about the Imperial system which is the rule of a single Emperor over several distinct sovereign kingdoms.
Monarchy, like democracy is a form of governance, not a social order. This is easily mistaken among modern man. He believes we live in a democratic society when, in reality, we live under a democratic government. But, societies, although cultivated differently under particular systems, are not necessarily the same as government structure. Someone who displays a friendship with simple people or those below him is not democratic, he is a demophile; demos meaning people and phile meaning fondness toward a particular thing. Society is defined differently and such societies can be possible under either system. Societies range from things such as hunting and gathering, agrarian or feudal, to more industrial societies that we see cultivated later in history. An example of two different societies under a modern system of governance would be the Southern United States with an agrarian society as opposed to the industrial north. Although the government structure of the Union and Confederacy were different, they were nonetheless, under a form of a representative republican system.
The root wording of democracy and monarchy are quite telling in the differences they hold. Both words stem from Greek origin. As shown above demos means the people while kátos means not only power, but has a very brutal connotation to it, with the softer form of such a word being arché, which indicates a sense of leadership as opposed to powerful rule. Therefore, Monarchy, mono meaning single or one and arché meaning leader, refers to a single leader. “Hence, ‘monarchy’ is the fatherly rule of one man in the interests of the common good, whereas ‘monocracy’ is a one-man tyranny.” This is important to note considering that many times people claim that monarchy is no different then dictatorships. A military dictatorship would fall into the category of monocracy, not monarchy.
Government, regardless of its structure, will at some point use its power to exploit its people. As Hans-Hermann Hoppe puts it,
“A government is a territorial monopolist of compulsion-an agency which may engage in continual, institutionalized property rights violations and the exploitation- in the form of expropriation, taxation and regulation- of private property owners. However, not every form of government can be expected to be equally successful in this endeavor or to go about it in the same way.”- Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed
Today, the common objection to such a system as Monarchy is that having so much power vested in one individual would allow a gross exploitation of the human person and his property. This, however, is far from the case. We shall soon see how monarchial private government reduces such exploitation. The largest difference between a monarchial government and a democratic government is the aspect of private versus public. A monarchy being privately owned operates differently than that of a public owned government. Since such a government is privately owned, any resources taken from the people are added to the estate of the sovereign, as opposed to the public government to which anything added to this form is in the supervision of a “caretaker” and may be used by such a caretaker. But he does not own it, therefore he is unable to sell such possessions and keep the money as would a sovereign. Now from this assertion, one would assume that this is a good thing; that it is not owned by a single mans estate, but we shall see this is untrue.
“A private government owner will predictably try to maximize his total wealth. He will not want to increase his current income at the expense of a more than proportional drop in the present value of his assets, and because acts of current income acquisition invariably have repercussions on present asset values, private ownership in and of itself leads to economic calculation and thus promotes farsightedness. Accordingly, a private government owner will want to avoid exploiting his subjects so heavily, for instance, as to reduce his future earning potential to such an extent that the present value of his estate actually falls. Instead, in order to preserve or possibly even enhance the value of his personal property, will systematically restrain himself in his exploitation polices.” –Democracy: The God That Failed
If you couple this with the fact that the Monarchial line is hereditary then the wealth and assets of a current Monarch will be handed over to his next of kin, most likely a son. Therefore, it is logical to assume he will want to moderate his explotation of the people based on the fact that overexploitation leads to a lower level of production, which in turn leads to less value on the exploitation in the future. On the other hand, public owned government is much more likely to engage in heavy exploitation due to the fact that the person in power is only there for a short period of time, coupled with the realization that he can’t take ownership with him when he goes.
“In distinct contrast, the caretaker of a publicly owned government will try to maximize not total government wealth but current income. Indeed, even if the caretaker wishes to act differently, he cannot, for as public property government’s resources are unsalable, and without market prices economic calculation is impossible. Instead of maintaining or even enhancing the value of the government estate, as a private owner would tend to do, a government’s temporary caretaker will quickly use up as much of the government resources as possible, for what he does not consume now, he may never be able to consume. To a caretaker, unlike to a private owner, moderation has only disadvantages.” –Democracy: The God That Failed
So as we see the exploitation carried out by a public government is not only higher, but nearly sets the stage for such a system. Therefore, the age-old objection that Monarchial rule is oppressive is quite the opposite. Based on the time-preference of a private government and the structure of hereditary rule, a sovereign is less likely to exploit his peoples to an extreme degree.
Monarchial Warfare vs. Democratic Warfare
Another misconception about the modern system versus the monarchial system is that prior to the onset of democracy, the world was engulfed in much more violent and destructive warfare. However, this is far from the truth. Warfare under the democratic model created a type of warfare that not only bred nationalistic pride, but also mass mobilization of entire states. It led to higher levels of destruction and less differentiating between targets, along with larger and more public armies.
“On of the most immediate and degrading consequences of general military service in time of war was the ‘indoctrination’ of the draftees. They were in vast majority innocent and largely even unwilling. They were, therefore, taught to hate the enemy, degraded to the point of wickedness and stripped of all virtue. This had been different in previous ages when soldiers were men- gentlemen as well as ruffians- who loved to fight and offered their service to anybody who led and paid them well.”- Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Monarchy and War
Not only did modern warfare change the type and amount of soldiers in battle, it also increased the length required in service and forced countries that did not want to take this path to adopt it or else be grossly outnumbered. This led to the rise of what is called ‘militarism’ and what is descried as the “Armed Horde.” This militarism also created another modern phenomenon that went hand in hand with the horizontal conformity of modern forms of government. The rise of nationalism began. This laid the root foundation for such systems such as Nazi Germany and Communist Russia, which not only displayed nationalistic ideology but also this horizontal conformity.
“We see in the Germanic and Slavic areas the rise of collective gymnastic movements, cultivating a violent nationalistic spirit and manifesting itself in gigantic ‘synchronized’ performances. Horizontalism asserted itself visually.”- Monarchy and War
Eventually war became engulfed in ideological implications of clashing forces. The ideological pressure increased and peaked with the entry of America into the First World War. It became a war about making the world safe for democracy. Furthermore, warfare drastically changed in how it was fought.
“Upon entering the Age of the Armed Horde, wars inevitably took on new forms and another character. The idea was no longer to outmaneuver the enemy and merely to win battles, but- since this was a war between peoples and ideologies- to kill as many enemies as possible, whereby wars assumed an exterminatory character.” – Monarchy and War
“Since wars had evolved from clashes between crowned heads to conflicts between masses of people, entire nations collectively became enemies of other nations. Therefore, wars could at long last be waged against civilians. And, since technology had given us aviation, it had becomes possible to attack villages and cities in the hinterland of the enemy.”- Monarchy and War
So as we can see warfare become much more consuming and entailed a much larger portion of the nation then that of private armies and Kings in previous ages. The ability to target civilian populations became easier and the nationalist spirit and horizontal conformity bred hate and pride disproportionally. Finally, one of the worst features of modern war became the democratization of such wars, which led to the inability to cultivate a lasting peace because since such systems are governed by the people and full of conscripts, people want to see the fruits of their sacrifice and their idea of “peace”. What this means is, instead of a King making a truce with another King, the democratization of warfare left the decision largely in the hands of the people and since such governments are ruled by their vote the outcome of warfare is swayed by such opinions. Obviously the people of a particular nation want to see their nation be victorious. The hate propaganda and pride created by modern war propaganda led to a dehumanization and lack of mercy toward the other side. Examples of this can be seen in the sanctions and economic destruction brought upon Germany after WWI, which arguably led to the rise of Hitler, or the complete and total destruction of Iraq followed by years of nation building. Neither attempts bore fruitful outcomes.
In conclusion we have observed the philosophical groundwork for the legitimacy of Monarchial rule, laid down in theocentric thought and a more religious attitude of our ancestors, which gave rise to a defined authority and hierarchy that was viewed as above the common man. Secondly we see that Monarchy, within the context of economics, led to much less exploitation of its subjects due to the low-time preference and farsightedness that comes with a private, hereditary ruling class, as opposed to the ever-changing demagogue who exploits more heavily because it is in his interest to do so. Finally, we see that warfare under the modern state took a much more destructive and nationalistic character that mobilized entire nations against nations, engulfing every aspect of such nations.
It seems that Monarchy is heavily misunderstood and although it has its own set of problems (as does any system under fallen man), the modern narrative, that it is far more oppressive and evil system is a gross injustice. Understandably the victors write history; therefore, monarchy will get a bad historical account due to that fact. Truth be, proper monarchy was a much more stable system then that of the current world.