This topic contains 12 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by Anonymous 2 years, 10 months ago.
January 13, 2018 at 4:39 pm #2751
Recently I had a very interesting discussion with our colleague Gaius Curtius Philo about the morality of monarchy as a system of government. With permission of my dear friend Curtius Philo I would like to share our thoughts. In our correspondence we tried to follow the formal style of the Socratic dialogues, although our conversation took place online and not in person. I still think it is interesting to read and worth to be published here.quote :January 14, 2018 at 5:44 pm #12463
I have followed this debate with great interest, and since I was asked to share my view on this, I gladly do so. Please excuse before, that my philosophical and political English is not as nuanced as I could explain myself in German, by far.
Now when I go to the question of the morality of Monarchy, I can not help but to go back to the question, what is good? And behind that lies the question, what even is human nature? For I think without having any clarity or at least direction in these questions, I feel unable to answer the first question, how morally right is Monarchy?
I myself have written several times that humans are beings full of contradictions. We desire to be free and individual AND at the same times we desire to belong to something greater, the group, a collective. We want many opposing things, so I do not think any society should be build on one single highest ideal, like either individualism or collectivism, but as a selection of values. As such, I can only see a society that succeeds being based on how human nature truly is, for if we violate human nature we put our society on the course of failure. Humans want at the same time be masters of their lives, they generally dislike being told what to do, but also do not want to look into every political affair all the time. That for me rules out any extreme model of society like anarchic libertarian or a strong dictatorship, because in the anarchy people would be overwhelmed making way too many decisions all the time by themselves, whereas in any authoritarian rule people would feel that too many decisions are forced upon them.
Hence I follow usually the Aristotelian school of balance between the extremes. The second thought is, that I still regard by and large the model of the Roman Republic as the ideal state, in the same way as Polybios wrote, it being a balance between Democracy, Aristocracy and Monarchy. Let me explain.
The greatest benefit of democracy is, besides the freedom of speech, that fact that it puts more responsibilities on the people. If all decisions are made only by a select few, the masses have no responsibilities whatsoever, and that seems not a goal for humanity I find worthy. Now sure, one can say, the masses are uneducated and brute, and this may be so. But like a child grows gradually with the duties given to them, so I am sure at least to a degree, the masses can learn, when responsibilities are given to them. Though I am convinced our system of political parties is most inferior in doing so, but that is more then the question how we organize the democratic element; but for these reasons, I would by all means have a democratic element in a society. Its absence would create a continually growing dissatisfaction of many people, esp. in our information age, where, unlike in past ages, most people can read and write and thus are part of a net of communication anyway. So their natural desire will be to have a voice.
Now of course we know the masses lacking time and usually education are often not so well in knowing what is the best, and for that we also need a class dedicated both intellectually and by a higher standard of ethics as “experts” in the broadest sense. Patricians, Nobles. I tend to lean at least a bit to the Platonic/Socratic idea of the Guardian Class or however you would name it, who are both highly educated and raised with a specific sense of ethicality. I would not want to given them THAT much power as Plato would, but I would surely add them to society as one of three elements, similarly to the Patricians of the Roman Republic.
Now I have a bit eluded the question, what place has monarchy? I judge the moral validity as Pragmatist mostly from the result, what sort of results would a monarchy cause? Now the aim of a society can, as I think similarly like Socrates, only be the Common Good. Like the doctor heals the people for them, or the Captain sails the ship where the passengers want to go, so it seems clear to me, that the aim of any government must be the good of the people, the Res Publica, not his own personal good. One can say, a Monarch, being free of any influence would be above the small bickering of factions, but the reality of Monarchy has hardly ever been like it. Of course the benefit of a good monarch is, that he can do much good without the hindrance of the bureaucracy and the various factions in a society. But how does he know what is good? How can we hope a monarch is so wise? Is it not more likely to expect that a group of people debating and critizising each other will find a way that is both morally good and for the benefit of the Res Publica, than a single being, who has no equal against whom he must prove his ideas? So I tend to favor the Roman concept of the two Consuls, who are almost like monarchs, but they are elected, for a brief time, without having the office too long and they are two, with the chance to balance each other out; whereas a single being, as the general passion of humans goes, might be too tempted by his power to fall into hubris. Soon he will find himself infallible and look at other people as mere tools and chess pieces of his whim, as, again, history has shown often enough.
So my view is, so far, that Monarchy seems immoral to me; not because of some a priori reasons, but because of the results; the design of a rule of a single person would always go bad due to human nature, having no checks and balances, such an individual without any equal and counterpart tends to develop the worst human characteristics.
I have always, I would like to add, seen Cicero as my role model, standing for the Roman Republic, even though at times he doubted it would work anymore under the current circumstances. I can understand the need for a leading figure and even more a leading caste, but not unchecked, only rooted in the Republican democracy of elections, debates and free speech. That seems to me a system that leads humanity upwards; even if at times it fails, I would still regard it so, that we must then try again better, than handing all power to a single individual. Above that I would be of the view, that the Human Rights are a basis I regard as some worthy standard for a society. However, I think it is prudent to add elements of Aristocracy and Monarchy to the Democratic element, because, as I have said, the masses are often uneducated and unruly, and often does not know well what is best for the common good. I would, as a rule, establish systems which encourage the good, rather than forbid what is bad, like creating Art and Entertainment that is not nihilistic or dragging people down, but Art and Entertainment that inspires, lifts people up and sets up positive examples. I see it as less relevant whether these systems are set up by democratic people, by a group of nobles or a single person.January 14, 2018 at 5:50 pm #12464
Just as a sidenote. I am just reading Plato’s "The State", where Socrates argues that Homer’s Iliad and Odysse were bad, insofar the immoral depiction of the Gods and the Heroes would undermine public morality, essentially saying, Art should elevate people not give them bad examples they might then immitate.
Now I am great proponent of "Freedom of Art", so I think there should be freedom to provide any art on the market. But I do think, that we have the problem Socrates mentions, that now the public art and culture indeed does undermine the public morality, so we need a sort of division of spheres. Public Art and Culture should be "guided", but there also should be a market for free art forms. So again, using this example to demonstrate my balanced approach to such questions, I am not fond of either extreme. It is kinda funny though that I read that from Socrates, which I critizised in the public arts for decades unknowing Socrates said so.January 14, 2018 at 6:17 pm #12465
C. Curtius C. Florio sal.
As always I am pleased to see you commenting amice and I will say my view on your positions.
On your first assertion: The idea that the old Roman Republic was in any ways democratic (as in power given to the People) is false. Voting turnout was very small and mostly a rubberstamp for passed laws. And even if you look at now a days, politics is not controlled in any way by the People. We do not get the People around to devise policies. What actually happens is a small group of people get a gigantic funding to do political campaigns and those that have the most funding "coincidently" tend to win elections. They then proceed to do token things in favor of what they defended or do them when it in truth benefits their financers instead of the People (the Migrant Crisis being a perfect example of a policy the people believe benefit them but that in truth only benefits the corporations). All in all, no society has convinced me that power can ever be distributed, thus Democracy is just another work for "Oligarchy/Plutocracy with Demagogue put into the mix". The education of the masses is irrelevant in that aspect. It isnt a case that they are not competent enough to rule, but that the very laws of nature do not permit it. Humans simply do not make complex decisions in large scale congregations. When it is attempted, the people just become a rubberstamp to the wealthy or not even that. What you speak about a Noble caste is an evolution to a Republic, definitely. But that would simply emphasis the Aristocratic element of it. It would provide a good delegitimizer (legitimacy = power to abuse) that would increase Freedom, but it would only work if this position was hereditary (if it was not hereditary, they can always demand obedience because "they were chosen to be there", thus, they would know better). But even such I personally think it still disperses responsibility in a way that they are too free of blame and responsibility.
Regarding your view on Monarchical power, I actually would direct you to the previous discussion, where I explain how Monarchs do not exist in a vaccuum. The common view of a Monarch being above factions, free of influence and Beurocracy is a fallacy. And that is a good thing. A Monarch should Not existin a vacuum. He is pressed by the natural forces that power generate. These newtonians pulls and pushes are essentially checks and balances on his power. I think the biggest problem here is you are assuming the Monarch would Actually have absolute power. As I proved previously, that is impossible. Only a God could ever be absolute.
The fact that Consules only last a year is actually highly detrimental. As I explained before in the discussion, it fosters short term thinking and makes it impossible to RATIONALLY expect the consul to not exploit the people as much as humanly possible. Monarchy provides more accountability. I highly urge you to reread the discussion amice because many of your points have already been addressed in it.
Your point on Monarchy not having checks and balances has also been addressed and we categorically illustrated how that is an illusion created by Republican thought. Monarchy is actually the only system with Natural Checks and Balances, while Republics have Artificial checks and balances that are by their very nature corrupt (because of the very human nature you speak of).
The idea that Republics naturally defend free speech and freedom have also been addressed and we have shown that this is far from the case. Republics actually have the largest possible power to remove legitimately such things.
The idea that you think all power would be concentrated on the Monarch is wrong, because that is not how power works. Power canot be handed to people. It is a naturally occurring phenomenon that is never unified in one point. Ever.
Again Amice, I think in your eagerness to speak of this most interesting subject you inadvertedly skimmed through some of the more vital aspects of the discussion. I implore you to reread it and address them directly so that we can better benefit from your insight.
PhiloJanuary 15, 2018 at 9:57 am #12469
One of the main advantages of a monarchy, that Philo mentioned and that I was unable to disprove, was the monarch would have a long-term view and had always to take responsibility for his actions.
A consul who has only a limited term is only interested in the effects that his decisions have within his term. A monarch on the other hand will rule for a lifetime and he will inherit his kingdom to his children. So he is forced to think in longer terms.
A consul whose power is checked by a second consul who can veto him can also always blame his colleague for everything that goes wrong. A monarch has nobody to blame.
We would have to find a mechanism for the republic that implements these two aspects, the long-term view and responsibility. Of course my friend Philo would answer that it is the very nature of human beings to think first in their own interest, and when their own concerns are limited by their term in office and their restricted power, then their concerns would also be limited to it.
For this reason we can observe that historically monarchies have proven far more stable and long-lasting compared to republics.
Valete!January 18, 2018 at 10:18 am #12478
It would be wrong to give everybody the impression that we have concluded that monarchy is the best possible form of government. What we have concluded is that monarchy cannot be considered to be inherently immoral, because it only formalizes a preexisting inequality for the common good of the nation.
Today we are living in a democracy, even if in a declining one. Therefore more inequality is forming. According to Plato’s cycle of governments (aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, tyranny) it will eventually turn into a tyranny, which is what he calls the rule of one. Apparently he was not a friend of monarchy for calling it so.
We have discussed certain advantages of monarchy over our current system, but I am not convinced yet that a democracy must be inherently immoral.
Given our current position in the cycle of governments and accepting its mechanism as a law of nature, we have only two options:
1. A smooth transition to the next stage, the monarchy
2. Trying to maintain democracy by improving it and fighting its illnesses
I still think that the republic has its merit and can be improved.
The main advantages of monarchy are its long-term view on politics, to have a responsible leader who can blame nobody else and to have honesty by formalizing and regulating the real existing inequality in society.
But perhaps we can have a republic that also has this advantages.
The main problem with governments is the human nature itself, which is inclined towards injustice. The solution is therefore getting rid of the human factor.
One new option that we have in the modern world would be the transfer of power to an artificial intelligence (A.I.), which would be just and not be limited by election terms. It would therefore have the same advantages as a monarchy and would at the same time guaranty that no citizen enjoys any privileges.
Such an A.I. was impossible in the past and possibly still is so in the present. So what other options would we have to get the human factor out of the system?
It would be an immutable law that leaves little power to the actual government. If the law does not permit any human institution to change it and is absolutely obeyed, we would have a perfect republic. For this reason the rule of law is the essence of every republic.
At the same time we need guardians of this law, which would again be humans and therefore offer a chance for corruption to enter the system. These guardians should therefore be decentralized and have no leadership other than obedience to the law itself. It would be a police force with no, or at least very few ranks and no head office.
Could such a republic based on an immutable law and protected by a decentralized force of guardians work in reality? And would it not be preferable to a monarchy, which often suffers from incompetent and weak rulers?
I am interested about your opinions.
Valete!January 18, 2018 at 1:32 pm #12480
The problem here is the illusion of divisibility of power. The idea that we can seperate power from their natural foci. We can’t. Power is not legislative, it is a naturally occuring phenomenon. The main problem of Republics is that it creates the illusion of power transfer. It makes it seem like power is shifting hands costantly, but what really happens is that the proxies of those in power shift.
Let us analyse your alternative. An immutable law. Who would write it? Whoever would write it wouls have the interest to skew it to their own needs. There is no reason why not to. Let us pretend though for a moment that they are all moral selfless individuals and they make a very just law (which is irrational to do). Who would protect said law? How would they be selected? Who would create the selection process? All of these points are points for corruption to spread. Who maintains them? Who pays for their expenses? Who protects Them? If no one, would they be then an Army? If so you are talking about Martial Law. We must understand that these are humans and it is in human nature to take advantage of things to as little loss as possible. What incentives would these guardians have to not "reinterprate" the law?
The main problem I see in the discussion of Republicanism is that it assumes power can be legislated, which is simply not the case. You can take power, surely (confiscate people’s property, kill them, etc), but that would require to have before hand More power than they do (an Army), and you would have to convince said power source of your use to them. In other words, every time you shift power you naturally create a new Elite, because an elite is needed to topple another Elite. Power does not decentralize. The current corruption of the Republic is not to be seen as a "centralization of power", as if it was decentralized before and because of corruption is centralizing. The current corruption of the Republic is the enboldment of the preexisting foci of power, who are daring more abuse than before because they believe they can get away with it.
PhiloJanuary 19, 2018 at 10:02 am #12483
Thank you for answering to my thought., although I had hoped that there were other supporters of the republican system besides me, considering that this forum is part of an organization that calls itself "Republic".
As always you have immediately identified the weaknesses of my argument. Nevertheless I will try to defend it.
The questions, who would enact the immutable law or who would appoint the guardians are details, not principle problems. So we do not need to discuss them at the beginning. In the worst case we could have them drawn by a lottery to keep the human factor and the potential for corruption out. But I do not think that this would be necessary.
Their arms and salary would be paid by taxes of course, just as it is done today. Since an immutable law is made for eternity, it cannot benefit temporary interests of mortal lawmakers. They would be dead, when the law would still have validity. It could even be enacted that the law only comes into effect after the last lawmaker has died. So the law would not effect any of them. Apart from this, the law has to obey the rules of logic of course.
So these are all details that can be solved. The only principle problem that you mentioned is the question: Can power be decentralized and transferred? Is it even possible that power in a state can be differently distributed by a law than it is by nature? This is indeed a very important observation, that I have not been aware of so far. Maybe we forget nature, when we start designing constitutions on a drawing board. Maybe no state can change the natural distribution of power, no matter how the constitution is.
This is a very pessimist outlook that would actually make any constitution unnecessary. So there would be no difference between a situation where a country is ruled by warlords or a properly constituted state.
Is this really the case?
Valete!January 19, 2018 at 2:35 pm #12484
Not at all, amice. The difference of Constitition is important because it defines the rules under which the foci agree to act. Without it, they are disordered and balkanized. A law can direct power, it just can’t alter its nature. That is, to me, the greater problem of most people’s view on constitutions. Their constitutions attempt to control the holders of power, instead of trying to predict instructions that would more likely guarentee that the things that benefit the holders of power also benefit the people. In other words, instead of focusing on a system that converts selfishness into useful things for society at large, people try to put none selfish people into power, as if they could actually control who has power (which they can’t).
So this view is not really pessimistic, it is practical. It does not predict that things will be bad no matter what, it just forces you to focus on what you actually Can control, instead of on what is beyond your power.January 20, 2018 at 9:05 am #12485
Yes, this seems reasonable. And it would be the Stoic approach. "Do not worry about things that are beyond your control!"
So no system of government is inherently morally wrong. It simply reflects the actual foci of power, and we have to deal with these facts.
Vale!January 20, 2018 at 12:18 pm #12486
Not exactly. It really depends on what you mean by forms of government. If you mean the difference between a Monarchy, a Republic and a Democracy, yes. I would agree with you. But if you mean the Constitution of a government in general, no. There can be immoral Constitutions because they are unefficient in providing benefit to the general population. For me, the main issue here is one of efficiency. Which is the most efficient of the forms od government?
When I look at Monarchies around the world I notice something interesting: they are all very different from one another. That intrigued me over time and I atarted to wonder why. Why is Saudi Arabia’s Monarchy so welfare oriented and so brutal, while Liechtenstein’s Monarchy is so Libertarian and freeimg. I also wondered why the Early Modern Monarchies were so different from present Monarchies and I came to one probable conclusion: Monarchies are highly modular. Monarchies consist of one person directing the foci of power. It is in this person’s best interest to work in a way that guarentees him the maximum amount of support possible. In Saudi Arabia, people are very barbaric and savage, also very religious and in favor of welfare (or else why would they be so fan of Europe?). Thus it is understandable that its Monarchy aims to reflect these values. If you look at the whole of the Middle East it is a barbarous place in general, but the Monarchies seen to be much more stable (they weathered admirably the Arab "Spring", for example, that sprung other middle eastern countries into chaos). In Thailand the military is VERY strong and the Monarch to maintain power tends to need to have the Military on their side. Thus it is common for the King to support coup d’etats in his very country (although he has stopped some). In Meiji Era Japan, the West was gobbling up colonies left and right, taking hold of every opportunity coming from the weakness of its neighbors. Japan’s policy then became Expansionism and modernization, which made sense since they wanted to survive. No matter how one might rue Japan’s belligerency at the time, one cannot say it was irrational or against its national interests. When one looks at Denmark (a country where the Monarch actually has theoretically semi-absolute power), you see that the Monarch hardly exercises said power and permits the country to work as a Democracy, because if they DID try to exercise their power it would bring forth a constitutional crisis that would dethrone them (Denmark being very much a Democratically minded country). It is interesting how modular the system is and how sensitive it is to the will of the People. Something I do not see personally in equal measure in Republics.January 21, 2018 at 10:26 am #12488
If we accept that the natural distribution of power is responsible for the politics of a country and not so much superficial titles and ceremonial transfers of power, then we have to accept that there is no immoral form of government. All of them have an underlying natural reason why they became how they are, which you have nicely described in the different forms of monarchies and how they evolved as they did, e.g. why Liechtenstein is different from Saudi Arabia.
Or as the French diplomat and philosopher Joseph de Maistre put it: "Toute nation a le gouvernement qu’elle mérite." (Every nation gets the government it deserves.)
In the cycle of governments (ἀνακύκλωσις = anakyklosis), made famous by Plato, but actually later better described by Polybius there are three basic forms of monarchy: aristocracy, democracy with each of them having a degenerate form called tyranny, oligarchy, ochlocracy.
Ruler……………………….Basic Form………………Degenerate Form
Ruled by one……………Monarchy………………..Tyranny
Ruled by an elite………Aristocracy………………Oligarchy
Ruled by the citizens…Democracy………………Ochlocracy
As we can see, even the monarchy is not perfect, it will inevitably develop into a tyranny and then be replaced by an aristocracy.
The reason is that every dynasty has strong and weak rulers. When a weak monarch is in power, he cannot avoid losing power to the nobles that surround him. At the end the nobles will have more power than he himself. We have seen this happening in Japan, in the Sacrum Romanum Imperium, and it is a general tendency in all monarchies.
It might be confusing that some monarchies in our history went straight from monarchy to democracy (French revolution), but this could only happen due to the effects of globalization. France was not isolated; it happened in the context of European politics. Formally the Roman Emperor in Vienna and the Pontifex Maximus in Rome were the actual monarchs, while the French king was simply a high-ranking noble under them. However the actual power of the Romanorum Imperator had that much declined during the Middle Ages and that of the pope during the Reformation, that the King of France could rule independently over his territory. And after the Congress of Vienna we see Europe being fully ruled by an aristocratic class with the monarchs having only ceremonial functions and were mere puppets of the nobility. This ended with the Great War (1914 – 1918), when aristocratic rule collapsed and was replaced with democracy. Currently we live in the stage of ochlocracy, the degenerate form of democracy. People have started to call for a strong man to fix the problems, and eventually a new monarchy will arise.
You would probably draw the distinction between a moral and an immoral government between the basic form and the degenerate form (between monarchy and tyranny, between aristocracy and oligarchy, between democracy and ochlocracy).
But are these degenerate forms of government (tyranny, oligarchy, and ochlocracy) really immoral, or do they not reflect that the underlying power distribution has shifted, so that the political system becomes unsustainable? Are they not necessary phases between the different forms of government and therefore not immoral but natural and necessary?
Vale!January 21, 2018 at 11:07 am #12489
I believe we have inadvertently stumbled upon a very interesting conclusion here! Quite interesting lol Yes, looking at it that way one cannot really say there is an immoral form of government. For even the degeneracy is a natural step for creating a better government.
But could we then talk about immoral Peoples? Peoples as in Nations. In the sense that the Nations that form said government can be seen as Immoral.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.