Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New Monarchism needs to strongly emphasize Virtue

Primarily as a reply to this bit by Michael of Moreright, I present some comments I find relevant for the neoreactionary movement (to be known as "New Monarchism" by the time the topic is more widely taken up, I'm betting).

My key point is contained in the title. I shall arrive at it after some prerequisite commentary, then finish with suggestions for practical and organizational work.

Readers should already be familiar with neoreaction. Those unfamiliar with the context will be baffled. See introductory material first, such as this fine work by Yvain/Scott. Alternatively, my Finnish readers can go to stuff on my Finnish blog.

1. New Monarchism can't be a simple Restoration

I agree with Michael of Moreright in that New Monarchism will necessarily include fresh new political structures. To me, it seems to not have been a fluke that the monarchies of old were swept aside; the systems in question had very serious shortcomings, probably in a historically unavoidable way strongly incentivizing people to overthrow them. Using modern knowledge and technology not available back then, we can however update on those shortcomings in novel ways to create an improved New Monarchism.

2. If a majority of the people want a revolution, you've already made a big mistake somewhere

I further agree that "liberalism/progressivism needs to be allowed to fail dramatically on its own", and also take this principle a step further: if ever in the future a majority of the people feel a strong urge to revolt against whatever system we've managed to set up, the correct play is to let them and leave without a bloody fight. Us being so nice, they might even invite us back after their revolution ends in a disaster.

It's supposed to be very unlikely that we'll end up facing a revolution, though. We'll be setting up our states after the current major democracies have degenerated into (1) plutocratic police states (the likely future for the USA), (2) fascist nation states and (3) leftist unstable hellholes. We'll be starting with a populace that is thoroughly disillusioned with democracy and to retain legitimacy in their eyes we just need to do a competent job running a country. Our people will be comparing us to the real observed outcomes of leftism, not the transitory illusions and historically speaking unusually naive narratives many believe in today.

In other words, a competent monarch never needs to get very repressive. We shouldn't even build the capability to get very repressive, since the most likely uses would be abuses. (But we would have normal police forces that e.g. stop power-hungry fringe ideologies from using violence in trying to gain support.)

In the unlikely event of some weird power-hungry ideology gathering more genuine support among the people than we have, we should recognize this as surprising major incompetence on our part and leave the state in question (we should have several, and they shouldn't all simultaneously want to try something ill-advised for a while). This is very feasible in today's world, that on the global scale is capitalist in a permanent way. There are always places that welcome you if you have money (and aren't really exceptionally unpopular the world over, as you won't be if your reaction is to leave when your people kindly ask you to).

I should probably later write more on how it is easier than many might today think, for a Monarchy to remain popular in a world where it has a proud history of delivering results that are better than can be observed in typical failed states of the coming post-democratic era -- a competent Monarchy quickly builds up gratitude and respect in such circumstances, especially if it has some of the key features that I discuss later in this article.

3. Hereditary Monarchy is not good enough, since bad apples are produced every now and then

It is known that Machiavelli, for instance, was strongly of the opinion that according to empiricism, succession by adoption was vastly superior to succession by birth. Thus he coined the term Five Good Emperors in 1503:
"From the study of this history we may also learn how a good government is to be established; for while all the emperors who succeeded to the throne by birth, except Titus, were bad, all were good who succeeded by adoption, as in the case of the five from Nerva to Marcus. But as soon as the empire fell once more to the heirs by birth, its ruin recommenced." (wikipedia)
While in later times Hereditary Monarchy may not always have sucked so terribly, I also hold that Adoptive Monarchy clearly is better. Particularly, I am unaware of any great advantages that succession by birth would have, and will therefore in this article swiftly proceed past this theoretical point of contention to presenting my particular favored implementation of non-hereditary Monarchy.

4. Actually, we need a slightly larger Aristocracy who elect the Monarch and essentially wield more power

I strongly do not believe in Absolute Monarchy. Creating such a single point of failure would just be taking unnecessary risks. And since I don't believe in democracy (as we know it, anyway) either, I am by logical necessity supporting the idea of some sort of privileged group of people who are vested with a lot of power.

I have drawn up designs for an Aristocratic Organization with a number of hierarchical layers, where each layer would pick it's new members from the layer beneath it (or possibly the highest layers would handle all promotions, or have veto rights). For example, we could have a Council of Dukes with 9 members, 18 Earls beneath them, and have these together with 54 Barons form an 81-member House of Lords where we might assign most of the power we wish to deny politicians of. (We'd still have politicians and a democratically elected Parliament with some powers, though -- no point avoiding this, just choose carefully what powers they can be trusted with.)

I am currently unsure whether the most powerful body (i.e. the one that could dismiss/demote the others in case of major systemic failure) should be the House of Lords, the Council of Dukes, or a Triumvirate of three Archdukes. Each would have some powers, and the Earls as well some responsibilities that differ from the others, but the Monarch wouldn't have sole power to go insane and wreak havoc, (s)he would just be primus inter pares as a member of the Triumvirate of Archdukes, and mostly differ from the other Archdukes with regard to his/her ceremonial duties.

5. An Aristocrat is someone who really, measurably is Better and More Virtuous

This is my key point, also alluded to in the title. We need to emphasize Virtue. It is hard to overemphasize, when in the business of picking a privileged caste or person. We don't want to see the usual scenario, which is that a privileged group of people tend to degenerate, form a plutocracy and then just spend their lives partying.

I have a few good ideas on how to cultivate Virtue in practice, and started to discuss them a bit in this previous comment, where I also present the minimal version of my "monarchy", i.e. the one that would actually be surprisingly close to current democracies but which I nevertheless believe might work. I am very unsure, though; we certainly might need to transfer a lot more power than discussed there.

(And from the idea that an Aristocrat is measurably More Virtuous it btw also follows, that the children of Aristocrats cannot automatically inherit high positions in the Aristocratic Organization, to which positions the Aristocracy elevates new members meritocratically as mentioned earlier. Heirs of High Aristocrats might however receive cool lower level titles that grant politically less relevant privileges, especially if the demands that are placed on the Virtuousness of High Aristocrats are such that they prevent them from amassing substantial personal wealth, in which case the system would have to ensure that they nevertheless receive sufficient guarantees as to the future well-being of their children -- otherwise it is doubtful that enough high-quality people would choose to become Aristocrats.)

6. And so the time came to bring back the chivalry of old, and from the youngsters of the day to train the Knights Scholar for New Monarchy

One who is to command must first master the humble virtues of service, and one who is to be an Aristocrat will first endeavour to be a Knight. The Knighthood will be the initial level in the Aristocratic Organization, and to gain entry, significant demonstrations of Virtue will need to be forthcoming.

The Knights Scholar for New Monarchy can be founded long before we have acquired a state, and indeed I believe we should be able to demonstrate an unusual ability to reliably distinguish Virtue from vice long before anyone offers us a state. And conversely, I believe it is actually possible for an organization to over a somewhat long period of time to demonstrate such a high level of competence and trustworthiness that eventually someone indeed pretty much offers them a state to run (candidates might be people like the recent Bhutanese absolute monarch who without being asked to do so by the people wanted to give up the business of ruling, shocking the people severely by his decision to transition to democracy -- too bad current western democracies hadn't yet failed spectacularly enough that he would have shared his people's reservations and thought to transition to something else instead).

Bhutan also isn't the only interesting current events example of a people expressing major doubts regarding a democracy that they currently have. In Thailand there are ongoing large-scale mostly peaceful protests demanding less democracy, since the Thai people find themselves in the unfortunate situation that a certain billionaire politician predictably wins every democratic election even after being convicted of corruption and banished, his method essentially being vote-buying in the rural areas. (Thailand is also interesting as an example of a country where the King is universally extremely respected -- drunken tourists are known to get into serious trouble when they unwittingly deface a picture of him or something, in this country that otherwise is extremely friendly to tourists. The King currently doesn't seem to want to be involved in politics, though.)

7. A Knight Scholar is trained in a School

Most competent Knights are trained for their role since an early age, for it is demanding, and many do not have what it takes. Elite Schools are needed, and we need to build them.

I'm thinking our Schools would operate at the high school level, i.e. prior to college/university. Students would come in at around 15 years of age. The program might take longer than a normal school, since we also need to teach things that aren't normally taught.

I'm thinking we'd have to do this in a rather expensive way. I'd want to attract top talent by awarding a surprisingly large monetary award to every student who doesn't totally disappoint (with the best getting more, of course). Many would come just for the money and general Elite-School-ness and not the opportunity to develop Virtue, and that would be fine. But some would come for the Virtue, and we would need to be able to help them develop their potential, and recruit them to join our Quest.

8. If you're gonna be a knight, you need to get up on a horse

Horses are pretty cool. No stronger elements of charisma exist. Also, interacting with them does have genuine uses, such as developing empathy and learning how to kindly and competently reign over a beast stronger than you but which however doesn't know what's good for it as well as you do.

Our young knightlings would be taught how to ride. This is a bit of an eccentric pet idea of mine, and it's wisdom can be disputed, since it would add to the costs significantly. But I do believe in this choice.

9. Patience is a virtue

We can found the Knights Scholar for New Monarchy as a cool not-so-secret Secret Society immediately (the point about Secret Societies is that the secretiveness makes people want to join them), and we can set up the Schools as soon as we have quested sufficiently competently that we have the piles of money with which to do so. After that, I predict we'll need a lot of patience. But I think we'll find many noble ventures to busy ourselves with until the day comes that we've distinguished ourselves enough that people want to trust the affairs of their states to folks like us, and everyone can live happily ever after.