The Benefits of a Militia System

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I am not a friend of democracy.  Indeed, I believe that democracy is one of the intrinsically worst forms of government that has ever been conceived by man.  Democracy is the enemy of genuine human liberty, of the rights of freemen to live and conduct their affairs without the interference of those who envy them and seek to destroy them to please the shiftless masses of humanity who refuse to follow the pursuit of arete, of excellence, seeking to better themselves for the good of their community.  Democracy always eventually results in the dragging down of the natural aristocrats and their replacement with demagogues and rent-seekers.

In place of democracy, I advocate for aristocratic republicanism, in which the power in society – what we call “the franchise” (which may or may not include actual voting) – is held by a relatively small group of aristocrats.  Citizenship would be extended to members of the nation (ethnos), and those not in the aristocracy would still be able to enjoy traditional rights and liberties that would involve reciprocal responsibilities between the two classes.  The aristocrats would have the responsibility to the plebeian class of guiding the ship of state aright, of not involving the nation is disastrous foreign policy or invoking financial insolvency upon the state, and to refrain from interfering in the lives of the plebeians beyond what is necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of the national life.  The plebeians, in their turn, would have the responsibility to assist in defending the state both from external enemies and from internal sedition and revolution.

What I’ve outlined above describes (in rough terms, with acknowledged local variances through their evolutionary histories) such historic republican states as pre-Marian Rome, the Dutch Republic, and the Venetian (after her early flirtation with  democracy) and other Italian republics, among others.  One institution which existed in all of these states, and which helped to secure their independence from their enemies for centuries in each case, was that of the citizen militia.

The citizen militia is an extension of the venerable principle of civic republicanism, which is a traditional political form espoused by Aristotle, Cicero, and Plutarch, as well as many political thinkers in the 16th-18th centuries.  Civic republicanism generally exists as an effort to balance the goals of individual freedom with civic participation and the promotion of the common good.  As such, it seeks to avoid the two extremes of social atomism and despotism.  Civic republicanism draws a distinction between the res publica (public things) and the res privata (private things).  The res publica is understood to refer not simply to “the people” as a mass (as in a democracy), but rather to the people as an organised and organic community, founded upon a well-defined rule of law which aims to secure the rights appropriate to each member so as to maintain social stability for the common good.  Cicero observed of a republic,

What, indeed, is a state, if it is not an association of citizens united by law?

In writing this, Cicero was clearly affirming the organic nature of a genuine republic.  It is an association of citizens.  It is a community.  It is a comprehensive order for society in which each individual member pursues his purpose and function in society for the good of the organic whole.  It may have distinct social classes, but each of these plays a role in maintaining the community as a whole.  Each knows its place and its role.  It is not an artificially-imposed, top-down instrument of coercion designed to maintain the position of an “aristocracy” that consciously views itself to be separate from and unconnected with the citizenry, as we see in modern America and Europe.

Because in a civic republic society is organised around the principle of the common good, it therefore follows that each member of society contributes his share to the defence and protection of that body.  This is the role of the citizen militia.  Where a robust citizen militia exists, there is no need for a professional, mercenary army.  Indeed, this was one of the causes of the downfall of the Roman Republic – the professional army of Marius’ reforms enabled Rome to send her armies farther away and for longer periods of time, accelerating the rate at which the Empire grew and civic identification declined.

It is likewise unsurprising that in American history, the militia system – which was so important in colonial times and found much use during the war for independence – was gradually replaced with a standing army (which most of the Founders abhorred) as the nation became more democratised.  After the Civil War, from which the final triumph of democracy over the old republican system came, the militia system was essentially dead.  No one would dare to challenge the sovereignty of the victorious Union army and the democracy which it supported in Washington, DC.

Yet, in any nation whose people desire both their liberties and their traditional community, a robust citizen militia is a necessity.  It may not be likely to happen barring the Great Reset, but it’s something we should nevertheless consider.

A note about modern tendencies – when I refer to the citizen militia, I am not referring to the National Guard (which is really a semi-professionalised branch of the mercenary standing army).  Nor am I referring to rustic yahoos running around in the woods in camouflage shooting paintball guns at each other as “training.”  Instead, I am referring to the sort of system where every adult male citizen would be obliged to receive full military training – physical fitness, weapons, ordinance, etc. – and would be required to participate in ongoing training and qualification exercises.  In essence, they would be “amateurs” who nevertheless receive sufficient military training so as to be able to effectively act as a credible military force if called upon for actual service.  Probably the closest modern equivalent would be the Swiss system.

There would be several benefits to such a system that I can see.

First, everyone would have skin in the game, so there would be no freeloaders.  It’s a readily observable truth that people care more about something when they have an investment in it.  If you don’t believe me, then compare and contrast the conditions in a middle class neighbourhood full of smallholders versus a block of Section 8 housing in the middle of one of our inner cities.  As such, every citizen would care about the direction in which the body politic is going.  You’d be a lot less likely to find a large chunk of your population floating along apathetically, sitting in front of a video game system oblivious to the outside world.

Second, the sense of community at the local level – that of your community unit with whom you train and drill – would be enhanced.  Those who have served in the military readily acknowledge that some of their closest lifelong bonds are those with whom they served in their same unit or ship.  There are few things that solidify bonds between men and between members of a community like having to rely on each other for your very lives.

Third, a robust citizen militia would obviate the “need” for the sort of professional mercenary army that has become almost universal.  Professional armies are made up of men who go where they’re told and kill whoever they’re pointed at.  As such, they’re the perfect tool for imperialism and foreign adventuring the likes of which we have seen in the United States since at least 1898.  Militias, on the other hand, are much, much less likely to go along with being sent abroad for missions that don’t involve the defence of their homes, families, community, and nation.

Fourth, a citizen militia is a a bulwark against the sort of tyranny which is often enforced with a professional standing army.  Many conservatives will point to the text of the 2nd amendment to the US Constitution,

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

And draw the conclusion that it is about having an armed citizenry to fight against the standing army, should the need ever arise.  They’re actually somewhat off-base as to the purpose of this amendment, however.  It’s intention was not to allow them to fight off the army should it be used as a tool for tyrannical government, but rather to replace, or otherwise render unnecessary, that standing army in the first place.  This amendment reflects the civic republican ideal of a universally armed citizenry who are themselves the military force of the nation.  The militia was not to be an auxiliary to the standing army, it was to BE the standing army in times of war, and to eliminate the supposed need for such a standing army in times of peace.

Fifth, and lastly, there is the fact that such a model for a universal, civic militia would serve to harden up soft, pampered Americans and other Westerners.  Let’s face it – Americans really are, by and large, a bunch of indulgent, mollycoddled fat-bodies.  The best thing we could have done to us is to be made to complete a 20 mile march in full kit at least once a week, as well as being held to objectively quantifiable standards for physical fitness, the failure to meet resulting in various penalties.  Not only would we be better soldiers for the nation, but we’d also just be healthier people in general.

Like much else that is involved with a return back to the old ways, there will have to be some drastic changes to the present state of affairs before we could practicably think about instituting such a universal militia system.  The current social and political system in the West, in which barely-educated mouth-breathers vote for whichever Cathedral-backed politician promises them the most bread and circuses, cannot last forever.  Sooner or later, there will be the Great Reset, and newer, more authoritarian alternatives, will eventually assert themselves.  It would be in our interest, when this happens, to trade the vicissitudes of democracy for the stability and order of an aristocratic, civic republicanism in which the genuinely best men rule at the top, and the citizenry as a whole supports these men in deference to their authority while enjoying their liberties that come with the reciprocal rights of citizenship.

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