Why Aristocracy Preserves Real Freedom, and Why Democracy Does Not

Regular readers of this blog have probably observed that I am not a fan of democracy or democratic institutions at all.  One of the points that I’ve made elsewhere is that democratic governments often are (and almost invariably end up being) more intrusive, overbearing, expansive, and tyrannical than do aristocratic monarchies and similar traditional forms of government.

Obviously, this seems counterintuitive to those who have been raised in modern democracies and who experienced the full brunt of democratic propagandising from society and the educational establishment.  Democracy, as it is portrayed, is all sweetness and light, the last, best hope for mankind, while aristocrats and monarchs are at best weird and idiosyncratic, at worst they are genocidal evils.

So why do I feel comfortable making the arguments that I do, knowing that they will be so alien to the programming received by the vast majority of observers?  It’s because history shows that the propaganda is just that – an ideologically motivated pretense that is not borne out by the facts nor by mankind’s long experience attempting to govern himself.

I will reassert here the claim once again – traditional aristocratic monarchy really was “freer” in the practical sense of the term as it would apply to the masses of the lower castes.  Under traditional systems of authority such as seen in medieval Europe (as well as other similar feudal systems seen in most major civilisations), the peasantry, the serfs, and what have you experienced less real interference and arbitrary “official” lawlessness in his daily life than does the modern democratic man.  This is despite enjoying far less “political freedom” (i.e. the capacity to take part in political decision-making and to exercise personal and/or institutional power) than do participants in democratic societies.

This is because of the structural natures of the two types of governing systems.

In traditional systems, the natural hierarchical caste order is maintained.  In this order, the aristocratic caste performs its roles of leadership, both in the military/power and spiritual/ideological realms (the kshatriyan and brahmanic functions, respectively). In such a rightly ordered system, the aristocratic caste has a duty to protect and guide the lower castes just as much as the lower castes have an obligation to obey and follow the leadership of the aristocrats.  This is due to the interlocking, reciprocal layers of mutual loyalties which exist within such traditional systems and which serve to mold them into holistic, unified social systems mutually dependent upon each other.  As one observer noted,

Aristocracy has made a chain of all members of the community, from the peasant to the king; democracy breaks that chain, and severs every link of it.” – de Tocqueville

Part of this involved mitigating the rule of the king (who was primus inter pares among the aristocratic caste), counterbalancing the executive power of the king with their own authority within their own realms and spheres. This is because laws and impositions made upon the people could interfere with the nobility’s own rights, privileges, or capacities for action, as well as invoking the bonds of loyalty between nobles and their dependents.

When aristocrats have real power (rather than just wealth or merely notional position), they can and do serve as power mediators, protecting the people from the king (onerous burdens, arbitrary exercises of power, etc.), and also shielding the king from the people (for instance, from unrest or being overthrown as a result of systematic abuses). This essentially served as a true system of “checks and balances,” because it had its basis in the application of real power, rather than trusting in paper documents to restrain political actors.

It’s telling (but not altogether surprising) that this system really only began to break down in Europe when the merchant caste started its rise to power in the 13th century, which represented an inversion of the natural caste hierarchy.  As a result, money power gradually came to replace traditional aristocracy, a movement which accelerated in the 16th-17th centuries. Two sociopolitical changes were taking place that led to a distorted understanding of the role of aristocracy in society.

First, the rise of the merchant caste began to create a separate, urbanised power base apart from the traditional, one which was increasingly less restrained by the traditional guild and land tenure systems.  This incipient capitalism broke down the bonds of reciprocal loyalties, effectively subjecting the labouring caste to the merchant, but without the traditional restraints.  Bourgeois abuses of labour and general disregard for the wastes produced by growing medieval industry (e.g. tanneries, breweries, fulleries, and other operations) led to social disorder that manifested itself in violent unrest and reforming religious movements.

The aristocratic caste responded, ultimately unsuccessfully, by imposing restraints on the merchant caste such as sumptuary laws and regulations on labour relations and environmental effects in an effort to mitigate its effects. I tend to suspect that intitutional memories of this regulation underlie a lot of the classical liberal “muh capitalism” hatred of government power and regulation of the more detrimental effects of the merchant caste that this caste seeks to nullify when it is in power.

The second change that took place occurred as the money power destroyed the traditional mediative capacities of the genuine nobility.  As a result, a power vacuum was created which was filled by increasingly absolute and increasingly mercantile-dominated government.  This was, for example, the story of the Tudor dynasty in England, where the landed aristocrats became increasingly marginalised at the court as new money men gained the king’s ear.  These merchants used their power to undermine and destroy the aristocracy, and to encourage the rise of absolutist monarchy (which increased their own leverage as the rulers’ favourites).  As time went on, this absolutist approach to government was transferred from monarchies to more “progressive” governmental forms characterising the modern world.

This is where modern democracy comes into the picture.

As noted earlier, democracy invariably evolves into oligarchic tyranny.  One of the great ironies of popular government is that the more a system democratises by extending the franchise, the more power seems to concentrate into the hands of small groups within government (and not necessarily those who were elected). This process is, in fact, exactly how we got the Cathedral.

The problem is that when “the people themselves are the king,” there is nothing to protect them from themselves or their elected representatives (and especially not from the unelected Cathedral Deep Staters).  Attempts at constitutionalism invariably fail because, as noted above, constitutions (being abstractions) can’t create or wield power, they can only purport to organise and distribute power for so long as all political actors agree to maintain the charade.  Once this begins to break down, constitutions cease to have any relevancy, no matter how fervently segments of the population may continue to believe in them.

This is why the average person under modern democratic regimes actually has fewer real freedoms and more day-to-day restrictions and hassles in their lives. Because everything eventually comes under the purview of democratic government sooner or later, without aristocratic checks to counterbalance executive demands on the average citizen, the citizen comes under potentially limitless regulation and oversight from the ever-expanding social democratic state.  As it turns out, one king who is three thousand miles away is far less overbearing than three thousand kings who are one mile away.

Understanding this helps to explain one of the more hypocritical features of far Left discourse in the USA and other modern democracies.  One of the obsessions of advancing-wave liberals (i.e. those on the left end of the window of acceptable discourse in a democratic system) is the suppression of “special interest groups” who “inject money into the system,” when those groups advance the interests of trailing-wave liberals (i.e. classical liberals, bourgeois, and so forth) who are not part of the Cathedral.  Yet, they’re conspicuously silent about this same injection of money into the system by Cathedral-approved organs.

For instance, in the USA organisations such as gun rights groups (NRA, GOA, etc.), conservative Christian groups, those representing small businesses, pro-life organisations, and so forth are demonised as “special interests who corrupt our politics.” At the same time, pro-abortion groups, unions, and the like are not.  The former face constant social and political pressure, the latter are institutionally protected and advanced.

This is because these right-leaning groups ever so faintly echo the aristocratic role of protecting their constituencies from unchecked executive power, and therefore are contrary to the effective goals of democratic oligarchies.  The problem isn’t merely that they aren’t organs of the Cathedral, but that they actively work to impede Cathedral efforts to consolidate institutional power, both formally and informally.

One of the goals – indeed the primary goal – of neoreactionary is to be ready for the Restoration when it takes place.  This Restoration will necessarily involve a move toward authoritarian forms of government, as we will not want to repeat the mistakes of the present order.  However, it is advisable for these forms to align themselves with traditional aristocratic structures which identify and advance genuinely superior men into power while at the same time reestablishing the sorts of checks and balances within the aristocratic structural system which genuinely serve to protect the politically powerless “little men” within such a system. The goal should be the restoration of rational power systems which affirm hierarchy and authority, while doing so with an eye toward establishing just and humane societies.


5 thoughts on “Why Aristocracy Preserves Real Freedom, and Why Democracy Does Not

  1. I strongly dislike your use of the term, “Cathedral”, in this context.

    When Moldbug used that it was the typical undermining of European cultural accomplishment, a poison pill if you will.


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