Wednesday, April 30, 2008

John Adams on the pitfalls of democracy

A friend of mine drew my attention to this. She's not a monarchist, nor was John Adams, but she thought I would appreciate the warnings about the inherent pitfalls of democracy. As you can see, Adams was downright prescient. The Founding Fathers attempted to safeguard against the inherent dangers of elected rule, and for several generations it worked. No longer. We now have full-fledged mobocracy.

From A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States &c, by John Adams:

An excellent writer has said, somewhat incautiously, that "a people will never oppress themselves, or invade their own rights." This compliment, if applied to human nature, or to mankind, or to any nation or people in being or in memory, is more than has been merited. If it should be admitted that a people will not unanimously agree to oppress themselves, it is as much as is ever, and more than is always, true. All kinds of experience show, that great numbers of individuals do oppress great numbers of other individuals; that parties often, if not always, oppress other parties; and majorities almost universally minorities. All this observation can mean then, consistently with any color of fact, is, that the people will never unanimously agree to oppress themselves. But if one party agrees to oppress another, or the majority the minority, the people still oppress themselves, for one part of them oppress another.

"The people never think of usurping over other men's rights."

What can this mean? Does it mean that the people never unanimously think of usurping over other men's rights? This would be trifling; for there would, by the supposition, be not other men's rights to usurp. But if the people never, jointly, nor severally, think of usurping the rights of others, what occasion can there be for any government at all? Are there no robberies, burglaries, murders, adulteries, thefts, nor cheats? Is not every crime a usurpation over other men's rights? Is not a great part, I will not say the greatest part, of men detected every day in some disposition or other, stronger or weaker, more or less, to usurp over other men's rights? There are some few, indeed, whose whole lives and conversations show that, in every thought, word, and action, they conscientiously respect the rights of others. There is a larger body still, who, in the general tenor of their thoughts and actions, discover similar principles and feelings, yet frequently err. If we should extend our candor so far as to own, that the majority of men are generally under the dominion of benevolence and good intentions, yet, it must be confessed, that a vast majority frequently transgress; and what is more directly to the point, not only a majority, but almost all, confine their benevolence to their families, relations, personal friends, parish, village, city, county, province, and that very few, indeed, extend it impartially to the whole community. Now, grant but this truth, and the question is decided. If a majority are capable of preferring their own private interest, or that of their families, counties, and party, to that of the nation collectively, some provision must be made in the constitution, in favor of justice, to compel all to respect the common right, the public good, the universal law, in preference to all private and partial considerations.

The proposition of our author, then, should be reversed, and it should have been said, that they mind so much their own, that they never think enough of others. Suppose a nation, rich and poor, high and low, ten millions in number, all assembled together; not more than one or two millions will have lands, houses, or any personal property; if we take into account the women and children, or even if we leave them out of the question, a great majority of every nation is wholly destitute of property, except a small quantity of clothes, and a few trifles of other movables. Would Mr. Nedham be responsible that, if all were to be decided by a vote of the majority, the eight or nine millions who have no property, would not think of usurping over the rights of the one or two millions who have? Property is surely a right of mankind as really as liberty. Perhaps, at first, prejudice, habit, shame or fear, principle or religion, would restrain the poor from attacking the rich, and the idle from usurping on the industrious; but time would not be long before courage and enterprise would come, and pretexts be invented by degrees, to countenance the majority in dividing all the property among them, or at least, in sharing it equally with its present possessors. Debts would be abolished first; taxes laid heavy on the rich, and not at all on the others; and at last a downright equal division of every thing be demanded and voted. What would be the consequence of this? The idle, the vicious, the intemperate, would rush into the utmost extravagance of debauchery, sell and spend all their share, and then demand a new division of those who purchased from them. The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If "THOU SHALT NOT COVET," and "THOU SHALT NOT STEAL," were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized and made free.

If the first part of the proposition, namely, that "the people never think of usurping over other men's rights," cannot be admitted, is the second, name, "they mind which way to preserve their own," better founded?

There is in every nation and people under heaven a large proportion of persons who take no rational and prudent precautions to preserve what they have, much less to acquire more. Indolence is the natural character of man, to such a degree that nothing but the necessities of hunger, thirst, and other wants equally pressing, can stimulate him to action, until education is introduced in civilized societies, and the strongest of motives of ambition to excel in arts, trades, and professions are established in the minds of all men. Until this emulation is introduced, the lazy savage holds property in too little estimation to give himself trouble for the preservation or acquisition of it. In societies the most cultivated and polished, vanity, fashion, and folly prevail over every thought of ways to preserve their own. They seem rather to study what means of luxury, dissipation, and extravagance they can invent to get rid of it.

"The case is far otherwise among kings and grandees," says our author, "as all nations in the world have felt to some purpose."

That is, in other words, kings and grandees think of usurping over other men's rights, but do not mind which way to preserve their own. It is very easy to flatter the democratical portion of society, by making such distinctions between them and the monarchical and aristocratical; but flattery is as base an artifice, and as pernicious a vice, when offered to the people, as when given to the others. There is no reason to believe the one much honester or wiser than the other; they are all of the same clay; their minds and bodies are alike. The two latter have more knowledge and sagacity, derived from education, and more advantages for acquiring wisdom and virtue. As to usurping others' rights, they are all three guilty when unlimited in power. No wise man will trust either with an opportunity; and every judicious legislator will set all three to watch and control each other. We may appeal to every page of history we have hitherto turned over, for proofs irrefragable, that the people, when they have been unchecked, have been just as unjust, tyrannical, barbarous, and cruel, as any king or senate possessed of uncontrollable power. The majority has eternally, and without one exception, usurped over the rights of the minority.


A recent one: Monarchist criticises 'biased' 2020 governance panel

The head of Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy, Professor David Flint, says the selection of the governance panel at the 2020 Summit was a gerrymander worthy of an African dictatorship.

This one's a couple of years old, but I hadn't seen it before:

Russia: Monarchist Nostalgia Remains Powerful

PRAGUE, October 2, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The recent reburial of the remains of Maria Fyodorovna, the Danish princess who married the future Aleksandr III of Russia in 1866, is the latest episode in a long-standing effort to cultivate the idea of restoring the monarchy in Russia....

But under Russian President Vladimir Putin interest in Russia's imperial and monarchical past grew legs once again. In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Nicolas II and his family. Since that time, Russia has seen a boom in the number of monarchist organizations. Recent years have seen the release of hundreds of books and films about the monarchy.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Why I am sick of democracy

I am sick of surrendering over half my income to taxes to support the various bread-and-circuses schemes politicians offer to bribe people for their votes.

I am sick of every move I make being governed by a constantly expanding alphabet soup of unelected agencies - the FDA, DOE, EPA, IRS, HUD, HEW, and hundreds more. Citizens never have a chance to vote for the people who run these agencies and consequently wield enormous power over their lives. Nor has there ever been a referendum where citizens were given the opportunity to vote on whether or not they consented to surrender their freedoms and rights to these agencies.

I am sick of being told that it is good for every child to spend years being indoctrinated and battered, with childhood artificially extended not only years past physical maturity, but well into the twenties. (The extension of childhood is appealing to aspiring dictators, as reducing adults to childish status is the essence of dictatorship.) Compulsory education is not only consummately worthless - the American literacy rate, as well as those in Europe, has declined since its inception - it is a clear violation of the 13th Amendment. Andrew Carnegie began working at the age of ten. Admiral Farragut received his first military commission at the age of 12. Nowadays, their energy and ability would have been wasted on catering to the emotional needs of some neurotic female in a classroom, and likely ground out of them by the time age allowed them to escape. But the people who have enslaved all children and teenagers in the Western hemisphere and condemned them to having their brains crippled were democratically elected, so it's okay.

I am sick of not being able to hope for a true commitment because feminists used their votes to democratically demand that those who wanted their votes to impose no-fault divorce on all society, thus depriving everyone of stable marriage, and children of stable families.

I am sick of not being able to leave my home - or, for that matter, stay in my home - without being afraid of violence because bleeding hearts have used their votes to bribe politicians into allowing criminals to run loose. Also because the no-fault divorce which was imposed by similarly democratic procedure has led to millions of fatherless homes, which produce 75% of violent criminals, as well as the majority of welfare recipients and substance abusers. A statistical majority wishes for the existence of these forces which have caused our skyrocketing crime rate, therefore the minority such as myself who would prefer to live in a safe and civilized society must submit to being terrorized.

I want a king to protect me from the forces of democracy which wish to wreck my life and strip me of all my liberties.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Wallis Simpson

I've longed suspected that Wallis Simpson's story wasn't the grand romance it was cracked up to be. This may have originated when I read one of Jon Winokur's collections, possible A Curmudgeon's Garden of Love, which speculated that Edward VIII actually just didn't want to be king and used his unacceptable romantic choice as his excuse.

Now the Writer Of Queens has written a couple of posts about Wallis Simpson. It inspired me to look up a couple of other articles online about Mrs. Simpson, whereupon I learned that I was righter than I knew.

Even in girlhood, Wallis was what we now call a heat-seeking missile. Perhaps this was caused by poverty in her very early childhood, before well-off relatives sent her to an expensive girls' school. In school, she befriended heiresses Renée du Pont and Mary Kirk.

During her first marriage, Wallis had several affairs. Her husband actually left her over this a couple of times, but they reunited until she became pregnant by Mussolini's son-in-law Count Galeazzo Ciano and the illegal abortion rendered her infertile. Even then, it seems, she had a taste for titles. Her first husband's Christian name, by the way, was "Earl".

While still married to Earl Spencer, Wallis began having an affair with a married man named Ernest Simpson. After Earl divorced her, Simpson left his wife and child to marry her.

Three years later, the Simpsons met the Prince of Wales. Long before HRH was married to her, apparently even before they were actually having an affair, the prince ordered the servants in his household to take their direction from her. This was Not Done, but they kept a stiff upper lip, even though Mrs. Simpson was disrupting all of their customs. To give her her due, she did come from a different country with different habits where servants were concerned, and probably did not realize the upheaval she was causing. On the other hand, American etiquette does not justify her having a servant who adhered to tradition despite her notions being pensioned off, and most emphatically does not excuse her habit of coming in well after midnight with the prince and waking the servants to cook them dinner.

The Writer of Queens relates:

Wallis may seem like a monster. She did come in like firestorm, to be sure. But you have to remember that she was doing this because it was what the Prince asked of her. He wanted someone to take charge and make decisions. Everything she did was unusual, different, stimulating, at least from his point of view. The Prince felt free. In his life---made up of rigid royal rules---there was not much freedom to be found. But Wallis, to him, was a breath of fresh air.

The behavior she was able to entice the prince into show that England was better off without Edward VIII. His later fascist sympathies, which Wallis shared, make this all too clear. In the larger picture, by giving England a clear reason for requesting his abdication, she may have done England a service.

And the "great romance" for which a king relinquished his crown comes to seem more like a neurotic attachment to a world-class player.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Superiority of Monarchy

A dear and extremely smart friend of mine has been discussing monarchy vs. republic with me. She is arguing that the real problem is that America was originally a republic with all sorts of "road blocks" to prevent the republic from degenerating into a mobocracy. She's right, of course; that's one reason that our republic worked for several generations. Now, of course, the franchise has become universal and the mob rules. It is my belief that this is inevitable in any republic, for the reason that I have never heard of any republic that resisted it for long.

Below is a bit of our discussion, where she challenged my posts about the irrationality of voters. None of these ideas are mine; I was leaning heavily on the sources linked in my sidebars.

She: I must say that I doubt that concentrating power in a monarchical political entity would improve matters.

Me: Historically, it did. Let's leave aside the absolute monarchies found in Africa and Asia and concentrate on our own - that is, European - traditions, where there was always some limit on the sovereign's power, even though the king or queen was mostly in charge. Since beginning to study monarchy, I have discovered that a lot of libertarians are monarchists, because historically, ordinary citizens have far more personal freedom under monarchy than in democracy. The taxes and regulations that inspired us to demand independence from England are a miniscule fraction of the taxes and regulations we live with today, to cite just one example. England has taken progressively more power away from its monarchy over the past century until it is merely ornamental. Have English subjects become more free? The answer is a resounding no. Quite the reverse.

Basically, democracy allows any individual rights and freedoms to be taken away, so long as a sufficiently large and well-placed pressure group gets behind the measure.

She: Are not kings liable to the same biologically-ingrained biases?

Me: As far as that goes, yes. However, for one thing, sovereigns are nearly always trained from birth in their duties, balancing the biologically-ingrained biases. It's much easier to train one crown prince than an entire population. Besides which, there are manifold advantages to monarchy that offset this. One of which at first seems like a disadvantage: a sovereign holds his position by right of birth, not by having pandered to the masses enough to get sufficient votes. It takes extreme measures to oust a sovereign, though it can and has been done when called for. (For example, James II.) This allows a sovereign to focus on his duty rather than on pleasing those whose votes he needs.

We have been trained to believe that it is good to have politicians trying to ingratiate themselves with voters, but in practice, it is disastrous. In the first place, it means that they do away with the limited franchise which we started with and start giving votes to anyone, counting on gratitude to get them elected for the next decade, not caring what this will have led the government to in another generation. Indeed, people today have been conditioned to believe that voting is a basic human right, like freedom of speech or not being tortured. The franchise has by now been extended so far that there is hardly anywhere left to go. There are people seriously campaigning to have the voting age lowered to 16, 14, or 12. (In my opinion, this will not make things even slightly worse than they are now.)

In addition, elective government inevitably brings on the bread-and-circuses factor. There are a lot of lower-income people who like the idea of someone else paying their bills without them working, i.e. welfare. They vote for the politicians who give them this. Almost everyone who pauses to think about it, even many Democrat politicians, clearly understand that this is an unsustainable system, and that it is also unjust. Politicians don't care; they need to get elected. Even those who have good intentions have to please people enough to get votes before they can have any hope of doing any good. I quoted Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn as pointing out that conservative politicians usually don't enact any new disastrous policies, but they fail to reverse the ones already in place. Reagan and two Bushes could not rid us of welfare, abortion, or no-fault divorce. Why not? Because they knew that if they did, they and their party would be voted out of office - probably all the Republican senators and stuff would've been ousted too - and all that toxic stuff would have been reinstated as soon as the Democrats came back. (In Reagan's case, of course, he was also occupied with more important things, namely toppling the evil empire.) This is why some people are able to claim that our two main parties are virtually alike; the only edge the GOP has in practice is that they cause less damage when they're in office.

During the centuries of European monarchy, we didn't have judicial activism, abortion-at-whim, no-fault divorce, or the welfare mother industry. Why not? Because a sovereign is able to think about the next generation and the next century, while a politician has to think about the next election above all else.

By now I'm amazed that I ever thought democracy was better than monarchy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Wisdom of the People

We've all heard that the taller candidate usually wins, right? (Which might actually be a good thing, considering that Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Napoleon and the conqueror Alexander "the Great" were all short.)

And while some people - I'm inclined to think, those who have seriously thought out their values - will vote for their own party no matter what, others will vote according to how they "feel" about the candidate. You know, his body language on televised debates, whether the media publicized something dumb he once said, that kind of thing. This weekend a woman told me that she's not voting for Hillary because "I couldn't stand four years of pantsuits. Put on a skirt!"

Well, the following has me ready to start scouring the countryside for a Stuart or a Hapsburg to put in charge.

I think most people would agree that in elections when the voter is not familiar with the names on the ballot, it is simplest to choose the first option. What's interesting is that research clearly shows that order makes a difference even in large-scale elections with recognizable names of candidates!

As reported by Jon Krosnick, in the 2000 presidential race, George W. Bush received 9 percent more votes among Californians in districts where he was listed first on the ballot than where he was listed later. Even in high-profile elections such as the presidential race, name order in balloting does make a big difference.

In general, we know there is a huge advantage to being listed first. In multiple-choice questions, people often choose "A" simply because it is listed first. But knowing that the world can change due to list order is amazing! In all three states where name order was studied (California, North Dakota, and Ohio), Bush got more votes when listed first on the ballot. Other candidates studied also received more votes when listed first. Name recognition and other factors may make a difference, but the impact of name order is clear.

~Kevin Hogan, The Science of Influence

Democracy's Road to Tyranny

Democracy's Road to Tyranny

Tocqueville did not tell us just how the gradual change toward totalitarian servitude can come about. But 150 years ago he could not exactly foresee that the parliamentary scene would produce two main types of parties: the Santa Claus parties, predominantly on the Left, and the Tighten-Your-Belt parties, more or less on the Right. The Santa Claus parties, with presents for the many, normally take from some people to give to others: they operate with largesses, to use the term of John Adams. Socialism, whether national or international, will act in the name of "distributive justice," as well as "social justice" and "progress," and thus gain popularity. You don't, after all, shoot Santa Claus. As a result, these parties normally win elections, and politicians who use their slogans are effective vote-getters.

The Tighten-Your-Belt parties, if they unexpectedly gain power, generally act more wisely, but they rarely have the courage to undo the policies of the Santa parties. The voting masses, who frequently favor the Santa parties, would retract their support if the Tighten-Your--Belt parties were to act radically and consistently. Profligates are usually more popular than misers. In fact, the Santa Claus parties are rarely utterly defeated, but they sometimes defeat themselves by featuring hopeless candidates or causing political turmoil or economic disaster.

Onion Article

Report: Nation's Gentrified Neighborhoods Threatened By Aristocratization

WASHINGTON—According to a report released Tuesday by the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, the recent influx of exceedingly affluent powder-wigged aristocrats into the nation's gentrified urban areas is pushing out young white professionals, some of whom have lived in these neighborhoods for as many as seven years.

Multi-billion-dollar castles like this one have been popping up all over Brooklyn.
Maureen Kennedy, a housing policy expert and lead author of the report, said that the enormous treasure-based wealth of the aristocracy makes it impossible for those living on modest trust funds to hold onto their co-ops and converted factory loft spaces.

"When you have a bejeweled, buckle-shoed duke willing to pay 11 or 12 times the asking price for a block of renovated brownstones—and usually up front with satchels of solid gold guineas—hardworking white-collar people who only make a few hundred thousand dollars a year simply cannot compete," Kennedy said. "If this trend continues, these exclusive, vibrant communities with their sidewalk cafés and faux dive bars will soon be a thing of the past."
A Maoist in Nepal's palace

KATHMANDU - Early results and trends indicate that last Thursday's election will push Nepal from feudal monarchy to a "people's republic", without a democratic interlude in between.

Hey, as long as the population is enslaved democratically!

I found confirmation for my monarchist bias!

I'm reading a review of a book called Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me. It's about cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, and the other ways our brains deal with it when we encounter information that doesn't fit with what we already know/believe/wish.

Neuroscientists have recently shown that these biases in thinking are built into the very way the brain processes information - all brains, regardless of their owners’ political affiliations. For example, in a study of people who were being monitored by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) wile they were trying to process dissonant or consonant information about George Bush or John Kerry, [researchers] found that the reasoning areas of the brain virtually shut down when participants were confronted with dissonant information and the emotion circuits of the brain lit up happily when consonance was restored. These mechanisms provide a neurological basis for the observation that once our minds are made up, it is hard to change them.

The more I learn about the way voters' brains work, the less enamoured of democracy I become.