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Congratulations to the Royal Family, and Two Cheers for Monarchy

The nations of the West are all made in the image of ancient Israel, from the Visigoths and Franks of the low Middle Ages through to the Tudors.

by
David P. Goldman

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July 23, 2013 - 9:50 am
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Apropos of England’s royal baby, a kind word for monarchy is in order. The popular fascination with Britain’s royal family reflects something less shallow than a collective celebrity crush: the longing for something more permanent, more reverential in the character of the state. One of the most penetrating discussions of the issue was penned by the great Jewish theologian Michael Wyschogrod in the journal First Things in 2010. There is something profoundly inadequate in the mere rough-and-tumble of political interests so beloved of the Hobbesians who dominate what now passes for political philosophy on the secular right wing of American academia.

The moment we place any restriction on popular will (as does the U.S. Constitution), Wyschogrod observed, we impose a higher criterion which must in some way be thought of as theological. That is obvious on a moment’s reflection:

To discuss theological criteria for the constitution of a secular republic runs against the grain of modern political thought, even though constitutional restrictions on popular sovereignty imply reliance on an authority that is greater than human. In a republic the people are sovereign, yet the purpose of a constitution is precisely to restrict the power of any future majority. If popular sovereignty is absolute, what right has a constitution to frustrate a future majority by, for example, imposing some form of supermajority? In the extreme case, suppose a majority of the delegates to a constitutional convention enacts a constitution that forbids any change forever, or requires a 98 percent majority of the future legislature to enact any constitutional change.

This is no different in principle from the two-thirds supermajority that the United States requires for constitutional amendments. The only basis for a polity to accept severe restrictions on popular majority rule is the conviction that the founding constitution derives its power from a higher form of sovereignty than the voters in any given legislative session. Without such a theological foundation, a republic cannot feel bound by the rules laid down by its founders. A purely secular republic would self-destruct because it could not protect its constitution from constant amendment.

That is not the way that classical political rationalism looks at the matter, but Wyschogrod’s logic is sound. Where does that higher authority come from? And how can it be embodied in politics? In America it was embodied in a religious consensus, as de Tocqueville explained so well in his 1836 Democracy in America. In England it is expressed not only by democratic forms, but also by tradition, and embodied by the monarchy, which also is the custodian of the national church. That is a problematic arrangement in many respects, but one that has endured and still has the power to evoke loyalty and love of country.

Since the conversion of the Visigoths in Spain and the foundation of the Merovingian dynasty in France around 700 C.E., though, the notion of monarchy in the West has derived in important ways from the biblical concept of monarchy, centering on the reign of King David — which we now know to be a historical fact, rather than a legend as an earlier generation of skeptical scholars falsely believed. And it is in the State of Israel today that the issue might be brought most clearly into focus, Wyschogrod argued.

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Monarchy is a form of government based on the theory that the state is the property of the king, who can pass it on to his heirs. It is an inherently unjust idea, and it has led to dynastic wars and bad government. Strange as it may seem, new monarchies are still being created. North Korea's Kim Il Sung and Syria's Hafez al-Assad willed their countries to their sons. Their successors, Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong Un, and Bashar al-Assad, certainly prove that hereditary succession makes no moral or political sense. 3,000 years ago, the Biblical Prophet Samuel knew that kings were a bad idea. "And ye shall cry out in that day, because of your king..." (1 Sam. 8:18).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (35)
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"The nations of the West are all made in the image of ancient Israel..." and that's the problem.

Ancient Israel blew it when it desired a king to reign over them instead of God Himself, through His judges.

1 Samuel 8:4-19
So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king.

He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights:
-- He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.
-- Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.
-- He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.
-- He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants.
-- He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants.
-- Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use.
-- He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.

When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

***********

It's pretty clear all Western nations except the United States of America are set up like "all the other nations" around pre-king Israel and that Israel gave away its uniqueness to become like all the others.

This lead in three moves to Solomon with his 700 wives and 300 concubines. Solomon taxed his way to wealth such that upon his death the people pleaded for relief.

Solomon's son Rheoboam "followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” So the king did not listen to the people....

Civil war erupted between Judah and the rest of Israel; the kingdom failed, the glory of Solomon and his riches were carried off and eventually all Israel was exiled and enslaved.

All because they wanted a king like all the nations around them.

America is exceptional because we don't have royalty. We as a people once cried, "No king but Jesus!"

Now we cry, "Save us Obama!" Or we just cry.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There seems to be some confusion here about the difference between a constitutional monarchy and an absolute monarchy. The British monarch is constitutional, "monarchs" such Kim Il Sung and Bashar Assad are absolute monarchs and are no different from any other dictator.
The British monarchy is a political answer to the age old question "Quis Custodiet, Ipsos Custodes?". Who polices the police? In Westminster style parliamentary systems the House of Commons is supreme, however the Monarch has the constitutional duty to monitor the activities of politicians to ensure that their actions conform to constitutional rules, but note that Parliament can change the constitution. The theory is that because the monarch is very rich they cannot be bribed, and because it is not an elected position they owe nobody for their power, and incidentally if you are the one who is to serve it is very difficult to avoid. The point is that in a constitutional monarchy the monarch is not just a figurehead but actually has a constitutional (and therefore political) duty and very considerable power. Two examples come to mind: The dismissal of Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister of Australia by governor General Sir John Kerr acting under the authority of the Crown, and the refusal by Queen Elizabeth II to accept a govt. formed by Edward Heath with Jeremy Thorpe, the Queen dismissed Heath and invited Harold Wilson to form a govt. These are examples of real political power being wielded by the Crown.
Of course the system does not work very well as the major aim of any monarch is to protect the succession, that is, to keep this very desirable position in the family.
To those of you who declare the superiority of the US Constitution, you should be aware that to say that "the US is a free country" is a statement so ridiculous as to be laughable. federal agents can enter your property at any time for any reason, confiscate your property, imprison you, even kill you, and you have no appeal. We are all the property of the govt. who allow us to pursue our lives, or not, as they please. We have a phony crook as a President who was elected twice by a cowed or bought constituency.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As regards the birth of an heir to a throne, quoting Tom Selleck as Monte Walsh:

"You can't have no idea how little I care."

As regards a new life on God's Earth, I am happy for the child and his parents that life begins anew and that God's wish is fulfilled that humans can go forth and multiply.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well if that is what Tom Selleck actually said, he seems to be as illiterate as you are.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Monarchy is a form of government based on the theory that the state is the property of the king, who can pass it on to his heirs. It is an inherently unjust idea, and it has led to dynastic wars and bad government. Strange as it may seem, new monarchies are still being created. North Korea's Kim Il Sung and Syria's Hafez al-Assad willed their countries to their sons. Their successors, Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong Un, and Bashar al-Assad, certainly prove that hereditary succession makes no moral or political sense. 3,000 years ago, the Biblical Prophet Samuel knew that kings were a bad idea. "And ye shall cry out in that day, because of your king..." (1 Sam. 8:18).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
“Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him?” Thomas Jefferson

“That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles — right and wrong — throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, ‘You work and toil and earn bread, and I’ll eat it.’ No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race [or class] of men as an apology for enslaving another race [or class], it is the same tyrannical principle.” Abraham Lincoln
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As an American citizen (in my extreme naïveté) I took for granted that line about "inalienable rights" (in the Declaration of Independence), and assumed something similar would be true in Canada...Then I came across an article (written by Canadian lawyers) which explained the difference between the U.S. and Canada with respect to "rights". To my shock I discovered that (unlike an inalienable right which cannot be forfeited, even with my consent, and which is embued in each individual, thanks to a higher power -- the Creator) in Canada rights are a "privilege" bestowed by a monarch and can be rescinded at any time...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You are misinformed. The rights in Canada's Charter of Rights (which is the supreme law of the land) can only be taken away by Constitutional amendment.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The first part of the Charter states: "The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society." In other words the "guarantee" is limited, and rights can be rescinded. I"ll try to find the article I read about the Charter (written by Canadian lawyers)...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The basis of rights is the same everywhere - how can humankind have two or more contrasting realities/natures? What you are talking about is someone's theory. To the extent I have rights here in Canada they emerge from shared understandings about, for example, what is and has been necessary to achieve "peace, order, and good government" (to use a Canadian legal phrase).

Rights (as opposed to privileges) are not the gift of government, nor even of some "natural law" existing outside of human history. All rights stem from agreements with others who are our linguistic (human) equals, from the common human condition that in order to share any understanding, so that any human society might organize itself, we all must sign off, in some shape or form, on that understanding (or leave). Rights stem from a universal linguistic constitution, from our necessity to share signs, and become concrete as part of a specific historical evolution in ethical self-understanding. Of course it's true that that self-understanding is more or less limited in different societies, and our legal theories have something to do with that. Historically, there has always been a need to trade off resentments of social hierarchy for collective strength vis a vis other societies and that debate never ends and works it way out in all kinds of ways.

Pragmatically, a lot of our "rights" stem from the security of private property. Whatever one's theory about "natural law" vs. monarchical privilege (and the Canadian Charter of Rights - which declares our rights to be negotiated under the fundamental nature of "a free and democratic society" - was written with the decision to exclude a specific "right to private property"), I am not at all sure that Americans today are more secure in their property than Canadians. For example, both our currencies are fiat, but yours is currently more exposed to attempts at state-managed inflation, though probably we all sink or swim together in the end.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What you are describing are not rights at all, only agreements.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I read this post by selecting David from the side bar menu, and commented there, earlier today. Now that the same post is headlined, the comments section started over. This is the second or third time, all on the most recent Spengler posts.

It only happens on your blogs, David.

Methinks the IT gremlims are lurking near.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Nope, It happens on a lot of the PJMedia blogs and its been going on for almost a year by my count. It seems lto be an active editorial decision to take articles that aren't appearing on the main page that are getting attention and to move them there and in the process deleting all of the accompanying comments. I've had many comments deleted this way.

It'a annoying and PJMedia needs to stop this practice.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Terrific column, and something that would never have occurred to me. A permanent regency; shades of Gondors stewards.

(And where does the Israeli army find so many beautiful women? Oh, well, this is the people who gave us Hedi Lamarr.)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I often ask my Canadian friends a question. Since the monarch's image is on their currency, do they have to pay for any of the upkeep of the royal establishment?

They never have an answer for that.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Canadians do not pay any monies to the Queen (neither to support them abroad nor make payments to maintain their residences abroad). If the Queen comes for a visit to Canada, then the Canadian taxpayer, as the gracious host, picks up the tab (ditto for other members of the royal family when on state visits--the taxpayer pays).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"In a republic the people are sovereign, yet the purpose of a constitution is precisely to restrict the power of any future majority."

“It is strangely absurd to suppose that a million of human beings, collected together, are not under the same moral laws which bind each of them separately… Independence can be trusted nowhere but with the people in mass. They are inherently independent of all but moral law [Declaration of Independence]…” Thomas Jefferson

"The only basis for a polity to accept severe restrictions on popular majority rule is the conviction that the founding constitution derives its power from a higher form of sovereignty than the voters in any given legislative session."

Our Declaration of Independence is the supreme un-amendable moral law of the United States. Declarational law preceded and trumps our supreme amendable secular law, the Constitution. As stated in our Declaration, the purpose of secular law (Constitution) is to secure our natural rights to life, liberty and the fruit of our labor in creative pursuit of happiness.

“That to secure these rights, Governments [Constitutions] are instituted among Men…” Declaration of Independence

While our Constitution and Bill of Rights are the greatest secular laws ever written – it must be acknowledged that our secular Constitution has a sacred mandate – The Declaration of Independence. The American Revolution is first and foremost a revolution in sacred, natural, unalienable, equal human rights, and their self-evident moral law (Declaration); and secondarily a revolution in secular law (Constitution).

Our higher form of sovereignty is the Declaration of Independence. Majority rule is natural law, but it is superseded by the primary and fundamental natural law of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. It is self-evident that no majority should be allowed to legally engage in murder, subjugation and theft of property against any of its minorities - because such law - even if it is majority law - is tyranny.

"Law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual." Thomas Jefferson


1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Declaration is a nice document that says some pretty things, but think of it as something like a divorce complaint or a gentleman writing another gentleman setting out the reasons he is challenging him to the field of honor. It is not law!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The American Declaration of Independence is the supreme un-amendable moral law of the United States - an eternal declaration of war "against every form of tyranny over the mind of man" as Thomas Jefferson would have it. Like Thomas Jefferson, think of the Declaration of Independence as "an expression of the American mind." Think of the Declaration of Independence as a divorce from ungentlemanly tyranny. Those "pretty things" are the eternal, universal, self-evident moral truths and laws of human nature its self - as noted by other moral giants upon whose shoulders we now stand.

"There is a true law, a right reason, conformable to nature, universal, unchangeable, eternal, whose commands urge us to duty, and whose prohibitions restrain us from evil. Whether it enjoins or forbids, the good respect its injunctions, and the wicked treat them with indifference. This law cannot be contradicted by any other law, and is not liable either to derogation or abrogation. Neither the senate nor the people can give us any dispensation for not obeying this universal law of justice. It needs no other expositor and interpreter than our own conscience. It is not one thing at Rome and another at Athens; one thing today and another tomorrow; but in all times and nations this universal law must for ever reign, eternal and imperishable. It is the sovereign master and emperor of all beings. God himself is its author, its promulgator, its enforcer. He who obeys it not, flies from himself, and does violence to the very nature of man." Cicero


1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We're on the same page: Jefferson is closer to Cicero. Jefferson like to conflate "laws of human nature" with the Bible (he wasn't the only one). The biblical view is that human nature has a nasty streak (the rabbis called it the Yetzer ha'Ra, or evil impulse) that has to be tamed by cleaving to divine requirements.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
C.S. Lewis pointed out that the basic moral laws of the Bible are self-evident, rational and universal. You shall not murder, you shall not covet or steal, you shall not bear false witness, love your neighbor as yourself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. These Biblical moral laws conform to our human nature and therefore support human nature – now and in the future – here, there and everywhere. So, it appears to me that Cicero, Locke and Jefferson were simply reiterating that portion of Biblical moral law which is self-evident and rational – the natural law portion of the Bible. Thomas Jefferson distilled that self-evident / rational portion of Biblical moral law and placed it into our Declaration of Independence. The remaining Biblical laws are not absolutely essential for the establishment of basic social justice, and there is disagreement about interpretation, so they are best left to the Church, Synagogue and family.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As you can tell, I don't have a high opinion of Jefferson's political philosophy.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As I understand this essay the problem is how to reconcile majority rule with moral law - which even the people in mass must not violate. It is not that hard in the Unites States because our Founding Fathers estaablished the Declaration of Independence as our foundational moral law. So, our Constitution, all Federal Laws, all State Constitutions and all State laws - secular laws which may relfect majority will - must be in compliance with the Declaration of Independence - our national moral law - or be struck down as un-Declarational.

I have the highest regard for the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson and John Locke because they understood that in order to have a good nation its moral law must be distilled from Biblical moral law.

“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another's pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another's uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our's.” John Locke

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..." Thomas Jefferson

So, ultimately majority rule, while it's self being natural law, is inferior to the basic natural law of life, liberty and one's fruit of labor in creative pursuit of happiness.

"Every man, and every body of men on earth, possesses the right of self-government. They receive it with their being from the hand of nature. Individuals exercise it by their single will; collections of men by that of their majority; for the law of the majority is the natural law of every society of men." --Thomas Jefferson

“It is strangely absurd to suppose that a million of human beings, collected together, are not under the same moral laws which bind each of them separately… Independence can be trusted nowhere but with the people in mass. They are inherently independent of all but moral law [Declaration of Independence]…” Thomas Jefferson
1 year ago
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