On his blog, Bonald raised the question of whether some peoples are not ready for monarchy.
In the wake of America’s Iraq misadventure, it became common to state that the problem with democracy exportation is that some countries just aren’t ready for it, that there are preconditions to a “free”, “democratic” state: a sufficiently large middle class, weakened tribal affiliations, low nepotism, high “social trust”, an extensive non-governmental “civil society”, secularization, or whatever. In making these claims, democracy-believers make themselves look reasonable while securing their core beliefs from scrutiny. The very manner of phrasing presupposes that democracy is the one intrinsically desirable form of government, that it is the one toward which all peoples are evolving, and that if democracy doesn’t work well with a given people that just means there’s something wrong with them.
Let us pose the question, “Is it possible that some peoples are not ready for monarchy?” Just posing the question, you see, is more important than any answer, because it reframes the debate. Monarchy, rather than democracy, is the presumed normative end state. Yet I am a moderate monarchist, not some rash neomonarchist adventurer who would go around toppling republics by force of arms when the local conditions are not yet right. America, for instance, is at a rather primitive level of social development, and it’s not clear that she has the resources to maintain a regal society. Monarchy, after all, has preconditions. The bourgeoisie must not be overly dominant; rather one wants a healthy plurality of power among social classes, including a vigorous nobility and clergy. Religion should be strong and of the sacramental sort, so that people are attuned to symbolism and respectful of tradition. There must be a type of “social trust” that harbors no paranoid fear of authority, so that authority can become properly visible and responsible rather than concealing itself behind impersonal procedures. There is nothing novel here; Montesquieu argued at length that each type of government has its own associated virtues.
In fact, most monarchies, like most republics, are imposed and only become organic features of their societies later, so if one really wants a particular form of government, I’m not sure that imposing it whenever the opportunity arises isn’t still the best policy. However, I would like to try the “not ready yet” on a republican sometime:
“I’m a monarchist.”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong. I realize that some countries, like the United States, aren’t ready for monarchy yet. I wouldn’t want us to have a monarch before we reach a high enough level of social development. I am a moderate and pragmatic fellow.”
This was mainly done to discuss how to shift the assumptions of a conversation, and it does this excellently, however, it does raise an actually interesting question, what would be the most prudent way to go about this, if one ever had the chance? I expressed my opinion in the comment thread:
Brilliant! Just brilliant!
As to the actual question, I tend to think that if there were some particular society, such as Ancient Rome, that had a long tradition of non-liberal and otherwise good* republican government, that the republican system should be maintained, out of deference for tradition and wanting to avoid an unnecessary occasion for novelty. But that in most cases, including our own, monarchy should be established whenever possible.
I would note that every well-functioning republic in history that I’m aware of, had a nobility, in other words it was organized in a fundamentally monarchical fashion, with the republican superstructure being the exception.
I would also add that, to my knowledge, no such republic exists in the modern world.