My Master's Voice

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Yesterday I placed my annual call to my All-Highest War Lord and Sovereign Master, Kaiser Wilhelm II, to offer my usual felicitations on his birthday. His Majesty was laughing when he picked up the receiver, so after congratulating him I took the liberty of inquiring what Heaven found so funny.

"Democracy," His Majesty replied.

"I take it you are watching this year’s Presidential election in the U.S.," I said.

"The flea circus? That’s part of it," said the Kaiser. "It nicely illustrates one of democracy’s contradictions, namely that no one who is willing to crawl and grub for votes can be worthy of the office to which he aspires. There’s no place for the nolo episcopari in democratic politics, it seems, nor for anyone with the slightest shred of character. Your Giulianis and McCains, Clintons and Obamas are happy to eat every toad in the public garden."

"I think the American public is no happier with their options this year than is Your Majesty," I replied.

"Thereby illustrating another funny aspect of democracy," the Kaiser shot back. "Who do they think is responsible? They are, of course. No candidate who told them the truth could get above 10% in the polls. They want nostrums, bromides, comforting lies, and they won’t tolerate anything else. America speaks of citizens, but all it has are consumers whose heads are as fat as their bottoms. That too is where democracy leads, to an ever-declining lowest common denominator. It cannot do anything else."

"The funniest aspect of the whole business," His Majesty continued, "is that the lower America sinks, the more determined its politicians are to force democracy on everyone else. All but one of your Presidential candidates has pledged to continue crusading for democracy, despite the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan. By comparison, even the late Spanish Hapsburgs were models of realism."

"The democracy advocates — and I trust Your Majesty knows I am not one — would reply that democracy is necessary to freedom," I suggested.

"Another contradiction," said the Kaiser. "Prussia in my day was far more free than America is today, because Prussians understood what freedom is. Freedom is not doing whatever you feel like. Freedom is replacing imposed discipline with self-discipline. No democratic office-seeker would dare say that, because the voters would not like it. They want to be told that they can do whatever they please — spend without saving, live immoral lives without degenerating, vote without thinking — and suffer no unfortunate consequences. If the public wants to square the circle, Presto!, a hundred politicians promise to do it."

"I trust that Your Majesty’s preferred alternative to democracy is monarchy, as is mine," I said.

"Yours, mine and Heaven’s," the Kaiser replied. "As I have said before, Heaven is not a republic. Though there are, I think, two countries God intends should be republics."

"And those are?", I asked.

"Switzerland, to show that it can be made to work, and America, to serve as a warning to everyone else."

"Were America to wake up to the virtues of monarchy — and God knows our current election campaign should wake us up — who would you recommend for the American throne?", I inquired.

"An Austrian Hapsburg, I should think," said the Kaiser. "They are accustomed to ruling over ramshackle, polyglot, decaying empires. My old friend Emperor Franz Josef did so remarkably well."

"One last question, if I may," I said. "Should America continue on the unhappy road of democracy, what lies in our future?"

"Let’s just say that the combination of military defeat and economic depression is not a happy one," the Kaiser answered. "And now I must ring off. I hear the band of the Garde du Corps playing, which means it is time to review the troops. I think the tune is, u2018And the World Turned Upside Down.’"

William Lind is an analyst based in Washington, DC.

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