The 6 books of the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien describe a classical good versus evil conflict. The theme is power, and the goal is to end it. The story has a happy ending; the end of tyranny and the return of the king after ages of darkness. What do these marching armies reaching as far as the eye can see remind us of? The nazism, fascism, and communism of the twentieth century come to mind. There is little doubt that the past century gave us the most terrible acts in human history. It is commonly believed that democracy is the sound alternative to tyranny. However, it is not democracy that returns in Middle Earth. It is monarchy.
We find here a certain connection between J.R.R. Tolkien and Erik M.R. von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, as Benjamin Constant is quoted in the chapter "A Critique of Democracy" in Liberty or Equality (also available online) as saying “In certain historical periods one has to make the full circle of follies in order to return to reason.” Moreover, in Leftism Revisited we find a quote of Sir Edward Grey on August 13, 1914: “The lights are going out all over Europe, and we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn himself wrote in Leftism Revisited that “[s]ometime in the coming century, people will rack their brains pondering how nations with tremendous scientific and intellectual achievements could have given uninstructed and untrained men and women the right to vote equally uninstructed and untrained people into responsible positions.”
In November of 1999 I was on my way to Macau to see the Portuguese flags flying there before it was too late. On my way I had a few hours in London, and I paid a visit to the Adam Smith Institute, where I amongst other things had a discussion about Tony Blair’s affair with the British Constitution. A response to my critique that Mr. Blair by removing the hereditary peers from the House of Lords was that the House of Lords didn’t have much power left anyway, so it didn’t matter that much. This only goes to show that Edmund Burke was right when he said that “[t]he true danger is when liberty is nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts.” Now, Tony Blair has managed to do away with hereditary peers. What is left is a right to take part in the debates to be terminated by the death of the peers, i.e., the right is not to be passed on. Perhaps British nobility will end up like the Swedish nobility. Although Swedish nobility has not had any political power for quite some time, just this year the Swedish parliament passed a bill abolishing the “official status” of the nobility. Back to Britain. The monarchy is now next. What the Brits stand in danger of ending up with is a kind of “Swedish model," i.e., neither any actual nor formal powers to the monarch. Although it can easily be argued that formal, advisory, and reserve powers is insufficient as a bulwark against mass democracy, the value of these powers should not be underestimated.
The value of reserve powers can be illustrated by the example of the Hitlerite attack on Norway in April of 1940. His Majesty King Haakon VII was requested to appoint Vidkun Quisling as Prime Minister by the invading power. His Majesty told the Cabinet that he could not comply with this request, and that he would rather abdicate. The insufficiency of the formal, advisory, and reserve powers is though illustrated by the fact that the Norwegian defense had decayed severely. It is said that this was against the will of His Majesty. The formal reserve powers have value in the sense that they can be used in extreme situations. The advisory powers serve as a corrective in a system where politicians come and go. We may miss them, the mentioned regal powers, i.e., not the politicians, when they’re gone, as we today miss the liberty we had before democracy came to haunt us. As Henrik Ibsen said “evig eies kun det tapte," which would translate into something like “eternally owned is only that which is lost." Ibsen furthermore told us in “En folkefiende," translated as An Enemy of the People:
Flertallet har aldri retten p sin side, sier jeg! Det er en av disse samfunnslgne som en fri, tenkende mann m gjre opprr imot. Hvem er det som utgjr flertallet av beboerne i et land? Er det de kloke folk, eller er det de dumme? Jeg tenker vi fr vre enige om at dumme mennesker er til stede i en ganske forskrekkelig majoritet rundt omkring p den hele vide jord. Men det kan da vel, for fanden, aldri i evighet vre rett at de dumme skal herske over de kloke!
This would translate into something like:
The majority never has what is right on its side, I say! That is one of these society lies which a free, thinking man must rebel against. Who constitutes the majority of the inhabitants of a country? Is it the wise, or the stupid? I think we can agree that stupid people are present in a very terrible majority around the whole wide earth. But it cannot, damnit, ever be right that the stupid shall rule over the wise!
Ibsen continues speaking through his character of Dr. Tomas Stockmann:
Minoriteten har alltid retten.
Which would translate into something like:
The minority has always what is right (on its side).
The last words of Dr. Stockmann are:
Saken er den, ser I, at den sterkeste mann i verden, det er han som str mest alene.
Which would translate into something like:
The thing is, you see, that the strongest man in the world, that is he who stands most alone.
When apologists for democracy defend democracy by referring to everything else being much worse, they almost sound like parrots. Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn said in Liberty or Equality: “Yet we can very well imagine a dinner given in a ‘modern democracy’ and not only a so-called ‘people's democracy’ of the Eastern pattern! in which all the men arrive in a black uniform (the tuxedo or ‘tails’), all of them with clean-shaven faces, all of them uttering in unison with parrot-like monotony the same identical political and social clichs.”
Plato told us that we will not have good governance before those govern who do not want to govern. With this in mind it does not sound wise to devise a system where the will to govern is almost a prerequisite for those who govern. In this respect the accident of birth is perhaps not such a bad idea as political correctness would have us believe. Rivarol once said “The absolute ruler may be a Nero, but he is sometimes Titus or Marcus Aurelius; the people is often Nero, and never Marcus Aurelius.” (Liberty or Equality, E.M.R. von Kuehnelt-Leddihn).
Thomas Woodrow Wilson told us that “[l]iberty has never come from government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of government. The history of liberty is the history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it.” It is one of the many paradoxes of politics that his crusade to make the world safe for democracy, something from which the world actually should be made safe, introduced an era of which one can say with little doubt is the one with most unlimited governmental power in human history. At least he proved his point; that liberty has never come from government.
Charles MacKay wrote in 1841 in his catalog Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. MacKay has a chapter on the crusades. After quoting Paradise Lost he says, “Every age has its peculiar folly." The folly and delusion we face now is the concept of democracy as self-government. As von Kuehnelt-Leddihn put it, we are always ruled, there is no escape. Edmund Burke told us that “[t]he people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.”
The delusion that the great god Demos has brought upon us truly belongs in the “good company” of the catalog of Charles MacKay. Let us hope that the age of darkness soon will come to an end, that we can return to reason, that we will see the lights lit in our lifetime, and that people soon will rack their brains over the hopeless concept of mass democracy.
December 8, 2003