The Appeal of Inherited Power

Mr. McDonnell, deputy leader of the British Labour Party, which for the time being is in opposition, recently objected to the presence of hereditary peers in the “upper” house of Britain’s Parliament, using the crude and vulgar language typical of populist politicians anxious to demonstrate their identity with the people or the masses. (It is strange, by the way, how rarely leftists who are in favor of confiscatory economic policies are condemned as populist when they appeal mainly to envy, spite, and resentment, those most delightful of all human emotions.)

Speaking for myself—the only person for whom I am fully entitled to speak—I would rather be ruled (at least in the modern world) by the Duke of Northumberland than by Mr. McDonnell; and this is for perfectly rational reasons and not, as might be supposed, from any feeling of nostalgia for a world we have lost.

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Democracy - The God Th... Hans-Hermann Hoppe Best Price: $25.44 Buy New $43.12 (as of 09:45 EDT - Details) Unlike Mr. McDonnell, the Duke of Northumberland does not feel that he has to make the world anew, all within his lifetime—or rather within his political lifetime, a period that is even shorter. He knows that the world did not begin with him and will not end with him. As the latest scion of an ancient dynasty going back centuries, he is but the temporary guardian of what he has inherited, which he has a duty to pass on. Moreover, as someone whose privileges are inherited, he knows that his power (such as it is) is fragile in the modern world. He must exercise it with care, discretion, and consideration.

Contrast this with Mr. McDonnell, should he ever reach power. He will mistake the fact that he has come to power by legitimate means for sovereignty. For him, vox populi, vox dei. And since he, or his party, will be the recipient of the most votes, albeit far from those of a majority of the electorate, he will regard himself as entitled to do all that he promised and a great deal besides. The fact that he will be sovereign for only a few years at most will only increase the urgency, one might say the fury, with which he acts: For him, it will be now or never, and it is easy to wreck an economy in a few months. As every private landlord knows, a tenant can do more damage in a day than a year’s rent will pay to repair.

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