The monarchy is not reasonable; what in fact could be more unreasonable than the presumption that the son of a king, even a good king, would necessarily make a wise ruler in turn? For even the greatest of men may have the most foolish of sons: one only needs to look at the glorious Henry V and the impotent Henry VI to comprehend this. Yet, the very fact it isn’t based on reason is its great strength, as it understands and represents human nature far better than any philosophical government.
Man is, in short, the least brutish of the animal kingdom but he is brutish all the same: he is irrational; he desires blood, war, hate and love. There is a sadistic fury within him which at any time can reduce the most gracious of gentleman to nothing more than the tribal savage; what was once hidden can burst forth from prison like a Levanter to sweep the earth with their hurricane and to break up the fountain of the great deep to overwhelm us. Man is a hideous thing and, from the background, peers demoniacal hints of truth which make him more hideous. He is a paradox: he desires stability and war; community and individualism; at once he can be the meek servant the next the hate filled murderer; at once the dutiful communal husband, the next the lonely hermit in his mountain home; at once the most steadfast of friends, the next Brutus himself; man is ruled by these bestial paradoxes which his reason can never puzzle and to which he is forever enslaved.
The brutish instinct is also evidenced in nature, as man is king of all and like any king he in some ways represents his subjects, Nature is a stage of kill or be killed, where one animal is constantly devouring another. Man is also bound to this one riding principle, “he kills to obtain food and he kills to clothe himself, he kills to adorn himself, he kills in order to attack, he kills to defend himself, he kills to instruct himself, he kills to amuse himself, he kills to kill, proud and destructive tyrant he wants everything and nothing resists him.” So how can a creature so consumed by violence ever be ruled by reason or indeed be reasonable? The answer presents itself; he cannot. The multitude of human history records countless irrational wars and actions, where man is the warlord and nothing else: how many men have been slaughtered for power? how many women raped for lust? Man’s irrationality is fallen and flawed, however it is not solely evil and there is no dialectic between the bad irrational and the good rational as the Manichaeist would have you believe, far from it.
Our irrationality holds much of life’s wonder; love, friendship, loyalty and humour are all based in emotion. How often do you laugh at a well-reasoned action? How often can you solve the jigsaw of love? You cannot, thus it is our humanity which gives life its colour as well it’s violence, not the robotic dry lecturing of reason, it is the song of love that moves man not the words of logic. It is our great prejudices which produce humanity’s greatest single acts, songs are sung on fearlessly brave warriors not calculating commanders, on love struck couples not Darwinist sexual partners and on long bloody feuds not well-ordered debates. Our constitution must appeal to and in some way imitate man’s nature; it cannot be completely based on reason as then only half of us would be satisfied just as it cannot be completely rooted in prejudice as our reason would object and revolt. It is a grievous error to see only the reasonable institutions as being of any worth; language, the most important faculty of humanity, is based in irrationality and tradition. Our ability to converse is what separates man from ape yet is irrationally formed in man’s mind. It cannot be said that the Greeks invented adverbs and the Persians adjectives: no, it was created through the course of human intuition and history and so it must be with sovereignty.
Indeed, there is no state which has yet endured where irrational institutions and traditions haven’t been the foundations of the building; every state which has either sought to destroy or ignore the continuity of tradition has either been felled or turned to despotism. Even the U.S which is exalted as the triumph of rationalism over traditionalism is bound together not by reason but by wild and constant patriotism, of blind allegiance to the flag a sworn indoctrinated duty. In Britain, we need a monarch to answer these base questions without being the subject to that most awful but intractable phenomena of Enlightenment thinking. It is the embroidered cloak of myth without which we would be cold, weak, savage and naked. The monarchy is perfectly placed to appeal to these base desires: it is shrouded in mystery, circumstance, pomp and ceremony which shock and seduce the masses into blindly following their irrational self. Blind obedience is too a paradoxical craving of man; ever since he first drew breath he has sought to establish authority over himself. Be it through tribal leaders or religious endeavours he has created systems to which he can obey without question. It is the very feature of human history; how many men have died readily like lambs to the slaughter for the sake of a cause they know not and for a leader they have barely seen? How often do men praise ideas they do not understand and have no reason to be pleased with? Indeed, which is a better base for society? The prison guard who does his task out of Christian duty to the law without pleasure and reward who goes to sleep hearing the crack of the truncheon on the crook’s skull, who can see the eyes of the incarcerated as he beats them again and again and who wakes the next morning to continue this dutiful work without error and complaint; or is it the hedonist who cares nothing for right and wrong but only for pleasure who dines with stars in his eyes and dreams in his head, who has many companions but no friends, who has extracted himself from law and is bound to no one, no place and no code? This locus for open obedience and desire for authority is the monarch which demands faith without reason, duty without reward, obedience without pause and self-sacrifice without the shilling. This tirade does not seek to claim that man has no reason, as his reason often presents itself in opposition but that his irrational sentiment is dominant and must be heavily represented in the institutions and sovereignty that governs him; all this and more the monarch embodies in our current system.
Moreover, by not relying on reason the monarchy is more stable and, as man can be this violent beast, stability in government is a necessity. Any sovereign made using sole reason is subject to be undermined by reason from a more intelligent fellow and therefore has no permanence. What man has made man can undo, what argument can put up argument can tear down. Reason by its very nature uproots and questions everything so as to leave nothing but fragments; in its quest for truth it dismantles stability and topples order and thus it is much better for a people to accept a sovereign than to seek him. The monarchy is not subject to reason because it plays on emotion, myth and other such undefinable qualities that make it impenetrable to any change in reasoning of the day and any dismantling by sophists of the time. Thus, as the most stable constitute of our system it must be retained at all cost, for without it there is no bulwark against anarchy and tyranny, we would lose our stronghold of iron clad security, our continuous protector against the evils that lay beyond and the last citadel of Rome holding out against the barbarian hordes that threaten to sack her.
I do not claim that emotions do not change, indeed at times they change far more swiftly than thought through reason, however, entrenched desires and prejudices can survive even when faced with the most water tight of arguments; take the prejudice that family entails. Should a blood relative be of necessarily greater worth than any other human being simply due to providence of birth? And yet family is rightfully held up as a central pillar of all successful societies due to the entrenched nature of its prejudice; indeed this prejudice has survived despite constantly being undermined by continuous governments, another topic perhaps for a different time. How persuasive is the fanciful ideology of the nation? A creation of the 18th and 19th centuries without any base on reason and yet it holds sway in countless minds despite economic, demographic and, until recently, political trends suggesting it is outdated and obsolete yet still it persists in the minds of all. Therefore, although monarchy isn’t completely stable it does add a certain security to our constitution which must never be thrown away for the folly of reason.
To add to that, monarchy reduces, if not abruptly halts, the Machiavellian power broking that plagues modern politics. The type of man who enters politics is by his definition interested power, if not grabbing it himself. He is fuelled by envy and jealousy of colleagues who have more power and position; a monarchy would reduce this significantly. No one who isn’t part of the crown can assume sovereignty and, as envy only truly thrives when one sees what they could have had not what they could never achieve; an exclusive monarchy reduces this vile trait to almost nothingness. The power broking that will take place inevitably happens further away from where absolute power lies and thus its malignant effects are severely reduced.
There is however no “reason” as to why our monarch is the best placed for this role in our constitution and why we cannot use some other elected head of state; to this I would respond “tradition, tradition, tradition!” If order is required and order is required then tradition must persist, tradition by its nature is order, it is habits repeated over many years continuously and thus holds us in position. Traditions have proven, through the long survival in history, of their worth and although one would not devise such an institution its endurance is proof of its worthiness. It is the bark on the tree, unsightly at first and with no seeming purpose for growth, but on it removal the tree would topple, and no fruit be born. It provides the continuity between the roots of society and the new leaves of progress that are continuing to spring up around us, it stays upright despite all the variances of the season and surroundings, constantly changing and conserving. Its continuity has been promoted by our most ancient forefathers across millennia and thus to destroy it now would be to disregard them all and to elevate yourself to the highest rank among them. If you are so arrogant and hubris is at home in your soul, then so be it; but I cannot believe it so. In this it is these traditions and these prejudices which make up society, for better or for worse they are part of English society and thus to threaten one so large as the monarchy is to threaten a foundation within the great cathedral of our land and, as my previous analysis of human nature suggests, to threaten this is to dance with the devil of anarchy and breakdown. It is the stone walls within which the town is built and prospers, in periods of peace the town outgrows its bounds and brave citizens venture out of the shadow of the castellation yet still they stand, seemingly without function; foolish councils debate to pull them down and put the stone to better use but when the smoke of an approaching army is spotted let us hope they have been maintained.
It is these irregularities of life which give us this great tapestry. Humanity is not ordered nor was it ever meant to be so and to attempt to create a perfectly segmented society is to go against our very disordered and enjoyable nature, far better the crooked streets of London than the planned metropolis of New York.
Thus far, I have written much on the abstract views of human nature and the value of tradition, but may I put forward a more constitutional basis for my defence; the monarchy, if allowed to, provides a check on tyranny without it and only having an elected house you suffer the consequence of a voted dictatorship. When we are scared, meek, vulnerable and forgetting our better faculties and virtues the electorate would willingly sacrifice liberty, rule of law and justice for security and despotic tyranny. The monarch can be thus a check to stop Britain accidentally committing suicide in this way. If it functioned properly it could be an absolute protector of our traditions and ideas that made the British political system the envy of the world. It should not deal with the minor operations of government but seismic changes of a constitutional nature.
Why then can’t we have a US system of checks and balances with a coherent logical separation of powers? There are three obvious answers to this, the first is the inherent weakness of codified constitutions, which I will not lecture as there are those who can do this far better than I. Moreover, the monarchy is a check on a constitutional crisis, rather than reducing the effectiveness of government as the complete separation of powers does. But more importantly this is not in the tradition of British government and would mean a rendering of the current system so extreme to as to cause it to snap.
Let us now consider the proposition of a republic as the alternative to the monarchy. The first is to say that it cannot be seen as a panacea and a guardian of the values of liberty, rule of law and justice. One only needs to look at contemporary politics; there are fair and upright republics such as France and The Republic Of Ireland, but so too are there constitutional monarchies of the same value such as Spain and the U.K, moreover if one to venture to travel to the Far East of China and North Korea to realise that republics do not guarantee the principles we hold dear. More specifically, republics by their very nature combine elected politicians, who make active executive mundane decisions, with the head of the state. By doing this one offers a protection of the politician and a block to freedom of speech which holds so vital in civility, for to critique the politician is to undermine the state itself and to the extreme be considered as treasonous and deemed unacceptable. I hope you take a modicum of time to consider what I’ve put before you to value the irrational and or true corroded human nature.
This opinion piece was written by Thomas Vare and originally published on ‘the Mallard’. You can view the original post here.