Saturday, May 31, 2008

Whacky monarchy stories

The Internet confuses and yet amazes me at the same time. In my last post, I said that monarchy is stupid and sort of embarrassing, and I believe that's true. I also said that I consider the Dalai Lama an imposter, a monarchist who found populism only after being dethroned, which I also think is true. I had been quite a bit prepared to respond to supporters of the Dalai Lama who were offended at me pointing out his feudal past and the class-based repression of the Tibetan state before modern Chinese rule.

What I got instead was the Radical Royalist. So, instead of getting the reasonably common defense of the Dalai Lama, I got this nutjob who thinks that monarchy is preferable to democracy. I mean, WOW!

Or, as he puts it, himself, "These are troubled times, but I guess monarchists have something to say and something to offer as a possible solution for many problems that shake the world. That's why I call myself "radical royalist" because I am unashamedly in favour of a monarchy - anywhere!"

So, I will give you my FAVORITE MONARCHY STORY.

Around about 1914, the Archduke Ferdinand got assassinated by anarchists from Serbia. He was the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was basically the rump state of the Holy Roman Empire. By the early 20th century, it was also in serious decline in relative power, the wars of the late 19th century proving it to be politically, economically and militarily decadent. So great was the misrule of Austro-Hungary that there was widespread low-level civil strife throughout it, and eventually some (reasonably incompetent) anarchists managed to blow him away.

Obviously, Austria was pretty pissed about this. So, they asked Germany, ruled by Kaiser Wilhelm II . . .

OK. Let me back up. Willie the Second was what is technically called "an idiot". One of his more odious habits was a deep love of dressing up in military uniforms. It was observed during his own life the reason he increased the size and power of the German Navy was because he wanted to wear an admiral's uniform. He also decided to throw out Bismarck, amongst the most brilliant (if evil) politicians of the 19th century, and all-in-all believed that he was German Emperor because of God's personal intervention, and proceeded to act as though his least whim was therefore divine. Which largely meant provoking European powers. An idiot with unimpeachable authority that was literally claimed to be divine. (Think about that the next time some Western power accuses somewhere else of being backwards - not too long ago European monarchs were claiming absolute divine authority. Maybe I'll follow this blurb up with something about Leopold II of Belgium.)

So, Franz Joseph, the Austro-Hungarian Emperor, asked Willie the Second if they could attack Serbia, from where Ferdinand's assassins came. Germany, thinking it would be a brief war, said, "Sure, go ahead."

However, unbeknowns to anyone, Peter I of Bosnia - another hereditary monarch - had a deal with the Russian Czar Nicholas II. They had a secret defense pact.

OK, a brief word about Nick the Second. Also an idiot. He was a weak man ruled by his wife (I don't mean that as sexism, but kings can't afford to be ruled by anyone) who was in turn largely ruled by Rasputin who had power over the the Russian heir, Alexei, who was a hemophiliac due to aristocratic inbreeding. Rasputin seemed able to control Alexei's suffering, which endeared him to the Tzarina, who in turn had immense power over Nick the Second.

Nick the Second's misrule had, by 1914, already been clearly demonstrated through many bone-headed plays, including the Russo-Japanese War (which was deeply humiliating for Russia) and the 1905 Revolution.

So, this idiot had a secret defense treaty with Serbia, saying if Serbia was attacked that Russia would come to Serbia's aid . . .

OK. Think about that for a second. Secret self-defense pact. Now, who in their right mind makes a secret self-defense pact. What fucking good is a self-defense pact if no one knows about it?! The whole point of deterrence is that your presumptive enemies know that you've got a big stick! But, no, the idiot Nick the Second of Russia and Petey the First of Serbia decided what would be really clever was to hide the fact if you attacked Serbia you'd also be attacking Russia.

So, the Austrians attack Serbia - thinking that they'd have a jolly little war, teach those Serbs their place and be home by Christmas - but it activates the secret self-defense pact that Serbia had with Russia, which activates the treaties that Austria had with Germany, which activated the treaties that Russia had with France . . .

And now you've got World War I.

But, really, monarchy is the solution to the world's ills.

9 comments:

ThunderDragon said...

But monarchy and democracy aren't mutually exclusive.

handmaiden said...

This post brings to mind a comment always made by this really old guy I used to know whenever politics came up.
An idea one of his College professors instilled in him way back when.

"The only good government is a Benevolent Dictatorship."

UGH!

CyberKitten said...

thunderdragon said: But monarchy and democracy aren't mutually exclusive.

Oh, I think they are. Monarchy is rule by a single person, whilst Democracy is rule by the many. They're pretty mutually exclusive really.....

handmaden quoted: "The only good government is a Benevolent Dictatorship."

Probably the best type of government is Aristocracy - rule by the best. Of course the trick is knowing who are the best suited to rule and keeping them that way. Rather inevitably aristicracies become oligarchies and then dictatorships - which is usually a bad thing.

Chris Bradley said...

ThunderDragon,

Obviously, many countries have monarchs that are largely democratic republics. As I said before, I largely find monarchies like England or Denmark has to be ridiculous - decadent remnants of bad times. But monarchical rule is different than democratic rule, and most constitutional republics play word games to hide the fact that the monarch doesn't really have much power at all (often no real power). Calling Queen Elizabeth "the sovereign" doesn't mean she has much in the way of power.

Handmaiden

Yeah, obviously this fella is like that. For thousands of years the people who would later be called political scientists focused on the "education of princes". From Plato on, the thought that the problem wasn't the rule of a king or prince or whatever, but merely that those princes were poorly educated and if you tried really, really hard you'd be able to create a system where the rulers were educated to bring enlightened benevolence to the people.

Nowadays, of course, we have better models of human behavior and know that lots of people communicating freely with each other are better at making decisions than top down hierarchical structures. We know that monarchy is stupid. But some people are really, really attached to authoritarianism in ways that I don't think are rational.

Cyberkitten,

I think the best government involves everyone, hehe. Like you said, how do we figure out the best people? I also suspect that "the best" is heavily situational. The best for one set of events might be dismal with dealing with another set of events. So the broadest possible participation, to me, would seem best - bring the skills of as many people as possible together.

Fortunately, this actually works, hehe.

CyberKitten said...

Chris B said: I think the best government involves everyone, hehe.

What? You mean a participatory democracy? Good in theory.... [grin]

Chris B said: I also suspect that "the best" is heavily situational. The best for one set of events might be dismal with dealing with another set of events.

Hopefully if enough of the 'best' are involved they'd be able to cope with pretty much anything.

Chris B said: So the broadest possible participation, to me, would seem best - bring the skills of as many people as possible together.

Participation being the word - which is hardly covered by being allowed to vote every 4-5 years. The vast majority of people in our present version of democracy do not participate in governing a country. In reality we only have the illusion of democracy in the west - and not a very robust illusion at that.

Chris Bradley said...

CK,

Hehe, I was not actually thinking participatory democracy - tho' I think that's better than monarchy because, well, just about anything is better than monarchy - but consensualism. I think that republicanism and democracy are forms of government embedded in certain social and technological forms and as those forms change we should change our government to reflect those new changes.

I mean, 1500 years ago, a person could argue for monarchy. The difficulties of travel and communication made autocratic centralization sensible. But as times changed, as the social and technological advances altered society, by the 19th century not even monarchs could really defend kingdom, so it fell apart in those places where communication and education were good enough to change things. That change was towards democratic republics - because that was the threshold of communication and such that could be sustained.

Now, with increasing deep communications, transportation and educational systems, I think that the time has come (or is shortly coming) where greater participation in government, some form of consensualism, will be inevitable.

If that makes any sense. ;)

CyberKitten said...

Chris B said: Hehe, I was not actually thinking participatory democracy - tho' I think that's better than monarchy because, well, just about anything is better than monarchy

I'm a confirmed Republican so I can't help but agree with you - for a whole host of reasons.

Chris B said: I think that republicanism and democracy are forms of government embedded in certain social and technological forms and as those forms change we should change our government to reflect those new changes.

That has more than a hint of Marxism [grin]

Chris B said: Now, with increasing deep communications, transportation and educational systems, I think that the time has come (or is shortly coming) where greater participation in government, some form of consensualism, will be inevitable.

Quite possibly - what with the Internet & e-mail & such....

Chris B said: If that makes any sense. ;)

Yup. I think I understood what you said...

platzaps said...

Hilarious post!

Chris Bradley--Slow communication and travel doesn't justify monarchy, it just necessitates smaller states! Democratic city-states worked quite well long before the telegraph.

Heather said...

You should write a whole post on the new possibilities of "consensualism". (If you haven't already, I only started reading your blog yesterday, and from most recent to least recent)
I have been thinking for a long time that it is becoming more and more possible for the majority of people to get involved in government, yet we are held back by the current system. It's hard to find people that agree with me and are also educated about the subject.