Hereditary monarchy vs. democracy: the other side

This post is probably quite unnecessary, since most everyone these days takes it for granted that of course democracy is better than hereditary monarchy, but I nevertheless want to balance my earlier post on this subject with one looking at the relative advantages of democracy over monarchy — again focusing on the mechanism of succession and its consequences.

As before, I will be using king in a generic sense which includes queens, presidents, etc.


The king’s blood relatives are his natural allies. Those who stand a chance of becoming king themselves should anything happen to the reigning king are his natural enemies. The system of hereditary monarchy so arranges things that these two groups of people are identical; it intentionally pits family loyalty against ambition.

In my previous post, I emphasized the positive side of this — how family loyalty can put a check on the ambitions of potential heirs, thereby strengthening the polity by reducing the number of people who actively seek the king’s downfall.

The other side of this coin is that sometimes ambition wins the struggle against family loyalty, turning potential heirs against their own flesh and blood — and then these unnatural monsters come to power, a distinctly unlikely development in a democracy. Democracy produces Nixons and Hitlers aplenty, but only hereditary monarchy can father forth a Nero.


Another point in favor of democracy is that mass elections do tend to ensure that kings meet certain very basic standards of competence and normality. Of course many democratically elected leaders are scoundrels, and some of them are relatively incompetent — but I feel pretty safe in saying that the U.S. has never elected a president with a two-digit IQ and never will. Nor do 12-year-olds win elections, or people with serious mental illnesses. Under the hereditary system, though, all of these things are possible — and, given enough time, inevitable.

Is there anything in politics more tragic than Marcus Aurelius — who, reign he never so brilliantly, was helpless to escape his fate of being succeeded by Commodus? It wouldn’t have happened in a democracy.


In the end, hereditary monarchy makes the same mistake as democracy: it tries to eliminate the need for human choice and human responsibility by having the king chosen automatically by an algorithm. A fundamental rule of politics ought to be no important decisions made by algorithms, all important decisions made by individuals. It can be helpful to take into account such things as family relationships, the voice of the populace, etc. — but no such consideration ought to be allowed to become “automatic,” to make the decision by itself without the mediation of an actual human being.


Filed under Politics

4 responses to “Hereditary monarchy vs. democracy: the other side

  1. I don’t think any ‘system’ works, as such; and also that factors such as scale/ size/ geography/ population homogeneity and religiousness (especially – including ‘ideology’) have a much more important effect than generally admitted.

    It is almost impossible to imagine a good polity with the ideology/ moral system of the modern West – no matter what the system, if people are living according to a code which is purposively 95 percent anti-Good, then this will prevail, since whatever checks, balances and enforcements may exist in theory will not be implemented in practice except when they fit the ideology.

    For these reasons I think the secular Right’s obsession with devising ideal political systems (encouraged and led by the example of ‘Mencius Moldbug’ – who does indeed do this very well) is a snare (as well as a waste of time). Ironically, the secular Right (with their open and bottom-line advocacy of pleasure seeking/ pain avoiding selfishness) would be among the most destructive elements in their own polity (if by some miracle it ever happened).

  2. I agree with you Bruce. There will be good government when and only when there is a good people. Here’s Joseph Smith’s famous comment on this:

    Some years ago, in Nauvoo, a gentleman in my [i.e. John Taylor’s] hearing, a member of the Legislature, asked Joseph Smith how it was that he was enabled to govern so many people, and to preserve such perfect order; remarking at the same time that it was impossible for them to do it anywhere else. Mr. Smith remarked that it was very easy to do that. “How?” responded the gentleman; “to us it is very difficult.” Mr. Smith replied, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”

    The “system” is still important, though, if only because it influences population homogeneity, religiousness, etc. For example, the rise in “diversity” via mass immigration is pretty clearly a consequence of democracy, a system which encourages leaders to shore up their power by “electing a new people” (as Steve Sailer likes to put it). And democracy, with its implicit premise of moral relativism (i.e., that anyone’s opinion is as valuable as anyone else’s) obviously undermines religiousness in a way that, say, divine-right monarchy does not.

    • “The “system” is still important, though…”

      Indeed. Without any doubt ‘the system’ can actively encourage evil, disorder etc, which certainly *implies* that there are ‘good systems’ (or better systems) where this is not the case (or less so).

      The main lesson (which Pascal stresses strongly) is the extreme danger of tampering with a system which is ‘working’ – however, the Left has become a supreme expert at giving people the impression that a system is not working when it actually is.

      The Leftist standard is that if one person, ever, appears to have been harmed (or subjectively humiliated) by a system, or in a way superficially blame-able upon a system – then that system is evil and must be replaced as soon as possible and at any cost.


      The Mormons who emigrated to the USA from England by ship were extraordinarily well behaved and organized on board ship – more so, it seems, than any other emigrants – so the effect was not resticted to Joseph Smith in person, but also worked via his Apostles and Missionaries.

      Of course, none of this seemed to have made (or nowadays seems to make) the slighest difference to people’s attitdes to Mormonism – their good behaviour is merely taken for granted, but lapses are taken as evidence of hypocrisy.

      As I have written, the situation is that attitudes to Mormonism is 100 percent experience-proof for most mainstream Christians as well as for the intellectual elites – and it is the middling kind of people who seem most affected by the good moral example.

  3. “There will be good government when and only when there is a good people. ”

    One question which is legitimate, is whether the religion recruits good (in the restricted sense of well-behaved) people, or makes people better.

    A test of this could be to compare Mormon Pacific Islander immigrants to the US and living in Utah – with non-Mormon/ non-Utah dwelling PIIs (checking both with and without ‘controls’ for social class – because in fact some social class ‘controls’, such as years in education, are as much an outcome measure as an input measure).

    If it is Mormonism (i.e. the whole package of religion and social organization/ practices, characteristic of active Mormons) that makes the difference (rather han selection), then there should be clear differences in average murders, imprisonment, crime rates, welfare usage etc. – because selection effects have not be shown to be very powerful in other immigrant groups.

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