Column on Too Much Love for Royalty

Too Much Love for Royalty
Tibor R. Machan
Every time I encounter admiring references to royalty in America I cringe.
Like when recently The New York Times Magazine ran a special advertising
section for Dubai in which “the ruler of Dubai” was displayed in all his
royal splendor. But that’s just the beginning.
What about all those hotels and other establishments that have names such
as “crown,” “royal,” “queen,” “duke,” and the like? What is it with all of
this apparent lingering adoration for monarchical titles in a country that
lost thousands of lives in its fight to rid itself of the sham of the
entrenched class system of feudal times?
Well, as I see it, too many people are still subconsciously attached to
eras when the bulk of the people were being ruled by kings, queens, tsars,
Caesars, pharaohs, sheiks, khans, dukes, and barons. They still appear to
have some yearning for societies with a hierarchical structure where
individuals are deemed to be in need of strong governmental leadership
instead of mere skilled administrators. Even in the current election
campaign there is a lot of talk about who will be the best leader, as if
the country were populated with sheep in need of constant direction and
supervision.
But the United States of America has citizens, not subjects, and the
difference is considerable. Subjects are, strictly speaking, subservient
to the will of some allegedly naturally higher authority than they are.
Citizens recognize no such divisions in the population. Yes, there are
people who have earned authority in, say, medicine, engineering,
education, and so forth but the operative term is “earned.” Unlike in
feudal systems where one’s title comes with the accidental good fortune of
being born to parents who are members of an elite–ones who had no need to
achieve anything other than to remain in power mainly through sheer force
of arms–in a country where people are citizens no one is taken to be
innately better than anyone else. Yes, some may be more fortunate than
others but no official benefits are supposed to come with this.
The government in a country with citizens is also made up of citizens, not
rulers. This helps to remind everyone that these people are not better
born than others, have no special authority over others apart form what
they are freely granted by other citizens (with appropriate limits
attached even then), and that governments are by their nature no magical
institution to be entrusted with superhuman wisdom and virtue.
When this is lost sight of, as it seems to be by altogether too many
people in America, there would likely be an embrace of statism, the idea
that government officials possess innate superiority over the rest and are
thus destined to run things. And that is surely the very opposite idea to
one so brilliantly laid out in the Declaration of Independence, the brief
but very true philosophical summary of the American political system.
My inclination is to stand up and protest whenever I detect signs of
lingering adoration for royalty, even while others chide me for being
paranoid, for making a mountain out of a molehill. A recent book, Liberal
Fascism, by Johan Goldberg (Doubleday, 2008), shares my concerns by
showing that nearly all of what liberal democrats are
supporting–including or especially in the current election
campaign–turns out to be a step in the direction of a reactionary policy
of micromanaging society, just as this was deemed proper under absolute
monarchies in which king or queen had the duty to be keepers of the realm
and under 20th century fascist regimes. Just what subjects can expect and
citizens would reject. Reaction to this book–for example in The New York
Times Book Review (December 30, 2007) by David Oshinsky–has been to chide
it for paranoia, for worrying too much about the expansion of government
power in America.
Unfortunately there is no paranoia–which is to say, exaggerated and
irrational fear–involved in concerns about liberal fascism, no more so
than there was about all the fiercely authoritarian and totalitarian
regimes of the last century. They were all developed by calls for what
their intellectual supporters deemed to be needed and moderate discipline
and top down regimentation, only to graduate in time to Draconian
dictatorships.
Americans should become more self conscious about elements in their
culture that amount to nothing less than a reactionary nostalgia for
statism. That is not what made the country special in the world, the
beacon of human liberty.

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52 Responses to Column on Too Much Love for Royalty

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