2013 November 07 Thursday
Monarchy As A Symbol Of Rebellion Against Republic

Reading Tom Holland's very excellent book Rubicon: The Last Years Of The Roman Empire.

Instead of the Senate's traditional isolationism, Pompey embodied a new doctrine. Wherever Roman business interests were threatened, the Republic would intervene - and, if need be, impose direct rule. What had once been a toehold in the east was now to be a great tract of provinces. Beyond them was to stretch an even broader crescent of client states. All were to be docile and obedient, and all were to pay a regular tribute. This, henceforward, was what the pax Romana was to mean. Pompey, who had won his proconsulship with the backing of the financial lobby, had no intention of repeating Lucullus's error by treading on its toes.

Change some names and does this resonate for you today?

One point I find interesting: Some reactionary weblogs are arguing for a return of monarchy. They see democracy as increasingly failing to provide good leaders or wise decisions (and I agree with that). Well, rebels against the Roman Republic often were led by self-titled kings and they used of the trappings of monarchy as a propaganda tool against the Roman Republic.

For the memory of Alexander's greatness had always served the Romans as a reproach. Even worse, it provided an inspiration to their foes. In the east the model of kingship established by Alexander had never lost its allure. For more than a century it had been neutered and systematically humiliated by Rome, yet it remained the only credible system of government that could be opposed to the republicanism of the new world conquerors. Hence, its appeal to monarchs, such as Mithridates, who were not even Greek, and hence, most startling of all, its appeal to bandits and rebellious slaves. When the pirates called themselves kings and affected the gilded sails and purple awnings of monarchy, this had not been mere vanity, but a deliberate act of propaganda, as public a statement as they could make of their opposition to the Republic. They knew that the message would be read correctly, for invariably, whenever the order of things had threatened to crack during the previous decades, rebellion had been signaled by a slave with a crown.

The Roman Republic became an empire with an emperor as ruler. The rebels did not manage to break free of Rome's republic. Rather, the Republic eventually turned into the very sort of government that the slaves used to signal a revolt. Will the United States go the same way?

What is different today: Capital is gradually breaking free of a dependence on large numbers of manual laborers. The large nation-state might become severely weakened by the ability of capitalists to move most of their robotic capital out of the major nations. The call for a flight of Silicon Valley brains to some sort of safe haven has already been made. But we are still waiting to see if destinations for such a flight will emerge.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2013 November 07 02:18 PM 

Black Death said at November 7, 2013 3:59 PM:

Clearly our country is in an advanced (and probably irreversible) state of decline. There are lots of reasons, of course, since great disasters seldom have only a single cause. But one major reason is the failure of mass democracy. Our Founding Fathers were republicans, not democrats (note the lower case in both words). They had a fear that pure democracy would lead to mob rule and bankruptcy. John Adams said:

Democracy... while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.


Right now the rot may be too deeply entrenched to reverse. Probably the best we can hope for is some sort of peaceful secession or breakup. Can't happen too soon.

Check it out said at November 7, 2013 5:02 PM:

Well, monarchy can never be a symbol of rebellion, seems to me. Wishing for a monarchy implies the acceptance that some humans have some sort of divine right over others. Monarchies can only be conservative which is the opposite of rebellion. Surely we should all rebel against this economic neoliberalism -or is it fascism-?, but not towards a monarchy or empire which would only mean human regression.

"Some reactionary weblogs are arguing for a return of monarchy."
Maybe, but then again, that only shows the cultural decay people are in. A monarchy in America or anywhere in the Americas? based on what? Homogeneity is required in a nation -whether racial or religious- in order for a country to accept a persona that gives it its identity? Would the king be a Native American, a Chicano, a Mulato or a Mestizo? Monarchy implies royalty, which implies lineage. The idea of a "royal lineage" in America is simply absurd.

"Remember, democracy never lasts long."
Well, it all depends on what you mean by "long". Of course 200+ years of American democracy certainly is a lot less than what the Roman Empire lasted or the Catholic Theocracy has lasted. However, claiming that democracy never lasts long is dogmatic. I think that democracy could last or could've lasted longer. I see no reason why we couldn't build a new strong social democracy based on what we've learned and matured in the last couple hundred years.

Besides, at this point in history, any socio-political-economic system can only be conceived considering human beings as the ends in themselves and not the system as the ends.

Wolf-Dog said at November 7, 2013 6:11 PM:

The call for a flight of Silicon Valley brains to some sort of safe haven has already been made.


If the Silicon Valley brains move all their wealth and advanced work force to a fortress-island, then it would be encircled by jealous countries that will be militarily powerful enough to invade and loot it. For this reason the new Silicon Island City State will have to be militarily strong enough to challenge even superpowers. This would be difficult, unless, the new elite country makes a strong alliance with superpowers that would have an interest in defending it. But this concept of "interest" is very difficult to define, and the alliances can be abrogated when the interest no longer exists. This is why it may not be a good idea for the Silicon Island elite to burn all the bridges. It might be a better idea to obtain some tax privileges in exchange for providing robot technology to the government so that this would make it possible to manufacture free goods to the poorer masses. This kind of arrangement will be very doable, provided that new generation reactors (most notably the thorium molten salt reactors that would be very efficient and clean) are built on time to power the robots and the mining machines.

Sam said at November 7, 2013 7:08 PM:

Monarchy is foolish. Everyone knows someone whose Son is an idiot. There's no reason that our country as a Republican Democracy can not survive. The courts have ruled different but that can be changed. Congress decides on WHAT the courts can rule on. If the states would implement and/or:
poll taxes/literacy test/property qualifications
,we would soon straighten out this mess.

Silicon valleys not the only one talking about secession.

Secede, or Die
Memo to the South: Go Ahead, Secede Already!

Oak ridge has an experimental Thorium reactor. Without greenieacs (derivative of maniacs)we could quickly put together mass produced thorium reactors. We would have the cheapest electricity on the planet. I've seen estimates that could be as low as $0.01 a KW/hour. At that rate you can make gasoline from Co2 in the air and water for $1.00 a gallon. Starting with natural gas or coal as a feedstock could keep the same price per gallon with higher electricity prices. If interested look up LFTR liquid fluoride thorium reactor.

WJ said at November 7, 2013 8:28 PM:

It's ironic, this speech coming at a time when the tech industry is making a major push for amnestizing 15-20 million* illegals. The industry bitches about the burdens of heavy taxation and regulation of the welfare state, while simultaneously doing everything in its power to assure the welfare state's growth.

California used to be the land people flocked to for freedom and prosperity. Now with all of its onerous regulations, people are fleeing in droves. Over the last 20 years, the state has lost more than 2 million native born citizens. Silicon Valley can bitch all it wants to about libertarian principles, but they want the cheap labor to cook their meals, mow their lawns, babysit their kids, and clean their homes. These people are the drivers of the welfare state. They can't escape it. They don't want to escape it. They just don't want to pay for it.

Businesses need markets. And they will still need skilled labor. Their labor will be taxed by their home country (at least if they're American), unless they renounce their citizenship. They probably won't want to. And the nation-states will impose tariffs. That's a certainty.

* Yes, it will be at least that many. There is no reliable count on how many are here, though everyone agrees it's over 11 million; there is no bureaucracy with the size or competence to adjudicate between real and bogus amnesty applications; and there is *intentionally* no limit in the bill to how many can receive amnesty. Bogus applications will slip through the system by the millions, and they'll all be approved. And then their families will come...

WJ said at November 7, 2013 8:34 PM:

Speaking of the welfare state, here's news you can use: the food stamp program ("SNAP") is on its way to 50 million participants, at a cost of over $80 billion per year.

George W. Bush's last year in office saw it at a record high of 28.2 million (the previous of 27.5 million was set in 1994). Average participation in 2012 was 46.6 million. If trends continue, food stamp participation at the end of Obama's term will be twice the record high set during Bush's last term.


radical centrist blogger said at November 8, 2013 6:13 AM:

the solution is not monarchy, but to increase the degree of democracy. Small white nations like denmark, sweden et al do not have the same problems as the USA.

Make the USA like those nations. How? Break up the union and thereby increase democracy.
The problem is not that democracy does not work but instead the problem is that we do not have enough democracy here.

WJ said at November 8, 2013 1:47 PM:

"Make the USA like those nations. How? Break up the union and thereby increase democracy. The problem is not that democracy does not work but instead the problem is that we do not have enough democracy here."

We tried that once, back in the 1860s. It didn't go well. The government now has far more power at its disposal than it had back then. The gap in firepower between the federals and rebels is immense. And the feds will use it, if victory comes down to that.

Besides that, people are more interested in comfort than in self-determination. We're all materialists now. Example: the Scots have been pushing for decades for the right to leave the UK. That vote's coming up in less than a year, and every poll shows it losing by a 3-2 margin. But to ensure the vote loses, not only will British citizens resident in Scotland be allowed to vote, but so will any EU resident living there.

The only thing that will cause disunion is economic catastrophe.

Tom said at November 8, 2013 4:16 PM:

What we have today is, of course, not democracy, but an unelected, unaccountable bureaucracy wearing the trappings of democracy.

John said at November 9, 2013 7:00 AM:

The modern fairy tale is to see history as progress, and democracy as the ultimate goal. I believe Hegel introduced the idea that history is the progressive increase of freedom. It's interesting and refreshing to be reminded of a very notable example of a society going from kingship to republicanism and then back to kingship again after finding republicanism too turbulent and unwieldy. There seems no reason why this should not eventually be seen as the natural political cycle, or at least one kind of many possible cycles. Democracy in the west is but a few hundred years old, and if we weren't conditioned to see the world through the fairy tale Hegelian notion of progress and development, rather than through the older, more traditional notion of history as cyclical, we would be very uncertain about the future of democracy.

The only obstacle I see to a return to kingship is that a kind of quasi-scientific attitude as now become widespread, even among the masses, and kingship is seen as something un-scientific. Even though the masses know nothing of genuine science, science, with its evident power, functions as a kind of myth and totem for them, and it is unclear if this myth, which is the dominating myth of the modern world view, would permit the emergence of another myth that is hostile to it.

I think before a return to kingship could happen, science would have to be dethroned from its current function as modern man's most important myth. Not that the masses would have to know less science or be less scientifically capable - they are already scientifically illiterate, of course - but that they would have to stop thinking of science as the ultimate good and highest stage of development and thus be open to the emotional appeal un-scientific notions like "kingship".

What kingship does have going for it is an incredible emotional appeal rooted in our distant past.

P.S. Alternatively, scientists could begin re-interpreting kingship as more logical and scientific, so it might well coexist with with science as the primary myth. After all, Christian theologians had no trouble re-interpreting that religion of peace and abandonment of the world as calling for military crusades and mandating vast estates and pomp and splendor and temporal power for the clergy. Indeed history is replete with utterly incompatible ideals achieving symbiosis and harmony as part of a single system. In the end men do what they want, i.e what they find most emotionally satisfying, and logic and consistency be damned.

Randall Parker said at November 9, 2013 9:16 AM:

Sam, you say:

Monarchy is foolish. Everyone knows someone whose Son is an idiot.

To which I say:

Democracy is foolish. Everyone knows huge numbers of voters who are idiots.

It is instructive to read Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic by Tom Holland. I am struck how how incredibly irresponsible and selfish the voters were. They, and the competing elites who manipulated them, created the conditions that led to rule by an emperor.

Michael L said at November 9, 2013 7:22 PM:

instead of "seceding", maybe this Srinivasan guy ought to go live in (cough, cough) India. If the local officials bother him too much, maybe he should bribe them. Maybe even bribe them to facilitate work visas for a bunch of his non-Indian friends from Silicon Valley. Not saying it's easy, but it sounds easier and more sensible than what he is proposing.

Sam said at November 10, 2013 9:34 PM:

"Randall Parker said at November 9, 2013 9:16 AM:
Sam, you say:
Monarchy is foolish. Everyone knows someone whose Son is an idiot.
To which I say:
Democracy is foolish. Everyone knows huge numbers of voters who are idiots. "

Ahh. We agree. I don't believe everyone should vote. You should be literate and pay your own way in order to vote. Military service (maybe). Still I believe that lots of idiots on average(wisdom of crowds) are better than one big idiot.

Sam said at November 11, 2013 1:03 AM:

I looked around a little and found this pertaining to the mobs of Rome.

"...Had in the earlier days of Cincinnatus high office been sought for status and fame within Roman society, then the latter days of the Roman republic saw commanders win vast fortunes in loot and governors make millions in perks and bribes in the provinces.

The key to such riches was the Roman electorate and the city of Rome.
Therefore who controlled the Roman mob and who held the pivotal positions of tribunes of the people was now of immense importance..."

There's a lot of bashing of the average guy these days. Yet they don't run anything. The tea party mostly stands for fiscal discipline but the people who run country heap abuse upon them any chance they get. As the above quote proves this has been going on for a looonnnggg time.

Here's a few examples. The unions have been blamed for the down fall of general motors. The guys that ran G.M. didn't have to give those pay and benefit packages. They did so because they were looting the companies, packing their pockets as fast as they could and didn't want the loads of cash they were taking out of the companies to stop. They were not investing in new technology or production for their cars. They were milking past capital. The union workers saw this and said," if you're going to drive G.M. into the ground we want our share".

Was their ever a seething mass of marchers demanding the seventeenth amendment to the United States Constitution? Great striking hoards? Bombings? Panic. No there was not. The people at the top put this in place to control the country. A former sensible system that diffused power. Now capital controls who gets in the Senate. Before the 17th amendment the various State legislatures determined. Power was balanced and the Federal government was never allowed to control all power.

What about the massive credit card debt? Those evil spending peasants using debt. To buy things I bet! What horror. Of course this problem was solved earlier and only upset by the financial industry. Used to be a cap on interest rates for credit cards. This meant the banks carefully weighed who got credit cards. They removed the cap and debt exploded. Maybe we should go back to the old system.

What about the housing financial crisis? Do any of you remember people marching in the streets so that loans could be given to to those who couldn't pay them? Neither do I. The pressure came from the financial system. Of course now that the whole thing has gone to pot it's those foolish peasants. How dare they buy houses they couldn't afford. Never mind the people passing out the loans scoured every nook and cranny to find people to sign them. I've heard evidence that they lied to some about the terms of the loan so they could get them to sign.

The final indignity. Those irresponsible layabouts, surely criminals all, on food stamps. $80 billion per year and provides food aid to 14 percent of all U.S. households some 47 million people. Damn them all. The audacity of citizens asking the government for food. They should all stop eating. They're too fat anyways. Yet when the banks got in trouble they got an immediate $800 billion. We also know from Rep. Ron Paul they were given another $16 Trillion of essentially interest free loans. The numbers are surely vastly larger. This is only what we've been able to pry from them.

Yet the brilliant Monarchist tell us if only we could get some lay-about with a crown and few hunting lodges to run things everything would be dandy. A handful of Lords in bad dress and some guards with tall fuzzy hats. Nirvana. Yet before the complete federalization of all power in America we foolish peasants did fairly well for ourselves. We even had laws in the States to, God Forbid, keep improvident illiterate people from voting. Some States even had separate Houses of Legislature to represent regions and balance powers. Can't have that. The almighty Fed must rule.

We should all understand something. Many of the reactionaries aren't honest. Moldberg, whom many wish to venerate, is a good example. Look at this post:

Moldberg accurately points out many problems then politely scatters all reasonable attempts to correct them behind palisade of distortion.
He says,
"...The problem is: modern, post-1945 Western society certainly does not match the description of a type 1 society. For example, there is no coordinating authority. Unless you can come up with some conspiracy theory (Joo! Joo!), it simply doesn't exist. There is no Goebbels who tells writers what to write, filmmakers what to film, journalists what to print, or professors what to profess. There is no Pope, there is no Church, there is no Party, there is nothing. And as we've seen, the type 1 design makes no sense without coordination...".

As he says the above he KNOWS it's not true. How do I know this? In the exact same post he says,"...There is no use in trying to convince me that there was never any such thing as an international Communist conspiracy...". So at the least you know one aspect of what he's saying is untrue. As for the rest he says we don't live in a type 1 society and in type 1 societies,"...It penalizes people for expressing bad thoughts, or rewards them for expressing good thoughts, or ideally, of course, both...". (Quotes from same article)

."...Goebbels who tells writers what to write..."
When David Irving got on the wrong side of the Jews they injured his career and some of their brethren physically attempted to attack him. You think Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's having trouble publishing his last book maybe had a little to do with his thoughts on the Jews? A little, maybe? How about Douglas Reed? Bet you've never even heard of him. Once a great journalist and writer flushed down the history hole.
2."...journalists what to print..." Ask Derbyshire about that. Many, many more I won't belabor the point.
3. What about the Hispanic sports guy who talked about the Jews on Jon Stewarts show? Fired the next day. I could go on...and...on...and...on...
4."...professors what to profess..." Lawrence H. Summers
5."...filmmakers what to film..." You think Mel Gibson got good press for "The Passion of the Christ"?

Maybe many of the reactionaries really are honest. Looking around at the waste that's become American and European countries. Looking for answers. I guess I'm the foolish one for looking for answers we've tried in the past that seemed to work. I'm probably too foolish to understand the bright future that could be had if only we would give up all our rights to some snappy dresser we'd have to salute. We could take down all those George Washington posters with his stupid wooden teeth and get a proper poster up. The King!

One of their worst vices is to call the present regime the "Cathedral". "The Cathedral" is a propagandist tool phrase not to illuminate but to confuse. Maybe we should see what a Cathedral really is. According to wiki,
"...Although the word "cathedral" is sometimes loosely applied, churches with the function of "cathedral" occur specifically and only in those denominations with an episcopal hierarchy, such as the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and some Lutheran and Methodist churches..."
So Roman Catholics and Anglicans run Harvard? So Roman Catholics and Anglicans run the news media? So Roman Catholics and Anglicans run the government of the USA? I don't think so. The last time a fellow in robes strolled through a college the whole place was closed down with a Klan alert. I know people are fond of new (neo) terms so I now "Christen" it (two can play at this) the #Neo-Synagogue. I, as part of the diverse White community, am sick of the #Neo-Synagogue perching it's philosophy and works upon the tired creaking edifice of the Christian Cathedral. To continue to call the works of the #Neo-Synagogue the Cathedral is irrational, nonsensical and a farcical twisting of logic unsuitable for any Man of reason. If they insist they are going to be Men of reason be reasonable.

The constant chanting of Monarchists, as they slowly destroy the practical works of a former working Republican Democracy, "Democracy Sucks" is nothing more than the pigs getting the sheep to scream "Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad" at the top of their lungs. All the while the farm animals starve and the workers are carried off to the glue factory.

Many of the reactionaries are brilliant writers. Moldberg is particularly erudite. He writes so well and is so knowledgeable about so many things...well it must be true. I see his articles differently. I see them as a great wedding cake. Intricate roses and delicate lace festoon the cake. Vivid color a delight to the eye. The problem being the whole edifice is made of sugar and artery clogging refined wheat flour. It looks good but to digest the thing is murder.

We have the back ground of a working Republican Democracy yet the reactionaries pay no attention to this. I'm not so sure they have anyone's interest in mind but their own.

WJ said at November 11, 2013 7:26 PM:

"Democracy is foolish. Everyone knows huge numbers of voters who are idiots."

Did you see the case of the white candidate for community college trustee who tricked black voters into voting for him by leading them to believe he was black?


The Greek city-states tried all different forms of democracy, and found most or all of them wanting.

Fundamentally, if people without any intelligence and without any stake in the game are allowed to overwhelm the system, the country will fail. We need literacy tests for people to vote. We need convicted felons (or violent felons, at the very least) to be barred from voting. We need persistent welfare cases to be barred from voting.

The left-wing establishment in this country has managed to corral the dumb, violent, illiterate, irresponsible, and/or parasitic masses into their conspiracy against the middle class. The rich parasites enlist the poor parasites to attack the middle class, and they're winning.

The best part of this is that removing idiots from the voting process also helps to reduce the power of money. It is the uninformed voters who are most easily swayed by campaign ads.

Science7 said at November 11, 2013 8:57 PM:


It hasn't even been 5 days since Randall described your comments as frustrating nonsense.

You seem to not be here to learn from Randall, but rather to be a low-IQ eccentric who wastes people's time, like Check It Out.

SVA said at November 11, 2013 9:22 PM:


Randall didn't describe Sam's comments as "frustrating nonsense." I don't know why you're lying about that.

Science7 said at November 11, 2013 11:09 PM:


This is the quote:

[In reply to J.'s objection to Sam's comment.] The marginalized of various sorts end up bumping in to each other in places where non-mainstream views are discussed. People who have a more empirical bent end up getting their discussions derailed on topics where rational discussion is already far too rare. I personally find this frustrating. Even worse, it is depressing.
Sam... you aren't going to reduce the amount of damage that the Left is doing to the United States by some of the nonsense you are saying...

If you'd prefer to describe Sam's comments as "nonsense," rather than "frustrating nonsense," that's fine.

SVA said at November 12, 2013 8:38 AM:


You shouldn't misrepresent what he said. He didn't say "frustrating nonsense." He said "some of the nonsense."

Check it out said at November 12, 2013 5:17 PM:

At Science 7: Coming from you, I'll take that as a compliment.

It would be interesting if Science 7 gave some argumentation we all could work with, or at least like I like to say: produce a full coherent thought. Nevertheless, I sense an inferiority complex there somewhere in him/her.

It's easy to yell: "You're wrong" and not give any coherent reasons. Very dogmatic and medieval to my taste. I wouldn't heed Science7 too much. He'd never be able to waste anybody's time, really.

Science7 said at November 12, 2013 6:13 PM:


If Randall felt it's inaccurate to quote him saying Sam's comments are frustrating, depressing, and nonsense, he'd say so.

Instead of forgetting Randall's advice less than 5 days after he gave it, take his advice and leave out the low-IQ elements from your comments.

Randall Parker said at November 12, 2013 8:47 PM:


I certainly do not have time to address all the nonsense that some intellectually lazy and ignorant commenters writer. I am disinclined to delete most of it because I want a place where people will speak their minds. Though I really would prefer that people put a lot more effort into being correct and backing in their arguments with real evidence.

Certainly some of what Sam says is depressing and disappointing.


Consider this quote of yours about Moldbug:

Many of the reactionaries are brilliant writers. Moldberg is particularly erudite. He writes so well and is so knowledgeable about so many things...well it must be true. I see his articles differently. I see them as a great wedding cake. Intricate roses and delicate lace festoon the cake. Vivid color a delight to the eye. The problem being the whole edifice is made of sugar and artery clogging refined wheat flour. It looks good but to digest the thing is murder.

It would be hard work to carefully pick apart some piece of what Moldbug writes to put some flesh in your assertions. Someone more inclined to do some hard mental work could probably write a useful critique about Moldbug. But that is not what you did. It is not what you tried to do. It is really easy to write lots of paragraphs which let you vent. It is far far harder to write persuasive paragraphs that put flesh on even a tenth of what you say. It is far harder to write stuff that will captivate the reader and carry them along thrilling to your thought processes.

You would do yourself and others a service if you made many fewer claims and did much more proving of claims you make. And by proving, I do not mean proving to yourself. I mean proving to people who aren't already convinced and who expect a good proof before changing their mind. Part of doing that well would involve choosing claims that you can actually prove something about. Some of your rants and complaints about Jews are not in the category of stuff you can prove and really just turn off a lot of people to the rest of what you are saying. I'm certainly disappointed when I read it.

What I hate most in commenters: ranters. Ranting is lazy. Ranting is self indulgent. Ranting is easy. Did I mention just how fucking self indulgent it is? I mean, it is inconsiderate and it also convinces people to not be persuaded by you. Rather, you actually drive off other commenters and readers of comments. If you aren't going to enlighten and persuade then refrain from commenting. Look at what you are writing and ask yourself whether anyone will be persuaded by it or enlightened by it. Refrain if they aren't.

Sam said at November 13, 2013 7:38 AM:

Yes you're correct some(oops most) of it is ranting. My apologies. Some though is not. The five points I put up are pointed and reasonable. Complaining about the word cathedral is reasonable yet the way I did it was ranting. I'll just stop.

Check it out said at November 14, 2013 4:49 PM:

My apologies too.

I will try to ignore the attacks on my opinions, -specially when no idea or argumentative reason is provided in return-but I hear you man. My position is that of apology.

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