I’m watching the series Monarchy. It’s a historical and analytical look at the English monarchy.
I’ve worked my way through the first series, which covers the Anglo-Saxon years and the Norman conquest.
It’s a fascinating look into human nature, the nature of nations, and the nature of the people.
On the one hand, kings make a whole lot of sense. If we had someone we could absolutely trust to be our lawgiver, judge, and military commander, then we could have order and peace. As a society, we would be protected from all threats, foreign and domestic, and we could live our lives in freedom. This was the Anglo-Saxon ideal, and that ideal still burns in the hearts of the English people, the Americans being a branch from that tree.
On the other hand, because kings are men, the same type of men that their counselors, the nobles, and the people are made out of, they can be selfish, cruel, vindictive little people. Only a few kings in English history have had the opportunity to wield the powers of government almost absolutely. Most have had checks and balances placed on them, above their objections.
It seems to be English is to be a lover of liberty and naturally distrustful of authority. No sooner is one rebellion crushed, than another arises. More English blood has been spilled on English soil by English hands than any other place by any other people, it seems. What a fitting crucible to see various experiments of government. Man’s cruelty to man is what we ultimately fear, and government is supposed to be the means of controlling that beast. The lesson the English people have learned throughout their history that government can just as easily infringe on the rights they claim they exist to protect.
Our presidents today are much closer to the Anglo-Saxon kings than I’d like to admit. It’s very troubling, in fact, because I can see how a few bad apples can convert America into a monarchy. We are practically there today, what with the behavior of every administration since Coolidge. The grossest offenders, those who have expanded the authority of the presidency and the reach and scope of the federal government, have not had their ill-gotten and unconstitutional gains reversed by their successors. Indeed, our great hope for smaller government, Ronald Reagan, in cutting taxes actually greatly expanded the federal budget.
What is remarkable, however, is that we have today a movement based on restoring constitutional authority and limited the size and scope of the government—actually cutting it down to something it used to be, rather than merely limiting its growth. This is, of course, the Tea Party movement, which is gaining recognition both as a legitimate political force, and as a powerful one at that.
It seems at any point in English history, you had two competing sides: those who wanted to make the king greater, and those who wanted to diminish him. Although for periods of time it seems like the authority of the king had expanded, ultimately, the people always get what they want, and what they want is a man who sits on his throne in the throne room, leaving the people to their affairs, rather than a monster who enslaves the population with burdensome taxes and then sends them off to die in pointless foreign wars.
Those who wanted to make the king lesser never had effective leaders, except for rare occasions. Their voices were whispers and mumblings from the parliament and lesser nobles who had no hope of ever obtaining any high office. Their voice was the thoughts and actions of millions of lower and middle class Englishmen, whose hard work actually created the bread that fed the king’s armies.
Those who wanted to make the king greater were forever locked in partisan battles. Their supporters would face each other in open combat, graciously helping the people of England by exterminating their own partisan wealth and followers in slaughter. The War of Roses, for instance, did more to set back the power of the monarch than anything any rebel could’ve done, simply because you had two groups of people who disagreed on who should lead, not how.
We see this in today’s politics. As pointless partisans burn through their money trying to secure their offices of power, they are doing the nation a favor. What better way to waste the money of the partisan than in campaigning? I would to God that all those who seek office to expand their personal power be drained of all their wealth and influence.
The Tea Party is the game changer here. In command of vast fortunes, to be spent only on those who genuinely seek office to tear it down, rather than to build themselves up, the Tea Party has the power to erode the political power and authority of the federal and state governments. We see it today, as the House of Representatives overwhelmingly votes to not extend the debt ceiling. The message is clear: any debt ceiling increase will come with trillions in spending cuts.
We would do well to try and remember which side we are on. Do we believe in limited monarchy—a king who is mostly a figurehead, who can only wield power when it is used to defend the rights of the people? Or do we believe in an unlimited monarchy—a king who rules without consent and without limits, who uses his power to do as he pleases?
I think this question has already been answered, and answered again and again since the 400’s. The English people want, and will forever have, a limited government. Though great people may rise to great heights and attempt to change government to an unlimited one, this is temporary, as all dynasties are. The people, however, will always be there, and always whispering for less government.