Corruption, lust and greed
Define the new nobility
Changing the course of history
- The Astonishing, Dream Theater*
From his book, On Power: The Natural History of its GrowthBertrand de Jouvenel describes the aristocratic roots of liberty; such roots were ultimately subsumed by a new nobility – one designed to steal liberty away.
The Old Nobility
I see liberty in our future
And it's one worth fighting for
Liberty is found among the most ancient groupings of the Indo-European peoples known to us. It is a subjective right which belongs to those, and to those only, who are capable of defending it….
It was those powerful families, jealous of their independence but assiduous in matters of common import, that gave their tone to libertarian institutions.
Those individuals and families, the ones capable of defending their liberty, formed the aristocratic roots of liberty.
The modern, progressive, thinker would believe of such a society nothing but chaos – anarchy in the worst sense of the world; yet this was not so – and certainly not when compared with the chaos offered with the advent of all men are created equal.
When your time has come
And you're looking toward the light
All that really matters
Is what you leave behind
De Jouvenel offers his explanation:
Why is it that the autonomy of individuals wills did not produce what seems to us its natural result? The answer lies in three words: responsibility, ritual, folkways.
When the man in the mirror
Takes a long hard look at me
Will the person staring back, be the man I want to be?
The nobility took their position seriously – they carried the weight of it in every action. Of these three words, de Jouvenel offers “folkways” as the “essential factor in the ordering of society.” Citing Ihering:
The era of liberty in its fullest bloom saw also the reign of the sternest rigour in regard to form…. Fixed forms are the school of discipline and order and therefore, of liberty…. The people that places a real value on liberty knows instinctively the value of form; it realizes that it is no external yoke, but the palladium of its liberty.
Call me thick…but freedom isn’t free (and more on this shortly). There is a form, a culture to be upheld. This is what was expected of these noble individuals and families. Being a freeman was not for everyone:
The system of liberty rested entirely in those days on the assumption that men would use their liberty in a certain way.
Reliance was placed on the observable fact that men – men, that is to say, of a certain class – in virtue of acquired characteristics which could be maintained in vigour, behaved for all practical purposes in this particular way. With them, and for them, the system of liberty was entirely workable.
Freemen are, taken as a body, capable both of ruling others and of agreeing among themselves…. Men of their breed…will never submit to slavery whether from within or without.
These words sound so painful to children of the enlightened age. These words don’t sound very…libertarian. Don’t worry, the story doesn’t end here….
He offers the example of the English aristocrats, who extended the right to all; all the while maintaining the aristocratic leadership in politics and society. Liberty was extended throughout a society with centuries-old safeguards. He contrasts this to France, where a society of “subjects” fell under an absolutist machine taken into the hands of the people, “taken in mass.”
In what de Jouvenel describes as “Caesarism,” he notes that authoritarians such as Louis Napoleon, Bismarck, and Disraeli enlarged the franchise at the same time that property was becoming a closer preserve. What did he mean?
First: it was necessary that those who were the oldest in liberty (the aristocratic nobles) should lose their moral credit and standing; second: a new class of capitalists should arise, without moral authority but with wealth that significantly separates them from the masses; third: to bring about the union of political strength with social weakness in a large dependent class.
In other words, the politics of the last hundred years, culminating with Hillary Clinton. Destroy the old nobility; use the masses to defend the new nobility.
We say, for instance: “Liberty is the most precious of all goods,” without noticing everything that this formula implies in the way of social assumptions.
What does this formula imply? Specifically: “precious goods” can only be afforded by a few, and only after basic wants are met; precious goods are out of reach of the masses. Per de Jouvenel, liberty should be considered from this point of view. For the masses, this means…
Liberty is in fact only a secondary need; the primary need is security.
At any time in history, one will find two camps: those feeling insufficiently protected, labeled “securitarians,” and those feeling insufficiently free, labeled “libertarians.”
…the spirit of liberty will be more prevalent where the spirit of men is prouder…. If, then, character is debased by an effeminate education, or if life takes new forms which generate anxiety without the real risks being increased, the proportion of securitarians will go up.
Social Justice Warriors UNITE! Find your safe spaces.
And with this sentence, de Jouvenel has just described the reason for the success of one with the strong-willed, masculine character of Trump.
The New Nobility
Need I remind you?
I am the ruler here
Don't overlook that fact
To anyone but me
No, I won't put up with that
The king, seeing his competition in the aristocratic nobility, decides to promote the unworthy to positions of power:
…his next step is to court an alliance with the inferior classes; but what is emphasized here is that it is to the more vigorous elements of these classes that he goes for support, to those whose station in life is out of relation to their energies.
In this way, Power encroaches on and reduces the competing authority of the aristocratic nobility.
This seems to be almost the flip sides of Hayek’s views on why the worst get on top. Where Hayek sees the most unscrupulous attracted to Power, de Jouvenel offers that Power seeks out the most unscrupulous, the ones who will do anything to continue in an existence well above their natural station.
A second method is to break the ties between the aristocratic nobility and their dependents. While this means some measure of liberty to the dependent, it is a liberty that only a securitatian can enjoy; it is an easy, yet false, liberty as the securitarian is now dependent on Power; it is a liberty that requires no effort to win – and it is valued accordingly.
Third is the invasion of the higher classes by these newly raised nobles – the new nobility who owe their station to Power. They replace the aristocratic nobility, but with none of the same characteristics, none of the same qualities used to achieve this station. Instead of the freeman of the old nobility, the new noble knows he is a slave. He cannot oppose Power – there is none left with power to oppose Power.
If the purpose of a nobility that enjoys a large measure of liberty is to prevent abuses, this new nobility, a securitarian aristocracy, has completely failed the people at large.
Ignorant and stubborn
You have no respect
Not just for your flesh and blood
But all who you protect
…it is not surprising that [the new nobility] has aroused more anger and hatred. For men put up with any masters who show themselves brave and self-disciplined.
But this cannot describe the new nobility:
Every method of shaking off risks came alike to the new aristocracy.
This is why we are angry; this is why we hate them.
Like your father once said
Life is not what you're given
It is how you decide to live
On the path you have chosen
Sadly, de Jouvenel paints very well the picture of our world. Today’s aristocrats have not achieved position by honor and leadership; they have achieved position by guile and political favor. They do not work to protect liberty; instead they work to protect their station.
One can suggest that we need neither the aristocratic noble nor the securitarian noble. I will disagree. There will be no vacuum. There will always be someone in charge around here; there will always be some form law.
The best someone is the one who arises naturally, based on family and kin; the best law is the one to be found in the old and good law. This was the case through much of the Germanic Middle Ages. This was a time when more men had more real liberty – liberty earned and kept.
Today we have nobles who bear none of these characteristics. There is nothing noble about them.
*all italicized lyrics from the same album…CD…MP3.., oh, whatever. And if you appreciate progressive rock, with all of its time signature changes and discordant chord progressions…well, this one is for you.