Thursday, January 16, 2014

Schopenhauer on Monarchy and Intelligence

A common republican claim is that Republicanism rewards intelligence and ability while Monarchy does not. But in 1851 the great philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) explained why actually the opposite is the case, in an excellent observation that happens to go well with David Starkey's documentary "Music and Monarchy," which I recently bought and have been watching.

"A peculiar disadvantage attaching to that in this form of government it must be more difficult for men of ability to attain high position and exercise direct political influence than in the case of monarchies. For always...there is a conspiracy...against such men on the part of all the stupid, the weak, and the commonplace; they look upon such men as their natural enemies, and they are firmly held together by a common fear of them. There is always a numerous host of the stupid and the weak, and in a republican constitution it is easy for them to suppress and exclude the men of ability, so that they may not be flanked by them. They are fifty to one; and here all have equal rights at start.

In a monarchy, on the other hand...talent and intelligence receive a natural advocacy and support from above. In the first place, the position of the monarch himself is much too high and too firm for him to stand in fear of any sort of competition. In the next place, he serves the State more by his will than by his intelligence; for no intelligence could ever be equal to all the demands that would in his case be made upon it. He is therefore compelled to be always availing himself of other men's intelligence."

Music is but one area in which hereditary monarchs, even if not exceptionally talented or intelligent themselves, consistently recognized and rewarded the best of their subjects, while culture in the democratic age has tended more towards the lowest common denominator. Schopenhauer's insight demonstrates why this is the case.

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