225 years ago, September 21, 1792, the French revolutionaries proclaimed France a “republic.” It is what is known historically as the French “First Republic.” A monarchy over nine centuries old was simply scrapped.
The modern man likes to think of this as progress. It is what freed the French from the tyranny of the monarchy; it is what gave the French their rights; and subsequently it freed the rest of the West as well.
Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn tells us otherwise:
One shouldn’t forget that much of what may appear positive to us today – liberality, intellectuality, humanitarianism – had all been already brought to us by the liberal, courtly absolutism, while the French Revolution which used all these words in reality did nothing more than brutally extinguish them.
We certainly are subject to a conveying of history that makes us look a bit too mildly upon the French Revolution. And that is putting it very diplomatically.
The French Revolution has given much inspiration to later tyrannies, especially the extreme totalitarian regimes of the 20 century, a century Murray Rothbard once called for the repeal of. Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s book is helpful in elaborating exactly this inspiration.
Lew Rockwell asks:
Is it too much to say that since the French Revolution, the left has been the source of virtually all political evils, and continues to be so in our day?
Now we’re here in 2017. We have an American president who praises the Bastille Day celebrations of the French Revolution and its military parades. He now even apparently wants to bring that part of the French Revolution to America, a tradition that dates back only to after the monarchy restorations of the 19 century.
The same president also has threatened to strike a neighbor country of the only country in the world that has ever been stricken with nuclear weapons with total annihilation.
And we are supposed to think that this is the best of all worlds; the best we can do?
Ah yes, it’s just the wrong guy in the White House. If it only were that well! If only!
If you’re still convinced modern democracy is good or you need debating ammunition to convince others it’s not, there are quite a few sources, of which a selection is in the following.
We have H.L. Mencken and some collected witty material in . Alexis de Tocqueville’s , while not considered directly opposed to democracy, has some great insights on the perils of democracy.
W.E.H. Lecky was an Irish Member of Parliament in Westminster. He wrote at the end of the 19 century. He even claimed that the American Revolution was caused by Parliament assuming too much power from the King.
Then we have the aforementioned Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, whose main work on promoting monarchy over democracy is . He also tackles the issue in articles and in and other works.
Nicholas Henshall challenges the standard view of absolute monarchy in , in which he specifically clears up a misunderstanding of the phrase , showing us that France was not as centralized in the person of the King, nor in Versailles or Paris, as we typically believe. Frenchman Bertrand de Jouvenel has a similar perspective of monarchy and state power in and in .
by Martin van Creveld also offers a good overview and details in how government has grown, amongst other things, showing us that the government’s control of the money system is connected with the depersonalization of government power.
has done a good job as well in bringing enlightening posts on the growth of government power, decline of Western Civilization, and democracy from time to time.
But perhaps the best statement on the transition from monarchy to democracy is from Hans-Hermann Hoppe, author of when he says:,
From the vantage point of elementary economic theory and in light of historical evidence, then, a revisionist view of modern history results. The Whig theory of history, according to which mankind marches continually forward toward ever higher levels of progress, is incorrect. From the viewpoint of those who prefer less exploitation over more and who value farsightedness and individual responsibility above shortsightedness and irresponsibility, the historic transition from monarchy to democracy represents not progress but civilizational decline.
Hoppe is also known for saying that democracy is a soft variant of Communism, and that democracy rarely in the history of ideas has been seen as anything else.
The French Revolution, roughly speaking, marked the beginning of the transition from monarchy to democracy, a transition which, again roughly, was ended by World War I. There are some shining starts left, notably Liechtenstein and Monaco.
But remember when Donald Trump wants to bring Bastille Day military parades to America, the French Revolution is nothing to be proud of.
J.K. Baltzersen [send him mail] writes from the capital of the Oil Kingdom of Norway. He is the editor of the book (in Norwegian and Swedish; translated title: ), with Cato Institute’s Johan Norberg amongst the contributors. Follow him on Twitter.
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