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Roman Republic: Res publica Romana • View topic - De Virtute Potestatis Regiae
Page 1 of 2

De Virtute Potestatis Regiae

PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 6:39 pm
by Gaius Florius Lupus

Re: De Virtute Potestatis Regiae

PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 7:44 pm
by Gaius Florius Aetius
Dear friends,

I have followed this debate with great interest, and since I was asked to share my view on this, I gladly do so. Please excuse before, that my philosophical and political English is not as nuanced as I could explain myself in German, by far.

Now when I go to the question of the morality of Monarchy, I can not help but to go back to the question, what is good? And behind that lies the question, what even is human nature? For I think without having any clarity or at least direction in these questions, I feel unable to answer the first question, how morally right is Monarchy?

I myself have written several times that humans are beings full of contradictions. We desire to be free and individual AND at the same times we desire to belong to something greater, the group, a collective. We want many opposing things, so I do not think any society should be build on one single highest ideal, like either individualism or collectivism, but as a selection of values. As such, I can only see a society that succeeds being based on how human nature truly is, for if we violate human nature we put our society on the course of failure. Humans want at the same time be masters of their lives, they generally dislike being told what to do, but also do not want to look into every political affair all the time. That for me rules out any extreme model of society like anarchic libertarian or a strong dictatorship, because in the anarchy people would be overwhelmed making way too many decisions all the time by themselves, whereas in any authoritarian rule people would feel that too many decisions are forced upon them.

Hence I follow usually the Aristotelian school of balance between the extremes. The second thought is, that I still regard by and large the model of the Roman Republic as the ideal state, in the same way as Polybios wrote, it being a balance between Democracy, Aristocracy and Monarchy. Let me explain.

The greatest benefit of democracy is, besides the freedom of speech, that fact that it puts more responsibilities on the people. If all decisions are made only by a select few, the masses have no responsibilities whatsoever, and that seems not a goal for humanity I find worthy. Now sure, one can say, the masses are uneducated and brute, and this may be so. But like a child grows gradually with the duties given to them, so I am sure at least to a degree, the masses can learn, when responsibilities are given to them. Though I am convinced our system of political parties is most inferior in doing so, but that is more then the question how we organize the democratic element; but for these reasons, I would by all means have a democratic element in a society. Its absence would create a continually growing dissatisfaction of many people, esp. in our information age, where, unlike in past ages, most people can read and write and thus are part of a net of communication anyway. So their natural desire will be to have a voice.

Now of course we know the masses lacking time and usually education are often not so well in knowing what is the best, and for that we also need a class dedicated both intellectually and by a higher standard of ethics as “experts” in the broadest sense. Patricians, Nobles. I tend to lean at least a bit to the Platonic/Socratic idea of the Guardian Class or however you would name it, who are both highly educated and raised with a specific sense of ethicality. I would not want to given them THAT much power as Plato would, but I would surely add them to society as one of three elements, similarly to the Patricians of the Roman Republic.

Now I have a bit eluded the question, what place has monarchy? I judge the moral validity as Pragmatist mostly from the result, what sort of results would a monarchy cause? Now the aim of a society can, as I think similarly like Socrates, only be the Common Good. Like the doctor heals the people for them, or the Captain sails the ship where the passengers want to go, so it seems clear to me, that the aim of any government must be the good of the people, the Res Publica, not his own personal good. One can say, a Monarch, being free of any influence would be above the small bickering of factions, but the reality of Monarchy has hardly ever been like it. Of course the benefit of a good monarch is, that he can do much good without the hindrance of the bureaucracy and the various factions in a society. But how does he know what is good? How can we hope a monarch is so wise? Is it not more likely to expect that a group of people debating and critizising each other will find a way that is both morally good and for the benefit of the Res Publica, than a single being, who has no equal against whom he must prove his ideas? So I tend to favor the Roman concept of the two Consuls, who are almost like monarchs, but they are elected, for a brief time, without having the office too long and they are two, with the chance to balance each other out; whereas a single being, as the general passion of humans goes, might be too tempted by his power to fall into hubris. Soon he will find himself infallible and look at other people as mere tools and chess pieces of his whim, as, again, history has shown often enough.

So my view is, so far, that Monarchy seems immoral to me; not because of some a priori reasons, but because of the results; the design of a rule of a single person would always go bad due to human nature, having no checks and balances, such an individual without any equal and counterpart tends to develop the worst human characteristics.

I have always, I would like to add, seen Cicero as my role model, standing for the Roman Republic, even though at times he doubted it would work anymore under the current circumstances. I can understand the need for a leading figure and even more a leading caste, but not unchecked, only rooted in the Republican democracy of elections, debates and free speech. That seems to me a system that leads humanity upwards; even if at times it fails, I would still regard it so, that we must then try again better, than handing all power to a single individual. Above that I would be of the view, that the Human Rights are a basis I regard as some worthy standard for a society. However, I think it is prudent to add elements of Aristocracy and Monarchy to the Democratic element, because, as I have said, the masses are often uneducated and unruly, and often does not know well what is best for the common good. I would, as a rule, establish systems which encourage the good, rather than forbid what is bad, like creating Art and Entertainment that is not nihilistic or dragging people down, but Art and Entertainment that inspires, lifts people up and sets up positive examples. I see it as less relevant whether these systems are set up by democratic people, by a group of nobles or a single person.

Re: De Virtute Potestatis Regiae

PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 7:50 pm
by Gaius Florius Aetius
Just as a sidenote. I am just reading Plato's "The State", where Socrates argues that Homer's Iliad and Odysse were bad, insofar the immoral depiction of the Gods and the Heroes would undermine public morality, essentially saying, Art should elevate people not give them bad examples they might then immitate.

Now I am great proponent of "Freedom of Art", so I think there should be freedom to provide any art on the market. But I do think, that we have the problem Socrates mentions, that now the public art and culture indeed does undermine the public morality, so we need a sort of division of spheres. Public Art and Culture should be "guided", but there also should be a market for free art forms. So again, using this example to demonstrate my balanced approach to such questions, I am not fond of either extreme. It is kinda funny though that I read that from Socrates, which I critizised in the public arts for decades unknowing Socrates said so.

Re: De Virtute Potestatis Regiae

PostPosted: Sun Jan 14, 2018 8:17 pm
by Gaius Curtius Philo
C. Curtius C. Florio sal.

As always I am pleased to see you commenting amice and I will say my view on your positions.

On your first assertion: The idea that the old Roman Republic was in any ways democratic (as in power given to the People) is false. Voting turnout was very small and mostly a rubberstamp for passed laws. And even if you look at now a days, politics is not controlled in any way by the People. We do not get the People around to devise policies. What actually happens is a small group of people get a gigantic funding to do political campaigns and those that have the most funding "coincidently" tend to win elections. They then proceed to do token things in favor of what they defended or do them when it in truth benefits their financers instead of the People (the Migrant Crisis being a perfect example of a policy the people believe benefit them but that in truth only benefits the corporations). All in all, no society has convinced me that power can ever be distributed, thus Democracy is just another work for "Oligarchy/Plutocracy with Demagogue put into the mix". The education of the masses is irrelevant in that aspect. It isnt a case that they are not competent enough to rule, but that the very laws of nature do not permit it. Humans simply do not make complex decisions in large scale congregations. When it is attempted, the people just become a rubberstamp to the wealthy or not even that. What you speak about a Noble caste is an evolution to a Republic, definitely. But that would simply emphasis the Aristocratic element of it. It would provide a good delegitimizer (legitimacy = power to abuse) that would increase Freedom, but it would only work if this position was hereditary (if it was not hereditary, they can always demand obedience because "they were chosen to be there", thus, they would know better). But even such I personally think it still disperses responsibility in a way that they are too free of blame and responsibility.

Regarding your view on Monarchical power, I actually would direct you to the previous discussion, where I explain how Monarchs do not exist in a vaccuum. The common view of a Monarch being above factions, free of influence and Beurocracy is a fallacy. And that is a good thing. A Monarch should Not existin a vacuum. He is pressed by the natural forces that power generate. These newtonians pulls and pushes are essentially checks and balances on his power. I think the biggest problem here is you are assuming the Monarch would Actually have absolute power. As I proved previously, that is impossible. Only a God could ever be absolute.

The fact that Consules only last a year is actually highly detrimental. As I explained before in the discussion, it fosters short term thinking and makes it impossible to RATIONALLY expect the consul to not exploit the people as much as humanly possible. Monarchy provides more accountability. I highly urge you to reread the discussion amice because many of your points have already been addressed in it.

Your point on Monarchy not having checks and balances has also been addressed and we categorically illustrated how that is an illusion created by Republican thought. Monarchy is actually the only system with Natural Checks and Balances, while Republics have Artificial checks and balances that are by their very nature corrupt (because of the very human nature you speak of).

The idea that Republics naturally defend free speech and freedom have also been addressed and we have shown that this is far from the case. Republics actually have the largest possible power to remove legitimately such things.

The idea that you think all power would be concentrated on the Monarch is wrong, because that is not how power works. Power canot be handed to people. It is a naturally occurring phenomenon that is never unified in one point. Ever.

Again Amice, I think in your eagerness to speak of this most interesting subject you inadvertedly skimmed through some of the more vital aspects of the discussion. I implore you to reread it and address them directly so that we can better benefit from your insight.

Your friend,
Philo

Re: De Virtute Potestatis Regiae

PostPosted: Mon Jan 15, 2018 11:57 am
by Gaius Florius Lupus
Salvete amici!

One of the main advantages of a monarchy, that Philo mentioned and that I was unable to disprove, was the monarch would have a long-term view and had always to take responsibility for his actions.
A consul who has only a limited term is only interested in the effects that his decisions have within his term. A monarch on the other hand will rule for a lifetime and he will inherit his kingdom to his children. So he is forced to think in longer terms.
A consul whose power is checked by a second consul who can veto him can also always blame his colleague for everything that goes wrong. A monarch has nobody to blame.

We would have to find a mechanism for the republic that implements these two aspects, the long-term view and responsibility. Of course my friend Philo would answer that it is the very nature of human beings to think first in their own interest, and when their own concerns are limited by their term in office and their restricted power, then their concerns would also be limited to it.
For this reason we can observe that historically monarchies have proven far more stable and long-lasting compared to republics.

Valete!

Re: De Virtute Potestatis Regiae

PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 12:18 pm
by Gaius Florius Lupus
Salvete collegae!

It would be wrong to give everybody the impression that we have concluded that monarchy is the best possible form of government. What we have concluded is that monarchy cannot be considered to be inherently immoral, because it only formalizes a preexisting inequality for the common good of the nation.

Today we are living in a democracy, even if in a declining one. Therefore more inequality is forming. According to Plato's cycle of governments (aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, tyranny) it will eventually turn into a tyranny, which is what he calls the rule of one. Apparently he was not a friend of monarchy for calling it so.

We have discussed certain advantages of monarchy over our current system, but I am not convinced yet that a democracy must be inherently immoral.
Given our current position in the cycle of governments and accepting its mechanism as a law of nature, we have only two options:
1. A smooth transition to the next stage, the monarchy
2. Trying to maintain democracy by improving it and fighting its illnesses
I still think that the republic has its merit and can be improved.

The main advantages of monarchy are its long-term view on politics, to have a responsible leader who can blame nobody else and to have honesty by formalizing and regulating the real existing inequality in society.
But perhaps we can have a republic that also has this advantages.

The main problem with governments is the human nature itself, which is inclined towards injustice. The solution is therefore getting rid of the human factor.
One new option that we have in the modern world would be the transfer of power to an artificial intelligence (A.I.), which would be just and not be limited by election terms. It would therefore have the same advantages as a monarchy and would at the same time guaranty that no citizen enjoys any privileges.
Such an A.I. was impossible in the past and possibly still is so in the present. So what other options would we have to get the human factor out of the system?
It would be an immutable law that leaves little power to the actual government. If the law does not permit any human institution to change it and is absolutely obeyed, we would have a perfect republic. For this reason the rule of law is the essence of every republic.
At the same time we need guardians of this law, which would again be humans and therefore offer a chance for corruption to enter the system. These guardians should therefore be decentralized and have no leadership other than obedience to the law itself. It would be a police force with no, or at least very few ranks and no head office.

Could such a republic based on an immutable law and protected by a decentralized force of guardians work in reality? And would it not be preferable to a monarchy, which often suffers from incompetent and weak rulers?

I am interested about your opinions.

Valete!

Re: De Virtute Potestatis Regiae

PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2018 3:32 pm
by Gaius Curtius Philo
Salve amice!

The problem here is the illusion of divisibility of power. The idea that we can seperate power from their natural foci. We can't. Power is not legislative, it is a naturally occuring phenomenon. The main problem of Republics is that it creates the illusion of power transfer. It makes it seem like power is shifting hands costantly, but what really happens is that the proxies of those in power shift.

Let us analyse your alternative. An immutable law. Who would write it? Whoever would write it wouls have the interest to skew it to their own needs. There is no reason why not to. Let us pretend though for a moment that they are all moral selfless individuals and they make a very just law (which is irrational to do). Who would protect said law? How would they be selected? Who would create the selection process? All of these points are points for corruption to spread. Who maintains them? Who pays for their expenses? Who protects Them? If no one, would they be then an Army? If so you are talking about Martial Law. We must understand that these are humans and it is in human nature to take advantage of things to as little loss as possible. What incentives would these guardians have to not "reinterprate" the law?

The main problem I see in the discussion of Republicanism is that it assumes power can be legislated, which is simply not the case. You can take power, surely (confiscate people's property, kill them, etc), but that would require to have before hand More power than they do (an Army), and you would have to convince said power source of your use to them. In other words, every time you shift power you naturally create a new Elite, because an elite is needed to topple another Elite. Power does not decentralize. The current corruption of the Republic is not to be seen as a "centralization of power", as if it was decentralized before and because of corruption is centralizing. The current corruption of the Republic is the enboldment of the preexisting foci of power, who are daring more abuse than before because they believe they can get away with it.

Vale,
Philo

Re: De Virtute Potestatis Regiae

PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 12:02 pm
by Gaius Florius Lupus
Salve amice!

Thank you for answering to my thought., although I had hoped that there were other supporters of the republican system besides me, considering that this forum is part of an organization that calls itself "Republic".

As always you have immediately identified the weaknesses of my argument. Nevertheless I will try to defend it.
The questions, who would enact the immutable law or who would appoint the guardians are details, not principle problems. So we do not need to discuss them at the beginning. In the worst case we could have them drawn by a lottery to keep the human factor and the potential for corruption out. But I do not think that this would be necessary.
Their arms and salary would be paid by taxes of course, just as it is done today. Since an immutable law is made for eternity, it cannot benefit temporary interests of mortal lawmakers. They would be dead, when the law would still have validity. It could even be enacted that the law only comes into effect after the last lawmaker has died. So the law would not effect any of them. Apart from this, the law has to obey the rules of logic of course.

So these are all details that can be solved. The only principle problem that you mentioned is the question: Can power be decentralized and transferred? Is it even possible that power in a state can be differently distributed by a law than it is by nature? This is indeed a very important observation, that I have not been aware of so far. Maybe we forget nature, when we start designing constitutions on a drawing board. Maybe no state can change the natural distribution of power, no matter how the constitution is.
This is a very pessimist outlook that would actually make any constitution unnecessary. So there would be no difference between a situation where a country is ruled by warlords or a properly constituted state.
Is this really the case?

Valete!

Re: De Virtute Potestatis Regiae

PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 4:35 pm
by Gaius Curtius Philo
Not at all, amice. The difference of Constitition is important because it defines the rules under which the foci agree to act. Without it, they are disordered and balkanized. A law can direct power, it just can't alter its nature. That is, to me, the greater problem of most people's view on constitutions. Their constitutions attempt to control the holders of power, instead of trying to predict instructions that would more likely guarentee that the things that benefit the holders of power also benefit the people. In other words, instead of focusing on a system that converts selfishness into useful things for society at large, people try to put none selfish people into power, as if they could actually control who has power (which they can't).

So this view is not really pessimistic, it is practical. It does not predict that things will be bad no matter what, it just forces you to focus on what you actually Can control, instead of on what is beyond your power.

Re: De Virtute Potestatis Regiae

PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2018 11:05 am
by Gaius Florius Lupus
Salve, amice!

Yes, this seems reasonable. And it would be the Stoic approach. "Do not worry about things that are beyond your control!"
So no system of government is inherently morally wrong. It simply reflects the actual foci of power, and we have to deal with these facts.

Vale!