Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Sun King to the Lizard King

Louis XIV, the Sun King, can in many ways be seen as the climax of the medieval monarchy. He was able to achieve an unparalleled reign and change the course of European history (and thereby changed world history). France became the leading superpower of its day and in just 100 years after his death would come to nearly conquer all of Europe. The model that Louis established became the model that James II would follow in England and would lead to his demise. It was a model that the French peasantry revolted against, and a near antithesis of what the American model was supposed to be during the days of the Articles of Confederation.

Yes, this is an interesting history lesson, but what is the relevance? The point I am trying to bring up is that this model has come to dominate the world's political landscape. The medieval model is largely abandoned (much of what changed is good, such as the abolition of serfdom, but other things are more questionable), and the protections that it afforded were tossed. The baby, in effect, was thrown out with the bathwater. This has culminated in the rise of the total state. Yes, conservatives talk about federalism and states rights, but even this, I feel, grants far too much to the totalitarians. In essence, the people of this world in modern times have basically conceded that the source of and means of organization lies within the use of force.

This potency model of organization is today best exemplified through the state apparatus. Ask a random person on the street today who is in charge of the economy, the answer is the state. Who is in charge of health care? The state. Who is in charge of transportation? The state. For many of these organizations and services, most people envision that it is the domain of the state. Why is this so? How did this happen? This is not the historical case by and large. Yes, there are historical examples of all of these things, but this is not the medieval model.

The popular conception of the Middle Ages envisions a king in charge of the domain and the final word relying on him. There is no separation powers; the king is judge, jury, and executioner. This concept is laughably false. In some cases it is more true than in others, but for the most part, the best example of this model is Louis XIV, and even he needed to pay off the aristocrats in order to achieve it. The king was restrained by the nobles of the realm who themselves owned offices and titles that afforded them certain rights and privileges. The king could not encroach upon these or risk a rebellion. Even the courts were not subject to the realm of the king; King Edward II had to set up his own Court of Star Chamber in order to have some power in the judicial realm. In fact, even the medieval concept of law has nothing to do with the king. The law was something to be discovered, it was some kind of fundamental truth. Today, law is pictured as legislation, something to be decreed. Even beyond law and aristocrats, we have the influence of the church. Education and health care historically have been functions of the church. The Catholic church set up the universities of Europe and religious organizations provided health care. This medieval system, at least the parts that I mentioned, were more indicative of a voluntaryist society than a totalitarian state. Sure, there were the problems of serfs being tied to the land and other laws against natural rights, but the actual state of affairs in the Middle Ages are a far cry from the popular idea.

Since abandoning this model, the totalitarian state has grown had tried to take more and more power for itself. Long gone are the days of the Sun King who had to buy out his nobles in order to secure more power. In fact, today government leaders seem to espouse the quote of Jim Morrison, "I am the Lizard King, I can do anything." The clearest examples would be Communist regimes of the past century, but even today the so-called liberal states are going after that model. States have a role in the economy, health care, education, transportation, safety, and many other day-to-day aspects of our lives. The Communist regimes of the past were always quick to outlaw religion and institute a kind of religion of the state. Do today's wars on religion seem much different? The Obama administration does not try to buy out the Catholic church when it comes to its legislation. No, it simply has decided that it has power over the church and can make it do what he wants it to do. Look at the role that the church had in the past. Is there any reason to wonder why the state hates religion? The state wants more power, but the voluntary organization that heads these services, the church, is in the way.

The Lizard King is on the prowl, and voluntaryism is its enemy. What better espouses this peaceful principle than the decidedly non-interventionist and non-aggressionist institution? The last bulwark of protection against our exploiters are these voluntary institutions. Let us not go down quietly.

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