Monday, December 19, 2011
The Case for Monarchy: France
It is important to note that the only subsequent major French accomplishments on the world stage were achieved by, on one or two occasions, when the Kingdom of France was briefly restored, or during the two periods of the French Empire. Napoleon I dominated Europe for a time (not necessarily a positive accomplishment but definitely an accomplishment nonetheless), King Charles X extended French influence into North Africa, Emperor Napoleon III briefly extended French influence in the Americas, established the first real presence in Indochina and made France at least a major player in events in the Middle East, the Balkans, Italy and Africa. The French republic, any of the five, have, by comparison, accomplished very little and what they have managed to achieve was done with significant help from other powers and was usually simply building on the foundations already established by their monarchial predecessors. However, the royal period in France had high and low points as well. In any given time there is no doubt that the French have proven themselves capable of great things when they set their mind to it. Government can only help or hinder in this regard. The monarchs usually helped, the republic has, without exception, always hindered.
Revolutionary republicans also tend to take the “Whig” vision of history; that progress means moving ever forward and that there is no time better than the present. Given that, one could point to even the grandest heights of royal France and fairly compare it to today. Is the France of today truly representative of the best the French are capable of? A monarchist would certainly say “no”. One can also look at the French Revolutionaries and their own ideals to judge how well they have lived up to them. Originally, they were quite nationalistic, as was seen in the vilification of the once beloved Queen Marie Antoinette as the hated foreigner, the Austrian and so on. Yet, at no time in history has France been less ethnically French than it is today. There are large numbers of non-French Europeans in France, a huge and rapidly growing Arab and African Muslim population and even the most prominent couple in France, the President and First Lady, are an ethnic Hungarian and an Italian. So much for the republic being more “French”. Of course, the Kingdom of France (and even the French Empire to an extent) were cosmopolitan places with their own sort of diversity but it was never enforced in such a way as to water down the distinct native population. A Frenchman was a Frenchman, a German was a German and a Spaniard was a Spaniard. Able to get along, but certainly not the same thing and definitely not interchangeable. Fraternity has been a failure.
As for the goal of equality, that can be easily dismissed since no society has ever achieved it, nor are any ever likely to. A simple look at France today will show that there is still an elite, still those who have power, positions and privileges which others do not and who are treated better, even put somewhat above the law, just because of who they are. In short, like most modern supposedly egalitarian societies, they still have all of the failings of a titled nobility but none of the benefits. It should be clear to anyone by now, simply by observing, that an upper class will always exist. You can either admit it and expect a level of responsibility and noblesse oblige from that upper class or you can hypocritically ignore it and have it exist as an unofficial elite based more often than not on the negative aspects of self-advancement.