Article by David B. Hart.
This is relevant to our recent discussion of monarchism here at ATS. It’s an odd point of view, obviously, but I think it’s one that deserves to be heard.
The only thing I know that J.R.R. Tolkien and Salvador Dalí had in common—or rather, I suppose I should say, the only significant or unexpected thing, since they obviously had all sorts of other things in common: they were male, bipedal, human, rough contemporaries, celebrities, and so on—was that each man on at least one occasion said he was drawn simultaneously towards anarchism and monarchism.
In the case of Dalí it was probably a meaningless remark, since almost everything he ever said was; whenever he got past the point of “Please pass the butter” or “That will cost you a great deal of money,” he generally gave up any pretense of trying to communicate with other people.
But Tolkien was, in his choleric way, giving voice to his deepest convictions regarding the ideal form of human society—albeit fleeting voice. The text of his sole anarcho-monarchist manifesto, such as it is, comes from a letter he wrote to his son Christopher in 1943 (forgive me for quoting at such length):
My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning the abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs)—or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate real of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could go back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so to refer to people. . . .
And anyway, he continues, “the proper study of Man is anything but Man; and the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men”:
Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity. At least it is done only to a small group of men who know who their master is. The mediaevals were only too right in taking nolo episcopari as the best reason a man could give to others for making him a bishop. Grant me a king whose chief interest in life is stamps, railways, or race-horses; and who has the power to sack his Vizier (or whatever you dare call him) if he does not like the cut of his trousers. And so on down the line. But, of course, the fatal weakness of all that—after all only the fatal weakness of all good natural things in a bad corrupt unnatural world—is that it works and has only worked when all the world is messing along in the same good old inefficient human way. . . . There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as ‘patriotism’, may remain a habit! But it won’t do any good, if it is not universal.
Last week, as I watched the waves of the Republican electoral counterinsurgency washing across the heartland, and falling back only at the high littoral shelves of the Pacific coast and the Northeast, I found myself reflecting on what a devil’s bargain electoral democracy is. These occasional bloodless bloodbaths are deeply satisfying at some emotional level, whatever one’s party affiliations, because they remind us of what a rare luxury it is to have the right and the power periodically to evict politicians from office.