On “Enlightened Monarchy”

In the revolutionary ages of the past, there are those who, inspired by enlightenment ideals, espoused the hypothetical “ideal” scenario of the benevolent, enlightened philosopher-king who could make radical changes with absolute power unhindered by compromising factional sectarianism and expedited by a culturally ingrained judicious reverence for authority.  In this frictionless legislative and executive arena, the enlightened monarch may issue radical decrees by fiat; and should these decrees be wise, massive improvements can be made, so say its proponents.

The first problem lies in the empirical, a posteriori analysis of affairs- an ad hoc isolation of one particular, yet not compulsory outcome, whose premises-hereditary succession- yields no guarantees for consistency in this outcome, with the other options- incompetence, apathy and at worst, sadism- the far likelier outcomes that have afflicted the masses under crushing tyranny through the ages.  Therefore, while attraction to the dictum of Enlightened Monarchy seems at a cursory glance the political form most conducive to society’s well-being, a closer look through the lens of Reason reveals the classification of Enlightened Monarchy as a form of Government as a category error, as this mere epiphenomnenon of Monarchy is merely one outcome of many within the form of Monarchy itself-whose modus categorically remain mired to inheritance and primogeniture.  These premises necessarily yield a lottery through the generations; matters of state and collective good are far too important to be left to mere chance.

Furthermore, the taxonomy of “Enlightened Monarchy” bears no necessary structural assumption on the nature of the extended governing bodies- namely the courts, the assemblies, the parliaments.  For if it’s the aggregate yields of all scales of governance that define a system’s ‘enlightenedness”- not just the ruling head, who, ever in the most absolute of cases still relies on networks of organized bureaucracy in order to carry out the monarch’s will.

What good, for example would a monarch’s well-intentioned order do without the guidance of advisers whose cumulative years of experience and expertise provide the monarch with valuable insight crucially absent from the decision-making process?  In other words, is a monarch enlightened by virtue of intent or by virtue of outcome?  Additionally, what good is an enlightened order if it is incapable of manifesting due to a laborious and corrupt bureaucracy?

As we can see, not only is Enlightened Monarchy a lucky and unguaranteed outcome of an unreliable government form, but it also does nothing in itself to address the infrastructure of the State in order to facilitate reliable and consistent enlightened policy in perpetuity.

So then, we must update Plato, for in order to actualize his wisest of governments, the phraseology of “king” albeit a philosophical one, is fallacious, even given Plato’s attempt to define his terms.  We must certainly ascertain our desired outcomes of our government forms-namely, wise, altruistic and competent leadership- if it’s our primary goal to ascertain which causes, premises, or forms result in such a desired outcome consistently.

Therefore, let us ask: what are the laws, the constitution whose outcomes always lead to maximized wisdom?

Just as God himself must be subject to the principles of sufficient reason so too must the leader be bound by Law in accordance to the General Will.  By then making the prime cause of law focused on expertise and the General Will, the effects of Enlightened Monarchy can be replicated indefinitely rather than risk the public to the arbitrary will of tyrants.


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