The recent British royal wedding sets Doug off on the uselessness of royalty throughout the ages.
L: Hola Doug, what’s on your mind this week? The woes of the Middle East, since you’re on your way there?
Doug: I’m “wheels up” tomorrow evening for something of a whirlwind visit to Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, and Dubai. So that’s on my mind. But at the moment, I want to talk about the disgraceful spectacle of the royal wedding, before everyone forgets about it.
L: You mean that cleric who did cartwheels down the aisle after the ceremony? I thought it was rather amusing, myself…
Doug: Well, it’s nice to see the thing treated with the lack of respect it deserves – but that’s entirely too rare. The whole thing makes me roll my eyes. It’s an affront to the human spirit. It’s degrading, the way the masses fawn over these so-called royals… as though they were superior beings. Royalty have claimed to be superior for centuries. They’re not superior. In fact, they’re unworthy of respect.
L: Gee Doug, you’re beating around the bush again.
Doug: It’s important to call a spade a spade, to say the emperor has no clothes – as in the old fairy tale. It’s maddening and disappointing to see how people are awed by pomp and circumstance. There are estimates that a billion people around the world took time out of their lives to watch two people they don’t know, and have no meaningful connection with, make promises to each other they probably won’t keep. Didn’t they learn anything from the union of jug-eared Charles with dim-witted Diana? Why are royals still put on pedestals? This is the 21st century, for crying out loud. It’s disgusting to see people go all gaga and woozy in the knees because these descendants of gangsters celebrated a perfectly ordinary event at huge public expense. I’d much rather watch the excellent merengue-dancing dog than a dozen royal weddings.
L: It is a bit odd, now that you mention it. I’m not sure that one-sixth of the planet watched the wedding – even later on the Internet – but a lot sure did. People don’t generally believe kings are anything special anymore – and yet these folks were treated as though they were. I was vaguely aware this was going on, but it didn’t even occur to me to watch it. I’m reminded of Howard Roark, when he’s confronted alone one night by his would-be nemesis, Ellsworth Toohey. Toohey tells him they are alone and challenges Roark to say what he really thinks of Toohey – and Roark answers, “But I don’t think of you,” and walks away.
Doug: [Laughs] Rand was a genius. She understood that one shouldn’t clutter one's mind with the frivolous affairs of nonentities.
L: But really, why should we even spend a single second talking about the wedding of two people who mean nothing to us?
Doug: We shouldn’t. It’s no more important than the marriage of a couple of actors in Hollywood, or Bollywood, for that matter. But the social phenomenon means something – although I think coverage should have been consigned to the pages of supermarket tabloids, not the major media. The sad fact is that most people will pay lip service to royals and treat them with deference. That’s why we should talk about it.
L: Okay, but let me play devil’s advocate for a bit; this particular prince seems relatively decent, as royals go. No major scandals yet. Seems to be conducting himself honorably as a soldier. Maybe he’s not such a bad fellow; and people could have reasons other than idolizing aristocracy for caring about his wedding...
Doug: He also plays a good game of polo, which inclines me towards him… Well, individually, some royals are decent human beings. You can’t hold it against someone, just because he was born in a castle, any more than if he was born in a trailer park.
But being treated like royalty has to be a corrupting influence. It tilts the odds against a person – as do the negative effects of inbreeding on people who’ve mated within such a narrow gene pool for hundreds of years. If one stripped them of their silks and jewels, and put them in a lineup, the royals would more closely resemble people who have been trapped in an isolated hollow in Appalachia for many generations – something you’d see in that movie Deliverance – than they would normal people. But that’s not my problem with royals. What I object to is the very concept of royalty itself.
L: That should be obvious, but spell it out for us, Doug. Why?
Doug: Royals, historically, are basically no more than successful thugs – people with no distinction other than being exceptionally ruthless and effective at seizing power and subduing others with it. The first king in the world was probably an unusually crafty leader of a particularly strong band of thieves who attacked and subdued a more peaceful tribe of early farmers. Instead of just killing the men and children and enslaving the women, he offered them a deal: “You give me and my men the best huts, the prettiest girls, and feed us, and we’ll let you all live and keep farming – we’ll even defend you against other thugs like us, if each family gives us a son to train as fighters.”
Throughout the millennia since then, it’s been the same raw deal. Most of the time it was simply naked “might makes right” thinking – Genghis Khan didn’t bother with any excuses. Rulers in more recent times have made up different excuses for wielding power, like the “divine right of kings.” In the modern world, there’s the myth of the “social contract” and the widespread belief that government – democratic government – is necessary for social order and prosperity. It’s all anti-rational myth.
None of these ideas are correct – they are nothing more than a collection of lies that rulers and their lackeys fabricate to keep the people docile under their yoke. As bad as monarchy is, though, in some ways democracy is an even worse system. Democracy is really just a sanitized version of mob rule, which is potentially even more dangerous and destructive. At least the monarchs had some incentive to care for the people they ruled, in the same way a rancher cares for the animals he owns; they’re worth much more to him alive than dead.
But I digress. We can talk about the false religion of democracy another time. The point is that people should not bow down and worship the progeny of successful criminals and gangsters. I’m inclined to agree with Diderot, who said men would never be free until the last king was strangled with the entrails of the last priest.
L: I wonder if he would state that differently these days, since the clergy don’t tend to prop up rulers the way they used to. Today, he might say “last president” and “last reporter.” But you know what strikes me as being most strange about royals? It’s the way they are regarded so positively in modern countries that still have them – even by people who should abhor the very concept of some men ruling over others. In England, for a particularly relevant example, I’ve found that even libertarians like the royals. They seem to find them endearing, like a batty old aunt who drools occasionally and smells of mothballs, but is harmless.
Doug: I know what you mean, even though I don’t understand it. It’s one thing to worship a sport hero, who is at least worthy of admiration for being supremely competent at some difficult task. Or to love certain actors or actresses who seem to have the beauty of the gods and play the roles of such admirable beings. Or a singer who makes you feel good. Or even your plumber or dentist, if you like, for being honorable and productive tradespeople who do valuable work. But royals don’t do anything qua royals but parade around as though they were elevated beings of some sort. Their very existence – and the flaunting of their aristocracy in the media – is demeaning to all people. Their elevation above others, due to the successful criminals in their family trees, is a moral inversion of the most grotesque sort.
People who grovel before royals suffer from a form of what’s known as the Stockholm Syndrome: the adoration some victims come to feel for those who oppress them. It speaks very poorly of the common man, actually.
L: I don’t disagree, but people love having heroes, and they seem to need to believe in positive myths – fairy tales – to boost morale. Is there any point in criticizing them for their choices of myths and heroes?
Doug: Yes. Ideas have consequences. Worshiping someone like Tiger Woods may set you up for disappointment if you talk yourself into thinking of him as a perfect being, but that’s about all the harm it can do. At least Tiger has demonstrated genuine ability in his chosen field, and is a self-made man, whatever his personal flaws. Allowing yourself to participate, however remotely, in the myth of aristocracy is dangerous to you and everyone else on this planet.
We may not convince many people who don’t see things the way we do. But there are those who do believe it is wrong for some men to rule over others and just haven’t thought about this. I encourage them to work to extinguish the demented and destructive myth of hereditary superiority of some people over others. Royals are not quaint reminders of beautiful fairy tales, but nothing more than the overrated descendants of thugs.
L: I won’t argue with that, but is it necessarily so? There are many historical kings who are revered, all around the world. Didn’t some of those men – and the few women among them – do some good for their people? Like Moses leading his people out of slavery?
Doug: When we’re talking about classes of people there are exceptions to the rule here and there, but they are the exceptions, not the rule. To the victors go the spoils – and the writing of the histories. So of course royals have usually gotten great press; it has historically been very dangerous to tell the truth about them. We read about some great kings who united their people and defeated their foreign enemies, like Alexander the Great. But that just means that Alexander killed his local rivals and set out to plunder others around him, just like any successful gang member might in Los Angeles today. The fact that Alexander built great cities and monuments, encouraged scholarship and learning, and was more enlightened than many of his rivals doesn’t mean that he had the right to kill all the people he killed to build his empire.
I can’t think of a single dynasty that was put in place due to the acts of a heroic liberator. As soon as a supposed liberator sets himself up as the new king, he then ceases to be a liberator. And if he’s the very rare “real McCoy,” a real liberator who walks away from power, then there’s no dynasty: his line does not become “royal blood.” These things are, if not mutually exclusive, then at least in oppositional tension. For every Cincinnatus, there are a dozen Tamerlanes.
L: What about the merchant princes who rose to power in Renaissance Italy, like the Medici?
Doug: The Medici were not official royalty in the Republic of Florence, but four of them became popes, who certainly counted as rulers back then, and the family eventually did become royalty – rulers of the Duchy of Florence. The merchant princes originally created value by trade in those days, but it seems as if things always degrade over time. Just like in the U.S. We used to have merchant princes – Carnegie, Mellon, Vanderbilt, Astor – who wielded a lot of power because they created a lot of value. They were a natural aristocracy, a meritocracy. They’ve been replaced by political hacks – Bushes, Clintons, Obamas – who create nothing and wield much more power.
L: Hm. Okay then… Why do you suppose we even have these fairy tales of beautiful and noble princesses and handsome princes who marry and become benevolent rulers under whom the people prosper? The reality is that princes were privileged brutes who were taught to rule over others, and princesses were poker chits, given away as sexual slaves to seal treaties and other deals. Love would have been as rare among them as a snowflake in the inner circles of hell, and nobility simply the public facade given to the naked thirst for ever-expanding power and dominion over others. At any given time and place, the poor suckers staggering under the weight of their so-called betters must have seen the ugly truth for what it is. How could fairy tales that fly in the face of such overwhelming reality ever get started?
Doug: That’s a great question. Maybe for the same reason people like to believe in heaven and angels. Maybe because Hitler was correct when he observed that a big lie is easier to sell than a little lie. Those princes probably inspired mainly pure terror and loathing – or greed and ambition – among the women unfortunate enough to cross their paths. The princesses were locked up in iron chastity belts of such cruel designs that they made their status as sexual prisoners quite clear. The castles were not gleaming white Camelots, but dirty, smelly, filthy places full of political conniving above and prisoners in chains below, from which heavily armed and armored groups of men would sally forth not to slay dragons, but to intimidate the peasants into submission.
But then, neither do I understand how people today all around the world can believe that their soldiers are brave and honest and incapable of any wrongdoing, while everybody else’s soldiers are vile and destined to defeat. And “our” politicians are honest and have the public’s interests at heart, while “their” leaders are evil and conniving scum. Well, I guess they're half right on that one, anyway… All of these things fly in the face of daily experience, and yet the myths persist. It’s totally perverse.
L: I’ve never understood that either. Sure, you grow up with a certain indoctrination – I can see why young schoolchildren would tend to see their president as a heroic figure. But as one grows older and the facts of reality clash with the myths we are taught, one stops believing in them – such as Santa Claus. Why then do so many of us persist in believing in the goodness of a political class that is caught red-handed in one lie, crime, or hypocrisy after another, on a daily basis? Or, perhaps more accurately, how is it that people can face the failure of individual political heroes time after time and not question the system that spawns them, or the myths that enable that system? The worship of royals just seems like a particularly egregious case of this general syndrome.
Doug: That is a really tough question… and it’s one we probably won’t find an answer to today. Many Russians to this day think Stalin was a hero. Many Chinese to this day apotheosize Mao. We could say it’s an aspect of human mass psychology, but that just puts a label on it, doesn’t explain the reasons why it happens.
Here’s another question: Are Americans really that different from the Chinese or the Russians?
What I do know is that this syndrome of worshiping and following leaders has enabled the worst atrocities in history.
L: Understood. Hm. Well, I can’t imagine what it would be, but are there any investment implications to the colossal waste of time and money this royal wedding has foisted on the struggling British economy?
Doug: Well, as you know, I like to look on the bright side of things…
L: [Chuckles] There’s a bright side?
Doug: I think so. The world used to be totally run by royals. Now there are very few places that even have royals, and those places don’t really let them run the show – they are kept on as figureheads, with no real say in steering the ship of state. So, you could say mankind has mostly progressed beyond the belief in hereditary superiority. As we touched on above, I’m not sure that democracy is much better than monarchy – if one man rules me or a bunch of men rule me, I’m still going to object to being ruled. I’m hopeful that the march of progress, especially technological progress, will eventually lead to a society in which people rule themselves.
People often seem to think we’re professional prophets of doom and gloom around here at Casey Research, but long term, we’re actually extremely optimistic. Many of the great problems that confound the world today will be solved in the future. The longest-term trend of them all – one I am betting on personally – is the ascent of man.
L: And the ascent of man requires humans to grow up and stop believing in fairy tales, from Santa to royalty – and eventually to the nation-state itself. A positive note. But how do you play that?
Doug: It’s not something you can speculate on short term. But if you believe in progress – the ascent of man – your personal and financial planning can’t be stuck in the way the world is today. You have to look forward to how it is going to be and plan accordingly. At the current rate of progress in medical technology, for instance, I think 40-year-olds should have 100-year-plans, at the least.
No one should be spending down his or her wealth. Everyone not on their deathbeds should be considering what to do if they live a very long time to come. In my view, that makes it important to have a substantial and strategically deployed speculative component to one’s investments. And that strategy should not put all one's eggs in one basket, no matter how appealing it may look, like the precious metals look to me today. Going long energy, short government bonds, long on powerful, proven new technologies – strategies of that sort are vital to anyone planning to be around for years to come.
L: You’re being polite and not pushing our products, but I have to mention that this is – not coincidentally – exactly what we focus on here at Casey Research. Well, thanks for another interesting conversation.
Doug: My pleasure.
L: ‘Til next time.
[Doug believes that the ascent of man will come through powerful new technologies – and the facts seem to prove him right. One of the hottest sectors today is biotech, and Casey technology editor Alex Daley has vetted the most promising companies to recommend the best of the best to his subscribers. Learn more here.]