The Prince and the State in the Third Millennium

His Serene Highness Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein, was in these parts a few weeks ago giving a lecture at the International Theological Institute in Trumau. The basic idea of the lecture (which was based on His Highness’s book, The State in the Third Millenium, and is pretty well summarized in the interview embedded above) was that the state in the third millennium should be a service company providing certain useful goods to its citizens. His Highness explained that he was lead to this rather prosaic vision by the problem of religious freedom as it is understood today. The traditional legitimation of the monarchy had of course been Divine Right, but once Enlightenment style religious pluralism become accepted as the norm, such a legitimation became problematic. The Prince went in search of another model, and, living in Liechtenstein, it was perhaps not altogether surprising that he came up with a pretty boring shop-keeperish, paleo-capitalist, democratic legitimation: one which sees the ruling family as a sort of old and trusted family business (as Aelianus put it in the Q&A). The purpose of his book is to propose his model as the model for the state in the third millennium.

There are numerous objections that one could raise against His Highness’s model. If there is one thing that Marxist economics has shown, it is that the internal contradictions of capitalism are such that stability in one place can only be bought at the price of instability in another place. The stable prosperity of Liechtenstein and Switzerland can only be maintained because other places pay the price for their usury. Sometime I shall explore that theme in more detail (it basically follows from what Chesterton says about the capitalist wanting the same man to be rich and poor at the same time), but now I want to focus on another objection.

The most obvious objection is that this model is too boring. In the Q&A I asked His Highness what he thought of the future of a rival model: the model which Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin has developed in Russia. I quoted a Russian friend of mine who says that he doesn’t care about the lack of civil rights or any of that kind of stuff; what he cares about is that under Putin Russia is again trying to assert her power. He cares about the glory of Russia. This is the sort of timocratic vision of a state that one can rally armies around. And that is why I don’t think a paleo-capitalist, cuckoo-clock democratic model of the state is really going to be the wave of the future. I rather tend to agree with Slavoj Žižek’s oft repeated prediction that the state in the third millennium is likely to follow the late-capitalist authoritarian model of Putin and Berlusconi.

His Serene Highness gave an interesting reply. He said that man is a strange creature. On the one hand he is an individualist who looks out for his private interest, but on the other hand he also has a “herd instinct”, which leads him to seek group-inclusion and to massacre those who are not part of his group. The herd instinct (said His Serene Highness) is best satisfied by the communal satisfactions of religion, but when religion is weak it finds an outlet in destructive ideologies such as nationalism.

This is a rather pessimistic view of man: divided between selfish greed and irrational mob ecstasy. St. Thomas would argue that there is another side of man that is the proper principle of political community: his ability to participate in common goods. The common good, properly speaking, appeals both to man’s natural love of his own fulfillment–since it is the good of those who participate in it–but also to his communal nature–for it is a good superior to his own singular good. But, as I have argued before, to be ordered to the common good in the proper sense it is necessary that a political community order its common good explicitly to God. Thus we see that it follows from the acceptance of the  “enlightened” separation of Church and state that the only models of the state left are Prince Hans-Adam’s boring model, Vladimir Putin’s oppressive one, or some mixture of the two.

One thought on “The Prince and the State in the Third Millennium

  1. “His Serene Highness gave an interesting reply. He said that man is a strange creature. On the one hand he is an individualist who looks out for his private interest, but on the other hand he also has a “herd instinct”, which leads him to seek group-inclusion and to massacre those who are not part of his group. The herd instinct (said His Serene Highness) is best satisfied by the communal satisfactions of religion, but when religion is weak it finds an outlet in destructive ideologies such as nationalism.
    This is a rather pessimistic view of man: divided between selfish greed and irrational mob ecstasy.”

    — H.S.H. must have read Max Stirner:

    «On page 79 of his book, entitled “Der Einzige und Sein Eigenthum,” Stirner speaks of the insidious revival of sacred ideas and their domination, as that men are taught to regard themselves as called to devote themselves, to renounce their own wishes in favor, for example, of family, country, science, etc., and to be faithful servants of the same.»

    «”A world of countless ‘personal’ profane interests stands opposed to these advocates of ideal or sacred interests. No idea, no system, no sacred cause is so great that it should never be outweighed and modified by these personal interests. Even if in times of rage and fanaticism they are momentarily silent, yet they soon come uppermost again by the ‘sound sense of the people.’ Those ideas do not completely gain the victory till, and unless, they are no longer hostile to personal interests, i. e., till, and unless, they satisfy egoism.»

    «Philanthropy is a heavenly, a spiritual, a priestly love. Man must be established in us, though we poor devils be brought to destruction in the process. It is the same priestly principle as that famous fiat justitia, pereat mundus. Man and justice are ideas, phantoms, for love of which everything is sacrificed: therefore the priestly minds are the ones that do sacrifice. . . .

    “The most multiform things can belong and be accounted to man. Is his chief requisite deemed to be piety, religious priestcraft arises. Is it conceived to lie in morality, the priestcraft of morals raises its head. Hence the priestly minds of our time want to make a religion of everything; a religion of freedom, religion of equality, etc., and they make of every idea a ‘sacred cause,’ for instance, even citizenship, politics, publicity, freedom of the press, the jury, etc.

    “In this sense what is the meaning of unselfishness? To have only an ideal interest, in face of which no consideration for the person counts anything!»

    — James L. Walker (Tak Kak). Stirner on Justice. Liberty (March 26, 1887) vol. 4 (18) (whole no. 96) p. 7 [document 603]
    http://library.libertarian-labyrinth.org/items/show/2390
    http://library.libertarian-labyrinth.org/items/show/2797

    Pages 66-68 in the following edition, 3. The Hierarchy:

    • Max Stirner. The Ego and His Own. (1845) Benj. R. Tucker Publisher (First English edition, 1907)
    theanarchistlibrary.org/library/max-stirner-the-ego-and-his-own
    http://lsr-projekt.de/poly/enee.html

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