Rex tremendae majestatis

Fred Clark, the slacktivist, has an excellent post on the monarchical tendencies of the Bush administration.

A poster in the comments, called Scott, remarks:

If enough of your “fellow citizens” are OK with King George the Fourth (The Third being the one we originally rebelled against), then hasn’t society decided, and isn’t that ‘accountability’?

How can I put this? Er…


The citizens of a republic cannot be allowed to vote themselves out of political power on a permanent basis, and cannot be allowed to alienate their basic rights, no matter what the circumstances.

The dictatorships of Sulla, Caesar and others in Rome were achieved by Senatorial decrees ‘that the Consuls should take any action necessary for the salvation of the Republic’; similarly, the Reichstag decrees were Hitler’s path to sole rule. We are a long way from that today, but the wedge principle applies.

This is because the citizens are not the state. The State, Commonwealth, Rzeczpospolita, whatever is not just the assembly of interests of its current members, it is a trust held by all the current citizens on behalf of all the citizens present and future. Not Hobbesian per se, but something similar about sharing individual sovereignty:

Frontispiece of Hobbes's Leviathan

In the same way that the trustees of a university can’t buy themselves BMWs on their trust’s tag, we can’t be so irresponsible as to surrender the responsibility for government to any king, no matter how good.

(Image from UNESCO server Dadalos)