In his second volume of Democracy in America, French diplomat and writer Alexis de Tocqueville touches briefly on key differences in historical approaches toward the past in aristocratic ages as opposed to democratic ages. In short, in aristocratic ages societies were ruled by the elite few and the events of history were recorded to have been shaped and moved by the willpower and influence of select individuals. In contrast, as democratic ages were governed by the masses, events were reported to have been advanced by general causes and movements.
As Tocqueville’s intent was to praise America’s unique democracy, he certainly would prefer the representative form of government over aristocracy, but in this chapter he gives a clear warning that democratic history could pass on a “doctrine of fatality’ to its readers, influencing them to think they were powerless and resigned to the trends of society. As conservatives find themselves on the losing side of our most recent democratic endeavor and ask questions about the validity of the process itself, we must be careful to not succumb to this same feeling of impotence.
Conversely, I would argue that future historians will not see this age as one of democracy, but of a return to aristocracy. The past year has shown that politicians, corporations, and tech media moguls have formed a new ruling class that seeks to dominate the political process through both overt and covert means. Any semblance of democracy is a facade to placate the grumblings of an agitated population. Establishment media is pushing a narrative that the current social justice movements are the will of the people, but in reality these ideas are curated propaganda used by those behind the curtain to maintain their control.
In my previous essay, I mentioned the “new elites”, and stated that if conservatives and classical liberals ever desire to regain political power we will need to transform ourselves into a new class of men and women with liberties based on virtue. If in fact we are entering a new age of aristocracy then the good news is that there exists the potential for bold and virtuous men to lead our side of it.
Since the Enlightenment, the term aristocracy has slowly descended into a dirty word in democratic societies, associated with the decadence and arrogance of the European elites of the Middle Ages. But the original term, like much of the foundation of Western Civilization, is Greek, a combination of the words excellent and power. The aristokratia were the noble warriors of the ruling classes who led armies into battle. Related to this is the concept of arete, which the Greeks thought of as excellence or moral virtue.
So while it is true that the ancient Greeks were led by an aristocracy that our modern minds might be weary of, their definition of the term required excellence. In the same manner that Greek liberty was invalid without virtue, Greek leadership would have been invalid without arete.
The Apostle Paul, well-versed in Greek thought, brought this concept over to Christianity when he wrote the following in his letter to the church at Philippi:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence (arete), if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8
In America, we’ve spent so much time arguing over the right types of government that we’ve failed to hold the democratic process and its leaders to any standards of virtue. Yet it’s a cyclical problem, as the decadence and vices of our culture, rooted in the disdain for any excellence in our personal lives, have empowered a ruling class whose minimum standard is appeasing those same earthly desires in order to maintain their own wealth and power. An unprincipled electorate sanctions a corrupt oligarchy who returns the favor with promises of material comfort that reinforce the indulgent behavior of the citizens who elected them in the first place.
Many of us see this system as both undesirable and unsustainable. We place our values in a higher plane of existence and would choose a Spartan freedom over an opulent slavery. Yet this slavery is now at our doorstep, offering us solace in exchange for submission.
Submission in and of itself is not the issue. At times of necessity, men will submit themselves to virtuous aristocrats. They will follow the Spartan King Leonidas to certain death at the gates of Thermopylae. They will cross the Rubicon behind Julius Caesar and risk treason against the Roman Republic. They will refuse to desert George Washington despite the brutal winter they endured at Valley Forge. And they will lay down their lives for a God who became man and died so that they may have eternal life. But submission to a corrupt aristocracy offering nothing of true value while demanding our God-given liberties is not something men of virtue do.
In his latest essay “The Gold Pill”, writer Jack Donovan proclaims “We must become heroes and kings, men who right wrongs and straighten that which is crooked- It is up to us to become the men of a new golden age.” In this vein, men of Donovan’s new golden age must become the aristocrats of old; not the selfish elite of the Middle Ages, but the aristokratia of ancient Greece- men of excellence and virtue who lead others to victory.
When future historians sit down to write their books on the events of this age, they will not write about general movements and trends of faceless masses; instead they will undoubtedly tell the tales of the great men who rose up to defend freedom and liberty against the encroaching forces of tyranny and control. Who these men are is currently unknown, but the opportunity is there for the taking. To men of virtue, striving for arete, the time is now to stake your claim.