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The West is Europe and Europe is the Empire; Europe is the Empire Revisited; Europe is the Empire: Benedict Edition

The Social Order of Tomorrow by the his late majesty Otto of Austria is book which every true Rightist should read. His vision of the repersonalization of economics brought about by the coming “Atomic Age” has not come to pass, however all of the underlying societal, economic, and especially political principles (with one exception that will be discussed later) remain as true today as they were eight hundred years before the book was written. In examining the political aspect, let us begin where his Majesty began, with this very important principle;

We are not the playthings of blind forces, but free men who, in accordance with the will of God, are able to shape their own lives.

This is extremely important for the Right to remember, for to fall into the heresy of political determinism is to lose at once both the true value of History and any hope for the future;

Man is both heir and ancestor at the same time. He must absorb his inherited tradition and preserve those parts of it that are of permanent validity. At the same time he must do everything in his power for the coming generations.

What then, was the crisis that has prevented the Civilization of the West from fulfilling this dual role? Its culmination was the Industrial Revolution, which could have greatly benefited the development of Europe. Yet instead;

The old social order collapsed as though hit by a whirlwind. The symbols and social forms of the past were destroyed, and nothing that could provide equal social coherence was put in their place. 

The Industrial Revolution for all of the problems it created was not the origin of this collapse. The true genesis of the resulting destruction began its developments almost immediately after the foundation of Christendom, and the first fruit of this development was the French Revolution;

Many of the states of present-day Europe are the spiritual heirs of the French Revolution. Though this revolution was not the decisive turning point in European history, it was a great and cataclysmic event which, as it were, summed up a long development in dramatic form. For 1789 was merely the logical consequence of the irruption of pagan ideas into the Christian West. We see its fruits in Bodin’s royal absolutism, in the spirit of Versailles and the Encyclopædists, and particularly in the writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau.

And I would argue we see its perpetuation in de Maistre, de Bonald, and Reactionism of the French School, which in attempting to counter this ideology, merely instead absorbed it.

The most significant fact about the State that came into being with the French Revolution is that it denies all transcendental ties, does not recognize Natural Law, and regards autonomous man (mostly seen in the mass) as the source of all law. This logically gives unlimited power to the legislator- whether parliament or a dictator- since the legislator is the source of all law, or at least claims to represent it.

This is the whole problem that manifests itself in the modern conception of (absolutist) Sovereignty. It begins with the denial of the role of the Natural Law in the governance of a country;

For if every State regards itself as the fountainhead of law, there cannot be any international law; at best, international law remains a generally accepted convention-until the moment when one or another State no longer finds it useful. In other words, absolute dictatorship is a logical consequence of the ideology of the French Revolution.

And this tyranny of absolutism is not content to remain in the realm of Interpatrial Law, rather it seeks like a perverted vision of the Catholic truth, to bring all things into itself.

Today the freedom of the property-owner is being severely curtailed. Through the modern taxation system, the State has become a kind of joint proprietor, without sharing any part of the risk.

The problems of the current situation politically, socially, and economically are increasing self-evident- more so than when The Social Order of Tomorrow was written in 1957. What however of the solution? It is of paramount importance to realize that the Restoration of valid and eternal principles of political life cannot be a blind Reaction, a “restorationism” that seeks to conserve or bring back elements of the past or even traditions which are inimical to the natural development of Civilization.(An example of this would be those who would reintroduce the institution of serfdom, which though economically necessary at its own time, was abolished in the High Sacred Ages with good reason, and would now only be detrimental to the Common Good.) 

We said earlier that the unintelligent and reactionary policies of the victors of 1945 were a repetition of the developments that took place during the period following the defeat of Napoleon. It is logical to expect that a similar fate to that of the politicians of this period awaits our present day “restorationists”. Over the whole of Europe, the ground is beginning to tremble under the feet of the reactionaries.

The Catholic Restorationist is not a reactionary, rather he is the true Restorationist who seeks “to restore the Good that decays” in every age and land, in every period. Not merely reacting to perceived evil, but rather working for the actual Good, and for the Civilization which guards and cultivates it. The only solution to the politics and economics of both Collectivism-Marxism and also Laissez-faire Individualism is authentic Personalism, not the (well-intentioned misguided) personalism of Maritain; rather the Personalism of Charles de Koninck, rooted in the Common Good.

Politics is human activity in its communal aspect. Here it occupies the first place among the three aspects of collective life. What is done or not done in this field is of supreme importance for the life of the community.

In order to achieve this Restoration of the Good it is necessary to understand the exact definition and role of the state in this Civilization. Too often are corrupted understandings of the role of government implemented in countries of the West, only to collapse or perpetuate disaster.

The essential purpose of the State, its “content,” is rooted in natural law. The State is not an end in itself; it exists for the sake of its citizens. It is therefore not the source of all law (a claim that is still too far widely accepted), nor is it all-powerful. Its authority is circumscribed by the rights of its citizens. It is only free to act in those fields that are outside their free initiative. The State is therefore at all times the servant of natural law. Its task is to give practical effect to this law; nothing more…

What we call the natural law are those principles of eternal validity which the Creator Himself gave to the world as an unwritten but living [in the hearts of men] code.

Through the Natural Law, the persons of a community receive those natural rights which allow their participation in the Common Good. These rights order how the persons of the community respect each other, and the duties and obligations towards each other and the Common Good. One of the most important of these in the political life is the right to property.

Property is one of the most important ingredients of liberty. He who owns some property, however little, has a certain amount of independence.

In order for this right of property to be fully realized in its relation to the Common Good, the representation of the family in those elements of governance which are “democratic” must be realized.

It is, however, a great injustice in all systems based on universal suffrage that the family, as a constitutive unit of the State, finds no representation. The best way to make good this omission would be to give every citizen a vote from birth on, which would be exercised by the provider of the family during the voter’s minority. This would not offend against the principle of equality, while nevertheless giving the family its rightful electoral status.

The principle of equality mentioned above is the principle of equity, of right justice, and is not contrary to a hierarchical system. Some might question the mention of democracy, but we must remember that rightly defined, there is place for democratic elements in every rightly ordered government;

It must therefore be clearly stated that, generally speaking, democracy means the right of the people to participate in determining their development and future.

It is for these reasons that;

More than ever before, it is our task to create a Rechtsstaat– a constitutional State based upon law and justice.

In fact for every Rechtsstaat, whether monarchical or republican in constitution, there must be a monarchical element to preserve the primacy of the judicial element of Government.  

It is frequently forgotten that the true ruler has always been the guardian of law and justice. The most ancient monarchs-the kings of the Bible-came from the ranks of the judges. St. Louis of France regarded the administration of justice as his noblest task. The same principle can be seen in the many German “Palatinates,” since the Count Palatine (Palatinus) was the guardian of law and justice delegated by the King-Emperor. The history of the great medieval monarchies shows that the legislative power of the king- even of a king as powerful as Charles V- was severely limited by local autonomies. The same was true of the ruler’s executive function. He was not, in the first place, a law-giver or head of the executive; he was judge. All other functions were subordinate, and only exercised to the extant necessary to make his judicial function effective.

These principles true of the patrial state and the governance of countries, are also true of interpatrial government. European Civilization by its very nature must be united in its temporal aspects as well as in the Catholic Faith. This government however, as any rightly ordered government, must not be absolutist;

The Europe of tomorrow must therefore be a federation of nations, i.e. a system which takes full account of the differences between individual countries. A centralised Europe would be Europe no longer.

This great federation of countries and the multitude of nations within those countries would implement all of the qualities of a rightly ordered country, including the primacy of the judicial power.

The question of a European head of State is an especially difficult one, especially as it could lead not merely to political but also to national rivalries. It will however become more easy to solve the moment we recognise that the primacy, in a united Europe as well as in individual states, must be in the hands of the judicial power. In this sense, the solution must be essentially “monarchical,” though it need not be so either in form or in name.    

Here I would add, however, that in order to be truly effective it must be “monarchical” in both the form, Imperium, and name, Imperator, of this highest temporal office. The unique authority of the Sacrum Imperium is the only truly lasting guardian of the natural law, of freedom, of justice, and of the Common Good in the temporal realm.

This is the modern version of the ancient and yet always contemporary idea of a great occidental empire. The exact title of the European head of State is a secondary matter by comparison. The substance is more important than the form.

This last sentence is true in the abstract, but is it also true from a psychological point of view? It is, after all, a fact that symbolism has a far-reaching importance in political life, more far-reaching than most rationalists would like to admit.

 It I because of this, I would argue, that Europe must return to the forms and symbols of the Sacrétemporal Empire. No other system of symbolism or identity is so rightly grounded in the reality of the human condition and personal needs.

Now we do posses a European symbol which belongs to all nations equally. This is the Crown of the Holy Roman Empire, which embodies the tradition of Charlemagne, the ruler of a united occident. This may sound romantic and unrealistic. But one must keep in mind that the Crown represents not merely the sovereignty of the monarch, but also the ties between authority and the people. True it is the monarch who is crowned, but in this sacred act he appears as representative of the whole people.

It should therefore be considered whether the European head of State, as protector of European law and justice, should also become the guardian of a symbol which, more than any other, represents the sovereignty of the European community.

The West is Europe, and Europe is the Empire, and for this reason the head of Europe must not only be the Guardian of the Holy Roman Crown, but himself the Crowned Heir of Charlemagne. His majesty Otto out of humility did not suggest himself as guardian of justice and law in the West, and he rightly decries the rigidism of the “legitimism” of Versailles. Nevertheless there is a rightful Legitimism which in its essence is the true implementation of the Natural Law. It is to this principle of Legitimacy to which we must hold firm, calling ever upon the legitimate Emperor to return to his people in need of rightful Authority and true freedom.

This exploration of The Social Order of Tomorrow has only looked a small fraction of the wealth of political, economic, social, and moral principles contained within it. Many other topics are left to be discussed, from the importance of the Middle class, to an outline of just taxation, or an exploration of the nature of constitutions. There is however, one final principle that must be mentioned here, and that is this; that if Europe is to survived into the future it must survive as a Catholic Europe. The Civilization might contain within itself members of other Christian faiths, or even members of other religions such as Islam, yet it must always seek to convert those members, not be converted by them.

Christianity is our very soul. To deny our faith would mean to commit suicide… To speak of a Christian Europe is an act of faith in our life and future… Such a profession of faith demands a truly Christian political progamme, whose sole aim must be the welfare of the community… As far as humanly possible, such a programme must aim at the practical realisations of social justice, while defending the freedom and rights of the individual as well as the family.