The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Friday, December 31, 2010

Liturgical poetry cycle complete

With my last post, the series of poems beginning with "Kyrie Eleison" is complete. These poems are built around the text of the Ordinary of the Mass in English translation. The translation used is that found in the Order of Communion in the Book of Common Prayer. The poems were written and posted in the order in which they are found in the Anglican Prayerbook, with the Great Doxology at the end rather than before the Credo as it stands in Roman Catholic liturgy. The construction of the poems and the manner in which the liturgical text is incorporated varies. In some the liturgical words are made part of the regular meter and rhyme pattern. In others they were placed as extra-metrical refrains between stanzas of the poems. In the last, the Latin text of the first two lines is also included at the end.

Here are direct links to each poem in the cycle in their order:

Kyrie Eleison:
Agnus Dei:
Gloria in Excelsis:

My inspiration for this project is musical. After attending the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's marvelous performance of Beethoven's Mass in C-Major on December 4th I spent much of early December listening to recordings of other masses - the Missa Solemnis, Hadyn's "Nelson" Mass, Mozart's "Coronation" Mass, and especially J. S. Bach's Mass in B Minor. The latter is rapidly approaching the great oratarios - Haydn's "Creation", Bach's "St. Matthew's Passion" and Handel's "Messiah" at the top of my list of favorite sacred music. At any rate, listening to these hymns which the Christian Church has been singing for centuries set to the accompaniment of music by the greatest composers the world has ever known (or ever will know), inspired me to take these hymns, in the form in which I knew them the best, and set them in poetic verse with whatever little talent in so doing I may possess.

Gloria in Excelsis

When Christ the Son of God Most High was born
His Angel to the shepherds did appear
And in the night before the light of morn
Proclaimed to them Good News the King is near.

Glory be to God on High,
And in earth peace, good will towards men.

These words of praise to God and peace to man
The Angel and heavenly choir did sing.
Since then throughout the world in every land
Where Christ’s Church is found, on tongues they still ring.

We praise Thee, we bless Thee
We worship Thee, we glorify Thee.

In praise to God saved men with angels join
And earth and heaven become as if one
And share that which cannot be bought with coin
The favour of God and His Only Son.

We give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory,
O Lord God, Heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.

In Christ, the Son, the Father is revealed,
In human flesh to man God is made known
By Him Who was worthy to take the sealed
Scroll from Him who sits on th’heavenly throne.

O Lord, the Only-Begotten Son, Jesu Christ
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father
That takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.

Why was Christ the only One found worthy
Of all in heaven, on earth or below?
With His blood for God He purchased earthy
People back from sin and death, hell and woe.

Thou that takest away the sin of the world
Receive our prayer.

The huge breach made by sin when Adam fell
Between the grievéd God and fallen man
Christ’s death removed – and removed it so well
Howe’er hard they search, find it no one can.

Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father
Have mercy upon us.

The glory of the Father the Son shares
With no one else except the Holy Ghost;
He takes upon Himself the world’s cares
And saves from sin unto the uttermost.

For Thou only art holy,
Thou only art the Lord;

The Church of Christ established on the earth
Against it, hell’s gates never shall prevail
Thee, O Christ, Who art of infinite worth
Thy Father and the Spirit, we do hail.

Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost,
Art most high in the glory of God the Father.

And so to Thee O holy Three-in-One
We lift our voices and sing out Thy praise
And worship Thee whose light outshines the sun
Whose reign will last beyond the end of days.

Gloria in excelsis Deo
et in terra pax hoiínibus bonae voluntatis


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Agnus Dei

Thou offered up Thyself a sacrifice
And with Thy blood made propitiation
So that all who believe might be born twice
Who are called to Thee from every nation.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

The sin that separated man from God
Thou took upon Thyself Who knew no sin
Enduring on Thy back the divine rod
Over Satan the victory to win.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world,
Have mercy upon us.

O mediator between God and man
Thou accomplished reconciliation
An age of grace and forgiveness began
And made both warring sides become as one.

O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world,
Grant us Thy peace.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Blessed is He Who comes in humility
Though Lord over all from all eternity
On the back of a donkey He makes His seat
As the people cast palm leaves before His feet
And open their mouths in a glorious shout
Let the stones and the rocks with one voice cry out:

Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the Highest!


Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts
Let men and angels praise Thy Holy name
Almighty Father, Son and Holy Ghost
Throughout the ages evermore the same.

Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory
The sun, moon, and all the stars speak of Thee
Mountains, seas, and rivers tell Thy story
Thy handiwork proclaims Thy Deity.

All things which breathe obtain their life from Thee
And every blessing underneath Thy sky.
Let our voices sing throughout land and sea
Glory be to Thee, O Lord Most High.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Part I

I believe in One God Sovereign o’er all
Who has neither beginning nor an end
Beyond the farthest star from this world’s ball
His realms and vast dominions do extend.

The Father Almighty is this One God
Jehovah, Elohim and Adonai
Whose name all the heavenly angels laud
And all creatures beneath the clear blue sky.

The heavens declare His glory above
But who can take the measure of His worth?
All knowing, All powerful, God is love
Who is the maker of heaven and earth.

Yes, heaven and earth and what is more
The spiritual and the physical.
The source of being and existence for
All things visible and invisible.

Part II

And I believe in One Lord, Jesus Christ
Through Whom and in Whom the Father is known
God’s true Sacred Prophet, and Priest and King,
Who rules and reigns from God’s Holy throne.

He’s the Only-Begotten Son of God
Although by faith we His children become.
He breaks the nations with an iron rod
But with a shepherd’s He comforts His own.

Begotten of the Father Almighty
In the eternity before all worlds
Alpha and Omega, First and Last, He
Is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Jesus is God being sired of God,
The Light of Light which lighteth every man
And Very God, He is, of Very God
Since before this world’s history began.

He was begotten but He was not made
Not a beginning - a relationship
Which is and was and which shall never fade
Is the nature of His divine Sonship.

“I and My Father are One” Jesus said,
Being of one substance with the Father.
In Him all the fullness of Godhead dwelled
In humanity born of His Mother.

There with the Father in the beginning
The foundation of Creation He laid.
In Him and of Him the world has it’s being
Even in Him through Whom all things were made.

Who for us men and for our salvation
Came down from heaven
to this sinful earth
And become One of the Jewish nation
Through the miracle of the Virgin Birth.

He laid His heavenly glory aside
And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost
In flesh His divinity He did hide
And let the world He fashioned be His host.

In Judean Bethlehem He was born
Of the Virgin Mary and was made man
He Who one day would wear a crown of thorns
And die to pay for all of mankind’s sin.

He was betrayed by a disciple and
Friend, and was crucified also for us
Under Pontius Pilate
who o’er the land
Roman deputy and governor was.

He suffered and was buried in a tomb
Which was not His except by loan. He made
Atonement for sin by bearing its doom
By His death our debt to God’s Law He paid.

The spotless Lamb of God and Sacrifice
Sinless Himself, for us it was He died
And the third day He rose again to life
According to the Scriptures bona fide.

To’s (1) disciples did Christ Risen appear
And He fellowshipped with the Eleven
Them, to preach His Gospel both far and near
He sent, and Ascended into Heaven.

In Heaven’s glory He yet remains, and
Sitteth on the right hand of the Father

There always praised by the angel band
He reigns on High for ever and ever.

He is preparing mansions there for His
Redeemed and shall come again with glory
To judge both the quick and the dead
, for ‘tis
Prophesied in God’s inspired story.

He is the Messiah Who was foretold
By the Holy Ghost through prophetic men
Whose goings forth, He (2) says, have been of old
And Whose kingdom shall have no end. Amen!

Part III

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The (3)
Counsellor and Comforter Christ promised
Would be sent down to dwell in us when He
Returned to that, of His realms, the calmest.

He is the Lord, the Giver of Life Who
Convicts of sin and quickens with the Word
He lives in the heart of the Christian to
Give him strength to live godly in this world.

He was present at Creation too
A member of the Godhead three-in-one
He is fully God and personal Who
Proceedeth from the Father and the Son

He is Almighty and Eternal Who
With the Father and the Son together
Is worshipped and glorified
, and He too
Rules over all things upper and nether

It is from Him that we have the Bible
Who spake by the Prophets in days of old
And by Apostles whom He made able
To preach the holy Gospel clear and bold.

And I believe One Holy Catholic (4)
And Apostolic Church, consisting of
Believers, both the sleeping and the quick,
Commissioned by the Christ to share His love.

And I acknowledge one Baptism in the
Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Which for the remission of sins in he
Who trusts in Christ is the outward signpost.

And I look for the Resurrection of
The dead
, which will happen on that great day
When Christ Who first came down to earth in love
Will come back again in Judgment to stay.

And with all of Christ’s redeemed Church and
With God’s Creation do I look for the (3)
Life of the world to come in which firsthand
We shall witness Him and His glory see.

Glory be to God the Father on High
And to the Son of God and Son of Man
And let all praise to the Holy Ghost fly
And let us shout a loud Amen. AMEN!

(1) i.e., “To his”
(2) The Holy Ghost
(3) Pronounced like “thee”.
(4) Universal

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kyrie Eleison

For the rebellion deep within our heart
Which darkens our deeds and corrupts our thoughts
And turns our words into poisonous darts -
Lord, have mercy upon us.

For the fleshly lust which defiles us all
And the lust of the eyes which deceives us
And that pride of life from which we all fall -
Christ, have mercy upon us.

We have strayed from Thy path like wayward sheep
And righteousness dwells not within us.
We look to Thy grace and fall at Thy feet

Lord, have mercy upon us.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Age of Economism and its Errors

In October of 1793, following the murder of Queen Marie Antoinette at the hands of the filthy riff-raff that had taken over France and in the name of “human rights” established a terrorist state, Edmund Burke gave a speech in which he lamented the death of the era of Christian chivalry. In this speech Burke famously declared:

But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever.

Burke’s friend Adam Smith would probably not have appreciated this remark had he lived to hear about it. The author of An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations and the father of modern economics had in fact died three years previously and so was spared the indignity of hearing his profession slighted by the man of whom he had once said that he was “the only man I ever knew who thinks on economic subjects exactly as I do, without any previous communications having passed between us.”

What exactly did Burke mean when he made this remark?

Burke was mourning, not just the murdered Queen of France, but of the civilized way of life she represented. The world of faith and tradition, honour and chivalry, manners and civility, rank and order, with all that it entailed good and bad, was dying before his eyes, personified in the person of the daughter of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa and wife of Louis XVI of France. In its place, he saw a new world arising, where society would be a laboratory for ivory tower intellectuals to test their abstract theories with men and women as their experimental guinea pigs.

That is what is Burke had in mind with those three words “sophisters”, “economists” and “calculators”. People, detached from the realities of human life, who believe that through cold, hard, reason and logic they can draw up a blue print for a society which will be better for all of its members than one which has slowly evolved through history and which naturally arises out of the relationships and interactions of people bound together by ties of kinship, culture, religion and history.

Some might object that the description above applies to economists who are socialists but not to classical or liberal economists who believe in capitalism. It is the former who believe in a planned economy and social engineering. The latter believe in freedom and letting people make their own decisions for themselves.

There is some truth to this distinction. Socialism originally referred, in the 19th Century, to various movements that sought to replace the private ownership of property with the collective ownership of property on the part of either the community or those who worked the property. The theory behind socialism is the idea that injustices occur in society because of inequality in status and wealth and that this inequality arises out of the private ownership of property. From this premise, the socialist logically proceeds to the notion that if we were to eliminate the distinction between “mine” and “thine” and replace it with an all-inclusive “ours”, an ideal peaceful society would arise, where all men are equals and brothers, sharing all things in common, where each “contributes according to his ability” and receives “according to his need”.

Socialism clearly belongs to the age “of sophisters, economists, and calculators”. It is completely out of touch with reality. It treats the evils and injustices which are an unavoidable aspect of the human condition because they arise out of human nature as a disease that can be successfully treated with a political and economic cure. It is therefore unsurprising that every society which has seriously tried to put it into practice has only exponentially magnified the misery of its people.

It does not follow from this that capitalism is categorically any different.

The “capitalism vs. socialism” debate which dominates academic discussion of political matters today reminds me in many ways of the “Calvinism vs. Arminianism” debate which keeps cropping up in discussions of Christian theology. The latter debate, as to whether the view of predestination and free will expressed in the Five Articles of Remonstrance of 1610 is more true and Scriptural than the view expressed in the Canons of the 1618-19 Synod of Dort, is treated by both sides as a debate between the only two logical positions on these matters, despite the fact that it is an in-house debate among the Reformed branch, of the Protestant wing, of the Christian faith.

Likewise, “capitalism” and “socialism” are subcategories of a particular kind of economy – the modern industrial economy. The modern industrial economy is an economy where the primary economic activity is the production and distribution of factory manufactured goods. It differs from the Western economy which immediately preceded the Industrial Revolution, in which the primary economic activity was agriculture and where items that are mass-produced in factories today were produced by skilled craftsmen. This economy was neither “capitalist” nor “socialist”, categories which are meaningless when applied to it.

Capitalism like socialism, is an abstract blueprint for society, drawn up by rationalist theorists who are out of touch with reality. It is more properly called economic liberalism because it is the extrapolation of the liberal worldview into economics. The liberal worldview is as out of touch with reality as the socialist worldviews. Liberalism is based upon the idea that people are by nature good and so like socialists liberals look for a source of evil that is outside human nature and which can be altered through political means. Hence the long history of liberal projects to eliminate evil through “universal suffrage”, “universal education”, and the like, each designed to eliminate a new “source of poverty, crime, and suffering” after the last project proved to be a dud. They all prove to be duds because poverty, crime, and suffering are born out of the human nature that is present in the breast of every human being and which cannot be eliminated by political solutions.

More immediately relevant to economic liberalism is the liberal view of society. Central to liberal theory is the idea that the “individual” is prior to society. An “individual” in liberal theory, is a generic person apart from society, whose identifying traits are not those which distinguish him from other people, but characteristics which liberal theory claims he possesses equally with all other “individuals” – personal sovereignty and natural rights. In reality, no such creature exists. Particular persons exist, but they exist within societies, societies which are both older than them and logically prior to them. People enter the world as members of pre-existing families, and by extension as members of the pre-existing communities and societies to which their pre-existing families belong, which are defined and bound together, by ties of language, culture, history, etc. Liberal theory blatantly contradicts observable reality.

Economic liberalism is directly derived from the liberal view of the “individual” and society. Economic liberalism or capitalism is the idea that a society’s collective economic interests are best served by its individual members entering into unrestrained voluntary transactions in which their motivation is entirely their own self-interest. When individuals enter into such transactions the impersonal forces of supply and demand which drive the market ensure that the outcome will produce the greatest amount of happiness for the largest number of people.

This theory contains both truth and error.

It is true that under ordinary circumstances, each of us is better qualified to make the decisions that affect our personal economic interests, than the government is to make them for us. As Dr. Thomas Fleming put it:

The one essential insight of free-market economics is that human beings are more efficient at providing for their own needs than any set of other people could possibly be, no matter how enlightened. (The Morality of Everyday Life, University of Missouri Press, 2004, pp. 18-19)

The problem is, that because liberalism sees the individual as being prior to society, and society as existing for the individual, liberalism concludes that a society’s economic interests lies solely in the personal economic interests of its individual members. Society cannot have any collective economic interests, to the liberal, because to the liberal society is an abstract concept created by individuals to serve their own self-interests. To treat collective society as having interests of its own is to commit the fallacy of reification (treating an abstract concept as if it were a concrete reality) to a liberal.

As we have seen, however, liberalism is wrong. Society is the reality. It is liberalism’s concept of the “individual” that is the abstraction. Therefore it is reasonable to expect that a society will have a collective stake in its own economy. Would a society not, for example, have a collective interest in making sure that has sufficient domestic production of all essential goods that would be needed in an emergency wartime situation in which dependence upon foreign suppliers might result in critical shortages if the enemy were to block the supply lines?

In light of the above, we would expect economic liberalism to depart from reality precisely where it denies society a collective stake in the economy, and this is exactly where we find it in economic liberalism’s devotion to the idea of free trade.

Free trade is the idea that a country should eliminate duties and tariffs altogether or lower them to the point where they do not result in a significant difference in price between foreign and domestic goods. The result is supposed to be that all goods will be produced where it is most efficient to produce them, productivity will rise across the board, prices will drop, and all countries will be better off. A country that puts free trade into practice will generally expect reciprocity on the part of its trading partners, but a true economic liberal insists that even a policy of unilateral free trade will be to the benefit of the country that practices it.

What does history tell us about the effects free trade has on a country’s economy?

In the early 19th Century the leading economic country in the world was the United Kingdom. Liberals and radicals were demanding free trade, and in 1846, Conservative Prime Minister Robert Peel, formed an alliance with Liberals and Radicals against the policies of his own party and abolished the Corn Laws (laws protecting British agriculture). This led to the defeat of Peel’s government but it also put the UK on the road to free trade. A couple of decades later the UK had implemented free trade and eliminated its import duties and tariffs. Around the same time Britain was doing this the Republican Party was erecting a tariff wall around the United States. The Republican Party had been founded upon Alexander Hamilton’s economic system, which involved protecting domestic producers with tariffs and using the revenue to fund the government and pay for internal improvement projects like roads, canals, and railroads that would benefit internal commerce.

The UK practiced free trade for approximately the same period of time that the USA followed the Hamiltonian protectionist system of the Republicans – from the late 1860’s till the period between the World Wars. During this period the USA replaced the UK as the world’s leading economic country.

During this same period of time the new Germany which had united under the Prussian monarchy implemented economic nationalism similar to that of the Republicans in the United States. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck applied the economic principles of Friedrich List whose primary influence was Alexander Hamilton. Following this economic policy, Germany became an industrial power in the same decades when those Western European countries that were implementing free trade began to decline.

Liberal Democrats introduced free trade into the American Republic in the 20th Century. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the author of America’s welfare state moved America towards international free trade in the 1930’s and 40’s, and JFK, LBJ, and Bill Clinton moved America further in that direction. By that time the Republican Party had abandoned its founding platform and adopted free trade as well. During the post-WWII period in which America became a free trade country, Japan adopted America’s old protectionist policies. These decades were the decades of America’s decline as a manufacturing power and Japan’s rise to prominence in the new post-WWII high-tech economy.

None of this seems to faze true believers in free trade. A. E. Housman described free trade as being a fetish to the liberal, which seems accurate enough. In their ongoing devotion to policies that have proven disastrous whenever they have been implemented, economic liberals and socialists are alike.

This is not the only similarity between capitalism and socialism. For two systems which are so widely believed to be polar opposites of one another, they share a surprisingly large number of common goals and values. Both have a materialistic view which equates human happiness with having one’s material needs met. Both envision a classless society – capitalism the society of meritocracy, socialism the society of egalitarianism. Both have a utopian vision of a world where global peace has been established through the breaking down of traditional nations and societies into a one-world order.

Both are antagonistic to traditional, organic society, made up of families rooted in local communities with strong social and religious institutions, inevitably falling in a hierarchical arrangement of some sort.

What alternative to capitalism and socialism is there? Is there anything salvageable from the wreck of pre-modern, civilized, chivalrous Christendom that can guide us through the murky darkness of modernity?

The following principles are a start:

A) Private property is not the source of evil. The ills we face and must live with as human beings come from human nature, which is the nature of each of us. The law can contain human evil, by prohibiting us from hurting each other, and punishing us if we do. It cannot change our nature, however, and the only solution to the problem of human evil is a spiritual rather than a political one. Private property is a traditional social institution that has worked better than most if not all communal property arrangements.

B) Society is prior to the individual person within it. A society has collective needs and interests which must be balanced with the personal needs and interests of its members.


C) Society should not collectively decide for its members things which are best left up to their own personal judgment. This includes personal economic decisions. Socialism treats the personal economic well-being of a society’s members as a collective matter to be handled by the government. Capitalism treats the collective economic well-being of the country as a personal matter to be handled by private individuals. Both are errors.

The principle of subsidiarity applies here. Subsidiarity is the principle that decisions should be made by the lowest level of authority that is capable of making them. A decision that affects your family should be made by the authority within your family. A decision concerning your local neighborhood, should be made by the neighborhood authorities. It is only when a decision affects the entire country that it should be made and must be made by the federal government. This applies in economics as in everything else. In practice it means that most economic decisions and transactions will resemble those in a liberal economy. It is not laissez-faire, however, because the government still has the right and responsibility to make laws and decisions which affect the collective economic good of the society which is distinct from the personal economic good of its members.

These principles are not a blueprint for an ideal society. No such thing can be created by the mind of man. They are however, pretty basic economic common sense, which is sorely needed in the ideological debate between capitalism and socialism.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monarchism and Minarchism

Imagine that you are sitting at your dining room table. Having just finished your breakfast, you are glancing over the morning newspaper while you enjoy your cup of coffee and prepare for the coming day, when all of a sudden there is a knock on the door. You go to answer it and on your doorstep you find a man you have never seen before. He has with him a briefcase, a clipboard, and a smug, pompous, attitude of superiority.

You ask him who he is and he says “I am from the government and I am here to inspect your home to make sure it is up to regulation standards”.

Naturally, you ask to see the man’s credentials. He produces them and they appear to be legitimate it, so reluctantly and with a great deal of annoyance at having your daily routine disturbed, you allow him in.

The inspector goes through your house, from attic to basement, making sure you have working smoke detectors in every room, that your electrical, water, and sewage systems meet the latest standards. From time to time he makes snotty comments about the way you live:

“You know, you really shouldn’t have all these appliances plugged into the same circuit.”

“You should rearrange your furniture to make it easier for people to leave in case of a fire.”

Finally the inspection is over, and the inspector lets you know that you have passed. “Just by the skin of your teeth”, he adds, by his demeanor though not his words.

Was it a king or queen who authorized this invasion of your home? Or was it a democratic assembly composed of politicians who are elected by a general vote on a regular basis?

After the inspector leaves you realize you need to go right now or you will be late for work. In a hurry, and still irritated by the inspection, you get in your car and hurry towards work. A couple of blocks before you reach your workplace you hear a siren. You look in your rearview mirror and a police car is flashing its lights at you and a policeman is waving you over to the side.

You glance at your speedometer and see that you have been speeding – not recklessly, but enough to get you stopped.

You pull over to the curb and wait for the policeman. He walks up to your window and asks to see your driving license. He takes a look at it, hands it back to you, and asks you if you realized how fast you were going. Then he asks you why you aren’t wearing your seatbelt.

You had been so preoccupied in your mind with the inspection and getting to work on time that you had completely forgotten to fasten your seatbelt! Now you have been caught having committed two traffic offences at the same time, and the policeman is convinced that you are a troublemaking scofflaw and decides to make an example out of you. He gives you a tongue-lashing, writes you a big ticket, and sends you on your way to work, where you are now, of course, late.

Who thought up the idea of punishing people with fines for not wearing their seatbelts – an offence which can not possibly hurt anyone other than the offender? Was it a king? Was it a queen? Or was it not rather a bunch of progressive do-gooders in the democratic assembly?

You get to work and your boss chews you out for being late. You explain the circumstances and you notice that he isn’t really listening to you and seems to be worried about something. Then you remember that it is government inspection week at work too. Today the fire inspector will be making sure your employers fire detection system and fire escape routes meet government standards. Tomorrow the safety inspector will be inspecting your workplace, looking for potential hazards to your and your co-workers safety. Several other inspectors will be coming in later in the week. Preparations for these inspections have been hindering your companies productivity for the past month.

Who was it that tied your company up with so much red tape? Was this an innovation from the Crown or from the Commons?

The idea is widely held today that democracy is the form of government that is most compatible with freedom and limitations on government power. This notion, however, is contrary to the facts of history.

The last few centuries saw the triumph of Whiggery. In Whig doctrine, a country may have a king or queen (a head of state whose office is passed down through hereditary succession) but only if their position is reduced to that of ceremonial figurehead. The actual governing of the country must be carried out, by officials elected by the general public. In the Whig system the king or queen “reigns but does not rule”, is the “head of state” but not the “head of government”.

The Whig system should not be identified with constitutional, parliamentary monarchy. The confusion of the two is common but erroneous. The latter is a much older aspect of the English constitution which we in Canada have inherited. A constitutional monarchy, is a monarchy in which the office of king or queen regnant is established, defined, and filled by society’s constitution and the king, deriving his authority from the constitution, is therefore responsible to the constitution, to uphold it rather than to overthrow it by governing arbitrarily. A parliamentary monarchy is a monarchy in which the constitution dictates that the sovereign lawmaking authority of the king or queen is to be exercised “in parliamento”. Parliament is derived from the French word “parler” which means “to speak”. The concept here is that the people who live under a country’s laws should have a voice in the making of those laws. It is a completely different concept from the notion of democracy in which the people themselves are regarded as the sovereign power.

Constitutional parliamentary monarchy is an English tradition that goes back prior to the Norman conquest of 1066 to the time of the Anglo-Saxon kings. The line of Norman kings that started when William of Normandy secured his shaky claim to succeed Edward the Confessor to the throne of England by defeating his rival Harold II at the Battle of Hastings promised to govern according to the constitution and laws of Edward, which had evolved out of the constitutional reforms made by Edward’s ancestor Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, in the 9th Century. When John Plantagenet was compelled by his barons to agree to the Magna Carta in 1215 it did not really introduce anything new in the way of constitutional limitations on the authority of the king, so much as require in writing his agreement to uphold the existing constitution.

The triumph of the Whigs occurred in 1688 when Parliament forced King James II to abdicate and gave his crown to his son-in-law William of Orange. This did not have the immediate effect of reducing the office of king to that of ceremonial figurehead but it ultimately led to that because it represented the triumph of the principle of democracy over the principle of royalty in the constitution. Over the course of the three centuries since the so-called “Glorious Revolution” the implications of the Whig victory have unfolded as Parliament, especially the elected lower House, has taken over the role of actually governing, and the role of the Crown has shrunk to a ceremonial role.

If the Whig doctrine, linking non-intrusive, limited government, and freedom to the democratic principle is correct, then we should expect that over the last three centuries government would have shrunk, taxes would gone down, and government presence in people’s everyday lives would have all but vanished.

The exact opposite is true.

The more the important the principle of democracy has become in our mixed constitution, the more real governing power has been concentrated in the hands of elected officials and the bureaucracies they head, and the less of a role the Crown plays in government, the bigger government has become.

Over the last three centuries, the Parliaments of Great Britain and Canada have imposed income taxes on their peoples. The first income tax was introduced in Great Britain by the government of William Pitt the Younger in the late 18th century. Canada’s first income tax was introduced in 1917 by the Borden government. Income taxes take far more money out of the hands of the tax payers and raise far more government revenue than any other kind of tax. They were unheard of back in the days when the king was unmistakably the head of government as well as the head of the state.

Also unheard of, back in the days when kings had more real power, were these large government bureaucracies we have today with their armies of inspectors invading homes and businesses to enforce libraries of petty regulations covering every minute aspect of everyday life. Huge bureaucracies go hand in glove with mass democracy. The saying “a man’s home is his castle” is obsolete today in the age of democracy, but it actually meant something back in the age in which it has its origins – the age when kings ruled as well as reigned. Kings were simply not interested in passing laws to prevent you from hurting yourself and hiring huge numbers of civil servants to enforce these laws. The king had constables and magistrates to enforce the peace, i.e., to keep you from hurting others and/or upsetting the civil order. It is democratically elected politicians and the progressive “experts” they hire to staff their bureaucracies that created the “nanny state”.

Democracy, then, is not the foundation of a free and just society under a limited government, that liberal doctrine makes it out to be.

Nor is monarchy the antithesis of freedom that liberalism makes it out to be.

There have been bad kings and good kings. If the definition of good government, is a government that provides society with basic laws (laws which govern public areas, laws which prohibit actions that hurt other people and threaten the order of society, and which provide a just manner for people to settle disputes with one another) and enforces those laws, but otherwise lets them live their own lives, then the English parliamentary monarchy has been overall a good government through history.

What about a government that fails to enforce the basic rule of law, which instead enforces thousands of petty regulations about minute aspects of everyday life, which taxes people to death, which actively seeks to undermine other social authorities such as parents in the home and clergy in the church, which wages war against the social, cultural, and moral traditions of the society it governs? Would that not be the very embodiment of a bad government?

That is the kind of government we have, now that the principle of democracy has triumphed over the principle of monarchy.

There are some who would have us take the principle of democracy even further and abolish monarchy even in its present ceremonial role. Let them not be deceived into thinking that they would be furthering the cause of freedom, justice, and good government by so-doing.

Aristotle argued that the best hypothetical constitution of a society would combine the principles of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, each balancing the others. What Aristotle wrote about in theory, materialized in the traditional English constitution of parliamentary monarchy, which we in Canada have inherited.

If we are ever going to see the constitution balanced again, and good government restored to this country, it will not be by allowing the principle of democracy to further overshadow the principle of monarchy. For this reason it is important to maintain the monarchy, even in its present ceremonial role. If the monarchy serves no other purpose it is as an anchor in the constitution of the past that will hopefully prevent the ship of state from drifting even further into the turbulent sea of progressive democracy.