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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10658/monarchy-not-legitimism/

Monarchy, Not Legitimism

September 15, 2009 by

Ludwig von Mises wrote this private memo to Otto von Habsburg, April 20, 1942. It has never been published before now:

The world today recognizes the principles of self-determination and the sovereignty of the people. In conformity with this principle, the position to take is, “Let the Austrian people decide. We would recommend a return to the monarchy and democratic parliamentarianism, but the people have the last word, not we.”

Only thus can the monarchy be restored in Austria, only thus can it last. The clinging to legitimism of the Duke of Chambord thwarted the restoration of the Bourbon kings. It would be no different in Austria.

For the Austrian political movement in exile, the head of the royal house can be nothing but the most prominent Austrian, in whom — as it believes — the majority of the people see their future Crown Prince. Because they want to build a better future in a new state, the monarchists advocate the monarchical form of government.

The royal house itself will be better served by this policy than by harking back to a past that had shadows as well as light, and to documents that can be interpreted in various ways by judges. Imitating the tactics of French legitimism that have failed this past 112 years, will not lead to success. FULL MEMO


P.M.Lawrence September 15, 2009 at 8:35 am

“According to legitimism, Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria is the legitimate successor to the thrones of England and Scotland”.

That’s rubbish – because the legitimate system in England rests on being called to the throne by the successor institution of the Witanagemot, the Council of Accession, and that never called that Prince to the throne.

“The clinging to legitimism of the Duke of Chambord thwarted the restoration of the Bourbon kings”.

Actually, no, it didn’t. It thwarted the restoration of the Duke of Chambord as a “king of the French”, resting on the idea of the people – an approach that had already been tried between 1830 and 1848 and had left the way open to republicans. The Duke of Chambord accurately realised that only the legitimist approach could prevent the throne again being undercut by republicans, and gambled that opinion would move to allowing the legitimist approach. It didn’t, it built support for the provisional arrangements (the Third Republic). A better approach would have been to accept without making any oaths or commitments, and allow a later king or kings to build support for the institution (as happened over generations for the Hanoverians in Britain).

What is completely missing from von Mises’s position is an understanding that “the people” is not well defined, and of the implications of that. That is, any definition of “the people”, in a system based on democracy, is a circular argument. On the other hand, this question does not arise under legitimism; “The democratic monarch may not deal even with Republican-minded citizens as enemies; doing so would compromise the dignity of his position” misses the point that there are no such things as “Republican-minded citizens”, for there are no citizens and anyone who is “Republican-minded” is an outsider anyway – defined out. This creates the separate problem of whether legitism can be viable without full support, but it is a problem of tactics rather than the fundamental inconsistency and self-contradiction of a citizen-king yoked to adversaries; the enemies do not go away, but they are without rather than within where they cannot be escaped – which is what befell Louis-Philippe as “king of the French”, and which the Duke of Chambord sought to avoid.

In the circumstances of the time and place in which he was writing, it may well have been that von Mises was writing tactically, to work towards what was realistically attainable then and there. Nevertheless, if so, he was certainly not writing for the ages – and in particular, not for this age.

Gil September 15, 2009 at 9:37 am

Nonetheless, wasn’t Mises doing a ‘Hoppe’ and arguing that a reasonable monarchic system would be better than democratic republicanism?

Brainpolice September 15, 2009 at 12:39 pm

“Nonetheless, wasn’t Mises doing a ‘Hoppe’ and arguing that a reasonable monarchic system would be better than democratic republicanism?”

Not exactly. He seems to have been advocating democracy as a means to a monarchy!

RadicalRoyalist September 16, 2009 at 6:21 am

“Let the Austrian people decide.”

They never got a chance to express their ideas on the Monarchy. Neither in 1919 nor in 1945/55 could they vote on the question if they wanted Crown Prince Otto as their Monarch or not.

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