Nicolás Gómez Dávila on Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Democracy

As usual, Nicolás Gómez Dávila can convey in a sentence almost perfectly an idea that would take me multiple paragraphs to summarize, so here are some of his brilliant insights related to the topic of my latest post:

Good manners, in the end, are nothing but the way in which respect is expressed. Since respect, in its turn, is a feeling inspired by the presence of an admitted superior, wherever hierarchies are absent—real or fictitious, but revered—good manners die out. Rudeness is a democratic product.

In aristocratic times what has value is priceless; in democratic times what is priceless has no value.

Democratic elections decide who may be oppressed legally.

Democracy has terror for its means and totalitarianism for its end.

Being of “divine right” limited the monarch; the “representative of the people” is the representative of absolute Absolutism.

Liberty is the right to be different; equality is a ban on being different.

Democratic parliaments are not places of debate, but rather where the people’s absolutism records its edicts. 

The man who says the truth can live for a while in a democracy as long as he is not taken seriously. Then, the hemlock.

In order to transform the idea of the “social contract” into an eminently democratic thesis, one needs the sophism of suffrage.

Where one supposes, in effect, that the majority is equivalent to the totality, the idea of consensus is twisted into totalitarian coercion.

Absolute monarchies disposed with less fickleness of the fortunes of one individual than popular absolutisms dispose of the destiny of entire social classes.

The reactionary invented the dialogue upon observing differences among men and the variety of their intentions. The democrat engages in a monologue, because humanity expresses itself through his mouth.

Love of the people is the aristocrat’s vocation.

The democrat does not love the people except during election season.

Individualism is not the antithesis of totalitarianism but a condition of it.

Totalitarianism and hierarchy, on the other hand, are terminal positions of contrary movements.

Where even the last vestige of feudal ties disappears, the increasing social isolation of the individual and his increasing helplessness fuse him into a totalitarian mass. 

The political presence of the masses always culminates in a hellish apocalypse.

The absence of legal hierarchies facilitates the rise of the less scrupulous.

In societies where everybody believes they are equal, the inevitable superiority of a few makes the rest feel like failures. Inversely, in societies where inequality is the norm, each person settles into his own distinct place, without feeling the urge, nor even conceiving the possibility, of comparing himself to others. Only a hierarchical structure is compassionate towards the mediocre and the meek. 

Parliaments elected by means of universal suffrage first lose their moral prestige and then their political importance.

No folktale ever began this way: Once upon a time, there was a president… 

Hierarchies are heavenly. In Hell all are equal. 

Only by establishing hierarchies can we limit the imperialism of the idea and the absolutism of power. 

Egalitarian societies strangle the imagination without even satisfying envy.

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