The Divine Right

Column by Paul Hein.

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For centuries, from medieval times until, perhaps, the 17th Century or thereabouts, the theory of the Divine Right of Kings was widely accepted. At a time when religion was taken seriously, it made sense. God was the author of all good things, certainly, and if a man was king, it was because God willed it so, since He would not bestow His blessings upon someone unworthy. The King, therefore, was answerable to no one but God Himself, and to oppose the King was not only a crime, but a sin.

Today we are enlightened, and regard the Divine Right of Kings as a bit of pious superstition. Oh, we have nothing against the idea of a king, but only as a figurehead, or symbol, lacking any significant power over his “subjects.” The king has been replaced with a house of representatives, or senate, or some such, representing the people, acting on their behalf, of course. Democracy has replaced royalty, putting an end to the endless bickering between royals in those past dark ages, replacing it with the universal peace, goodwill, and prosperity of our day, as anyone can plainly see.

A nagging question remains, however. Aren’t we still ruled? With a little research, a person could fill a page with the things our rulers demand of us, and another page of the things our rulers forbid. We have gotten rid of the king, who claimed his authority came from God, and replaced him with a gaggle of rulers, whose authority comes from—whom?

Were the question put to our rulers, their answer would come at once: our authority, they would insist, comes from the people themselves. We are merely their humble servants.

Inspiring words, to be sure, but are they true? Has a single one of our rulers ever been elected by a majority of the people? I’d be willing to bet that in my long life, no elected official has ever been elected by a majority of the people—or even close. And even were that so, can we reasonably assume that what a majority of the people want is best?

Today we smile at the naiveté of a people who believed that the rule of the king reflected the will of God, while accepting that the rule of men--calling themselves government, or the state--reflects the will of--themselves. We do not worship a golden calf, but, being ever so much more sophisticated, we bow before the wise, virtuous and dedicated individuals who, for our own sake, rule us. To disobey them is not, as in the case of the king, both a crime and a sin, but as “sin” is an outmoded concept, it is merely a crime. And, in their wisdom, our rulers have given us an almost limitless list of crimes of which we might find ourselves accused, should we fail to serve. It’s for our own good, of course.

What is the source of their authority? Again, they will claim it comes from the people, but why should we believe them? Because they said so. Indeed, their very existence in the seats of power is founded upon an authority which they have given themselves. Why must we give them money when they demand it? Because it is the law, they will reply. But where does the law come from? It comes from them--as representatives of the people, of course. Thus, if we are taxed until our teeth ache, it is by our own will, as the rulers are merely the humble servants of us all, doing what is best for us, as we have appointed them to do. We’re taxing ourselves, you see!

At one time, centuries ago, people believed that they were ruled by the will of God, as proclaimed by their king. Some might have subjected themselves to the golden calf, or some other idol, whose will was made known by seers or shamans. In our modern age, we are ruled by what our rulers piously refer to as “the law,” which, as the dictionary tells us, is merely their written will.

But that’s OK, because our modern rulers are models of intelligence, virtue, honesty, and compassion.

Well, maybe not.

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Paul Hein's picture
Columns on STR: 140

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Samarami's picture

Larken Rose phrases it thus:

    "...All mainstream political discussion - all debate about what should be “legal” and “illegal,” who should be put into power, what “national policy” should be, how “government” should handle various issues - all of it is utterly irrational and a complete waste of time, as it is all based upon the false premise that one person can have the right to rule another, that “authority” can even exist. The entire debate about how “authority” should be used, and what “government” should do, is exactly as useful as debating how Santa Claus should handle Christmas.

    "But it is infinitely more dangerous.

    "On the bright side, removing that danger – the biggest threat that humanity has ever faced in fact – does not require changing the fundamental nature of man, or converting all hatred to love, or performing any other drastic alteration to the state of the universe. Instead, it requires only that people recognize and then let go of one particular superstition, one irrational lie that almost everyone has been taught to believe. In one sense, most of the world’s problems could be solved overnight if everyone did something akin to giving up the belief in Santa Claus…

    "…All political discussion rests upon an unquestioned but false assumption, which everyone takes on faith simply because they see and hear everyone else repeating the myth: the notion that there can be such a thing as legitimate 'government'...”

~Larken Rose, “The Most Dangerous Superstition”