Thursday, March 1, 2012
The Tea Party in Italy
I know many people at this point will be wondering how I could ask such a question. Libertarians, by and large, are not known for their monarchist sympathies. In America of course they have led the way in the revival of bashing poor old King George III and cheering American Revolutionary republicanism. “The Founders” are sacrosanct to most of them. However, when I was first told that there was a Tea Party in Italy, or as it was put to me, that there were actually libertarians in Italy, the first thought that occurred to me was that these people must surely be ardent admirers of the House of Savoy. After all, more often than not, the one thing more than any other that the Savoy monarchy is often attacked for is exactly what most hard-core libertarians uphold as the greatest virtue: self-interest. Since this is something the House of Savoy has long been accused of, I naturally assumed libertarians would salute them on the same basis. Now, perhaps I have more of a libertarian streak than I would like to admit but I never really understood the outrage directed at the Italian monarchy on the basis of acting in their own self-interest.
Whenever someone ridicules the House of Savoy for always acting only in their own best interests, surely Italian libertarians should join the monarchists in leaping to their defense. Of course, when this attack is usually made, it is divorced from the nation at large; that is to say, the Savoy kings are usually accused of acting in the interests of the monarchy and their dynasty rather than the nation as a whole. I would say that is untrue simply as it stands, however, a case could be made that many countries would have been better off if their monarchs had followed their own self-interest rather than listening to what was advocated as the “greater good”. After all, King Louis XVI of France had great reservations about intervening in the American War for Independence because he feared that it would encourage revolution against his own monarchy by aiding the enemies of another. However, his advisors convinced him that it would be in the best interests of France to see Great Britain humbled in North America. That ultimately didn’t work out well for the Bourbon monarchy or France as a whole which got the Revolution, the Reign of Terror and all the rest. German Kaiser Wilhelm II had similar reservations about helping Lenin get back to Russia, fearing that communist revolution could spread to Germany and threaten the House of Hohenzollern if it gained a foothold in Russia. For similar reasons he was prevailed upon that it would be better for Germany to get Russia out of the war no matter the method. Well, Germany lost the war anyway and the Kaiser lost his throne in the process.
Tea Party supporters and libertarians tend to be zealous individualists and this was precisely the argument used by HM King Victor Emmanuel III in denouncing the idea of republicanism. The Italians, he said, were too individualistic for republicanism to ever be successful in Italy. Yet, many libertarians and certainly most Tea Party people seem to think that republicanism is the only way. This, as we have pointed out before here, is quite absurd when one gives it more than a second of thought. Why should the benefits of private ownership over public ownership apply to everything except the highest office in the land? If the individual always does better than the collective, why do so many still insist on collectivism rather than individualism when it comes to the sovereign? If a parcel of land becomes worthless under public ownership but becomes profitable under private ownership, the same rule should apply for the country as a whole.
When a King does what is in his own best interests the country naturally tends to do better. When a collection of politicians, all claiming to represent the interests of the people, naturally do what is in their own best interest instead, all of their interests conflicting with each other, you get disaster. Or, you get the state of the Italian republic as it is today. Given the state Italy (and many others) is in today, I think some libertarianism, in any amount, would probably do them some good as far as their economy goes. For basically at least the last 90 years Italy has had a socialistic, state-run economy. Today we are witnessing the result of that so a little competition and respect for private property might be something they would want to at least consider.