About 15 years ago I realized that the way to keep legislators honestly and earnestly engaged in promoting the welfare of the whole nation is to buy them off. Simply pay them each a life annuity calculated as a miniscule percentage of tax revenues during the remainder of their lives, multiplied by the number of terms they serve. They’ll be motivated to maximize those revenues – i.e., to maximize the long term health and size of the tax base, which is to say of the productive economy. And this would be to focus their minds with great intensity upon the discovery and implementation of such policies as would lead to the most rational, productive, efficient and honest activities among the people as might be, and – not insignificantly – to their moral improvement (which is to say, their capacity for truly productive, truly good work, their causal efficacy, their personal wealth), and so to long-term cultural health, righteousness, and prosperity.
The funds devoted to the life annuities of legislators could be a very tiny percentage of overall revenues indeed, and still yield to them immense wealth – far more than any favor-seeker would want to pay, or be able to pay. The wealth generated by the annuity would be so great that any amounts a favor-seeker might try to pay would be of little marginal value to legislators – particularly when weighed against the loss of the annuity that would result from a conviction of corruption.
Finally, the annuity would be so huge that it would overwhelm the legislator’s willingness to whack national policy so as to steer goodies to his home district.
The same sort of arrangement would be needed also for members of the executive, of course: for ministers or secretaries of departments, and for the chief executive.
Well and good.
But only lately have I realized that where the nation is understood as the property of the King – as, indeed, effectually (by a logical, and thus physical extension) his very body – and likewise its subsidiary estates the property of his nobles, this incentive is naturally in effect. Taxes then are personal revenues of the sovereign, and his laws and expenditures are investments in the social capital that generates them. The sovereign, then, is naturally inclined to act in the interest of the general welfare of his subjects.
Whereas in a republic all but the most sagacious and righteous lawgivers must derive their inclination to act in the best interest of the nation from the blandishments procured to them for the same by means of bureaucratic measures, in a monarchy that inclination is given naturally and integrally with the basic form of social order.
Of course, neither the bureaucratic state nor the feudal kingdom is immune to the depredations of madmen, to the blunders of fools, or to violent contests for control of the levers of national power. Those are problems of another sort, that any social form must ever confront, no different in that respect than weather. But as for the control of the most egregious and wicked sorts of corruption, monarchy is better. Corruption there may be aplenty in the antechambers of the court, where access to the ear of the monarch is bought and sold; as so there is likewise in the cloakrooms and corridors of the most august senate or parliament or althing.* But the royal ear, and the mind that it serves, are not themselves confused, like those of senators and parliamentarians, as to the difference between their own interests and those of the people; for, in the natural course of events, there is no such difference.
A true and sane king can err in the service of his subjects, like any powerful man; but unless he be so mad as to be a danger to his own body, he cannot intend to do so. To injure his people is for a king to injure himself. It is to cut off his nose to spite his own face. So it is for all men, to injure others; but in no other office than the royal is this moral law so powerfully felt – except, perhaps, the episcopal.
* Comprehending this incorrigible weakness in man’s nature, and the danger it poses to his own body and that of the polis, the sagacious king might arrange just such an annuity as I have described in the first few paragraphs above for each of his ministers, senators, dukes, and indeed even commoners, the better to forestall the irruptions and depravations of private interests and factions in the business of the kingdom.