Such questions are often difficult to answer in the abstract. Thankfully there are centuries of histories, West and East, to look into to help us answer.
Lev Tikhomirov, by way of his difficult personal journey (from violent revolutionary democrat to Christian monarchist) and after much thought, answers quite firmly - monarchy:
Now an ardent monarchist, in 1905 Tikhomirov wrote a massive four-volume masterpiece that became the literary guide to Russian monarchists for years to come entitled, “On Monarchist Statehood”. In it he defended traditional authority as an absolutely essential part of any well ordered society in order to maintain that balance he spoke often of, but realizing that as the best “constitutions” (for lack of a better word) grow up naturally, also admitted that such a traditional authority would not be identical for every people in the world. In this work he wrote, “If a powerful moral ideal exists in a society, an ideal calling all to voluntary obedience to, and service of, one another, then it brings about monarchy because the existence of this ideal negates the need for physical force (democracy) or the rule of an elite (aristocracy). All that is necessary is the continual expression of this moral ideal. The most capable vehicle for this expression is one individual placed in a position of complete independence from all external political forces”.
Source: http://madmonarchist.blogspot.com/2011/12/monarchist-profile-lev-tikhomirov.html, posted 15 Dec. 2011, accessed 19 Feb. 2014
In very truth, this is what the ‘moral ideal’ of the Southern patriarchy, illustrated so poignantly and brilliantly in her chief men - Washington, Stuart, Jackson, Lee, Taylor, Calhoun, and others, was and is reaching for: not the conflicting egos and the corruption and chaos of feudal and modern Europe, but the beauty of order and peace and harmony that comes from having a father, a king, a papa over the whole family of the South.
Thus is also fulfilled what the Southern historian and literary critic Professor M. E. Bradford rightly termed, by way of Michael Oakeshott, the nomocratic government of the South: a government that embodies and defends the way of life of its people rather than imposes one on them (i.e., teleocratic government). Only with a father lovingly watching over all will every member of the family (and their various institutions and associations) have the elbow-room to be able to grow and develop in his (and their) proper way.
So let us read some of the burning truths of kingship Mr Tikhomirov uncovered through his trials and reflections. The South and all the Western World, bewitched at present by the spell of representative government, are greatly in need of them. These appear in an essay written in honor of Tsar Alexander III of
after his death. Russia
. . .
The arrival of a great man was needed to show the true meaning of an eternal principle. This was done by our unforgettable Ruler, who showed the whole world that now as in the days of old, without any turn backwards, without any “reaction” or violation of “modern” requirements whatsoever, an autocrat is possible, and that now, as always, the autocrat represents a higher form of authority, the most wise and comprehensible to the hearts of Christian peoples.
We should understand all the value of this instruction. Alexander III not only gave thirteen years of prosperity to his people. He demonstrated not only that we have the highest form of supreme authority; he made something incomparably greater understood, and not only to us alone, but to the whole world.
The fact of the matter is that forgetting the meaning of monarchy has made it impossible for the restless peoples of
Europe. And its impossibility precisely now, namely in contemporary conditions, threatens the nations with the downfall of European culture and their own disintegration.
Indeed, if monarchy is impossible, if higher authority standing outside and above that of the people is impossible, then the drive to such an arrangement of society where democracy would be possible is unavoidable. Everywhere efforts are directed toward this objective.
But according to natural conditions, the people, the nation, is not uniform; it is a complex whole composed of various layers, of a multitude of groups. All of this variety and stratification are unavoidable and necessary for life, and the higher the culture, the more defined and exclusive they become, the more capable they are of entering into struggle with one another. Yet they cannot live at odds with each other. They need national unification in something singular above this conflict and equally attentive [to?-W.G.] all interests.
Popular rule tries unifying the country in parliaments – a sorry attempt that quickly suffers collapse. Instead of unity, it has transferred over to a concentration of power all the hostility and struggles there are in a nation, and the better the idea of representation is realized, the more that shameful scenes of wheel-dealing carry over to the center of power. The more interests are represented in parliament, the more disunity appears in authority itself, the meaning of which is only in unification.
If centuries were required for the fall of the idea of monarchy in the West, then for the fall of the idea of representative government, a few decades were sufficient. All attempts have been made; there is no unity. And here, completely unavoidably, there emerged into the world the notion of destroying the complexity of composition within the nation itself, that complexity that gives us the pathetic and shameful scenes of parliamentary impotence. The idea of total leveling is seizing the West – everything should be the same. Thus initially held liberal democracy, which must unavoidably pass into social democracy. Everything must become equal, the same and without any differences…
Yes, of course, unity would then come. But then also would come cultural death. This danger is already recognized, but the West sees no other path and with feverish haste rushes to direct all its “progress” and all its reforms where the final end awaits them.
There amongst such deplorable work of self-destruction, the world saw before itself Alexander III, and with him the meaning of his ideal realized.
How much confusion falls away with one look at this grand reign! How many forgotten truths it reveals! Monarchy is not dictatorship, not simple absolutism. Dictatorship is the personified fulfillment of the people’s imminent will, and absolutism is its negation. Monarchy – in its autocratic ideal – can sometimes do that which dictatorship does, and can, if necessary, act by rejecting popular will. But in itself it stands higher than whatever will of the people there might be. Monarchy is the idea of subordination of interests and desires to higher truth.
In monarchy the nation seeks sanctification of all the manifestations of its complex life through subordination to the truth. Personal authority is needed for this, as only a man has a conscience, and only a man answers before God. Unlimited authority is needed, for any restriction on the power of the Tsar by people would free him from answering to his conscience and to God. Surrounded by restrictions, he would already be subject not to truth, but certain interests, one or another earthly power.
However, the unlimited and individual nature of decision are not the essence of monarchy, but only a necessary condition so that all social interests, their conflicts and their struggles, may be brought to agreement before an authority of the same truth that is above them all.
This is why the bearer of the ideal came into the world, according to the conviction expressed by all the world in recent days, as a Tsar of truth and peace. He should have been namely such, for the essence of monarchy is in the reconciling power of higher truth.
The monarch does not break the social structure of life; he neither destroys any differences created by its diversity, nor does he dismantle the great or the small, but everything he directs so that the development of all classes, all groups and all institutions in no way violates truth. And thereby he gives the nation that unity which was vainly sought in “representation” and now is to be achieved in suicidal equalization.
The monarch does not destroy self-initiative, advice, the work of popular thought, and he doesn’t negate the popular will when it exists. He is higher than all this. He is given not for destruction, but for direction. For him there is neither the wise man nor the fool, neither the strong nor the powerless, neither the majority nor the minority. For him there is only conscience and truth. He should see everything, but will support only that in which there is truth.
Emperor Alexander III showed that monarchy in its true essence is not anything transitional, obsolete or compatible only with one phase of cultural development, but is an eternal principle, always possible, always necessary, and the highest of all political principles. If at any time this principle becomes impossible for some nation, then it is not because of the condition of its culture, but because of the moral degeneration of the nation itself. Where people want to live according to truth, autocracy is necessary and always possible under any degree of culture.
Being the authority of truth, monarchy is impossible without religion. Outside of religion, personal authority gives only dictatorship or absolutism, but not monarchy. Only as the instrument of God’s will does the autocrat possess his personal and unlimited authority. Religion in monarchy is needed not only for the people. The people should believe in God so they may desire to subject themselves to truth – yet the autocrat needs faith all the more so, for in matters of state power, he is the intermediary between God and the people. The autocrat is limited neither by human authority nor popular will, but he does not have his will and his desires. His autocracy is not a privilege, but a simple concentration of human authority, and it is a grave struggle, a great service, the height of human selflessness and a cross, not a pleasure. Therefore monarchy receives its full meaning only in heredity. There is no future autocrat if there is no will, no wish to choose between the lot of the Tsar and the plough-man, but it is already appointed him to deny himself and assume the cross of authority. Not according to desire or the calling of one’s capabilities, but according to God’s purpose does he stand at his post. And he should not ask himself whether he has the strength, but rather he should only believe that if God chose him, the hesitations of man have no place.
It is in the greatness of subordination to the will of God that sanctification of our political life is given in the ideal of monarchy.
. . .
Source: ‘Autocrator’, http://souloftheeast.org/2014/02/14/autocrator/, posted 14 Feb. 2014, trans. Mark Hackard, accessed 15 Feb. 2014