The challenge now is to arm the managers of wealth with new strategies and instruments to control widely distributed wealth of citizens.
By Aqeel Ansari
The secularist never stops creating new ideas for new ways of manipulating sovereign power for consolidating economic power of the managers of wealth. The knowledge workers he employs are always busy innovating ways for fast and efficient creation of wealth. But you wonder why is he stuck with the polity of monarchy not only for centuries, but for millennia? He appears to discover in monarchy a timeless form of government. Why innovate when something brings about according to its design. What is monarchy designed to accomplish? Land constitutes the form of wealth for the ancients but its ownership is widely distributed among numerous clans and tribes making it cumbersome to advance secular design. The secularist welcomes monarchy for it concentrates wealth of the kingdom in the hands of one ruler.
The monarch owns all land, but his ownership remains symbolic. He creates in landed aristocrats and wealthy merchants, the managers who control land and the surplus it produces. They do not own the land and it does not matter as long as they are in control of surplus and hence of expenditures of the kingdom. They accomplish this by pleasing the sovereign who is always in need of money for military adventures, projects for civil glory and ostentatious royal lifestyle. This is why they oppress the majority to maximize the surplus. They serve the sovereign with tact and finesse leaving no choice for him but to eagerly join them to secure his power. Together they form the determined minority. The merger of wealth and power firmly establishes the secular design. Once the managers of wealth hold the purse strings, the sovereign authority of the kingdom is held hostage. The history thus illustrates in concentration of wealth and control of the ways and means of polity the secular design of the determined minority that prospers at the expense of the majority.
The argument does not suggest a conspiracy theory to explain the idea of determined minority. Instead, it is an exercise in analysis of historical events and interpretation of historical phenomena to explain historical performance of monarchy. The secularist is not done yet. Once monarchy becomes the generally accepted polity, monarchs compete for empire building. The victorious monarch assumes the title of emperor and his empire now includes several kingdoms. The managers of wealth in separate kingdoms compete for emperor’s favor and the determined minority grows stronger and richer. This is how the Sumerians, the Babylonians and the Egyptians create great civilizations. The competition for hegemony continues and emperors now compete for world power. Recall ancient history to witness fierce competition between Caesars of Rome and Chosroes of Persia for world domination. But history is yet to evidence a single emperor who rules the world. Alexander of Macedonia sets out to conquer the world but he runs out of time. Napoleon of France fights very hard to conquer Europe and England to rule the world but he too fails.
The historians argue that the Renaissance and later the Age of Enlightenment in Europe destabilizes monarchy as a viable form of polity. They admire the Western thinkers and scholars for expounding the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity. This is how they build the case for democracy and against feudalism to structure a new political economy. We commend the thinkers and scholars who enlighten the majority and the intellectuals of the time with new ideas and admirable works. But we must take note of the forces that are relevant to explain why the managers of wealth not only part company of the monarchs and landed aristocrats but also befriend the advocates of a new political economy where the majority exercises sovereign power and receives due share in surplus of the economy to widen ownership of wealth. Why do the managers turnaround one hundred and eighty degrees to destroy what they have worked hard to build. Is it a tactical maneuver similar to retreat of a general who pulls back his army only to regroup for a brilliant countermove? Certainly, we cannot doubt the mental faculties of the secularist who is wedded to the idea of limitless power of mind. Our task is to explain the apparent inconsistency.
The waste and excesses of monarchs and the elites give rise to the phrase, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The secularist knows that none can arrest the rising tide of discontent to save monarchy. He examines the idea of sovereign power of the majority and how he can advance secular design. It is obvious that millions of people in civil society cannot exercise sovereign power. The idea is symbolic, similar to the idea of ownership of all land by a monarch. The people must surrender political power to a small body of representatives who constitute the polity of democracy and make laws. Once the political power remains concentrated in the hands of few individuals, he finds the challenge manageable. It is not difficult to dupe select individuals for manipulating sovereign power of the people.
Armed with tact and finesse and centuries of experience dealing with monarchs and the elites, he sets out to manage wealth of the sovereign people and volunteer expert knowledge to facilitate political decisions of the democratic polity for resource utilization and wealth creation. The secularist’s estimation of the democratic polity is reasonable. Everything is part of some whole and every whole is made up of individual parts. The scientific inquiry seeks to divide every whole into constituent parts and the process continues until it discovers the part that remains indivisible in order to explain the whole. This is why matter is divided into molecules, molecules into atoms and atoms into electrically charged particles. Similarly, life is divided into cells, cells into proteins and proteins into DNA.
A whole may be real or conceptual. Our sensory powers generally guide us to know a real whole. A conceptual whole however is beyond the reach of our sensory powers. A conceptual whole like an idea is formed in the mind by thinking and our sensory powers cannot grasp it. But we think of a conceptual whole as real as long as it is made up of constituent parts that are real. A democratic polity is a conceptual whole but it has real existence because constituent parts are real people. The polity makes collective choices but collective choice on a social issue is an aggregate of personal choices of individual members. The secularist’s task becomes manageable because it involves manipulating personal choices of individual members of polity.
We now address the secularist’s next challenge. The subjects are now citizens and the democratic polity empowers citizens with the freedom of choice. The citizens are to receive due share in proportion to work they do. This enables them to save, invest and create own wealth. The challenge is to control widely distributed wealth of citizens in civil society. The challenge is similar to manipulating sovereign power of the monarch who secures control of the widely distributed land of clans and tribes. The monarch’s symbolic ownership of all land creates the opportunity for control of surplus. The challenge now is to arm the managers of wealth with new strategies and instruments to control widely distributed wealth of citizens. We return to this challenge later in our discussion of the secular economy. The discussion will also help us to answer why he abandons feudalism and upholds capitalism as the new system of economy. Read more about democracy, an overly admired polity, manifesting the idea of self-governance in the next column.
(The writer is based in Texas, USA and can be reached at [email protected])