Education and Aristocracy

Education & Aristocracy

But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands (Isa.32:8).

In an article by Andrew Beck in his article American Aristocracy, I found an interesting statement about “Aristocracy” that goes back in time to pre-Christian Greece. I say “interesting” because although in America we do not use the words aristocracy or aristocrats much anymore, we still have elites in positions of power and influence. But are they aristocratic?

Consider:

In the modern context, “aristocracy” is believed to be those possessing the earmarks of inherited wealth, unearned social privilege, and personal vanity. Classically understood however, aristocracy is simply “the rule of the excellent” (from the Greek aristo or “excellence,” and kratos or “rule”), where according to Plato, governance is entrusted to individuals deemed to be of superior virtue, wisdom, and merit.[i]

Of special interest to me is the part about “governance is entrusted to individuals deemed to be of superior virtue, wisdom, and merit.

Do our leaders fit that description?

If we looked up “aristocracy,” one of the definitions is, “those who rise above the rest of the community in any important respect, as in wealth, knowledge, character, etc.”

Andrew Beck also makes note of the tradition of the ancient Roman Republic and the men who ruled near the end of it:

In his groundbreaking book, The Roman Elite and the End of the Republic, Henrik Mouritsen writes that in the Late Roman Republic (through the writings of Cicero especially), we see an aristocratic archetype emerge: the vir bonus, or “good man”—whom those in the civilized world inherited from Rome would come to call a “gentleman.”

The majority of representatives in the legislative comitia were boni, often property owners from the rural Italian tribes who were held in reputation for good conduct and gentle demeanor.

In our modern times, the boni could be seen as an affluent upper class with private wealth and local influence. Yet, the primary measurement and “fundamental quality” of a Roman “good man”—honor—is noteworthy: wealth was required for social status, but not assured.

This rested upon their honor—and this honor was earned. The Latin word “honor” quite literally means “reward.” A man might have the prerequisite of wealth, but he must earn the reward of honor by his deeds, primarily in war, commerce, and the betterment of his community. Through this, his reputation would be established among his neighbors, qualifying him to be called a gentleman.[ii]

As we can see, whether from the Greek perspective or the Romans, part and parcel of their definition of what we would call an aristocrat is the concept of merit. In society, we would call it a meritocracy, meaning one had to earn the respect of one’s fellow citizens before you could step up to such a hallowed position.

It was not something that you could buy similar to some schools, even Christian, wherein one bought a letterman’s jacket for one’s child regardless of whether that child was on the varsity team or not.

The issue was merit for the simple reason: honor and what our children call “street cred” must be earned. You don’t just have it because you have a pulse or good looks. Equally, you don’t just have “honor” nor are you a member of the aristocracy just because you inherited money or happen to strike it rich.

Your character and reputation as a man or woman who would do the right thing counted way more than what kind of car you drove or on your wealth or your family’s wealth. Sadly, today is different.

Societal Leadership Today

One only has to look at the current leaders of society, both political and cultural, to see people many who have gained their position for perhaps no other reason than they are rich, famous, and/or beautiful,[iii] rather than intelligent, hardworking, and morally upright.[iv] Dishearteningly, it appears that these fleeting characteristics are precisely why so many follow them.[v]

To encourage this adoration, we endure cheesy elections with all the fanfare and foolishness that surrounds political conventions of either party where those who would rule over us are presented as our humble servants.

Yet, the endless stream of viscous attacks, overinflated and mostly false promises, and word games make even a Shakespearean drama seem boring.

Experience tells us that no sooner do they don the toga of elected office they, like the Roman senators during the collapsing Republic, frequently live lives that are debauched (Matt.7:16), power hungry (Lk.22:25), and far removed from the life of the common man whom they promised to serve and protect.

Former University of Nevada professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe illustrates this reality well:

The fortunes of great families have dissipated, and their tradition of culture and economic independence, intellectual farsightedness, and moral and spiritual leadership has been forgotten. Rich men still exist today, but more frequently than not they owe their fortune now directly or indirectly to the state. Hence, they are often more dependent on the state’s continued favors than people of far lesser wealth. They are typically no longer heads of long established leading families but nouveaux riches. Their conduct is not marked by special virtue, dignity, or taste but is a reflection of the same proletarian mass-culture of present-orientedness, opportunism, and hedonism that the rich now share with everyone else; consequently, their opinions carry no more weight in public opinion than anyone else’s.[vi]

Hoppe has pointed to the harsh reality that our power elite are those of recent creation through methods unfortunately employed in both the political and business realm: a willingness to be a figure head accountable to the power behind the throne[vii] that placed them there to be nothing more than “doorman” that look nice, act nice and say nice things to the public via the media[viii] are the common stock of today’s leadership.[ix]

The Natural Nobility

In opposition to the status quo noted above, Americans should desire a natural elite that would arise from amongst the community based on their character, talents, and abilities. Their performance in the social sphere as benefactors[x] should also be thoughtfully considered, as Christ Himself preached that this was the true order of leadership that blesses all (Mark 10:42-45). To permit such a seismic shift, our state and federal legal structures must be redesigned so that special interests wither and personal qualities flourish across the “fruited plain” in the way that weeds are controlled so that grain may ripen in the sun and rain.

Thus, we desire an educational[xi] and legal system[xii] that will allow for the development of a natural order of occupational leadership that, due to their own virtue, and natural economic ability would rise “naturally” to the top of their community.

In the business realm and other occupational categories we would desire the same thing: experienced economic actors who through hard work, service, and good reputation have risen to the top of their field to be considered the “true experts” among their peers. As Wilhelm Ropke clearly states:

What we need is true nobilitas naturalis. No era can do without it, least of all ours, when so much is shaking and crumbling away. We need a natural nobility whose authority is, fortunately, readily accepted by all men, an elite deriving its title solely from supreme performance and peerless moral example and invested with the moral dignity of such a life. Only a few from every stratum of society can ascend into this thin layer of natural nobility. The way to it is an exemplary and slowly maturing life of dedicated endeavor on behalf of all, unimpeachable integrity, constant restraint of our common greed, proved soundness of judgment, a spotless private life, indomitable courage in standing up for truth and law, and generally the highest example. This is how the few, carried upward by the trust of the people, gradually attain to a position above the classes, interests, passions, wickedness, and foolishness of men and finally become the nation’s conscience. To belong to this group of moral aristocrats should be the highest and most desirable aim, next to which all the other triumphs of life are pale and insipid… no free society, least of all ours, which threatens to degenerate into mass society, can subsist without such a class of censors. The continued existence of our free world will ultimately depend on whether our age can produce a sufficient number of such aristocrats of public spirit.[xiii]

How can such a nobilitas naturalis develop?

I would suggest that the Christian church and schools and above all the family needs to begin to ask and pray for that answer. Not an answer in an academic sense for we are not in the library.

But a spiritual sense that is found in the conviction of their hearts and minds that they will act upon, and that will manifest generationally with God’s help. At Christian Liberty Homeschools we seek to come along side you and both guide and assist you in this multi-generational endeavor. Find us at: www.homeschools.org


Citations:

[i] Quote from Andrew Beck in his article “American Aristocracy” found online at: www.lawlilberty.org

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] https://mises.org/wire/why-do-western-celebrities-usually-support-collectivism

[iv] “As we move toward the next century, a high proportion of people in the growing cognitive elite have been given little religious or moral education in the family. The commonest religion of the elite is an agnostic humanism. Many such families are themselves split by divorce, remarriage, and subsequent third marriages. The marriage pattern in Hollywood [who produce our “culture” via videos and movies – ERS] is not universal in the United States, but the cognitive elite in Euro-America has a high divorce rate, probably averaging a third or more. The children of these divorced parents seldom have a basic religious education and are aware of the variations of moral attitude between parents, stepparents, and stepsiblings. If one compares the initial moral education of this group with that of an Irish or Polish village, the peasant education obviously provides much the stronger religious training of the two. A godless, rootless, and rich elite is unlikely to be happy or to be loved. This inadequacy in the initial moral education of what will be the dominant economic group of the next century is likely to be reinforced by their life experience. These people will have the discipline of an advanced technical education, of one sort or another, to fit themselves for their new role as the leaders of the new electronic universe. But they will learn from that only some of the moral lessons that have historically been the framework for human social conduct. By the standards of Confucius, Buddha, or Plato (500 B.C.), St. Paul (A.D. 50), or Mahomet (A.D. 600), they may be morally illiterates. They will have been taught the lessons of economic efficiency, the use of resources, the pursuit of money, but not the virtues of humility or self-sacrifice, let alone chastity. Essentially most of them will have been brought up as pagans with a set of values closer to those of the late Roman Republic than to Christianity. Even these values will be highly individualistic, rather than shared. Societies, as we have argued, can only be strong if real moral values are widely shared. The advanced nations are already moving into the situation where many people will hold weak or limited moral values, others will compensate with fierce adherence to irrational values, and few values will be held in common across the whole of society.” James Dale Davidson & Lord Rees-Mogg, The Sovereign Individual, (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1997),p. 367.

[v] “The return of Western culture to its pagan past bears striking correspondence to the pattern of Toynbee’s typology of mimesis. He was impressed by the universal tendency to pattern cultural and economic institutions after those of other peoples. The direction of the mimesis is crucial. In primitive societies it is directed uncritically toward elders and ancestors. When a civilization is being formed, the mimetic focus shifts to creative people who command a following by reason of their pioneering activities and their accomplishments. One way to evaluate the future of a society is to determine the direction of mimesis. Who admires whom and on what grounds? Who seeks to be more like whom?… At the same time the formerly-dominant civilization begins imitating the various proletariats, the latter cease to emulate those people they formerly regarded as their betters, and return to their own once-despised traditions. In the fourth century, when the barbarians in the Roman armies began keeping their own names instead of adopting those of the Romans, the Romans, including the imperial court, began aping barbarian manners, customs, and dress. Thus, Toynbee endorsed Christopher Dawson’s observation that the mark of a culture’s last stage is not decay but syncretism.” Herbert Schlossberg, Idols For Destruction, (Nashville, TN:Thomas Nelson, 1983), p. 268-9.

[vi] Hans-Herman Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed, (New Brunswick, NJ:Transaction Press, 2001), p. 73-74.

[vii] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/who-rules-world-ed-straka/?trackingId=tuZW6QPRAmCuEKzvRhIyxA%3D%3D

[viii] https://mises.org/wire/modern-information-control-state-intervention-and-mistakes-avoid

[ix] https://internationalman.com/articles/the-all-important-doorman/

[x] But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands (Isa.32:8; ESV).

[xi] “Originally, college was supposed to teach students how to think. Robillard and Gordon highlight the contrast of students in the past being taught “to understand the world” and students today “changing the world” well before they know anything about it. In the past, when understanding was the goal, students were taught to make proper definitions of things, to understand their nature, and to form logical conclusions. In other words, they learned philosophy, and not just any postmodern nonsense that passes for philosophy these days, but “the ‘perennial’ philosophy of Aristotle and Saint Thomas Aquinas” that articulated the principles of natural law. For the writers (both of whom are well trained in philosophy), those main principles are (1) “Man, unlike other animals, bears free will to make moral decisions,” (2) “nature is intelligible,” and (3) “nature has a purpose and a goal.” These ideas animate the university and inform all the disciplines in it.

“When Thomism—or, more commonly, the Scholastic tradition that grows out of Thomism and propounds the theory of natural law—ceases to be the predominating philosophy of a university, the university simply ceases to be. This is easy to see in the way courses are taught, many of which have adopted a “neo-Marxist” philosophy: “Thomism is meant to advance actual knowledge, neo-Marxism is meant to advance propaganda, which is true to Marx’s goal of putting change (revolution) above understanding (wisdom).” Whereas one philosophical system espouses the intellect and reason, the other system emphasizes feeling and action. It’s no mystery which one is the easier sell to young adults.” Above quotation taken from online article found here:

https://blog.acton.org/archives/123894-does-college-gets-in-the-way-of-education.html

[xii] https://blog.acton.org/archives/123760-natural-law-limits-government-and-arbitrary-power.html

[xiii] Wilhelm Ropke, A Humane Economy, (Indianapolis, Ind.: Liberty Fund, 1971), p. 130-131.

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