The natural order of medieval society

Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe, an Austrian school economist and libertarian/anarcho-capitalist philosopher, gave a talk in 2018 with the title “The Libertarian Quest for a Grand Historical Narrative“. In it, he said the following:

“While many libertarians fancy an anarchic social order as a largely horizontal order without hierarchies and different ranks of authority – as “anti-authoritarian” – the medieval example of a State-less society teaches otherwise. Peace was not maintained by the absence of hierarchies and ranks of authority, but by the absence of anything but social authority and ranks of social authority. Indeed, in contrast to the present order, which essentially recognizes only one authority, that of the State, the Middle Ages were characterized by a great multitude of competing, cooperating, overlapping and hierarchically ordered ranks of social authority. There was the authority of the heads of family households and of various kinship groups. There were patrons, lords, overlords and feudal kings with their estates, and their vassals, and the vassals of vassals. There were countless different and separate communities and towns, and a huge variety of religious, artistic, professional and social orders, councils, assemblies, guilds, associations and clubs, each with their own rules, hierarchies and rank orders. In addition, and of utmost importance, there were the authorities of the local priest, the more distant bishop, and of the Pope in Rome.”

It is exactly this multitude of hierarchies and authorities which could, in the long term, be the guarantor of freedom and prosperity. Historian, economist and theologian Dr. Gary North has identified four authorities in human societies that are biblically ordained: The individual, the family, the church and the state (or, in medieval times, proto-state). They are constantly competing against each other, attempting to become the monopoly authority, thereby however preventing a monopoly of any one of them. Sometimes however, one of them becomes overbearing. Then society crumbles and falls apart. And the competition begins anew.

North writes about these competing authorities extensively in his book “God’s Covenants“. This is from the introduction:

“This book discusses three covenantal units that have operated in history from the beginning: individual, church, and family. It then discusses a fourth covenantal institution, civil, which began after the Fall of man.”