Let’s start with timocracy. This is a sot of qualified democracy. Think rule by the solidly middle class or richer. You could move the cut off point higher but then the definition blurs the lines with plutocracy. What does timocracy give us? First off it immediately removes the possibility of underclass voting themselves the money of the middle class. What it doesn’t preclude is the middle class going to war with the upper class.
This is a bad scenario but one which is better than the underclass going to war with the middle class. The upper class has many more mechanisms to hide its wealth and greater ability to exit and more ability to effect policy and minds. The middle class has much less ability to resist taxation and tyranny. When stuff is bad for the middle class (the productive class) society begins to have trouble. This is not to down play the harm of soaking the rich but in the grand scheme of things its not the worst.
To be a little more sane we could further limit voting to married landed men who are employed or otherwise independently wealthy, or own their own business. Furthermore we should preclude government employees from voting.
Timocracy however has its own issues. The first is the incentive for memetic capture. Getting the middle class to drift leftward makes it easier for elites to capture social power. The problem is that the strongest incentive is capturing the most votes in pursuit of power then utilizing that power to curry favor as soon as possible. If we limited voting in America by this criteria we could slow leftward drift by a lot, However even the modern versions of the productive married male class are still far asunder of sane ideas about governance and society. They are thoroughly infected by progressive memes. Public school especially provides a institution for the easy capture of the masses. Maybe timocracy would result in fewer taxes but eventually a meme would emerge that would subvert the interests of the whole and concentrate benefits. This is not to say that timocracy is unworkable but that it needs a strong social, political tradition as well as strong pervasive institutions to maintain the memetic health of productive class.
If we look at the traditional landed aristocracy their interests aligned with the people in so far as some of them were their “employees” ( I use employees loosely). Angry peasants were not good for business. they were tied to the land so they always maintain some connection to their subjects. The problem is today we do not live in a primarily agrarian economy. Being a baron of agriculture does not anoint one as an elite. The modern aristocracy can best be described as either academics, media or plutocracy. The modern economy does not align well the interests of the elites with the proles. I do not think there is a lack of Noblesse Oblige so much so much as perverse version of it. Pathological altruism of the elite is apparent. Note that the both the aristocracy and the Cathedral look down on the proles. The difference is not their hate but that the aristocracy assumed the the proles were stuck as proles while the Cathedral blames them for their failings and assumes they can be fixed. The aristocracy built a place and role for the proles because they assumed people were different, by assuming people are all the same the Cathedral has destroyed the small ponds (and roles) that use to give the proles pride and a safe space.
Incentives make or break a system, so how do we align the values of the aristocracy with society in a modern society? I think it is telling that the aristocracy were not allowed to be merchants. Merchants interests are global not local, though they do have a natural meritocratic competition. So how do we select for the best yet keep interest local?
We make the aristocracy tax farmers, not farmer farmers. Aristocracts take a fixed percentage of the taxes raised, another percentage goes to the king. The aristocracy would have to choose how to spend their tax revenue. Aristocrats who invested in their subjects wisely would reap the rewards and their would be plenty of envy to encourage competition and not complacency. The best way to insulate aristocracy from bribery is to
1) Make them rich.
2) Establish a punishment for working with or being a merchant. That punishment being losing your title.
There would need to be productive status signalling roles for men who were aristocrats but not the first born sons. Military certainly could be some but preferably there would be other social roles like, science, art, and teaching to keep aristocrat’s family out of merchant style roles (increasing the incentive for defection).
Okay why did I bring up timocracy in the first place? At the local level and by local I mean LOCAL. Smaller than a city although not necessarily a not a subsection of a city we can see the advantage of “democracy”. Democracy works in groups smaller than 150, as do most systems. At a certain level government institutions are necessary but the tax revenue would be large enough to justify aristocracy. No one wants to be duke of a town of 80 people. Through timocracy we can limit control of government to the productive classes, by having society run by a council of “citizens”. The King would supersede the aristocracy, the aristocracy would supersede the local council. The council would handle mundane tasks like police, fire and justice. The aristocracy would control state and city wide police (for large cities). The localities would be organized as to try to keep the number of citizens (remember this timocracy so a town could have 10,000 people but only 150 citizens although I’d hope not) under 150. This another basic suggestion for a form of government. One that I think aligns with the proper incentive structures, while there are better arrangements available for societies with more social trust, this system seems like it could work well in most societies.