Sunday, November 18, 2007

Monarchy and Republicanism

The only coherent (and a genuinely convincing) defence of monarchy, or rather of something a bit more complicated, I've come across so far was in a comment that I meant to address before my quiescent period recently. From Dearieme:

Yes, but you have to explain why in 1950 our Dane could point to the Socialist Republics - Nazi Germany, USSR, Mao's new China - huge slaughter machines. She could point to the dismal collapse of the French Republic, while the various British monarchies fought on - UK, Canada, etc. She would point, I presume, to the perpetually failed republics of Latin America. Meantime, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, NZ, Australia - far, far better than almost the whole of the rest of the world. Only the USA and Switzerland would be exempted from her scorn, had she been rude enough to express scorn. Of course, the real point is that you are tilting at windmills. The distinction that matters isn't between nominal republics and "monarchies", it's between, on the one hand, functioning republics, which includes the "crowned republics" of Scandinavia, the Low Countries, and the British and ex-British world, and the hellhole republics of much of the rest of the world. But still, if you want to make the case that monarchist Thailand is worse than Burma, or monarchical Malaysia than Indonesia, or even monarchist Japan than the Philipines, I'll watch with interest. But I think that you're just making a categorical error. Still, not as daft as the chap I read earlier this week who seemed to think that Her Majesty reigns by "divine right". Potty.
If I were arguing that our troubles would be over if we became a Republic, I'd be guilty of that categorical error, but I'm not. I'm arguing that monarchy is wrong in principle.

Having said that, it is quite plain that this wrong is not life-threatening. I suspect that the continued existence of monarchy in the countries cited above is evidence of a stability that has also led to the desirable consequences mentioned, and that the instabilities that swept away monarchies in some countries continue to have a malign effect.

But I think this comment belongs on the front page.

(By the way, Moriarty, in the Sherlock Holmes stories, has a habit of saying "Dearie me". For some reason, I always think of that when you comment.)


dearieme said...

One must distinguish carefully between an elective monarchy - e.g. the USA - and a crowned republic e.g. the UK. Quite how to refer to the survivng examples of medieval monarchies, I am not sure. You know, Syria, North Korea, Cuba.

Peter Risdon said...

I don't think those are reasonable distinctions. In the USA the Constitution does limit the actions of the President and some powers are reserved to the States, whereas here in the UK the unlimited powers of a monarch are exercised by Parliament. I'm not sure, but get the impression that one or two of the Scandinavian countries could be called crowned republics, but we can't (unfortunately).

As for the medieval monarchies, well quite so.