07 June 2012

Monarchy, true defence of liberty and equality

In addition to many other excellent points about the socially and economically egalitarian benefits of having a monarchy as opposed to a republic, ResPublica founder, Anglican theologian and Red Tory Phillip Blond, writing for ABC Religion and Ethics, has this to say in defence of the English monarchy in the wake of the Diamond Jubilee (many thanks for the link, Radical Royalist!):
High tories used to argue that because the monarch stood alone, he or she could not be bought off by vested interests or the corruptions of representative politics. Indeed, English monarchs have regularly allied with the people against vested interests - so, when landowners were evicting peasants in the sixteenth century, the king campaigned against enclosure and the landed interest.

Similarly, today Prince Charles sponsors through his foundations and charities political and educational work that is often more radical and transformative than anything state or private endeavour has yet achieved. A populist monarchism also brought Spain out from fascism and monarchy remains central to many European states, precisely because people trust the institution more than they do politics and politicians.

In an era when representative government is so despised and democratic accountability has resulted in the creation of undemocratic and unaccountable elites who are nothing less than a modern oligarchy, do not be surprised that monarchy becomes ever more popular. It is, after all, the real defender of liberty and equality.


  1. Hi Matthew,

    Increasingly, I think monarchy may be the only realistic answer to plutocratic oligarchy. The only things keeping me from becoming a wholehearted monarchist are:

    1. That some monarchies have had very bad records, for example, I think the Savoyard kings of Italy had, on balance, a mostly negative impact on the country.

    2. I am not sure if monarchy is suitable for every country.

    I admit that the first objection is weak, as bad examples can be proffered for any form of government, but I just can't imagine a suitable monarchy for, say, the United States.

    But besides my second objection, I would say that monarchy is likely the only realistic alternative to oligarchy. Marxist-Leninist vanguardism failed, and I have serious doubts that any of the anarchist alternatives are feasible in all but the smallest communities.

  2. Hi John! Thanks for the comments!

    I do agree that some monarchies do have some horrific records. The Belgian monarchs' high-jinks in central Africa come readily to mind. As you say, though, no form of government is a silver bullet, and one can find bad examples of any form of government under the sun.

    As to whether monarchy is suitable for the United States is a much more interesting question. Given the state of our civil society at the moment, I agree that it would be ill-advised. To expand upon CS Lewis' architectural metaphor for the monarchy as an archway, it only truly works as the keystone of a civil order if that civil order is on a firm foundation already. You can't really have Throne without Altar and Cottage as its supports.

    But the question was one which got left unasked in our nation's founding. Digging beneath the primary-school bromides surrounding the War of American Independence, one readily discovers that John Adams himself was not so greatly opposed to a monarchy; indeed, he found such a system preferable to the extremist republicanism of Jefferson and Paine. (For this reason among several others, I have much more respect for the Yankee conservatives than for the heirs of Jefferson and Jackson!)

    Monarchy in the US is impeded by our own national mythology, but myths can (and often should!) be revised.

  3. Hmm, I dunno if I can get behind monarchy! While yes, there have been benevolent dictators in history, what mechanisms are in place to ensure that the monarch rules in the best interest of the people?

    Wouldn't a true democracy, with strong campaign finance laws (perhaps publicly funded elections), and a constitution that protects minority rights, be preferable?

  4. Hail, Caesar! Welcome, and thanks for the comment!

    I wouldn't necessarily rule the United Kingdom (or Commonwealth nations), Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Japan, Spain, Malaysia and so forth as dictatorships - and they do all have mechanisms in place to prevent them from becoming so. Monarchs are constrained, either by written or by unwritten constitutions. The feudal system had its own checks and balances built into it - a king who went too often and too hard against the interests of the nobles or of the commoners could often find himself exiled and replaced by a kinsman more amenable to sharing power. The modern concept of dictatorship is very much a post-French Revolutionary phenomenon, as that revolution had swept away along with the old order all of the unspoken guarantees underwriting it.

    As to limits on campaign finance and explicit legal protections for minorities - both of those are very good ideas, regardless of whether we have a monarch! True democracy is generally a good idea at lower, local levels of government - but gets costlier and less efficient as the scale increases. (I think the only real 'true democracy' in the world today is Switzerland, but I could be wrong.) There is something to be said for representative systems, though I prefer a hybrid representative / hereditary system such as the United Kingdom has.

    Best way to outsmart the perverse incentives of electoral politics is to avoid them as much as desirable, after all. :P