Photo Credit: Miguel Porlan
Imagine the perfect society. Can’t do that? That’s okay because the important thing to note is that some consider the wheel of life to be a linear growth model requiring users to never look back when the most important thing one should do is to look back. However, in today’s society, such a conundrum should nevertheless be put down for simple language to be instead inputted. Rather than letting ourselves be the model of the past, present, and future, we should instead let each set determine their image in their way. Therefore, as one looks into the past, one thing becomes ever more apparent: some lessons will keep popping back up.
Monarchy is the state in which a single person rules in his or her own right over a whole country, usually inheriting such a position through hereditary law and staying in such a position for life. Countries around the world have each been ruled by a monarchy, or at least have been influenced by such a power in a major way. The form of governance to which the people have bowed their heads to have most frequently been a crown, rather than to a ballot box, for most of recorded history. Monarchy is easily one of the most stable forms of government throughout history, although exceptions do exist, yes, with the rise of greater standards of living, technology, and intellectual abilities, modern society is better able to cope and build on the foundations and principles to which democratic ideologies exist today. Yet, if a nation does not have such a building block for establishing democratic institutions that can be embedded into the mindset of a populace to the extent that such ideologies can be considered sacrosanct ideals, such an idea will fall apart very shortly. Institutions specifically designed to serve the people will instead be transferred to the service of those who do not care for the general welfare of a populace; in layman’s terms, democracy is exploited for the benefit of the few and powerful.
We have seen this take effect in nations such as Syria, Libya, and Iraq, were building up a strong base for democracy was not able to take place. This, in turn, allowed for dictatorial regimes to pop up and use the illusion of a “democratic” or “people’s” democracy to further their interests and gains.
Monarchy does not mean the abolition of democracy. In fact, according to The Economist, the most democratic country on their list is Norway, which has a king, Harald V. The third is Sweden, with its king, Carl XVI. Denmark and Canada tie for seventh place, with Margrethe II and Elizabeth II as their sovereigns, respectively. This goes on until 11 countries out of 25, with the 25th being the United States, all being monarchies.
In the middle east, constant turmoil and destruction can be witnessed at the hands of extremist groups and dictatorial regimes. However, throughout all of the chaos, one country has been one of the most stable out of all: the Kingdom of Jordan. With its king, Abdullah II, and a well functioning democracy, the country has been in relative peace compared to its neighbors. Especially to its geographic south, Saudi Arabia has also been able to keep the peace of its country while its “democratic” neighbors in the region have been going about from constant strife, coups, counter-coups, and military uprisings, leaving its people afraid and desperate. This same kind of situation can be found in 19th century Latin America when Spanish and Portuguese authorities collapsed. Many Latin American democracies collapsed as they were weak and eventually became failures. Compare this to Brazil, with its Emperor, Pedro I and his son, Pedro II, leading the country to immense stability while its neighbors were having a rough time. Before he could be successful in the abolition of slavery, Pedro II was ousted in a coup by rich, slave-holding individuals who did not want to free their slaves. Since then, Brazil has seen coups, counter-coups, and immense instability in the country, being exploited by foreign powers for their benefit.
The worst possible mistake, as regarded by Winston Churchill as well, of the allies after the First World War, was to abolish the monarchies of Germany and Austria-Hungary. It was after the fall of the Hohenzollerns in Berlin and the Habsburgs in Vienna that it allowed for radical ideologies to fill in the vacuum of power left by the fleeing royals. This is what allowed Hitler to rise to power in Germany and abolish all other types of ideologies for him to institute Nazism. Winston Churchill argued that with a monarch to lead as head of state, Germany would have remained loyal to democracy rather than falling to the radical ideologies that plagued the nation for the years to come.
Well, why are monarchies in developing regions much more prone to having a more stable environment for its citizens? This can be essentially answered in one word: legitimacy. People will be more inclined to a direct, clear, and simple set of consistent rules by which one can follow. If a man kills someone, obviously there must be a punishment. The same goes for stealing, assaulting someone, etcetera. Having a figurehead as your head of state to which the populace pledges their allegiance to can provide immense stability. For betraying such a person does not mean that you are “rescuing the country out of the clutches of an evil capitalist/ heretic”, you are committing treason against your king, nation, and even God in some countries. Thus, regime change in monarchies is uncommon.
Furthermore, when the government is in a crisis, the monarch can support the state via the utilization of its legitimate authority as sovereign, to initiate powers to mediate reform and to restore stability once again as soon as possible, and vice versa. Another reason for its immense stability is the efficiency of its succession. In contrast to popular belief, primogeniture, or hereditary succession, was not a legal system to which was always in place. This was a practice that took many centuries to perfect for some countries. Even up until the 800s AD, around 400 years after the fall of Rome, Charlemagne, instead of giving his entire empire to his eldest son, split the empire into THREE. Ancient Rome had this problem as well, with the ascension of Emperor Vespasian to the throne which confused the Romans as to how inheritance laws would work for the emperor, as he was not related to the previous Julio-Claudian dynasty ruling Rome before him.
But once they had figured it out, it was a massive improvement on how regime change took place. Peace can be in place, even when a head of state died, and his seat left vacant. For his heir to the throne, who had been training for such a job all of his or her life, is well suited to lead the country in his or her father/ mother’s stead. This leaves the ministers, bureaucrats, and other government employees left safe in the knowledge that their families will be left okay if their boss were to die, for the new boss had already begun to know them for quite some time.
The reason why this form of regime change might be better for underdeveloped nations is that the legitimacy of a successor should never be questioned, for doing so would be treason. Thus, ambitious and corrupt leaders aren’t able to oust their head of state, because everyone knows that allowing such behavior to take place would lead others to take that example and oust that person. Eventually, a pattern would emerge. People would begin to notice this and try to punish such behavior.
Monarchs are representative of all of their people. They do not have political leanings, for doing such would alienate half of their subjects. Thus, they are neutral in politics. They unite the people and provide a symbol of allegiance to which the people could look up to for a long time. Compared to the many presidents who have occupied the white house, the people can recognize, say, Queen Elizabeth, rather than the 13 long lines of people in the past.
Overall, if a country needs a stable form of government, and is not quite in the realm of a functioning democracy with a modern society/ country, then monarchy is usually quite suited to be the best answer to the problem.