Monarchy (value of)

Analysis of political issues across the world

Monarchy (value of)

Postby Michael » 08 Aug 2011, 02:14

"Farcical aquatic ceremonies are no basis for a system of government."
-Monty Python

Taking one of Gavin's suggestions, I thought we might discuss the values of monarchy. By value I mean what it's qualities are and whether or not it is a good system of system of government.

I had thought of putting forward a proposition in defence of monarchy, but had a hard time thinking of the right way to go about arguing for it. Should the discussion be on the level of pure abstraction without recourse to historical experience (comparing the idea of monarchy against the idea of republic with imagined scenarios of how they respectively cope with problems) or should it be based in historical examples, and centered around the current British monarchy as the basis of discussion?

Eventually I decided it would be better to just ask the question openly and see what the forum makes of it: "What is the value (if any) of a monarchy? Is it a good system of government? Do other systems of government cope with problems better or worse than monarchy?"
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Re: Monarchy (value of)

Postby Jonathan » 08 Aug 2011, 06:00

I think any such discussion ahs to appeal to historical events, otherwise it will be of little value. But if you want to take Britain as an example, we must first ask the question - to what extent is Britain actually a Monarchy, as opposed to a Parliamentary Democracy?

A university teacher of mine once described the British system as a Parliamentary Democracy disguised as a Monarchy - the actual political power resides in Parliament, but the rituals and trappings of power still pay homage to the King or Queen.

So if we want to focus on Great Britain, perhaps the question should be - given that Britain is a Parliamentary Democracy (leave the Euro-question for another thread), what is the value of maintaining the rituals of a Monarchy?


"Listen, strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!"
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Re: Monarchy (value of)

Postby Andrea » 08 Aug 2011, 15:54

I just so happen to be a historian focusing on the 17th century - which, if you'll remember, was the time we decided we didn't need a monarchy anymore. I can't write too much because I have very limited time, so let me be as brief as possible.

In a way, I work for the Queen and am very honoured to have anything to do with such an institution. Whenever anyone asks me why I believe that we should maintain a monarchy, I reply with this quote:

"Royalty represents a kind of continuity and continuity that is important in all lives. I think that the troubles today stem from the fact that young people don’t know who they are and need that feeling of tradition and continuity."

- Princess Grace Kelly


We beheaded King Charles I and became a republic under Oliver Cromwell, who was soon living in a palace, being called "Your Highness," buried in Westminster Abbey and had his son inherit the "Lord Protector" role - very much like a king! People were so utterly fed up with how things were under Cromwell that they rejoiced at the thought of bringing Charles II home from exile to be King. We've tried without them once and it failed. Why would we want to try again?

In truth, I have often thought we should get rid of these useless politicians - who never do anything but talk - and give full power back to the Queen - for the only power she has now is symbolic (but that even that is quite useful). :p
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Re: Monarchy (value of)

Postby Damo » 10 Aug 2011, 16:07

The British Monarchy is an insitution that is over a 1000 years old. Like all institutions, we need them because they help us rise above the squabble of daily politics.
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The Monarchy

Postby Gavin » 05 Jun 2012, 14:59


I suppose that for many years I was totally indifferent to the British Monarchy - we tend to take for granted that which we have always had. I might have dwelt upon the concern that they are undemocratic too. But I don't now. One only has to look at the way our monarchy is loved by much of the rest of the world to see that there is something in it, and I'm now pro monarchy. Two things have, I think, made a good many more of the British people pro monarchy too:

Firstly they saw the corruption of MPs in the expenses scandal. Those MPs had been democratically elected. Then they see their communities being increasingly transformed around them to be something very un-British. These things, I believe, are largely responsible for a newfound love of the Royal Family among the British people. (There is also the fact that William and Kate represent a younger generation.)

People are looking for something to hold onto, and they've found it in the Royals. And isn't that always what the royals were really for? They do give a sense of identity and continuity, not to mention their lifelong public service, representing Britain.

It's interesting to see these scenes on the TV with the current jubilee, and very nice, I think.
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Re: The Monarchy

Postby Caleb » 06 Jun 2012, 02:02

People also like a parade (or a wedding).

What do you think of the possibility of Charles III? It's all well and good that William and Kate seem very sensible, but what if they weren't? I wonder how it would go over in the U.K. if a monarch tried to intervene in politics, or even commented on politics.

I agree that democratically elected governments aren't necessarily the be all and end all. I wouldn't say that I'm pro-monarchy, but I think there needs to be something in place to check politicians. In theory, the three branches of government (which are really just two in the Westminster system) should serve that purpose and make a monarch unnecessary.

The thing is that people love the monarchy precisely because it doesn't really have all that much power. To this day though, there are still a lot of ill feelings in Australia over the dismissal of the Whitlam government by the Governor-General(the Queen's representative). A second such event would basically be the nail in the coffin for the monarchy in Australia. Everyone loves a parade, but not that much.

I'd be disappointed if the monarchy were removed in the same sense that I would be disappointed if an old church were torn town. I think we can fulfill the roles of each in other ways in the modern era though, so they should be purely ceremonial.
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Re: The Monarchy

Postby Ian » 02 Aug 2012, 19:03

I find this subject very interesting, because lately I've been pondering the idea of monarchy and its potential positives.

I'm American, and much of our cultural philosophy in America is very anti-monarchy. We all know the phrase from the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal," as it forms the basis of the American Dream, i.e. that no matter who you are you can be a success. We like to believe that anyone born in this country could become president someday, and a system of hereditary power violates that ideal. It's almost a matter of personal pride that we have no monarchy or aristocracy.

When I was in high school one of my teachers told our class that royalty is an inextricable element of British culture. She said "we may look at Prince Charles and think he's a disgrace, but the British people couldn't imagine life without a royal family."

On the surface, that would seem to be true: The British national anthem is a paean to the throne, and as foreigners, the queen is one of the first symbols that springs to mind when we think of the United Kingdom. (Anecdote: When I was in college a bunch of girls were flocking around a British student, and one asked him "Have you ever met the queen?")

Judging by the comments made in this thread it seems my teacher wasn't incorrect. As Gavin says, we do take many ever-present cultural things for granted, but it's only upon reflection that we see what they really mean to us. Our national symbols remind us that we're part of something bigger than ourselves and provide us with perspective.

I do think that even in the anti-monarchist U.S.A. there are many people who find the spectacle of royalty appealing (as Caleb said). The royal wedding was a pop culture phenomenon last year (along with the inevitable backlash from people asking why anyone cared), and I'm told that the 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana (which took place before I was born) was similarly popular, particularly with women. I think many young girls like to imagine being princesses, so when they're older they get a vicarious thrill from seeing a real live princess having her moment in the spotlight.

I know that there are some today who advocate the establishment of monarchy where it doesn't currently exist. Not a symbolic monarchy like Britain has, but an actual ruling monarchy. They argue that an effective society has a distinct hierarchy, and that a non-elected leader can provide order without having to pander to the people's whims. I'm not necessarily one of those advocates, but it's an interesting idea to consider.
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Re: The Monarchy

Postby Gavin » 02 Aug 2012, 23:02

Hi Ian. Your post (thanks for it) surprises me to some degree in that in my experience many Brits totally ignore (or dislike) the monarchy, believing them to receive unearned privilege or simply be irrelevant to their lives - yet almost every American I have encountered has a fondness for them. Thus my observation that people tend to want what they don't have and not notice the benefits of what they have until they lose it!
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Re: Monarchy (value of)

Postby Gavin » 19 May 2013, 14:45

On socialists hating the monarchy, by the way, I do feel this is, more than anything, another case of envy.

They think: "If I can't be the princess, nobody will be the princess". In the same way they think "If I can't be the person with a big house and three cars, nobody should be that person!". That's what it really is. Rarely is it the true selflessness they would have us believe. We can see this also by the fact that once they do have power, socialists invariably furnish themselves with great wealth (at the unfair expense of the population, mind you, not through their own hard work!) and in this case it is deemed to be fine.

Few of them will have done a real net cost/benefit analysis of the monarchy, either. It's just small-minded envy. But it's getting harder for them, given the current popularity of the Royals, and given the fact that little girls like princesses, and for that matter, they like princes too.
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Re: Monarchy (value of)

Postby Elliott » 19 May 2013, 23:48

I think there might be an additional factor in Socialists' hating the monarchy. This came up with Jonathan Haidt's theory of what makes people liberal or conservative. The key thing is that conservatives have a mental faculty which liberals lack: loyalty to the group. Since the monarchy is the symbolic "head" of the group, those with group loyalty will naturally respect and defend the monarchy; while those (liberals and Socialists) who despise the group will, by necessity, see everything they despise about it crystallised in its head (the monarchy) and despise it most of all, and subconsciously come up with reasons to justify their hatred for it - capitalism, elitism, classism, unearned hereditary wealth, etc. But really the crux of it is that these people are natural born traitors to their own group.

Jealousy is a much simpler explanation, but I think the one above helps to explain why Socialists persist in their (quite visceral) hatred of the monarchy even after they have themselves become rich.

Actually, a lot of the time I think Socialists don't really care about money. Obviously a lot of them do, but I think there are many who are actually just using money etc. as a proxy, or an excuse, for a much more irrational and pathological hatred of their group and, by extension, hatred of themselves.
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Re: Monarchy (value of)

Postby Roger » 22 May 2013, 13:13

Who is likely to have more loyalty towards a country: a monarch or your average careerist politician?

One of the positives of a monarchy is that the attitudes of duty to one's country and one's people are (in theory) instilled from birth. If your father and grandfather were respected kings, loved by their people for their grace and kindness, then there is some pressure to live up to the ideal that is reinforced by living relatives and the associated monarchical institutions and traditions. Of course, you will always get the avaricious cowards and drunkards coming through from time to time because that's just the nature of human variety.

I think the argument of continuity is a strong one and a good reason for keeping the monarchy around, even if it is now largely symbolic and ceremonial. Although I'm no historian I find it comforting that the bloodlines of royal families are woven through a country's past, punctuated by the occasional conquerer, usurper or civil war. Monarchs make excellent waypoints.

I don't think abolishing royalty would change affairs all that much. Any republican who thinks disbanding the monarchy will actually make a significant improvement to the life of the average Briton is living in cloud cuckoo land. "But it's the principle!". Hmm...I'm not convinced.
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Re: Monarchy (value of)

Postby Gavin » 22 Jul 2013, 20:53

I'm very happy for the royal couple today with the birth of their baby boy. I wonder about how the UK will be when he is older and what role he might play.

I'm particularly happy it's a boy as I gather that feminists, inasmuch as they were interested at all, were wanting a girl (whereas I of course see both as equal but different). I'm happy also because socialists hate the royals so much and they won't be off our screens for the next month!
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Re: Monarchy (value of)

Postby Nathan » 22 Jul 2013, 21:33

Yes, I've been wondering what the Britain of 2063 or whenever the new prince becomes king will be like, too. One value of the monarchy over a republican system is the continuity it brings to our lives: while everything else around us in this country has changed since 1952, the same woman has been in the background as our head of state presiding over us; while whatever else will inevitably change in our family and national lives in the next few decades, we are going to watch this little boy grow up, and if we are still alive at his coronation we will likely be reminded of what we have been doing today.
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Re: Monarchy (value of)

Postby Paul » 22 Jul 2013, 21:41

Good news yes.

Imagine if the child had been a girl. The law of primogeniture has recently been abandoned (sigh) and so the throne would go to the first-born child, no matter the gender. This is inevitably what the feminists would have delighted in, despite the fact that the majority of them will be lefties and so anti-royal on principle. Totally hypocritical really, although they will of course say that if they can't tear down the whole edifice of monarchy, they can at least chip away at centuries (millennia more likely) of tradition and culture.

The bottom line is that very many of them won't be interested in any child, even a girl, and will otherwise spit and curse at the whole idea of a king or queen-in-waiting. But they would however be prepared to utilise any female child for the sole purpose of furthering an agenda of destruction.

I disagree with the change of the law of primogeniture, though I can't really advance perfect arguments as to why. It is 'sexist' and 'mysogynistic' no doubt, certainly in the modern world. I'm also concious that three of our greatest monarchs have been queens, one unmarried until the end and one widowed quite early, whilst there have certainly been dissolute kings, who have no doubt shamefully ill-treated decent wives.

It would seem incongruous today if a male heir, fifteen years younger than his eldest sister, acceded the throne because of male superiority of succession. Imagine the fuss and furore surrounding that - quite wearying in fact.

But I'm glad it's a boy, if only because we have avoided all the above. And also because, incongruously maybe, the change of an ancient principle somehow disappointed me.

Having said that, the feminists no doubt hate the new prince on two counts!
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Re: Monarchy (value of)

Postby Grant » 23 Jul 2013, 07:42

I'm sure the Royal Family does great things for Great Britain in terms of tourism and stability but your Queen Elizabeth is also Queen of Australia which is a ludicrous situation given the distance involved between both countries and the lack of any real connection. I think the Queen's loyalties rightly lie with her country, not mine. To anyone who thinks to the contrary, ask HM who she's supporting in the cricket! As long as we have a queen who lives 15,000 km away, Australia will be a diminished nation, in my eyes at least.
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