Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Monday, 28 July 2008

Dismissal? Case Dismissed!

An Oxford Professor seems to be making an issue out of the fact that the Sovereign can dismiss the Cabinet. This is said to be undemocratic, and it is apparently an argument against the monarchy.

Let us recall what William Edward Hartpole Lecky told us in his Democracy and Liberty:

Of all the forms of government that are possible among mankind, I do not know any which is likely to be worse than the government of a single omnipotent democratic Chamber. It is at least as susceptible as an individual despot to the temptations that grow out of the possession of an uncontrolled power, and it is likely to act with much less sense of responsibility and much less real deliberation. The necessity of making a great decision seldom fails to weigh heavily on a single despot, but when the responsibility is divided among a large assembly, it is greatly attenuated. Every considerable assembly also, as it has been truly said, has at times something of the character of a mob. Men acting in crowds and in public, and amid the passions of conflict and debate, are strangely different from what they are when considering a serious question in the calm seclusion of their cabinets.
Whilst I am not of a kind who thinks one size fits all, I believe that a mixed government monarchy is a good form of government, and that the British monarchy once upon a time was a good implementation of such a mixed government monarchy.

Her Britannic Majesty
There are no absolute guarantees in it. Not in the way it is guaranteed that an apple will fall to the ground if you drop it. However, there is no similar guarantee that privately owned property will be taken better care of than publicly owned property. This notwithstanding, privately owned property tends to be taken better care of than publicly owned property. Similarly, few government systems, if any, have absolute guarantees, but some tend to work better than others.

It is long since we entered the age where, to paraphrase a son-in-law of Edward VII, King Haakon VII of Norway, monarchs are only allowed to poke their noses in their handkerchiefs. The powers of Their Lordships of the United Kingdom were reduced to suspensive veto already in 1911. We live now in the age of government of a single, omnipotent, democratic chamber and its executive committee, the Cabinet.

While the powers of those democratically elected have grown, with the size and reach of government, liberty has decreased. While it needn’t be so, it is so. While who governs and how it is governed are two separate matters, there are tendencies in who governs that influence how it is governed.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe is a Professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He has contrasted monarchy and democracy as privately and publicly owned government respectively. He says:
The Whig theory of history, according to which mankind marches continually forward toward ever higher levels of progress, is incorrect. From the viewpoint of those who prefer less exploitation over more and who value farsightedness and individual responsibility above shortsightedness and irresponsibility, the historic transition from monarchy to democracy represents not progress but civilizational decline.
While there is nothing to guarantee that you will buy something when that something’s price goes down, demand tends to increase when prices fall.

While there is nothing that guarantees that a temporary caretaker will do worse than a permanent owner, there are tendencies that make it so in general. While there is nothing to guarantee that a system where one can buy votes through offering “welfare” for other people’s money will give an ever growing “welfare” state, there are tendencies that make it so in general. While there is nothing to guarantee that a system where “anyone can be President” will have the worst demagogues rise to the top, there are tendencies that make it so in general.

While the enlightened monarchy may be the best government, there is no guarantee that he is enlightened.

While we have been warned by thinkers and philosophers of an oppressive majority being worse than an oppressive minority, history too has recorded excesses of monarchs.

It is thus fully understandable that monarchical absolutism was reacted against (no endorsement of outright revolution given). Medication was given, but the problem that the medicine was meant to remedy is long gone, and we see the side effects of that medication. These side effects have proven to be worse than what was meant to be remedied.

The late and great Austrian monarchist Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn told us:
There are totalitarian and monolithic tendencies inherent in democracy that are not present even in a so-called absolute monarchy, much less so in a mixed government which, without exaggeration, can be called the great Western tradition.
The British system was once upon a time such a mixed government. Today’s “mixed government” is a mere shadow of what it once was. There are those who believe that today’s system is well balanced of the “three estates.” It is tempting – with all due respect – to ask how many decades they have been on the moon.

The French Baron of Montesquieu modeled his constitutional monarchy on the British model. Montesquieu’s model of constitutional monarchy gave considerable more powers to the monarch than Walter Bagehot’s rights to warn, encourage, and be consulted. Montesquieu’s model was a mix of monarchy, democracy, and aristocracy.

We are told that if the Sovereign can dismiss the Cabinet, that is undemocratic. It is not how it should be done in a democracy. We need no more justification? What the people want is right? You don’t even have to say it? It’s implicit? Might makes right?

What about bureaucracy and the modern managerial state with its “welfare” etc.? In many ways people are less free today than in the regimes that the world knew prior to World War I. Do we just say: it’s democratic, that’s how it should be done in a democracy?

What about war? If the people or the popular representatives want to go to war, and that costs millions of lives, do we just say: it’s democratic, that’s how it should be done in a democracy?

What about Hitler? If the people want him in power, do we just say: it’s democratic, that’s how it should be done in a democracy?

Hitler was put in power by a democratically elected Parliament.

Today is July 28. It is the 94th anniversary of the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on the Kingdom of Serbia. Let’s say His Britannic Majesty had been convinced to dismiss the Cabinet in 1913, the year before that fateful summer of 1914 that was to turn the world upside down.

Now, I am not too optimistic about what the opposition would have done differently if in power, but it is quite clear that a rather different policy in Whitehall and Westminster in July and August of 1914 probably in the long run would have been better for the British Empire and the world.

The most radically different policy would arguably have been not to intervene. Barring non-intervention, refusing to help President Wilson in his crusade to “make the world safe for democracy” by contributing to pushing the Old European Order out would have been another helpful alternative option.

But if a Liberal government with its policies is what the people wanted, we should just say it’s democratic, and that’s how it should be done in a democracy?

H.L. Mencken told us:
Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
It has been said that in a democracy the people get what they deserve. It would be more precise to say that in a democracy the people get what the majority deserves.

While the history of the rule of kings suggests that kings should be checked, the history of the 20th century indeed shows that the rule of a single, democratic chamber needs to have at least as many checks – to say the least.

It is said that the vote is a check. It is, however, food for thought which effect is mightier; the proof of support from the masses the votes give, or the one vote in several million one can use to protect one’s liberties.

In this age of democratic absolutism, Royal intervention cannot be expected to happen any time soon. However, locking the vault door and dropping the key to the bottom of the ocean does not sound like a good idea.

It is so often that we hear that the Sovereign should not intervene because it is not democratic, without any supporting arguments. If a case is brought forward that the Sovereign should not have the prerogative to dismiss the Cabinet, arguments must be provided.

Case dismissed!

God save Her Britannic Majesty! Long may she reign!

11 comments:

Beaverbrook said...

Excellent post to read on my first day back from Europe. I was in Paris when Obama waltzed into town, and watched the ridiculous adornment he received from the crowds in Berlin. When you look at Obama, you see the ugly face of modern democracy. The man epitomizes what we have become.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

Thank you and welcome back, sir!

Indeed an excellent point about the presumptive Presidential nominee – and likely electee.

Obama is a good speaker, but so was an Austrian Corporal with a moustache.

It is amazingly tragic how Obama is accepted as a savior. It is amazingly tragic how many view the election, and especially the reelection, of the incumbent POTUS as a low forehead enterprise, whereas Obama is quite something else.

It seems the most important thing to many is that he will be the first Negro (actually mulatto) POTUS, and regarding Mrs. Clinton – for that matter – it was similarly the most important thing that she would be the first woman.

I guess that will be perceived as a very visible sign that those United States have left their racial conflict behind them – and taken another leap into progress.

Yet what he stands for is not much different from what we already have.

It might only go to show that perception is everything.

BTW, how was the revolutionary Republic otherwise and the old outpost of the Kingdom of Norway?

J.K. Baltzersen said...

There's a good article on the Obama plague in Europe here.

Lewis said...

"An Oxford Professor seems to be making an issue out of the fact that the Sovereign can dismiss the Cabinet."

Um no - Professor McLean's point wasn't that it is bad for the Sovereign to have such a power (I note with respect to Australia technically the power is held by the Governor-General, not the Sovereign), his point was that it is dangerous for a hereditary head of State to intervene in a democracy. This is demonstrably so given the rise of republicanism in Australian following the 1975 dismissal.

Lord Best said...

I think it is a bit rough to single out Obama. Yes he is a demagogue, but so is McCain. You will only get elected as POTUS if you continue to feed the public the 'feel-good'lies to which they have become accustomed.

Beaverbrook said...

McCain at least has gravitas and doesn't speak in vacuous and shallowy narcissistic tones. Princess Obama is the consumate image and media politician in the modern tradition of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and David Cameron. As far as image goes, in our world of imperfect choices I much prefer the dowdy Gordon Brown over David Cameron, Stephen Harper over Kevin Rudd and John McCain over Barack Obama.

To answer JKB, as it turned out I was indeed glad to touch down in your beautiful kingdom after being diverted from Iceland, and to see it from the air. My better half is from neighbouring Sweden, though much farther south in Smaland, so I get out to your parts quite often actually.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

I think it is a bit rough to single out Obama. Yes he is a demagogue, but so is McCain.

Sir,

It was not my intention to single out Obama from McCain – or from Bush, the Clintons, Brown or Blair, for those matters. However, as our editor – from what I understand – has personally witnessed, Obama is the one most notably now filling the masses with positive feelings with his oratorical skills.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

Um no - Professor McLean's point wasn't that it is bad for the Sovereign to have such a power (I note with respect to Australia technically the power is held by the Governor-General, not the Sovereign), his point was that it is dangerous for a hereditary head of State to intervene in a democracy.

Mr. Holden,

It still seemed so to me. I have a profound skepticism towards the accuracy of media reports. That's a main reason why I use "qualifiers" such as seem.

There is also this report.

I must say that this:

Professor Iain McLean of Oxford University says that a non-executive head of state should never be in a position of having to choose between the government of the day and the opposition[...]

should be enough for my saying the Professor seemingly is "making" the case that intervention by the Sovereign – or the Governor-General in her stead, for that matter – is bad.

You may be right though, in your claim that it is not his case personally, but definitely he is bringing the case forward and putting it on the agenda.

The case being "made" by Professor McLean personally or not notwithstanding, the case is one often being "made" and now put on the agenda. And it is dismissed.

This is demonstrably so given the rise of republicanism in Australian following the 1975 dismissal.

Perhaps there is causality, although correlation does not necessarily give causality.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

To answer JKB, as it turned out I was indeed glad to touch down in your beautiful kingdom after being diverted from Iceland, and to see it from the air.

So you got to see the kingdom itself not only the "old outpost" (Iceland). Nice. :-)

My better half is from neighbouring Sweden, though much farther south in Smaland, so I get out to your parts quite often actually.

I guess I must watch what I say in Norwegian then? :-)

Lord Best said...

McCain does indeed have gravitas, and I have more respect for his experience, particularly in regards to war, than I do for Obama's slick manners. I particularly liked McCain stating he always put his country before his party. Quite revolutionary, perhaps Obama is not the one who will need to keep watch for assassins afterall.
Mr JKB, I was not accusing you of singling him out yourself, more the general trend in the more conservative and right wing media to do so. I did not exactly make that clear in my post, my apologies.
I have to admit having read Professor McCleans article I came away with the distinct impression he was arguing intervention by the Monarchy was bad. I am not sure I understand the argument, not being born at the time of the Kerr sacking. I am under the impression that part of the GGs duty is to keep the constitution running smoothly, and averting a constitutional crisis by sacking a government would seem to be covered by that, given the situation. The budget was being blocked, as I understand.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

"Lord Best,"

I was not accusing you of singling him out yourself, more the general trend in the more conservative and right wing media to do so. I did not exactly make that clear in my post, my apologies.

No worries.

I have to admit having read Professor McCleans article I came away with the distinct impression he was arguing intervention by the Monarchy was bad.

I take it you are referring to one of the articles in which Professor McLean seems to be interviewed?

It was also my impression. Professor McLean is also working on "completion of House of Lords reform." So it would absolutely not surprise me if he is a full-fledged modernist. It is always a good idea, as mentioned previously, when dealing with such sources to use "qualifiers" such as seem though.

I am not sure I understand the argument, not being born at the time of the Kerr sacking.

As I stated in the essay, I see no argument.

"It is undemocratic," is a statement, but not an argument. According to the Canberra Times he said:

Politicians must settle their differences between themselves.

Why?, I ask. Why should we leave whiskey and car keys to kids? They should sort that out themselves?

I am under the impression that part of the GGs duty is to keep the constitution running smoothly, and averting a constitutional crisis by sacking a government would seem to be covered by that, given the situation. The budget was being blocked, as I understand.

There is usually a good reason for such an act. And usually what we hear is nagging about it being undemocratic, which it needn't be, and even if it is undemocratic, it may be the right thing to do.

If Her Britannic Majesty had denied Royal Assent to the Lisbon Treaty, given the popular majority supported the decision, that would arguably have been democratic. If the Parliament in Canberra decides to put a surveillance camera in your bedroom, that would arguably be democratic, but if it's the right thing to do is another issue.

Politicians love having unchecked power, and there are so many "useful idiots" who will support them.

My essay makes the case for Royal powers in more general. Perhaps you would like to do an essay on the powers of the Governor-General of Australia in the light of Australian practical politics? And perhaps arguing against the Governor-General being appointed by politicians or elected? Perhaps our editor would appreciate that as well?