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.
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.
God save Her Britannic Majesty! Long may she reign!