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

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Argument 3: A Better Democracy

The truth about "choice" and power. Republicans contend that choosing a president would yield a more fair and more representative head of state. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Political Sphere: Her Majesty as a non-partisan, non-ambitious sovereign of state and "Queen-in-Parliament" remains beyond politics and above the stray.
Relevant Quote: "Those who imagine that a politician would make a better figurehead than a hereditary monarch might perhaps make the acquaintance of more politicians." - Baroness Thatcher, 1995
Related Concepts: Democracy, Power, Parliament, Government, Justice

pathe_queen_fKris says that monarchists need to defend the monarchy as a better system in itself, rather than merely arguing from tradition. While I agree with every word of Beaverbrook's previous post, for my first effort as a member of this distinguished team I will try to rise to the challenge. After all, if "tradition," much as I love it, were my only argument, I could hardly argue for the restoration of relatively recently created monarchies such as those of the Balkans, nor could I despise the 137-year-old French Republic, which arguably has become a tradition in itself.

As a monarchist who has lived in the United States my entire life, I am always baffled by the claim that republicanism gives ordinary people like me "a say in who should represent our nation." I never voted for George W. Bush, yet he is my head of state. I have no intention of voting for either John McCain or Barack Obama, since as an antiwar right-winger I find the policies of both repugnant, yet one of them will be my head of state whether I like it or not, every bit as much as the Queen is Kris's head of state whether he likes it or not. Why should the fact that other people do support these men be any comfort to those of us who do not? What kind of "choice" is this? I would much rather have a head of state who no one chose, like Queen Elizabeth, than a head of state chosen and supported by others but not by me. Which is more truly fair? Which is more truly representative? An elected president is inevitably more representative of those who voted for him than of those who did not. It is precisely because the Queen represents no one faction (unless the 80% of British people who still support the monarchy are counted as a "faction," in which case that is still a far larger portion of the "electorate" than any one politician could command) that she is more representative of the whole country than a president could possibly be.

I would find it easier to submit to one man (or woman) who had no more say in the matter than I did, than to submit to a majority of the general public. Republicans claim it is unfair to be unable to hold a "bad" king or prince accountable. But it is far more difficult to hold a "bad" electorate accountable! And I have more confidence that the genetic lottery might produce decent leadership than in the wisdom of the majority of voters. As the great French monarchist Charles Maurras (an atheist) put it, "For monarchy to work, one man must be wise. For democracy to work, a majority of the people must be wise. Which is more likely?"

In anticipation of the objection that Maurras's argument could also be a defense of dictatorship, it is a crucial ingredient that the monarch did not choose his or her position. For if power tends to corrupt, than surely it is more dangerous to entrust it to the sort of person who has spent most of his life seeking it than to someone who has not sought it at all. Republicans who offer monarchists the opportunity to vote for "Liz" if that is what we want miss the point entirely. While I think that the Queen is an admirable woman, this is not fundamentally why I, or any other serious monarchist, support the monarchy. I would support the monarchy even if I were, for example, a Belgian living under King Leopold II (probably one of the least likable monarchs of modern times). We do not want to vote for Elizabeth or Charles or William or anyone else. We support the Queen not only precisely because we did not vote for her, but because she did not run. It is not necessarily "Elizabeth Windsor" and her descendants per se that we want, but a head of state who has not come to power through the inherently divisive, controversial, and fallible process of elections; a head of state who has never chosen to seek that office, who has never campaigned, who has never made us promises unlikely to be kept in exchange for votes. And no republic can ever offer us that, and no monarchist will ever be able to regard a republic built on the ashes of a monarchy with anything other than loathing and alienation.

Republicans, when addressing those of us familiar with actual republics, waste their time when dangling the allegedly tantalizing prospect of a vote for head of state in front of us, for I have had such a "right" since turning 18 twelve years ago and it means nothing to me. It is not elections and presidents that fascinate and attract me, but the gloriously complex and delightfully capricious web of royal genealogy and history. One of the many things I love about hereditary monarchy is the way it opens up the "field" to men (and women!) whose temperaments and personalities are such that they would never win an election, but when the highest office of the land is thrust upon them by Fate nevertheless are able to make valuable contributions to their countries. Think, for example, of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. It's impossible to imagine such an eccentric individual rising to power in any kind of republic, even before he (allegedly) began to show signs of mental illness. But what is his legacy? The operas of Wagner (which probably could never have been completed without his assistance), and some of Germany's most popular and enchanting tourist attractions. Between the relatively bland and colourless politicians of modern Europe and romantic, intriguing figures that leap off the pages of history like King Ludwig, there is no comparison. How can anyone be content with the former? Give me a Ludwig II, with all his foibles, over whichever boring faceless commoner is running Bavaria these days any day.

So no, I do not want this alleged "benefit" of republicanism, I do not want this vastly overrated "right to vote" for my head of state, for the mere existence of this "right" denies leadership to anyone not suited to victory in the democratic process, and as such a person myself, it is this kind of discrimination, this kind of exclusion, that I find intolerable! Only in a hereditary monarchy can people like me, who cannot imagine themselves winning an election, let alone seizing power in a coup, but can certainly relate to simply being born, be truly represented. Seen in this light, it is ironically monarchy that is the fairest and most truly "equal" system of all!

Finally, rather than simply continuing to repeat and elaborate upon arguments I've already made in the past, I'd like to provide links to two previous articles of mine, both of which make entirely secular cases for monarchy: Why I am a Monarchist (1999) and A Case for Traditional Monarchy (2002).


Anonymous said...

Brilliant, Theodore. A much better article than the preceding two. Cheers.

Jovan-Marya Weismiller, T.O.Carm. said...

Brilliant article! I applaud your addition to 'The Monarchist'.

Beaverbrook said...

Excellent stuff and passionately written! I was going to get to this argument (everybody is so bloody impatient), but I think I will just let this one stand instead, for it is better than I could have expressed. Bravo.

(One request for our newest gentleman scribe: A little formality beyond just "Theodore" would be appreciated. Many thanks in advance.)

Neil Welton said...

Bravo Theo! Welcome aboard. I sense you are going to be a most effective asset to this team. Thank God you be a monarchist as opposed to a republican. Even the republicans will now praise you but note - they not also admit defeat.

For those visiting, who are "genuinely interested" in those arguments for a Monarchy, a good list is here.

I would have posted them earlier.

Yet it would have ruined "all the fun".

BaronVonServers said...

The selection of a hereditary monarch is in the hands of God, or perhaps Fate, or perhaps Chance (depending on your view of such things), as you have pointed out.

This means of course, that I cannot blame my countrymen for selecting one I don't like. This in itself leads to less animosity in the population.

The Queen (or King) is who she(he) is, and we've no choice but to work with that person. No time spent in angry argument about why those who supported her were wrong, or thieves, or merely ignorant, all that energy can be directed to trying to solve problems at hand.

Splendor Sine Occasu said...

Well said, Theodore. I've always said "The last thing we need is another bloody politician!"

In my short time I've been on Earth, I have never been disappointed in Her Majesty. I wish I could say the same about the politicians (all parties) who have governed over the years.

Neil Welton said...

"Bloody politicians."

That about sums it all up.


tudorking said...

As a fellow american monarchist that was brilliant! We need more like thinking people in this country. Keep up the good work.

Splendor Sine Occasu said...

It's bad enough that nowadays, Her Majesty's representative (the Governor General) is recommended by a politician, more times than not for service to the party than to the country. Some people in this Dominion feel that rather than being a patronage appointment, the position should be elected!

To me, that's like going from bad to worse! We need a better way of selecting Governors General, but electing them is not the answer!

Matthias said...

Wow. Excellent article!

Adrian Kidney said...

Splendid. Well done!

"[A] king is a king, not because he is rich and powerful, not because he is a successful politician, not because he belongs to a particular creed or to a national group. He is King because he is born. And in choosing to leave the selection of their head of state to this most common denominator in the world- the accident of birth- Canadians implicitly proclaim their faith in human equality; their hope for the triumph of nature over political manoeuvre, over social and financial interest; for the victory of the human person." ( Canadian Histroian Jacques Monet)

Anonymous said...

Is this series of essays going to be placed in an easily accessible directory from the main page?

It would be a pity to let this one slide down into obscurity!

Kris said...

Finally! A cogent argument. But heaven forbid I let is rest with nothing but a long string of simple 'Bravo's.

This is not a new argument by any means, but it is certainly one of the few, if not the only good one. It seems to me that you have divided your article into two parts, the first dealing with the pragmatic nature of the system of government and the second referring more to your personal biases (see my recent comment on the previous article for the ideas publicised not long ago by Firth).

With regards to my previous comment, I should start by referring you there to clear up this misleading statement that '80% of the British people support the Queen.' 'How to lie with statistics' would be a good follow up book to the points I make there.

I am also going to begin by obtusely citing Churchill, 'our patron':

"Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried."

In Sonné's book on politics he notes: "We have to remember that democracy is better than totalitarianism and authoritarianism."

At this point I am going to concede a fact that, astonishingly, no-one up til now has forced me to concede. The monarchy of today, a constitutional monarchy, is not as the monarchies of old. It is true, that the amount of *real* political power wielded by our monarchs is in fact seriously limited.

From this point I am going to deal with the real issue at hand, whether a hereditary ruler/leader will inherently and necessarily possess qualities that an elected official cannot, and whether that is sufficient to concede to monarchy in favour of democracy.

First I cannot argue that a hereditary ruler will necessarily be different to an elected official. Being told you have right and responsibility to rule from birth is going to create a very different breed of animal. But will it *necessarily* create a good leader? The answer is no, but, with so many resources being poured into the this one person and with their real power being so limited, I will also admit that it feels to me as though the odds are in their favour. Of course, I say that, but then I think again to the irresponsible claims of Charles...

There are various issues at stake here though. I will again reiterate that, though I don't imagine many Royals will openly voice complaint, it is a serious violation of human rights to force this responsibility on someone who did not ask for it. Sure, human rights are a contestable ideal and feel free to attack that ideal if you like, but if we accept the rights we cannot in good conscience fail to see that the kind of pressure and restrictions placed on royalty are unfair. Whether it's necessary that Charles (or what I really mean to say, a King of England) marry a good honest Church of England girl or not is beside the point. In not having chosen to be royal it is surely unfair to make such demands of his personal life.

Next, the argument that the Queen, or any monarch, is more representational of the UK than the elected representatives. Now, granted, you didn't stoop to Bolingbroke's 'multiculturalism' argument, but come on, representative of the nation!? Oh I'm right there with you on the point that elected officials tend to fit a certain demographic quite nicely. I think it's a serious problem that we promote the idea that 'anyone can be elected' on the one hand, when the reality is that only those with the wealth and the education and the right background and *even* the right family! can and will be elected, by and large (the US system itself is becoming pseudo monarchical, what with so many Bushes and Clintons). This is a problem I would like us to find ways to overcome. But claiming that the monarchs are *more* representative than elected officials is just plain nonsense. Have you ever seen a monarch that behaves and speaks like a 'chav' from the North East of England? Their range of personalities are no more diverse than those of politicians, they are merely confined by a different set of criteria.

Next the idea that in a sense 'anyone' could be a monarch is again, complete rubbish. Our electoral systems may be in need of dire work, but at least in principle anyone really is supposed to be able to claim the position of Prime Minister. This again is starting to sound more like the fantasy I commented on previously, where most monarchists appear to exhibit a dream that they could in some fashion occupy a part of the aristocracy. Continuing the theme:

"This is because royalty offers children and teenagers the exciting chance to see people their own age in prominent positions they could never achieve in republics."

So does the X-Factor, and that doesn't requite a monarchy. And as for placing children involuntarily in that position in the first place, see above. And, if it's young people in prominent positions you're interested in, wouldn't it be more inspiring for the young to see young people who really *are* like them reaching positions of public prominence via hard work, intelligence or talent, something to inspire them to work hard themselves, to do good things, to become a part of their society, rather than simply someone born to the 'right' family, someone they can never emulate, someone who had power and privilege handed to them without ever having to work a day for it? Is that really the best role model for our children: be born lucky, or give up?

"Monarchs can also be representative of ordinary people in a way that presidents are not since hereditary rulers do not generally possess the extraordinary and sometimes unethical ambition that often sets successful politicians apart from their fellow citizens."

How is a person with hereditary power, incredible wealth and serious 'toff' cred' representative of the *majority* of the public? Because they didn't seek power, or wealth, or success? They didn't have to! In fact if anything this only further separates us, since the majority of people *do* have to seek these things in order to have some kind of a comfortable life. It's just unfortunate that most of us will be unsuccessful.

I will accept that some monarchs have done great things with their power. I believe many have also slaughtered people in their thousands. Perhaps we can look even further back to the emperors of Rome, and talk about what went on there, bad and good. My point being that we can't rely on past actions as a template of what's to come. Okay, I get that you're supporting the argument that, essentially, monarchs can reach out and do things that politicians might not or possible cannot, but I'll address that momentarily.

In fact, let me return to Rome for a moment. An interesting point of note here is the so called 'Five Good Emperors'. For the uninitiated these were five Roman emperors beginning with Nerva and Ending with Marcus Aurelius who were, well, 'good'. Each successor was chosen, an adopted heir, rather than being hereditary. Things began to decline only after Marcus Aurelius named his son, Commodus, as his heir. The point here is that it would seem to be the hereditary nature of the power that presented a problem. Although, speaking beyond this, it is contested as to just exactly *who* benefited under the rule of these so called 'good' emperors, and, further supported claims are made that adoption doesn't necessarily lead to any greater leader than hereditary succession. Once again I'm speaking of an absolute hereditary power system here, however, and not a constitutional one.

Next comes the idea that you have no real say in who becomes president, no more so than who becomes King. Frankly, I could put this down to voter apathy, the feeling that your voice is such a small drop in the ocean, what's the point in speaking? However, I will concede that your choices are limited to a few candidates, then, in America, just two serious candidates. I will also repeat that it's true that the majority of politicians are uninspiring and not necessarily whom we would wish in power. But ultimately you are holding an erroneous view of democracy. Again, I repeat, it's not a perfect system. But you are overlooking all manner of attributes of the political process. First, simply having a choice leads, or should lead, certainly can lead (whether it does or not in the UK is a subject of debate, but hey, we have a monarch, don't we) ordinary people to discuss and debate political ideas. Discussion of any ideas in general is always a good thing! Though it would be nice if some people would educate themselves first before speaking so passionately... If there was a candidate that you liked, then yours doesn't have to be a single voice, you could involve yourself directly in the campaign process and discuss with others why your choice may or may not be the right one. Assuming you do not like either option, which you say you don't, you even have the option to actively abstain, to state that you have confidence in none of the candidates. Will you end up with a ruler you didn't choose and that you don't like? Of course! Democracy isn't about putting in place the person *you* want, it's about putting in place the person the majority wants. Does this always lead to a good leader? Of course not, look at Bush, and the upcoming McBush. But if you don't like it, do something. What're you going to do if you don't like the monarch? What can you do? A monarch you'd possibly be stuck with for a good fifty years or more, I should add.

The claim that a monarch is 'neutral' and therefore more representational than someone who actively opposes the views of the other 45% of a country is also misleading. Sure it sounds nice on the surface, granted the monarch reports to no party, in fact, the monarch reports to no-one but themselves. And do you really believe that the monarch doesn't have their own ideas and opinions? Either they have none, in which case they are completely ineffectual, and a pointless waste of tax-payers' money. Or they have their own stance, which won't necessarily reflect even as much as 50% of the country, and who's to stop them from using their influence to push forward their personal political agenda? Perhaps this will sometimes be for good. You note that monarchs have in some way aided the case against capital punishment in Europe. I wouldn't know enough about that to comment, but let's assume you're completely correct. Well done, go monarchs. And if next time they decide that, really, women shouldn't have the option of abortion? My point here is that monarchs are as capable of bad and good decisions, acting independently of the people, as are politicians, acting on behalf of the people. The real difference is that if a bad decision is made in one case we have no power to change it. It is also said that the best form of government would be a benevolent dictator. Are we prepared to sit and close our eyes and cross our fingers and hope, just hope, that our dictator will be nice to us though, instead of taking responsibility for who governs us and playing an active role in our society?

Continuing discussion of the argument that a monarch represents a kind of power that is free from the capricious nature of 'the people', of democracy even: Indeed, it is an idea exploited by the House of Lords, where a body of individuals can pass judgement without having to worry about whether or not they will be re-elected, in other words, they are free to make the right decision rather than the popular one. They are also, however, free to decide in favour of whatever benefits them personally, and to hell with what other people need. But in our constitutional democracy the power of the monarch is restricted, and hopefully doesn't pose as much danger to us as a serious despot. So the argument is that we have our democratically elected politicians, and from there, our hereditary monarch to keep them in check. I've argued principally already that forcing the monarchs into their position and forcing the rest of us to subjugate ourselves to this random family is morally wrong. But it is the pragmatic argument that is compelling. Certainly, our system functions. We are hardly in any terrible state of affairs, give or take. But would an elected president be better? Ultimately I believe so. It is difficult for me at this point to separate the pragmatic from the principle, being that a more democratic society can in principle inspire people to take up a greater part of their society, to take a greater interest in it, to strive for change and to better themselves. Who needs to better themselves when they have no say anyway, when they can play no part? There may be bad presidents, there may be good, as much as there are bad and good monarchs. Yes hereditary power brings with it a different kind of thinking and differing capabilities, but even that isn't necessarily going to be in our favour. Churchill was right, I think; democracy is the best of a bad lot. But there's little to be served by moping about it praying to divine forces in the false hope of salvation. What we need to do is cease this lack of faith in people and work to do something to improve society, instead of hiding behind a chance leader and when things go bad saying 'Well... it's not like we had a choice!'

Anonymous said...

Kris get real

Anonymous said...

'Kris' that is the one of the biggest loads of tripe I've ever read. I don't know why people think we have a right to choose every important thing in life. Do we choose our families, hunger, blinnking, the weather, our genetics. By the logic of choosing our head of state/leader, Hitler was a "great leader." Most republics today are a sham and a failure yet because "the people" chose their leaders, they are viewed as a success of democracy. You mention that in a republic the people can get rid of their leaders. How? through a coup, impeachment, revolution. Get real! Impeachment is hardly ever used and when it is used it's usually for something inane, never for something serious e.g. president clinton. Revolutions are mostly always bloody and then "the people" install someone just as tyrnnical and corrupt as the previous leader. You also say it's morally wrong for a monarchy to rule a state. My god you know nothing of history. So would it be morally right if "the majority/people" were to say murder is now acceptable? Newsflash to any republicans. Nothing will guarantee Freedoms/rights. Not the rule of law, constitutions, "the people" not anything. Tell me one thing "Kris" name me more than 10 countries that have within 30 years of going from monarchy to republic not descened into more corruption and tyranny? Stick to theory and leave history be.

Lord Best said...

Superb article. I like the fact that you touches on the cultural impact of monarchy and aristocracy. Too few people acknowledge the immense cultural heritage bestowed upon modern society by the monarchies and aristocracies of old. Many of our greatest treasures in art, architecture, theatre and literature to name but a few, are the result of Royal and noble patronage.

You cannot compare constitutional Monarchy to the Roman Empire, and as to the Five Good Emperors, it is worth remembering that the only reason they chose their successor is that they had no sons. When Marcus Aurelius produced a son, he became the heir.

Neil Welton said...

This Krust be a one.

He still believes voting can effect change, that playing an active role in politics allows YOU to change society, and that change can happen because a president will serve you and not themselves. Mind you, I still do rather admire politicians. For they are the best argument for a Monarchy I can ever give to the public.

Now for today's reading, which teaches us that God often communes with us, not in ballot boxes or votes, or via speeches or texts, but often via the womb and that great big mystery - birth and life. Read: Luke 1

Theodore said...

I'm not convinced that Kris truly understood a single word I wrote. I'm reminded of a perceptive observation Libby Purves made in The Times several years ago, namely that while both sides can and do muster all sorts of arguments, ultimately the monarchy is something that either you get it or you don't. And honestly I've never found arguing with people who don't get it particularly fruitful except in the sense that it helps me refine and solidify my own beliefs. But I suspect there is nothing any monarchist could say that could make Kris change his mind, just as there is nothing Kris or any other republican could say that would make me change my mind. Does anyone ever really change his position 180 degrees on this issue?

The key to any monarchy's survival, of course, is the great mass of people who are neither passionately monarchist nor vehemently republican, and I suppose it is primarily them, rather than the "Kris"s of the world, that we hope to address and persuade. The fact that most people fall into this middle category is also what makes the restorations I long for so sadly unlikely. I strongly suspect that there are a great many Europeans, particularly in Austria, Bavaria, and the Balkans, who would be happy to see monarchical restorations in their countries...but very few of them are willing to make it their top political priority, as I would if I lived there.

Thanks to everyone else for their compliments.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

Sir or Madam:

"Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried."

This weblog's patron made this statement more than 60 years ago, in a speech in defense of the rights of the House of Lords.

I further second what has been said about your view of "choice" by other commenters.

I would add that a family business often is taken over by a member of the new generation, he is raised to be the new proprietor, but if he really does not want the job, he may "abdicate." So it also is for heirs to the throne. If an heir to the throne, or even a reigning monarch, really does not want to serve, the option of abdication is there. Remember the Duke of Windsor?

Please spare us the talk of "human rights!"

J.K. Baltzersen said...

Welcome, Mr. Harvey! This is magnificent.

I guess this makes me no longer the most junior scribe?

Kris said...


Okay, let's try to dumb this down.

First off, Theodore you are touching on an idea in philosophy and psychology that states by and large we don't use reason to form decisions, but rather we make many decisions based on various other subconscious factors and then try to work backwards to reason our case. In this context, you are correct in that by and large neither you nor I are going to be convinced either way, and what we are in fact doing is merely refining our respective thoughts and arguments in the hope of using them to later persuade the undecided.

"Please spare us the talk of "human rights!""

You're an idiot. Try not to speak where others can hear you.

Now, I understand exactly what you're trying to say Theodore, have no fear. I also fully understand and appreciate what others, such as Welton, have tried to reiterate, i.e. that democracy does not lead to choice. It is perhaps rather you who have failed to understand me. I find it curious though that so many people who frequent this site have opted for insulting me rather than engaging with me in any intelligent dialogue; saying that I am soulless, grotesque, empty in spirit and love for life and so forth. I find it curious, because it is ultimately I who see the potential for real beauty in the world, and it is they who wish to give up on humanity and resign themselves to hereditary rule.

The comment about the Roman emperors is completely fair, incidentally, I'm not trying to use them here as any kind of solid base for reasoning.

Returning to the question of choice, this is ultimately what your argument boiled down to (leaving aside the rather ridiculous notions of national representation). You argued first that democracies provide no real choice, that it is a delusion, and second that those who seek power are the very worst to wield it. Consequently, a monarch would make a better leader since they did not seek power, and since we have no real choice in the democratic system anyway we might as well go along with that.

As I said before, it is you who have failed to understand what I was attempting to articulate, and perhaps that is my fault. So let me try to simplify what I said before.

That those who seek power *can* be the worst to wield is is undeniable. That they necessarily *will* be, is not.

That a monarch *could* make a better leader than an elected official is possible. That they *will* make a better leader is not.

That there exists an illusion of complete choice within democratic systems is valid. That we should therefore resign ourselves to hereditary rule and absolve ourselves of responsibility, is not.

The attitude of many of the people here seems to be ultimately defeatist. Politicians are all bad, queen is all good, we can't do anything to change politicians, let's give up.

Lord Best said...

"The comment about the Roman emperors is completely fair, incidentally, I'm not trying to use them here as any kind of solid base for reasoning."

Fair, yes, relevant, no.

Theodore said...

There is nothing "defeatist" about my position, except in the sense that I admit I am unable to be as optimistic as I would like regarding the restorations of monarchies in those countries that have foolishly and tragically abolished them, usually with disastrous results. And it is republicans who fail to see real beauty, who are blind and deaf to the panoply of royal pageantry and history that has entranced me ever since I was a child. What fairy tale ever began with "once upon a time there lived a democratically elected president"?

Nowhere did I say simply that "politicians are bad"; nowhere did I call for the total abolition of legislatures or elections. I would concede elected politicians a role in my ideal system as republicans would not concede hereditary monarchs a role in theirs. But I do not want one of them to be supreme; I do not want the whims of the public at election time to constitute the highest arbiter of who will formally represent my nation. I am not a monarchist because I hate politicians but because I love monarchy. And it is I who will never "give up."

I have tried and, I think, succeeded, to be civil in this discussion, but I fully share the sentiments of those who react to republican screeds with horror and revulsion. Have not the anti-monarchists of the past, in France, Russia, and so many other countries, murdered people like me? For any New Order must confront the issue of what to do with those who stubbornly refuse to accept it, and violence is usually the result. I don't accuse Kris specifically of murderous intentions, but there can be no denial that historically murder--not only of royalty and aristocrats but of the ordinary people who support them--has been the backbone of the ideological movement he defends. Almost without exception, every country that has abolished its monarchy has ended up with a regime far worse than any monarch imaginable, from France to Russia to Germany to Ethiopia to Iran.

Even if history were not to repeat itself that way in Britain, republicans if successful would force people who loved the monarchy to live under a system for which they can feel no affection or loyalty, tearing the heart out of everything they love about Britain, and sucking what for many people constitutes real joy and beauty out of the world in favour of a colourless drab future, and I say that is cruel and heartless and yes, evil. Republicans have been triumphant in the vast majority of the world's countries (only about 8% of the global population currently live in monarchies), yet they will not be satisfied until they stomp out every vestige of tradition and hereditary rule, regardless of the feelings of those of us who love those vestiges, lacking any compassion for those of us who wish only to be able to join their ancestors in cheering for a King. In contrast, no monarchist demands the total elimination of republicanism from the world, preferring to let each country be faithful to its authentic particular traditions, some of which (like those of Switzerland) are republican. I would be thrilled if the proportion of monarchies versus republics in the world were 50/50; Kris would make it zero. Who is the extremist here, and who is the moderate?

Columnist Andrew Sullivan is not exactly a monarchist, but in a thoughtful 2002 article on the death of the Queen Mother he pointed out that there will always be those loyal to the Royal Family, and that if the monarchy were abolished in favour of a republic without the violent "cleansing" that has been necessary to consolidate previous revolutions, Britain would be "replacing an institution of which many are tired with an institution to which many are passionately opposed." As long as a substantial number of British people wanted to keep the monarchy, even a minority, "any institution that attempted to replace it would be so inherently divisive that it would undermine the rationale for its own existence." I wish that people unable to share my passion for the monarchy would listen to Sullivan.

Kris said...

I meant the comment made by someone else stating that they were not entirely relevant, was fair.

James said...

"And it is republicans who fail to see real beauty, who are blind and deaf to the panoply of royal pageantry and history that has entranced me ever since I was a child."

Ah, but they are not! Their eyes and ears are wide open to pageantry and history, as long as the history is re-written to make the republicans national heroes, and the pageantry celebrates their achievements. They merely want to swap one elite for another, and dess it up to mimick the royalty they just tossed out.

Kris said...

You have tried to be civil but what, it's been too much like hard work so now you will descend to the lower echelons with your colleagues into the pit of insult and irrational appeal?

Let us agree that beauty is a subjective quality. What you and I consider beautiful can be too very different things, neither of us being Right nor Wrong, thus when you say we fail to see the 'real beauty', you are in fact talking rubbish. And if we can agree on this, perhaps others could take it upon themselves to stop talking about how the monarchy should remain because of how beautiful *they* think it is. Do I really need to invoke Marmite again?

Russia is a special case, due to its heavy influence from the US. They were treat as a guinea pig for free market economic theory and things went very awry. I would ask what makes you so confident that our constitutional monarchy is so superior to the French republic, however?

Assuming we're calling for your heads is ludicrous beyond contempt. The French revolution occurred at the birth of the romantic period following the success of enlightenment thought. The French revolution was the spark that initiated many similar revolutions of their time, a time very different to our own. That you even make this appeal betrays a lapse in judgement, since it is nothing but strength for an anti-monarchist argument. These revolutions occurred as a response to the increasingly, or certainly sustained, poor living conditions suffered by the working and even burgeoning middle class and directly caused by the autocratic rule of the aristocracy. That you think yourself so wise as to cast these desperate and oppressed souls aside, their actions as the result of 'whim', and feel you know better than they, you know that they and we would be better off had they not had their little 'spats', as you sit in the comfort of your home, in front of your fancy new-age computer and surrounded by all the luxuries that your post revolution society allows, is nothing short of insulting and degrading to the dignity of those who've been before you and suffered at the hands of a tyrannical ruling elite. While you are busy delighting in what freedom you have, flicking through glossy books and indulging in the the 'beauty' of the panoply of royal pageantry and history that entranced you as a child, and dreaming of fairy tales, viewing everything from your fly-on-the-wall/pseudo-god's eye perspective, those mere mortals who actually had to live under the yoke of tyrannical oppression would be horrified to hear you belittle their plight so; you who's known nothing of that world. And so yes, no doubt feeling desperate, feeling they had no choice, feeling all power over their own lives was stolen from them, they rose up and slaughtered royalty by the hundreds. Was this a terrible act? Of course. Were they Wrong to do it? Who the hell am I to judge. And who the hell are you?

As for alluding to the probability of a likely such future for yourself, to think that as a monarchist okay perhaps not I, but surely others would have you up against the wall, is nothing short of lunacy. As I said before the monarchy we have today in England is nothing compared to the monarchies of old, and I hardly think a violent revolution is what is called for, nor what is being called for by anyone in their right mind.

Finally to call me an extremist based on your reasoning is yet another logical fallacy, or a simple out and out attempt at manipulation (but do you really have so little respect for your readers?) and sign of a slipping level headedness.

System A is a better system than B.
Someone wants all systems to be A because they are better.
Therefore, that someone is an extremist.

What? Oh because a 50/50 split is the 'moderate' solution? Because if someone thinks there's a better way, it's cool for them to impose it on 50% of the world, but any more than that and it becomes extreme? Hey, if I only want to impose it on 1% of the world, so a 99/1 split, would that be extreme too?

Why on Earth would you specify a 50/50 split? Why on Earth are you specifying any split at all? And why on Earth are you making assumptions on what I want that I've clearly never stated ?

Not that its relevant to monarchy in the UK, but just to set the record straight, I actually have no interest in pushing real democracy on anyone, and am interested in promoting it only in the UK. Unlike the US, I do not feel the need to make all the world subscribe to my political ideal as a blanket policy. If anything, I think that diversity is a great way of seeing how alternative systems and ideas fair in other countries. I am interested only in seeing real democracy come to the UK and an end to this warped vision of royalty as some kind of 'fairy tale' story. Fairy tales are great as just that, stories. That you appealed to fairy tale as a reason against a republic was the first warning that you'd lost the plot. If it's a fantasy you're looking for you can help yourself to LSD. The rest of us will be happy to remain here and deal with reality on reality's terms.

The comment from Sullivan is relevant and an important cautionary warning that should be taken into consideration.

In the interest of balance and in a desire to rescue this thread from its currently descending trend, I will restate my earlier assertion that I feel there is at least some merit to the notion that a leader who holds power without having to pursue and without having to defend it is certainly in a unique position to do many a great thing. However, whilst I accept that this is an intelligent argument, perhaps the only truly intelligent argument I've seen here to date, I do not ultimately agree that it is a sufficient defence due to the reasons I have already stated.

Theodore said...

The persistence of monarchies in ten nations of modern Europe and in the Commonwealth Realms has obviously not prevented ordinary people in those countries from enjoying access to "fancy new-age computers" and all the material comforts that I enjoy as a contemporary American, so I don't see how that's relevant. I submit that these technological developments and their widespread proliferation were not dependent on the abolition or emasculation of monarchies, and easily could have occurred anyway. It is not exactly the past in which I wish to live, but an altered version of modernity in which I can watch the coronation of a King of France on television and visit the official website of the reigning Holy Roman Emperor. And I don't see any logical reason why these phenomena could not coexist, as they do most admirably in modern Britain.

My point with the numbers was not that there is anything special about 50/50, but rather that while I do believe monarchy to be the better system in the abstract, I also believe that there is value in diverse traditions and therefore would not demand that a country such as Switzerland become a monarchy. Therefore I do not understand why those who believe republics to be superior in the abstract cannot show the same respect for monarchical traditions where they exist and are integral to a nation's heritage.

It's all very well that Kris is willing to leave monarchies other than the UK's alone (incidentally, you couldn't very well call it the UK if you had your way, could you?), but that doesn't change my view that to try to decrease the number of monarchies in the world even by one, when they are already such an endangered species and when few of them can be said to do any real "harm" even by liberal standards, is reasonably characterized as an "extremist" agenda.

Theodore said...

An example of such respect:

"If to be a Republican is to hold, as a matter of theory at least, that is the best government for a free and intelligent people in which merit is to be preferred to birth, then I hold it an honour to be associated with nearly all the greatest thinkers of the country and to be a Republican. But if a Republican is one who would thrust aside the opinion and affront the sentiment of a huge majority of the nation, merely to carry to a logical conclusion an abstract theory, then I am far from being a Republican as any man can be."
Rt Hon Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914) in 1875.

Kris said...

My point wrt computers et al. wasn't so much that we wouldn't have them had the revolutions not occurred, but rather that you live, I expect, a moderately comfortable life. People who lived under monarchic rule in the past, whether that kind of life is what you advocate today or not, did not live such comfortable lives, hence their feeling that it was necessary to strike up violent revolutions. It seems to me to be arrogant and insulting to belittle their experiences so, from our comfortable lives, comfortable lives we might not enjoy were it not for the actions of these people, Right or Wrong.

I have no particular interest in converting all monarchies on the world stage to anything. Personally, unlike you, I do find the notion of subjugating myself to a random family to be repugnant. You like that sort of thing, fair enough. Would I prefer other countries and their citizens to not be forced to such subjugation, probably, I find it to be distasteful. But it's not for me to interfere in their affairs.

The UK, however, is my home. It is my place of birth, it is where I expect I shall spend much of my life. I care about it and its people and the lives we all lead together, and there I do not wish to be ruled by an archaic form of government that assumes one 'blue blooded' family is somehow inherently superior to me and all whom I know (presumably because 'god' said so). I'm not going to get too much into my personal issues with the monarchy, and I'm not going to reiterate again the many principled, philosophical and political objections I have. Sufficed to say the UK is my home, and I want a say in how I'm governed, and so do many others. For you to feel that it is some how 'extreme' to want to eliminate one of so precious few monarchies still in existence is hardly relevant. You don't live here, and frankly while you're free to argue why you think a monarchy is a good idea, ultimately you don't get a say. If you want to live under a monarchy then there are campaigns in the US to have one put in place, I suggest you join one of them. But there is nothing 'extreme' by any standards for a people to want the right to have a say in how they are governed in their own country.

As for the parting quote, do you see me holding a spear to anyone's throat? As I have said before, the reports of the 'majority' wanting to retain the monarchy is grossly exaggerated due to poor polling technique. The truth is we don't truly know what the attitude is towards the monarchy in the UK in any meaningful way, so it's hardly fair to keep trying to paint republicans as some minority rebel group looking to impose their whims and fancies on a majority of flag-waving queen-loving zealots. A strong proportion of our nation couldn't care less either way. A significant proportion want change, and we're going about that the right way, via public debate. To deny us that right when our reason and cause are so inarguably legitimate (whether you agree with them or not) would indeed be nothing short of extreme.

And no, obviously it would no longer be the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The name would have to change, but it would hardly be for the first time in our history.

Lord Best said...

As an aside, I did read somewhere that support for a restoration in France is at its highest level since the 1870s. Unfortunately I can not find the source, so I treat it with scepticism.

Theodore said...

All of history's anti-monarchical revolutions were opposed and resisted in their own time by ordinary people whose lives were no more comfortable than anyone else's. Ever heard of the [counterrevolutionary] Revolt in the Vendée? Indeed, the French and Russian Revolutions were led primarily by men from upper-middle-class backgrounds, who had no more personal experience of grinding poverty than the royals they railed against, and who murdered many more peasants than they did aristocrats. So I don't have to wonder if it would be possible for a person with a less comfortable life than mine to hold the fervently monarchist views I do, for I know that many such people did, though sadly they lost. But the fact that they were defeated doesn't mean they were wrong. And I have no problem judging and condemning the monsters who persecuted them.

Theodore said...

As for not having a say in UK affairs, I am only too painfully aware of that, which is why I wish with all my heart that I were British rather than American. Perhaps someday I'll make that happen. An effort to transform the United States into a monarchy would be futile, and I have no interest in such foolishness. The fact is, I don't really belong in America. But Kris doesn't belong in Britain either. I wish all UK republicans would follow the example of Christopher Hitchens.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

"Please spare us the talk of "human rights!""

You're an idiot. Try not to speak where others can hear you.

"Kris" gets his "human rights" talk countered. He does not even make an attempt at refuting the countering. He descends directly to pure personal attack.

Arthur Schopenhauer would be proud of him.

"Kris" has problems with "subjugating himself to a random family." But he does not seem to have much problems with subjugating himself to the popular majority, which very much is a random collection of people.

Anonymous said...

Lets not pay attention to little Kris. I don't even find his or its posts important to read!