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

Sunday, 14 December 2008

The Powers of the Crown – Satisfactory?

The so-called crisis in Her Britannic Majesty's Kingdom of Canada has been described as a situation where the choice was between two evils. Either the Governor General had to do as advised – block the popular will as expressed through Parliament, by prorogation – or refuse to do as advised by an elected official.

The Parliamentary Mace of Western Australia
I'll leave the specifics of this situation to others, making more general comments here on the two main issues of principle; whether advice should be automatically heeded or not and whether a parliament should be suspended or not.

Let us have a look at the assertion that advice given must be followed. This is largely based on Walter Bagehot's three rights; the rights to warn, to encourage, and to be consulted. In addition, the case is made for so-called reserve rights, rights only exercised in emergencies, from time to time.

We will examine the assumption that the Crown must remain above politics. There is first of all a difference between being above politics and being above party politics. Also, there is a difference between being above politics and being above day-to-day politics. And perhaps above all, there is a difference between being above and ejected to irrelevance. We need to remember what the preposition above means. It says something about who or what is above whom or what. Being above and being totally sidelined are two very different things. One cannot be above and sidelined at the same time.

We so often hear that the Crown should remain politically neutral. However, there is also the issue of having a check on Parliament, and even on the popular majority. Any balancing act against the will of Parliament or the will of the popular majority will necessarily not be politically neutral. It may be political party neutral, but it will never be politically neutral. You cannot have an office as a check on democracy and politically neutral at the same time. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

The concept that the Crown must only act upon the advice of elected politicos reduces the Crown to a rubber-stamping machine. If the Crown is to be a rubber-stamping machine, it would be appropriate to ask what the point of monarchy is.

It can be argued that the rights of the monarch are there to prevent the “advisors” from coming with indecent advice. However, if assent is taken for granted, one could wonder if there is any such prevention at all.

Of course, there is the issue of emergencies. If you really have a machine, this machine would consent also in the most severe emergencies, wheras a monarch or its representative may not. It is, however, tempting to ask if we ever will encounter an emergency severe enough for royal intervention to occur. It is more probable that our liberty will continue to be nibbled away, for expedience, and by parts, to paraphrase the great Edmund Burke.

We should have a look at what this month has happened in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The Grand Duke refused to give his assent to a new euthanasia bill. The politicos, headed by the PM, promptly responded that the Grand Duke's role would be changed from assenting or sanctioning to promulgating. The PM was himself opposed to the euthanasia bill, but now a “more important” cause was at stake; the will of Parliament.

From time to time, we hear nice and fancy speeches along the lines that “democracy must be something more than majority rule.” We also hear the talk of constitutional democracy being a form of government where the will of the majority is limited. However, when a real check on the will of Parliament is exercised, that check is debunked, and we hear that nothing may stand in the way of the will of Parliament.

The Parliament in Luxembourg has reportedly acted swiftly. The constitutional amendment was passed reportedly this passed week. It took less than two weeks from the constitutional conflict arose to the politicos had passed the constitutional amendment. We have been told that debate on important issues is something we should allow time for. However, when parliamentary power is threatened there seems to be no limit to how little time there is.

The story in Luxembourg may serve as a scenario for what will happen were the Crown in a Commonwealth Realm ever to intervene in a similar way. Remember though, that scenarios are not certainty. Another scenario is that the Crown continues the policy of total non-intervention for decades – or even for another century and more – and people get even more accustomed to the concept that the Crown is a decoration.

The story in Luxembourg may also serve as an illustration of how far we in this world have come when it comes to unlimited democracy. Nothing must stand in the way of a popularly elected parliament. Nothing must stand in the way of the popular majority. It is sad.

Some people say that the Governor General of Canada did no wrong, but that it was Stephen Harper who gave the wrong advice. Advice is just that, advice. As we have established, it is a sad state of affairs where “advice” becomes verdict – where the Crown is ejected to irrelevance.

Now for the issue of prorogation. Situations do arise when there is a need for a monarch or a viceroy to tell the politicos to pull themselves together. When monarchs or viceroys do this, they are much criticized, but their doing so is still much needed. If parliamentarians decide one thing one week, and then turn around and decide the opposite the next, sending them on leave is perhaps not such a bad idea. We can think of other things also that are not so bad ideas in such a situation either.

Here we take issue though with something a bit beyond merely telling politicos to pull themselves together.

Yours truly often longs for the times when parliaments sat only a few weeks a year, and perhaps they didn't even meet every year. The federal Parliament in Switzerland is still like this, meeting only a few weeks a year.

When people complain about politicos having longer vacations than the regular people, we should respond that it is a good thing with longer vacations for politicos. When they're on vacation, they don't get to pass lots of new legislation.

We should rejoice when a parliament is suspended. There should be more of it. Of course, if Parliament has a secretariat that is not suspended, the suspension isn't as effective as it otherwise might be.

We have grown accustomed to parliaments and other legislatures meeting most of the year.

We should keep in mind what Judge Gideon J. Tucker told us:

No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.
The thinkers that warned about the effects of unbridled democracy are many. Amongst them were Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, Alexis de Tocqueville, and W.E.H. Lecky. Edmund Burke wrote of tyrannical democracy. So have many others. When we see that they were right, we should take their warnings seriously.

We have grown accustomed to popularly elected assemblies as always present, and we are told – and most of us believe – that they are guarantors of our freedom. Yet government interferes in our lives, homes, and businesses to an ever increasing level, not to mention to a degree foreign to most – if not all – monarchs of old. As the power of parliaments and legislatures has risen, the power of monarchs has declined. Declined also has our liberty.

We mark this year 320 years since the so-called “Glorious Revolution.” In these 320 years, democracy has far from delivered on its promise of liberty.

The right to vote is what is supposed to protect us. Yet, liberty is nibbled away anyway. We are told that the individual vote gives the individual influence. Yet, no one asserts that an individual right to pour a bucket of water into Lake Superior gives the individual influence.

If parliaments didn't meet so often, if their suspension was not so uncommon, and if the parliamentary will couldn't be taken for granted, it is likely that this world would be a better place.

30 comments:

Sir Walter Scott said...

Amen, verily.

Anonymous said...

Amen, verily? What pomposity. We are in the 21st century. Well, some of us are...

Adrian Kidney said...

Anonymous is very keen to snipe at people for simple use of words, as he has nothing better to attack with.

Tim K said...

Well Sir Walter, there you are. Apparently if you dare to use phrases and words that have become uncommon in 2008 you do not have a diverse vocabulary and appreciation for the English language, but rather you are pompous! What utter drivel!

As for the article, I agree wholeheartedly. Mr Baltzersen's use of Luxembourg as an example was quite apt. Monarchies are only tolerated in Western states if they do and say nothing. God forbid one should dare to question the will of a majority of elected politicians, as Grand Duke Henri has learned to his cost.

Aeneas the Younger said...

Amen! Verily and forthwith ...

Anonymous said...

Ignoring the daft comments, this is an interesting article.

"If the Crown is to be a rubber-stamping machine, it would be appropriate to ask what the point of monarchy is."

This is a British problem as well as a Canadian one. (Oddly, the Aussies don't seem so squeamish about the GG dismissing governments in the name of the Crown).

But is the answer a return to a really executive monarchy, with the monarch's execution or non-execution of legislation prescribed by the Coronation Oath to uphold the Constitution, i.e., a constitutional monarchy?

I would like to think so. If done properly, this would not even necessarily involve the Crown in party politics: the refusal of assent would be justified if the monarch could show that, on consideration and in consultation with the Privy Council, this or that piece of legislation contravenes the Constitution. It would, in effect, be automatic, like a round hole rejecting a square peg, and politically neutral.

On the other hand, I am sorry to say that a reading of history over at least the last 50 years gives some weight to the American rebels' argument that this only works in practice so long as either:
(a) the legislature voluntarily refrains from giving the executive anything to sign which would be unconstitutional (post-1832);
(b) the executive actually sends bills back to the legislature with the royal 'sod off' inscribed at the bottom (pre-1763).

The Yankees were miffed because they had always assumed that (b) was how the British constitution worked. Go and re-read the Declaration of Independence. About three paragraphs are about self-evident truths and men being born equal and so on. The majority of it is a furious list of Acts of Parliament which the King had signed into law. What made them particularly upset is that they had so long clung onto the belief that it was Parliament that was getting above itself, and that the King's function was eventually to protect them from unconstitutional legislative abuse when its true nature became obvious...and then he didn't.

In Britain, conservative monarchists are rapidly approaching that point. Most recently, we have had the blithe signing into law of the outrageous Lisbon Treaty (EU Constitution), by which incidentally HM the Q becomes a 'Citizen of the European Union' and is thereby in breach of the Bill of Rights' provision against giving foreign governments power over British citizens. We have had the royal assent to every infringement of our civil liberties: the CCTV, the ID cards, the suspension of Habeas Corpus and heaven knows what else.

As monarchists, then, we have to admit that we must go back to either (a) or (b), or as J K Baltzersen says, it really will be appropriate to ask what the point of monarchy is...

Cato

Anonymous said...

Just when I taught this blog couldn't become any dumber, J.K. Baltzersen comes along and drags it down to sub-zero IQ territory. Bravo ! Bravo ! I see the royal inbreeding is also starting to affect the fans of "teh royalz".

J.K. Baltzersen said...

Just when I taught this blog couldn't become any dumber, J.K. Baltzersen comes along and drags it down to sub-zero IQ territory. Bravo ! Bravo ! I see the royal inbreeding is also starting to affect the fans of "teh royalz".

Thank you for your intelligent comment!

Bolingbroke said...

Parliament can't do whatever it wants. Or can it? Isn't that what we mean by the "Supremacy of Parliament".

Remember, when we talk of Parliament, we are also talking about the Queen-in-Parliament, because everything that Parliament does, it does in the Queen's name. That is why every monarchist should naturally support the "will of Parliament".

But, as Mr. Baltzersen's correctly alludes to, our support of Parliament's will should be based on the understanding that:

1. Parliament acts as a check on democracy, for only a few Honourable Gentlemen are chosen to act on behalf of the entire populace; and

2. The Crown-in-Parliament is not a rubber stamping fixture, but a wholly legitimate constitutional check on the Upper and Lower Houses, particularly under extraordinary circumstances.

Anonymous said...

I guess calling you crypto-fascists does get under your skin... Wankers.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

I guess calling you crypto-fascists does get under your skin... Wankers.

I'm sure your mother would be proud of you.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure your mother would be proud of you.

My mother is fine thank you. And you'll be happy to know that a have a healty relationship with her so I don't have to prop my fragile psyche with some sort of Freudian fetish with a Mother/queen figure like some of the dysfunctionnal weirdos out here.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

My mother is fine thank you. And you'll be happy to know that a have a healty relationship with her so I don't have to prop my fragile psyche with some sort of Freudian fetish with a Mother/queen figure like some of the dysfunctionnal weirdos out here.

We really do appreciate your insightful, deep, and thoughtful analysis!

Anonymous said...

We really do appreciate your insightful, deep, and thoughtful analysis!

Then pray tell me why you would then remove comments that mention your deep hatred of Democracy and the fact that you're really just fascists who fear The People and their power ? It certainly was a good summary of most of the idea presented on this blog.

Oh wait, I know. Because you know it's true. You're just so affraid of "mob rule" that your precious kings and queen and you are just shitting in your pants. A dictatorship would so much more "civilized" I guess. Fascism is such a neat idea. A conservative idea really.

That's what you are all wishing for : the proverbial boots smashing a face. Forever. But you can't say that out loud so you use wonderfull terms like "tradition" when what you really mean to say is that you long for the good old days when the mob, the darkies and those of impure blood knew their place and the "natural" autocratic, inbred, degenerate, fascist ruling class was in charge of the world.

Sadly, your little fanatsy will have to come to an end. You are dinosaurs. Slow, dumb, dinosaurs, unable to change. You will be destroyed and we might not even have to lift a finger to make sute it happens : your own stupidity will ensure your extermination.

Good ridance. Go fuck yourselves.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

Oh, the editor removed your thoughtful swearing and cursing? Poor thing!

How cute your thoughtful swearing and cursing is.

Perhaps, if you were more civil in your discourse, I would take you more seriously.

Anonymous said...

I'll be civil when you'l stop being MORONS.

I guess I should get some coffee, it's going to be a loooooooooooooooooooooong wait.

Fuckers.

Lord Best said...

This reminds me of high school, 'idiot baiting' was much in vogue.
Anonymous posters are the equivalent of the morons who stick their head out of car windows at spead to yell uproariously at passers by. They do it to make themselves feel big and mask their inadequacies, where the intended victim just laughs, or in one memorable case, blows kisses and prompting various homophobic remarks and a small collision with a road sign.

It is wonderful how many idiots think fascism is conservative when in fact it is a far left dogma. Nazis were National Socialists for a reason. Fascism says the state (ie government) is the ultimate power, conservatism says that ultimate power rests with an educated populace, regulated by strong institutions.
Anonymous' silly little rants would almost be at home in some of the early Nazi propaganda pamphlets.

Lord Best said...

I am reminded of an incident at university. I attended a student gathering with the title "What we can learn from the Russian Revolution" and asked some pointed question regarding the Cheka organisation and the hundreds of thousands of people executed by it, and the general suffering of the lower classes under the Sovet regime. One of the more devoted attendees yelled out "Someone take down that f*ckers name, he will be one of the first against the wall when the Revolution comes". Nice to see social justice is alive and well.

Beaverbrook said...

Better do what Anonymous says, lest he staves your skull in with a truncheon. The lout is obviously prone to hate crimes.

I'm thinking about banning Anonymous commenters. If we are going to have a Gentlemen's Club, we should at least ban the haters.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

Indeed "Lord Best!"

Don't you just love the irony?

Along comes someone with a simplistic, dichotomous worldview à la the Animal Farm four feet good, two feet bad philosophy, and those of us who are capable of more than binary thinking are all of a sudden dumb, stupid, and moronic.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous posters are the equivalent of the morons who stick their head out of car windows at spead to yell uproariously at passers by.

No, anonymous posters choose to yell at some specific dumbasses wankers. In my case, I chose to yell at dumb monarchists. Quit being dumb and monarchists and everything will be back to normal. Of course, I'm not holding my breath.

And by the way :

It is wonderful how many idiots think fascism is conservative when in fact it is a far left dogma.

Frankly, Lord best, you are even dumber then shit if you really believe that. Basic requirement to post on this blog I guess.

Along comes someone with a simplistic, dichotomous worldview à la the Animal Farm four feet good, two feet bad philosophy, and those of us who are capable of more than binary thinking are all of a sudden dumb, stupid, and moronic.

I've got to give you credit : you can read and write and operate a computer. But frankly you're all still dumb fuckers. Period.

Lord Best said...

"Frankly, Lord best, you are even dumber then shit if you really believe that. Basic requirement to post on this blog I guess."
No facts, no refuations, just "you are dumber than shit". You are priceless Anonymous. Keep it up, I can not wait for your next hilariously bitter and misguided comment. Really, I can not. If I thought for a moment you retained the capacity or the will to learn I would recommend you take some basic courses in early 20th century history to see just what fascism really is, but to be honest it would be a shame to lose such a superb form of entertainment. Unfortunately I sold my textbooks on fascism, but you might want to check out the wikipedia entry, notably this part of the first paragraph:
"Fascism opposes communism, CONSERVATISM, democracy, individualism, international socialism, liberalism, materialism, pacifism, laissez faire capitalism, and political pluralism." My capitalisation.

Keep it up, Anonymous old boy, keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Lord Best,

I don't need to bring up arguments to prove that you're dumb as shit : you do it yourself. Quoting Wikipedia. Nice. How scholarly.

You sold your textbooks ? Too many big words for you ? Maybe I can suggest some material that is appropriate to yout IQ. Just try not to colour outside the lines.

Lord Best said...

Thank goodness, I was beginning to think you were not going to reply.
Actually I sold my textbooks so I could buy the next years textbooks, it is the usual practise for those of us with the intellectual capacity to warrant higher education.
'I don't need to bring up arguments' says it all about you really. You just can not buy this kind of entertainment.
As an aside, the wikipedia article on fascism is actually very well footnoted and sourced, unlike many of its articles. I would not dream of quoting it in an actual academic discourse, but to some anonymous baboon on the internet it suffices.

Anonymous said...

You must feel like such a big man. Keep prentending your are engaged in some sort of intellectual activity. It's entertaining, just like watching a dog chase it's tail.

The only difference is that dogs are usefull creatures. You are just a waste of oxygen and food.

Lord Best said...

HA! You do not deviate from the routine much do you? I was waiting for the jab at my masculinity, though I have to admit I expected it to come in your previous post.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

I just can't wait to see the next move. This is so entertaining and amusing. We are amused.

Lord Best said...

Take a bow Mr anonymous baboon, you're a star!

New Hobbes said...

To the reader:

The poster identified as "Lord Best" obviously knows very little about political science. Most, if not all monarchists are well aware that Fascism is a far-right ideology. While the governments of a monarch may take various forms, and be on various points of the political spectrum, one of the beautiful features of a monarchy is that the monarch is above such political codswallop.

I do rather think that while a monarch's government may fall on any point of the spectrum, it does seem instructive that monarchy works best when it does not stray too far from the centre.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

Most, if not all monarchists are well aware that Fascism is a far-right ideology.

At least "Lord Best" has some references to the common belief of where fascism belongs on the political spectrum, whilst you, sir or madam, just dismiss him without any supporting points.

It is true that it is commonly believed that fascism belongs on the far right. This common belief, however, is dubious at best.

Amongst those who have made the claim that fascism belongs on the right, we have the great and late Austrian monarchist, polymath, and polyglot Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.

Amongst those who have countered the belief that fascism was a capitalist defense against socialism, we have the late Nobel Memorial Laureate Friedrich August von Hayek.

Those who are well schooled in political science would know of the controversies involved, and not simply dismiss a description of fascism as leftism as ignorance.