Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Monarchy - Such a great idea, none of the kids are doing it

So, it would seem that the Liberal equivalent of the NDP's name-change resolution and Conservative party's abortion/gay rights/pick-your-social-conservative-issue resolution at this year's party convention will be a youth wing resolution to consider severing ties with the monarchy. I'll be shocked if this resolution ends up being seriously debated, and even more shocked if, in the unlikely event it gets passed, the issue is not sent to an oubliette of long-term committee study.

I'm not a supporter of the monarchy, for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I have very strong objections to a system of government where one can only aspire to be head of state if one is born into the right family. But I don't want to dwell on that here. In discussing this issue with a friend, the following question popped to mind, and I was wondering if any defenders of the monarchy could answer it. Here it is:

If a monarchy (constitutional or otherwise) is such a great system of government, then why don't we see newly formed states adopting it?

I'll admit that my knowledge of global history is not all-encompassing, but what was the last instance of a newly formed state, particularly one which was not once a part of the British Commonwealth, that decided to choose a form of monarchy as their new system of government?

ETA: A friend of mine suggests North Korea as a de facto new monarchy, with the third generation of the Kim family having ascended to the leadership in recent weeks. Hmm...


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At 7:10 pm, Anonymous Mark Sholdice said...

An interesting post. The resolution is certainly being vigorously debated within the LPC.

I think Spain is the last non-Commonwealth country to adopt a monarchy, which occured in the late 1970s (but this case was more properly a restoration); this resulted because King Juan Carlos I took the initiative in leading a moderate transition towards democracy after the death of Franco in 1975.

As a youth I was a strong monarchist, but now I take an agnostic approach, because of the impossibility of ever designing a perfectly just polity. To answer your question, I could adopt the spirit of Rousseau: in world history, states rarely adopt "great" systems of government. Popularity of a political philosophy is not a proper measure of its justice. But of course this may not be a satisfactory answer.

More to the point, although a republican system is theoretically more just, there are innumerable barriers (particularly social class) which, in practice, stop citizens from becoming head of state. A presidential election is just as much of a lottery as hereditary succession, except that in the latter case the winner cannot effect the outcome. The most just way of picking a head of state in a democracy (as suggested by the practices of the Athenians) would be a random lottery from the entire citizenry.


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