On The Monarchy

One of the commenters at a not-so-recent article (this has been sitting in my drafts for some weeks!) on Samizdata prompted me thinking (once again) on The Monarchy, and led me to wonder what exactly my opinion is on the subject:

Slightly off topic, but in case anybody wants to tell me, are Libertarians in principle anti- monarchy?

Posted by bendle at May 12, 2009 10:21 AM

I have swung between monarchist and republican viewpoints throughout my life, and as I have been occasionally using my blog to help me crystallise my thoughts on various subjects I thought I might benefit from doing so here.

There has been much talk recently about the Queen’s power (and duty) to dissolve Parliament in times of crisis in that house, and whether she can be petitioned to do so. I do believe that this is an important part of our constitution, and as I have explained in a previous post I do not neccesarily believe in democracy as a be-all-and-end-all, so I have no problem with a person inheriting this power although it is obviously not a perfect way of doing things. It is important that somebody outside the government of the day has that power and unless an alternative can be posited (perhaps enshrining a referendum-of-no-confidence in the constitution or something, so the citizenry have that equal power?) it’s the best thing we have. In the same way I am not against the House Of Lords being unelected, as it acts as a sort of smoothing capacitor on the current bunch of crooks in the lower house, preventing any one group from getting too much power, or at least it should.

One of the main disadvantages that have swung me to the republican side in the past, is the question of what happens if the monarch is, to put it politely, incompetent? In a system based on an inherited title, where the next holder is predestined then there is obviously the risk of getting saddled with some sort of pillock for their lifetime. While the monarch does not have many powers, their execution of the powers that they do have could be severely compromised and open to outside influence. So what’s the alternative?

Maybe a ceremonial president, with the same limited powers as the monarch, but what would be the point? All the expense of an election, to elect someone who may or may not be suitable for the job based on whatever lies they pay people to write for them in the campaign so they can live the life of riley for some fixed term waiting for a crisis which may or may not occur and then choose whether or not to call an election? It seems like a bit of a waste of money to me. Or a ‘proper’ president? While seperating powers from the executive and the legislature sounds like a good idea in principle, inevitably presidential executives accrue more and more powers over time (just look to the US for an example) and are composed of the same people (or fellow-travellers of) that inhabit the legislature. In addition, an extra layer of government is not something I would be in favour of as I am of the opinion that we have too much government already.

So where does that leave us? Back to a monarch I’m afraid. Getting rid of the head of state entirely would leave us with the Prime Minister as the highest in the land, and I fear that is country we would not like to discover. Having a monarch does have other advantages too. It defines something about our nation and gives us a locus to gather around, “For Queen and Country” has a certain ring to it, making it harder for the people of Britain to feel amalgamated into an EU of supranational regions. Whatever Brussels may choose to call us, we will still be subjects of the Queen (not that ‘subject’ is a term I am comfortable with). It has also been argued that retaining their king allowed Italy to rally around him during WW2 and divest themselves of Mussolini, whilst Germany, having vested everything in Hitler fought to the bitter end. We may find ourselves in a similar position one day, hopefully not soon but who can say? We certainly live in interesting times.

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