A monarchy is a type of government where the authority to rule is held by one person. Monarchs can be absolute or limited by constitutional rules and sometimes are mere figureheads. This form of government has a range of advantages and disadvantages. Their value for a particular nation ultimately rests on many factors.
What Is Monarchy?
A monarchy is a type of government where the authority to rule is held by one person. It is a favored type of government in many fairy tales and Hallmark Channel movies.
The leader of a monarchy is formally known as a “monarch,” but can have a range of names, including king, queen, emperor and pharoah. Over time monarchs have often been, but not always, men.
Authority in a monarchy often passes along family lines. The oldest son of a monarch would succeed the monarch when he dies. Monarchs can also be chosen by some sort of agreed-upon progress. For instance, an elite group might choose who would be the next monarch.
A king can have unlimited power. Monarchs also can be limited by law and agreed-upon frameworks of government known as constitutions. The kings and queens of Great Britain, for instance, over time became limited monarchs, required to follow constitutional rules.
This is known as a “constitutional monarchy.” You can read more about other types of government here.
What Are The Advantages of A Monarchy?
Agreed Upon Symbol of Country
The first King Charles fought a civil war with his own people in the 17th Century. King Charles III of Great Britain does not have any real power these days. He is a figurehead.
The monarch of Great Britain is the symbol of the nation. He is the head of state, who represents the nation. The government is in his name, but Charles III is just that, a name.
President Biden serves as head of state too. But, Biden is a partisan political leader, and the whole country does not rally around him. He is not a figurehead, who is supposed to be “above the fray.”
Some monarchs might not be just figureheads. However, the monarchy will still strongly promote the support of one leader and symbol of the country. Symbols of power will reinforce this process.
A monarch does not have to worry about running for re-election. A monarch serves until they are physically unable to do so. A monarch’s term usually ends when they die.
This can lead to a more stable form of government. There are no elections every few years and constant political threats that the leader will be voted out of office. In fact, such talk might even be deemed treasonous. Government can be handled on a more steady basis.
There is also more stability in the transfer of power. The person who will be the next king or queen is generally known. This will allow a more easy preparation for the future.
Monarchy Can Lead To Better Leadership
It is hard to be a good leader. But, what if you were destined to be the leader of a country?
This is often expressed in those Hallmark Channel movies. A prince or princess is destined to be the next king. And, what happens? They are carefully prepared for the role.
A monarchy sets forth a system where the leadership of a country is not set by chance, including the vagaries of a popular election. The next king or queen is carefully trained to be one. The special responsibility of the role is instilled in them from an early age.
One Strong Leader Is Best
The Constitution contains a prohibition of “titles of nobility.” We have no king here.
We do have a unitary executive, that is, one president. Why? It was determined that carrying out the laws and commanding the military needed a special degree of forceful leadership. Leadership that could not be divided among a committee. The buck stopped somewhere!
A monarch is a strong leader. This is respected by the people and other nations. They can govern with a strong hand, which can protect the well-being of all. Weakness is dangerous.
Monarchy Is Part of the Natural Balance of Power
Monarchy also seemed to many over history to be part of the natural order of things. The universe is governed by one being or force. Many call this “God.”
When we govern ourselves, we would follow the same basic rule. One person would have the ultimate authority. Did God rule by committee? No. God had servants but retained authority.
Meanwhile, “the one” (monarch) still can be balanced by other powers. In the Middle Ages, this consisted of nobility (“the few”), and the people overall (“the many”).
An “Out of Control” Monarchy Can be Contained
A basic reason why a monarchy is a good form of government is that the so-called problems with it are overblown. They might arise. They can be handled in a variety of ways.
A constitutional monarchy can be put in place that sets forth various rules that limit the power of the monarch. Anyway, the monarch already will be restrained. A king and queen know they need the support of their people. They will have to carefully use their power to retain it.
An out-of-control monarch, if necessary, can be replaced. It surely happened a lot over the years. If a monarch starts to get senile, there are also ways to address it behind the scenes. And, do we not have to deal with such issues with life-tenured judges? Did we end life tenure?
Sounds Good! What Is the Bad News?
The government should be run by the people. People are the ones who are best able to protect their own interests. They should have the right and power to choose who will lead them.
Why should people consent to someone having power over them just because their parents happened to govern beforehand? The people should be able to choose who they want, at least within broad parameters, such as people of a certain age, citizenship, and the like.
Bad Way To Pick Good Leaders
A French bastard landing with an armed Banditti and establishing himself king of England against the consent of the natives, is in plain terms a very paltry rascally original. It certainly hath no divinity in it.
- Thomas Paine (Common Sense)
Thomas Paine wrote a very popular argument for independence from Great Britain, including a biting discussion of the foolish nature of monarchy. Monarchs often originally gained power by conquest, intrigue, or random chance. The skillset of eldest children is a varied lot indeed.
Is this really how you want your leaders picked? By birth order?
You might have new monarchs who are young (maybe even children) and raw in skills. At best, they will be controlled by others behind the scenes. And, criticism of them might be treason?!
Hard to Get Rid of Bad Leaders
The flip side to the stability of lifetime monarchs is that the people are stuck with bad ones. We have a democracy with regularly scheduled elections. This gives us a chance to remove our leaders. Presidents have so much power that we have put in place a two-term limit.
The basic sinecure, secure term, of monarchs invites corruption and incompetence. We have the irony of a harder-to-remove bad leader that invites the very things we want to avoid.
The people and elites will not just let this be. This will encourage intrigue and at worse violent overthrows. A peaceful system of periodic elections is much better.
Too Much Power
We are worried about too much power in this country. We divide power in a number of ways, including such things as federalism and three branches of government.
Monarchy puts a lot of power in one person. Human nature shows that power corrupts. The result has been authoritarians, tyrants who abuse their power.
Too much power can do more than lead to abuses. A monarch might be incompetent and lead their nation into a horrible defeat. A republican system of government helps prevent this.
The equal worth of each individual is a basic truth that guides us in these times.
Monarchy promotes the idea that absolute power (or a whole lot) should be held by one person. At best, this furthers a small group of people with much more power than others.
A title of nobility is prohibited by the Constitution since it is a special privilege. Monarchy is much worse. It puts the power in the hands of one person.
Wrong Symbol for the Country
A monarch is the symbol of a country. But, is it an ideal one?
It is possible that a separate head of state makes sense. Some countries have a weak, largely symbolic person elected for this role, sometimes labeled a “president.”
A monarch, especially one chosen because they happened to be the oldest child [can we skip over and have King Harry and Queen Meghan Markle, next?], is a poor way to select a symbol of the country. There must be a better way than that.
I often like those Hallmark Channel movies about some royal falling in love with a commoner. They are sweet. And, there is a lot of talk about respecting the people and the responsibilities of the crown. They can also make a good romantic comedy beach read.
Monarchies developed over time for a variety of reasons. A major part of it was the belief that society was made up of various types of people, people who were not all equal to each other.
Monarchies are less present these days. Those that tend to be like Great Britain with the royals mere figureheads. But, why do they retain them? I guess they still have advantages