Tuesday 30 November 2010

Modern Constitutional Monarchy

Republicans have a habit of conflating the terms “Democracy” and “Republic”, treating them as synonyms. Republics and constitutional monarchies are of course merely different forms of democracy (and we can cite numerous undemocratic republics).   

Constitutional monarchies are limited monarchies –limited by the constitution and its conventions. Of the 31 constitutional monarchies in the world, only two have an uncodified constitution: the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The other constitutional monarchies are Australia, the Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, Granada, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, and Tuvalu.  16 of the world’s 31 constitutional monarchies recognise HM The Queen as Sovereign.

Constitutional monarchies comprise some of the world’s most developed, wealthy, democratically accountable and progressive states.  The 2009 United Nations Human Development Index, a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, and standards of living worldwide, is generally regarded as the best index for determining the quality of life offered by a state. The HDI ranks constitutional monarchies extremely highly:  7 of the top 10 (Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Canada, Sweden) and 16 of the top 20 countries in the world, in terms of quality of life, are constitutional monarchies. This is all the more remarkable when one realises that republics outnumber monarchies by 5-to-1 (31 vs approx 150).

It would be foolish to claim that it is by virtue of their status as monarchies that these countries afford their citizens such a high quality of life -- that is an obvious absurdity; the form of government and quality of life is most likely due to their stability. However, their success provides clear evidence that constitutional monarchies are not an impediment to modernity or progression (be it social, cultural, scientific or technological) -- neither are they incompatible with democracy and the institutions of a modern state. It is also incorrect to categorise constitutional monarchies as naturally or inherently conservative. Sweden, Norway and Denmark are amongst the world’s most socially progressive states. Monarchy, as a symbol of stability and continuity, may in fact be an asset to a reforming government as it can provide a fixed point for a society undergoing dramatic transformation, making the change more bearable.

Constitutional Monarchies survive today because they are adaptable and have been able to change to face new challenges. Those monarchies which failed to evolve (Russia and France for example) perished. Despite some awkward moments, the British Monarchy has developed a good understanding of the importance of ensuring that the Crown maintains the essential elements of heritage and tradition whilst remaining relevant to the modern age and reflecting positive aspects of contemporary society. 

1 comment:

Fredrik Brodin said...

Fogeyism at its best. Thank You for a great post, Rafe! Sometime in the future, perhaps You can also write a piece about the monarchy as a cohesive power (I am thinking of Belgium, Thailand and, by all means, Portugal). One of the monarchy's best qualities!