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Thread: The Longevity and Recent Decline of Monarchy

  1. #1 The Longevity and Recent Decline of Monarchy 
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    First, some definition.

    Monarchy is a form of government with a top leader, the monarch, whose stay in office is not dependent on some ruling committee or electorate. Monarchy is usually hereditary, with a monarch being succeeded by a family member, though monarchs may appoint their successors, as in the Roman Empire.

    The opposite is republicanism, where the top leader is elected by some ruling committee or electorate, often for a limited term, and may be removed by them.

    There are various halfway states, like elective monarchy, something like a republic with a president for life, and constitutional monarchy, a hybrid system where a monarch coexists with a ruling council or a parliament. Constitutional monarchy includes figurehead monarchy, where the monarch is a ceremonial head of state, and the government otherwise works like a republic's government. A crowned republic it may be called.

    -

    Looking at the broad sweep of recorded history, just about every nation larger than a city-state has been a monarchy until the last few centuries. Some monarchies have lasted for centuries, even if they have been somewhat discontinuous. The champions are likely the Pharaonic and Chinese monarchies at around 3000 years, though European monarchies have not been slouches, sometimes lasting for more than a millennium. It is revealing that overthrowers of monarchs have typically made themselves new monarchs.

    But something happened over the last few centuries. Monarchy has gone pear-shaped, with only a few countries now having monarchs. Something about half of the survivors are ceremonial monarchs, like Queen Elizabeth II. It's been hard for me to find out discussion of what might have made that happen, though it's not difficult to find out what happened. Does anyone have any ideas or speculations about that?

    I think that the beginning of the end was the independence of the United States. Switzerland had already been a republic, but it was a loose confederation of small provinces up in the Alps, a quiet little place that most people did not notice very much. But the US was another story, a nation the size of the Roman Republic in its last century or so. Its first leader, George Washington, was a rather modest one, refusing to be crowned king and refusing any titles fancier than "Mister President". He reluctantly served a second term as President and he refused to serve any more. So was George Washington the ultimate monarchy-killer?

    The US not only survived, but over the next century, it grew over much of North America, surviving almost splitting in two in a bloody civil war.

    In Europe, the first big step towards republicanism was the French Revolution. But it had lots of strife and guillotinings, and it became a bad advertisement for republicanism. Most European nation builders from then up to WWI wanted monarchs for their new nations, and France then alternated between monarchy and republicanism before settling down as a republic. But when Latin American nations became independent, they took a hint from the gringos and became republics, with Brazil the main exception. A century ago, however, Brazil also became a republic.

    WWI meant the end of four big monarchies, Germany, Austria, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire, with several of their successors establishing republics, even if sometimes not very democratic ones. However, Yugoslavia was a monarchy because it grew out of Serbia, much like Germany growing out of Prussia some decades earlier. Hungary was a regent because Hungarians couldn't agree on who would get the throne: a Habsburg or a native Hungarian aristocrat. Also, British liked monarchies in the Middle East, though France liked republics there.

    WWII meant the end of more monarchies, and the dissolution of European nations' colonial empires almost always produced new republics. Monarchies have continued to fall, with most of their successors not wanting to establish new ones. Over the last century, there have been only two restorations: Spain and Cambodia. The US may have prevented more restorations. In the mid 1990's, US Secretary of State Madeline Albright reportedly stated "We don't do kings" about the prospect of the restoration of Serbia's monarchy.

    However, some de facto monarchies have emerged, notably North Korea's leaders, Papa Doc and Baby Doc in Haiti, and Hafez and Bashar Assad in Syria. Saddam Hussein and Muammar Khadafy wanted to be succeeded by their sons, but Saddam's are all dead and Khadafy's are either dead, jailed, or in exile.

    -

    So who's next? Swaziland? Thailand? One of the Gulf States?


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  3. #2  
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    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    In Europe, the first big step towards republicanism was the French Revolution.
    So not the English Civil War then?


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  4. #3  
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    I'd thought of mentioning it, but there is a certain problem. How Oliver Cromwell ruled. He took over after his faction beheaded King Charles I, and as "Lord Protector", he was very firm about who was on top. He ruled for the rest of his life, and he wanted to be succeeded by his son. Seems a lot like a monarch to me.

    However, Parliament was not very enthusiastic about his son, and the MP's chose King Charles I's son for the top job. He became King Charles II.

    A possibly better example might be the Dutch Republic. But the position of stadholder or top leader became effectively hereditary, and after the defeat of Napoleon, the last stadholder's son became king.

    The Venetian Republic lasted even longer, and did so without turning into a monarchy. However, it was essentially a city-state that ruled some nearby area.
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    I'd thought of mentioning it, but there is a certain problem. How Oliver Cromwell ruled. He took over after his faction beheaded King Charles I, and as "Lord Protector", he was very firm about who was on top. He ruled for the rest of his life, and he wanted to be succeeded by his son. Seems a lot like a monarch to me.
    Not quite:
    "The republican government of the Commonwealth of England ruled England (and later all of Scotland and Ireland) from 1649 to 1653 and from 1659 to 1660. Between the two periods, and due to in-fighting amongst various factions in Parliament, Oliver Cromwell ruled over the Protectorate as Lord Protector (effectively a military dictator) until his death in 1658.[135]
    Wiki.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    ... a nation the size of the Roman Republic in its last century or so. ... ...However, some de facto monarchies have emerged, notably North Korea's leaders, Papa Doc and Baby Doc in Haiti, ...
    I am a little uncertain of your meaning.
    I think you are referring to The Republic before Julius Caesar became the dictator and turned Rome into The Empire.
    Also you seem to be equating traditional monarchies whith dictatorships.
    Have I got your meaning right?

    I would suggest that historically republics and democracies have been unstable and usually turn into dictatorships of some sort or other, which as they weaken devolve back into various democratic and republican styles of government.

    The French Revolution is a good representation of the process. A revolution followed by chaos followed by Napoleonic dictatorship, followed by military defeat, followed by a restoration with a much weakened monarchy and aristocracy using a parliamennt of elected representatives (democratic republicanism).
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    I would suggest that historically republics and democracies have been unstable and usually turn into dictatorships of some sort or other, which as they weaken devolve back into various democratic and republican styles of government.
    "usually"? How about USA. Also, including constitutional monarchies, Scandinavia, Low countries, Switzerland.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mathman View Post
    I would suggest that historically republics and democracies have been unstable and usually turn into dictatorships of some sort or other, which as they weaken devolve back into various democratic and republican styles of government.
    "usually"? How about USA. Also, including constitutional monarchies, Scandinavia, Low countries, Switzerland.
    And many others. While nations often get there in fits and starts, most have ended up with governments with heavy democratic characteristics:

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  9. #8  
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    USA is a republic with elected representatives.
    It is not a democracy.
    It is also young in terms of history.
    Try to remember the Roman Empire occupied Britain for longer than the USA has existed.

    ...and USA is already drifting into imperialism.
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  10. #9  
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    If the USA only fails to count as a "democracy" if you move the goal posts to a place where it is impossible for one to exist. Obviously no large nation could ever be governed entirely by the direct will of the people with nothing delegated to anyone.

    But if we're going to take the argument that delegated authority is not authority, then dictatorships and monarchies don't exist either.

    Every dictator delegates at least some of his/her dictatorial power to underlings. Just as an elected representative is free to defy the will of those who elected them unless they take notice (and un-elect him/her), so also any dictator's appointed underling may defy the will of the dictator who placed them in power until the dictator takes notice, and removes them from power. A "delegate" is just that. Someone to whom the absolute sovereign of the land has "delegated" some of that absolute sovereign's power. In a democracy that absolute sovereign is "the people".

    Delegates don't always do what they're told, but that's true in both systems. Many dictators have been overthrown by military coups. That is to say that the people to whom the dictator "delegated" power over the military conspire against him/her and overthrow him/her. Clearly they had some free will.
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    If the USA only fails to count as a "democracy" if you move the goal posts to a place where it is impossible for one to exist. Obviously no large nation could ever be governed entirely by the direct will of the people with nothing delegated to anyone.

    But if we're going to take the argument that delegated authority is not authority, then dictatorships and monarchies don't exist either.

    Every dictator delegates at least some of his/her dictatorial power to underlings. Just as an elected representative is free to defy the will of those who elected them unless they take notice (and un-elect him/her), so also any dictator's appointed underling may defy the will of the dictator who placed them in power until the dictator takes notice, and removes them from power. A "delegate" is just that. Someone to whom the absolute sovereign of the land has "delegated" some of that absolute sovereign's power. In a democracy that absolute sovereign is "the people".

    Delegates don't always do what they're told, but that's true in both systems. Many dictators have been overthrown by military coups. That is to say that the people to whom the dictator "delegated" power over the military conspire against him/her and overthrow him/her. Clearly they had some free will.
    Many democracies have been overthrown by military coups too.
    What was your point?
    That republics are usually fairly efficient forms of government?
    Well sure they are, which was why the founders of the United States explicitly rejected a democratic government in favour of a republic.

    Edit:
    I don't know where the idea delegates are supposed to do what they are told comes from either.
    I thought the point of elections was to select the most capable representative instead of the most compliant one.
    Last edited by dan hunter; August 2nd, 2014 at 08:48 PM. Reason: adding text and fixing typos
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Many democracies have been overthrown by military coups too.
    What was your point?
    That republics are usually fairly efficient forms of government?
    Well sure they are, which was why the founders of the United States explicitly rejected a democratic government in favour of a republic.
    Where did they go on record explicitly stating that? Yes, an explicit statement.

    The Constitution clearly specifies a representative democracy, even if not a direct democracy of everybody showing up in some national town meeting or whatever. So if the US is not a Real Democracy, then no other representative democracies are.

    I don't know where the idea delegates are supposed to do what they are told comes from either.
    I thought the point of elections was to select the most capable representative instead of the most compliant one.
    Would you say that if it was someone that you had voted for? If you vote for some delegates, wouldn't you want them to do things for you rather than betray you?
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    .... the founders of the United States explicitly rejected a democratic government in favour of a republic.
    Where did they go on record explicitly stating that? Yes, an explicit statement.

    The Constitution clearly specifies a representative democracy, even if not a direct democracy of everybody showing up in some national town meeting or whatever. So if the US is not a Real Democracy, then no other representative democracies are.

    I don't know where the idea delegates are supposed to do what they are told comes from either.
    I thought the point of elections was to select the most capable representative instead of the most compliant one.
    Would you say that if it was someone that you had voted for? If you vote for some delegates, wouldn't you want them to do things for you rather than betray you?[/QUOTE]


    Article 4 - The States
    Section 4 - Republican Government
    The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

    As for your idea the representatives should obey you.
    Well just tell me just which one of you they should obey? You or your buddy next door?

    Their job is to represent the interests of the general population to the best of their ability, even if it does result in them being unpopular from time to time.
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by dan hunter
    .... the founders of the United States explicitly rejected a democratic government in favour of a republic.
    Where did they go on record explicitly stating that? Yes, an explicit statement.
    Article 4 - The States
    Section 4 - Republican Government
    The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.
    That does NOT exclude democracy. Republicanism and democracy are not mutually exclusive.

    As for your idea the representatives should obey you.
    Well just tell me just which one of you they should obey? You or your buddy next door?
    Both of you, as far as is feasible.
    Their job is to represent the interests of the general population to the best of their ability, even if it does result in them being unpopular from time to time.
    Doing so would be obeying you.
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  15. #14  
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    The main difference between a democracy and a republic is that republics are ruled by law instead of simply by the will (whims) of the people. Republics as a result protect the rights of minorities against the unjust actions of the majority.
    A republic, even if controled by a dictator, uses the same rule of law to defend against the willfulness of an absolute monarch.

    Canada and the UK are effectively republics even though they are nominal monarchies.

    Edit:
    A republic is the only form of government that allows citizens to have legal rights instead of being subject to the mob rule of a democracy or to the "divine right" of monarchs.
    For more on the subject see St Robert Bellarmine and his argument that God made every person free and governments (monarchs)only exist through the permission of the people.
    "Secular or Civil authority (saith he) 'is instituted by men; it is in the people unless they bestow it on a Prince. This Power is immediately in the Multitude, as in the subject of it; for this Power is in the Divine Law, but the Divine Law hath given this power to no particular man. If the Positive Law be taken away, there is left no Reason amongst the Multitude (who are Equal) one rather than another should bear the Rule over the Rest. Power is given to the multitude to one man, or to more, by the same Law of Nature; for the Commonwealth cannot exercise this Power, therefore it is bound to bestow it upon some One man or some Few. It depends upon the Consent of the multitude to ordain over themselves a King or other Magistrates, and if there be a lawful cause, the multitude may change the Kingdom into an Aristocracy or Democracy' (St. Robert Bellarmine, Book 3 De Laicis, Chapter 4). Thus far Bellarmine; in which passages are comprised the strength of all that I have read or heard produced for the Natural Liberty of the Subject."
    (Patriarcha, page 5.)

    As found in in Robert Filmers defence of the divine rights of kings, Patriarcha: The Naturall Power of Kinges Defended Against the Unnatural Liberty of the People, By Arguments, Theological, Rational, Historical and Legall.,
    Last edited by dan hunter; August 5th, 2014 at 10:58 AM.
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