Friday, April 29, 2011

I never thought I'd find an argument for monarchy compelling ...

... but this one from @johnthelutheran, also expressed by @zugzwanged, makes a lot of sense: constitutional monarchy depoliticises head of state and says we are not /defined/ ultimately by politics. We Americans invest a lot of symbolic power in the presidency (note: I have not read the linked book) and it might be useful to redirect that towards someone who fulfills a more explicitly symbolic function, i.e., has no actual power. Also, the things that unite Americans tend to be abstract ideas. It's always easier to unite around an actual person.

John also argues that monarchy is a good reminder that life isn't fair. [UPDATE: I misrepresented John's point here. See comments.] I see his point, but - believe me - I have plenty of opportunities to be reminded of that fact in our present political configuration.

Not that I expect (or even want) a constitutional monarchy in America. It's just an interesting thought experiment.


  1. I thought that John's point was more about the arbitrariness of power than about the unfairness of life. Slightly different things, it seems to me.

  2. You're right. I flipped back through the tweets and that is what he was saying. And they are different things. Not sure how I confounded them. Thanks for the correction.

  3. In fairness, I said (or quoted with approval) both. One link was suggesting monarchy can encourage more egalitarian/redistributive policies because it undermines the view that those with wealth and power have "earned it". Life isn't fair, so those who do well in the lottery have a duty to help those who don't.

    The Scandinavian monarchies provide better supporting evidence for this than do the Windsors, to be honest…

  4. Another argument for monarchy is that monarchs have more of a vested interest in addressing long-term problems than do politicians in democracies. After all, politicians in democracies know that they won't be in power forever and thus often pander to voters in order to win votes, only to kick longer-term problems down the road. Monarchs on the other hand will pass their throne down to someone in the family (e.g. a son) and thus have a greater incentive not to be so short-sighted.

    I'm not a monarchist, nor do I think that monarchy would work in America given our history and culture. But I don't regard monarch as necessarily a bad thing.


  5. "To state the matter shortly, royalty is a government in which the attention of the nation is concentrated on one person doing interesting actions. A republic is a government in which that attention is divided between many, who are all doing uninteresting actions. Accordingly, so long as the human heart is strong and human reason weak, royalty will be strong because it appeals to diffused feeling, and republics weak because they appeal to the understanding."

    --Walter Bagehot(1867): The English Constitution


About Me

I'm Rachel's husband and Darcy's daddy. I'm a Hoosier, an accountant, and an Episcopalian. Politically, I'm a progressive who believes in the preferential option for the poor. I use the blog as a sort of journal - to interact with my reading and sketch out ideas.