June 23

Constitutional monarchy is no anachronism

It has become part of the liberal creed that monarchy and empire are anachronisms, wrote  the British political philosopher and author Pprofessor John Gray in The Observer,  29 July 2007.


I would not have seen this but for a Brazilian contributor to ACM’s Facebook, Alexandre Carvalho.  This is testimony to the proposition that social media can contribute significantly  to intellectual debate.  Because a constitutional monarchy embodies the hereditary principle, he says that no “modern” thinker can accept as a legitimate basis of government. Empires represent something still worse – the subjugation of peoples who should govern themselves.

In future, the world will be organised into self-determining republics where all citizens enjoy equal rights,” he writes. “When empires are no more and kings and queens have been retired from service there will be enduring peace, and freedom will for the first time be universal.” 

This fable,” he says” has a certain innocent charm. It turns the ironies of history into a simple morality play, and in a time that demands emotional uplift before anything else it has a powerful appeal. Yet this liberal narrative involves a massive simplification of events, and the ideal of self-determination it articulates has proved dangerous in practice.”


“Woodrow Wilson ( the US President)  imagined that by promoting self-determination in eastern and central Europe after the fall of the Hapsburg empire the result would be civic nation-states.

"Instead,” he warns” it was ethnic nationalism based on hatred of internal minorities and decades of war and dictatorship.”

 Liberal opinion clings to the ideal of self-determination as an article of faith, but the truth is that constructing nation-states is nearly always a bloody business,” he adds.

Australia is a splendid exception – more reason not to disturb the core of our Constitution.  As the preamble says this was to be an “indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown…”

“The monarchical constitution we have today – a mix of antique survivals and postmodern soap opera – may be absurd, but it enables a diverse society to rub along without too much friction.”

Anachronism or not, it is surely unwise to convert our polity into a state where the political elite occupy all arms of the state. 

Constitutional monarchies have been proven to be superior performers on every index which measures health, wealth, education and quality of governance.   


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