February 13

Constitutional monarchy: unequalled as a model for good government

When I was invited to a debate on the 1999 republic hosted by an inner city branch of the Liberal Party of Australia, my assertion that constitutional monarchies were among the world’s most advanced countries was greeted with derision and ridicule. It was difficult to believe this was a branch of the party founded by Sir Robert Menzies.  So some years ago, as evidence of our argument that constitutional monarchy offered the world’s most consistently successful form of government, we began to refer to the United Nations’ annual Human Development Index. This aims to measure the three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. Let me reformulate what I said in Paddington. Constitutional monarchy has a proven record as a model form of government which is most beneficial to the people. There is no other model which has such a consistent record.

As with previous reports, the Human Development Report, 2006  confirms the value of constitutional monarchy as a model form of government.  Although republics vastly outnumber constitutional monarchies in the ratio of about 6:1, constitutional monarchies consistently cluster among and dominate the ranks of the world’s leading countries.   According to the 2006 HDI report, sixty per cent of the top 20 countries are constitutional monarchies.   This is equally true as you advance towards the top 10 and even the top 5.   Australia comes third, narrowly out- ranked by Norway then Iceland.  Among the developing countries Barbados is in a leading position as number 31, well ahead of Argentina in the 36th position.  (I mention Argentina because at the time of the birth of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901, Australia and Argentina were the world’s richest countries.  As a former minister in the Menem government observed on the ABC’s Four Corners in 2002, the two countries are similar but there is one important difference: “Australia has British institutions. If Argentina had such strong institutions she would be like Australia in ten or twenty years”: The Twilight of The Elites, 2003, pp 42-45.)

 The theme of the Report is, incidentally,“ Beyond Scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis.” A first case study, and example of what can be done (in this case through the Westminster system) is “ The great leap – from water reform to sanitary reform in nineteenth century Britain.”

In the meantime, the US think tank, the Heritage Foundation, and the Wall Street Journal have just released the 2007 Index of Economic Freedom, the thirteenth in the series.  They argue that there is a close link between economic freedom and prosperity.  In the 2007 index, eight of the top 20 countries are constitutional monarchies.  Of the top ten, eight are former British colonies or Great Britain itself.  The top three developing countries are all constitutional monarchies.  None of the counrties in the top 20 have a directly elected presidency with the powers of the Governor-General  – the model which one of the nation’s leading  republican constitutional lawyers  says will emerge from the ARM plan for a cascading series of plebiscites  and referenda. In the 2007 Index , Australia ranks third in the world.


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