Benevolent Blue-Blooded Rulers or a Royal Mess?
A total of 26 countries globally have monarchies; while most are now simply constitutional, there are still royals with absolute power. Is a monarchy an undemocratic and antiquated remnant of history, or have the remaining kings and queens successfully adapted their roles to modern society?
In a time when most nations in the world have moved on from monarchical rule to republics, a few still remain at the mercy of kings and queens who were never elected. Even though the power of many modern monarchs has been diminished through constitutional and parliamentary checks, there are several reasons to believe that sustaining the legacy of the throne itself comes at a price.
There is a reason why monarchies have been decreasing in number in modern history and relegated to “ceremonial” roles to preserve tradition. Modern states do not and should not entrust power in the hands of families. Firstly, putting someone to the task of ruling a constituency when they are not elected through the will of the people is incompatible with the concepts of democracy and meritocracy. It is not fair that a ruler is handed the baton to rule and receives an endless number of chances to prove their worth despite the possible danger of running a state based on the decisions of an inexperienced ruler. A leader should prove their worth in their knowledge of state affairs and leadership practices before taking on the mantle as the head of state, with the wellbeing of their constituents depending on their decisions. Appointing a head of state based on their “blood right” and then showering them with all the council and education in the world will not guarantee that they will make a good leader. Moreover, having an ill-fitted suitor on a throne may spell disaster for a nation in the face of a crisis. In addition, monarchs tend to have advisors whose jobs are to whisper words of council into the ears of their lords. Who is to say that the monarch, unerring and unchallenged, will not pass destructive judgements on certain affairs through the influence of their council?
A government that does not answer to anybody can amass a dangerous level of power. In constitutional monarchies, since the throne is presumably kept as a means to check the power of the parliament, actual constitutional checks on the governments tend to be neglected. Entrusting the duties of checks and balances on the monarchs may backfire. Since kings and queens are too busy protecting their own agendas and answering to nobody, not even their own subjects, what is to keep them from siding with dictators for their own benefit and forsaking their people?
Yet another reason to ditch monarchies is the obsession with class they incite. When the head of state attains his position not through talent or invested efforts but through the mere fact of their birth, they not only are in control of taxpayer money but also inherits the right to defy the rule of law.
There is a reason why so many monarchs today — 26 to be precise — have not yet faced a push to abdicate their thrones. 11 of the 26 are in direct control of political power over their subjects, while five possess some form of political power but are not involved in direct rule. The remaining, however, have ceded the majority of their influence and assumed positions as mere ceremonial figureheads in the socio-political arenas of their countries. All European monarchies of today, most notably Britain, belong in the latter group. Barring the cases of Britain and other European countries that reached a balance hundreds of years ago through socio-economic forces such as early mercantilism and the establishment of parliaments, the political and economic machineries of nations under monarchical rule are dictated by the ruling families to a large extent. Take the case of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE, for example. The king serves as both the head of state and the monarch and holds absolute power. Not to mention that several investigative sources have accused the royal families of funneling considerable amounts of money from the countries’ petroleum trade revenue as well as the yearly pilgrimages to and from the countries into their own pockets. It is clear that the more power the monarchs ruling a country possesses, the more likely it is for that country to have larger amounts of wealth inequality and socioeconomic problems. Monarchies are expensive, but what do they offer in return? The practiced answer that rolls off every monarchist’s tongue is that having kings and queens preserves the essence of nationalism and tradition that has existed for centuries. But even in the idyllic European democracies, ceremonial purposes and tradition are not sound enough a reason to retain monarchies. How do the privileged few who dwell in the shadow of the feudal system from a bygone age represent national identity and tradition for the average citizen, especially when the entire system itself is hinged on the idea that they, the monarchs, are inherently better than everybody else?