Monarchy

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Monarchy is a system of government in which authority as head of state is vested in a single indiviual, typically chosen through some rule of inheritance. That this is unjust as arbitrary is reflected in aphorisms that express the idea that members of dynastic families, and members of aristocratic families as well, choose their parents carefully.

Past and Present

Modern monarchies come in two varieties: Absolute and Constitutional.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, United Arab Emirites, and Jordan all have monarchs who have power to rule by decree. They are absolute monarchs with a final say in all government policy, or something very close to that. Even absolute monarchs, however, often summon consultative bodies to recommend policy, but they are not bound by those recommendations. Absolute monarchies can be extraordinarily repressive. For example, today in Saudi Arabia women are legally barred from voting, being employed or driving an automobile.

In contrast the modern monarchs in the Britain, Netherlands, Belgium and Spain, are figure heads who symbolize the nation without actually having meaningful direct authority in setting public policy on issues. They are bound by a constitution, even it is largely unwritten, as in the case of Britain. Many parliamentary governments which do not have constitutional monarchs, such as Germany and India, elect a President who serves the same, largely ceremonial function. A number of parlaimentary systems simply borrow the British monarch in the form of a ceremonial Governor General, as in Australia.

Conservatives often convince themselves that established monarchies are typically less repressive than new regimes established by popular revolution. This is little more than a reflection of the cultural influence that British conservatives had on popular images of the French Revolution. All monarchies are sustained by repressive military and civil bureaucracies used against demands for popular power. Most of the colonial powers that brutalized Africa and Asia were constitutional monarchies. Even while gradually granting liberty to their own citizens they committed mass murder and economic expropriation on a enormous scale against colonial peoples. For example, constitutional monarch Leopold II of Belgium was responsible for the murder of millions in the Congo Delta.

The United States government has its roots in the French and Scottish Enlightenments and in the English Common Law tradition. The United States was liberated from the power of the British monarchy because ordinary men and women preferred the risks inherent in freedom and equality to the security of an orderly monarchism. Their example helped inspire ordinary Frenchmen to join them in that enterprise.

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