Archive: Originally posted on 09/01/2010 at mac.com
I have an affection for the idea of monarchy. I don’t think it’s been implemented well historically, and only recently is the concept coming to match what I believe it should be (specifically in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and hopefully, Bhutan). But I like the idea.
I am a democrat and a Democrat, but that’s not inconsistent with being a constitutional monarchist. I believe the role of monarchy is not ceremonial and those nations that reduce their monarch to a hand-waving piece of tabloid fodder are wasting an incredible resource.
Monarchy is about long-range planning and continuity of government. Prime ministers, presidents, and other elected officials are about operations — it’s the difference between a CEO and a COO. The monarch is the vision, the PM/Pres is the action.
I’ve always lived under the American system, and I think that lets me see its flaws. As a nation, we’re focused on a four year cycle, so focused in fact that Presidential election campaigns are now running for almost two years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions. And for what? A maximum of eight years, with another lump of money to be spent in the middle. And guess what we get for that? An operations manager because that’s how the job is set up. It’s very hard for any President to implement a century long vision. Look at EPA — it’s 30 some years old, and it has never been allowed to live to its mandate and each President has tinkered with (and sometimes damaged) it.
The advantage of monarchy is that long-term, long-range, big picture perspective. Of course, it requires some serious thought — the potential heirs to the throne require extraordinary intelligence, emotional stability; extensive, quality education; security and freedom to fail. No wonder royal families have to be rich — providing that kind of background takes money or the pure luck of a Bill Clinton (and he kinda slipped on the emotional stability thing, but then again, who doesn’t? He wasn’t Henry VIII by any means!)
None of the above Monarchies are absolute; all are constitutional (except Bhutan, which is working on it) and all have a Privy Council or cabinet to advise and distribute the long range planning. The monarch and council are an intrinsic check on the power balances. Imagine what would have happened after 9/11 if we Americans had possessed body separate from the election process who had served for half a century and seen a little bit of everything in that time. (The Supreme Court could do this, but it’s so rigged and so handicapped by not being able to prevent bad law from going into effect they’re kinda useless now.) Imagine having that body in the weeks afterwards saying, “yes, we’re scared. Yes, we’re angry. But no, we’re not going to lash out. We have to do this right because our long-term survival, not just the election cycle, depends on it.” Lacking that voice of reason has cost us close to a trillion bucks and almost 4,000 lives, our faith in government, untold legs, brains and arms, 150,000 Iraqi lives, and most of the world’s good will.
The key power a constitutional monarch has (and this is especially true in England) is a set of brakes. If the British Parliament decided to do something utterly insane (like, after the Underground bombing, they had decided to expel anyone of middle eastern descent who wasn’t yet a citizen — and it could have happened) Lilibet had an ace up her sleeve. Just one, and it will probably cost her the crown and end British monarchy when she uses it, but she can use it if Parliament is trying to do something destructively stupid. She can disband Parliament and call for a new one. It’ll be her last act as Queen, most likely, or damn near, but she can, and doing so might save her country.
Of course to use that power or even just possess it, requires great brilliance, education, patience, wisdom, courage, insight, dedication and world knowledge. It requires giving up your private life from the day of your birth until you die. The monarch never has the basic freedom to duck out to the bar for a martini or take a walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon. The power the Monarchy possesses also enslaves. But it’s a service I would be happy to pay for in the US. I can’t. There is no mechanism in the Constitution to provide that sort of check. And that’s too bad.
So that’s why I feel a lot of affection for the concept of monarchy. It’s not perfect and it has detriments (though the above countries have done a good job cleaning up their gene pool) but when a nation balances the strengths of monarchy and democracy together, and those opposite strengths balance out the opposite weaknesses… is it surprising that some of the best places on earth are in constitutional monarchies where the monarch takes an interest?
But no country gets such a government by wishing for it. It almost always takes experience, hard lessons, and usually some blood. The Scandinavians managed to learn from the neighbors and Bhutan is doing pretty well so far, too. The Netherlands is soaked in historical blood, as is England.
So when I started building Galantier, I consciously built it to move from the fragment of a proto-republic to althang republic to feudal monarchy to Rebellion, which is the transition point from feudalism to proto-constitutional monarchy. And that transition is gonna hurt.