Recently, on this publication, there has been a fascinating dispute over the usefulness and legitimacy of the Constitutional Monarchy of the United Kingdom.
Both the pro-monarchist advocate Michael Zwiauer and the pro-republican Daniel James Sharp have both put forward some interesting and provocative arguments; however, both of these writers appear to be missing the mark slightly when approaching this topic.
Neither those who argue that the monarchy gives British politics stability or those who argue a republic is the only moral or justified way to govern a society have seemed to consider what the point of politics is, and why we – on all sides of mainstream politics – agree that it ought to continue in that way.
Anarchy, by contrast, would ultimately lead to chaos, and ironically enough a political system of its own – one based on strength, and domination of those beneath it. So, then, how does one construct a nation-state in order to ensure the security and stability that such order offers, whilst not doing so to the point of tyranny?
I don’t know what precise political arrangements are the most optimum for human beings to adopt, or if they can be universalised. However, specific tax rates, military objectives, the amount of homes built, or immigration targets are a whole host of political systems and specific policy areas that are not the contention of myself, or the previously mentioned authors.
Is a constitutional monarchy worth keeping, if essentially it allows people to function as autonomous beings pursuing their desires and own goals within society? It seems strange to defend what is, in its current state, essentially a neutered monarchy and House of Lords, as a coherent way to explain British political stability. It is much more likely that the success of the Labour party halting the development of Communism in the UK, the rejection of the British Union of Fascists by the general population and the relative balance between the market and the state in the economic realm seem far more likely to be behind the relative stability the UK has enjoyed since the turn of the 20th century.
The monarchy, in its current form, also curtails political expression alongside an unelected upper house kept from reform by a first past the post electoral system, because the growing of more diverse political parties and opinions cannot make breakthroughs in our current system. Both the Conservative and Labour parties have no interest (understandably) in changing a system that keeps them in power. Regrettably, the status quo – by definition – prohibits meaningful reform that might allow a more accurate representation of how people truly think about political issues. This stands in the way of any sense of our flourishing; how can we flourish if we cannot succeed in gaining fair representation for our new political concerns and beliefs – just ask the Greens or UKIP – and thus how can we continue to flourish as human beings?
This is not to say that a republic would be the automatic answer. A republic is open to the same corruption of power that a monarchy might be, the only difference is that the electorate has the pleasure of voting a tyrant in. Any example of a ‘banana republic’ or the historical rise of fascism in both Italy and Germany in the 20th century are prime examples of this. A counter measure to tyranny ought to exist for either system of governance, although I am unsure as to which system provides a stronger way to counter the potential of tyranny.
Political associations are some of the most important and worthwhile relationships people can ever form. Get them right, and the results can be spectacular. Get them wrong, or allow them to disintegrate into chaos, and the very worst kind of behaviour and ideas emerge from the shadows. The consideration of monarchy ought to be placed in this framework not just because it has a real effect on the politics we engage with, but also because it should be an answer to the question of how best we govern ourselves. The primary question we should be asking ourselves is what kind of political partnership leads to the best flourishing of the people who live within it?