Saturday, June 02, 2012

Queen's Jubilee. Why Monarchies Are Safer Than Republics.

After extensive research, I have found irrefutable proof that it is safer to live in a monarchy than in a republic. Here, on the occasion of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, I present some of my striking findings.

A version of this article in Russian is on "Тетрадки" side of this blog.

Princess Lilibet, 1929.

Outside of the countries with constitutional monarchies the value of the royals to society is rarely debated, but in Britain monarchists and republicans continue sharpening their arguments even though the monarchy enjoys solid support with over 70 percent of the people in favour of retaining it.

A British royal writer Robert Hardman pointed out that seven out of the ten top countries in the UN Human Development Index are monarchies. The United Nations compiles the index as a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living for countries worldwide. Seven monarchies in the list of nations with 'very high human development'! 

In the 2010 Human Development report they are Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Canada and Sweden (UK is 26th). Even in the adjusted index, which factors in inequalities in the three basic dimensions of human development (income, life expectancy, and education) five monarchies are in the top ten: Norway, Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada and Denmark (UK is 21st).
"a monarchical state encourages anarchist, self-motivated compliance with rules, rather than republican anarchist rejection of them."
What does it say? Or, does it say anything at all? Now, this may not be an argument in favour of re-establishing monarchies in the countries that had rejected them. But it certainly looks like a solid proof that where there is a monarchy, it does not necessarrily go with backwardness. 
My professional and family life has taken me to live for extended periods in three republics and three monarchies. I was born and raised in Soviet Russia, a republic, lived in England, Australia and the USA as a kid with my parents, and then, as an adult, worked and lived in England and Japan, both monarchies, and in Russia and France, the two republics where monarchs had suffered the ultimate ignominy of being executed and where the monarchy itself was abolished. I can’t say I’ve always thought of this life-long experience in terms of monarchy vs republic, but, looking back, what strikes me is that in monarchies people are, if not happier, seem to be more at ease with themselves. It feels as though they are less frustrated with the state and its demands on citizens. I’d also say they are more prepared to challenge the state, including the monarchy. Having respect for the institutions of the state, they nevertheless lack deference that I’ve seen so often in France and Russia.

Of course, in the 21st Century all the trappings of a monarchy – the pageantry, the curtsying and the titles seem absurd. But the majority still supports it by a wide margin, while elected heads of state, especially where they are also heads of the executive, rarely ever garner more than 50 percent of the popular vote and rarely enjoy the support of more than half the population, at least in established democracies. 

So, is it not more absurd to give them, the elected servants of the people, similar trappings – salutations, palaces and parades, not to speak of enormous power over the destinies of their nations?
As labour MP Denis MacShane, who has studied France’s political system in depth, says, ‘Britain is the parliamentary republic that just has common sense to have a nice lady as head of state. France is a real monarchy. They elect the monarch, and then, by goodness, Sarkozy, Mitterand, de Gaulle – they have power no other head of state in any other country has.’

Yes, elected posts are not hereditary, but inheriting an aristocratic title doesn’t always mean that you are going to be rich and happy.

And why so many Brits who settle in France complain about French bureaucracy, cumbersome, oppressive and unbelievably arrogant? Shouldn’t it be the other way round in a republic where civil servants are supposed to be the servants of the people, not the crown? Maybe the royal prerogative does indeed provide a counter-balance to authoritarian tendencies inherent in the machine of the state?

There seems to be, under a monacrhy, more willingness to play by the rules, rather than to ignore them. Take for instance the comparative size of ‘black economy’. European studies show that in the UK undeclared work amounts to about half of what it is in republican France and Germany. 

There may be a multitude of explanations of why that is so – taxation, social charges, labour and business rigidity in European republics as opposed to social and economic liberalism in monarchic Britain, the subject often spoken of by my French friends. But maybe there is something in the structure of a monarchical state, that encourages a kind of anarchist, self-motivated compliance with rules, rather than republican anarchist rejection of them. In the USA black economy is much smaller than in Europe, including Britain. But Americans have a strong, much stronger than in Europe, historical tradition of demanding ‘representation for taxation’ and of opposition to a high-spending ‘big government’.

Well, ‘black economy’ is difficult to quantify, but perhaps there is a different, hard-core measure?   
Another common complaint among Brits in France is driving. But how can you compare ‘republican’ and ‘royalist’ driving? 

I’ve looked at the statistics of deaths in road accidents per 100 thousand population per year. In the UK the figure is approximately half of that for France – 3.59 to 6.9. USA, a republic, and Canada, a monarchy, seem very similar from this side of the pond, but again the difference in road fatalities is striking: 12.3 to 9.2.  I remember Japan, a constitutional ‘empire’, for disciplined, even courteous behaviour on the roads. Compare their road fatalities to the neighbouring republic, South Korea: 3.85 to 12.7. In the kingdom of Sweden it is less than half of republican Finland, 2.9 to 6.5.  And Russia is far-far behind with 25.2. 

The pattern holds everywhere!

Illustration from Time Magazine, April 1929.

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