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 among the people.
On the eve of the wedding of Catherine Middleton and Prince William BBC ran another interesting debate on the role of the monarchy (Moral Maze – Meritocracy and Monarchy, listen here). ‘Royalists argue that the monarchy symbolises deeply ingrained values that go beyond social and political fashion’, says the BBC blurb. ‘Republicans counter that an hereditary ruler makes as much sense as an hereditary dentist and the monarchy traps us as subjects, enshrines inequality and that we should have the power to choose our head of state.’
‘Royal family does stand in the way of any demagogue taking over the whole state’, argued one of the participants.
Me, I am more on the side of the monarchists. While hereditary wealth and privilege may be unfair, it is less fair when an elected servant of the people uses attributes of power more lavishly than in a monarchy. Which is especially striking in countries where presidents also head the executive branch, France and Russia for example.
There was one argument in favour of constitutional monarchy which I’d never heard before. Robert Hardman, writer on Royal affairs, pointed to the UN Human Development Index, a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living for countries worldwide. Among the top ten countries with ‘very high human development’ there are seven monarchies. In the 2010 Human Development report they are Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Canada and Sweden (UK is 26th). Even in inequality-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).
Now, this may not be an argument for re-establishing monarchies in the countries that had rejected them, but there seems to be a strong case in favour of a strong counter-balance to the power of the executive.
In the video the republican French give excited coverage to the royal wedding: