compact title

Saving Communities

Bringing prosperity through freedom,
equality, local autonomy and respect for the commons.

Muddling Back to Monarchy

by Dan Sullivan

Chapter : The Essence of Monarchy

The literal translation of "monarch" is "one ruler." However, that translation only defines traditional monarchies by their most conspicuous symptom, giving undue attention to form over substance. This book focuses more on the essence of monarchy in contrast to democracy. It examines forms in the context of how they reinforce or undermine substance.

The folly of fixating on form is that systems of privilege and power mutate in order to adapt to changing conditions, just as viruses mutate in order to slip past antibodies that are sensitive to the old forms of the viruses, or to infect hosts that differ from earlier hosts. Thus, a country can be democratic in form and monarchial in substance. (We will explore this in the next chapter, "The Essence ofDemocracy."

Monarchy is essentially a system of rule by power. It has never been the case (at least not for long) that a single strong-man's personal power held the rest of a nation in sway against their will. Rather, a monarch is placed in power, and kept in power, by a privileged elite. History has taught elites that they can only maintain their privileges if they act in unison, and that it is much easier for them to act in unison if a representative body (representing them, not the general public) legislates for all of them and a single executive acts on their behalf.

While legislative bodies deliberate on the public record in open chambers (and often on camera, these days), executives meet with whomever they choose act based on private deliberations. Therefore, the more a system vests power in an executive, and especially in an executive who is independent of his legislators, the more monarchial and less democratic the process becomes.

We will more closely examine America's penchant for strong executives under the chapter "Hamilton Restores the Monarchy." For now I only note that most European countries learned from our mistake and vested more power in legislative bodies, including the legislative prerogative of hiring and firing chief executives.

We will also examine how monarchies became hereditary - another feature that is more symptomatic than essential. Hereditary succession was intended to lessen political in-fighting between elites, for deaths of early monarchs had resulted in great intrigues and, sometimes, all-out wars between powerful factions. Hereditary successon solidified the pecking order of the elites and reduced opportunities for internecine strife. None the less, the history of monarchy is rife with regicide, including plots to prevent succession of those thought to be unfriendly to the factions.

Some monarchies have been established abruptly by conquest, and others have slowly developed out of relatively free tribal societies. We will look at England, whose common-law tribes changed into a major monarchy by a combination of gradual internal changes and abrupt conquests. The point of this examination is to show analogies between that the changes taking place in modern democratic societies and the slide of earlier democratic societies into monarchies.

New Pages


Fundamental Principles

How You Can Help

Saving Communities
631 Melwood Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
United States