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Some western democracies are monarchies (UK, Denmark, Spain...).

What are the advantages that this system gives to the people, when compared with a presidential system?

I want to stress that I'm asking for advantages for the people. I can easily see advantages for the powerful, and disadvantages in a democratic sense. So, I'm asking what reasons the people could have to vote for a monarchy if the possibility arose.

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    Does intangible/psychological stuff count? Inertia, national traditions/pride, entertainment value. – user4012 May 13 '15 at 15:59
  • I see no reason why they shouldn't. But I'd like to stress, advantages for the people, not those in power. – Masclins May 13 '15 at 16:11
  • There's no reason why you couldn't have a president and a monarch (there might be countries with both, I just can't think of any at the moment). The UK monarchy is there mainly as a figurehead and serves ambassadorial and military roles. – PointlessSpike May 15 '15 at 8:26
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    @Anixx References? – PointlessSpike May 18 '15 at 7:17
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    First, the term is apolitical. Second, where can I read about it? Where is this claim made? – PointlessSpike May 18 '15 at 9:22
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The arguments I found in favour of constitutional monarchy (some of them could be biased):

  • Some people are going to a admire celebrities no matter what. Without monarchy they admire film actors or singers anyway, so monarchy give them someone to love and take as a model.
  • It gives an international view on the country that no elected president can ever give. The most obvious example is the British royal family which is very popular even outside of UK. Monaco's family is also quite popular.
  • It attracts tourists from other countries, which create revenue. It is estimated that the British royal family brings much more money to the UK than what it costs.See youtube video and article on that matter.
  • Because the monarch is descendant by blood of a long dynasty of monarchs, this gives him legitimacy to symbolically represent the country and it's history
  • The country is represented by someone who is not politically oriented. This is a gage of stability and continuity for a country, complementing the constantly changing elected governments.
  • Last but not least, it makes the country sound more like in fairy tales. Kingdom of xxx just sounds cooler than Republic of xxxx for some people.

Whenever you agree or not with those arguments is another debate.

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What are the advantages for the people of a constitutional monarchy?

The advantage to the people in countries with a tradition of constitutional monarchy is that most of them like having it.

If you wish you can analyse this answer into different sorts of liking, some of them intellectually "respectable" like a link to the past or having a head of state likely to be perceived as neutral, some of them less respectable such as pretty costumes and ceremonies, or the appeal of celebrity-watching.

However it is important to realise that "most people like it" is sufficient in itself. Giving people the government they wish to have (as far as possible in a world where not all agree) is the rock-bottom justification for democracy after all.

If people strongly don't like having a monarchy then it's up to them to vote into power a political party that has either abolition of the monarchy or a referendum on the subject in its manifesto. Until then, the status quo is justified.

  • Humans tend to like what they know, that's not an advantage for monarchies as such but an advantage for status quo generally. It's certainly sufficient to sustain it but does not seem to address the question. – Relaxed May 14 '15 at 8:18
  • @Relaxed, I submit that my answer does address the question, but in a way that says, "the answer is simpler than you think". The third paragraph lists some direct answers, i.e. specifies some reasons why someone might vote for a monarchy in a referendum, as requested by Albert Masclans. Then the fourth paragraph steps back and says that (in my opinion) the most valid justification is more basic than that. – Lostinfrance May 14 '15 at 14:06
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In the countries, you listed, the king or queen has really become a small detail of the institutional mechanics. You could try to make some sort of argument about stability and the symbolic value of the monarchy but it's all very weak. At heart, those are simply parliamentary democracies with all the associated characteristics, positive and negative and no real “advantages for the powerful”.

If you look at Western European countries (with a few exceptions like France or Switzerland), there are roughly speaking two variants: They have either a monarch or a weak president with a minor role during government transitions. Either way, it's really difficult to see how monarchies provide any advantages or disadvantages for anybody, perhaps beyond the fact that the public usually bears the royals' living expenses.

If you would get rid of the monarch, you could simply find a way to elect a president indirectly like in Italy or Germany and keep the political system essentially intact. What could make a difference is moving towards a system like those of France or Poland, but those two countries are republics just like Italy and Germany.

Interestingly, even directly-elected presidents with extensive powers (as in Portugal) do not always take a major role in the political process. As an another example, you might consider the third French Republic (1870-1940). The regime had a powerful president, specifically so that he could be replaced at any time with a king to recreate a monarchy (a ‘real’ one, with a strong king, not a parliamentary democracy with a ceremonial monarch). Yet, the king never came and almost all the elected presidents abstained from using their powers so that France was effectively a parliamentary democracy for all this time.

  • That's interesting, especially the part about the possibility for the third french Republic to recreate a monarchy. Do you have any source ? But I don't think it likely, since the third Republic was proclaimed in 1870, during the war against Germany, when France was an Empire under Napoleon the third. I think the people that proclaimed the third Republic wanted to be a real democracy for good this time. I'll search into it. – SdaliM Nov 28 '16 at 9:52
  • @SdaliM Yes, search for it… You can start from Wikipedia. That's not quite how it went down. – Relaxed Nov 28 '16 at 10:46
  • @SdaliM In a nutshell (and you really need to read about this, any number of sources will confirm what I wrote in my answer), Republicans did not assume power in 1870, nobody proclaimed the Republic dramatically like in 1792. Republicans only gradually took control of the parliament in 1873-1875 and the regime was defined by a series of law in 1875. MacMahon, a monarchist, remained president until 1879, when Jules Grévy was elected (and started the tradition of not using some of the powers of the president, what I alluded to in my answer). – Relaxed Nov 28 '16 at 10:54
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Another advantage of a constitutional monarchy is that it separates the ceremonial head of state from the actual head of government. Contrast that with the United States, where the president is both. The president has to spend some amount of time hosting parties and performing other ceremonial duties (e.g. pardoning turkeys).

A monarch also has more time to prepare. The immediate heir probably knew since birth. Even alternative heirs knew of the possibility since birth. A prime minister or president is chosen much later and can't be sure. Even sure choices like Hillary Clinton can fail (twice). Was Barack Obama planning on the presidency in 2004? He didn't prepare as if he were (governor is a better stepping stone to the presidency than the Senate).

Note: I'm not arguing that time to prepare outweighs democratic advantages. I'm just pointing out that it is an advantage of hereditary monarchy.

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As Aristotle said in Politics, there are three general types of rule, each with a positive potential and negative potential: Kingship-Tyrant (rule by one), Aristocracy-Oligarchy (rule by a small group), Polity-Democracy (rule by the people) (those on the left are forms of authority that may obtain the best for a particular society, those on the right are how similar forms of authority could be harmful for a society). Thus, a good King can act quickly and benevolently to his people but both a Tyrant or bad democracy can repress its people through discrimination and violence.

In the modern sense of western democracies that have royal families, these rulers typically do not govern. Instead they offer tradition and cultural values that 'the people' may morally appreciate.

1

If we are going to cite ancient philosophy, it's worth mentioning Plato's Republic and the 5 forms of government. Through careful argument he makes a pretty good case for an aristocracy: Plato's five regimes

Read the actual book since it relates the individual characteristic to a collective state. Its also very important to distinguish between a constitutional monarchy and a absolute monarchy, the former being a sophistication of the latter, yielding a better form of government.

The advantages of having a monarch in the traditional sense, is that he or she is incorruptible; because he or she is born with the power, and therefore does not need to grease the palms of people to gain more. Even in some kind of meritocracy, individuals will have to grease the palms of the corrupt to gain power and this is clearly articulated in The Republic.

The benefits of a constitutional monarchy is that the monarch compliments the elected head of government. One is a safeguard to the integrity of the other.

Now for some facts and empirical evidence since this will shed more light on the case for a constitutional monarchy. Take a look at the top 10 most prosperous countries in the world. 8 out of the top 10 countries are constitutional monarchy.

Secondly, give me an example of any country that has replaced a constitutional monarchy with another form of government, and come off better. Doesn't exist. Even abolishing absolute monarchies has caused more problems than it has solved e.g Afghanistan, Libya, Ethiopia, Iran. All had more prosperous, cultured and progressive societies before the monarchy was killed. Russia, arguably another example, and England during Oliver Cromwell became worse off, the latter form of government resulting in the death of millions of Irish. So IMHO it's about progressing government that is proven, not revolution or change for the sake of change.

  • If you mention Oliver Cromwell as an example of failed republicanism in the United Kingdom, it might be worth pointing out that there also were some quite horrendous kings in English history. Like Henry VIII who started a violent and bloody forced reformation just because the pope wouldn't grant him an annulment of his marriage. – Philipp Nov 28 '16 at 9:43
  • And you could also argue (as cited by Bertrand Russell in the history of western philosophy) that monarchs breaking away from Papal rule was one of the precursors to the renaissance and enlightenment. Additionally I don't think that I am espousing absolute monarchies, rather the symbiosis of a head of government separate from the head of state. – William McCall Nov 28 '16 at 9:57
  • While many prosperous countries are constitutional monarchies, the correlation isn't necessarily causation. Many prosperous countries are also in Europe. European countries were monarchies in general. Canada, New Zealand, and Australia may technically be constitutional monarchies, but they don't interact with their queen so much. All four Scandinavian countries are listed, but Finland is not a constitutional monarchy. Note that only 2 of the top 4 and 10 of the top 20 are constitutional monarchies. Top 10 is the most favorable stopping point. – Brythan Nov 28 '16 at 18:50
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    As a whole the world has less constitutional monarchies than other forms of government so 8 out of 10 as a proportion is very high. "Canada, New Zealand, and Australia may technically be constitutional monarchies, but they don't interact with their queen so much." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarchy_of_Australia Slightly overlooking the role the monarchy plays and the 1999 referendum that was held in Australia. If it wasn't important they wouldn't have had one. NZ and Canada the same, the population are very aware of their monarchy. – William McCall Nov 29 '16 at 7:06

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