The Truth about "Choice" and Power

(This article was originally posted at The Monarchist on September 10, 2008.)

Kris [a republican] says that monarchists need to defend the monarchy as a better system in itself, rather than merely arguing from tradition. While I agree with every word of Beaverbrook's previous post, for my first effort as a member of this distinguished team I will try to rise to the challenge. After all, if "tradition," much as I love it, were my only argument, I could hardly argue for the restoration of relatively recently created monarchies such as those of the Balkans, nor could I despise the 137-year-old French Republic, which arguably has become a tradition in itself.

As a monarchist who has lived in the United States my entire life, I am always baffled by the claim that republicanism gives ordinary people like me "a say in who should represent our nation." I never voted for George W. Bush, yet he is my head of state. I have no intention of voting for either John McCain or Barack Obama, since as an antiwar right-winger I find the policies of both repugnant, yet one of them will be my head of state whether I like it or not, every bit as much as the Queen is Kris's head of state whether he likes it or not. Why should the fact that other people do support these men be any comfort to those of us who do not? What kind of "choice" is this? I would much rather have a head of state who no one chose, like Queen Elizabeth, than a head of state chosen and supported by others but not by me. Which is more truly fair? Which is more truly representative? An elected president is inevitably more representative of those who voted for him than of those who did not. It is precisely because the Queen represents no one faction (unless the 80% of British people who still support the monarchy are counted as a "faction," in which case that is still a far larger portion of the "electorate" than any one politician could command) that she is more representative of the whole country than a president could possibly be.

I would find it easier to submit to one man (or woman) who had no more say in the matter than I did, than to submit to a majority of the general public. Republicans claim it is unfair to be unable to hold a "bad" king or prince accountable. But it is far more difficult to hold a "bad" electorate accountable! And I have more confidence that the genetic lottery might produce decent leadership than in the wisdom of the majority of voters. As the great French monarchist Charles Maurras (an atheist) put it, "For monarchy to work, one man must be wise. For democracy to work, a majority of the people must be wise. Which is more likely?"

In anticipation of the objection that Maurras's argument could also be a defense of dictatorship, it is a crucial ingredient that the monarch did not choose his or her position. For if power tends to corrupt, than surely it is more dangerous to entrust it to the sort of person who has spent most of his life seeking it than to someone who has not sought it at all. Republicans who offer monarchists the opportunity to vote for "Liz" if that is what we want miss the point entirely. While I think that the Queen is an admirable woman, this is not fundamentally why I, or any other serious monarchist, support the monarchy. I would support the monarchy even if I were, for example, a Belgian living under King Leopold II (probably one of the least likable monarchs of modern times). We do not want to vote for Elizabeth or Charles or William or anyone else. We support the Queen not only precisely because we did not vote for her, but because she did not run. It is not necessarily "Elizabeth Windsor" and her descendants per se that we want, but a head of state who has not come to power through the inherently divisive, controversial, and fallible process of elections; a head of state who has never chosen to seek that office, who has never campaigned, who has never made us promises unlikely to be kept in exchange for votes. And no republic can ever offer us that, and no monarchist will ever be able to regard a republic built on the ashes of a monarchy with anything other than loathing and alienation.

Republicans, when addressing those of us familiar with actual republics, waste their time when dangling the allegedly tantalizing prospect of a vote for head of state in front of us, for I have had such a "right" since turning 18 twelve years ago and it means nothing to me. It is not elections and presidents that fascinate and attract me, but the gloriously complex and delightfully capricious web of royal genealogy and history. One of the many things I love about hereditary monarchy is the way it opens up the "field" to men (and women!) whose temperaments and personalities are such that they would never win an election, but when the highest office of the land is thrust upon them by Fate nevertheless are able to make valuable contributions to their countries. Think, for example, of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. It's impossible to imagine such an eccentric individual rising to power in any kind of republic, even before he (allegedly) began to show signs of mental illness. But what is his legacy? The operas of Wagner (which probably could never have been completed without his assistance), and some of Germany's most popular and enchanting tourist attractions. Between the relatively bland and colourless politicians of modern Europe and romantic, intriguing figures that leap off the pages of history like King Ludwig, there is no comparison. How can anyone be content with the former? Give me a Ludwig II, with all his foibles, over whichever boring faceless commoner is running Bavaria these days any day.

So no, I do not want this alleged "benefit" of republicanism, I do not want this vastly overrated "right to vote" for my head of state, for the mere existence of this "right" denies leadership to anyone not suited to victory in the democratic process, and as such a person myself, it is this kind of discrimination, this kind of exclusion, that I find intolerable! Only in a hereditary monarchy can people like me, who cannot imagine themselves winning an election, let alone seizing power in a coup, but can certainly relate to simply being born, be truly represented. Seen in this light, it is ironically monarchy that is the fairest and most truly "equal" system of all!