Serbian restoration: familiar arguments

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by Publius

 The Serbian Crown Prince in-exile has rather self-interestedly called for the monarchies restoration in Serbia, lauding its supposed benefits. Publius provides perspective.

RECENTLY, the British-born Prince of Serbia (rather hilariously, Winston Churchill made his London hotel room Yugoslavian territory for the day so he can claim to have been born in ‘Yugoslavia’) has released a message calling upon Serbia to stop being a Republic and become a constitutional monarchy of the Westminster variety. HRH Crown Prince Alexander Karageorgevitch expounds such similar arguments to those we typically hear from royalists at Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, that it makes me wonder whether he has been briefed by David Flint himself. Here I provide snippets of his message and my response.
“I firmly believe in the benefits of Constitutional Monarchy in Serbia... If you believe that a republic is cheaper than a constitutional monarchy, make another calculation”.

HRH Crown Prince Alexander Karageorgevitch

I wish the Prince could provide some budget calculations for his claim, along with his assumptions. Certainly, in the case of Australia and New Zealand the Crown costs us roughly $11-12 million per year (AUS), while the President of Ireland – who performs similar functions to our current Governor-General – costs a mere $5 million (AUS, at exchange rate 2009). Similar figures emerge in Finland, Iceland, Austria and Singapore. Consequently, this claim can go down as a clear “monarchist myth”.
“If you believe that a citizen has a greater influence in a republic than in a constitutional parliamentary monarchy, reconsider what polity is present in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg, Spain, Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand…”

Quite curiously, Karageorgevitch misses a country only a few miles away from his own: Switzerland. Switzerland, of course, is where people can not only write their own laws, but can overrule their Parliament outside election times. He cannot seriously claim that any of those countries listed outranks Switzerland in the quality of democracy given it is the world’s only democracy –  i.e. how many people in other countries “influence” the government to such an extent as a) overriding the individual laws of their elected representatives even outside elections; b) introducing new measures at a referendum to be adopted as law and c) clearly know that they have complete ear of their representatives as the representatives know that if they do not listen a matter will be put to the people? Answer: None! (Although some U.S. States and parts of Canada can do so). Equally, Switzerland hasn’t been to war since the 1800s. It is also more peaceful nation ever. And some of the Constitutions he has listed are based on Switzerland's: Australia via s128 of the Constitution, the Canadian Provinces and Luxembourg modelled its regions on Swiss cantons and tax policies. Indeed, Switzerland would seem to be a more appropriate model – given its size and multilingual/racial composition – for Serbia to emulate.

Of course, Karageorgevitch fails to take into account cultural and geographic attributes. The countries he cites are relatively culturally homogenous and resource-rich (e.g. Norway). Serbia, on the other hand, has deeply rooted ethnic divisions going back to the Ottoman Empire. Indeed, it is interesting to note the Orthodox King aims to unite Serbia, not a former Yugoslavia full of Catholics, Muslims, Protestants and Orthodox Christians’—perhaps his religious overtones lack a claim to legitimacy given the religious divisions therein?

The Prince also does not mention other prosperous European Republics like Austria, San Marino, Finland, Iceland, Germany, France, Hungary and Ireland (he somehow manages to name Spain with its 22% unemployment rate, compared with Ireland’s 11%) or rich Republics outside of Europe—such as Singapore and Hong Kong, which nowadays are doing a lot better than Japan.

He might want to explain why Lesotho, Swaziland, Bhutan, Brunei, Thailand, the Solomon Islands, Fiji (pre-1988), Tuvalu, Jamaica are not doing too well. Nor does he mention the failures of Sweden, which is now a violent and divided society in places like the city of Malmö. . So much for the Crown being a symbol of “unity” and “stability”.
"Reconsider if Pol Pot was better than Sihanouk, Mengistu than Selassie, Chaushesku than Michael, Zivkov then Simeon, or today’s Afghanistan compared to the state of King Mohammed Zahir!”

Conveniently, he does not mention the much respected Tito. And perhaps his Royal High should also explain:

  1. Russian influences of the course of Afghan history and its paltry state (and its general ethnic divisions);

  2. explain why we should reinstitute a system which gave Serbia and Europe World War I (think who assassinated who), which then gave us World War II (don't forget Hitler loved monarchies and frequently quoted and compared himself to a King);

  3. British concentration camps in South Africa and the general excesses of Imperialism? Indeed points (1) to (3) have inflicted far greater carnage onto the world than all the dictators and despots he has listed. Oh, and of course, Mussolini was Head of Government under a constitutional monarchy — I assume HRH would have dismissed Milosevic if he had a chance too?

  4. Conclusion

    Ultimately, HRH would do better to do what constitutional monarchs do: say very little or nothing and do not intervene in the domestic political affairs of a country. Moreover, if he were to open his mouth, he would better advocate greater room for decentralisation/federalism, direct democracy and a change in the tax system (emphasising land tax and other taxes without deadweight loss), rather than a change to a constitutional monarchy that acts as a cover for politicians and makes the general population cynical of their own representatives.  
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