The stability of monarchy myth disproved empirically

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New writer 'Publius' adds to the earlier work done by Graham Smith to conclusively disprove the monarchist myth of stability and prosperity using empirical methods.

A POPULAR MYTH trolled out by monarchists is that republics are ‘unstable’ while constitutional monarchies are the ‘most stable’ systems of government in the world. We frequently hear that:

While constitutional monarchies make up only 15% of all world governments they make up 60% of the top 20 developed nations. Republics make up 90% of developing nations and all non-developed nations.

Firstly, these results rest upon the formulae used.

For example, the UN Human Development Index formula includes a logarithm that includes ‘mean years of schooling’ but in several countries, like Switzerland and Finland, their education system is far more rigorous and intense than ours and hence shorter in years (by as much as 2 or 3). This does not actually inform either qualitatively nor quantitatively about the standard of schooling in these countries. Presumably the Swiss system is very sound, given several Royal families send their children there and it is ranked in the top 3 in most education reviews, yet under the UN formula it would score poorly.

The data also depends upon when it is collected — say for instance, before an economic crisis or after. This means that the data set methodology is spurious. The UN HD Index also does not include several prosperous Republics like San Marino or relatively penurious monarchies like Tuvalu or Fiji. In any event, in all respectable datasets the top 12 out of the top 20 tend to be republics —  60%. Additionally, the Economist Quality of Life Index has 6 republics listed in its top 10 for its 2007 revision survey — this outranks constitutional monarchies.

The second point is that 7 out of 10 of the ‘Most Liveable Cities in the World’, using the 2010 Mercer City Ranking, are cities in republics. Meanwhile, 5 are in the Monocle Rankings — most of the cities are in Germany, Finland, France and Switzerland. The fact they are cities in a republic is not, I think, the determining variable for why these cities rank so highly. Or put another way, correlation does not equal causation. Indeed, no clear causal explanation is given for why monarchy is the determining variable for prosperity. Other possible reasons could be having a temperate climate, access to real resources, or the fact that most countries are found in oil-rich Northern European countries. Also relevant could be geography, sanitary conditions or a general democratic ethos and development (see graph below). Or what about Federalism and direct democracy as a causal factor? Indeed, all top 10 countries in the development index are federal states or have a strong local element to them and have a history of using referenda device. Also notable is that, in the Newsweek Index, the top 2 countries are highly decentralised republics: Finland and Switzerland.

As Graham Smith rightly notes, countries aren’t stable because they have a monarchy, monarchies survive because a country is stable to begin with. They survive because there haven’t been the internal pressures to abolish them, or they have successfully adapted to those pressures in order to survive because of political, economic and/or other social forces.

Geography matters...


Third point: contrary to monarchist assertions, history shows that too many constitutional monarchies are politically unstable systems of government in the world for the statistics cited above to have statistically significance. Note the following constitutional monarchies (U.N. ranking in brackets): Cambodia (124), PNG (137, low development), Brunei, Thailand (92), Tonga (85), Lesotho (141, low development), Fiji (86) , Ceylon (91), Bhutan, Nigeria (particularly, during the lead up to civil war), Nepal (138, low development until recently), the Solomon Islands (123), Jordan, Malaysia, Tuvalu, Bhutan (132), Kuwait, Grenada (74), Belize (78), Antigua and Barbuda, Samoa (94), Bahrain, Barbados, St. Lucia (69), St. Vincent and Swaziland (121). All these countries have histories rifle with at least one of genocide, insurrection or revolution. Likewise, the ‘magic of monarchy’ did nothing to prevent  the dissolution of the Kingdom of Serbia into civil war.  It also did not stop the coups in Germany after WWI that gave rise to Hitler; or Portugal in 1910; or the Anglo-Corsican Kingdom; or the Mexican Crown that lasted only three years, from 1864 to 1867 or many other example of failed constitutional monarchies. Of course, monarchists fail to mention any of these examples, whether out of convenience or sheer ignorance.

Contrast these failed monarchies with the enduring stability and prosperity of ‘the Most Serene Republic of San Marino’, founded 223 AD and which has the world’s oldest running constitution, spanning a total of 1800 years. Compare it to Switzerland, which undoubtedly has the world’s most stable and democratic constitution, where the people can write their own laws and which – almost unique amound the community of world nations – has not been to war since the 1800s. Nor have there been any riots or coups there, unlike under a politicians’ monarchy, or in other words the Westminster governance in place in countries such as Grenada, Fiji, Nigeria and Pakistan where power resides in the elected dictatorship that involves the Crown acting only on advice from the Prime Minister. Compare this to Finland or Iceland, the latter of which has the world’s oldest Parliament. Compare it to Austria, Singapore, Hong Kong, post-war Germany and France. Indeed France, much derided by monarchists because of its numerous attempts at creating a workable republican system before the current one, has in fact the lowest debt to GDP ratio in the Western world. And of course, no monarchy anywhere has ever been able to show the consistent prosperity and stability of the Swiss system of government.

Fourthly, you tend to find that when we compare similar geographic and climatic conditions, republics beat constitutional monarchies. Or put another way, when apples are compared with apples, such as political systems with similar geographic, biological and culture traditions, republics win.

Start with Africa. Lesotho, where 40% of the population is below the poverty line, ranks 12th in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, is beaten by the Republic of Southern Africa. Monarchist Swaziland is ranked 23rd.

Arguably, too, CMs are not conducive of ‘spreading the prosperity around’. A lot of Africa’s problems, particularly, in Zimbabwe, can be traced to its colonial past and British currency speculators contributing to its hyperinflation.

Consider Asia: Bhutan, Bahrain, Thailand, Brunei and so on, do not beat Singapore, Cyprus, Sri Lanka or Hong Kong. Likewise in the Caribbean region, Trinidad and Tobago consistently outrank Jamaica and Grenada. Indeed, most of the “non-developed” nations in the African Sub-Sahara have disease pandemics – no monarch or republic can cure the incurable – and most of these states have ethnics divisions which were exploited by their former colonial rulers. I somehow doubt monarchy will be a cure to the pandemics found throughout central Africa.

Also in Europe, if we took away Norway’s oil reserves it would quickly fade away from its top 10 ranking. Compare this with countries that actually export and produce products, countries like France, Switzerland, Finland, Austria and Ireland (the latter’s problems are nowhere near as bad as the Kingdom of Spain’s 20% unemployment). The Republic of the Netherlands lasted for 224 years of prosperity. Since then, the Dutch have never had it so good — it was the centre for commerce. It was only when Napoleon “crowned” himself and decided to invade the Republic of the Netherlands that a monarchy was formed. In the Netherlands, republic or monarchy, the nation's people are prosperous. You could export a Zimbabwean Republic to Finland, Netherlands or Switzerland, but it is unlikely it would end up in a quagmire given these countries strong democratic ethos.

Thus, the assertion that monarchies are stable deploys a statistically bogus technique and even if the technique is correct, there are too many outliers for the claim to be statistically significant.

Monarchists love to mention Hitler, while Hitler loved monarchies.

Furthermore, monarchists also love mentioning Hitler in the context of the the failure of Weimar Republic — yet somehow forget that which preceded the Nazi regime.

Firstly, since 1922 a constitutional monarchy supported and indeed operated at the same time Mussolini and Franco seized power. Indeed, one reason Germany and Italy rejected a return to monarchy was its strong connotations with a fascist regime and Italy under Mussolini was, of course, the ‘Kingdom of Italy’. They were Hitler’s allies and he needed them to wage war. Secondly, Hitler often had a monarchical propaganda machine behind him and praised the monarchy in his speeches. Thirdly, it was the instability of the monarchy after WWI that gave rise to Hitler, since World War I sowed the seeds of World War II. In summary, his rise has more to do with the monarchy than it does with any republic. By the way, in case you forgot, the concentration camp was an invention of the British concocted under the Crown in South Africa during the Apartheid, as was the Aboriginal genocide in Tasmania. These events are hardly conducive to “stability” or “prosperity”, particularly amongst the unfortunate victims of these initiatives.

As for the issue of having a non-executive but directly-elected President (a subject of a future post), we see that in Ireland, Iceland, Finland, Austria, Switzerland and France the President has never dismissed the government of the day. But the Governor General did  do this in Australia in 1975. Therefore, these republics are free from arguing the political ‘rights or wrongs’ of a dismissal. And they are all stable and prosperous when viewed in the long-run. And, of course, the only system of government that has avoided wars or revolutions is the Swiss system. It has also operated in parts of Canada, some American states, New Zealand and S.128 of our Constitution also employs the devices of direct democracy used in the Swiss Republic for hundreds of years.

If stability is the issue, then monarchists need look no further than the Swiss Republic, which was able to unify the Italian, French and German cantons into one peaceful cohesive state.

(Publius is not this author's real name. If you would like to learn more about the Swiss method of democracy, get a transcript or listen to a podcast of the ABC Radio National's Rear Vision program at the following web address:  
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