The Monarchy, an Anachronism inside an Anachronism

There is no reason for why that which once was should still be. To believe otherwise is to commit a logical fallacy. History does not justify the present. Yet, just because something was does not mean it ought to no longer be. When critics of the monarchy claim that the monarchy should be abolished because it is a remnant of the past, they merely state a fact and believe it to be a well-reasoned and hard hitting argument.

But those who oppose the monarchy can pride themselves on more arguments than simply one. The monarchy, it is asserted, it as the absolute antithesis to democracy and meritocracy. It is the embodiment of a logic that declares that capacity and position can be inherited, shielded from the competition of the most able.

While this undoubtedly was the case a few hundred years ago, this argument rests on a blatant ignorance of the contemporary reality. The king or queen of a modern constitutional democracy, as all the Western monarchies are, is deprived of political power (UK being a special exemption). This means that the monarch does not exercise any formal power over the trajectory of the country. Since the monarch does not exert any real power there is no merit to dispute.

Instead, the monarch is a symbolic figure. The sovereign is not supposed to be any normal citizen; it is the embodiment of the nation. Kings and queens therefore take an essential diplomatic role in symbolic and representative occasions, such as weddings. But if that is so, isn’t it simply an irrational anachronism and, thus, an obsolete element of the modern state? Cannot an elected head of state embody the nation? That is a good question. Firstly, this means that the leader tasked with ruling the state has to spend time on purely symbolic events, events which politics are filled with, thus neglecting the de facto ruling of the country. Furthermore, ask yourself, would you want your current president or prime minister to be the outward representative not only of your government, but of the very essence of your country? Do you want your current leader of government to be considered to be the very personification of your country? I have yet to meet the person who has such a desire.

That does not, however, mean that the sovereign is a good representative. One could, for example, elect a symbolic president such as they do in Germany. But the symbolic president often has a political past. Thus, while the president is supposed to represent the nation as a whole, a shadow of political ideology will linger in his path. The monarch, however, is above politics. The sovereign is the top representative of the state without actually governing it and has never officially espoused one ideology over another. Assumingly, a monarch will disagree with republican views, but they cannot publically assert this. Detached from politics, this means that a nation’s sovereign will in fact be the most neutral representative of a country.

Furthermore, above all, the nation is in itself an anachronism. What makes someone Bolivian or Belgian? It is simply a feeling and an idea. You are not born with the knowledge of your nationality, you are taught it. Thus, based on a feeling we have constructed borders and a formal, political system. But feelings and ideas are fragile. If the impression of a common nationality wanes, the political system is under threat. Thus, the monarch, above everything else, will be the embodiment of the nation. As governments and political parties come and go, the sovereign will continue the traditions and legacy of a country, serving as a constant reminder of the nation’s essence.

Taught from birth that it is their task to represent the nation as a whole, the monarch is not swayed by petty desires of staying in power or winning an election. Their one role in life is to ensure the authentic continuity of their country. Old fashioned, perhaps, but as long as we seek to preserve an equally old-fashioned nation-state as the principal form of political organisation, it is most necessary role.

Though, all this might just be because, as you’ve seen in the video in the beginning of this article, HM King Harald of Norway is a great guy.

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'The Monarchy, an Anachronism inside an Anachronism' have 2 comments

  1. December 16, 2015 @ 10:49 pm Girish

    Great argument for monarchs! In essence monarch is the highest embodiment of the highest virtues of the state, or at least meant to be such. Not so different from hindhu deities and greek demigods in a way. However i take issue with this because of course these kings and queens in reality are not in fact “better” or superior humans to any other joe or jane on the street. There lies a fabrication of virtue here simply to send the message of national ideal. I cant say with conviction though if this is a good or bad thing just that i an wary of misdirection even if the intention is well meant. Excellent read mate.

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    • December 23, 2015 @ 6:20 pm Henrik Frellumstad Jenssen

      Cheers for the good words! I quite agree with you. The monarch is not a better human being than anyone else. At times, they have proven to embody vices which are frowned upon. However, to me, their purpose is not as a person, but a symbol. It is not so much about how they are as people as the function their image has. Of course, to what extent their personalities can be hidden from the public is questionable. But you are right, the virtue of the nationality will be intermingled with the monarch, making it seem like they are a more virtuous person than the everyday person. But that is inescapable, if the symbol of the nation is to be a living human being (as opposed to an inanimate object or principles).

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