I think now everybody probably is picturing me as the barefoot girl wearing a long dress and Phrygian hat shouting “vive la republique!” while storming the Bastille.
Well, that’s not totally wrong- I do have a Phrygian hat I made ;)
I’m back with my second article in my series on Republicanism and why I’m firmly opposed to monarchies. This is specifically targeted at hereditary absolute monarchies.
The type of monarchy that the Sun King Louis XIV of Versailles fame was. . The type of monarchy where having a religion different from the king, could mean your imprisonment if it questions the king’s absolute power.
“But we will have consistency and not worry about elections!”
King Justice was a great ruler. He ruled the kingdom of “Humanité” with wisdom and strength. He had a son, Prince Folly who was pampered as a child. Prince Folly knew nothing but comfort, because his father gave so much prosperity to the kingdom. One day the king died and Prince Folly took the throne and due to his pampered upbringing because very selfish, and hoarded the people’s food.
The people starved as the king lived in luxury. The kingdom weakened and the people had one option- revolt for bread so they can live. Of course King Folly didn’t like this, so he then instituted totalitarian measures crushing dissent so he can keep his power and his throne.
This is a fictional story, but all too often history parallels these lines. A good king comes, the nation is happy and prosperous. But future kings who were brought up in prosperity and comfort do not grow to appreciate it, but usually want more. This in turn leads to oppressing the people and the king becomes a despot. Just because the first king was wise, doesn’t mean his successors will be.
“no more excessive red tape!”
Yes, I know red tape can be annoying. But without a Congress representing the people’s needs, how will a king truly know? While you may be lucky and get a good king who goes out and talks to the people this can probably work best in a tiny country like Lichtenstein or Andorra. In any big country- Poland, France, Germany, USA, Canada- think of how much ground the king would physically have to cover.
Even Austria and Switzerland would be tough grounds for a king to get the opinions of every citizen. This is why a legislature and local checks and needed. Let's say the USA has a king, and the king passes a proclamation that favors the areas around DC. He would have no way of knowing how it is affecting the people living in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, or the Great Plains or the West Coast.
He will only know the DC area. Not that he is purposely trying to favor locals, but its impossible even in our modern age for one ruler to have control over that many people.
“the people are stupid!”
Then we will educate them in the virtue of the republic. A large educated class with few chances of advancement is actually one of the causes of the French Revolution. This is why representative government exercises the people's talents.
While it is possible and has happened that dictators have arose through popular elections, this is why many countries have Constitutions and checks and balances in place to prevent rulers from becoming dictators. You know who wasn’t democratically elected and proved to be a despot? Nero. Who else? Louis XV.
The people need to be educated in civics education and the principles of the republic. They also need to have checks on their power because the mob can be just as dangerous as the crown as John Adams put it. A democracy needs checks on its power in order to succeed, and this is what makes a true absolute monarchy dangerous- the king’s words are “divine right.”
“Kings know how to use the money”
“kings know how to use money”
Hmm… building a gold palace called Versailles just seems like a bit much. More extravagant spending on clothes, drinks and overabundance of food while your people are starving, meanwhile you are too busy declaring war on every nation in Europe also seems like a bad idea.
I’m not an economics expert, but I have to say the wisdom of the king in financial matters is largely dependent on who the king is. Chances are somewhere down the road a Louis XVI is going to be stuck with all the previous king’s spending problems and debt and poor Louis will be like “what????” and have a rebellion on his hands.
“The people will be content"
Human nature is that humans want power. This won’t stop the ambitious from becoming advisors to the king, with nobody to hold them accountable and no elections. Good advisors will be beneficial to the nation, but all too often due to human nature these will be bad advisors. Bad advisors corrupt good company and will result in the king making poor choices. With all the power invested into the king the poor choices will extend to the entire nation.
"No polarization, we will only be unified under the king."
Disclaimer: opposing viewpoints will probably be crushed (aka revolutionary viewpoints) since they may or may not lead the people to revolt.
Is this a good thing to have everybody believe the same thing? Looking in history at video clips of young Soviet children all singing the praises of Stalin, or in our modern age children and people in dictatorships all singing the praises of their dictator. Polarization to an extreme is bad, but in general, differing views are a good thing. If we all believed the same thing and nothing was criticized, nothing will change.
We need criticizing of our viewpoints in order to open our minds to others in different circumstances of our own. We need to hear the healthy debates of senators and congressmen debating whether Healthcare Plan A or Healthcare Plan B is better. We need the simulation of discussing problems and theories with our friends at coffee shops not just to hear repeats of our own views, but to hear their viewpoints on how to make the nation better.
Blindly believing that your country is the best, your viewpoints are the best and your leader is the best is a dangerous way to go through life. You will believe whatever you are doing is right, and in turn, this can be used to oppress those who are different and don’t fit your viewpoint. This is how people grow, through open discussion about beliefs.
If we all go through life telling each other “long live the king!” what motivation would exist to sit at a coffeehouse and sincerely discuss the issues troubling the nation?
"A monarch knows what is good for the people."
Does he really? A wise monarch would, but sadly those cases are rare. People are by nature in need of checks on power, or they will have too much. Like the ring for Lord of the Rings, all power will do is cause somebody to want more and power becomes “my precious!!!!”
In a true republic, the people will check their ambition and in turn be checked by the Constitution as the law of the land. In a system where all the authority is channeled into one, that one person will abuse their own authority. Stories of a good wise king are unfortunately very rare.
"The people can still be heard."
Yes, if they storm the gates of the Tuileries and demand “liberty, equality, fraternity!”
It is very unlikely the king will relinquish any part of his power. Mankind is born free, but putting one human with absolute authority on top of an entire nation is in conflict with human nature. At the whims of this king, he can easily take away the freedom of the press.
Are the Protestants preaching that people have an inherent right to rebel against established authority? The king can easily imprison them as “anti-monarchist elements” if they get too annoying. Did the press record an embarrassing incident of the king? The king can easily imprison journalists and threaten them to only report what he wants.
Did you know Louis Phillippe, the “citizen king” of France actually massacred innocent people with no real trial? This happened in the June Rebellion and was quickly covered up.
Also, if a king is taught his whole life that he is “divinely ordained” and his words are supreme, he becomes a very spoiled child who turns into a very spoiled adult. The people’s natural desire for free expression, to pursue the paths they want to pursue and to say what they want to say will be crushed.
If Protestantism is too rebellious a religion, where is freedom of religion? Without freedom of religion- where is freedom of thought? How far can you control somebody’s freedom?
I realize absolute monarchy isn't the same as the totalitarian systems of the 20th century. However, with current technology and the history of the things absolute monarchs have done with unlimited (and even limited power like Louis Phillippe) what is to stop it from reaching that far?
I will take the republic over a monarchy any day. For all the flaws of the republic at least I know this, my thoughts will be protected by a Constitution and my natural rights will be respected as long as I do not infringe on the liberty of another. Vive la republique!