Republicanism is about checks and balances

The British monarchy, though it is flawed, generally has a sense of historical mission and loyalty to tradition that means they have psychological checks and balances which avoid the abuse of power. But it won’t always be this way, not when Charles gets in.

Presuming for a moment that the Queen didn’t kill Diana, the Royals largely stay out of politics. Their realm is ceremonial and constitutional. They are a useful fiction to hang power on and a focus for nationalism and patriotism. I’ve nothing too much against any of that. Not really “my bag”, but whatever gets your constitution though the night, eh?

The main problem with politics is checks the power of those in charge. This is why I think people supporting the coup in Egypt are fucking idiots. Most politics in developing countries is unimportant in the long run, what matters is getting that first democratic handover of power over. The more coups you have the further away from safety and wealth everyone is. It matters because it demonstrates that power can be checked.

In the UK there’s almost no chance of a democratic government not ceding power. Even Brown’s unsuccessful attempt to broker a totally constitutionally acceptable alliance with the Lib Dems was met with unease in Labour and without. The Royals similarly have largely avoided exercising what power they have despite few formal barriers to them doing so.

Not any longer, Charles has been using cash left intestate for his own charitable endeavours, showing a disregard for what he should do relative to what he is allowed to. Worse than that, his aides have been working within government exercising power that should be completely beyond the reach of an independent head of state.

Only a constitutional crisis really unseats a monarch, and people like to avoid these. The problem with monarchy is when the (currently effective) moral and cultural limits on royal power are gone there’s few formal ones to deploy. Formal checks are better than intermittent crises.


3 thoughts on “Republicanism is about checks and balances

  1. OK how about a factcheck. The Duchy of Cornwall is legally entitled to inherit from those who die intestate *with no next of kin* so no widows and orphans are deprived. Charles distributes it to charities instead of pocketing it. How is that evil?
    The Guardian thinks it is terrible that 0.1% has gone to a charity that provides high quality education free to poor Scottish boys (they carefully elide the difference between the charity and the school). The Guardian seems to believe that high quality education should only be provided to the children of China’s elite (no, really: try reading Toynbee, Monbiot etc).
    Secondly “his aides have been exercising power”. LOL. They have been learning as junior employees of the government about how it works. The biggest power that a PA has is to choose who gets to see her/his boss and that can be over-ridden if they act unreasonably.
    (i) The Queen did not kill Diana, nor did Philip, because they are intelligent – martyrs, even hunger-striking back-stabbing terrorists, get swathes of sympathy. (ii) if one had that would *not* have been involvement in politics but a family feud. The last “royal” involvements in politics were Juan Carlos personally (at the slight risk of his life) stopping a military coup and the Governor-General blocking an anti-democratic political coup by Gough Whitlam (who was subsequently exposed as a KGB agent); before that we had King Constantine trying unsuccessfully to return Greece to democracy after a military coup and King Christian leading (virtually the whole) Danish people to wear a yellow Star of David during the Nazi occupation.
    Next fact-check – crises in monarchies are much less frequent than in republics. When I was young the (left-of-centre) Turkish army regularly ran a coup when the government elected by a right/right-of-centre acted in line with moderate Islamic teaching and replaced it with a compliant left-of-centre government until the next election. Try counting the average number of coups/dictatorships (let alone crises) in republics since 1937

    1. First of all, no way do I believe anyone killed Diana. Just a little gag.

      Secondly, I didn’t say that crises were less common in monarchies, or at least that’s not what I meant. I said that they are worse. A crisis in a republic means changing the people (unless you’re bloody french), in a monarchy you’re either dealing with an abdication (very difficult) or a constitutional crisis (very, very difficult).

      Plus, it might be legal for Charles to use the cash, and I’m sure plenty of it ends up with good charities, but it is still unfair and irrational. Much like the monarchy.

      1. You think the abdication crisis was worse than the Colonels rule in Greece or the Argentinian dirty war or Idi Amin after he pre-empted yet another government coup by Obote by carrying one out himself or the Ruanda genocide?
        Maybe that’s another gag?

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