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[P]
An Argument for British Republicanism

By DullTrev in Op-Ed
Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 04:34:17 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

British republicanism is an odd beast. It is torn between the constitutional, legal and moral arguments against the present monarchical system, and the personal arguments against the present monarchy. (N.B. By republicanism, I mean the desire to have an elected head of state, and not a monarchy, and not the US political movement of the same name.)

This article will be an examination of the non-personal argument, though, as and when necessary, hypothetical misconduct by a monarch will be discussed, with the full knowledge that these events are sometimes very unlikely, sometimes likely, and sometimes have occurred in the past.

I will not be covering in this article the movements to a republic by other Commonwealth countries that still retain the UK monarch as their head of state (e.g. Canada, Australia), as I believe that is a question for the citizens of those countries, and not myself. It will also not cover what should replace the present system, but merely point out the problems with the present one.


The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy; that is, it is not an absolute monarchy, where the monarch's word is law, but one where the monarch's powers are limited to an extent by a constitution built up from many separate documents, by custom, and by precedent. The experience of this transition in the UK has been a relatively calm one, in contrast to many European countries, with the notable exception of the Civil War.

Section 1: What rights does the monarch have?

In theory, the monarch of the United Kingdom has the absolute right to rule. The Crown is the only institution with the power to rule, and the people of the UK are not citizens of the UK, but rather subjects of the Crown. They do not have any actual rights by law, they have rights that the Crown sees fit to grant.

In practice the Crown gave up it's right to absolute rule in the 1689 Bill of Rights, which, while not granting any rights to the people, did grant certain rights to Parliament.

The rights that the Crown has now include:

  • The oath of loyalty - public servants, members of the armed forces, and the police all swear on oath of loyalty to the monarch.

  • The right to be consulted, 'advise and warn' - the monarchy has the right to advise and warn the government. The Prime Minister meets with the monarch on a regular (often weekly) basis but the proceedings of the meetings are secret.

  • The Queen's Speech - the monarch visits the House of Lords at the start of every parliamentary session to read this speech, which sets out the bills that will be put forward that session by 'Her Majesty's Government'. However, this speech is now written by the government, leaving the monarch to a purely ceremonial role.

  • The power to enact legislation - all legislation must receive the royal assent before it can become law, i.e. it will pass through the Houses of Parliament, but is not a law until the monarch agrees to it. No monarch has refused to sign a bill since 1707, but the right still exists.

  • The Royal Prerogative is, essentially, the rights that the monarch has that have in reality been passed to the Government of the day. The Royal Prerogative will be considered in a later section.

Section 2: What do these powers amount to?

In general, the powers the monarch holds are minor and mainly ceremonial. However, the power to enact legislation has the potential to be a major problem in the future, if Parliament ever passed a bill found by the monarch to be impossible for him/her to sign. An important consideration is the oath of loyalty. The oath is a personal oath to the monarch, and commands loyalty to them, and not to Parliament or the country. Thus, in a theoretical conflict between Parliament and the Crown, public servants, members of the armed services and the police would owe their loyalty to the Crown. While it is unlikely that a civil war would ever again occur in the UK, it is not completely impossible to imagine a situation where Parliament passes a bill which the Crown does not give royal assent to, and that the police therefore do not enforce.

However, this is a forced example. In reality, it is unlikely to the point of impossibility that the monarch would exercise these powers to the detriment of the government of the day. At this point, these issues pass from legal and constitutional arguments to moral ones, and this will be covered later.

Section 3: The Royal Prerogative - powers passed to government.

The Royal Prerogative is a catch-all term applied to a variety of powers. These powers are transferred to the Government of the day. The Government is the executive, and comprises of Ministers, Secretaries of State and, of course, the Prime Minister. These roles are fulfilled by MPs (members of the House of Commons, i.e. elected members of Parliament), in general, though sometimes by members of the House of Lords. The Government is answerable to Parliament, in general, but the Royal Prerogative powers can be exercised without reference to Parliament. The powers generally covered by the term Royal Prerogative are discussed below.

The power to choose the Prime Minister.

When the need arises, most often after a General Election, the monarch calls the leader of the political party with the most seats in the House of Commons and invites him/her to form a government. The monarch would never call someone else, as the public outcry would be incredible. However, in a hung parliament1, the monarch would have to show some discretion on who to call, essentially choosing, after the public have voted, who is to run the country.

The power to appoint and award honours.

The decision about honours, peerages and bishoprics is made by government and passed to the monarch who then conducts the relevant ceremonies. The government also tells the monarch who to appoint as a Minister, unsurprisingly. The government also chooses who to appoint as judges, magistrates and other holders of public office.

The power to approve the dissolution of Parliament.

The monarch decides when to dissolve Parliament and call an election, on the Prime Minister's advice. In practice, this allows the Prime Minister to choose the date of an election to his/her greatest benefit (as long as it is called within 5 years of the last one). It is unlikely the monarch would refuse to dissolve Parliament, but if Parliament could form another government without one (e.g. in a hung Parliament) an election may be refused.

The power to sign treaties.

The government can sign treaties without checking with Parliament, though it should get Parliamentary approval afterwards. An example of the difficulties this can cause was shown by the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. The government of the day had already signed this treaty, but due to a number of their backbenchers being opposed to the treaty, it looked possible that the government would be defeated. Some members of the government stressed they did not actually need Parliamentary approval, due to the Royal Prerogative, but this did not eventually come to pass, with the government linking the passage of the motion to a 'Vote of Confidence' at a time when many of their backbenchers felt unwilling to face the electorate once more.

The power to declare war.

Perhaps of most interest at the moment is the power of the government to declare war without seeking approval from Parliament. This was used during the first Gulf war, and Parliament was only asked to approve the action four days later. They did so.

However, it is not impossible to imagine a situation in which war is declared and Parliament does not give it's approval. It is unknown what would happen at this point - as noted above, the armed services swear an oath to the monarch, in whose name war is declared. The opposition of Parliament may prove to be irrelevant.

All countries grant their government prerogative powers to a greater or lesser extent. The question is if the prerogative powers the UK government has received from the crown are too sweeping. The powers listed here would allow a government to declare and fight a war and then sign a peace treaty all without needing to seek Parliamentary approval. A UK government can choose who goes into the House of Lords, the second chamber of the UK democracy, meaning while one chamber, the House of Commons, is elected, the other is (following the removal of the majority of hereditary peers) chosen by the government of the day - the difference being, of course, peers are members of the House of Lords for life.

The Royal Prerogative is a handy veil for the Prime Minister of the day. It means he or she can wield extraordinary power, despite there never being a vote for him personally to be in that role. Essentially, the members of the political party the Prime Minister is a member of have chosen who will be Prime Minister from within their party, with no maximum number of terms of office. The handing of this amount of power to someone who has no popular mandate in that role is a worrying consequence of the present system.

This is a legal and constitutional argument against a monarchy. The powers that the Prime Minister exercises in the monarch's name need to be controlled more. At present, there is no real oversight of powers used, and this inevitably causes tension between the government and Parliament. These powers should therefore be tied down in some form of constitutional document, and this obviously means they are removed from the present head of state, essentially removing the monarch's role as head of state.

Section 4: The Moral Argument

The moral argument against a monarchy is, for me, a very simple one - I refuse to accept that anyone can automatically be my ruler because of the family they are born into. It is an expression of the democratic ideal - "that all men are created equal". For a country that wishes to call itself a democracy to have an unelected hereditary head of state seems to me to be farcical. In addition to this, the perpetuation of this system naturally leads to important effects in society. By saying that one family is superior to all others, you are creating a system that reinforces the habitual deference of the British subject - too often the population of Britain will blindly accept what is told them by those in authority, something which I believe is fundamentally harmful to any free society.

The social structure of the UK is still very much dependant on class - be that working class, middle class, etc. The names may have changed, e.g. "socially excluded", but the classes are still there. If we want to change this structure, and move to a more egalitarian model, then the obvious first step would be to remove the class at the very top, the royal class. The removal of the monarch as the head of state will not achieve this on it's own, but would be the starting point.

I, personally, also cannot understand how any nation can take seriously one that is a constitutional monarchy - neither one thing, or another. Despite having lived in the UK all of my life, I still find our form of government vaguely surreal, and cannot believe that other nations do not feel the same way.

In conclusion, I would like to say that republicans are not arguing for the the sovereign of the UK to be dragged down to the level of subjects, but for the subjects of the crown to be raised to the level of sovereigns - to truly create a system where the people, collectively, are sovereign, and able to decide their own fate, and their own leaders.

Footnote

1. A hung parliament is one in which no party holds an overall majority (more than 326 seats).

Acknowledgements

Thanks to the people who commented on the draft versions in my diary.
Thanks to Charter88 for their page with information on the powers of the crown.

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Poll
Should the UK be a republic?
o Yes 36%
o No 12%
o Royalist swine, your neck shall feel the bite of mine axe! 17%
o Roundhead scum, I shall cleave thee from nose to navel! 33%

Votes: 57
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Civil War
o 1689 Bill of Rights
o 1
o Charter88
o powers of the crown
o Also by DullTrev


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An Argument for British Republicanism | 99 comments (93 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
Thought-provoking article (4.37 / 8) (#3)
by TheophileEscargot on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 12:24:25 PM EST

You make a good case for republicanism. On paper it does seem absurd that British democracy is simply a tradition a couple of centuries old, and that in theory the Queen or King could exercise dictatorial powers.

In practice, though, you have to ask what difference it really makes.

Taking a look at the real world in the last couple of centuries, it's not hard to find certain republics that in spite of impeccably moral written constitutions, have nonetheless allowed slavery for people with the wrong colour skin, or interned large numbers of their citizens for dubious reasons in wartime, or drifted into "unofficial" wars in spite of being technically obliged to vote for war, or have drifted in and out of democracy and tyranny, or have maintained a permanent underclass of disenfranchised immigrants... while throughout all this Britain has combined liberty with unique stability.

Certainly on K5 it's easy to find those who fetishize constitutional bits of paper, as though a few strokes of ink are enough to safeguard democracy. No written constitution can guarantee freedom if the people are apathetic or frightened. Real power comes from numbers, wealth, civil disobedience. Conversely, consider the poll tax protests under Thatcher, where the tax had to be abandoned after numbers too vast to prosecute refused to pay it. No matter how powerful the government is in theory, if the people refuse to obey it, it cannot stand. No matter how strong a constitution, that constitution can be redefined into irrelevance.

Again when it comes to ruling classes, it's hard to see how this change would seriously affect them. Again, it's not hard to think of certain pure republics where the leaders' surnames are often curiously similar.

So, the advantage of a constitutional monarchy is that it is realistic. It's a constant reminder that there is always a ruling class that has to be restrained, and that liberty only exists as long as it is fought for.

When all's said and done, a written constitution is just a figleaf, which can conceal a degree of tyranny as well as freedom. Better to see the naked realities of power instead ;-)
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death

Executive Council and Legislative (5.00 / 2) (#30)
by cam on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 05:58:21 PM EST

In practice, though, you have to ask what difference it really makes.

The biggest problem with the Westminster system and it paying lip service to a ceremonial monarch as the executive means that the Executive Council is drawn from the legislative. The Executive council is headed by the Prime Minister and contains a few select other senior ministers like the Foreign Minister and Treasurer. The lawmakers, budget makers and law passers are subsequently in the same house(legislative). In the Westminster system only the Senate is the check against the executive which is by convention, the combined power of the legislative and executive council.

The other problem is, the paying of lip service to a monarch pollutes being able to interpret a constitution literally. Most of the Westminster system is based on conventions and past behaviour. In the 1975 dismissal of Gough Whitlam in Australia, it was the failure of conventions to be adhered to that caused the supply bill to be blocked. Malcolm Fraser soon after getting into power put those conventions into law so they had to be adhered to.

In Australia's case an explicit reading of the Australian Constitution suggests that the Governor General is the Executive and the head of Government. In reality it is the Executive Council which holds the executive power and the Governor General is ceremonial and for rubber stamping legislation.

The Constitution is the highest law of the land and should be able to be read explicitly and meaningfully. Paying lip service to a monarch pollutes the highest document of law in the nation. I agree with the author, the problems mentioned in the article extend to all countries that use some form of the Westminster and who pay lip service to a monarch.

The Washington system is superior to any current permutation of the Westminster system. It is a post Westminster system, so it is to be expected. Australia had the chance in 1901 to choose a post-Washington system, instead they chose a Washminster-mutation. Australia would have been better served wdivesting its constitution of any mention of a monarchial executive and left democracy in the hand of Australians.

One of my British friends believed that even getting a referendum on a british republic would mean the monarchy had lost. Once there was one, there would be another, and another until the idea of a republic was fully accepted and a referendum would pass. Here's hoping Britain gets their first referendum on a republic sooner than later.

cam
Freedom, Liberty, Equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]

Interesting (none / 0) (#63)
by TheophileEscargot on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 06:44:54 AM EST

But I got the impression the article was focussed mainly on the abolition of the monarchy. Now, the UK doesn't have completely separate legislative and executive branches; but I don't see that that is inconsistent with a constitutional monarch. You could have as many opposing branches of government as you want, but still have a symbolic monarch: it's a separate issue.
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]
Constitution (none / 0) (#71)
by cam on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 07:15:03 AM EST

But I got the impression the article was focussed mainly on the abolition of the monarchy.

The problem with the Westminster Constitutional Monarchy is that the Executive (the Queen) is made politically impotent in practice as modern socities dont want any political interference from a monarch. And quite rightly too. The symbolic monarch pollutes the system, the executive has a valid political role in a government.

The maintaining the facade of a monarch, especially through a constitution inherently weakens the system by having a non politically active executive. Worse the actual application of executive power ends up being in the legislative. This is the best reason to ensure that a monarchy has no part in a political system whatsoever.

but still have a symbolic monarch: it's a separate issue.

There is some bloke in Western Australia who has calimed sovereignty over a small patch of land and proclaimed himself King of that land. Apparently he gets into trouble with the Australian Post Office a fair bit for printing his own stamps.

I dont care who calls themselves King or Queen. I dont want them in a Constitution as Head of State or as the Executive for practical reasons of concentration of power in the legislative. I also dont want them in the Constitution for wider reasons of equity and egalatarianism.

In Australia's case it is also wrong that no Australian can aspire to be the Australian Head of State. Currently an English woman is. That is very wrong and needs to be addressed. Hopefully a British Republic will allow any Brit to aspire to be the British Head of State as well.

cam
Freedom, Liberty, Equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]

Australian British President (none / 0) (#72)
by kesuari on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 07:24:38 AM EST

In Australia's case it is also wrong that no Australian can aspire to be the Australian Head of State. Currently an English woman is. That is very wrong and needs to be addressed. Hopefully a British Republic will allow any Brit to aspire to be the British Head of State as well.

If Britain became a republic before Australia, we (Australia) would, I understand, have the British President as our Sovereign. Because this is written into our Constitution (that is, our sovereign/monarch being that of the UK), we would need to go through a referendum. If the Referendum's proposal was bad and failed, we could conceivably be stuck with the British President as our monarch for some time.

Hopefully any Australian could aspire to it too, as long as we still borrowed our HoS, and, if the President was chosen by general election, any Australian could vote, too.

[ Parent ]

Hmmm (none / 0) (#74)
by TheophileEscargot on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 07:44:51 AM EST

The maintaining the facade of a monarch, especially through a constitution inherently weakens the system by having a non politically active executive
Well, the monarch may historically have been an "executive branch", but can't really be considered to be one today. You could still reform the system to have a separate, elected executive branch and still retain the monarch for ceremonial and symbolic purposes.

I don't really see how a monarch "pollutes the system." As I see it, the aspects of the system you dislike are a different issue to that of the monarchy.
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

State Sanctioning (none / 0) (#88)
by cam on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 01:24:11 PM EST

I don't really see how a monarch "pollutes the system." As I see it, the aspects of the system you dislike are a different issue to that of the monarchy.

If the monarchy has no state sanctioned or supported role in the nation then they are just a bunch of Mrs Bucket's wishing for better days and the equal of that bloke in Western Australia who prints his own stamps. That is fine by me, they will just be ordinary people claiming to a heritage. As long as it institutionalised through the state and it is their personal claim to the heritage.

cam
Freedom, Liberty, Equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]

Figleafs (3.00 / 2) (#40)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 07:19:11 PM EST

Figleafs - like not having the cojones to say "U.S." when you want to bash the country?

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Indeed (5.00 / 1) (#61)
by TheophileEscargot on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 06:35:30 AM EST

Yes, indeed: I just don't have that rare and tremendous courage needed to insult strangers over the Internet.

Actually, I was thinking of other republics as well: for instance the French Fifth Republic (if republics are so great, why didn't they stick with one of the first four?); and modern Germany, where you can be be classed as a non-citizen in spite of your family having lived there for generations.

This article isn't about "bashing the US", it's about the relative merits of pure republicanism versus a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. If you want a "US = teh suck" argument, try someone else... plenty of people will oblige.
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]

Germany (none / 0) (#80)
by linca on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 08:30:54 AM EST

Actually, Germany adopted a new citizenship law a few years ago, making it possible for people born in Germany to gain citizenship.

And the main reason we had five Republics in France was, apart from a tendency for those regime to meet a fateful end to war or putsch, is that it is only with the fifth that we have moved far away enough from the parliamentary regime, where the president held about as much power as the Queen in Britain.

One of the weakness in a parliamentary monarchy is that the Queen has no authority if the parliament  simply cannot decide who will be its leader ; a problem that seldom arise in a biparty country like  the UK, but that happened more often in a place like France.

[ Parent ]

Beacon of peace and stability (3.00 / 1) (#49)
by skerlick on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 02:09:48 AM EST

First of all, I can't believe that any British subject can compare the history of HRM's and US foreign policy with a glowering smirk of disdain.
impeccably moral written constitutions, have nonetheless allowed slavery for people with the wrong colour skin
Come on! These morals came from you people! It just took much longer to make a change with the people than for the people.

This sharply ridiculous point of view that someone (maybe even them) knows what's best for all and thus should be allowed to speak for everyone is exactly what's wrong with most other forms of government. Whether it be one of the European elected oligarchies or one of the junta fueled dictatorships of the world, there is simply no substitute for directly elected governments when it comes to a true standard of freedom. Yes, mass media has a grip on Americans; No, Americans are not perfect and probably not as well educated as possible. But, Americans are protected by people's willingness to adhere to that "paper" as a guideline. Often, the opinion of the masses disagrees with the educated elite in one way or the other, but it is their freedom to be "wrong".

Your point of view is that there is a strict code of morals to be followed and that deviation is "tyranny"?

You are right that liberties exist as long as they are fought for but where is your line to know when it is crossed?

[ Parent ]
You misunderstand me (5.00 / 1) (#68)
by TheophileEscargot on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 06:56:17 AM EST

Whether it be one of the European elected oligarchies or one of the junta fueled dictatorships of the world, there is simply no substitute for directly elected governments when it comes to a true standard of freedom.
I'm not arguing for a traditional dictatorial monarchy, but a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. This is still essentially democratic: a directly elected parliament has all the power.
These morals came from you people! It just took much longer to make a change with the people than for the people.
Uh, right. Any bad actions of the post-Independence US were all the fault of the British. Sure.
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]
-1 (1.45 / 11) (#4)
by FuriousXGeorge on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 12:26:44 PM EST

Too UK-Centric.

--
-- FIELDISM NOW!

Rated 1 (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by Trencher on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 02:18:28 PM EST

Too you-centric.


"Arguing online is like the Special Olympics. It doesn't matter if you win or lose, you're still a retard." RWR
[ Parent ]
Well duh (2.75 / 4) (#54)
by MrYotsuya on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 04:01:05 AM EST

The word "British" is in the title. A lot of stories that are supposedly about the world at large, but are mostly about americans are deemed "too US-centric". It's totally different.

[ Parent ]
The monarchs powers (5.00 / 5) (#5)
by bil on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 12:32:02 PM EST

No monarch has refused to sign a bill since 1707, but the right still exists.

Apparently this is far less to do with the monarchy bowing to the will of the people and far more to do with those weekly chats with the prime minister in which anything that the monarch disagrees with is discussed and policy is changed in accordance.

[The queens speech] is now written by the government, leaving the monarch to a purely ceremonial role.

Again anything the monarch would refuse to read out has been removed before hand.

The power to appoint and award honours

This may seem ceromonial, but more then one bill has been passed by tht elected government, with the support of the monarchy, to flood the house of lords (the second, appointed, chamber of the UK parliment) with their supporters and so render the dissenters a minority (the original act to form the Police Force was passed because the prime minister, Robert Peel, threatend to appoint 50 of his supporters to the Lords to give himself the majority needed, the existing Lords conceded on this one issue toi maintain their power on other issues)

Also, because the monarch has the power to disolve parliment and call a general election, not only can she (or he) force a general election to occur at any time she can also allow a parliment to continue beyond its 5 year term, which is (I belive) how come the last liberal government lasted 8 years (extended to prevent the calling of a general election during the middle of world war one).

The monarch has a huge amount of power, the fact that it is so seldomly used openly is due to the reluctance of all sids to make disagreements public.

I am a republican though so take what I say with as much salt as required.

bil

bil
Where you stand depends on where you sit...

A thought (4.50 / 2) (#6)
by jd on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 12:47:47 PM EST

In any functional system, you need checks and balances. The loss of any checks and balances in the USA is the reason why the current administration is hell-bent on becoming an absolute dictatorship.

The UK system, in which you have three tiers of power (the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the British Crown) has its flaws, certainly. It's by no means perfect, and improvements can always be made.

However, by having representitives of different interest groups have a voice, such that no interest group has the power to skew the selection of another interest group in their favour, and where no one group can ever accumulate total power, it is definitely superior to an all-elected system.

At least, in theory. In practice, Mrs Thatcher turned the entire honors system into a Conservative fund-raising movement. Buy your knighthoods here! 150,000 a throw! It resulted in the House of Lords becoming so badly skewed that its function as a check against absolute power in the Commons failed.

But this isn't a fault of the concept, but rather of the implementation.

The US would not be sliding rapidly towards a potentially nuclear conflict, an almost certain double-recession, and a guaranteed Theocratic totalitarian regime, if other groups had the power to stand up and say "NO!"

But, they don't. The Senate and Presidency are elected, and the President then picks the judges who decide if his actions are lawful. If the turnout is low, or ballot boxes "go missing" (as happened in the last two sets of US elections), then the results can be hand-picked by the crooked.

It's happened before. The number of US elections decided by corruption vastly outnumber those decided by the people of the United States. And I can't really condemn President Bush from taking full advantage of the situation to push his religious beliefs and his specific flavour of fundamentalism. He's only human, and that kind of total power does corrupt totally.

No, whether Britain keeps its monarchy or not, it does NOT need that kind of power to be in the hands of anybody.

Minimal difference between Monarch/President (3.00 / 1) (#7)
by spreerpg on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 12:57:09 PM EST

I refuse to accept that anyone can automatically be my ruler because of the family they are born into
Yet how is it very different in a republican or even democratic system? Yes, the number of families that can take power grows a bit, but if you aren't of the proper social/economic class you still haven't a chance. Take a look at the political system of the US, as someone once said, "I can vote for whatever rich man I want." To my eye, while a bit better than having a monarch ruling over you, it is not much better.



---
You can kill me, but you can't eat me!
A point that has to be made: (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by tkatchev on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 05:50:11 PM EST

Monarchy doesn't necessarily mean "hereditary monarchy".

In Western Europe that has always been the case, but this is only a strange artifcat of European history, nothing more.

Russian history, for example, probably has more non-hereditary kings than hereditary ones. Several have even been elected by popular vote, so there really isn't such a big dichotomy between democracy and monarchy.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

yeah (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by adequate nathan on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 06:18:48 PM EST

The 'electors' elected the Holy Roman Emperor, the Polish nobility elected the king, and the Hungarians and Romanians* elected most of their monarchs too.

* note - during certain periods, you had to buy the right to run from the Turkish government, but still.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

Even in Western Europe ... (5.00 / 2) (#62)
by Simon Kinahan on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 06:35:46 AM EST

... the hereditary nature of Monarchy has tended to be rather tenuous. England, for example, had very few straightforward successions between the start of the Wars of the Roses and the succession of the Hannoverians more than 250 years later.

During the Wars of the Roses people tended to succeed by force or political manouvering. The guy who came out on top (Henry Tudor - Henry VII) had a very tenuous claim indeed. Henry VIII succeed his father, but proceeded to have three acknowledged heirs by different mothers and probably a whole hoard of illegitmate offspring. Due to religious and marital conflict, the children (Mary, Elizabeth and Edward) were variously disinherited at different times.

Edward succeeded first, became the puppet of a Calvinist cabal, tried to pass the throne to his cousin (Lady Jane Grey) to avoid its passing to his Catholic half-sister, Mary. That spawned a rebellion, Lady Jane abdicated, and Mary succeeded. She married a Spaniard and made England a Spanish sattelite in all but name, but died without issue, leaving the throne to Elizabeth. Elizabeth managed to find a compromise position in the religious conflict, but an important aspect of this was her not marrying, so she died without an heir, leaving the throne to her Scottish cousin, James Stewart (James VI/I), who had no particular title to it.

James left the throne to his son, Charles I, but, of course, he was overthrown in the civil war and executed. Cromwell eventually took on the powers of the monarch as Lord Protector, and left the position to his son. However, he restored the crown to Charles Stewart's son, Charles II. His son, James II, managed to succeed peacefully, and showed every sign of dieing without issue, until, at the last minute, he had a son. This was unfortunate. James wife was Catholic and parliament suspected his son would be too, and this upset the arrangement they had already come to with another distant relative: William of Orange, King of Holland, who had married (another) Mary Stuart.

So they decided to take William on anyway, and "persuaded" James to "abdicate". William and Mary ruled as co-monarchs, and left the throne to their daughter Ann, but Ann died without an heir. Having completely exhausted the protestant branches of the Stewart line, parliament picked, more or less at random, the electors of Hannover as successors, because they were protestant, they only spoke German, and there were lots of them.  

I make it roughly 50-50 between smooth successions and those that were contested, controversial, or to distant relatives. Where there was any degree of ambiguity, or the obvious successor was unsuitable (ie. too Catholic, too Protestant, or mad), it was the aristocracy, and later parliament, that stepped in sorted things out.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

An alternative system (4.00 / 1) (#8)
by jd on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 01:07:01 PM EST

It's all fine and good to critisise a system that doesn't work, or has flaws, but it's only so much hot air and bluster, if there aren't any viable alternatives. You might as well condemn the moon for being the wrong shape, if you can't/won't do anything about it.

So... Here's one alternative to the existing British system, which honors my other post on the need for totally independent checks and balances, where cross-corruption is impossible.

My suggestion is to multi-thread the second house, and replace it with a selected jury, rather than an elected or appointed group, although officials would still be needed.

What do I mean with multi-threaded? What I mean is that every bill, every issue under discussion, is examined and "tried" by a different jury. The purpose of the officials (whether elected or appointed) would be to argue the merits/demerits of the case, in much the same way as a legal trial, with the lobby groups acting as "expert witnesses".

The jury can then either find the bill "innocent" (ie: acceptable), or "guilty" (ie: vetoed), based on the evidence they heard.

How is this a better system than an elected body? Well, we've taken the power out of the lobby groups, for a start. Each group has a voice, regardless of money or status, but no more than that. They can't buy votes, in this kind of a system.

We've also taken out ballot rigging. Sure, corrupt officials can still poison the jury pool, but remember that the "Prosecutor" and "Defence" have the right to veto a juror for bias.

We've taken out power-plays. Because a jury sits in for one case, there isn't the time for power to corrupt, at least to the same degree. Also, for much the same reason, bills in parallel don't face a single group. You have to persuade more people of your case.

Lastly, we've taken out techniques such as filibustering, in which a bill is deliberately over-run to kill it off. Here, all bills get the right to be heard, discussed, and voted on. No side can abuse the clock to kill ideas they don't like.

This is not the first time I've suggested this idea, and it probably won't be the last. Democracy is demonstrably the best political system in use today, but representational democracy (which rarely represents anyone but the representitive's paymaster) is by far the most corrupt of all models of democracy.

Unfortunately, total democracy (which the Ancient Greeks used) is unworkable for even a modern city, never mind a country of 60 million+ (in the case of Britain) or 200 million+ (in the case of the USA). Many officials regard themselves as "career politicians", rather than public servents. What's needed is an alternative system that preserves the benefits of democracy, without the high price-tags of corruption and corporate control.

The "total democracy" of the Ancient Gre (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by tkatchev on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 05:47:11 PM EST

...was founded on a slave-holding society. Slavery, in fact, was the key factor that allowed Hellenic democracy to work.

I'm not quite sure that is what you want.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Can you explain? (none / 0) (#90)
by maw on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 08:31:07 PM EST

This sounds fairly adhominem, but perhaps it is not. Can you expound a bit?
--
I have no idea what you're talking about, but that's ok, since you don't either.
[ Parent ]
Uh OK. (none / 0) (#98)
by tkatchev on Fri Jan 24, 2003 at 08:16:32 AM EST

The Athenian democracy was open only to "citizens".

"Citizens" in this case were the upper few percent of the priviledged classes, who lead lives of complete luxury and leisure.

The actual functioning of Athenian society was enabled by large numbers of slaves, who were treatd not much better than cattle. (Though not to the extremes that slavery later reached in the United States.)

Then again, this model of society seems very close to the original design of the American "Founding Fathers"...

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

The UK should file its application for... (4.14 / 7) (#9)
by the on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 01:33:57 PM EST

...membership of the Union as the 51st State. Britain has no real desire to be part of Europe and would fit much more naturally within a union of English speaking states with which it shares values and culture. The UK has plenty to gain - many economic advantages for example. The US would gain a foothold off the shores of Europe. It would heal a two century old rift. Britain, as its own state, would not have to competely surrender sovereignty, something that I suspect many Britons don't appreciate.

There are some interesting issues that would have to be dealt with: driving on the wrong side of the road, weights and measures, spelling and so on.

And it'd be fun to see how Greater America would handle Northern Ireland.

--
The Definite Article

Sovereignty (none / 0) (#19)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 03:49:49 PM EST

The idea might have worked under the Articles of Confederation or maybe until the Civil War or thereabouts, but after then the idea of U.S. states having any sort of sovereignty was about gone and it has only gotten further and further away.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Economic advantages? (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by DullTrev on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 06:58:55 PM EST

What would those be, precisely? The UK's trade is dominated massively by trade with the EU, with 58.9% of all exports going there. The US (going from memory) accounts for about 15% of our trade. This makes it the largest single country we trade with, but is nothing compared to the EU as a whole.

If, however, the US wishes to heal a centuries old rift, they are perfectly welcome to request to return to colony status. We wouldn't mind, really. We might even let you have elections.


--
DullTrev - used to be interesting. Honest.
[ Parent ]
Trade (none / 0) (#43)
by the on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 08:00:52 PM EST

The US (going from memory) accounts for about 15% of our trade
That's kinda my point. It could be higher.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
Er... (none / 0) (#77)
by DullTrev on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 08:02:20 AM EST

But why would we cause difficulty with an area we have more than half of our trade with, to go to one that might, possibly, maybe, increase from 15%?

The basic point is that trade with Europe is always going to bigger than trade with the US, for the simple reason that it's a lot easier for us to get stuff to the EU than to the US.


--
DullTrev - used to be interesting. Honest.
[ Parent ]
UK straddles the pond (ouch) (none / 0) (#37)
by Three Pi Mesons on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 07:00:05 PM EST

Britain has much in common with Europe.
Britain has much in common with the USA.

Both of these are true. For a long time, the UK has been very, very carefully keeping itself positioned precisely between Europe and the USA. Save for a few wobbles, we've been evenhanded with both blocs - that way, we can be friends with everyone, and our unique position in the political mid-Atlantic makes us diplomatically invaluable.

Britain will never become the 51st state - that would alienate our European allies. Likewise, the government has been holding back on European integration, partly so as not to upset our American friends.

With Tony Blair being so pro-American right now, my guess is that he'll mount a major Europe-related campaign soonish, to bring the balance back. You read it here first!


:: "Every problem in the world can be fixed with either flowers, or duct tape, or both." - illuzion
[ Parent ]

And it'd be fun to see how Greater America would.. (none / 0) (#39)
by cowbutt on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 07:17:08 PM EST

...handle Northern Ireland

Presumably, it would accuse President McAleese of being another member of the 'Axis of Evil', of supporting terrorism and send overwhelming military force in an attempt to stop the domino toppling into NI and the mainland. ;-)

Uh, thanks for the kickstart Clinton gave the peace process, but I think we'll take it from here, guys... ;-)

[ Parent ]

51, 52, 53 and maybe 54 (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by rhino1302 on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 07:36:38 PM EST

I guess England, Wales and Scotland could all be their own states. Northern Ireland is a potential deal-breaker though - It's a Puerto Rico on the other side of the Atlantic.

At ~49 million, England would be the largest state by a good bit - California is only around 34 million. Scotland would come in at #16, between Indiana and Washington. Wales would be #30, between Oklahoma and Oregon. Northern Ireland would be #38 between Utah and Nevada.

An extra added benefit would be a better Census website. The UK one sucks big time.



[ Parent ]
Too late (none / 0) (#55)
by andymurd on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 04:30:19 AM EST

"Britain ... would fit much more naturally within a union of English speaking states with which it shares values and culture".

You mean like the commonwealth?

[ Parent ]

After all, it's worked so well for Mexico (none / 0) (#56)
by salsaman on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 04:34:04 AM EST

n/t

[ Parent ]
I'd vote for that (none / 0) (#78)
by Rogerborg on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 08:06:27 AM EST

If it meant I could get DVDs without having to wait 3 months and pay twice the price for Region 2.

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

Airstrip One [n/t] (none / 0) (#97)
by epepke on Thu Jan 23, 2003 at 10:11:34 PM EST


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Extremely Sceptical (4.66 / 3) (#10)
by bc on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 01:50:22 PM EST

The Constitution of the United Kingdom has evolved in a very particular direction. It separates power from authority. The importance of this for the stability of the Realm cannot be emphasised to much. What are the other solutions? Most commonly, power and authority derive from the same source. I can't imagined a Presidential system where the President has his own jet and huge mansion and estates and commands the armed forces and everybody grovels to him as "Yes sir Mr President yes Sir." It would be awful, and in most countries it has been tried in (the US being an exception) downright dangerous, because having the army, civil service, and so on swearing loyalty to a politician is a very bad idea, because very occasionally, during hard national times, you get politicians who can use this to their advantage, to create a cult of personality. Authority and Power deriving from the same source is the ideal of anyone with fascist ambitions. You can bet that the Spanish were glad, during the military coup in the 70's, that thier police and armed services owed allegiance to the King, and not to parliament. The King's appeal to his armed services at that time saved Spain.

Thanks to the current Monarchical system, elected politicians have a subordinate position within the Constitution that they cannot hope to change. Any attempt to change the constitution, to, say, a European model (ugh, do I have to explain? Their constitutional systems are toilet roll), or an American one (here it can be argued that, despite their initial advantages as starting as a country of libertarians and spreading across a continent without real foreign threat, that the American constitution is these days a sham and that the average American is no more secure in their life, liberty and property as the average Briton, thanks to a militarised bureaucracy, civil asset forfeiture, etc) cannot be successful as the politicians would doubtless try to bend it to give them as many advantages as possible (this is the problem with European constitutions).

The social structure of the UK is still very much dependant on class - be that working class, middle class, etc. The names may have changed, e.g. "socially excluded", but the classes are still there. If we want to change this structure, and move to a more egalitarian model, then the obvious first step would be to remove the class at the very top, the royal class.

This doesn't make sense to me. I don't follow why a class structure can't be egalitarian, and you don't make any argument why the current class structure is unegalitarian.

It seems to me that an unegalitarian class strcture would have to be rigid and have impermeable barriers between the classes. This doesn't seem true in Britain, an hasn't been for hundreds of years. British history is studded with examples of barrow boys become Peers of the Realm. Unless you believe it is somehow morally desirable to force everybody to the same level, or believe that a classless society is in any way possible or even desirable, and somehow think that any society that uses class is inherently evil, I don't follow your arguments here.

Now, certainly there are problems with the Royalty as a class, in that they are recognised differently by the law and by the state quite differently from birth. The same is not true of any other class, though, and all the other classes are perfectly permeable and a mobile person can ascend or descend as he wishes, and does so. I can't imagine where people get off on trying to "abolish the class system" cos this is somehow "more egalitarian" (it isn't; it's just the use of force to further some retarded agenda), but never mind.

----

The true justification of our Monarchy is not that she is a nice person, or that the alternative Head of State is someone like Ken Livingstone, or that she is a tourist attraction who keeps the loaded Americans rolling into the Tower of London. The true justification is that the Queen is truly the living embodiment of our Nationhood. She is a symbol, the greatest symbol that preserves our connection with a freer and more glorious past. This side of revolution, she is the ultimate guarantor of the freedom that is our entailed birthright.

While there may be scepticism about the existance of God, so far as He exists, and so far as she does her constitutional duty, Her Majesty reigns over us all by His Grace. She is the lord's Anointed.

Even without a recomendation like that, I am proud to call myself both a libertarian and a loyal Subject.

♥, bc.

Anarcho-capitalism one day, now a fervent royalist (5.00 / 3) (#14)
by Phillip Asheo on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 02:30:17 PM EST

Have you been smoking bus-shelters again bc ?

--
"Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
-Earl Long
[ Parent ]

I have no doubt (5.00 / 1) (#15)
by bc on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 02:42:23 PM EST

that anarchocapitalism is the most Just state of affairs, but I'd still far rather be under a constitutional monarchy than some American style or European style constitution.

One has to make choices, in the real world. Realpolitik, you know.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Harhar (5.00 / 2) (#18)
by Glowbit on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 03:38:14 PM EST

He's an orangemen, of course he is a royalist.

[ Parent ]
Nice try (none / 0) (#76)
by Rogerborg on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 07:58:41 AM EST

But the persuasive argument is rather spoiled by the slip into the real agenda at the end.

Would you apply the same argument in support of a Roman Catholic monarch?

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

False Dichotomy (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by bafungu on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 02:13:58 PM EST

If you don't like the powers of the Crown, becoming a Republic isn't the only choice. You could simple strip away the remaining powers.

The King of Sweden, for example, signed away his last vestigal powers in 1974, and since then has been 100% ceremonial. This seems to keep both the power-to-the-people and the royalist-watcher factions happy.

Personally, I think getting rid of the first-past-the-post electoral system should be a higher priority for the UK than worrying about what harm Queen Lizzie could theoretically cause, but that's a whole different topic...

First past the post is great (3.66 / 3) (#13)
by Phillip Asheo on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 02:23:23 PM EST

Beacause the guy with the most votes wins!

Anything else risks fringe groups such as socialists, fascists and liberal democrats gaining undue influence over public policy.

--
"Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
-Earl Long
[ Parent ]

Good point (none / 0) (#16)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 02:45:43 PM EST

Having hundreds of parties in government doesn't look like a good thing (thinking of Israeli politics when I say this). On the other hand, there's got to be some mechanism to prevent the current "everybody pandering to the Lowest Common Denominator" approach that we have in the US and UK now.


--
"Your article (and I use that term losely) is just a ad-hominem filled rant from a right-wing extremist loony." - Psycho Les


[ Parent ]
reducto ad absurdum (none / 0) (#21)
by Phillip Asheo on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 05:07:23 PM EST

Why not have a parliament consisting of every single enfranchised adult ?

I imagine government would work pretty well with a 'weblog' model, similar to k5.

Anyone would be able to propose legislation (analgous to the story queue), and everyone could vote on it. If it gets enough votes, it becomes law (analagous to getting posted to the front page).

Of course there would need to be discussion, this could take place on the weblog.

We would probably need some form of Trusted Users to ensure nobody abused the legislative system though.

--
"Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
-Earl Long
[ Parent ]

unmanageable. (none / 0) (#23)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 05:22:41 PM EST

The whole reason for creating a "democratic republic" was that pure democracy doesn't scale up past the size of a small village...


--
"Your article (and I use that term losely) is just a ad-hominem filled rant from a right-wing extremist loony." - Psycho Les


[ Parent ]
I disagree fundamentally (none / 0) (#25)
by Phillip Asheo on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 05:44:15 PM EST

Look at switzerland for more information on this. The reason people think democracy doesn't scale is that there are some powerful people out there who stand to lose their power if we all realise that running a country is far from rocket science and is in fact, as Mrs Thatcher once observed, simple common sense a bit like managing a household.

--
"Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
-Earl Long
[ Parent ]

Right. (none / 0) (#86)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 09:57:00 AM EST

After all, Switzerland has more people than the US, right?


--
"Your article (and I use that term losely) is just a ad-hominem filled rant from a right-wing extremist loony." - Psycho Les


[ Parent ]
Ratifiers for Democracy (none / 0) (#79)
by cam on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 08:08:15 AM EST

Why not have a parliament consisting of every single enfranchised adult ?

The Ratifiers for Democracy put forth a direct rather than representational model during the debate and referendum on an Australian republic a few years ago. In essence the ratifiers replace the executivce and decide whether laws created by the House of Representatives and Senate become law. That style would suit the kuro5hin.org style of story voting very closely.

cam
Freedom, Liberty, Equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]

only... (none / 0) (#20)
by ShadowNode on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 04:53:34 PM EST

If people vote for them.

[ Parent ]
Tell that to (none / 0) (#24)
by Lochin Rabbar on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 05:27:25 PM EST

Al Gore, or Ted Heath if you want a British example.
--

"Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Prize", - Tom Lehrer
[ Parent ]

Ted Heath is precisely the kind of Socialist (none / 0) (#27)
by Phillip Asheo on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 05:49:01 PM EST

That the first past the post system is designed to exclude.

Heath and Blair are like peas in a pod. Both would give up anything to Europe in order to satisfy their vanity and/or lust for power.

--
"Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
-Earl Long
[ Parent ]

Since (none / 0) (#31)
by Lochin Rabbar on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 05:59:58 PM EST

both Heath and Blair are right wing authoritarians am I to assume you would consider Ghengis Khan a woolly minded liberal.
--

"Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Prize", - Tom Lehrer
[ Parent ]

Socialism and Liberalism (none / 0) (#34)
by bc on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 06:29:25 PM EST

Socialism is inherently authoritarian, depending as it does on the massive use of force to impose the social order preferred by a few "intellectuals".

Modern Liberalism, neoliberalism I suppose, not classical Liberalism, is much the same.

I would class Ted Heath as being more in the socialist camp. Yes, I know he was a Tory technically, but lets face it, he was a tory wet and supported wealth redistribution, the NHS, the EU, and all manner of frankly riduculous coercive schemes that he thought benefited his notion of "society" and thought he should impose on us all, while lying his head off to make the UKians accept it ("The EU is just a common market, nothing more" - wanker!).

Blair, meanwhile, is much more of a neoliberal type. He supports many of the same aims, but for different reasons. Mainly, naked ambition and lust for global power. nomatter what silly principles, be they sovereignty, democracy, or personal freedom, are squashed along the way.

The right stands for freedom from state oppression. I can't imagine how it is even possible to be both right wing and authoritarian.The values are mutually exclusive.

Popular usages may have people like Hitler down as "right wing", but frankly such notions don't meet any consistent schema for understanding politics, and were a slur of the (even worse) Stalinists so common around the world at that time, including among the British intellectual establishment.

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Read this... (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by cowbutt on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 07:08:48 PM EST

...from www.politicalcompass.org.

[ Parent ]
To find where you fit (none / 0) (#89)
by pin0cchio on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 02:20:36 PM EST

To find where you fit on the political compass, take this quiz. But note that the LP quiz inverts the y-axis of the graph, making y stand for amount of liberty rather than for amount of government regulation.


lj65
[ Parent ]
I beg to disagree. (none / 0) (#44)
by Lochin Rabbar on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 08:02:47 PM EST

Socialism is inherently authoritarian, depending as it does on the massive use of force to impose the social order preferred by a few "intellectuals".
Socialism is a term that is applied to a broad range of political positions, some like Marxist-Lenininism are indeed inherently authoritarian, others like democratic socialism are not. The former are more concerned with centralise control of the means of production and distribution, the latter are more concerned with the equalisation of power, and opportunity within society. The big difference between libertarian left and libertarian right positions is that one sees concentrarion of wealth as a threat to liberty and the other views it as a mere consequence of liberty. The Democrtic Socialist tradition is broadly a libertarian left position.
Modern Liberalism, neoliberalism I suppose, not classical Liberalism, is much the same.
I would say that neoliberalism is classical liberalism, the term neoliberalism being used to distinguish it from modern liberalism which evolved due to the failings of classical liberalism. If there is any differnce between neoliberalism and clasical liberalism it would probably be in the nature of their respective adherants. Classical liberalism was the product enquiring seventeenth century minds, people that sought an alternative to the tradition of monarchical tyranny. Neoliberalism seems to be motivated by eactionary conservatism.
I would class Ted Heath as being more in the socialist camp. Yes, I know he was a Tory technically, but lets face it, he was a tory wet and supported wealth redistribution, the NHS, the EU, and all manner of frankly riduculous coercive schemes that he thought benefited his notion of "society" and thought he should impose on us all, while lying his head off to make the UKians accept it ("The EU is just a common market, nothing more" - wanker!).
Heath may been a wet Tory but that hardly made him a socialist. It made him moderately right wing in an economic sense. He might have supported a mixed economy but he supported so called free enterprise with only a limited role for nationalisation. By the way the Treaty of Rome is largely a neoliberal document cobbled together by politicians to the right of centre, Heaths support for the EU can hardly be characterised as Socialist. Opposition to the EU comes from both the left and the right in British politics, with the centre tending to support Membership.
Blair, meanwhile, is much more of a neoliberal type. He supports many of the same aims, but for different reasons. Mainly, naked ambition and lust for global power. nomatter what silly principles, be they sovereignty, democracy, or personal freedom, are squashed along the way.
While I agree that Blair in his drift to the right has been influenced by neoliberalism, I would have to concede that Philip Asheo is correct when he identifies Heath and Blair as being very similar.
The right stands for freedom from state oppression. I can't imagine how it is even possible to be both right wing and authoritarian.The values are mutually exclusive.
I suggest that you take cowbutt's advice and read this.
Popular usages may have people like Hitler down as "right wing", but frankly such notions don't meet any consistent schema for understanding politics, and were a slur of the (even worse) Stalinists so common around the world at that time, including among the British intellectual establishment.
Hitler and Stalin were both extremely authoritarian, I could say that the charachterisation of Stalin as left wing was the slur of the even worse Nazis so common around the world at the time, including among the British royal family.
--

"Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Prize", - Tom Lehrer
[ Parent ]

Most votes wins? Hardly... (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by Repton on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 07:42:14 PM EST

Trivial example:

Seat 1
Party A: 10000
Party B: 9000

Seat 2
Party A: 10000
Party B: 9000

Seat 3
Party A: 1000
Party B: 10000

Results:
Party A: 2 seats, 21000 votes.
Party B: 1 seat, 28000 votes.

Party A wins and forms the government, despites not having the most votes...

(this has happened, on a larger scale, in New Zealand in the past)

MMP is an example of a system where (except possibly in very strange circumstances) the party with the most [party] votes does win... (where "win" means "gets the most seats in parliament [although not necessarily an absolute majority]")


--
Repton.
They say that only an experienced wizard can do the tengu shuffle..
[ Parent ]

That shows the beauty of FPTP (3.50 / 2) (#87)
by bc on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 12:26:41 PM EST

Each politician has a direct link to his constituents. His survival as a politician depends on his ability to satisfy the demands of the constituents who elected him.

Any attempt to change FTPT replaces this direct link with a party list system whereby the constituency link with the politician, the idea that the politician represents a defined group of constituents, is done away to be replaced with a list compiled by the party whereby politicians near the top are selected first, and those further down later.

Certainly this is "fairer" on a national level, in that the composition of the chamber ends up accurately reflecting the votes cast in the nation as a whole. But no longer is the primary loyalty of the politician to any constituency, to the voters - rather it is to the party bosses. he wants to rise up the list.

Voters fed up of a particular politician can no longer vote him out directly. Scalps like Chris Patten etc could no longer occur under the "fairer" PR system.

Here in Scotland we have a bodged PR/FPTP hybrid for the Scottish Parliament. Result? I have around 80 politicians representing me, 30 of them for the scottish parliament selected by the fucken party, about 25 for the European Union, selected by the fucken party and with loyalties directly to that party. The only politicians I have any real power over, the only politicians who'd be scared at my vote being transferred to somebody else in a very direct way, are the two that represent my constituency directly, for westminster and the Scottish parliament. The rest are loyal to party bosses.

It is interesting that you mention New Zealand. There, the new PR system is disliked enormously by the population, both because they well realise they do not have the direct control over their politicians they once did, and because the composition of their national chamber can never have a majority for one party or another, and must depends on coalitions.

Why are coalitions a bad thing? Because they are always the same! Imagine if this country was endlessly ruled by a labour/tory coalition, or a labour/lib dem coalition, forever and ever. That is what would happen. That is what has happened in other countries which have adopted PR.

New Zealand has suffered from having the same bloody coalition government for yonks under PR. Austria is a salent example of the dangers of PR, as it had the exact same government from 1945 till about the year 2000, made of - gasp! - a left/right coalition of some unearthly sort. Germany often suffers from the same government for 30 years or more twoo, under PR. Look at Kohl.

Anyway, what happens when you have a climate where the politicians are no longer directly responsible to any constituents, instead having direct loyalty to the party, where the government is very difficult for the voters to change? What happens then?

That's right. massive corruption, for one thing. Voters get highly fucked off. Eventually, they will throw their lot in with an extremist of one stripe or another - the Freedom party in Austria was brought in, by a desperate populace, to address the endemic corruption in the Austrian civil service and government.

What else happens under such an awful system? That's right, total contempt for the wishes of the population. There's a reason why the governments of Europe have been able to steamroll in legislation to bring those countries into Europe, to have them abandon their currencies, and so on, without even asking their people in a referendum if they want it or not! What, 70% of Germans were opposed to the Deutschmark going. No matter, because under PR, parties don't give a flying fuck what the population at large thinks. The same is true across the rest of Europe.

The conclusion is very simple. FPTP is MUCH fairer, and leads to a proper connection between politician and the voters, and allows for a government that can be easily and swiftly replaced.

PR, however, is adored by third parties (the lib dems) out of selfish reasons of selfishness, and adored by unthinking fucking retards who look at the surface of an issue, make swift and jeapordising conlusions that would vastly worsen the problems they complain of, then start campaigning that we all adopt them, holding up Europe as a wonderful example of modernity.

Dickheads!

♥, bc.
[ Parent ]

Aye sure! (5.00 / 2) (#91)
by Lochin Rabbar on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 10:16:14 PM EST

Each politician has a direct link to his constituents. His survival as a politician depends on his ability to satisfy the demands of the constituents who elected him.

A favourite line trotted out by politicians who enjoy the job security that the first past the post system brings them. It is, of course, a complete and utter lie. Of the current 650 seats in the UK parliament over 400 of them are what are called safe seats. In these seats the incumbent party can put up a donkey with the comfortable assurance that it will win. Parties take these seats for granted.

Even in marginal seats the bulk of the votes are already assured. Only a small percentage of the electorate change their vote between one election and the next, most people choose a party and stick to it. The parties have become well aware of this and everything they do is dedicated to capturing the votes of swing voters in marginal constituencies. In effect our entire electoral system is geared towards a few hundred thousand voters out of an electorate of over thirty million. Parties can afford to lose millions of their bedrock suporters in their safe seats, and they can write of all voters in seats they can't hope to win.

What are the effects of this. Well it means that FTP has effectively become a party list system, the more favoured you are with the party hierarchy the safer the seat you can get. The Labour Party is the biggest offender here, control of candidate selection has become controlled centrally. As for voters, millions of them are now completely disenfranchised no matter how they vote their vote can not make any difference.

Any attempt to change FTPT replaces this direct link with a party list system whereby the constituency link with the politician, the idea that the politician represents a defined group of constituents, is done away to be replaced with a list compiled by the party whereby politicians near the top are selected first, and those further down later.

Absolutely untrue, the single transferable vote (STV) system has no list element, and pits politicians from the same party against each other in multi member constituencies. In fact one of the more frequently heard criticisms of that system is politicians become too keen to curry favour with their local constituents, and will do favours to gain votes over rivals from the same party.

Here in Scotland we have a bodged PR/FPTP hybrid for the Scottish Parliament. Result? I have around 80 politicians representing me, 30 of them for the scottish parliament selected by the fucken party, about 25 for the European Union, selected by the fucken party and with loyalties directly to that party. The only politicians I have any real power over, the only politicians who'd be scared at my vote being transferred to somebody else in a very direct way, are the two that represent my constituency directly, for westminster and the Scottish parliament. The rest are loyal to party bosses.

Never let the facts get in the way of a good rant and a few sweary words, eh bc, and if they do you can always make up a few of your own. You know I can just see you now spittle and fingers flying as you type at the computer in a desperate attempt to keep the papish hordes away, all this while serenading the neighbours with yet another rendition of the Sash, or do you prefer that cheerful little ditty about being 'up to your knees in Fenian blood.'

You must be a big man at the local lodge to have eighty politicians representing you. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with Scottish politics here are the facts. Scotland has a grand total of eight MEP's (Members of the European Parliament), so how bc you managed to get 25 round for tea I don't know. For the Scottish Parliament most of the seats are decided on the FTP system, these seats are then grouped in bunches of up to eight seats from which a maximum of five top up members are selected. This means that an individual can be represented by a maximum of six MSP's, interestingly none of the FTP members would represent your views bc. They are all the sort od socialist that FTP was designed to prevent from getting in to power, according to you. Without the top up system you would have zilch, nada, zero representation. Regarding Westminster 57 of Scotland's 72 MP's are Labour, that on about 42% of the popular vote, there is one Conservative and Unionist MP who represents the kind of view you espouse. Tell me again how any MP is scared of your vote being transferred to somebody else.

What else happens under such an awful system? That's right, total contempt for the wishes of the population. There's a reason why the governments of Europe have been able to steamroll in legislation to bring those countries into Europe, to have them abandon their currencies, and so on, without even asking their people in a referendum if they want it or not! What, 70% of Germans were opposed to the Deutschmark going. No matter, because under PR, parties don't give a flying fuck what the population at large thinks. The same is true across the rest of Europe.

The conclusion is very simple. FPTP is MUCH fairer, and leads to a proper connection between politician and the voters, and allows for a government that can be easily and swiftly replaced.

Which explains why we are now going to war despite the opposition of 80% of the UK population, because our wonderful FTP system guarantees our politicians listen to what we are saying. Even the quiescent party dominated parliament is being bypassed in the rush to war, we will go to war under the Queen's perogative. Aye 'God save the Queen,' and Tony Blair that odd combination of traitorous Scotsman with Orange tendencies masquerading as a neopapist Englishman. Aye, God save us from them both.
--

"Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Prize", - Tom Lehrer
[ Parent ]

my own two cents (3.00 / 1) (#28)
by zephc on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 05:49:42 PM EST

I was thinking the UK could probably do well with a political system not unlike the Swiss one, where decisions are made at more local levels.  Anything to try and shave as much power from a Central authority as possible, i.e. more distributed government.  The Swiss cantonal system is pretty cool, and seems to have a better sense of autonomy that U.S. states do (as in US states have very little autonomy from the Federal Government.

If/when William is crowned as King, he has the enormous ability to denounce the Crown and bring Britain into the modern era.

(Aside: IMO, any government body's powers should not extend much farther than a county's borders, though abiding by some central doctorine like the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.  It's really hard to become a totally autonomous tyranical governemt when you're just 3 towns in size =])

Centralisation (none / 0) (#35)
by melia on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 06:42:07 PM EST

It's very annoying that government is so centralised in the UK. Especially when you don't live in London.
Disclaimer: All of the above is probably wrong
[ Parent ]
Bah. (5.00 / 2) (#32)
by mindstrm on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 06:08:30 PM EST

As a Canadian, under the same system of government, by the way... (includign the same queen) I say.. changing the system merely to eliminate the monarchy is pointless. It does not interfere; our Queen does not exert any kind of negative or hindering influence on our government. Yes, new laws must obtain royal assent.. and guess what, they all get it. When was the last time a bill went through all the houses and was rejected by the Queen? (I believe the only Act in canada that was not signed into passage was the Income Tax Act.. and that's rumor, I haven't verified it. If the Governer General decided not to sign it... kudos to him or her anyway)

I don't consider the Queen my "ruler"... because I know how government works. I know she can't chop off my head or take away my land.. the government has to do that. She is a living piece of history, a powerful symbol, and perhaps someone who can throw a monkeywrench into parliament if it was REALLY necessary to do so. She is my queen; I am her loyal subject, but only so long as we all play by the rules.

Most of the powers the crown has are symbolic and historic... and not directly related to the daily operations of a government.  Yes, perhaps Her Royal Highness can declare war.. but if she did, without the approval of the rest of government, would the military even follow? These are hypothetical situations that have never come up.

Power in name and practice (none / 0) (#47)
by cam on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 10:56:51 PM EST

our Queen does not exert any kind of negative or hindering influence on our government

By keeping a ceremonial executive rather than a politically active executive it allows the actual application of executive power to be in the legislative house. The legislative house is where laws are made and where the money bills come from. With the executive in the legislative any laws and bills are guranteed to be passed through an impotent rubber stamping executive in proxy which in Canada's case the Governor-General.

There is no seperation of law making and law passing. So tyrannical laws can get be made and passed with Senate approval. In the Washington system they have to get past the Senate and President. It is one extra check, especially if the Senate is partisan and controlled by the party that is in power in the House of Representatives.

Canada has an appointed Senate I believe which are appointed by the Prime Minister. That puts the power to appoint a Senate that will support the Prime Ministers mandate with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is also the head of the Executive Council and thus able to pass laws, as the head of the House of Representatives he is also the head of the Legislative and thus able to make laws and pass money bills. This is a very dangerous potential concentration of power.

Britain has no written constitution. Australia has, but nowhere in the constitution is the office or position of Prime Minister written. It is by convention. So it is essentially a position of power that flys under the constitutional radar.

By a Queen being in the Canadian constitution that is the ceremonial executive, it pushes the concentration of power down into the Prime Ministers position. The Prime Minister doesnt mind of course, their goal is absolute power and a consitutional monarchy is a weaker system in stopping that than a Washington style constitutional republic. So the Queen does affect the Canadian system and makes the potential for a tyrannical Prime Minister more likely.

cam
Freedom, Liberty, Equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]

Appointed Upper House?? (none / 0) (#52)
by kesuari on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 03:27:57 AM EST

Canada has an appointed Senate I believe which are appointed by the Prime Minister.

In England, there are at least some hereditary positions in the House of Lords.

In Australia, the Senate (Commonwealth) and Legistlative Councils (States) are elected by the people.

In both of those cases, the upper house will be able to veto things that they don't believe are for the best, even if the party in Government do.

What's the point of a Senate appointed by the Government? Does it not defeat the entire purpose of one?

[ Parent ]

It's worse than that (none / 0) (#53)
by ukryule on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 03:56:08 AM EST

What's the point of a Senate appointed by the Government? Does it not defeat the entire purpose of one?
In fact in the UK, the House of Lords is *very* conservative/right-wing (let's face it, if your name is something like 'the 7th Earl of Duxford' you're not likely to be a radical advocate of change). It's a constant amazement to me that the Lords seems to work.

The only explanation i've been able to come up with is that they live in constant fear of people noticing what a stupid system it is, and so pass most of the legislation passed their way - whether they agree with it or not.

[ Parent ]

Other options (none / 0) (#58)
by squigly on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 05:27:40 AM EST

What's the point of a Senate appointed by the Government? Does it not defeat the entire purpose of one?

An elected senate isn't a lot better.  The result is that you have two houses elected by the same people.  Both houses will therefore have pretty much the same opinions.  

Hereditary?  That's just an anachronism.  It sort of works because all bills have to pass through at least one elected chamber, which prevents the "House of Lord runs the country" bill.  

Appointment for life isn't so bad.  For one thing, there's no obligation to toe the party line.  You can stop currying favour, and do what you want.  This does mean that the upper house will tend to have people who the Government can trust.

I guess there could be some form of random selection.  I don't think this has been tried anywhere.

[ Parent ]

Different methods give different results (none / 0) (#65)
by kesuari on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 06:49:28 AM EST

An elected senate isn't a lot better. The result is that you have two houses elected by the same people. Both houses will therefore have pretty much the same opinions. Not necessarily. In Victoria (as first colony and now state)'s 150-or-so-year history, the Labor Party has only held power in both houses twice.* They've held the Legislative Assembly (lower house) more often than that ;) For Australia's Senate, there's a different voting system (proportional) to that of the House of Reps (preferential). This means that while you rarely get anything other than Labor or Liberal in the House of Reps, you may have a minor party or the Opposition party holding the balance of power (the Democrats or Greens, for example). (Of course, prior to the November 2002 Victorian Elections, the Labor Party held Government because the independents let them do so.) After all, why did Whitlam's government get into the shit it did? The Senate wouldn't pass the budget! (See http://whitlamdismissal.com/ .) (Which relates back to the topic of the Queen's Power. She could have caused and I understand would preferred to have had a different outcome, but tradition says she does only what the Australian Prime Minister or Governor-General asks her to do.) *Note: the Labor Party's only existed for about 100 years. I don't know if the same can be said of previous major leftmost parties. (The Labor Party originally being our resident leftmost major party... though as the Greens get bigger and Labor moves more centre, they'll have to pass on the batton.) Appointment for life isn't so bad. For one thing, there's no obligation to toe the party line. You can stop currying favour, and do what you want. This does mean that the upper house will tend to have people who the Government can trust. Oh, so the Canadian Senate is appointment *for life*? I assumed it was for a term (presumably the length of the PM's or his party's power). Being for life makes it dramattically better.

[ Parent ]
Sorry... (none / 0) (#69)
by kesuari on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 06:58:07 AM EST

Sorry about the double post. I think I accidentally pressed post or something...

[ Parent ]
Different methods give different results (none / 0) (#67)
by kesuari on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 06:50:46 AM EST

An elected senate isn't a lot better.  The result is that you have two houses elected by the same people.  Both houses will therefore have pretty much the same opinions.

Not necessarily. In Victoria (as first colony and now state)'s 150-or-so-year history, the Labor Party has only held power in both houses twice.* They've held the Legislative Assembly (lower house) more often than that ;)

For Australia's Senate, there's a different voting system (proportional) to that of the House of Reps (preferential). This means that while you rarely get anything other than Labor or Liberal in the House of Reps, you may have a minor party or the Opposition party holding the balance of power (the Democrats or Greens, for example). (Of course, prior to the November 2002 Victorian Elections, the Labor Party held Government because the independents let them do so.)

After all, why did Whitlam's government get into the shit it did? The Senate wouldn't pass the budget! (See http://whitlamdismissal.com/ .) (Which relates back to the topic of the Queen's Power. She could have caused and I understand would preferred to have had a different outcome, but tradition says she does only what the Australian Prime Minister or Governor-General asks her to do.)

*Note: the Labor Party's only existed for about 100 years. I don't know if the same can be said of previous major leftmost parties. (The Labor Party originally being our resident leftmost major party... though as the Greens get bigger and Labor moves more centre, they'll have to pass on the batton.)

Appointment for life isn't so bad.  For one thing, there's no obligation to toe the party line.  You can stop currying favour, and do what you want.  This does mean that the upper house will tend to have people who the Government can trust.

Oh, so the Canadian Senate is appointment for life? I assumed it was for a term (presumably the length of the PM's or his party's power). Being for life makes it dramattically better.

[ Parent ]

Clarification (none / 0) (#81)
by squigly on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 08:39:11 AM EST

Oh, so the Canadian Senate is appointment for life?

I don't know about Canada.  I'm going from a UK perspective, where that is pretty much the case for life peers.  

[ Parent ]

Looked it up. (none / 0) (#82)
by squigly on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 08:48:42 AM EST

Looks like they are appointed until they reach 75.  

[ Parent ]
Tenure (none / 0) (#64)
by cam on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 06:47:30 AM EST

What's the point of a Senate appointed by the Government?

Like the Judicial appointments tenure is supposed to mean it is free of partisanship. I think it is more open to abuse from "jobs for the boys". The US and Australia have Senate representation based on the States as an indication of US and Australian Federalism being a union of States. In the US the smaller states were worried of being drowned by the voices of Virginia, Pennslyvania, Massachussets and New York. James Madison wasnted Senate representation based on people so each persons vote has equal weight but the smaller delegations like Rhode Island wouldnt accept it.

cam
Freedom, Liberty, Equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]

No. (5.00 / 2) (#45)
by IHCOYC on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 08:03:56 PM EST

I tend to a strongly contrary position; I tend to feel that the American republic ought to convert itself to an imperial monarchy, with a hereditary head of state, and a court of lesser nobles to the Empress or Emperor. These hereditary lords ought to have limited but certain powers over government, specifically powers of veto and pardon. Perhaps we could petition to be readmitted into the British Commonwealth, and accept the British ruler as our king or queen. But maybe not until you guys restore the Stuarts.
I refuse to accept that anyone can automatically be my ruler because of the family they are born into.
If I learned anything from Bush v. Gore, it's that people like me have no chance at ever becoming President of the United States. I too am debarred from seeking such a gaud by being born into the wrong family. Both Bush and Gore are scions of noble houses, Bush being a prince of the blood royal and Gore born into a long standing noble house. It would be a pity to enforce an upsetting change like abolishing the British monarchy only to learn, as we have learned, that nothing substantial was gained from it.

Levelling and moral panic are the chief things to be feared from governments in which the peasantry is an important constituency that the politicians seek to motivate. Here, we have the Democrats, party of levellers, and the Republicans, party of moral panic. Aristocrats may not be smarter than the rabble, but odds are they will be better educated, and have acquired at least some cultivated tastes. They may not be better in character than the rabble, but even their vices can be put to politically valuable ends.

An aristocratic wing without the power to legislate, but given the power to free and to forgive, would be an improvement. It used to be that the Supreme Court served a valuable role as the tribunes of the educated class; it has been emasculated. An aristocratic branch of the government could serve that role while being even better insulated from political whims. It sounds odd to Americans, but an aristocracy could make us freer.
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy

The STUARTS? (5.00 / 1) (#95)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Thu Jan 23, 2003 at 07:58:07 PM EST

Worst royal family ever! They managed to get kicked out TWICE. Give me the Tudors any day.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Yeah, the Stuarts screwed up. . . (none / 0) (#99)
by IHCOYC on Sat Jan 25, 2003 at 12:13:25 PM EST

. . . but it's still the principle of the thing. They may have been total clowns, but they were still God's chosen and anointed. Mere mortals have no business interfering.
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy
[ Parent ]
Only one way to deal with monarchies (2.00 / 1) (#46)
by smallstepforman on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 08:28:05 PM EST

Off with their heads.

And only one way to deal with Presidencies (none / 0) (#70)
by Rande on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 07:07:27 AM EST

Bullet to the back to the head.

[ Parent ]
Actually (none / 0) (#94)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Thu Jan 23, 2003 at 07:51:58 PM EST

History provides two examples of beheading the monarchy producing negative results.

First the English Civil War, in which Parliament was quite fucked and Cromwell ruled as a despot.

Second, the French Revolution, which fucked up in all sorts of ways.

Actually, violent revolution in general seems to usually have unfavorable results with the exception of the U.S.A. (Proceed to joke that the U.S.A. is an unfavorable result.)

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

The legal and moral argument should be separate (none / 0) (#48)
by ukryule on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 12:41:40 AM EST

I think the two arguments are very different - and have very different implications. On the legal side, the claim is that the system of government is flawed, or could be improved - I think the monarchy is completely incidental in this. More important is how you want to reform the House of Parliament and (especially) what you want to do with the House of Lords.

IMHO the arguments for (major) reform of parliament are dubious - is it really obvious that the separate president & senate model (e.g. US) works much better than the combined government & parliament model? There are, however, big arguments for changing the House of Lords - it seems to be an anachronism from the past which *hasn't* lost it's power. The only argument for it seems to be that it seems to sort of work.

If you can then find an improved political model, you just pass the relevant laws, and adjust the powers given by the queen. Unless you can convince me that a particular model which is explicitly incompatible with a monarch is better, i see no validity in the legal argument.

The moral argument has more merit, but is obviously more of a personal thing. I can understand that people could find it offensive to be 'ruled over' by someone they never voted for, but given that the Queen doesn't do any real 'ruling', what's the problem? I feel she represents and serves me more than she rules me (ugh, that sounds corny!). I don't feel inferior to her, suspect that she wouldn't feel superior to me, and would never in a million years swap places with her.

I also think that the moral argument applies much more to the House of Lords and hereditary peers than the royal family. For some reason, they still hold signicant political power, and probably do more to continue any class divide than the monarchy.

So, get rid of lords, reduce the power of the monarchy, but why get rid of the queen? After all, would you really want a new national anthem written by Robbie Williams?

Patriarchal/Matriarchal mind (none / 0) (#50)
by skerlick on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 02:37:47 AM EST

No, I don't mean in the hippy sense. I mean that you are brought up in this world obediant/subserviant to, dependent on, and generally exist at the discretion of your mother and/or father. Thus, I think it is natural that you should form a belief system and general universal view that that is how things should work in adulthood.

It is my not-so-humble opinion that such a point of view is why we are all so screwed up.

It allows us to deny having to take responsibility for our failures and to avoid doing anything to fix them. "They are to blame, not me." "The government" instead of "my government" is allowing or promoting this terrible thing. "We didn't do it, that's just the way it is." "There are the haves and have-nots and that is just reality and always will be." etc...

Now that I am so far removed from topic, let me bring it back... It's not just the class divide. It's the whole mind set that anyone but you should have the authority or power to rule or give same.

Nevermind, take your opiates and go back to sleep. It was just a lunatic who thought that people cared.


[ Parent ]
So what you're saying ... (none / 0) (#51)
by ukryule on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 03:27:45 AM EST

Is that it is natural to abdicate responsibility to your 'leader'. Thus having a head of state who is powerless is a constant reminder to us all that we have to take responsibility for ourselves. Interesting theory.

[ Parent ]
Moral argument against monarchy (none / 0) (#57)
by andymurd on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 04:52:26 AM EST

Whilst I agree with DullTrev's moral arguments against the monarchy, I think he missed an important one - the members of the royal family didn't ask for the fame. They didn't pursue a political career or appear on a TV show to pick the next Queen.

Certain members of the Windsor family are, by chance of birth, condemned to a life of constant press intrusion, their every move scrutinised for the slightest imperfection.

It is possible to abdicate but that just causes more fuss.

Denunciation? (5.00 / 1) (#66)
by cam on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 06:49:56 AM EST

They didn't pursue a political career or appear on a TV show to pick the next Queen.

Then why doesnt every Royal denounce the monarchial system as a social and egalatarian abomination and denounce their right to royal heritage. They dont need to take British tax payer money or live in castles if they dont want to. They do have free will.

cam
Freedom, Liberty, Equity and an Australian Republic
[ Parent ]

Monarchs denied human rights (5.00 / 1) (#84)
by seb on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 09:30:51 AM EST


Certain members of the Windsor family are, by chance of birth, condemned to a life of constant press intrusion, their every move scrutinised for the slightest imperfection.

Additionally, they have no freedom of religion, and do not have the right to vote.

[ Parent ]
The class system is inherent... (none / 0) (#59)
by thalrond on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 05:40:39 AM EST

...to all human societies. If you belive that it's in some way possible to get rid of it then i'd love to hear your solution. :-)

Hierarchical social instinct is built in to most primate species (obviously including humanity) and can only really be eradicated through either evolution or, perhaps, genetic manipulation. Simply imposing 'classlessness' through legal or legislative action is as futile and harmful as banning the consumption of alcohol or making extra-marital sex a criminal offence.

The class system has a bad press because most of the really awful ones have been too rigid - forever assigning certain people and their heirs to specific levels without ever providing real hope of change or advancement. In the more recent 'egalitarian' systems things are much more maleable and therefore less discriminatory.

Of course, there are still many improvements that could be made: a better system for populating the House of Lords (with people other than retired/defunct politicians); the ability to get US legislation enacted without having to grease palm.....erm, I mean lobby ;-) etc.

As to the republican debate: the idea sounds reasonable in principal but in practical terms I doubt that anything would be greatly changed. As has been stated in other posts here, the current system in the UK has slowly evolved over the centuries without the horrendous degree of bloodshed that surrounded so many 'revolutionary' episodes. I hope and believe that such will continue to be the case.

....and I have to admit.....I cant help feeling an embarrasing flush of National Pride(TM), when I watch all those great ceremonial occasions, or when I see the Royals, doing what they do best.....affecting people.

Consider Belgium and abortion laws (5.00 / 2) (#60)
by mentor on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 06:33:27 AM EST

I read your article, and since Belgium had some kind of problem with it's monarchy some time ago, I'd thought it worthwhile to mention - moral obligations can very well prohibit a signing of a law by a monarch, which indeed could result in serious legal problems for laws taking effect, or being classified vertically

Belgium has approximately a monarchy that compares to the one in the UK - although we are not "Subjects" to the Crown here

Anyways - some 15-20 years ago, King Boudewijn, in rule for quite a while, and devout Roman-Catholic, refused to sign a law enabling women to receive an abortion in well-defined circumstances. Rumours went that King Boudewijn and his wife Fabiolo (from Spanish decent) were also followers of the Roman-Catholic sect/cult/lobby Opus Dei, although these claims are not to be verified, since that stuff is highly classified.

Well - considering the problem that the government wanted to pass the law, since Belgium is a democracy - they needed a way to sign the law into order one way or another.

I think that the King stood down for a couple of days, so that a regent could sign the bill in order in his place, and afterwards the King returned to the crown, and continued to rule as a constitutional monarch until his death.

Now - while there are solutions like the one I mention above, I see them as constructs to uphold an outdated system.

To me - a monarchy seems to be a bad taste relic of the medieval ages, and should have been abolished since the French Revolution. While I don't necessarily believe in democracy being the best solution for people living together - I do think in current circumstances, it is the best way to go.

Just my 0.02 :)
mentor

A king by his own hand. (3.00 / 1) (#73)
by Rande on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 07:33:01 AM EST

Despite what people are saying, there's a very long history of people aspiring to and gaining a crown - all you have to do is grab a large chunk of friends, arm them, and march up to the palace (after winning a few battles), and say 'All your bas^W lands are belonging to us!'.


Laugh (4.00 / 1) (#75)
by Rande on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 07:50:04 AM EST

"too often the population of Britain will blindly accept what is told them by those in authority, something which I believe is fundamentally harmful to any free society."

ROTFL. Oh dear. That is very funny.
You mean the same people who refuse to eat GM foods despite all the Govt officials saying "it's safe! I ate it for two weeks and it didn't kill me!".
The same people who refuse to have their children immunized with the MMR jab even when they are told it's "so safe that we aren't giving you any other choice".

The brits aren't any more or less guillible than anyone else, but from what I can tell, they do get a better quality/variation of information from the Press.

Nitpick for you English folks (5.00 / 1) (#83)
by aw70 on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 08:54:56 AM EST

the people of the UK are not citizens of the UK, but rather subjects of the Crown

Not quite true - the UK is more diverse than you think. AFAIK the people of England are subjects of the crown; the title of the monarch there is "The Queen of England", and she is addressed as "Your majesty".

In Scotland, on the other hand, Her Grace the queen is known as Elizabeth the first (In England she's QE2), Queen of Scots (i.e. more of a head of state than the sole owner of the place), and could in theory be replaced by the lords of the realm. That's at least what the difference used to be - I'm not sure whether it still applies in full nowadays. Perhaps there is someone with more insight into the legal peculiarities of .uk here who could further elaborate on this.

The UK is after all a union of two separate states with quite different legal systems, so some differences are to be expected.

As for a personal comment: I'm half Scottish, and half Austrian, and I've seen both pretty closely for some time now: a Monarchy in the UK, and a republic in Austria. Having a democratically elected head of state is definitvely not all your make it to be - I'd much rather have a system like in SCO here in Austria as well (hereditary ceremonial head of state, elected gov't which does the actual work). It would save us the farce of electing a president every few years who does all the same things as a ceremonial monarch anyway.

Plus it would cure the Austrian schizophrenia of having a Glorified Imperial Past (tm) which is cultivated at many levels (esp. for the purposes of tourism), while maintaining a fervently (some might even argue neurotically) republican facade in everyday politics. A good symptom is that while mentioning the old monarchy in a positive sense is pretty taboo in politics, it is of course absolutely o.k. to use the old imperial palace as the residence of the president... and to follow an only insignificantly scaled down protocol at official functions... and to maintain the court titles for top bureaucrats (e.g. "Hofrat" - "court advisor" for heads of departments in republican minstries!)... and so on...

Just my 0.2E-32 EUR

Alexander



Queen Liz is our bitch (5.00 / 1) (#85)
by Homburg on Wed Jan 22, 2003 at 09:56:57 AM EST

I think what most people forget when discussing the UK monarchy is that the Queen only rules on the sufferance of the people. We only have a monarchy at all because parliament invited Charles II to rule in 1660, and the Bill of Rights you mention was a direct result of the 'Glorious Revolution', when the people choosing a new King (William of Orange) because they didn't like the way they thought the succession would go.

Because of this, I really don't think the monarchy is a practical political problem. If the Queen ever attempted to oppose the democratic process, I'm sure we could ship her off the the Tower of London sharpish (perhaps we could cut her head off, too - I think we still have the death penalty for high treason, which is what Charles I was charged with). Perhaps it would be worth reminding the Royal Family of this periodically, though, if only to shut Princes Philip and Charles up.

There are more serious problems in the UK constitution, particularly the House of Lords (which has no kind of mandate, but still has legislative power), and the first past the post system (which can give a party with under half the votes in the country an overwhelming majority in the commons). The monarchy is just a symbol, and one I have difficulty getting worked up about.

You're shooting yourself in the foot (none / 0) (#96)
by epepke on Thu Jan 23, 2003 at 10:08:52 PM EST

I don't think that Brits realize how lucky they are to have a nominal head of state that de facto wields no power to any practical degree. Some do. I once heard a Brit say that the queen is valuable not for the power that she wields but for the power that she prevents other people from wielding.

If you go to a republic, at best, you'll find yourself with people like George W. Bush at the helm. It would probably be even worse, though, since a British republic would probably be pariliamentary and lack even a meagre system of checks and balances.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


An Argument for British Republicanism | 99 comments (93 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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