A monarchy is defined as being a form of government in which a group of people, with a leader, has sovereign control over it. The group is considered the embodiment of the nation’s identity. In most monarchies, the group of people forming the government is a single family. The head of the government is therefore an inherited position, though elective monarchies are possible.
There are three types of monarchies that are possible: absolute, partial, and symbolic.
Until the 19th century, monarchies were the most common form of government. Today, 45 sovereign nations are ruled by a monarchy, with 16 of them falling under the Commonwealth realms that recognize Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state.
Here are the biggest advantages and disadvantages that come with a monarchy.
List of the Biggest Advantages of a Monarchy
1. There is a reduction in political polarization.
Monarchies reduce the political bickering that takes place within a country. There are still passionate groups who pursue specific agendas, of course, but there isn’t the same kind of political gridlock seen in the houses of government. In most monarchies, it is the ruler who has the final say on matters. That requires the government to propose policies that fall in line with what the monarchy wants.
2. Immediate corruption is reduced within a monarchy.
Any government official, including a king or queen, can be corrupt. What is different in long-standing monarchies is that the ruler has nothing to really gain by using the government to their own benefit. They are the government. They benefit in numerous ways, simply by holding the position. In return, the nation typically identifies with the ruler and this creates a mutually beneficial relationship.
3. Rulers are trained from birth for their position.
For most monarchies, the order of succession is established based on the birth order within the family. This allows everyone, including the people, an opportunity to know who their next ruler will be. It also provides the ruling group an opportunity to train the new ruler thoroughly before they take the throne. That allows even young rulers to be experience in the ways of government, so they can make an immediate and positive impact for their nation as the head of state.
4. It is a form of government which still allows for balance.
Many of today’s monarchies fit into the constitutional monarchy structure. That means there are elected officials, including a prime minister or equivalent position, that represent the people’s interests. The monarchy is then left to be more of a consulting figure than an official head of state. That structure allows for a balance within the government. The will of the monarchy can be followed, as can the will of the people.
5. Decisions are made with more speed within a monarchy.
Democratic governments tend to operate swiftly when it benefits the elected officials in some way. The Washington State Senate and House on February 23, 2018 passed a bill with less than 24 hours-notice, and within an hour of each other, to limit their liability to state privacy laws with a veto-proof margin. State funding for education, however, has taken several years to complete. Within a monarchy, all decisions can be made with great speed. This allows the government to be more responsive whenever there is a need.
6. There are fewer disruptions during the transfer of power.
The structure of a monarchy makes it possible to have each transfer of power happen smoothly and without incident. Each person within the ruling group knows who will be taking the leadership role. The structure of the government will remain the same, which means less uncertainty from top to bottom. That creates fewer disruptions, allowing the government to continue serving the people in the best way possible.
7. It puts monetary resources toward a better use.
In the United States, the Washington Post reports the combined price tag for the 2016 election, including presidential and congressional elections, was $6.5 billion. In 2012, the cost of the election was $6.2 billion. Even an off-cycle election, such as the 2014 elections, cost U.S. taxpayers $3.8 billion. In fact, according to OpenSecrets.org, more than $38 billion has been spent on elections since 1998. In a monarchy, those funds would be put toward different programs or services.
8. Monarchies advocate for a strong defense.
Any country with a military can advocate for a strong defense. The United States, which isn’t a monarchy, spends more on defense than any other country in the world. Monarchies advocate for a defensive posture that is just as strong. The goal may be to consolidate their power, but the result is a fortified border, more internal security for the people, and a general predictability about what life will be like every day.
9. It creates a single form of contact for foreign governments.
Imagine being a foreign official attempting to contact the United States right now. Do you speak to the Secretary of State? The Secretary of Homeland Security? The local ambassador? The Vice President? The President? An assistant to one of these people? Within a monarchy, there is a single point of contact – the monarch, the ruling group, or their designee. There is no confusion.
List of the Biggest Disadvantages of a Monarchy
1. The line of succession in a monarchy is not always beneficial.
Because a monarchy clearly defines the line of succession, it is possible for children to be named as the head of state. King Sobhyza II of Swaziland, for example, was crowned king when he was just 4 months old. Alfonso XIII was born on May 17, 1886 and was crowned the King of Spain on the same day. In 1995, King Oyo of the Toro Kingdom in Uganda was crowned King at the age of 3. When children at this age become rulers, they require regents to assist with government. The people of a nation usually have no control over who gets named to that position, making the line of succession less beneficial than it could be.
2. There is little that can be done to stop a monarch’s powers.
In the traditional sense of a monarchy, the head of state has absolute control over the government. They can decree something, and it becomes law. If that monarch decides to become oppressive or violent, there is little the people can do about it. That includes declaring war on other countries. Most monarchs remain in power unless they die or choose to give up their throne. Moving to a constitutional monarchy can lessen this risk, though it isn’t eliminated. King Sobhyza II helped to write a constitution that he would throw out just 5 years later.
3. Wealth tends to congregate around the monarch.
Elections may be costly for democratic nations. Democratically elected officials may be quite wealthy – President Donald Trump is evidence of that. The wealth that surrounds a monarchy, however, is quite extensive. Taxpayers may save on the costs of an election under this government structure, but they have other costs, such as the daily living requirements of the monarchy, to consider. Queen Elizabeth II has an estimated net worth of $500 million, gained mostly through her position as a head of state for the Commonwealth realms and the United Kingdom.
4. Competency is not a guarantee within a monarchy.
The line of succession identifies new rulers within a monarchy. That may provide opportunities for training from an early age, but that is not a guarantee of competency. Some people within the ruling group may not wish to take the throne. They may have no interest in becoming a head of state. That apathy can create hardships for the nation, especially if the uninterested individual is forced to be in a leadership role.
5. The checks and balances within the government can be removed.
Monarchies may decide to implement checks and balances within their government. They may also decide to remove them one day. Even when the power of a monarch is restricted or symbolic, there is always the possibility that they could move to take over the government with their influence. That could involve imprisonment for those who oppose them, banishment, or even capital offenses if an individual is considered a threat to the monarch’s actions.
6. Power is always based in the monarchy.
Imagine being a business owner within a monarchy. You’re free to operate your company, but only at the pleasure of the monarch. If your business is deemed to be a threat to the crown, then you could be ordered to shut down. If your business becomes very profitable, the government could declare themselves the owner of it and shut you out in the cold. These threats are minimized under some monarchy structures, but not all of them. That means innovation is restricted somewhat in this government structure because free market principles can be uncertain.
7. It creates a system of classes within the society.
All societies have class structures. Some are formalized, while some are unwritten. Even in the United States, there is the wealthy class and the middle class. In a monarchy, the class structures of the society are solidified, and it can be very difficult to find upward movement on the individual level. According to The Telegraph, there are currently 7 different social classes in Britain: the elite, the established middle class, the technical middle class, new affluent workers, the traditional working class, emergent service workers, and the precariat.
8. There is little, if any, accountability.
Accountability within a monarchy is limited at best. The head of state may be held accountable to the rest of the ruling group, but not to the people whom they rule. If the people disagree with the direction of the government, it can cause them to question the legitimacy of the monarch. None of that matters, however, because the people cannot do anything to remove the monarch from power, short of a coup.
9. It reduces the amount of diversity that is found in government.
Nations become stronger when different ideas, perspectives, and experiences come together to create a path that invites forward progress. Within a monarchy, the ideas, perspectives, and experiences of one person are what drive the nation forward. Since monarchs are trained for their role, the only influence on them is the individual responsible for their training. That structure reduces diversity, which ultimately makes it difficult for a monarchy to be competitive compared to other forms of government.
10. It encourages the monarch to reinforce their power.
The goal of a monarch, or even the ruling family, is to retain their power. That becomes their first priority over anything else. They depend upon their own power to rule, so that means bribing those who cannot be intimidated into compliance. That need to reinforce their position can come at the cost of many things, from social programs to basic government structures. From this perspective, that makes a monarchy one of the costliest forms of government that there is in our world today.
The biggest advantages and disadvantages of a monarchy offer a unique glimpse into our past, while we look to improve the future structures of governments around the world. There are definite benefits to this type of government, though there are challenges that require safeguards as well.