Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Monarchy and Quality of Life

An interesting (if snide in parts) article from July brought to my attention today admits (unsurprisingly to experienced monarchists) that overall, monarchies outdo republics in statistics pertaining to quality of life. This is one reason why most people who live in constitutional monarchies are happy with them, even if they're not the sort of people who would write a monarchist blog. If only such facts could help persuade more residents of countries that once had monarchies of their own but sadly no longer do to restore them! In anticipation of a possible republican argument, it might be pointed out that some republics such as Switzerland, Finland, and Iceland also enjoy a superior quality of life. I would maintain that this does not actually strengthen abolitionist republicans' case, because these countries never had a monarchy of their own that had to be abolished in order to create their republic. If one makes the fairer comparison of European countries that have kept or restored their monarchies versus European countries that have abolished them (usually in violent revolutions), excluding republics that were founded as republics (a scenario obviously unavailable to current monarchies), the superiority of monarchies is even clearer. Even if it could be proved that the material advantages enjoyed by most residents of today's constitutional monarchies could be maintained without them (and of course I don't think so), it is quite clear from modern history that the inherently divisive and debilitating trauma of abolishing monarchies is detrimental to a nation's stability and contentment.

Speaking of differences between monarchies and republics, I think that someone able to cite more specifics than I am able to produce should write what could be a very interesting article on two quite distinct but oddly similar phenomena that as far as I know have never been compared to each other or discussed in the same piece.

It is occasionally observed in discussions about contemporary Christianity, particularly Protestantism, that while exceptions in both directions abound, generally churches that maintain a relatively traditional liturgical worship style with an emphasis on classical sacred music and caring for their historic buildings tend to be fairly liberal politically and theologically, while many theologically and politically conservative churches embrace a contemporary style with praise bands and austere modern architecture. (I believe this is somewhat less true in Catholicism, where advocates of Latin and Gregorian chant are likely to also vigorously uphold doctrinal orthodoxy, though the aesthetically modernist/theologically conservative combination certainly exists.) Various explanations for what might seem to an outsider like a curious state of affairs (why do comprehensive traditionalists and comprehensive modernists seem to be relatively rare?) exist, but if the generalization is valid it remains somewhat mysterious.

Could a similar pattern be observed when comparing European countries that have kept their monarchies to those that have not? Obviously, broadly speaking, keeping a monarchy is a conservative thing to do and getting rid of it a radical one. But when it comes to certain divisive issues (mostly related to sexuality) that have arisen relatively recently (issues this blog normally avoids with good reason!), as well as some older economic questions, it often seems like the Eastern European republics, almost all of which fell to Communism but shook it off near the end of the 20th century, are now more "right-wing" (see previous post) than the Western European constitutional monarchies, without (alas!) much if any momentum towards royal restoration (Serbia possibly excepted). Even in Western Europe, while this may be changing, the republics of Ireland, Portugal, and Malta have been generally more socially conservative than the constitutional monarchies. An openly homosexual person (even if republican in principle) would probably be much happier in the kingdoms of the Netherlands or Sweden than in the republics of Poland or Russia, and a socially conservative Catholic or Orthodox Christian (even if monarchist in principle) would probably be more comfortable in the East.

Are these two ironies, if indeed they are ironies, comparable? Do modern constitutional monarchies, by providing a veneer of tradition analogous to historic churches with organs & choirs, actually enable more radical social change than republics?  Especially republics that experienced a sort of cultural "freeze" during the Cold War and are now fertile ground for various forms of anti-leftist (but, apparently, rarely pro-monarchist) backlash? Does the same sort of principle apply to religion? As one who tries to be a more or less consistent traditionalist (but unlike some reactionaries is determined to support Europe's existing monarchies) I am not necessarily saying this dichotomy is a good thing, but it might at least be interesting to explore in more depth.


James Harvey said...

Very stoutly argued , with intriguing questions!

Aaron Traas said...

Much of what you say rings true, but the part about traditionalists Catholics being more happy in the republican eastern Europe, I beg to differ.

I'm traditionalist -- doctrinally, liturgically, and socially -- but I tend to get along with those who self-identify as liberals rather than conservatives, at least in the American context. Liberals are more likely to appreciate good art and music, as well as subtlety and nuance. Conservative Americanism drives me nuts, as you know. I wish there were more difference between my fellow "conservative" Catholics than the evangelical American protestants that they spent so much time convincing Catholicism isn't incompatible with Americanism.

While we're at it, I wish "conservative" Catholics would pay attention to the Church's other moral teachings in addition to the sexual ones. Two of the sins that cry to heaven for vengeance are in the realm of social justice...

Theodore Harvey said...

I think in Eastern Europe you might find it easier than in the United States to find orthodox/traditional Catholics who appreciate good art and music, though I'm not sure and totally understand what you're saying. Charles Coulombe once wrote a whole article about this which might resonate with you: http://www.americanthinker.com/2005/05/point_red_state_politics_blue.html

Michael E. said...

I don't presume to know but your article got me to thinking, and I have my own ideas as to a possibility.

The Christian faith teaches that persons come before doctrine, even when that doctrine is true and binding upon all faithful. Personhood doesn't change; a person's choices are what can.

I believe that's also why monarchy is the best form of government, because it is persons who matter. I've come to conclude that those self-proclaimed monarchists who would reject the rightful monarch because he's "too liberal" are acting more like republicans than they realize. What matters in a monarchy is who has seniority in the family--the royal's "political leanings" shouldn't enter into it, especially since those can change. If we mustn't reject a monarch for being a tyrant, we mustn't reject a monarch for being "liberal" or "weak" either. God gives us the monarchs, and if they are bad rulers, that's between them and God--our job isn't to judge but to trust.

I suspect that this accounts for how it's possible that monarchies and episcopal (lowercase "e") churches are able to be liberal while republics and congregational churches are able to be conservative, but that doesn't answer the question of why.

As for the question of why, I don't pretend to have all the facts, this is only speculation, but the one primary historical period where that seems to have become public knowledge was in the interwar period, shortly before World War II. At that time you had the United Kingdom siding with the Soviet Union, whereas on the other side you had Philippe Petain and Francisco Franco (though I know Spain was neutral, she was more Axis-friendly). And we know that that period was after World War I, when Christian monarchies largely fell from power.

So my speculation is that monarchies and episcopal churches decided on a "conservative" (to use your terminology, as opposed to "traditionalist") modus operandi for fear of losing their power. Whether that was good or bad I don't know and don't want to judge--it may depend upon the exact circumstances. Give the people enough of what they want to prevent a revolt, and give them alternative scapegoats if things aren't to their liking (as well as a less violent means by which to act upon that).

But that being the case, some people probably felt that a stronger stand needed to be taken against revolutionaries and Communists, especially after the Russian Revolution, and they felt that the monarchies weren't accomplishing that, and indeed had fallen from power, and so these people produced strongmen who felt that if it was going to be done at all, it was up to them, who weren't monarchs. And these strongmen had differing views about monarchy in general: some wanted a restoration but only if it was traditionalist, others perhaps thought of monarchy as having "had its chance" and so desired a more authoritarian strongman government that opposed the values of revolution but that wasn't a true monarchy.