Monday 2 June 2014

Juan Carlos, the case for constitutional monarchy, and defending the indefensible.

At one of the banquets I attended whilst teaching at Nanjing University of Finance and Economics, one particularly boozy cadre asked me "why does Britain still have a queen?". Having been asked this question a few times, I shot back with the question "why doesn't China have a monarch, and wouldn't it be better off if it did?". His reaction was amazement that anyone would want to argue in favour of a monarchy, and much discussion of the Xinhai rebellion then ensued.

I was reminded of this discussion when I saw the news of King Juan Carlos's of Spain's abdication today. There's few arguments that can be made in favour of a monarchy, and no-one can really say that, beginning from a tabula rasa, you would rationally chose to have a country ruled by a head of state chosen by accident of birth. All the same, Juan Carlos's actions in the attempted 1981 coup make the best possible case that can possibly be made for this basically irrational way of running a country - he represented a non-political reservoir of power that could take action where no-one else could, and he acted decisively.

Personally, however, I have to admit that my own support for the monarchy in the UK comes mostly from the gut. I certainly believe that, given that we are where we are there is no point in changing now, and that there are economic and constitutional advantages to having a monarchy, but in the end my support comes from history and tradition.

Occasionally I get accused of not understanding the emotional commitment that some Chinese people have to the Communist Party. Believe me, I get it - but "getting it" and being able to excuse it are two different things.


Beau Yang said...

You say you can't excuse the CCP,

Yet your own defense of Monarchy is based on a similar lack of confidence and (over)reliance on an unelected head of state..
Is that not in the least hypocritical??

Gilman Grundy said...

Wake me up when Her Maj. orders tanks and armed soldiers in to kill thousands of people protesting her rule.

Like I said, I understand arguments based on "it's our tradition", or "it's the way things have always been", and the weight I place on them is not zero. It's not enough to excuse what the CCP does though.

Beau Yang said...

"Wake me up when Her Maj. orders tanks and armed soldiers in to kill thousands of people protesting her rule"
That seems a dangerously complacent thing to say. Especially with regards to what has recently happened in Thailand..
And if your saying this is about legitimacy based on how one handles dissent, did you get to vote for her? Would you?