Notions of political systems being antiquated or outmoded by modernity are fallacy. After all, today's existing systems of government- constitutional monarchies, republics, absolute monarchies, and outright dictatorships- have in fact existed since antiquity and taken many, many forms. Some political systems- such as the (unwritten) constitutional monarchy of Great Britain or the republican system of San Marino (not short of pomp or tradition) - evolved over many centuries, but modern notions of liberal democracy as most understand it date back to such events as the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the American Revolution, and the French Revolution, even though such systems of government could be found in Ancient Greece and Rome. Thus any notion of a political system being more modern and relevant than the rest does not hold much weight.
Let's ask the question if monarchies impede true democracy and equality. The constitutional monarchies of the Low Countries and Scandinavia happen to be some of the most tolerant and equitable societies in the world. And all this while the monarchies of these countries provide unity, continuity and safeguard the political system. Europe over the 20th century experienced some particularly traumatic changes through World War I, World War II and the Cold War. And such changes are too fresh in the minds of many to want to make serious changes. Indeed, one can learn from the experiences of Portugal, Germany and Austria, where the demise of those monarchies was profoundly destabilising, and indeed may have contributed to the rise of totalitarianism. Because of this, it is unlikely that most people would want to change something that works. Far from losing relevance, monarchies are as relevant as ever in serving as a tent pole of society and nation.
Though even 20 years after the end of the Cold War, there are some countries still dealing with the legacy of the not so distant past. It's in places like Serbia and Georgia where monarchist sentiment has arisen in response to these issues. Both are countries which have had particularly demoralising experiences, where the current political class and system inspire very little in a way of trust and confidence.
But how having an elected head of state is any better alternative. Such a position can never claim to be free of partisan influence, whether chosen directly or indirectly. And while Americans may trumpet their presidential republic, it is a system with serious flaws- namely that an elected head of state can never truly represent everybody, and is very often a divisive figure. There is no tent pole around which people can rally and look to for moral authority and unity. It's an important issue to consider in the current political climate which has become increasingly polarised and unpleasant. This is where the qualities of a monarchy, where a monarch is not affiliated with a political movement and is expected to have been prepared for the job from the beginning, and will look out for the best interests of the nation and its people, as opposed to elected leaders who have become increasingly preoccupied with gaining and retaining power.
History shows that monarchies have not impeded the move towards greater democracy and social justice, as Scandinavia and the Low Countries have demonstrated. There have been, of course, rare exceptions of monarchies which have failed to do so- and the only European monarchies which have ever been abolished by popular vote have been Italy and Greece, arising out of exceptional circumstances. Luxembourg, on the other hand, had voted overwhelmingly to retain its monarchy after World War I ended. A monarch who performs the tasks they are required to admirably can win respect and love from all, regardless of their political affiliation, affluence or background, because of the continuity and history they represent. An elected head of state cannot do that and very few have proven exceptional, such as Germany's Richard von Weizsäcker. Those statesmen who can inspire and captivate are very rare indeed. A monarchy is far more able to inspire and capture the imagination of the people. Who would you be more likely to respect- an exemplary and gracious monarch like Margrethe II of Denmark, a symbol of a historic democratic transition like Juan Carlos of Spain... or politicians whose opinions polarise and have vested interests behind them?
Compare this with the history of the United States, where moves towards greater equality- whether abolishing slavery, ending segregation, or even more recently the establishment of universal healthcare- have often met with fierce opposition. Yet the German Empire had introduced universal male suffrage from the very beginning, and subsequently the world's first welfare state.
The other irony that is often lost on critics of monarchy is the fact that the republics of Latin America, who took pride in their republicanism and their rejection of monarchy, proved to be anything but models of democracy or equality. In most of these countries, dictatorship and human rights violations were widespread, and indeed it has only been the last quarter of a century that democracy and free elections have been the rule rather than the exception, or even efforts to address the inequities. And even there, such efforts face fierce resistance. In fact, with few exceptions, most of the most undemocratic regimes of recent history have not been monarchies. There, as in many other places, one can find that elected institutions are not always held in high regard by the population. Do you really want to give more power to such people? And what costs? The costs of monarchies are often talked about but not particularly large in the greater scheme of things- and indeed politicians and elections do cost the taxpayer, and even more so in more fragile democracies.
At this moment, the Middle East is experiencing a profound change which may be comparable to the experiences of Europe of previous eras. And the people of the Arab world will have to consider what sort of political system will work for them. One hopes they can think long and hard and learn from past examples. Even there, most of the Arab world's monarchies have not fared so badly thus far, in comparison to some of the dictatorships that have been or will be ousted.
All these explain why I am a committed monarchist. While I follow the lives of today's royals and study royal history, I came to my position on the issue through much thought and observation. And many critics of monarchy and royalty clearly have not put such thought into that. I think it can be safely concluded that a republic does not automatically represent greater democracy, progress or equality than a constitutional monarchy.
TOPICAL VOCABULARY LIST - 3 Advantages/merits/benefits - disadvantages/demerits/faults of monarchy
to impede true democracy and equality
to retain/preserve - to abolish/jettison/do away with monarchy
to provide unity, continuity
to represent history
to safeguard the political system
the rise of monarchist sentiment
to look to sb. for moral authority and unity
not to be affiliated with a political movement
to look out for the best interests of the nation and its people
to win respect and love from all, regardless of their political affiliation, affluence or background
to be a unifying national symbol and a vital historical link
to waive powers
to be bound by tradition
to be evenhanded
to add dignity and historical relevance to state occasions
SPEAKING-5 Pair Work In pairs draft the lists of the merits and the demerits of monarchy. Decide which outweigh which? Give your arguments. Present your findings to the class using phrases from the Topical Vocabulary List-3.
READING 5: Reading for Summary Read the text paying special attention to its structure. Read the text again making notes of the main ideas and arguments of the author.
January 30, 2005
We live in the 21st century, the age of democracy and equality of opportunity. We elect our leaders and hold them accountable to our representatives and to the law. Despite all this, a significant proportion of the World's democracies have as their head of state an unelected, hereditary monarch, chosen by nothing more representative or accountable than chance of birth, and normally removable by nothing other than death. The status of these individuals defies the principle of equality and meritocracy. Why do we continue to accept it? What does monarchy give us that makes this apparent anachronism worth preserving?
Part of the answer probably lies in the principle “if it ain't broke, don't fix it.” In Europe, monarchies have survived in countries which have remained relatively stable over long periods, evolving gradually into modern democracies, evolving the monarchy along with them. In their cases, there has been no sudden or radical shift in political philosophy, leaving the monarchy floundering as a symbol of the old and discredited regime. Monarchies have fallen as a result of revolution, invasion, or catastrophic defeat in war, but never (in Europe) through a lawfully taken decision of a legislature or constitutional process where no wider major conflicts were involved.
Whatever faults the British monarchy may have, they don’t appear to be enough to warrant its removal, or enough to outweigh the benefits. There are various constitutional and political arguments which may underline the benefits of its existence. Not all the arguments which apply to the British monarchy will apply to others (or even to other realms of Her Britannic Majesty), but I will concentrate here on the British arguments.
The constitutional argument puts the monarch at the centre of the state. Although she exercises very little power at her own discretion, the Queen is the central cog in the machinery of state, the common link between executive, legislature, judiciary, civil service, military, church and other institutions, and keeps them all working. The Crown embodies the central authority under which these other bodies operate; it gives the final stamp of approval, the Royal Assent, to legislation. In a country without a written constitution, the Crown is the source of all state authority (although it is still subject to the law of the land – its authority is not absolute). The authority, and those who exercise it, could be codified in writing, and the particular functions of the Head of State granted to a President, but we would lose the flexibility of a constitution which can evolve to meet changing circumstances without the difficulties of a formal, and sometimes difficult, amendment process.
The existence of a hereditary monarch keeps the politicians in their place. However eminent a Prime Minister may become, he is always subject to a higher personal authority. Ambition, politicking and intrigue can never take someone to the highest office in the land, and he can never aggrandise himself by claiming to be the head and ultimate representative of the nation. A British Prime Minister can be verbally mauled in the legislature, and summarily dismissed by it, with a level of disrespect which few nations would be happy to show to their Head of State, but might like to inflict on their lesser politicians. Although, in practice, it is always the politicians who give the orders and run the country, if they go far beyond their authority, others can, in theory, defy them by claiming allegiance to the higher authority of the Crown, which is duty-bound to uphold the democratic order without personal interest or favour. This argument has never been put to the test in the UK, and has had mixed success elsewhere.
Proponents of a republic might argue that their head of state has at least been chosen by the people, and so has a right to command their respect, but the flip-side of that is that every elected president was opposed by a sizable section of the population, which may feel little loyalty or respect for the man they didn't want to represent it. While it is true that nobody ever voted for Elizabeth II, it is equally the case that not one person has ever rejected her at the ballot box either. While we have a vague idea where she stands on some issues, we don't really know her views in the way in which we would with a politician or ex-politician, and it is difficult to feel resentment towards a person who has never imposed, or attempted to impose, an unpopular policy on anyone. Personal loyalty is easier to achieve, and personal loyalty perhaps has more resonance than loyalty to an inanimate flag or amorphous state.
That loyalty is also easier to feel towards people with whom one has been familiar all one's life. With only the gradual changes of births and deaths, the Royal Family has always been with us, without the constant changes which come with elections every few years. By the same token, members of the Royal Family know from an early age that their lives will be ones of public duty, and are brought up in that ethos, in a way which a private citizen is usually not. As a result, they rarely go wrong in their public role, even though they may be no more successful than the rest of us in achieving ideal private lives.
“Monarchy” means rule by one person, but modern monarchies can offer more than the services of one person, or one person plus a spouse, because they are supported by a royal family. The Queen alone is responsible for the constitutional functions of the monarch, but she can delegate other duties (such as investitures) when necessary to other members of the family, all as well-known and familiar as herself. Part of what gives constitutional monarchy an enhanced social role is its ability to espouse many worthy causes, and take the time to attend events and functions without having to take time out of the essential job of running the country to do so; and that role is greatly enhanced further by the fact that there are a number of princes and princesses to carry it out. By contrast, an individual non-executive President in a parliamentary republic is more limited in number of roles he can play and causes he can espouse.
As well as the familiarity with the members of today’s monarchy, the Crown also gives a sense of continuity with the past, in a way which a very modern institution doesn’t, and in a more personalized way than a non-hereditary, older institution can. It is instinctively conservative, and can preserve and represent traditions which date back centuries; its current representatives are the descendants of its former ones, and its family continuity over centuries enhances the sense of identity with a nation’s own history and culture.
The nation wouldn’t fall apart without the monarchy. Its culture isn’t entirely dependent on royalty, and ways can be found to preserve traditions and handle the constitutional issues which its absence would create (in fact, some would argue that such issues would be better dealt with through a written constitution, with clearly defined powers for the institutions of state). Because of its enduring nature, its importance can be romantically overemphasized. It’s not an institution which could be created today embodying all the features which give it its distinctive character, because its history is part of what makes it distinctive. But given that it exists and that it enhances the character of the nation, it would be a shame to lose it.
WRITING: Summary Now write a summary of the article Why Monarchy? by Paul James following the summary-writing technique (see MANUAL for the guidelines) PROFICIENCY FILE Multiple choice lexical cloze
…On British Monarchy
I must say, I can’t understand the (1) .......... of the British nation toward the royal family. For years - shall I be candid here for a moment? - I thought they were insupportably boring and only marginally attractive, but everybody in England adored them. Then when, by a small (2) ……...., they finally started doing arresting and erratic things and started making the News of the World on merit— when, in a (3) ……....., they finally became interesting—the whole nation was suddenly saying, "Shocking. Let's get rid of them." Only that week, I had watched with open mouth a television program in which four (4) …….... of British intellectual life sat around discussing whether the nation should (5) ............ with Prince Charles and leapfrog to little Prince William. If you are going to have a system of hereditary privilege, then surely you have to take what (6) .......... comes your way no matter how ponderous the poor fellow may be.
Notes from a Small Island (excerpt)
...Daniel's, the most interesting department store in Britain, always puts me (1) …....... mind of what Britain might have been like (2) …….... communism.
It has long seemed to me unfortunate—and I'm taking the global view here—that such an important experiment (3) .......... social organization was left to the Russians when the British clearly would have managed it so much better. All those things that are necessary (4) …….... the successful implementation of a rigorous socialist system are, after all, second nature (5) …….... the British. (6) …….... a start, they like going without. They are great (7) …….... pulling together, particularly (8) ..... the face of adversity, (9) .......... a perceived common good. They will queue patiently for indefinite periods and accept (10) .......... rare fortitude the imposition of rationing, bland diets, and sudden inconvenient shortages of staple goods. They are comfortable (11) .......... faceless bureaucracies and, as Mrs. Thatcher proved, tolerant (12) …….... dictatorships. They will wait uncomplainingly for years for an operation or the delivery of a household appliance. They have a natural gift for making excellent, muttered jokes (13) …….... authority without ever actually challenging it, and they derive universal satisfaction from the sight of the rich and powerful broughtlow. Most of those (14) …….... the age of twenty-five already dress like East Germans. The conditions, (15) …….... a word, are right.
Please understand I'm not saying that Britain would have been a happier, better place (16) …….... communism, merely that the British would have done it properly. They would have taken it (17) .......... stride, (18) …….... good heart, and without excessive cheating. (19) …….... point of fact, (20) ..... about 1970 it wouldn't have made the slightest discernible difference to most people's lives.
From The Times June 15, 2007
Brown Will Put Reform Of The Lords On Back Burner
The reform of the House of Lords has been put off, again. Gordon Brown has decided that this is a “manifesto issue”, not a matter for early legislation in this Parliament.
There has been a pause since the Commons voted three months ago for a wholly elected second chamber, and the Lords for a wholly appointed one. The problem is less this stalemate than the many (1) .......... questions. A meeting last month of the Cabinet committee on constitutional affairs (known as CA and chaired by Jack Straw, the Leader of the Commons) decided that a lot more work needs to be done. This was also the (2) .......... view of the cross-party group on Lords reform.
At heart is the familiar dilemma over the balance between composition and powers: the more elected members there are, the more assertive the reformed House is likely to be. How can the supremacy of the Commons be (3) ..........? How will differences between the Houses be reconciled without gridlock? Also, what system will be used to elect members? If it is a regional list system asking voters to choose between groups drawn up by the parties, won’t party managers have effectively the same powers of patronage as under appointment? How will life peers be phased out?
Mr Straw has been asked to prepare options for both an 80 and 100 per cent elected House. The main (4) .......... preference is still for the former (with the balance coming largely from nonparty peers), (5) .......... since the majority for a (6) .......... elected chamber was inflated by “wrecking” votes by supporters of an appointed House.
A statement is (7) .......... before the end of July, promising further consultations and yet another White Paper. Specific proposals will then be set out in the next Labour manifesto. Including a detailed plan in the manifesto would be in order to (8) ..........any resistance in the Lords after the next election.
Mr Brown has, for some time, been inclined to take this approach. This is partly because he does not want his government to be bogged down in a time-consuming battle in the Lords. But he is also keen for the future of the Lords to be considered as part of the (9) .......... debate on reviving constitutional reform.
In the interim, the Government is keeping a close eye on a Private Member’s Bill put forward by Lord Steel of Aikwood, the former Liberal leader, which is due to have its second reading on July 20. It would prevent the remaining 92 hereditary peers from being (10) .......... through by-elections, put the appointments commission on a statutory basis and make it responsible for selecting new peers.
Ministers support some of these aims, but fear the Bill risks preempting the question of election: along the lines that since anomalies have been removed, why do any more? But there is still momentum for change: elections could start around the time of the London Olympics
*Explain the meaning of the underlined words, translate them into Russian