Strangely you can argue that monarchy promotes freedom. To explain, there is data that shows countries with monarchs are freer.
Every year, the Frazier Institute in Vancouver and the Cato Institute in Washington, DC, publish the Human Freedom Index. The index lists the 10 freest and 10 least-free nations on Earth.
Six of the Index’s 10 freest nations are constitutional monarchies. The list is as follows:
- Switzerland — 9.11
- New Zealand — 9.01
- Denmark — 8.98
- Estonia — 8.91
- Ireland — 8.90
- Finland — 8.85
- Canada — 8.85
- Australia — 8.84
- Sweden — 8.83
- Luxembourg — 8.80
Three of the countries on the list; Denmark, Sweden, and Luxembourg, have homegrown monarchs. Three others; Canada, Australia, and New Zealand ,have British Queen Elizabeth II as their head of state.
Are Republics bad for Freedom?
In contrast, none of the countries on the Index’s list of 10 least free countries has a monarch. Those countries are:
- Syrian Arab Republic — 3.66
- Venezuela — 4.03
- Yemen — 4.08
- Sudan — 4.48
- Egypt — 4.49
- Iran — 4.53
- Somalia — 4.93
- Burundi — 5.02 (tie)
- Iraq — 5.02 (tie)
- Libya — 5.05
Each of these countries claims to be a Republic, although Syria’s second-generation dictator Bashar al-Assad inherited the job from his dad. Thus, Syria is really an absolute monarchy. Notably, four of the least free nations Iran, Egypt, Iraq, and Libya abolished their monarchies.
Hence, the data shows monarchies are more conductive to freedom than Republics. Conversely, the Index’s choice for world’s freest country Switzerland is a Republic.
Why is Monarchy Good for Freedom?
So is monarchy conductive to freedom? Not necessarily, the data shows a combination of constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy leads to greater freedom. Absolute monarchies such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, and North Korea, can be just as oppressive as any republic.
A parliamentary democracy is a system that separates the positions of head of state and head of government. In the Republic of Ireland, for example, the Prime Minister is the head of government and the President is head of state.
Parliamentary democracies can be freer because they place more limits on leaders’ power. In most parliamentary systems, parliament can remove the head of government with a simple vote.
In constitutional monarchies the head of government, usually the prime minister enjoys far less prestige than the monarch. For example, in the UK the Queen lives at several different palaces surrounded by soldiers in dress uniforms. In contrast, the Prime Minister lives in a townhouse, 10 Downing Street, with a few policemen standing out front.
Hence, it’s hard for the head of government to build up the kind of glamour that surrounds an American or French president. Instead, the prime minister is often a shabby figure in comparison to the monarch. Compare the Queen to Boris Johnson to see what I mean.
Can Monarchs protect Freedom?
One problem is that republics give leaders ample opportunity to build personality cults. A monarch can limit such cults.
Another advantage is that in some constitutional monarchies, such as Spain and the United Kingdom, the monarch has the theoretical power to remove the head of government.
In Britain, the Prime Minister has to report his or her activities to the Queen each week. This breeds at least some humility. The most powerful politician in the nation has to report to the boss like everybody else.
Nor is just the Queen, Johnson has to face. British prime ministers have to face Prime Minister’s Questions each week. During the Questions the Prime Minister sits on a bench in the House of Commons like a normal Member of Parliament and gets grilled by friend and foe alike.
In contrast, the US president is accountable to nobody. President Joe Biden (D-Delaware) doesn’t have to tell anybody what he’s doing or why. If the president wants to sit around in the Oval Office and play with his phone instead of work, as a certain former president allegedly did. There is little anybody can do about it.
Worse, the president can surround himself with sycophants who tell him what a genius he is and what a wonderful job he’s doing. The same sycophants can also reassure the president that his enemies are responsible for all his problems.
In such situations the leader starts behaving like a dictator. As dictatorial tendencies increase so do opportunities for restricting freedom.
Another possibility is monarchies promote respect for tradition and values. Those values include human dignity, the rule of law, and freedom.
Can Monarchs Defend Freedom?
Finally, as Tobias Stone notes in Britain, the police, civil servants, and the military pledge their loyalty to the Queen. Not the government. That makes it hard to establish a dictatorship without the monarch’s support because all dictators need to resort to force sooner or later.
Although, it is possible for dictators and monarchs to coexist. Mussolini ruled as Italy’s dictator for over 20 years because King Victor Emmanuel III looked the other way. However, in the end the King was able to fire Mussolini and order his arrest and met with no resistance. Mussolini only got back into power with help from Nazi invaders.
The British prime minister can give orders to the police or military but they don’t work for Downing Street. Ultimately the men and women in uniform serve the Queen.
Hence, in Britain, if Boris Johnson recruited a mob of soccer hooligans to attack Parliament and refused to order the police or army to stop the attack. The Queen could simply overrule Johnson and order the army and Metropolitan Police to break up the mob and arrest Johnson.
In the final analysis, it appears constitutional monarchy could be good for freedom. That is something for Americans and others who worry about the erosion of freedom in our world need to ponder.