If you were asked to name all the existing monarchical countries of today, how many can you think of? Britain, yes. The Middle Eastern countries, right. And…? Well, there are exactly 44 sovereign states with a monarch as its head!
In most cases, these kings/queens are only nominal heads and do not exercise much power. However, there are absolute monarchs as well, like in the Nation of Brunei, the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Qatar, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Some countries like Bahrain, Morocco, UAE, and Malaysia have representative bodies alongside the kings but the latter exercise near-absolute control.
Monarchy’s Relevance in the 21st Century
Source: LA Times
This is a time and age where more and more people are out on the streets, protesting and rebelling against dictatorships – take Thailand and Belarus for example. When democracies are assuming more and more important places in world politics, the question arises as to why should anyone want to live under an authoritative monarch’s rule where the people’s decision-making abilities are close to zero?
Why should there exist countries where the citizen doesn’t have the right to voice dissent, no woman has the freedom to wear what she likes, and no child has the authority to pursue any career he/she is interested in? Why should we support countries where freedom of the Press is a joke and journalists are killed in broad daylight for reporting on the corrupt practices of their heads of state?
Source: The Arab Weekly
Why should this age-old feudal system be allowed to operate where no common citizen can ever dream of assuming leadership roles since the king’s son has already been declared the heir to the throne? The best example of this can be seen in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia where King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud also holds the position of the prime minister, giving him largely unfettered power. He has now allocated much of this to his son, who is next in line to the throne.
As evidence of the royal family’s control, in April last year, Salman ratified a royal decree ordering the beheading of 37 Saudi citizens for alleged terror offenses. The dismembered body and head of one of those convicted were put on display as a warning to others.
The Monarchs still make a lot of money!
Monarchies provide nothing but a nostalgic connection to a country’s old way of life and make the older generation feel like they still hold on to their traditional values and culture and the more “western” concept of democracy will erase their native ethics and customs. Let’s not forget that much of the royal household’s upkeep comes from taxes paid by commoners, which could very well be channelized into the upliftment of the masses. The tourism that is boosted by royal palaces and forts can very well continue if the places are maintained by the government as architectural heritage points.
A study conducted recently shows that the British, Spanish, and Belgian monarchies contributed quite a bit to the country’s economy but this does not serve as a defense of their presence. Countries without monarchies are also equally, and often more prosperous than these states. Moreover, the money that people pay is spent on maintaining palaces, paying for security, and arranging wedding ceremonies!
Imagine a common person saying that they want their neighbors to pay for their leaking roof! Or that they want the government to take up the expenses of their daughter’s grand wedding! But this happens in monarchical states and people are often so brainwashed into believing the cultural importance of this that they throng the streets to wave at the passing royal convoy. A convoy of people who do not care about the existence or the troubles of any of the people they see through the tinted glasses of their Rolls Royces.
A survey conducted by Time.com showed that 57% of British citizens believe the royal family should pay not only for their weddings but also for police costs. According to a 2018 Ipsos MORI poll, Spain is the country with the highest proportion of anti-royal sentiment, with 37 percent of respondents wishing to abolish the monarchy. Sweden took second place with 23 percent. According to the Prime Minister of Jamaica, ties with the British monarchy give a small country like theirs a voice in the world but a time for change had arrived.
It’s time to do away with Monarchy
The presence of monarchy only escalates tensions between classes. Firstly, the monarchs are a privileged class by virtue of birth alone. One has to do nothing to gain access to the power and luxury that comes with the royal household. This is clear discrimination against people who were not fortunate enough to be born in palaces but could be much more talented than the heirs in line. This is bound to create anger and frustration in the lower classes and a sense of threat to the royals.
The gulf only widens with time as people realize the lack of transparency in most monarchs about how much their actual earnings are. In a democracy, when people are angered by the corrupt practices of their leaders, they can decide to bring in a new government in the next elections but not so in absolute monarchies. In constitutional monarchies, where the kings/queens are in name only and do not actually exercise any power, their role becomes all the more redundant. Celebrities gain their popularity and status through their work in some field but these people are born as celebrities with the new-born child’s name becoming a matter of public debate! This cripples the rise of the middle classes to positions of power and fame and keeps the class divide intact.
Monarchies have served their purposes. When tribes fought with each other to conquer lands, it made sense to have supreme leaders who would take quick decisions and help the tribe survive. In the modern era, where we are all connected through various channels and our progress has become dependent on one another, we need leaders who are clever strategists and understand economic and foreign policies that will benefit the country. We need people from all strata to come together to make the country stand strong against evildoers. The first step towards that golden age is to get rid of people who sit on their ancestral thrones and enjoy public money.