Tomorrow Prince William will marry Kate Middleton. If we don’t change anything he will probably become the King of Australia at some future time, so I think that now is the time to start discussing the options.
Walter Block makes some interesting points in favor of longer terms for politicians and for having a monarch to get a long-term view of the national interest , he’s not the only person to make such points, but he makes them in a better way than most. Of course the problem with this is the long history of kings not doing what’s best for their country – part of the ownership rights to property is the right to destroy it, so a monarch who owns a country therefore can be considered to have the right to cause the wholesale death of their subjects. There are some examples of “President for Life” political leaders demonstrating this at the moment. Even with a monarch who is generally a nice person and who has controls to prevent the worst abuses there is the possibility of Control Fraud.
In the Constitutional Monarchy system that doesn’t happen because a constitutional monarch has little power (no official position of power). But there is still the issue of whether the monarchy is any good.
Charles Stross wrote an interesting post about the apparent human need to have a leadership figure . So getting rid of a monarch tends to result in a president getting the trappings of a king, and if things go wrong (as they often do) then they get absolute power until the next revolution. It seems that having one person who is the head of government and the head of state (as done in the US for example) is a bad idea, they can start to think that it’s all about them. I don’t think that the US is at risk of getting a “president for life” in the near future and I don’t think that Australia will do so if we become a republic, but that doesn’t mean that the republican system works well. I think that the Australian system is working better than the US system and I will generally vote against any changes that make Australia more like the US. As long as the House of Windsor provides monarchs who are as sensible as Queen Elizabeth 2 I will vote in favor of the continued rule of the House of Windsor in preference to an Australian republic (if Prince Charles ever becomes king I may support a republic).
A Way of Improving Things
I want to have an Australian monarch. Someone who will live in Australia for most of the time (as opposed to a distant monarch who visits once a decade if we are lucky). Protocol should dictate that the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers are forced to show ritual respect to the monarch, bowing etc, and no touching. A separation between the person who performs most of the ceremonial functions and the person who actually makes the political decisions should help constrain political egos. When a Prime Minister feels the need to suck up to someone more powerful it would be better to have that person be an Australian monarch than the US president.
Tradition has it that monarchs have to be descended from other monarchs (although there are cases of elected monarchs as happened in Danish history). An election for a monarch probably wouldn’t work well in a modern political environment, so we need someone with royal ancestry. One possibility is to have a spare descendant of our current Queen become the monarch of Australia, I think it’s quite likely that given a choice between remaining a UK prince or princess for the rest of their life and becoming the monarch of Australia there would be someone who would take the latter option and I expect that the Queen would consent to that arrangement if asked (she would have to prefer it to a Republic).
Another possibility is the fact that Mary the Crown Princess of Denmark has more children than the Danish monarchy requires . As she was born in Australia it seems likely that her children will have more interest in Australia than most royals and a skim read of some tabloid magazines indicates that her family is quite popular. I expect that if a Danish prince or princess was invited to become the monarch of Australia then this would be acceptable to the Queen of Denmark.
In an ideal world there would not be such a thing as a monarchy. But as we don’t get to have ideal voters and therefore our politicians are far from ideal it seems to me that the constitutional monarchy is the least bad system of government. Don’t think that I am in favor of a monarchy, I just dislike it less than the other options.
Finally the Queen is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. I think that it would be good to have a separation between church and state and therefore anyone who is in a leadership position of any religious organisation should be considered unsuitable to be the monarch.