The Return of Monarchy
We are witnessing the return of monarchy throughout the world, where the position of chief of government is hereditary. In North Korea, Kim Jong Il inherited leadership from his father, Kim Il Sung. In Syria, Bashar Assad inherited the presidency from his father Hafez Assad. In the Congo (former Zaire), Joseph Kabila took charge after the death of his father, Laurent Kabila. Their leadership was affirmed by the ruling parties of both countries, but clearly the filial relationship gave them the power.
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
In the United States of America, we now have George W. Bush as president, son of former president George Herbert Walker Bush. His ascent to the presidency was no doubt a consequence of being the son of the former president, although this does not detract from his own talents and efforts. In these cases, the sons may well become good leaders. Nevertheless, we should note the pattern that may be developing: the monarchy is back!
In the case of the USA, the people still need to vote in order for the sons and daughters of government chiefs to achieve power. But their candidacies are given a vital boost by their name and filiation. The Kennedies are a prime example, as is indeed former Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore. The US had a previous father-son presidency in the 1800s, with John Adams and John Quincy Adams.
In the case of the more authoritarian regimes, the accession to power by the sons of the chief of government has created de facto monarchies. The age of monarchies ended after World War I, when the great empires of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Turkey collapsed and became republics. The Chinese empire had already fallen. Their monarchies were already crumbling, but the kings and emperors were under the delusion of great power and foolishly sought to extend their holdings, only to crack under defeat.
So now it is no longer in fashion to anoint oneself a king or emperor, as Napoleon did. Going around wearing a crown would look silly. But when the sons of autocrats inherit the position, there is a de facto monarchy in place, an actual hereditary rule even though not de jure, in law. So far we have second- generation monarchical rule; we will see if these regimes last long enough for the third generation to take over.
Given that a country has a dictator, rule by the offspring is not the worst option. A favorable feature of monarchy is that it provides for an orderly succession, avoiding a war among conflicting claims to power. There is some continuity of policy, and often hope for more enlightened rule, as we are seeing indeed in North Korea, where both Koreas are taking steps towards peace. There is a greater chance of progressive change when a young dictator takes control than when the same old oligarchy chooses a new chief of state to continue the same old decrepit policies.
Still, having power remain with the family is ultimately unhealthy for governance and liberty. We get an aristocracy with privileges, power, and wealth, and the mass of people perhaps propagandized into king-worship but still left with high costs of government tyrants, a poorer standard of living, and loss of liberty.
The root of the problem is political power concentrated in a central government. This is a treasure that becomes the possession of the ruler, who then naturally wishes to pass on to his children. The remedy is a decentralization of power, down to villages, towns, cities, counties, and other localities. When power rests mainly in neighborhood districts and other small local groups and is then delegated upwards by choice, the head of state is no longer such as glittering prize. And if the child of the chief should become the new chief, it is not so important.
Centralized power is what we have inherited from conquest. The continuous enforcement of centralized power itself creates a type of monarchy that all countries today are afflicted with.
Eventually the people must take charge and undo the structures from conquest and recognize the sovereignty of each human individual. Then we can delegate power by choice to small local councils, who would by choice delegate some powers to higher-level authorities. Until we have decentralized power based on individual choice, we will continue to see elite families enjoy power as an inherited privilege.
-- Fred Foldvary
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Copyright 2001 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.