Tag Archives: Democracy Watch

IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT!

queen-elizabeth-parliament-opening

According to the BBC’s website:   “Almost all of Australia’s state and territory leaders have signed a document in support of the country becoming a republic.”

This follows republican Malcolm Turnbull replacing monarchist Tony Abbot as prime minister of Australia.   Both men are Liberals.  The Liberal Party in Australia is actually the nation’s conservative party.  Mr. Turnbull feels that this is not the time for a republic – it would be best to wait until the Queen’s reign ends.

Elizabeth II has been Queen of Australia for more than half the country’s existence as an independent nation.   Nobody speaks ill of the Queen, who has been a conscientious monarch, serving the country well.   But Australia has changed in the fifty years since the queen’s first Australian prime minister, Sir Robert Menzies, was in charge.   Sir Robert was an ardent monarchist who attended the coronation of the monarch in 1953.

At the time, Sir Winston Churchill was the British prime minister.  When the nine Commonwealth prime ministers met for their bi-annual conference, they spent a great deal of their time discussing defense matters.   The Korean War was ending and there were serious threats to the British Empire in Egypt, where the new radical government of Gamal Abdul Nasser wanted to gain control of the Suez Canal, a move that would later deal a fatal blow to the whole idea of empire.

Today, the Commonwealth has 53 members, almost all of whom are non-white and mostly have different ideals and priorities to the mother country.

Trade ties have declined with Britain’s industrial decline.  Australia now has closer ties with Asia than with Britain.

Demographic trends also mean that there are less people of British descent in Australia.

It’s interesting to note that the new Canadian prime minister feels very differently to Mr. Turnbull.  In December, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was in Malta for the latest Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.   The BBC asked him if he had any plans to make Canada a republic, something his father favored when he was PM.  Justin Trudeau, thirty years later, replied:  “No, we are very happy with our Queen, the Queen of Canada.”   Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party is a left-wing party, so very different from Mr. Turnbull’s Liberal Party.

Why the difference in attitudes toward the Crown?

I suspect the answer lies in the word “identity.”

Canada was founded by Loyalists who did not want to be a part of the new American Republic after the American Revolution.   They asked for independence in 1864 while the US was fighting a Civil War.  They did not think much of the American form of government, adopting a system more in line with Great Britain.   They wanted to retain the British Head of State, Queen Victoria, as their own monarch.   They laid the foundation of the Commonwealth.  Australia, New Zealand and South Africa followed their example.   These nations were the mainstays of the British Commonwealth until after World War II, when India, Pakistan and Ceylon joined the club.

Canada’s identity, dwarfed by its more powerful southern neighbor, is bound up in the monarchy.   It needs to retain the link in order to maintain its sovereignty, separate and distinct from the United States.

The same dynamics do not apply in Australia, though a case can certainly be made for preserving Australia’s distinctly unique way of life, separate from other nations in the region.  The link with the Crown is a part of Australia’s cultural heritage, which sets it apart from most other countries in the region.

magazine has been in favor of an Australian republic ever since the issue was first raised, describing the queen as “Elizabeth the Last.” But even The Economist admits that it will lead to ten years of political instability, as the ripple effects will require a number of constitutional changes.   Perhaps now is not a good time to change the system.

It should also be pointed out that, approximately half the population remains very loyal to the monarchy, so any change could be divisive.

Interestingly, whereas many Australians who favor a republic would prefer the US system, it’s not likely to happen.   Politicians prefer the German or Irish system, replacing the Queen with a figurehead president appointed by parliament.   This is not a very good system.   While the monarch is above politics, any political appointee inevitably won’t be.   It should also be remembered that, when the German president, Paul von Hindenburg, died in office, the new Chancellor did away with the office and had himself proclaimed Fuhrer.   The rest, as they say, is history!

It’s also interesting to note that the Toronto based organization “Democracy Watch” recently listed the seven most democratic countries in the world.   All were constitutional monarchies, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.   The United States was not in the top seven.   Sadly, America has become less democratic in recent decades, as big business together with lobbyists seem to determine everything in politics.   Add to that the influence of the media – elections are increasingly just personality contests.  Reality TV has taken over.

An additional factor for Australia to consider is that constitutional monarchy is the cheapest political system.

Christians should also remember I Peter 2:17 – “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the king.”

It might be good for everyone to ponder on the old maxim:   “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

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CHARLES VISITS WASHINGTON

Prince Charles and Camilla

Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, are visiting Washington DC.   During their visit to the US, they will commemorate three things — the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, the most important secular document in the history of the English-speaking peoples; the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War; and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

The Prince of Wales visited the National Archives yesterday where a 1297 copy of the Magna Carta is on loan from Lincoln Cathedral in England.  The Magna Carta is embodied in the American Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

I’ve had the privilege of viewing the same Magna Carta, signed by King John at Runnymede on June 15th, 1215, in Lincoln, which is not far from my hometown.   A depiction of the event can be seen on the bronze doors of the Supreme Court building.

It’s been over forty years since the Washington Post claimed that President Richard Nixon was brought down by Magna Carta.   The charter established the principle that everybody is equal before the law, including the king or president.   This principle separated England from the continental powers, where the head of state is above the law.   When French President Jacques Chirac was accused of corruption while in office, nothing could be done about it until he was no longer president of France.

Exactly ten weeks after King John was pressured into signing the charter, Pope Innocent III declared it null and void.  He said that no people had any right to demand anything of their king. Consequently, England was plunged into civil war.

Magna Carta reminds us that:   “God is no respecter of persons.” (Acts 10:34)   We are all equal before God, who is the ultimate Law-giver.

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It’s a good thing that the royal couple were not in America on Sunday, where they might have seen the first episode of “The Royals,” on the E! Network.   This show depicts a fictional royal family ruling in England.

I watched the first 30 minutes of the 75-minute much-hyped premiere.

It was utter and total trash.

If any of today’s royal families behaved like those in the fictional series, they wouldn’t last very long.

Monarchy has a serious side.   According to the organization “Democracy Watch,” the seven most democratic countries in the world are all constitutional monarchies.   They are:   The Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, Canada and New Zealand (the United Kingdom was not included in the list, maybe because it does not have an elected Upper House).

They have all also been the most stable countries in the world.

Constitutional monarchy also happens to be the cheapest form of government.

There’s a lot to be said for constitutional monarchy.   In contrast, there is nothing positive to be said for the new television series, which raises trash to a whole new level – and that’s really saying something when it comes to TV!

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While on the subject of royalty, I have to recommend the new “Cinderella” movie.

My son and I took his two girls to see it on Sunday.   The girls, aged 8 & 9, have gotten used to me falling asleep whenever I take them to a movie.   Brooklyn, the youngest, promised to wake me up if this should happen again.

But it didn’t.   The movie was engrossing.   It is beautifully made with real people.

I have never been one for fairy stories, even when I was a child.   But this was different.   It’s a real old-fashioned love story, with an upbeat ending that will leave many in tears.

Lily James (Rose in “Downton Abbey”) plays a very convincing Cinderella.   (One of her ugly step-sisters is played by Downton’s Daisy.)   Richard Madden plays the prince.   Helena Bonham Carter, one of England’s greatest actresses, plays a humorous Fairy Godmother and Cate Blanchett plays the Wicked Step-Mother.

The movie was directed by Kenneth Branagh, one of England’s greatest theatrical talents.

A superb movie, perfect for the whole family.   It’s also perfectly respectable for married couples to go without children — I intend to take my wife who could not go on Sunday.

 

 

REPUBLICS DIVIDED

democrat-and-republican-symbols-of-a-donkey-and-elephant-facing-off

The Royalist Party of America (yes, there is one) is on to something.

They want the United States of America to rejoin the Commonwealth and recognize Queen Elizabeth as Head of State.  Something like Canada.  Canada is a democracy but its Head of State is not elected.  The Queen is a unifying figure above politics.

But that’s not what they are on to.

If you look at their Face Book page, you will see that they are worried about the state of this republic.  They point out that, historically, republics do not last very long.  Eventually, republics become terribly divided between two factions.  Using an analogy with marriage, eventually the two sides exhibit “irreconcilable differences” and divorce is inevitable.  When that happens, democracy is in danger and dictatorship looms.

Witness Rome 2,000 years ago; more recently, the Weimar Republic in the 1920’s.  Or any African republic in the last 50 years.

(For clarity, it should be pointed out that, outside of the United States, a republic is simply a country with a president rather than a king.)

The United States is very divided between what you might call the traditionalists and those who wish to take the country on a different, more secular, path.  In other words, Republicans and Democrats.

But it’s not just America.

Ukraine is a republic that seems on the verge of civil war.  Again, there are two factions.

Roughly half the country wants to strengthen ties with Russia, the country that ruled them for two centuries.  The Russians, led by Vladimir Putin, are certainly in favor of this, willing to spend billions propping up the Ukrainian economy.  There’s a sentimental attachment with Ukraine, as Russia owes its origins to the Kievan Rus who embraced Christianity in the latter years of the tenth century.

But the people in the western half of the country want links with the European Union, which has done so much to develop other former communist countries and to strengthen their democratic institutions.  Russian democracy is an oxymoron.

The latter have been demonstrating for over two months now.  The pro-Russian police force has been too heavy handed, killing some protesters, Russian style.

In a sense, this is part of the ongoing historical struggle between Germany and Russia.

The two countries have fought over Ukraine a number of times in the last hundred years, notably in both world wars.  This time, they are not using tanks or planes.  The battle this time is economic.  The EU is the world’s biggest trading bloc and can offer Ukraine a great deal.  It’s also a champion of human rights and basic freedoms, which new members are required to embrace.  This is in stark contrast to Russia’s shortcomings in these areas.

It’s going to be interesting to see the outcome of this struggle.

France is another republic in danger of falling apart, rather like the new president’s marriage (or, rather, non-marriage as the couple never actually tied the knot).

News sources have revealed that France is the latest subject of concern for the British and German leaders, who are concerned the Fifth Republic may collapse.  As this is the “fifth” Republic, it should be remembered that the country has tried a number of different constitutions since the overthrow of the ancien regime in 1789.  Not only have they tried five republics, there were brief periods of monarchy, dictatorship and foreign control in between.  France has, arguably, been the most unstable country in western Europe during the last two centuries.

President Hollande is not helping, with economic policies that are only making austerity worse.  A 75% tax on the wealthy is only going to drive money away (easy when France shares the euro with all its neighbors!).  Other socialist measures will also make things worse but Hollande is a socialist and has to answer to pressure from his support base, so change is not likely.  Without change, collapse is increasingly likely.  Germany may have bailed out Greece and other smaller members of the eurozone, but cannot bail out France, the fifth biggest economy in the world.

And, if France falls, chaos in Africa will only increase.

Last year, M. Hollande, to his credit, sent French troops into two African republics, both violently divided between Muslims and Christians.  The two nations, Mali and Central African Republic, are both former French colonies.  While things have stabilized for now, a French withdrawal could easily lead to fighting flaring up again.  Terrible acts of depravity have taken place, including cannibalism.  France’s colonial role was often described as a “mission to civilize” – hopefully they can restore a veneer of civilization to these two nations whose people have suffered so much.

Sadly, France’s military missions cost money, which only exacerbates the problems at home.  Reuters reported today that Germany wants to help support France’s military missions in Africa.  In contrast to the 1920’s, Germany today seems a model republic – the two main parties of left and right are cooperating and have formed a coalition government.  It’s hard to imagine such a development in the United States.

Back to the new Royalist Party of America.  Their Face Book page quotes from “Democracy Watch,” an international organization that monitors developments around the world.  A recent report showed that the seven most democratic countries in the world are all constitutional monarchies, including Canada, Australia, and Norway.

The Economist magazine has long described the US as a “corporate democracy,” with a government that is unduly influenced by corporations and where the people have little or no say.  It hasn’t always been that way but it has become so.

That’s certainly something to think about.

But lest those in the constitutional monarchies get too smug, it is clear that they also have their divisions.  And, if the American republic falls, it’s unlikely they would survive!