I’m a republican by default: give me a referendum choice between republic and monarchy, and I’d vote republic – but only if I found its form acceptable and was convinced that it would improve things in society. Perhaps I’m most sceptical on this point, just because an elected head of state seems more “reasonable” than a hereditary one, doesn’t mean things will get magically better. Is a republic more just, democratic, equitable and less corrupt than a monarchy? Not necessarily, the difference may just be symbolic.
In a democracy a hereditary monarch looks out of place; we’re meant to choose our leaders, not inherit them from the mists of the past. On the other hand, if the people show clear signs that they want a monarchy, then that is also democratic (each time you vote for a monarchy-supporting party or candidate, you are indirectly voting for the monarchy). It can be an important part of some people’s cultural and historical identity – just not mine.
You cannot impose values on a society for which it is not ready, even values which are beneficial, because if that society doesn’t like or understand the new values, they will be rejected, like germs in a body. That is why gradual reform is better than abrupt revolution – the results stick better. Any change from monarchy to republic should be legal, constitutional and, above all, democratic. There are plenty of changes to do to the monarchy and its position in society before it can be removed and/or replaced with something else.
I think the more democratic a society becomes, the less need there is for a monarchy, the ritual and symbolism it represents becomes more irrelevant to the real needs of citizens. But we’re not quite “postmodern” enough to do away with the ritual and symbolism that monarchy embodies, which is the natural sovereignty of the people. For many people, the monarchy is a point of stability, an anchor for their society. Take it away and you destabilise a part of their world, which can potentially have horrific political and social consequences. My republicanism isn’t so strong to pursue this.
There perhaps is no “true democracy” in the world today – all such are just “works in progress” – so for the moment we can accept the juxtaposition of monarchy and democracy, whilst we work on what it means to be “democratic” and how to make it work. Only when each citizen becomes their own monarch can an external one be disposed of or simply made redundant. Really, you cannot abolish the external monarchy, just replace it with an internal one that exists within each and every citizen.
So, until next time, slowly and incrementally down with the monarchy! Long live the Kings and Queens that we all are!