Throughout history, various forms of authoritarian rule have emerged, with monarchy and dictatorship being two prominent examples. While both systems concentrate power in the hands of a single individual, they differ in their origins, structures, and implications for society. In this blog, we will delve into the debate of monarchy vs. dictatorship, exploring the advantages and drawbacks of each, and ultimately consider which might be considered the “better evil.”
MONARCHY: TRADITION AND STABILITY
Monarchy is a system of governance where power is passed down through hereditary lines, typically from one generation to another within a royal family. Proponents argue that monarchies provide stability due to their long-established traditions and historical continuity. Monarchs often serve as symbolic figures, representing the unity and identity of a nation. Furthermore, they can offer a sense of stability and continuity by acting as a unifying force during times of crisis. Monarchies also have the potential to maintain a system of checks and balances, particularly constitutional monarchies where a constitution or parliament limits the monarch’s powers. This can prevent excessive concentration of power in the hands of a single individual, providing a semblance of democratic governance. Most of the time monarchs are guided by a council of ministers which makes the decision more inclusive. Monarchy reduces the gap in the government’s power structure and its predictability reduces uncertainty.
However, critics of monarchy argue that it perpetuates social inequalities and denies individuals the right to choose their leaders. In some cases, monarchies have been associated with corruption and nepotism, as power is concentrated within a single family. Additionally, monarchies may hinder social progress by impeding the development of democratic institutions and impinging on individual freedoms. Modern-day monarchies are often supported financially by taxpayers. For instance, UK taxpayers have to pay for the Sovereign Grant which accounts for £102.4m as per June data, covers its central staffing costs and expenses for the monarch’s official households, maintenance of the royal palaces in England, and travel and royal engagements and visits.
DICTATORSHIP: EFFICIENCY OR OPPRESSION?
On the other hand, dictatorship is a system where power is seized and held by an individual or a small group of individuals, often through force or coercion. Advocates of dictatorship argue that it can bring about swift and efficient decision-making, as there are no bureaucratic hurdles or lengthy deliberations. This perceived efficiency may enable rapid reforms and development, particularly in times of crisis or in societies plagued by corruption and inefficiency. Moreover, dictators can claim to bring stability and security to nations torn by internal conflicts or facing external threats. By exerting strong control over the populace, dictators argue they can maintain law and order and prevent societal disintegration. A dictator can’t hold his position without pleasing his people for a long time and hence some schools consider dictatorship better than monarchy as there is no nepotism involved.
However, the darker side of dictatorship lies in its potential for abuse of power. Dictatorships often suppress dissent, stifle free speech, and curtail individual liberties. Human rights abuses, lack of transparency, and widespread corruption are common issues associated with autocratic rule. The absence of checks and balances can lead to unchecked power, resulting in a culture of fear and oppression. Dictators often use propaganda techniques and are much more dangerous than monarchs. Dictators place more importance on building networks of loyalty to compensate for the weakness of democracy they often lash out at bonds of loyalty that allow other members of society to enforce agreements potentially at odds with the dictator’s wishes.
NAVIGATING THE PRESENT COMPLEXITIES
It is not like monarchy and dictatorship used to exist in the past and at present there is a democratic world all around. Many democracies are turning into autocratic forms of government. Dictatorships in the present era present a more complex picture. While overt authoritarian regimes still exist, modern dictatorships have adopted subtler approaches that blur the lines between autocracy and democracy. These hybrid regimes often use controlled elections, manipulation of media, and co-opting of institutions to create an illusion of democratic governance while concentrating power in the hands of a few.
Dictatorships are known to neither face political opposition in their country nor criticism by the local press because they know how to silence these voices, however of the key challenges posed by present-day dictatorships is the erosion of democratic values and the suppression of fundamental freedoms. These regimes often limit dissent, curtail freedom of expression, and undermine the independence of the judiciary and media. The concentration of power in the hands of a single leader or ruling elite can result in a lack of accountability, corruption, and human rights abuses. Despite their fundamental differences, present-day monarchy and dictatorship can occasionally share certain traits, blurring the lines between the two systems. Both forms of governance can exhibit authoritarian tendencies, with power centralized in the hands of a few individuals or families.
The challenge lies in distinguishing between genuine adherence to democratic principles and the manipulation of democratic processes for self-interest. On the other hand, Monarchies, predominantly constitutional, have evolved to adapt to the modern world while retaining their symbolic roles and cultural significance. In such systems, the monarch serves as a figurehead, representing the nation and upholding traditions. While political power may be limited, constitutional monarchs often play essential roles as neutral arbiters, unifying figures, and symbols of national identity.
Present-day monarchies have embraced transparency, accountability, and engagement with the public. Many royal families actively participate in charitable work, promote social causes, and engage with their subjects through public engagements. They have recognized the importance of maintaining relevance by connecting with their citizens and addressing contemporary issues, all while preserving the historical legacy associated with the monarchy. They are well respected and honored and hence are striving for better in the modern world compared to dictatorship.
CONCLUSION: CHOOSING THE “BETTER EVIL”
When comparing monarchy and dictatorship, it is important to note that both systems concentrate power in the hands of a single individual, which inherently raises concerns about accountability and potential abuses. While monarchy can offer stability, tradition, and limited constitutional oversight, dictatorship may boast efficiency and the ability to enact rapid change. However, in the modern world, the principles of democracy, human rights, and individual freedoms have become widely recognized as essential components of a just society. Monarchies that embrace constitutional limitations and respect democratic values can better navigate the complexities of the contemporary world. Ultimately, it is crucial to strive for democratic systems that ensure the protection of human rights, accountability, and transparency. While neither monarchy nor dictatorship may be ideal forms of governance, the lessons of history have shown that societies that uphold democratic principles tend to flourish, fostering innovation, inclusivity, and respect for human dignity.
Author(s) Name: Ruchi Baid (Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat)