It seems almost conceivable that, in 2018, we still have governments that obtain their power through hereditary decree. Inside and outside the Arab world. Instead of earning their right to rule and enjoy all the benefits and responsibilities associated with this right, rule and power is distributed based on somebody’s blood type and association.
I don’t want to sound like an “SJW”, so I will not go into the avenue of explaining how this could be regarded as a form of political discrimination – instead, I will highlight immediate issues that come to mind with this kind of system:
- What if a person who is fully equipped to be a leader does not share hereditary blood ties?
- Flipping it around: would we punish people on the basis of crimes committed by their forefathers? Probably not.
Furthermore, if monarchy institutionalises power structures, this can make it more difficult to deconstruct intersectional issues like the distribution of power based on patriarchy, class, ethnicity and religion. All power and all rights should be earned, whereas monarchy gives a signal in 2018 that it should not.
Four immediate rebuttals come to mind from more conservative commentators on this issue, some of whom have expressed their opinions on Arab Millennial:
- Monarchy creates stability for nations
- Monarchy preserves history and encourages tourism and investment
- Most Arabs are not ready for direct democracy
- Many monarchs do not fully exercise their power
Below I address each of these common rebuttals.
Monarchy as a source of stability
There are two problems with this claim. First of all, it assumes that stability is always a good thing. Secondly, it assumes that apparent stability portrayed by many monarchs signals underlying infrastructural stability behind the scenes.
Sometimes governments need to change in order to address social issues and therefore stability can at times be undesirable. For example, North Korea (okay, it’s a republic, but an example nonetheless) is a “stable” country, but to what extent is an autocratic regime in “stable” existence desirable for the international community?
Very often, seemingly stable regimes such as the Saudi regime do not comprehensively address underlying social challenges in a just and sustainable way, and this can lead to the sort of instability that does not necessarily enter popular media or the wider public sphere. An example of this can be seen in the way that Arab monarchies are handling the phenomenon of social media and globalised political dialogue.
Monarchy as a source of tourism and investment
Similarly, the argument that monarchy is a source of tourism and investment has its own problems.
Not all things that are sources of tourism and investment can be presumed to be desirable. To take a crude example, we can look at the discussion surrounding Morocco’s cannabis economy.
Equally, regime change does not always propel a nation’s monarchal history and heritage into disappearance: arguably, the French Revolution had added further momentum and complexity to the nation’s history and tourist interests. Many people visit France for various reasons, including to view Place de la Bastille where a revolution dismantled French monarchy in 1789.
Regime change can also create a space to encourage nations to develop new ways of identifying itself and attracting tourism and investment. To assume that tourism simply disappears in the absence of former monarchies is simply too reductionist.
“Most Arabs are not ready for direct democracy”
If you would like to see my counterargument to the claim that “Arabness” and direct democracy are incompatible, please click here.
“Many monarchs do not fully exercise their power”
Finally, the position that many monarchs do not fully exercise their power can be looked at in two ways.
Firstly, if monarchal status is inconsequential, then there should be no significant reason to defend the monarchal institution – the argument is self-destructive.
Secondly, just because one monarch is more reasonable with the powers they have at disposal, it does not mean that a future monarch could not take advantage of their constitutional powers. Take the difference, for instance, between Mohammed V of Morocco and his son Hassan II. The idea that we can simply assume that powers would not be abused neither addresses current abuses of constitutional power across the Arab world nor encourages a proactive solution to preventing future constitutional abuses.