Canada, Charles, and the monarchy

2009-04-07

in Canada, Law, Politics

Andrea Simms-Karp in her kitchen

The Globe and Mail is considering an issue I raised some time ago: whether the royal transition from Elizabeth II to Charles might be a good opportunity for Canada to abandon the monarchy entirely. Personally, I think it would be an ideal time to get rid of a dated institution that insults the concept of democracy and the rule of law. It is absurd that the highest office in Canada is occupied by a foreigner by virtue of the family they were born into. It is contrary to the values which our society is built upon and it is fundamentally anachronistic.

The absurd present arrangement might be eliminated in several different ways, two of which I will briefly consider. I dub them ‘republic light’ and ‘substantial republic.’

In the first case, we nix the royals and replace the Governor General with an appointed ceremonial president, with few substantial powers. They could retain things like the formal right to dissolve Parliament, but would be given much clearer rules on when and how to do so. The new presidency would be much like the current Governor Generalship, insofar as it would put someone who seems to embody Canadian values in a position to hobnob with foreign diplomats who would otherwise be a drain on the prime minister’s time.

In the second case, abandoning the monarchy could be a catalyst for a much deeper democratic reform. We could replace the Governor General with a directly elected president, formally splitting the executive and legislative branches of government. The prime minister would still make laws, but they could be subjected to a kind of limited veto system akin to what exists in the United States. The president would also be the head of the armed forces and the front-person for global diplomacy. While it’s hard to imagine a prime minister endorsing such a harsh curtailing of their own responsibilities, I think it would be very valuable for Canadian voters to have the chance to express their leadership preferences directly. The way in which the leaders of Canadian political parties are chosen leaves a great deal to be desired.

Both as a person and as a symbol, Prince Charles is far from impressive. I maintain that Elizabeth II is an eminently suitable final monarch, and suggest that Canada should be contemplating how the royal institution could end with her. The constitutional difficulties involved in making the change are considerable – enormously more so for ‘substantial republic’ than for the light version – but it is certainly a thing worth contemplating.

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{ 91 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan April 7, 2009 at 9:50 am

I don’t think there is any point raising this issue. The monarchy is inexpensive, and provides good symbolic value for what we pay. Electing a president presents a problem – what powers do they have? Should we have a Weimar-Germany style division of powers between the President and Chancellor? Seems like a bad idea. Canada is not a republic, and turning it into one would major constitutional transition – which would require all the provinces on board. Canada still has a strong contingent of monarchists, so it would be difficult to garner support in all provinces.

One thing I do agree with Stephen Harper about is that Constitutional change is slow and difficult, and there are probably other, more productive things, we could work on. As of now the Queen has almost no power in Canada, although in formal sense she could order the dissolution of parliament if they went rogue and started passing racist legislation.

One main reason I oppose the transition to republic, is it seems to be entirely supported by those who fail to understand what a Constitutional Monarch is, and I don’t think ignorance is a good reason to get rid of something. At very least, you should wait till those who do understand what it is die off, and then the misunderstanding of what a monarch is becomes total, it would be easier to get all the provinces on board for such a shift.

Hella Stella April 7, 2009 at 10:07 am

I look like I am considering tearing out your jugular…

Magictofu April 7, 2009 at 10:40 am

Monarchy is a symbol of Canada’s imperial/colonial past which I’d be glad to leave behind but at the same time it is essentially that, a symbol. I think Tristan is right to point out to the difficulties associated with such transition.

Do we really want to risk entering a new constitutional crisis episode just for that?

R.K. April 7, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Personally, I find the idea of Charles as King, and sovereign of Canada, repulsive. The man is pathetic and it would be an embarrassment to have him as our head of state.

alena April 7, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Symbols play a powerful role within a country and having a monarchy in Canada is absurd and colonial. It is a standing joke around the world and it makes this amazing country look pathetic and immature. If we want to get respect and self-confidence, it is high time to ditch the queen and her whole entourage of misfits.

. April 7, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Monarchy of Canada >> Succession

Succession is by male-preference primogeniture governed by the provisions of the Act of Settlement, 1701, and the Bill of Rights, 1689. This legislation limits the succession to the natural (i.e. non-adopted), legitimate descendants of Sophia, Electress of Hanover, and stipulates that the monarch cannot be a Roman Catholic, nor married to one, and must be in communion with the Church of England upon ascending the throne, clauses that have led to legal challenge. Though these constitutional laws, as they apply to Canada, now lie within the control of the Canadian parliament via adopting the Statute of Westminster, Canada agreed not to change its rules of succession without the unanimous consent of the other realms, unless explicitly leaving the shared monarchy relationship; a situation that applies symmetrically in all the other realms, including the United Kingdom, and which has been likened to a treaty amongst these countries.

. April 7, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Citizens for a Canadian Republic (CCR) is a not-for-profit Canadian organization founded in 2002 that advocates the replacement of the Canadian monarchy with a head of state who would either be chosen through a general election or elected by parliament. Models that the organization supports are former constitutional monarchies Ireland and India, both of which abolished their monarchies in favour of elected presidents, while retaining their parliamentary systems that have a prime minister as head of government. The organization’s general objective is “to promote discussion and help raise awareness of the clear advantages of amending The Constitution to allow for a democratically-chosen Canadian citizen to serve as head of state.”

Milan April 7, 2009 at 12:25 pm

It seems worth noting that while the monarchy is clearly a representation of imperialism and oppression, the rules of succession make it sexist and discriminatory as well.

The only good reason for not scrapping it seems to be that it would be difficult to do. That being said, if the transition was to something more like ‘substantial republic’ and less like ‘republic light,’ it may well be worth the effort.

Padraic April 7, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Good post. I’m glad other people care about this issue. Symbols are important.

Anon April 7, 2009 at 3:14 pm

The constitution seems to make it almost impossible for Canada to eliminate the monarchy by changing our own laws.

Is it possible a Prime Minister could ask the monarch to voluntarily abandon their claim to being Canada’s head of state? Maybe we could turn into a republic by requesting abdication, rather than forcing it through constitutional change.

Tristan April 7, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Canada does have a colonial past, and a discriminatory, racist, and sexist present. Getting rid of the monarchy will not change that. Changing policies surrounding first nations, pay equity legislation, and other social justice issues will change that.

The idea that we should aim for the symbolism of ‘true democracy” while democracy generally fails to happen at all, where the people are considered an “obstacle” and are treated as animals by advertising, which means by political campaigns, is just a normal production an elitist society trying to justify itself.

Tristan April 7, 2009 at 4:33 pm

The idea of Monarchy is no more colonial than contemporary Canadian democracy. It’s just that our imperialism is economic rather than military. All this “Canada is a great country” talk is just the repetition of nationalist lies which, in other contexts, we’d recognize as lies immediately. If there ever exists any meaningful connection between individuals and a volksgemeinshaft, it’s going to happen in small communities – like Greek city states, like class-years at highschool, like unions, like debate-societies. Not 30 million person geographical dominions where a tiny elite decides what is best for all and every four years or so there is an “election” where the 30 million get to choose which part of the tiny elite will rule for another four years.

Tristan April 7, 2009 at 7:40 pm

“a dated institution that insults the concept of democracy and the rule of law.”

Do you want to, maybe, give us a history of the rise of “democracy” and “the rule of law” in which monarchy doesn’t play an central role? In our history, which means the extension of medieval Europe, the rule of law arises as a modification of monarchy. And, at least in England, Democracy arises as modification of Monarchy. In fact – it’s essentially the same modification: “Constitutional Monarchy” doesn’t need the word “democracy” in it, because democracy is part of the constitution – it’s a limitation the power of the Monarch.

You don’t need to go back far to see the debates about whether Monarchy should be limited (read: Constitutional/Democratic) or unlimited (Absolutist) – 1848 for example, exactly this issue of whether there should be anything “between” the ruler and his/her people was the hot topic of the year. In essence, what was at stake in 1848 between the middle class and the rulers is the same as that which was at stake at the Magna Carta between the barons and the ruler. This is the very genesis of the rule of law at all. In fact, how else could the rule of law have developed, other than as essential limitations on the powers of the monarch (because the very concept of the rule of law is that it applies to everyone, so, it must include even the ruler).

It’s easy to pretend that we don’t have a monarchy in Canada because we don’t call the prime minister “king”. It’s easy to forget that a group of the American “founding fathers” did want to call the president “His Majesty”.

What, in the end, is the meaningful difference between elected monarchy (where the nobility can vote), and a republic (where “everyone” can vote, but the choices are determined before hand by a very small group of interested special interests, sometimes called “political parties” and “lobby groups”)?

alena April 7, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Go to Africa and see some of the ‘monarchs’ there and than you can argue whether is better for a few token people who ride in the pocket of the monarch, or to have an imperfect multi-party system.

Tristan April 8, 2009 at 1:46 am

Are they constitutional monarchs, who have a multi-century history of first recognizing that they are not above the rule of law, and then divulging eventually all of their meaningful power to elected parliaments? Why should we associate our monarchy with theirs? If we make the concept of monarchy sufficiently broad, it will include all sorts of awful states. But that’s true for any broad determination of states – if you make “democracy” broad enough it encompasses the USSR. And in the sufficiently broad sense, Canada could be called either a democracy, a monarchy, or an oligarchy (the last is probably the truest).

oleh April 8, 2009 at 3:42 am

I agree with Milan, R.K. and Alena. I already find it emberassing that Canada is ruled by a foreigner . I agree with “republic light” and am on the fence regarding “substantial republic”.

I wonder what are the views of Canadians in general?

Sarah April 8, 2009 at 4:31 am

Speaking as a Brit, I’d love to see more ex-colonies getting rid of the British monarchy as their head of state. The biggest reason that we’re stuck with them in the UK is because of the ongoing colonial relationships with other states, so it would be a step towards a more egalitarian society in the UK as well as in Canada.
On a different note, there has been talk from Gordon Brown’s advisors of altering the succession rules for the monarchy to remove the male bias. In my personal opinion this is not a huge step forward given the elitist, undemocratic and conservative nature of the institution, but it addresses Milan’s objection in the comment above.

Claire April 8, 2009 at 6:25 am

A few things to add, yet again as a Brit:
-The royal family is pretty innocous, a quaint relic from a former age. I dont see it as a real threat to our democracy, only a symbolic oddity. If removing it (either in UK or Canada) is such a huge challenge, public money and energy would be better expended elsewhere, on balance.
-That said, i agree that’s its strange and anachronistic for ex-colonies to have the monarch of England as head of state still, and i think most Brits would prefer this not to be the case.
-Prince Charles has actually gained an increasing amount of respect in the UK. He is at the forefront of the environmental movement, and was talking about sustainability long before almost any public figure. He is also the chief modernising force within the royal family, and is currently pushing for both primogeniture, the establishment of the church of england and the ban on catholics to be reformed. I think in these ways he’ll make a much better head of state than the current Queen.
-We are our histories. Removing the monarchy as a symbol of a colonial past does not make that past go away.
-All this talk of canada’s colonial past is fine, as long as it is recognised that modern canadians are themselves the colonists, who continue to occupy a land which was taken from indiginous peoples. When talking about this issue with North Americans you so often get a version of history in which the British, as a discreet group of people, came, conquered and then were vanquished by the canadians/americans etc, who were somehow there all along.

Tristan April 8, 2009 at 9:52 am

I don’t see why it’s any more embarrassing to be ruled by a foreign monarch than to be ruled by a monarch at all – both would be awful. Luckily, neither is the case – we are not “ruled” by a monarch, but the monarch is our head of state. Isn’t this just the natural end of the progression between absolute monarchs towards the rule of law, towards democracy – where the institution of monarchy appears to be stable throughout but is actually entirely emptied of its force, while retaining its symbolic power?

Although, perhaps this generation is incapable of distinguishing between the power of the symbolic and the power of force – and this wouldn’t be by accident because it’s the first generation to be ruled (and explicitly so since the early 90s adoption of modern advertising techniques in political campaigns) by the symbolic. What this confuses is the content of the imperial symbol, which is difficult to see despite being so forcefully displayed in the current Queen – the instantiation of a will which is not particular, in a person. Of course this is impossible, strictly speaking, but that is not the point. The idea of it is necessary for any state to be just – we have a monarch in Canada as well, it’s called the Senate (and ya, I know it doesn’t function properly either).

I don’t understand why, in this age of ultra-selfishness, people can’t see the need to represent absolute non-selfishness in a position of symbolic authority.

Sasha April 8, 2009 at 1:32 pm

My only comment on this has always been, I think we have more pressing problems. Constitutional amendment is a mess in Canada. It’s the perfect opportunity for every cleavage to be re-exposed, every interest group to start lobbying, and the past two attempts at amending accomplished nothing more than exacerbating existing tensions.

Personally, I’m much more concerned about living up to the commitments expressed in the UN Declaration of Human Rights around housing and social rights, preventing Harper from completely wiping out the notion of pay equity as an equality right (which he seems hell bent on doing), and getting our act(s) together so that the standard of living in First Nations communities finally resembles that of the rest of Canada more closely that it resembles that of developing regions of Africa. I wouldn’t want to see much time or effort spent trying to address the monarchy “problem” while we have actual crises around us.

Milan April 8, 2009 at 3:58 pm

I think we are broadly in agreement on three points:

1) In and of itself, getting rid of the monarchy is desirable

2) Doing so would be difficult

3) Other things are more worthy of our attention.

Tristan April 8, 2009 at 4:47 pm

1) Thinking about “the monarchy” in the simplistic terms we see here is not desirable, as it further re-enforces the dogma that no history before the start of the first world war is relevant to contemporary politics. The fact that it’s unintelligible today to talk about 1848 is a serious failure of us to understand our own political situation.

2) Doing so would be difficult because not everyone, especially the older generation, has such a simplistic notion of the monarchy such that it would be an obvious thing to get rid of.

3) Talking about “getting rid of the monarchy because its a symbol of our colonial past” lets us believe that the present is warm and fuzzy and un-colonial, which is just blatantly false – especially as the U.S. is right now re-defining its mission setting up Iraq to be a colony in the oldest sense of the term. If the most pervasive empire in the world is run by a Republic, what is so un-colonial about Republics nowadays anyway?

Magictofu April 9, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Tristan, the issue about colonialism here is that it is a foreign monarch that is the head of government in Canada.

Milan April 9, 2009 at 12:48 pm

It also seems fallacious to say: “Colonialism still exists, therefore we shouldn’t try to get rid of symbols of past colonialism.”

I really don’t think there is any danger of Canadians as a whole saying: “We got rid of the Queen. Our work is done! We have created a perfectly just society with no other problems.”

Tristan April 9, 2009 at 1:52 pm

I think there is large danger that Canadians are under the impression that we are not currently a Colonial power, with massive swaths of unseeded first nations lands still being allotted by the state to private corporations.

I think Canadians don’t currently take seriously the idea that we should make our society just. Most of our food is grown and picked by migrant agricultural workers with no rights. Most of our buildings are not built according to code, and the companies that build them dissolve immediately after construction is finished so they need not take any responsibility for problems down the line. But, no one seriously is doing anything to fix this.

Is monarchy really a symbol of colonialism, any more than Republic is today? Republics are the most powerful and invasive colonial powers in the world today – so maybe we should get rid of those symbols because they might be offensive to Porto-Ricans or Iraqis.

Tristan April 9, 2009 at 1:54 pm

“a foreign monarch that is the head of government in Canada”

Change “monarch” to a more neutral term, and any number of first nations tribe have that problem with Stephen Harper. Should we get rid of Stephen Harper because he’s an imperialist?

oleh April 9, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Stephen Harper may be a very poor leader, but we have a system in place to express our disapproval and even to replace him. He was elected fairly and so a good number of people must be in favor of his views. The problems with the first nations people need to be addressed and the people themselves need to speak up and take a strong initiative to impact their own future. The queen however, is a symbol of a different time, of an outdated class system and a fake symbol that has no relevance to Canada whatsoever. Getting rid of her would give Canadians a psychological boost and a true sense of independence.

Milan April 9, 2009 at 6:42 pm

This is what makes the monarchy contrary to the rule of law: unlike elected office, which is theoretically open to anyone, it is the product of an antiquated process of familial descent. The exclusion of virtually everyone from contention – coupled with the absence of any procedure for removing an unacceptable monarch – is antithetical to the basic principles of Canadian law.

Tristan April 9, 2009 at 10:16 pm

The rule of law means the law applies to everyone. The rule of law doesn’t mean the highest elected office is open to everyone.

If you want to talk about exclusion, virtually everyone is excluded from elected office by birth in democratic countries. That’s called justifiable inequality, by those who justify it.

Other basic principles of Canadian law include migrant workers aren’t persons, and people who work on farms don’t have the same rights as other workers.

Tristan April 9, 2009 at 10:18 pm

“The queen however, is a symbol of a different time, ”

This is crucial – we aren’t allowed to think what different times were like, or how they might relate to our time, or how our time might be similar. It’s essential that we get rid of symbols of different times so we can condemn those times without being critical of our own.

R.K. April 9, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Are you a monarchist, a communist, or just very confusing?

Tristan April 10, 2009 at 12:52 am

“Are you a monarchist, a communist, or just very confusing?”

I think a great thing to do is evaluate everything people say with an eye to what their political position is. This guarentees that all discussions will always proceed along pre-given ideological lines, and that new connections, which could be dangerous, will be not allowed.

R.K. April 13, 2009 at 10:52 pm

Very confusing, then.

Peter April 17, 2009 at 6:11 am

It might be useful if people took a second to wikipedia “the rule of law”. You can even skip most of the rather short article and just read the section on Raz. I have the primary copies, but I went looking for an online copy of the “The Rule Of Law And Its Virtue” to link for you, unfortunately the Google book preview of Culver cuts one of the two pages with the eight principles on them, and I was unable to find a preview for Raz’s “Authority”.

. April 17, 2009 at 10:56 am

Rule of Law >> Views of Joseph Raz
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Milan April 17, 2009 at 11:00 am

I think the right to run for office is an important component of the rule of law (though it seems that Raz may not). As such, having political positions within society that can only be occupied by virtue of birth contradicts that principle. Even the Pope is more democratically elected than a monarch.

Peter April 17, 2009 at 11:29 am

Well… while I am I Raz fanboi, and think his list of eight principles are quite enlightening, I was pointing out that “the rule of law” is a contentious term. From the definitions deployed in the Hart-Fuller debate to the subsequent expansion and (I would argue) reasonably authoritative position articulated by Raz, the term might still be up for debate. However, as far as I remember, none of the definitions offered by legal theorists seems to treat the rule of law how it has been interpreted in this discussion. So, you don’t have to blindly follow Raz, but I assume there is an appeal to some definition in the literature, and specificity might help. I think formal justice is immensely important and as such, the theoretical availability of government positions is required for enfranchisement and a strong democracy, but we need to grasp the appropriate meaning of technical terms when, as in this case, two or more people fall into a disagreement about what a term means.

Thanks for the link. I was so depressed about not finding a suitable work containing the original article that it completely slipped my mind to link Wikipedia.

Milan April 17, 2009 at 11:36 am

I agree that clearly defining terms is important, especially when it comes to essentially contested concepts like the rule of law. I can appreciate that there are understandings of the term that do not include theoretically open access to elected positions.

While I think it is possible to classify the manner of selection of the monarch as contrary to various understandings of the key political ideals of Canadian society, I haven’t seen an argument that holds it to be consistent. Inescapably, it is the product of a time from before the values had their current strength and interpretation.

R.K. April 22, 2009 at 12:29 pm

A bit more on Charles’ environmentalism:

“The slowness of negotiations is stirring anxiety in some quarters. As green activists moaned, the G20 summit in London risked neglecting climate at the expense of economics. But not entirely: Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, used the moment to call in senior types from Brazil, Indonesia and America, among other places, to discuss short-term efforts to protect tropical forests before a UN-backed plan kicks in. With the leaders of Japan, France, Germany and Italy in attendance, it may have been the highest-level talk about trees ever held. Participants listened with approval to their host’s idea that new ways be found for rich states, and investors, to send cash—swiftly but conditionally—to poor, forested countries.”

Tristan April 22, 2009 at 1:48 pm

“Inescapably, it is the product of a time from before the values had their current strength and interpretation.”

This is only true if you think monarchy doesn’t evolve, i.e. if you think monarchy has a definition and it is the same in ancient Greece as pre-Magna Carta Europe as 18th century British Empire, etc…

If you actually look at modern British history – say 1500 to present – which is our history too although not in the sense of our “only” history, the evolution of our current values towards their “current strength and interpretation” is inextricably connected with the evolution of the role of the monarch within society.

. April 22, 2009 at 8:20 pm

The trouble with the king

Apr 16th 2009
From The Economist print edition
Nobody can say it in public, but the Thai monarchy, invisible during the latest crisis, is at its heart

“Mr Thaksin’s wealth has been impounded. And his call, at the height of the crisis, for a revolution is now viewed by many Thais as criminally irresponsible. So Mr Thaksin is on the back foot. But the monarchy may be in deeper trouble. Some red shirts this week lamented that, if King Bhumibol is against the leader they keep voting for, he must be against them too. The king is old and frail. His successor, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn—spoilt, oft-wed and demanding—is much disliked. The monarchy’s carefully fostered image could crumble overnight.

Protecting it is partly the task of Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thailand’s present prime minister. He rode to office, unelected, thanks to the yellow shirts. Mr Abhisit says he is a reformer, who will heal divisions. He handled the red-shirt chaos with firm restraint. The king, it is said, has taken rather a shine to the 44-year-old, schooled at Eton and Oxford. Our correspondent in 1932 would have put him firmly among the “rather exotic Westernised intelligentsia” in the post-coup government. He would doubtless have relished the paradox that such an urbane, cosmopolitan figure is now the front for a regime that in essence owes its power to a feudal monarchy. Mr Abhisit lacks both influence and legitimacy. To earn both, he will need to face the voters. Indebted to the royalists who brought him to power, he is unlikely to encourage debate on the monarchy’s future. But if he did so, Thailand and perhaps the royal family itself would have reason to thank him in the long run. In its present role, the monarchy is standing between Thailand and not just political harmony, but modernity itself.”

Tristan April 23, 2009 at 12:49 am

“He rode to office, unelected, thanks to the yellow shirts. ”

So, in other words, it isn’t a democracy. So, the problem with the monarchy is that it isn’t bound by the right kind of constitution. But that’s actually wrong – evolution of monarchy into constitutional monarchy is a bit 19th century. The right road for a state which still has absolutist monarchy is probably to throw the baby out with the bathwater and just change to a full republic.

. April 23, 2009 at 12:06 pm

UAE royal caught torturing man on video

By Cory Doctorow on politics

A video showing a member of the United Arab Emirates’ royal family torturing a man with whips, electrocution and a nail-spiked board has been released. The Minister of the Interior (one of the torturer’s brothers) reviewed the recording and concluded “all rules, policies and procedures were followed correctly by the Police Department.”

A man in a UAE police uniform is seen on the tape tying the victim’s arms and legs, and later holding him down as the Sheikh pours salt on the man’s wounds and then drives over him with his Mercedes SUV.

. April 28, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Prince Charles discusses environment with pope

By FRANCES D’EMILIO – 1 day ago

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI and Prince Charles discussed their mutual concern for the environment as the heir to the British throne brought his campaign to fight climate change to the Vatican on Monday.

Charles, accompanied by his wife, Camilla, looked relaxed but the Duchess of Cornwall appeared less so in a private meeting in the pope’s private library. The couple sat across a wooden table from Benedict for the 15-minute conversation in English.

It was Charles’ first visit with the pontiff since Benedict was elected pope in 2005. The prince and his late wife Diana had met with John Paul II, whom Benedict succeeded.

. May 3, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Video of UAE torture prince assaulting 25 others — who’s censoring this news in the UAE?

By Cory Doctorow on politics

Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al Nahyan, the prince from the UAE who made a video of himself brutally torturing a businessman with whom he had a dispute, has been implicated in 25 further video-recordings of other assaults.

In the leaked video, the prince sets fire to his victim’s testicles, sticks a cattle-prod up his anus, beats him with a board with a nail through it, scourges him with a whip, rubs salt into his wounds, and then runs over him repeatedly with a Mecedes SUV (you can hear the bones break).

The UAE’s national firewall is blocking stories about this (see the screengrab above). I know that a number of US firms have supplied the UAE with firewall services — I’d be interested in any detail any Boing Boing reader has about the blocking shown above: did it come from a company that also supplies moral guardianship to western kids in their schools?

Tristan May 3, 2009 at 2:33 pm

This Sheik is royalty in name only.

Milan May 3, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Much more importantly, he is royal in the sense that he can use the police in this way. He demonstrates one of the dangers associated with unrestrained power, or the incomplete application of the rule of law.

Tristan May 3, 2009 at 10:38 pm

I’d say you’re half right. Royalty is unrestrained power, but unrestrained power, in some form, is required for the implementation of restraint to power. It certainly does seem that putting unrestrained power in a democratic function (i.e. the function used to change the constitution) is safer than putting it in an individual. Stil, Royalty is royalty not just by being unrestrained power – but by using their unrestrained power to rationally restrain power in the state, to make a rational state. This Prince is not Royalty in this sense – and thus should be deposed – as should any Monarch who fails the specific duty which comes with unrestrained power. Of course, there can’t be an institution to depose the Monarch, because that would be a limitation unrestrained power. So, literally, there needs to be a coup or an assassination. This isn’t a new idea – it’s basically just Locke.

Milan May 4, 2009 at 11:23 am

Of course, there can’t be an institution to depose the Monarch, because that would be a limitation unrestrained power. So, literally, there needs to be a coup or an assassination.

This really isn’t a very good way to maintain an accountable government. If you read Paul Collier’s book, you will see the data on how one coup makes future coups far more likely, and how countries in which they take place generally end up doing very badly on measures of economic strength, health, quality of life, etc.

R.K. May 7, 2009 at 7:46 pm

This Sheik is royalty in name only.

Actually, Queen Elizabeth II is “royalty in name only.” She has no power. The sheik is the real deal. He can torture people with police assistance.

Peter May 7, 2009 at 9:53 pm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7475112.stm

The main problem with proposition of eliminating the monarchy is the lack of will. The link to the article about Nepal is that the monarchy does have a role in our government. Clearly this function could be offloaded to a new position, as some people have suggested, but it would require changing the constitution. I think there are probably as many traditionalists who will fervently lobby in favour of the monarchy as there are those who actively want to reject it, while I assume the majority might agree that it is an outdated institution, but don’t care enough to change it. If we were actually going to put in the effort to change the constitution, senate reform seems like a more productive issue, and neither of these really has the important of any number of contemporary issues that don’t require the political hysterics required to change the constitution.

Tristan May 7, 2009 at 11:13 pm

“Actually, Queen Elizabeth II is “royalty in name only.” She has no power. The sheik is the real deal. He can torture people with police assistance.”

A monarch need not exercise any power to be a “real monarch”. Monarchy is a position of authority, not necessarily an exercise of it. However, Queen Elizabeth the second happens to actually wield considerable power in England, something that comes to light only rarely:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-IafCH0ixk

Tristan May 7, 2009 at 11:18 pm

It’s useless to discuss Monarchy here – almost no one today knows what monarchy is, and even less are willing to consider it might not be the presuppositions they happen to have towards it. This is normal – one tends to assume that the political structure one is born into is the only possibly good one.

. June 13, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Prince under fire from architects

Prince Charles has come under attack from the architectural community for effectively blocking a building project at Chelsea Barracks in west London.

A former planning minister said the prince had set a “very dangerous precedent” by using his contacts with the Qatari Royal Family to intervene.

The firm Qatari Diar commissioned architect Lord Rogers to design the £3bn flats near the River Thames.

The Middle Eastern owners withdrew their planning application on Friday.

The decision followed a direct intervention by the prince, who wrote to the chairman of Qatari Diar, urging him to consider alternatives to the modern design created by Lord Rogers’s firm of architects.

It is believed the prince wanted a more classical, traditional scheme.

R.K. June 21, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Apparently, Prince Philip (Elizabeth II’s consort) once claimed that, given the chance to come back as any organism, he would choose to be a deadly human pathogen, so as to kill people and help deal with overpopulation:

“In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, to contribute something to solving overpopulation.” (1988)

Of course, a rather more effective and humane approach would be to use his existing wealth and influence to promote the availability of contraception and education for women.

. June 29, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Amendments to the Constitution of Canada >> Amendment formulas

There are some parts of the Constitution that can only be modified by a unanimous vote of all the provinces plus the two Houses of Parliament, however. These include changes to the composition of the Supreme Court of Canada, changing the process for amending the constitution itself, or any act affecting the Offices of the Canadian Monarch or Governor General.

. July 7, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Monarchy and presidents: Rated according to political achievement

Political dynasties
Born to rule

Dec 18th 2003
Is politics in the blood, or in the genes?

Milan July 23, 2009 at 12:10 pm

According to this paper – which may or may not be credible – the British monarch can actually veto a nuclear launch order issued by the British prime minister, as can the Chief of Defense Staff:

“The Prime Minister’s decision can be vetoed by the Chief of Defence Staff and the Queen (or Monarch).” (p.12)

Grammatically, the sentence doesn’t make clear whether either of them can veto, or whether they both need to agree.

. July 27, 2009 at 11:57 am

A video obtained by ABC News shows a group of men, including the sheikh, torturing an Afghan grain merchant who he accuses of cheating him. In the video, which was allegedly shot on his desert ranch at night, Issa fires an automatic weapon around the man, stuffs sand in his mouth, sodomizes him with an electric cattle prod, lights him on fire, and pours salt on his bleeding wounds.

The video was given to ABC by one of Issa’s former business associates, who is suing over various business deals. The man claims to have evidence of 25 other cases of torture by Issa. The UAE’s interior minister — who happens to also be Issa’s brother — acknowledged that the man on the tape was him. Issa has been put under house arrest pending investigation, which is extremely rare for a member of the royal family. It will take a lot more than a skyscraper to erase this stain from the family’s reputation.

. August 19, 2009 at 10:10 am

The Brits Have Taken Over Turks and Caicos. Is Canada Next?
Only if the Queen is feeling imperial.
By Brian Palmer
Posted Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009, at 6:15 PM ET

The British Foreign Office announced last week that it had suspended parts of the constitution of Turks and Caicos and would dissolve the Cabinet and legislature. The U.K. government decided that corruption on the islands had gone too far, and London will assume direct control until it can “restore good governance and sound financial management.” Can Britain dissolve the government of other former colonies—like, say, Canada?

The government led by Prime Minister Gordon Brown doesn’t have that power, but the Queen might. Unlike Turks and Caicos, which remains an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, Canada has no formal relationship with the British government. Its ties to the United Kingdom have to do with Queen Elizabeth II, who officially serves as queen of England and Canada. (She’s also the queen of Australia, Jamaica, Tuvalu, and others.) But these positions are legally distinct, meaning that her job in Canada is neither related to, nor dependent on, her title in England. In fact, she doesn’t even venture across the Atlantic to perform her royal duties; rather, she appoints a governor general to swear in the prime minister, summon Parliament into session, provide royal assent to laws, and dissolve Parliament in preparation for elections. Technically speaking, the queen (acting through the governor general) may be able to dissolve the Canadian Parliament unilaterally. However, such an unprecedented act would trigger a historic constitutional crisis. (Indeed, whenever the governor general is called upon to make decisions, there is much hand-wringing among Canadian politicians.)

. September 18, 2009 at 5:38 pm

The Challenges of Protecting Royal Families
July 18, 2006

Acting on an anonymous call to Monaco’s Embassy in Paris, French police are investigating whether there was a plot to kidnap members of Monaco’s royal family during their recent visit to Paris. The caller claimed the children of Princess Caroline, sister of Monaco’s ruler Prince Albert II, were in danger of being abducted while the family visited the French capital over the Bastille Day weekend.

Protecting members of royal families, particularly European royal families, presents unique security challenges. Not only are they high-profile individuals, they also are royals, and thus their protection becomes a matter of foreign relations in any country they visit. If they are accosted, abducted or worse, a diplomatic incident could result.

Many royals are instantly recognizable worldwide, making it difficult for them to maintain a low profile — and even more difficult to protect them. Some, such as Monaco and Britain’s royal families, receive a very high level of media attention and almost constantly are sought out by fans and photographers. Because of this, their movements and the places they stay usually are instantly known to anyone reading a tabloid or entertainment magazine. The paparazzi themselves — who often are quite well-informed as to the movements of celebrities, VIPs and royals — represent another challenge to security teams, as the photographers’ job is to gain access to the personality. In most cases, the paparazzi do not present a real physical threat, though their actions can lead to altercations or accidents, as seen in the 1997 death of Britain’s Princess Diana.

Many people harbor an unhealthy obsession with royalty, in some cases going so far as to stalk members of royal families. These people represent perhaps the greatest threat because their actions can often become unpredictable.

Members of royal families also make attractive militant targets, as was most notably seen in the 1979 killing of Queen Elizabeth’s cousin, Lord Louis Mountbatten, by the Irish Republican Army. Kidnapping or assassinating a royal would meet two important targeting criteria for militant groups. The high profile and fame of A-list royalty means any attack against them is guaranteed to draw major media attention. As members of a country’s elite, and in many cases the embodiment of national pride, their value as symbolic targets is significant.

. September 29, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Prince Charles — not my hero
October 25, 2007, 5:14 pm
Filed under: Farming, Nature writing, Published stuff

People like the prince use nature not biologically but nostalgically, to refer to a time when things were not so dashed artificial. This is the perennial window dressing of the reactionary, nature as an ideological prop for people whose notion of what is natural tends to include their own position in society. For the prince–doubtless considered by many, if not himself, as Britain’s natural sovereign–nature is part of our very souls, which is why we have an instinctive nervousness about tampering with it. His love for authentic British farming practices is thus part of his sense of what the nature of the British people is, an ideology of blood and the Soil Association.

. November 3, 2009 at 5:32 pm

You’re not welcome: SSJBM
Separatist group writes to prince

By ANNE SUTHERLAND, The GazetteOctober 31, 2009

In anticipation of the royal visit from the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the local branch of the Société St. Jean Baptiste has sent a letter to Prince Charles telling him he’s not welcome in Quebec.

Casually addressed and calling the prince by his Christian names and not his title as per protocol, the letter states Britain has never apologized for the decimation of French inhabitants in Quebec going back 250 years and that SSJBM members will protest against the visit.

The letter calls the deportation of 12,500 Acadians in 1775 “ethnocide” and cites the “terror, repression and death on the shores of the St. Lawrence” during the Patriots Rebellion of 1837-1838.

. November 3, 2009 at 5:45 pm

According to the Angus Reid poll, 35 per cent of Canadians now prefer an elected head of state and only 27 per cent are content with a monarchy. Rumblings of severing our ties to an across-the-pond sovereign have been given new impetus with this tour – tiresome Quebec separatists all in a do-not-step-foot-here snit (Charles intends to visit Montreal) and most everyone else not remotely interested in royals amongst us, with organizers fretful of small crowds at the couple’s events.

Such a monumental sea change from the ’80s when Charles and Diana – also Andrew and Sarah – were welcomed by adoring throngs on their cross-country jaunts. Diana dazzled effortlessly as the super-celebrity of that era. And, for all that their marriage has since been portrayed as a totally loveless sham, on their first visit at least, in 1983, the prince could hardly keep his hands off his princess, touching her constantly and even patting her bottom. On their last visit, though, a year before the 1992 separation, The Glums were barely speaking to each other.

Tris November 3, 2009 at 7:04 pm

Considering how poor the existing electoral system is at electing “elected officials”, perhaps we should concentrate on making the existing democracy more representative before we go adding more elected positions like “head of state” (whatever that means).

. November 9, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Canada and the monarchy
Heir not so apparent?

Oct 29th 2009 | OTTAWA
From The Economist print edition
A royal visit as republicanism rises

Polls have suggested a drift towards republicanism in recent years: a survey of 1,000 people in June by the Strategic Counsel, a pollster, found that 65% thought Canada should cut its ties to the monarchy after the end of Elizabeth’s reign, whereas only 35% wanted her successor to rule their country.

t is not certain then that, when the time comes, the “Maple Crown” of Canada will pass to Prince Charles from his mother. But for the moment, Canadian apathy and the perceived difficulty of changing the constitution to appoint or elect a new head of state favour the monarchists’ cause.

. November 9, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Royal visit may be flush with resentment

The arrival of Prince Charles and Camilla in Montreal on Tuesday, 17 years after the last royal trip to Quebec, may stoke the fires of nationalism Bruce Deachman writes.

By Bruce Deachman, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — When Prince Charles and Camilla land in Montreal Tuesday, they’ll find themselves in territory unfamiliar to the Royal Family for nearly two decades.

Notwithstanding an unofficial visit two years ago by the Earl and Countess of Wessex — Prince Edward and his wife Sophie — it’s been fully 17 years since a royal toe was officially dipped in Quebec waters. And that occasion, by the Queen in 1992, was just barely in the province, as she attended a reception at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau.

The royals have good reason to be wary. In 1964, while celebrating the centennial

of the Charlottetown Conference, the Queen’s visit to Quebec City saw mass demonstrations and hundreds of protesters arrested.

Between that visit and her Gatineau soirée nearly three decades later, the Queen only visited Quebec once, when she attended Expo ’67 in Montreal, an occasion overshadowed by French president Charles de Gaulle’s call to Vive le Québec libre.

Milan November 12, 2009 at 1:32 pm

Another reason to dislike the monarchy is the weird military aspects.

It’s a bit absurd that the Governor General is also the commander-in-chief of the Canadian Forces, and that Prince Charles is lieutenant-general of all three services of the Canadian Forces. Letting them dress up and play soldier seems inappropriate, given that they have no personal military experience. It also seems inappropiate that Governors General are automatically granted the Canadian Forces decoration, normally earned through twelve years of military service.

. November 14, 2009 at 12:47 am

Globe essay
The monarchy: Offshore, but built-in

Michael Valpy

From Saturday’s Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Nov. 13, 2009 7:11PM EST Last updated on Friday, Nov. 13, 2009 7:58PM EST

Charles, next king of Canada, has gone home.

While he was here, he celebrated heritage architecture and socially responsible business, promoted holistic health, talked with students on two coasts about sustainable fishing, the future of cities and entrepreneurship and poked about in organic food.

Those sorts of things are his causes.

He spent time with soldiers and sailors and their families, especially with the families of those killed in Afghanistan – it was his personal request that he meet with them – and took part in the nation’s Nov. 11 commemoration of those who died in the service of the country.

The man is thoroughly engaged in good and uplifting works. He has become a global voice on climate change, organic agriculture and the built and natural environments, hugely important contemporary concerns.

And yet …

What jars so many of his future Canadian subjects is – well, to begin with, it’s the word “subjects.” And then the title: “King of Canada.” And then the accent: not Canadian, no raised ou diphthong. Probably doesn’t say “eh.” Lives offshore.

. November 17, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Charles, next king of Canada

Michael Valpy The Globe and Mail

The Globe’s Michael Valpy takes your questions on the future of the monarchy in Canada

Mr. Valpy outlines the role the Crown has played in Canadian history, saying it was essential to the development of the constitutional theory of responsible government in Canada in the 1840s and 1850s; central to the definition of Canadian federalism in 1892; central to Canadian nationhood in 1931 with the Statute of Westminster; and the final instrument of independence in 1947 when the sovereign transferred to the Governor-General all but a few minor constitutional duties as head of state.

“In sum, turning Canada into a republic would require both an evisceration of history and a complete constitutional enema. With everyone having to keep in mind why they were going to the trouble,” Mr. Valpy writes.

. January 11, 2010 at 5:17 pm

UAE sheikh acquitted in taped beating

January 10, 2010 4:34 p.m. EST

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — A United Arab Emirates sheikh was acquitted Sunday of charges connected to the videotaped beating and torture of an Afghan grain dealer.

Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, a member of the emirates’ ruling family, was charged with rape, endangering life and causing bodily harm in connection with the nearly three-hour long tape shot in 2004 in the desert outside Abu Dhabi, one of the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf region.

However, the court acquitted Issa on Sunday, ruling he had diminished responsibility for his actions because of the effects of medication his defense attorney claimed he was given. Issa had a “lack of criminal responsibility,” the court found, defense attorney Habib al-Mulla told CNN.

. January 28, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Justice in the United Arab Emirates
What a muddle
Two awkward cases suggest that the law in the emirates is unequally applied

Jan 14th 2010 | DUBAI | From The Economist print edition

IT HAS been an inauspicious start to the year for justice in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). A court in Abu Dhabi, the richest of the federation’s seven states, acquitted a senior prince of criminally abusing an Afghan grain dealer, despite television footage that showed the accused beating the man with a stick, pouring salt in his wounds and driving over him in a car. At the other end of the justice system, a young British tourist in Dubai, the UAE’s other main state, faces up to six years in jail after reporting to the police that she had been raped.

Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi prince, was acquitted on the ground of diminished responsibility. The court accepted his defence that he had been drugged by erstwhile business partners, a couple of Lebanese-American brothers, so apparently he could not be held accountable for his actions. Those partners, who leaked a video of the attack to an American television network, were given jail sentences in absentia. Sheikh Issa is a half-brother of the UAE’s president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

While Sheikh Issa went free, the 23-year-old British woman was barred from leaving the country while awaiting trial. On New Year’s Day she told police she had been raped the previous evening by a waiter at a five-star hotel. Remarkably, the charges against her are not connected to that claim. Rather, the police arrested her after she revealed during questioning that she had drunk alcohol and had sex with her fiancé, with whom she was on holiday.

. June 15, 2010 at 11:11 am

Charles, Prince of Piffle
A very silly man gives a very sinister speech.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, June 14, 2010, at 10:56 AM ET

This is what you get when you found a political system on the family values of Henry VIII. At a point in the not-too-remote future, the stout heart of Queen Elizabeth II will cease to beat. At that precise moment, her firstborn son will become head of state, head of the armed forces, and head of the Church of England. In strict constitutional terms, this ought not to matter much. The English monarchy, as has been said, reigns but does not rule. From the aesthetic point of view it will matter a bit, because the prospect of a morose bat-eared and chinless man, prematurely aged, and with the most abysmal taste in royal consorts, is a distinctly lowering one. And a king does have the ability to alter the atmosphere and to affect the ways in which important matters are discussed. (The queen herself proved that in subtle ways, by letting it be known that there were aspects of Margaret Thatcher’s foreign policy that she did not view with unmixed delight.)

So the speech made by Prince Charles at Oxford last week might bear a little scrutiny. Discussing one of his favorite topics, the “environment,” he announced that the main problem arose from a “deep, inner crisis of the soul” and that the “de-souling” of humanity probably went back as far as Galileo. In his view, materialism and consumerism represented an imbalance, “where mechanistic thinking is so predominant,” and which “goes back at least to Galileo’s assertion that there is nothing in nature but quantity and motion.” He described the scientific worldview as an affront to all the world’s “sacred traditions.” Then for the climax:

“As a result, Nature has been completely objectified—She has become an it—and we are persuaded to concentrate on the material aspect of reality that fits within Galileo’s scheme.”

We have known for a long time that Prince Charles’ empty sails are so rigged as to be swelled by any passing waft or breeze of crankiness and cant. He fell for the fake anthropologist Laurens van der Post. He was bowled over by the charms of homeopathic medicine. He has been believably reported as saying that plants do better if you talk to them in a soothing and encouraging way. But this latest departure promotes him from an advocate of harmless nonsense to positively sinister nonsense.

Tristan June 15, 2010 at 12:10 pm

“As a result, Nature has been completely objectified—She has become an it—and we are persuaded to concentrate on the material aspect of reality that fits within Galileo’s scheme.”

This is true. In fact, it’s almost trivially true. Nature is no longer thought of as mystery or as giver, but as object – as “it”. Moreover, it is precisely thinking of nature this way that made the industrial revolution possible – and all our environmental woe.

What is not true, however, is that we can simply return to a pastoral vision of the past to solve our problems. Our problems were created through alienation from nature’s “she” aspects, and can likely be solved only through further – and perhaps more extreme alienation.

It is certainly possible that our inability to respond to climate crisis is generated precisely from those manners in which we have not completely given up the “she” tradition – we think of nature as “balance” – but quite clearly nature thought from the view of alienation is not a balance at all but a series of unimaginable catastrophes. The idea of perdurance, of ecosystem as balance – these serve to conceal the factual instability “mother” nature.

Tristan June 15, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Zizek has a critique of the anti-enlightenment approach to the environment in “The Examined Life” – which you can watch (ten minutes) here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGCfiv1xtoU

. July 2, 2010 at 4:12 pm

“A young man without power or money is completely free. He has nothing, but he also has everything. He can travel, he can drift. He can make new acquaintances every day, and try to soak up the infinite variety of life. He can seduce and be seduced, start an enterprise and abandon it, join an army or flee a nation, fight to preserve an existing system or plot a revolution. He can reinvent himself daily, according to the discoveries he makes about the world and himself. But if he prospers through the choices he makes, if he acquires a wife, children, wealth, land, and power, his options gradually and inevitably diminish. Responsibility and commitment limit his moves. One might think that the most powerful man has the most choices, but in reality he has the fewest. Too much depends on his every move. The tyrant’s choices are the narrowest of all. His life—the nation!—hangs in the balance. He can no longer drift or explore, join or flee. He cannot reinvent himself, because so many others depend on him—and he, in turn, must depend on so many others. He stops learning, because he is walled in by fortresses and palaces, by generals and ministers who rarely dare to tell him what he doesn’t wish to hear. Power gradually shuts the tyrant off from the world. Everything comes to him second or third hand. He is deceived daily. He becomes ignorant of his land, his people, even his own family. He exists, finally, only to preserve his wealth and power, to build his legacy. Survival becomes his one overriding passion. So he regulates his diet, tests his food for poison, exercises behind well-patrolled walls, trusts no one, and tries to control everything.”

. July 6, 2010 at 3:43 pm

“This raises the question: since free trade has played in their favour, and polls show dwindling support for the monarchy, might the Tories take the next step and make Canada a republic? Might they jettison love of Empire in favour of a pragmatic Canadian nationalism, such as the Liberals successfully professed in the last century?

They might be tempted. A survey released this week by Angus Reid indicates that more Conservative voters (52%) than Liberal voters (45%) support reopening the constitution to discuss replacing the monarchy with an elected head of state. But the real support for this idea – surprise, surprise – lies with the Bloc Quebecois (83%). At first blush, there thus appears to be significant electoral opportunity in Quebec for a party who advocated cutting ties to the monarchy.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper should take a pause. By diminishing the appeal of both federalist parties in that province, the Bloc has actually made the monarchy/republic question a dead issue. There are so many other reasons that Quebecers vote Bloc, dumping the Queen is not likely to garner their loyalty. Second, in the rest of the country, the Conservatives are making inroads into former Liberal multicultural strongholds on the basis of traditional Tory values, which include family, hard work, law and order – and respect for tradition, of which the monarchy is a part. Third, the Prime Minister’s performance on the world stage, including the G20, gives no doubt that Canada is its own country. Love of Empire may have hampered the Conservatives when Canada was maturing as a nation, but is not likely to be an issue today.”

. July 30, 2010 at 12:04 pm

The Saudi succession
When kings and princes grow old
Brother follows brother as Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarch. And so it may well continue, but watch for the tensions within that very large royal family

Jul 15th 2010 | Cairo

IMAGINE that the United Kingdom was an absolute monarchy known as Windsor Britain. Imagine that Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, had dozens of brothers, scores of sons and hundreds of cousins, and that the broader House of Windsor numbered thousands of lesser princes and princesses. Imagine further that all these royals pocketed fat state stipends, with many holding lifelong fiefs as government ministers, department heads, regimental commanders or provincial governors, with no parliament to hold them in check. Now imagine how sporting these princely chaps would be when the throne fell vacant, if the only written rule was a vague stipulation that the next in line should be the “best qualified” among all the Windsor princes.

This is roughly how things look in Saudi Arabia, a family enterprise run the old-fashioned way. Here the king is not only prime minister. He also appoints the members of parliament and designates a successor to the throne. Yet the actual workings of this system are not so simple. The size of the ruling al-Saud family (at least 5,000 hold princely rank), and the accumulated privileges of its leading princes are such that kings must take care to balance rival interests. They must also accommodate Wahhabist clerics who expect rewards for sanctioning absolute monarchy, technocrats who actually manage the country and even, sometimes, those of their subjects who grow restive, and demand a voice beyond presenting personal petitions at royal receptions.

King Abdullah deserves much credit for the general lightening of tone. Gruff, homely and popular, he has ruled since 2005. He spent 23 years as crown prince before ascending the throne, ten of those as an unofficial regent after his predecessor, King Fahd, suffered a debilitating stroke in 1995. Holidaying in Morocco this month after a North American jaunt, Abdullah shows no particular sign of frailty. His youngest son is just seven years old. Yet the king is now thought to be 86. His windows of lucidity are shrinking; loyal minders frequently rephrase his words so they make sense. When he abruptly postponed a planned French leg of his current summer tour, rumours about his health abounded.

Unfortunately, Abdullah’s quiet promotion of social reform has not been matched by any similar move towards political change. Royal rule remains as absolute as ever, meaning just as inefficient and just as unpredictable. Although there is a sketchy script for the next act, neither actors nor audience look very inspired.

Courtenay Barnett December 7, 2010 at 8:01 pm

REPLY TO : ” IMAGINE that the United Kingdom was an absolute monarchy known as Windsor Britain. Imagine that Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, had dozens of brothers, scores of sons and hundreds of cousins, and that the broader House of Windsor numbered thousands of lesser princes and princesses. Imagine further that all these royals pocketed fat state stipends, with many holding lifelong fiefs as government ministers, department heads, regimental commanders or provincial governors, with no parliament to hold them in check. ”

Well – interestingly – imagine a British colony in the Caribbean, directly ruled by Britain, no parliament to hold the UK in check – and consider the consequences ( at least so far…) READ ON:-

PLACING “OFFSHORE” IN CONTEXT IN THE TCI

BY: COURTENAY FRANCIS RAYOND BARNETT
The term “offshore banking” has pejorative connotations.
In the TCI as in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, the use of banks to attract money is a constructive way of saving Her Majesty’s Treasury moneys that would otherwise have to be found for overseas territories sustenance.
The question should be posed, whether the use of banks in an overseas territory is at core so significantly different than so-called “onshore banking”. Anonymity at the Companies’ Registry does not imply that the client is unknown to the professionals and bank dealing with the beneficial owner of the company. Nor ultimately is the company owner beyond the long reach of the law. Tax benefits attend the use of a company incorporated in one of Her Majesty’s territories.

We can further consider that many “offshore banks” have “onshore” parent banks, which benefit significantly from overseas financial transactions. In every large financial funds transfer there is an unavoidable interface with the international banking system.

It is impossible for London to deny that it too, has received significant transfers from Russia, Eastern Europe, Nigeria and other sources that bank in England, even as broad suspicions may be raised as to the source of the moneys. One example might suffice. The ruling Karimov family from Uzbekistan purchased a premier league football team and has invested heavily in England. The fact is that the Karimov regime is quite unsavory. Its routine use of torture is well documented, but business is business as Her Majesty’s government well knows.

It seems a bit disingenuous by way of imposing the OECD’s so-called “black”, “white” and “grey” lists as if it is all that difficult for Her Majesty’s government simply to establish banking regulations and police same in an efficient manner. Why stigmatise? The banks are here in the TCI because British policy has permitted legislation that proves attractive to international financiers and business. The Islands should not be tarnished when the administrative policies did not have a genesis here.

Under our Constitution the British Governor has, and always had, a veto power. It is the Governor who presides over Cabinet and is constitutionally head of the Executive and the Secretary of State in London receives regular reports from the Governor. For approximately six years, the Governor as Executive head over the Misick administration saw documents related to every land transaction involving Crown land, and gave final approval to every land deal presently being investigated. Now that very serious assertions have been made about misuse and dishonest dealings with Crown lands, there will have to be prosecutions. The question must be asked: were the Governor and Secretary of State not culpable since they always had constitutional duties to perform and ultimately are accountable for shared maladministration?

We need to move on with HMG’s responsible help and lift ourselves out of the economic quagmire in which we now find ourselves. We ought to remind ourselves of the duty imposed on Her Majesty’s Government under Article 73 of the United Nations Charter, stipulating that member states which have assumed responsibilities for the administration of territories whose peoples have not yet attained a full measure of self-government, should ensure:

“…the well-being of the inhabitants of these territories, and, to this end:
a. to ensure, with due respect for the culture of the peoples concerned, their political, economic, social, and educational advancement, their just treatment, and their protection against abuses;”
It is self-evident that Her Majesty’s government, having suspended elected representative government in these islands, now bears a direct economic as well as political responsibility for the TCI. And, do recall Lord Acton’s dictum in the prevailing situation, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The entire islands’ population should not be treated like criminals and second-class persons.
Considering the ill-conceived incursion into Afghanistan, significant sums have been wasted from Her Majesty’s Treasury in a war that from the onset was unwinnable—indeed we are yet to unearth the true definition of what is to be won! There are however, better uses for British money than fighting wasteful wars. It stands to reason that after British domestic expenditures are met, responsibility for British overseas territories fall next in line for economic provisions, inclusive of such needs being met by the quite considerable amounts of British money allocated for overseas grants and aid. It must only be right that before money is allocated to independent countries adequate provision must be made for British territories overseas. Notably, Pakistan recently received 70 million pounds in aid money. HMG annually allocates billions of pounds in aid money. The TCI does now need direct British economic assistance as a British dependent territory. By using Grand Turk, the capital, as a reference point, it is not hard to conceive of ways in which the Islands can be assisted constructively.
There is an impressive underutilised international airport in the capital. Increased traffic through the airport would generate significant money. Investment by HMG in building a 150-room hotel would accomplish a lot. Grand Turk is not presently serviced by any direct international flights, which itself relates to lack of volume to sustain an international airline service. The hotel could be built with grant money, then sold or leased at a profit and the proceeds might be returned to the Treasury in London. A British construction company would be the beneficiary of the construction expenditure, and the Treasury in London would be replenished upon a long lease or sale, without any lasting debt burden on the TCI or HMG. The beneficial owner upon a lease would remain the TCI government. Clearly, with a sizeable hotel in place, there will be increased demand for air travel and reputable airlines will eventually and inevitably, schedule regular flights to the capital. Further, the land surrounding the airport is large enough for location of a fuel depot and enough land exists for establishing an exclusive private jet facility. Landing fees, jet fuel sales, sales taxes, employment opportunities, a broadened tax base and HMG’s sound management and generous contribution duly acknowledged in a win-win formula. Three million pounds was granted for construction of the Grand Turk prison. It is therefore not unreasonable to indicate a need for the construction of an income generating asset such as a hotel for growth and development. I seek here a decisive break with historical colonial exploitative behavior and urge the establishment of an economic system which actually develops the islands’ resources in a manner that is of mutual benefit for the TCI and HMG.
The expenditure of 2 to 3 million pounds to establish a marina at North Creek, itself an excellent natural harbor, can easily provide good earnings for a British construction firm, with significant multiplier effect opportunities for local employment. Each island in the archipelago has its own unique features and offers significant opportunities for constructive growth and development.
There are not merely investment needs, for HMG should be vigilant about development of the islanders in their education. There is latent talent in the Turks and Caicos islands, which will not be actualised unless resources, proper training and development of the human being is made a British priority for the islands’ proper administration. An injection of sums into primary education as well as the provision of grants for higher education is both a worthy and necessary investment for the long-term development of the people. Imagine the bright future of the TCI if the indigenous youngsters are afforded generous educational opportunities. Conversely, a certain type of inverse political Darwinism might operate, with competent and experienced island civil servants being replaced by less than able and sufficiently experienced British bureaucrats, whose allegiances and priorities of policies are inverted. Then who serves the people’s interests?
Without proactive steps the economy will stagnate. Imposing public sector layoffs while not offering constructive income earning alternative opportunities must be seen as a derogation of administrative duty. Sensibly, it must be accepted that taxes cannot be paid by persons who earn no income. Policies of raising the tax levels, while reducing public salaries and terminating certain public sector jobs does not accord with sound economic management. Worse yet, this on-going approach is a recipe for social chaos and economic depression. It is one thing to re-structure for efficiency, but quite another willfully to stagnate a territory’s economy. Without timely British financial assistance, the crime rate will continue to rise, and with stronger sentencing laws put in place, the alternative expenditure being compelled will be that of building a 7 or 8 million pound prison or prisons, for unemployment does give rise to higher crime, and reduces the potential tax and revenue base. Continuation with the present administrative approach to the islands will also encourage increased drug trafficking.
There is much to be done and HMG has a golden opportunity to prove itself a responsible non-colonialist steward and caring custodian in areas such as maintaining a clean environment while devising a sensible national policy of waste disposal, poverty reduction, constructing affordable and decent houses for the majority, devising a national sustainable alternative energy policy, and addressing several other social and economic needs. Surely, this is what good governance demands – or – maybe I am just being naïve – or – is it that HMG commandeered political power avowing good governance but just cannot disengage from a historically oppressive and exploitative past? The Dutch and French overseas territories consistently appear to be provided for and treated far better than the British ones – why so? This is not the present looking at the past with a modern set of eyes, it is the past so far refusing to demonstrate itself willing or able to move to the present with acceptable contemporary political behavior, while pretending to be honourable.
These thoughts are offered to the Consultative Forum, and for Governor Wetherell’s attention. His Excellency is the political master who has taken full control. I accept that there is more than one side to the story. It is now time to turn a new page from the colonial past, ironically by reversing the book to a pre-1976* state of affairs – nevertheless with a promise that colonialism is dead or dying. This direct power, as the United Nations Charter reminds us, comes with significant responsibility for “…economic, social, and educational advancement,…” and the just treatment of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Truth be told, financial support is not being begged by the TCI – only attention to a duty of compliance with UN stipulations, once those in high office act responsibly. Is it not supremely ironic that the powers who are preparing to prosecute for non-conformity with the law are themselves seen as ignoring lawful duty at the highest level under international law? I trust that these few thoughts will assist His Excellency and HMG all the more in constructive discharge of those duties in a timely manner. Do the right and honourable thing and disengage from negligence, neglect, and derogation from international duty.
• 1976 – the year of TCI’s first Constitution.

Courtenay Barnett is a graduate of London University. His areas of study were economics, political science and international law. He has been a practising lawyer in the Turks and Caicos Islands for almost twenty five years. He has been arrested for defending his views, has faced a death threat and a threat of arson on his home. He has argued many public interest and human rights cases.

. January 31, 2011 at 10:54 pm

The private letters and diaries of the royal family demonstrate a continued, consistent allegiance to the policy of appeasement and to the personality of Chamberlain. King George’s forbidding mother wrote to him, exasperated that more people in the House of Commons had not cheered the sellout. The king himself, even after the Nazi armies had struck deep north into Scandinavia and clear across the low countries to France, did not wish to accept Chamberlain’s resignation. He “told him how grossly unfairly he had been treated, and that I was genuinely sorry.” Discussing a successor, the king wrote that “I, of course, suggested [Lord] Halifax.” It was explained to him that this arch-appeaser would not do and that anyway a wartime coalition could hardly be led by an unelected member of the House of Lords. Unimpressed, the king told his diary that he couldn’t get used to the idea of Churchill as prime minister and had greeted the defeated Halifax to tell him that he wished he had been chosen instead. All this can easily be known by anybody willing to do some elementary research.

In a few months, the British royal family will be yet again rebranded and relaunched in the panoply of a wedding. Terms like “national unity” and “people’s monarchy” will be freely flung around. Almost the entire moral capital of this rather odd little German dynasty is invested in the post-fabricated myth of its participation in “Britain’s finest hour.” In fact, had it been up to them, the finest hour would never have taken place. So this is not a detail but a major desecration of the historical record—now apparently gliding unopposed toward a baptism by Oscar.

oleh February 2, 2011 at 5:04 am

One possibility would be to convince Britain to adopt our approach of having a Governor General who is appointed for a 5 year term. The person would be appointed on what that person has done in their life and their ability to represent the country and its values. In Canada our Governor Generals are much more worthy of their appointment than the British Monarch, even for Britain. I realize that will not happen.

PS Harkening back to the photo, Hella Stella it does seem that you have a lot of attitude, I had not seen it as you going after Milan’s jugular.

. February 12, 2011 at 10:53 pm
Milan February 12, 2011 at 10:56 pm

That’s quite an interesting video. Apparently, there were protesters about after Charles adopted his current role as Prince of Wales. In this video, he seems to get asked about them.

(I don’t know the full context. It happened back in 1969.)

. March 30, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Send your children to posh English schools. Shower hospitality on their friends: they will be important one day. But invite the parents too: they are influential now. A discreet payment will tempt hard-up celebrities to come to your parties. Minor royals are an even bigger draw: British for choice, but continental will do. Even sensible people go weak at the knees at the thought of meeting a princeling, however charmless or dim-witted.

Many such titled folk like a lavish lifestyle but cannot earn or afford it. So offer a deal: you pay for their helicopters, hookers and hangers-on. In return, they bring you into their social circuit, and shower stardust on yours. You will need patience: the parties are dull and the guests vapid and greedy. Building your reputation as a charming and generous host may take a couple of years. But once people have met you socially they will find it hard to see you as a murderous monster or thieving thug. Useful props in this game are yachts, private jets, racehorses, ski chalets and mansions.

. April 19, 2011 at 7:51 am

Harper nixes debate on monarchy succession
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Postmedia News

Stephen Harper says Canadians don’t want to enter a debate over whether women should have equal rights to become heir to the British throne.

At a campaign stop on Monday, Harper was asked about the brewing debate in Britain on proposed reform that would make the first born child of a monarch – whether male or female – the next king or queen. The current rule, set out under a 300-year-old law in Britain, specifies that the eldest male child automatically becomes monarch – unless, as was the case for Queen Elizabeth, there is not a brother in the family.

. July 3, 2011 at 10:15 am

Why the monarchy (sigh) still survives in Canada

JEFFREY SIMPSON

Last updated Saturday, Jul. 02, 2011 10:13AM EDT

William and Kate Windsor, recently married, will some day be King and Queen of Canada.

The Windsors, visiting from England, will greet their future subjects on Parliament Hill on Canada Day. As both graduated from university and seem like intelligent people, they’ll have been briefed about some things Canadian. William will read the speeches someone else prepared and say all the appropriate things about this country. The couple will undoubtedly be given a rapturous reception, as befits the world’s newest celebrities. The royal consort’s dress choices will undoubtedly be given the closest of scrutiny, as befits the world media’s priorities.

It would be unpardonably rude not to greet the future King and Queen of Canada with courtesy. They didn’t ask for such titles. The jobs just came with the territory, so to speak, a historical hangover from which Canada can’t extricate itself. To do so would require a constitutional amendment supported by the federal government and all 10 provinces – a theoretical possibility but a practical impossibility.

So the monarchy will survive in Canada, if not thrive, although the handsome newlyweds are already such world celebrities that their appearance just might give the monarchy a puff of additional, temporary popularity.

Last summer, when the Queen and Prince Philip visited (it was her 22nd royal tour to Canada since 1952), a Harris/Decima poll revealed that 48 per cent of respondents didn’t know they were coming. Half agreed that the monarchy was a “relic of our colonial past that has no place in Canada today.”

. July 6, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Arab kings
How to keep your crown
The kings of Morocco and Jordan have made some shrewd pre-emptive moves

THERE are two kinds of Arab sovereign: those who rule from behind a veil of constitutional niceties and those who dispense with the veils. Both are meeting the challenges of the Arab spring better than the region’s fallen or beleaguered republican presidents-for-life. Yet the pressure of rising demands from restless subjects is proving harder to resist for those kings who have been nice enough to pretend to democratic leanings.

The rulers of Morocco and Jordan, kingdoms with no oil wealth and close ties to the West, have long seen fit to defend their dynasties by leaving room for mild dissent, letting loyalist parties play politics and ever promising that this game will some day be real. But in both countries repeated feints at reform since their relatively young kings took power a decade ago have not much changed the underlying rules. Muhammad VI of Morocco and Abdullah II of Jordan still hire and fire prime ministers, command national armies and tolerate little criticism of themselves, much in the way of their grandfathers. Morocco’s constitution holds the person of the king, also known as Commander of the Faithful, to be sacred and inviolate.

Such relics of divine kingship may soon go the way of Louis XVI’s head. Protest movements, not unlike those of Egypt and Tunisia, have surfaced in both countries. Dollops of state largesse, including tax breaks, bigger food subsidies and amnesties for convicts, have so far blunted their impact. But the two kings and their advisers have seen that the demise of nearby presidents was not only swift but cheered by their own subjects and foreign allies alike. So they have separately concluded it may be best to pre-empt their peoples’ demands rather than wait for them to grow angry and then fall into the now-classic losing spiral of offering too little, too late.

. September 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm

LAST month Britain’s Prince William flew a navy Sea King helicopter across a small rainswept lake in Prince Edward Island during his first trip abroad with his newly wedded wife. A lot of Canadians duly swooned over the royal couple. This week Stephen Harper’s Conservative government seemed to join them. It announced that the forces which since 1968 have been known as the Maritime and Air Commands will once again be called the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force, just as they were when that Sea King entered service. The Land Force will once again become the Canadian Army.

There is more to Mr Harper’s move than nostalgia, though the switch will delight veterans. They hated the merger by a Liberal government of the three forces, which gave them all green uniforms as bland as their names. It was part of an otherwise successful Liberal attempt to forge new national symbols divorced from colonial ties—they also introduced the maple-leaf flag, and promoted peacekeeping and multiculturalism—and to make them synonymous in the public mind with the party.

. September 18, 2011 at 9:05 pm

In Sri Lanka, the government never “bans” The Economist. But customs officers spend a hell of a long time enjoying issues with Sri Lankan coverage. In Thailand, again, the government never issues a formal ban. But, in fear of the country’s fierce lèse-majesté laws, no distributor will touch a publication carrying coverage that might be construed as remotely critical of the monarchy.

Online distributors, however, are less easy to cow. The logic of monarchism also compels Thailand’s government to intervene directly on the internet. According to Freedom Against Censorship Thailand, an NGO, it has blocked hundreds of thousands of web pages. Thailand’s efforts to curb unpalatable online material, however, are no more than a picket fence when compared with the great firewall of China. China has more users of the internet than any other country, yet its censors battle the medium, convinced that they can win. The foreign press is the easy part. There are ways around the blockage of websites that the censors do not like. But relatively few people have the will, time or money to bother finding them.

. October 31, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Prince Charles exercises a secret veto over a wide swath of UK legislation

UK government ministers have been secretly offering Prince Charles a veto over proposed legislation since 2005, under a little-known law that gives the prince the right to silently kill or amend legislation if it might negatively affect his interests. The legislation the prince was consulted upon includes bills on the Olympics, road safety and gambling. No one knows the full extent of these consultations, nor what changes the prince made to the legislation before it went to Parliament. Among the prince’s assets are the Duchy of Cornwall, worth £700m, and he received £18m/year in income.

When I took my “Life in the UK” test before becoming a permanent resident, I was struck by the incoherence of the section on the UK’s “unwritten constitution,” which, to my Canadian eyes, seemed to suggest that the UK didn’t really have a constitution, just a mismash of badly articulated principles that have to be tediously litigated and contested every time they collide.

oleh November 2, 2011 at 4:57 am

Finally, the daughter of the monarch will have equal right to succeed as a son in Britain. This change was long overdue. And now if we can doing something about Canada having as a head of state a foreign monarch.

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