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Monarchy and Democracy

We tend to take things for granted and we assume that we know everything. This is turn can often lead to grave misunderstandings and thus blurs the differences and definitions of monarchy and democracy.

Monarchy is often associated with control and domination. This is only true in absolute monarchies where the king rules all, as in the emperor of Japan. However, in the modern world few countries can afford to have such a powerful leader. There is too much at risk in the sense that one man controlling a whole nation is eventually overcome by his own greed. He will run the country to the ground.

As a solution, the majority of the monarchies in the world today are constitutional monarchies, where the king presides over a constitutional body. Both rule the country as two separate powers, each advising the other. Constitutional monarchies offer more freedom than absolute monarchies. The governed have a say in how their country is governed, which can decrease the possibility of later riots and overthrows. Nonetheless the legislative body must be careful, as the people once dissatisfied can be very dangerous. This is evident in the various overthrows that Thailand has witnessed in the past 50 years.

Unfortunately monarchies have a massive fault. Niccolo Machiavelli, in his political thesis The Prince, notes that the king, with or without a legislative, must be careful with his liberality and parsimony in the sense that, if given too much freedom, the country will take him for granted and eventually throw a fit when they do not get what they want, very much like a small child. If he is too cruel and miserly, then the country will overthrow him when they see how much they're missing. It's altogether a no-win situation. So monarchies must walk softly, all the while carrying a big stick. Nonetheless this makes the entire country play a weaker role when compared to powerful democracies.

On a lighter note monarchies have been noted to have outstanding cultures and tradition, the reason being the fact that keeping a monarchy alive is a tradition by itself. Thailand has one of the richest cultures in the Southeast Asia region, as so do Japan, England, and ancient China.

This all makes one think, if monarchy is so idealistic, surely the world should have more of them remaining. But it doesn't. One can count on two hands how many monarchies are left in the world. This is because democracy has seemingly more than monarchy has to offer.

Democracy gives the illusion of ultimate freedom, as does the United States of America. The Constitution with its Bill of Rights grants virtually every freedom to the Americans. The three branches of the federal government makes sure to protect those rights. It is virtually the best and the strongest government ever in the sense that everyone has the same rights as everyone else, thus providing a nationwide feeling of equality and liberty.

Perhaps the most important aspect of democracy is the limited freedom that it provides its people with. They are allowed to express themselves more freely than those people who reside in monarchies, for they have virtually no one to fear. The limits on their personal freedom are created just so that an individual's freedom and happiness does not affect that of another. Thus the assorted opinions combined as one dynamic force is much stronger than one solid opinion. Organizations such as United Nations relies on the opinions of several instead on just one. Through various opinions and points of view, decisions can be made to satisfy individual needs. This is perhaps the reason why the few monarchies remaining in the world play a smaller role in world politics than democracies.

It also seems that democracies are much bolder and, in the long run, smarter in terms of decisions. Machiavelli in his Discourses nonchalantly wrote that the multitude is wiser than just one prince, for one person making important decisions does not often think of anyone other than himself. With several people making those decisions, compromises are made to ensure the happiness of virtually everyone. (One should note that there will always be someone who is discontented by the decision.)

Democracy is virtually everywhere, from school student councils to the United States of America, perhaps the most powerful nation in the world. This trend towards democracy is just about the best way to show that it is generally the better form of government. It gives the individual a stronger voice and a stronger sense of personal freedom within certain limits at the same time.

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Copyright (c) 1998 by Gemma Truman
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I find it hard to believe that I could actually write this kind of essay, and even harder yet that my French teacher liked it. Nonetheless, this assignment gave me the chance to write with flourish and add in the philosophy of Niccolo Machiavelli, who still amazes me every time I read through the pages.