29 December 2003

Canada's monarchy

I wonder whether the owners of those two houses on Aberdeen are members of the Monarchist League of Canada? The Monarchist League was founded in 1970 in response to the perception that the federal government was moving to sever, or at least downplay, our ties to the Crown. I myself have no great difficulty with constitutional monarchy, despite my American birth and upbringing. However, here is a defence of monarchy from the Monarchist League's website with which I am in considerable disagreement:

Canadians are justly proud of their health care system. It owes its origin to the welfare state that came out of British Fabianism and the sense of community fostered by the Monarchy, according to which society is perceived as a kind of extended family rather than just a corporate or social battlefield as in republican philosophy.

Are these really the only two alternatives: the extended family or the battlefield? A solid understanding of differentiated responsibility will not allow one so easily to assimilate the state into either of these. The state is a community of citizens and government called to do justice to all legitimate interests within its territorial jurisdiction. The fact that it is headed by an hereditary monarch cannot in any way change this jural character of the state.

Hereditary monarchy is a vestige of a less differentiated society in which political authority had not yet been clearly distinguished from parental authority. An appreciation for a country's history would argue against outright abolition of the monarchy where it still exists, particularly if it continues to play a vital role in upholding the constitution. But this hardly makes such a state an extended family. If a defence of the monarchy is to be mounted, it must be done for distinctly political reasons. Familial metaphors, where taken too literally, threaten to suppress these.

In this respect, a constitutional monarchy must be understood, not as opposed to a republic, but as a monarchical republic, where all the institutions of the state, including the monarchy, seek public justice.

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