Friday, August 1, 2008

Tongan Coronation and Emasculation

The Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of TongaToday is coronation day for King George Tupou V of Tonga.

As CNN reports, the King has given up some powers. I have no strong objections to monarchs giving up powers in general. In keeping with Edmund Burke's dictum that constitutions are grown, not made, and in respecting that one size does not fit all, having a mixed government is a wise thing.

What I do object to is a process of outright emasculation of a monarch. If partial reduction of powers is just a step on the way to total emasculation, I do object to it. In today's world the problem is that popular majorities and democratically elected politicos have too much power – not that kings have too much power. I say the burden of proof lies with those who want emasculation of the King, and they have yet to convince me.

Moreover, I object to the following statement by the CNN:

New Tongan king, George Tupou V, to give up most of near-absolute powers
Near-absolute powers? Most of? Mostly-pregnant? Near-pregnant?

Doesn't someone either possess absolute power or not? Can something be somewhat absolute?

It is interesting that when a democratically elected parliament has the sole, unchecked power to make and amend legislation that is absolutely binding for everyone in the country, the mainstream media never refers to that as “absolute power,” whereas once a monarch can block such legislation it is almost always referred to with the term absolute.


Hesperius said...

Your last paragraph here is a wonderful criticism of our modern idolatrous love of democracy.

Absolute power in government is fearful in governments of any constitution, whether monarchical or republican.

The unique danger of a democratic republic is — as John Stuart Mill points out — that when its government usurps absolute power, the people think that power is actually theirs, since they fail to distinguish between themselves and the government.

I'll have to talk more with the democratic-republicans I meet about the absolute rule of democracies now. Maybe I could even throw in some discussion of the divine right of majorities. Thank you!

J.K. Baltzersen said...


Thank you for your kind comments and for your insight.

I have reflected on absolutism -- both monarchical and democratic-republican -- in previous essays, most recently in an essay at The Monarchist.

Please feel free to browse my article page.