Saturday, April 12, 2014

Monarchy vs. Republic in Oslo

Last Sunday yours truly went to a debate at the local Literature House between republican Mr. Erik Lundesgaard and monarchist Mr. Nils August Andresen. The audience was overwhelmingly republican. The debate was organized by the republican movement but open to the general public.

Yours truly is probably considerably more of a paleomonarchist than Mr. Andresen, the former being less satisfied with the status quo than the latter – most likely. Your host blogger is probably more skeptical of democracy and popular sovereignty than the monarchist panelist.

However, Mr. Andresen should be commended for saying:

  • The monarch represents balance against democratic power, especially for permanent minorities.
  • More democracy is not necessarily a good thing (in every situation).
  • The Whig theory of history is incorrect.
  • That the King of Norway stood up to the politicians when they wanted to remove the confessional requirement for the monarch was a good thing.
  • Democratic institutions may be questioned more in the future.
Mr. Lundesgaard countered Mr. Andresen's concept of balance of power with what nowadays is the concept in use, namely a functional separation (a governmental division of labor of sorts), saying that the concept of balance of power is outdated. Lundesgaard may be right in what is the order of the day. Unfortunately. Fortunately, it doesn't have to stay that way forever.

Lundesgaard stated that the litmus test [note to Mr. Lundesgaard if he should ever read this blog post: litmus test is “syretest” in Norwegian] for being a principled monarchist is if you would set up a brand new state with a monarchy. Andresen responded that he didn't accept his definition of a principle, stating that he hoped that such a situation never should be the case, previously having stated that he would not set up a new monarchy.

Andresen and yours truly seem largely to be in agreement that constitutional design is not a good thing. Let's remember the wise words of Edmund Burke; that constitutions are grown, not made.

Yours truly might be more inclined to set up a new monarchy than Mr. Andresen, but it would all depend on the situation. It is not considered normal to establish new monarchies in this day and age, but a new monarchical age may dawn. Yours truly may be more welcoming to such a new age than Mr. Andresen, but he can speak for himself.

Mr. Lundesgaard claimed that it is only a question of time before we have a Norwegian republic. He also claimed to know about a lot of closet republicans. The Norwegian republicans in 1905 thought King Haakon VII's reign would be a short one. They were wrong. The republicans can be wrong again.

As for the possibility of closet republicans, Lundesgaard may be right. However, there are probably quite a few closet democracy skeptics as well.

Several republicans had the floor for comments and questions. There was a Dane who apparently tried to demolish Mr. Andresen's concept of historical legitimacy by stating that Denmark has a historically legitimate claim to Norway. The Dane did not mention that Denmark-Norway was based on a union treaty, not on some sort of ownership by Denmark of Norway. In any case, the Danish republican apparently thought that historical legitimacy means that anything that has been in the past can be justified, an interpretation that was effectively rejected by Mr. Andresen. Andresen also in a way made a case for the union of Denmark and Norway, historically, also culturally during the union with Sweden. Your host blogger would say that the good aspects of Denmark-Norway have been underrated.

A Swedish republican also took to the floor and managed to say that democracy is the finest thing there is. Seriously? Some democratic-republicans apparently have a deviating view of what is the finest thing there is (most people find this outside the realm of politics – enough said). You cannot make this stuff up. Mr. Andresen, being a gentleman, did not fall for the temptation to make a point out of that. He merely took note that there are different views on democracy, and that republicans apparently don't acknowledge those other views.

Mr. Andresen did a good job in the debate. Although he apparently is far from as paleo as yours truly, he should be commended for being – philosophically at least – considerably more balanced on democracy than the general pseudo-religious democracy view that is so common in these times.

BTW, popular support for a restoration in Serbia – through an opinion poll not too long ago – of around 40 percent is fueled by exactly the kind of dropping faith in democratic institutions – or the elected politicians – that Mr. Andresen talked about. 40 percent is more than ditching the monarchy has ever received in any opinion poll in Norway for at least some decades. And republicans have the nerve to claim that once a monarchy is gone no one – apart from very minor groups – ever seriously wants it back!

We should also keep in mind the opinion poll conducted in connection with the Norwegian coronation centennial in 2006, where 20 percent approved of increasing regal powers – 30 percent amongst those thirty and younger.

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