Thatcher and Paine on Hereditary Monarchs

“Those who imagine that a politician would make a better figurehead than a hereditary monarch might perhaps make the acquaintance of more politicians.” – Margaret Thatcher

Ummmm, why would an educated, free people need a figurehead at all, Ms. Thatcher? 

More broadly, I’ll take Thomas Paine over the Tories and monarchists anyday:

We have heard the Rights of Man called a levelling system; but the only system to which the word levelling is truly applicable, is the hereditary monarchical system. It is a system of mental levelling. It indiscriminately admits every species of character to the same authority. Vice and virtue, ignorance and wisdom, in short, every quality, good or bad, is put on the same level. Kings succeed each other, not as rationals, but as animals. It signifies not what their mental or moral characters are. Can we then be surprised at the abject state of the human mind in monarchical countries, when the government itself is formed on such an abject levelling system?—It has no fixed character. To-day it is one thing; to-morrow it is something else. It changes with the temper of every succeeding individual, and is subject to all the varieties of each. It is government through the medium of passions and accidents. It appears under all the various characters of childhood, decrepitude, dotage, a thing at nurse, in leading-strings, or in crutches. It reverses the wholesome order of nature. It occasionally puts children over men, and the conceits of non-age over wisdom and experience.In short, we cannot conceive a more ridiculous figure of government, than hereditary succession, in all its cases, presents [emphasis added]. 

Could it be made a decree in nature, or an edict registered in heaven, and man could know it, that virtue and wisdom should invariably appertain to hereditary succession, the objection to it would be removed; but when we see that nature acts as if she disowned and sported with the hereditary system; that the mental character of successors, in all countries, is below the average of human understanding; that one is a tyrant, another an idiot, a third insane, and some all three together, it is impossible to attach confidence to it, when reason in man has power to act.

HT: Liberty Fund’s wonderful Online Library of Liberty.

4 thoughts on “Thatcher and Paine on Hereditary Monarchs

  1. Whereas what Thomas Paine said about monarchs is true, it does not follow that politicians are better suited for leadership. True, a monarch ascends to power whether or not he is fit to hold a position of power. But a politician ascends to power BECAUSE of a lust for power, which, by the process of adverse selection, renders most politicians grossly unfit to wield arbitrary power over others. The only solution is to have NO person wielding arbitrary power over others.

  2. Exactly, rule of law over rule of men/women….and a healthy suspicion of men and women in power, period.

    Also Congressional supremacy over executive dominance, federalism, checks and balances, and Constitutional provisions limiting the power of the government. Of course, these things were all enshrined in the American Constitution and look where we are today. So we need renewal and reform….or face inevitable decline.

  3. There is an extensive literature on the benefits of “figureheads”–politically impotent heads of state, whether hereditary or elected. If you don’t like figureheads, then resign yourself to the royal court of the presidency.

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