A constitutional monarchy is a government in which the head of state is a monarch bound by the laws of a constitution. Depending on the particular system, the monarch may have either complete political power or else have merely ceremonial duties. The philosopher Aristotle conducted a study of the 158 diverse governments in ancient Greece and recommended a lawful monarchy as the best form of government. Among the potential advantages of a constitutional monarchy are economic growth, low corruption, increased freedom, and built-in incentives for benevolence towards ordinary citizens.
European constitutional monarchies rank very high on the CIA's measure of Purchasing Power Parity, or PPP. Liechtenstein ranked first, Luxembourg ranked third, and Norway was number sixth. Seven out of the 10 richest countries in the world in 2003 were constitutional monarchies, measured by per capital gross domestic product, according to the Brussels Almanac. More than half of the top 30 countries were constitutional monarchies. The two richest countries in the Middle East, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, are constitutional monarchies, as is Japan, the richest country in Asia.
The International Commission on Nobility and Royalty says that constitutional monarchies have less crime on average than countries with other types of governments. Transparency International's 2010 Corruption Perception Index showed that the top 10 least corrupt nations on earth were mostly constitutional monarchies. TI defines corruption as "the abuse of entrusted power for private gain." The Corruption Perception Index ranks countries based on the perception of corruption in the public sector. It is specifically based on such things as the bribery of public officials, embezzlement of public funds and political kickbacks.
The Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook explains that monarchs in a constitutional monarchy must follow a constitution that spells out his or her rights, duties and responsibilities. Constitutional democracies have excellent records of democracy, according to libertarian columnist Quentin Langley. He says that constitutional monarchies are some of the best examples of effective parliamentary democracies. Langley points to the examples of the former British territories in Africa, which, when they moved away from the constitutional monarchy, subsequently took away political freedoms.
Dr. Walter Block, professor of economics at Loyola University, argues that rulers in a monarchy have a strong incentive to take a long-term view of their kingdom and pursue policies that benefit subjects. In a typical liberal democracy, politicians typically pursue self-serving policies regardless of long-term consequences because they will be out of office before they have to face them. Also, politicians can confuse the citizens by blaming one another endlessly for the harm done by their own policies.
Constitutional monarchs are bound by certain limits and are not likely to push these limits for short-term political gains. They rule personally for decades and then leave their kingdom to an heir. Block points out that monarchs will want to pass down a functioning enterprise rather than looting the state treasury before leaving office.
- LewRockwell.com; The Evil of Term Limits; Walter Block; July 2002
- The International Commission on Nobility and Royalty: Briefly, the Benefits of Constitutional Monarchy
- Central Intelligence Agency: The World Factbook: Government Type
- Transparency International: Surveys and Indices
- Index Mundi: GDP - Per Capita (PPP)