Head of State. Which Brand?
Germany has just elected its new president. Popular with some folk, less popular with others, but that was ever so.
The German presidency, as with several others, is non-executive, being purely representative. Where as, for example, the USA president is executive. He is even the commander-in-chief of the US military.
So which is better, a president who can make political decisions? Or one who can’t? Of course, where the president is non-executive there is a chancellor or premier to make decisions. Is there
a question of democracy here? If so, perhaps we should examine what democracy really is. I propose doing just that in an future blog. Here, however, we are discussing the office of Head of State.
In Britain, as in several other countries, we have a monarch as Head of State. One of the main differences is that a monarch is generally not elected, but inherits the office. I have often heard the argument that a president costs much less than a monarch. On the surface that sounds like a reasonable point. A counter argument here could be e.g. what about all the retired presidents? They still have big pensions and many privileges. While in office a president’s costs are arguably as high as a monarch’s. In the case of the British monarchy, all the pomp and circumstance attracts enormous sums of foreign currency through tourism, TV rights, etc.
And politically? A new president every 4 or 8 years comes fully updated in the politics of the day so is able to be a more up-to-date representative of his country. On the other hand, he will have usually come up from a one-sided political party and may therefore be biased in his representation. Then again, he is more of the people and is thus better able to connect with them. True. But is he then not more easily influenced by this nearness? Perhaps not always for the best results. That will probably depend on the integrity of the individual person. Again, he can always be thrown out of office; but who would dare to take such extreme action?
The British monarchy has survived uninterrupted (except for 8 years in the 1650s) for hundreds of years. The history of it is certainly colourful. But what of its present? Well, politically, the Queen has certainly not evolved from a political party.
However, it is said that she has more overall knowledge of state affairs than most of her ministers. For example, the prime minister of the day visits Buckingham Palace once a week to discuss current political events. We hear that she often gives the Prime Minister very useful advice which is based on
her many years of experience with many Prime Ministers. She, apparently, takes this part of her job, very seriously. Fine, but will her successor (the one after she dies) be just as serious? We don’t know.
Even a monarch can be sacked. Charles I was beheaded before Oliver Cromwell ruled as a non-monarch (1650). Charles II (his son) was crowned because the British people wanted a king again.
Then there was a short period at the death of Princess Diana when Queen Elizabeth became very unpopular with a large part of the people. She could have lost the throne then. So even with a monarch there is no guarantee of continuity. Queen Elisabeth is again very popular, but there are still many Brits who would prefer Britain to be a republic.
Monarchy, executive presidency, non-executive presidency or even dictator. How do we choose the best option for our own individual country?
I suppose, we could discuss it endlessly. Preferably in good company in a cosy room, over a glass of good wine.
Elected: to be chosen by a group of people. For example in Germany and the UK the government is elected by the people.
Inherit: To receive something because of the death of another person – e.g. Prince Charles will inherit the British throne when Queen Elizabeth dies Many people inherit a house when their parents die.
Retired: No longer working because of age – e.g. in Germany people generally retire at 65.
Beheaded: To be killed by the head being cut off – popular in past centuries
Crowned: To be made King or Queen by receiving the crown in an official ceremony.