The Arab Spring Demonstrates The Stability Of Monarchy

From Tyler Cowen – Arab Spring and the stability of monarchy

Victor Menaldo has a new paper:

This paper helps explain the variation in political turmoil observed in the MENA during the Arab Spring. The region’s monarchies have been largely spared of violence while the “republics” have not. A theory about how a monarchy’s political culture solves a ruler’s credible commitment problem explains why this has been the case. Using a panel dataset of the MENA countries (1950-2006), I show that monarchs are less likely than non-monarchs to experience political instability, a result that holds across several measures. They are also more likely to respect the rule of law and property rights, and grow their economies. Through the use of an instrumental variable that proxies for a legacy of tribalism, the time that has elapsed since the Neolithic Revolution weighted by Land Quality, I show that this result runs from monarchy to political stability. The results are also robust to alternative political explanations and country fixed effects.

Yes. Thus endeth the lesson given by Hans Herman Hoppe. 🙂

“The best reason why Monarchy is a strong government is, that it is an intelligible government. The mass of mankind understand it, and they hardly anywhere in the world understand any other.” – W. Bagehot. Bagehot then goes on to discuss what Bryan Caplan has more recently called “myth of the rational voter”. But the fact that government is complex and citizens are easily confused, misled or frustrated is not sufficient to answer the question of monarchy.

But the better answer, provided By Hoppe, is that elected officials always create a Tragedy of the Commons out of the society, its norms, its institutions and its economy – elected officials have every incentive to spend, to sell off, to destroy traditions, and to create factions so that they can profit from dispute resolution among them. A monarch has the opposite interest: he has every incentive to create an enduring nation for his people, so that he can persist his family heritage. And even better, since the monarchy — by its social status alone — creates at the very least, mating advantages, and at the very best, wealth and a place in history for family members, the family will happily commit regicide if the monarch acts against their interests. (And history is full of examples.) You can kill a monarch, but removing politicians is an exercise in futility. As soon as one is gone, another pops up in his stead.

Furthermore, I suggest that in a society where political power is unattainable, the only venue for status seeking is the market. And success in the market is good for consumers and entrepreneurs alike. Conversely, all political action is merely a distraction – a waste of time and effort in lost productivity an liesure because political power must both be pursued and defended against. All commercial action is a benefit to someone, somewhere.

[callout]”This paper argues that the [Arab Spring] region’s monarchs have been particularly well-suited to deter political unrest. Through the strategic use of constitutions, formal political institutions, Islamic principles, and informal norms, MENA monarchs have “invented” a political culture that has helped create a stable distributional arrangement and self-enforcing limits on executive authority. A monarchic political culture has promoted cohesion among regime insiders, such as ruling families and other political elites, and bolstered their stake in the regime. Moreover, this unique political culture has provided the region’s monarchs with legitimacy: regime outsiders have benefited from the positive externalities associated with secure property rights for the political elite—sustained economic growth and increased economic opportunities. This has helped monarchs consolidate their authority and foster political stability. Conversely, the region’s non-monarchs have relied on a divide-and-conquer strategy and terrorized potential opponents into submission, gutting their societies of rival institutions and creating layers of militias and secret police.” – Victor Menaldo, UW.[/callout]

The best and most stable form of government we have yet discovered, consists of a rigid constitution, under hereditary monarchy, where the monarch has limited power of veto, perhaps limited to dismissing the government, with an upper house having rigid criteria for membership, and whose responsibly is limited to ascent or veto, and a lower house from citizens who meet rigid criteria for membership not available to the upper house, and who alone can initiate bills, where both houses are appointed by lottocracy, and where there is no compensation for service, and where all administration is performed under contract by the private sector, by organizations and individuals capable of being hired and fired at will. All of which are balanced by an independent judiciary that administers the common law.

This system is a defense against the usurpation of the government, a defense against the natural corruption of bureaucracy, a defense against the fashion and passion of the public, a defense against the politicization and factionalization of society, a direction of competitive energies to the market and out of politics, and relegates reward for public service to that of social status. But best of all, society is socially bimodal, and having houses of government that represent their interests, and force a compromise provides a vent for stress, and a means of cooperating through compromise and exchange.

In this environment, public intellectuals must convince the society of a common good, not advance particular individuals in order to advance their ideas. Schumpeter is right: the competition for power in the modern state is between public intellectuals and entrepreneurs. When most people were farmers or small business owners, the entrepreneur could win. Today, only a fraction of our society actually participates in the market the way our ancestors did, and as such, public intellectuals (modern priesthood) have increased their power. The entrepreneurial culture has defended itself in every way possible. But there is no certitude that it can succeed.

I have no position as yet, as do my fellow libertarians, on sovereign currency (fiat money) versus private money. I recognize that fiat money gives us the ability to insure one another against the vicissitudes of nature, and I am uncomfortable with the appreciation in the value of private money created by public investment. But I am not yet settled on which of the alternatives is the most constructive.

2 responses to “The Arab Spring Demonstrates The Stability Of Monarchy”

    • Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, it was closer to a joint stock model. It was also fabulously wealthy, and allowed for the (relatively) meritocratic rotation of elites.

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