It is common notion for people to believe that Democracy, because of its few fundamental rules and ideas, is the best form of governance and hence there have been wars and protests in history for centuries, since the French Revolution to the very recent Arab Spring to overthrow the single powerful leader or the monarch. But even today, we see countries that are monarchies and are functioning relatively peacefully. We question if democracy is as great as it sounds and take examples of monarchies to study this type of governance.
Monarchies are of various types broadly classified as absolute monarchies and constitutional monarchies. Here, we discuss both of these and find the top ten countries with a monarchy on the basis of their Human Development Indexes and World Happiness Database.
Qatar is a west Asian absolute monarchy rule solely by the Al Thani Dynasty. It used to be a very poor country earlier but its economy prospered due to the oil and natural gas resources it owns. It is today the world’s richest country with highest per capita income. The country maintains close relations with the USA as well as Saudi Arabia. It also has a lot of foreign population workforce from the Indian subcontinent as well as UAE. In fact, Qatar has more foreign population than native. But the labour laws are questionable leading to exploitation of foreign labour force. The country’s press was specified to be not free in a Freedom House report. This puts into question its fairly high score in the World Happiness Database.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy that lies in Southeast Asia headed by King Rama IX. The country had rapid growth in 1986-95 but suffered from a crisis in the coming years causing the Thai Baht to fall very low against the US dollar and also triggered the Asian Financial Crisis. Thailand’s economy is mostly export dependent and two-thirds of the GDP is from exports. It is the world’s highest exporter of rice. Tourism is also being promoted heavily and its contribution has increased over the years. The recent military junta coup in 2006 and the fraud charges against the government and the judiciary led to opposition and revolution from the people and has made the country politically unstable.
This is a very small nation situated in South-western Europe bordered by France and Spain. In 1607, King Henry VII of France formulated a law that the head of the French state and the Bishop of Urgell as co-princes of Andorra and it has continued to be so. Hence, the President of France and the Bishop of Urgell are co-princes to Andorra today. The country’s economy is tourism based and it attracts a lot of money because of being a tax haven. Due to its small size, Andorra is easily governable and has substantial public investment to take care of its subjects.
7. UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
The UAE of the middle-eastern peninsula is a federation of seven emirates. The country is an absolute monarchy ruled by hereditary crowned heirs. Islam is accepted as the state religion and the country has strict laws against the propagation of other religions. The criminal laws of the country, too, are biased and women are not treated equally. Lack of practice of human rights and harsh punishments can be observed, however, even after this, the country has a decent rank in the World Happiness Database. The economy is highly dependent on export of petroleum oil and gas however it has tried to diversify to tourism and construction. It has high per capita income and is the most developed nation in west Asia.
Japan is the most developed Asian economy and the first non-European country to make it to the list. Japan or Nippon as it is locally known, is a constitutional monarchy with the emperor, Akihito, having limited power. After the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings and the defeat of the Axis Power in the World War II, Japan was completely demilitarized and the economy was shattered. The economic miracle which led to rapid development and progress of the country was because of US support but mostly through government’s economic policies which stimulated the growth of the private sector and led to heavy industrialization and later switched to trade expansion. Today, Japan has the third largest economy in the world and also high living standards with low infant mortality rate, high life expectancy for women and low homicide rates.
5. UNITED KINGDOM
The country has been a very powerful and influential part of the world since historical times as it controlled a very large section of the world’s resources through its occupied territories across the globe. Due to this very reason, it has always been rich in abundance. It is one of the first to be modernized as the epicentre of the industrial revolution. Even after decolonization, it has held great power. Britain is a permanent member of UNSC, NATO, commonwealth countries and so on holding key trade and foreign relations. Today, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and North Ireland is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as the ceremonial head of state. UK has a partially regulated market economy with high value of its currency against any other. The country has a very globalised economy with service sector contributing as much as 73% to the GDP.
The Kingdom of Spain is another European nation with constitutional monarchy as the thirteenth largest economy in the world. It also has high living standards and quality of life index. Spain, in the 19th century, was an unstable and weak economy troubled by war and the great depression. However, Francisco Franco in the 20th century, introduced modernising reforms which were very successful and led to the ‘Spanish Miracle’. Vast efforts were made to promote tourism in the country and today it’s tourism industry is the second largest in the world. Spanish culture is famous for attracting international crowd. Spain is a capitalist mixed economy which depends a lot on agriculture, tourism and energy production.
Another constitutional monarchy from northern Europe, Sweden is a country which has been rather peaceful after series of wars and has developed through centuries. After battles and defeats, constitutional system was introduced to the absolute monarchy in 1719, giving power to the people who have since had a strong political involvement through movements. The country has a mixed economy which is export oriented focusing on iron ore and hydropower generation. The public policy is one of the best across the world with second highest public spending but the nation also has very high taxes. Sweden along with Norway is a part of the group of Nordic countries which are said to be the best governed.
The kingdom of Denmark is officially a constitutional monarchy with Queen Margrethe II as its ceremonial head. The country reformed from absolute monarchy to a constitutional one in 1660 and the constitution was signed in 1849. Like other European countries, it is very developed and the governance handles the state as well as its subjects well. The country has the highest minimum wage according to IMF and also the world’s lowest income inequality. Denmark too, like Norway, has reached a stage of development where it looks towards environment issues and sustainability implementing laws to promote it. The country has one of the most liberal labour policies in the world and thus provides for a good host for manufacturing and service units.
Norway is a constitutional monarchy which ranks the highest in Human Development Index and is in the top few on World Database of Happiness. The constitution of the country which was adopted in 1814 states the country to be a constitutional monarchy instead of a republic and the then King Charles XIII was elected by majority vote of the people. It’s a fairly small country with a population of 5-6 million people and is said to be the most stable and well functioning country. The oil and gas exports make it economically empowered. The country is environmentally conscious producing 98% of its power through hydroelectric plants. It also ranks first in the Press Freedom Index.