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  1. lpetrich says

    I remember researching the question of monarchy, and I found it to have a remarkable historical trajectory.

    Just about every premodern nation larger than a city-state was a monarchy. The biggest exception was the Roman Republic, but it famously turned into the Roman Empire. Monarchies have often been *very* long-lived, even if not necessarily very continuous. Some of the champions are the Pharaonic and the Chinese monarchies.

    But over the last two centuries, monarchy has gone into decline. Many monarchies have been abolished outright, and many of the surviving ones have been reduced to figurehead status, like the UK’s monarchy. That does not mean that the resulting republics or monarchy-republic hybrids have mostly been democracies. Military dictatorships and one-party states have also been common over the last century or so.

    I’ve never been able to find any attempts to puzzle out why it has happened, and I can only speculate. I think that the beginning of the end was George Washington’s refusal to crown himself king after the American Revolution. He was not even very fond of the Presidency, serving only two terms and refusing any title fancier than “Mister President”. He was much like Dwight Eisenhower, I think.

    It was a radical political experiment, but it succeeded. It even survived a bloody and destructive civil war.

    As to how monarchy get started, some political scientists have talked about a “crown prince problem”. A designated successor may get impatient and try to overthrow the leader. A leader’s son, and sometimes daughter, is usually a safe choice. Thus, hereditary monarchy. However, of a society has institutional mechanisms of succession independent of the leaders, then it can dispense with monarchs. Democracy is an obvious one, and one-party states usually qualify also.

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