Article by Leland B. Yeager. Another contribution to our discussion. This one is somewhat more interesting, given that it’s written from the perspective of a self-identified libertarian. Hat tip to David Heleniak.
Clear thought and discussion suffer when all sorts of good things, like liberty, equality, fraternity, rights, majority rule, and general welfare–some in tension with others–are marketed together under the portmanteau label “democracy”. Democracy’s core meaning is a particular method of choosing, replacing, and influencing government officials (Schumpeter 1950/1962). It is not a doctrine of what government should and should not do. Nor is it the same thing as personal freedom or a free society or an egalitarian social ethos. True enough, some classical liberals, like Thomas Paine (1791-1792/1989) and Ludwig von Mises (1919/1983), did scorn hereditary monarchy and did express touching faith that representative democracy would choose excellent leaders and adopt policies truly serving the common interest. Experience has taught us better, as the American Founders already knew when constructing a government of separated and limited powers and of only filtered democracy.
As an exercise, and without claiming that my arguments are decisive, I’ll contend that constitutional monarchy can better preserve people’s freedom and opportunities than democracy as it has turned out in practice.1 My case holds only for countries where maintaining or restoring (or conceivably installing) monarchy is a live option.2 We Americans have sounder hope of reviving respect for the philosophy of our Founders. Our traditions could serve some of the functions of monarchy in other countries.
An unelected absolute ruler could conceivably be a thoroughgoing classical liberal. Although a wise, benevolent, and liberal-minded dictatorship would not be a contradiction in terms, no way is actually available to assure such a regime and its continuity, including frictionless succession.
Some element of democracy is therefore necessary; totally replacing it would be dangerous. Democracy allows people some influence on who their rulers are and what policies they pursue. Elections, if not subverted, can oust bad rulers peacefully. Citizens who care about such things can enjoy a sense of participation in public affairs.
Anyone who believes in limiting government power for the sake of personal freedom should value also having some nondemocratic element of government besides courts respectful of their own narrow authority. While some monarchists are reactionaries or mystics, others (like Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn and Sean Gabb, cited below) do come across as a genuine classical liberals.