Are Monarchies Better for Economic Growth? Here’s What the Empirical Evidence Says.



Hans-Hermann Hoppe has argued that monarchies take a longer-term view of their national economies and therefore are more likely to pursue more stable and secure economies. That is, among monarchs, the desire to maximize wealth promotes more farsightedness than exists in democratic regimes. Due to the lower time preference of monarchs, they are less likely to succumb to the whims of economic populism. 

Hoppe outlines this argument in a 1995 article:

A private government owner will predictably try to maximize his total wealth, i.e., the present value of his estate and his current income…. Accordingly, a private government owner will want to avoid exploiting his subjects so heavily, for instance, as to reduce his future earnings potential to such an extent that the present value of his estate actually falls. Instead, in order to preserve or possibly even enhance the value of his personal property, he will systematically restrain himself in his exploitation policies. For the lower the degree of exploitation, the more productive the subject population will be; and the more productive the population, the higher will be the value of the ruler’s parasitic monopoly of expropriation.

A Comparative Analysis

Quite interesting is that research confirms the assumption of Hoppe. According to Mauro Guillen monarchies are more effective than democratic republics at protecting property rights primarily because of their long-term focus. “Monarchies tend to be dynasties, and therefore have a long-term focus,” Guillen says. “If you focus on the long run, you are bound to be more protective of property rights…. You’re more likely to put term limits on politicians that want to abuse their powers. Queen Elizabeth of the UK has exercised her constitutional role admirably in keeping the country’s prime ministers in check, whenever they seemed to overextend their reach.”

Similarly, Guillen in his study points out that as symbols of national unity, monarchies curtail the negative consequences of internal conflict on property rights:

For instance, the case of Spain has received considerable scholarly attention in terms of both the continuities in the process of transition to democracy during the late 1970s, and the sequencing of political and economic reforms with the crown playing a key role…. The continuity of monarchy in Spain was a major factor in preserving property rights during the political transition. In Portugal, by contrast, a comparable country that made the transition from dictatorship to democracy at roughly the same time but had become a republic back in 1910, nationalized 244 banks and large enterprises during its transition to democracy.

We can attribute the success of political and economic transitions under monarchies to the high levels of trust cultivated by the cultural legacy of hereditary rule. As a source of national pride, monarchs can rely on the power of sentiment to invite support for controversial reforms. Indeed, research suggests monarchies are enhanced by such measures. Christian Bjørnskov and Peter Kurrild-Klitgaard in their publication “Economic Growth and Institution Reform in Modern Monarchies and Republics: A Historical Cross-Country Perspective, 1820–2000,” present fascinating information: “While large-scale political reforms are typically associated with short term growth declines, reflecting what has become known as the “valley of tears,” the data indicate that this valley does not appear in monarchies. In fact, if anything it has the opposite effect.”

Moreover, the rating agency Standard and Poor’s asserts that monarchies have stronger credit scores and impressive balance sheets relative to republics. Credit analyst Joydeep Mukherji submits that there is no difference between constitutional and absolute monarchies in the assessment of their debt risk. “However, absolute monarchies score higher than constitutional monarchies in external risk and fiscal risk, largely reflecting the strong general government balance sheets and high external asset positions of wealthy monarchies in the eastern Arab world,’’ he noted.

Like Gullien, Victor Menaldo in “The Middle East and North Africa’s resilient monarchs” posits that monarchies are linked to respect for the rule of law, protection of property rights, and economic growth. As Menaldo shows, the predictability of the political culture embedded by monarchies positively affects the decision to invest: “Given the emergence of a stable political culture … elites and citizens will be encouraged to protect their planning horizons due to longer executive tenures and an institutional succession process. Both elites and citizens will be more likely to make the investments in physical and human capital that encourage capital accumulation and increases in productivity.”

Another argument in favor of monarchies is their intolerance for wars, since involvement in warfare has the potential to eviscerate wealth. Though comparing political systems based on the likelihood to wage war is rare, one study written by leading political scientists intuits that premodern monarchies were less likely to fight wars:

There seems ample empirical support for our conjecture that monarchies were less conflict-prone in the pre-modern era. This contradicts the usual impression offered by mythic and historical accounts of kings who make war as a matter of occupation. When Charles Tilly declared that “states make wars and wars make the states”, he was doubtless thinking of kings as instigators. And it is true that the great monarchies (England, France, Spain) had considerably more wars to their credit than their smaller republican neighbors. However, we have seen that this is a product of grandeur rather than truculence. Small monarchies were more peaceful than similarly sized republics.

Suggesting that monarchies display superior characteristics relative to democratic republics does not mean that we should return to the past. However, one cannot criticize monarchy without understanding its strengths and limitations. In much of the world today, there’s a built-in prejudice against monarchies, but the evidence suggests that monarchies—especially small ones—are more peaceful, stable, and protective of private property than their republican neighbors. 



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