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The Case for an American Monarchy

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The presidential election is over. In a few months, Donald Trump will take the reins from Barack Obama and become the 45th President of the United States.

That was a difficult sentence to type.

But this piece is not about my feelings on the outcome of the election, nor is it about Democrats vs. Republicans. This is a piece trying to make sense of how our nation unites after what has been widely considered the most divisive election in U.S. history.

A possible but all-too-unrealistic option would for the U.S. to extensively amend the Constitution and return to a system abandoned over 200 years ago: a constitutional monarchy.

Before you scoff and write this off as a ridiculous proposal, hear me out. I’m well aware that Americans aren’t exactly clawing for a monarchy of our own. In a 2012 CNN poll, only 13 percent of respondents thought that a royal family of our own would be a good thing.

But this proposal wouldn’t involve hand-picking one family to head our newly reformed state. Instead, we would go with the great-great-great granddaughter of the king we rebelled against all those years ago: Elizabeth II, whose current popularity in the U.S. hovers around 80 percent, according to the same 2012 CNN poll.

What are the arguments in favor of abandoning our divisive republican model of government?

Monarchies tend to be more stable and democratic than republics

With the head of state occupying the throne for life instead of a fixed, limited term, monarchies tend to lend more stability to a nation than does a republic with an elected president, especially when it comes to the transition of power. In addition, the characteristics of the British model of government makes those in power more accountable to the democratic electorate.

In the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms, the transition from monarch to monarch is smooth and instantaneous. Upon the death of the sovereign (called the demise of the Crown), her successor automatically becomes king or queen. There is no gap–a sovereign is always on the throne.

In stark contrast, the passing of power from one president to another can be a messy affair. Even in this election cycle, Donald Trump wouldn’t commit to accepting the results of the election if he lost.

Although we’ve avoided this potential disaster, it would have been an unprecedented mess in American constitutional politics. It would have likely precipitated a constitutional crisis, with great uncertainty of what to do in resolving whatever dispute that had arisen. This doesn’t happen in constitutional monarchies with well-established rules of succession–once the monarch dies or abdicates, the throne passes to the next in line.

In addition to the stable transfer of power between heads of state, constitutional monarchy can lead to more democratic governments.

A 2009 study by Oxford political scientists revealed that government is often more democratically accountable in constitutional monarchies than in republics (abstract here; article on the study here).

The study revealed that monarchies have higher incidences of events indicating democratic accountability: more early elections, less cabinet-shuffling.

In the British model of government, prime ministers are appointed by The Queen and serve as long as they command confidence of the lower house of Parliament. A quick summary of how the process works: General elections are held to choose members of the House of Commons, which is similar to our House of Representatives. The leader of the party which wins a majority of the seats is appointed prime minister, and can serve as long they have a majority of seats. (Things can get a bit tricky when no party wins a majority)

The prime minister forms a government from within the House of Commons by nominating cabinet ministers and other senior government functionaries. The government may be defeated on a successful motion of no confidence, which triggers the automatic resignation of the prime minister and, if a new government cannot be formed within two weeks, an early election.

The result is that these governments must be accountable to themselves and, ultimately, the electorate. Government accountability is a huge problem in the U.S., with only one in five Americans trusting the government. Additionally, members of Congress are much less accountable than British MPs because they aren’t faced with the possibility of early reelection bids–congressional terms are fixed by the Constitution and elections are scheduled on a fixed-term basis by federal law. The prospect of having to stand for election as a result of unpopular or dangerous lawmaking might well lead to increased accountability to the electorate on the part of members of Congress.

An apolitical monarch is a more popular, unifying head of state

Constitutional monarchs are, either by convention or by law, apolitical. The Queen never inserts herself into political controversies. She does not vote in elections. When she does exercise political power (such as dissolving the legislature or appointing a prime minister) she always does so either at the behest of her ministers or by constitutional convention.

As a result of a constitutional monarch’s never dirtying herself with politics, she becomes a national symbol everyone in the country can rally around. During WWII, George VI became a living symbol of British perseverance and unity, even as German bombs rained down on London.

“But presidents can serve as rallying symbols during times of crises, too!”

While absolutely true, the political nature of the American president means that such unity and popularity is often short-lived. George W. Bush’s approval rating skyrocketed to 90 percent in the aftermath of 9/11. By the time he left office, that number had sunk to around 35 percent.

Even now, the media are gobsmacked to find President Obama’s popularity at 56 percent as his second term is coming to an end. Such a high approval rating at this point in a president’s term has only been eclipsed once in modern presidential history–by Bill Clinton in 2000.

In contrast, support for the monarchy in the United Kingdom remains very high. A 2012 poll found that 68 percent of Britons thought the monarchy was good for the country. Only nine percent thought it bad, and 17 percent had no opinion. A poll from April of this year saw an increase in support, with 75 percent saying the monarchy has an important role in the future of Britain.

HM The Queen certainly hasn’t been immune to criticism and dips in popularity–as scandal embroiled the Royal Family during the 90s, republican sentiment in the United Kingdom increased.

But even as the scandals pass and republicanism sporadically spikes, The Queen and the monarchy as an institution remain extremely popular. This consistently strong support would be unheard of in our system, where the president is a political figure and nearly half the country will disapprove at any given moment.

An American Queen would heal the divisiveness of presidential politics by serving as a national symbol of pride and a source of unity for all Americans, regardless of political stripe, to identify with in times of crisis and in celebration.

Monarchy can better for the economy

Fairly recent evidence suggests that constitutional monarchy is good for business and the economy as a whole.

A 2007 Dutch study indicates that the presence of a royal family accounts for about one percent of additional growth in the national GDP. In 2006, this “monarchy bonus” added between four and five billion euros to the Netherlands’ GDP.

In the United Kingdom, much ado has been made about the finances of the Royal Family, who cost the government about £35.7 million per year.

While the cost seems unjustifiably high for a hereditary head of state and her family, for every pound spent on the monarchy, the British economy receives about £14 in return as a result of tourism alone.

While the U.S. won’t likely see this magnitude of return (for reasons discussed later), even distant royals can provide an economic boost. In September, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Victoria, Australia–another country where Elizabeth II is head of state. Royal visits can have huge positive effects on the local economy, mostly via the flocks of tourists who come to get a glimpse of the royals in person.

What system do you propose?

The new federal government

I propose a model of federal government based on that of the United Kingdom and currently practiced in the Commonwealth realms, the former Dominions of the British Empire which have retained Elizabeth II as head of state.

Congress would be reformed into an American parliament, with a dominant lower house in the House of Representatives and a chamber of “sober second thought” in the Senate. The House would dominate the legislative process, producing prime ministers and forming governments.

The Senate would act mainly as a revising chamber, scrutinizing and revising legislation. In an ideal model, it would be modeled after the Canadian Senate, in which members are appointed on recommendation of the prime minister and can serve until the age of 75. A nonpartisan commission would recommend appointments not based on politics, but instead on the merits and accomplishments of extraordinary Americans.

The presidency would be abolished, with executive departments and functions being headed by ministers appointed from the House of Representatives. The Queen takes the role of head of state.

But wait! The Queen mainly resides in the UK–who will carry out her duties while she’s away?

Thankfully, this question was answered over 100 years ago. A governor-general, appointed by The Queen on recommendation of the prime minister, would be Her Majesty’s representative, carrying out her official and ceremonial duties in her absence. This position is, like the monarchy itself, strictly apolitical and bound by constitutional convention and law. The governor-general serves as a de facto head of state, since The Queen would be gone from the U.S. far more than she would be present. Most of the recent governors-general of Canada and Australia have been highly respected countrymen representing all walks of life, including authors, professors, journalists, and military officers.

With respect to the federal judiciary, it would remain largely unchanged–the only major difference is that judges and justices would be appointed by The Queen (really the governor-general) on recommendation of the prime minister. To solve the potential problem of partisanship in judicial appointments, a nonpartisan commission would be formed to recommend qualified appointees to the prime minister, who would be bound to act accordingly.

The state governments

With respect to the states, government would be modeled on the federal system, but operate on a smaller scale and with some different nomenclature.

Legislatures could remain bicameral or abolish their upper houses to become unicameral (Canadian provincial legislatures are all unicameral), with the sole house retaining the powers of the lower house in this model.

Instead of a prime minister, a premier is appointed as head of the state government and exercises the powers of the prime minister at the state level.

The Queen’s representative in each state is the lieutenant governor, who exercises her powers in the state during periods of absence. As with the governor-general, the lieutenant governor remains strictly apolitical and is a noteworthy individual from that state, appointed on recommendation of the state’s premier.

How would we implement this system?

It would be extremely difficult to implement this system while preserving our current Constitution. Such extraordinary change would require massive changes to the document, such as the near-total repeal of Article II, which outlines the presidency.

Yes, we’d likely have to start from scratch. Fortunately, other countries with these systems have done much of the heavy lifting when it comes to crafting constitutions. The Constitution of Australia outlines such a system, and is a unified document containing most of the applicable constitutional provisions.

Other legislative enactments would likely be necessary, such as settling the line of succession or attempting to better define the royal prerogative. It would be an immense process, but one that might well be worth it given the long-term benefits of this system.

How likely are we to implement this system?

We aren’t likely to. Despite The Queen and the Royal Family being very popular in the U.S., support for a monarchy of our own remains low.

That being said, if there’s any time to make the case for constitutional monarchy in America, it’s now. Gallup polls indicate that confidence in American institutions is historically low, with only 36 percent confidence in the presidency and the Supreme Court, and a dismal 9 percent confidence in Congress.

Distrust and lack of confidence in the fundamental institutions of the Republic could leave some Americans looking for other options when it comes to government.

This piece is by no means an exhaustive thesis on the pros and cons of our current system and the proposal I advance. But extraordinary political times call for extraordinary proposals, and this has been an interesting thought experiment of how we could reform our government for the better and restore national unity.

What do you think?

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The Next Chapter

I’m sitting in the car as I write this, quite literally surrounded by the familiar things that will tomorrow fill my new apartment and make it home.

As you may have read on this blog a few months ago, the Orange chapter of my life has come to a bittersweet close (perhaps with more emphasis on the “bitter” than the “sweet”) and, after a very relaxing summer, a new one is beginning.

I begin orientation at the Wake Forest University School of Law on August 15, and my mind is currently experiencing a deafening cacophony of different emotions, ranging from excitement to nervousness; from joy to sheer terror. It amazes me how the once-plodding pace of time (as it seemed to go about a decade ago) has now accelerated to the point where an entire summer passes in what seems like mere days.

Law school is what I’ve been building up to since my senior year of high school, when I finally decided that’s what I really wanted to do with my life. It’s been the mantra that kept me going through the tough times at SU (and there were tough times). It’s what sustained me through late-night paper-writing sessions (pretend you didn’t read that, Drs. Howard and Berry) and over cramming sessions for blue book exams.

Now that it’s really happening, it’s hard for me to believe that it’s actually happening. And though I cannot wait to see what this next stage of life has in store, I also know great challenges lie ahead.

I’m moving to a region where I’ll be seen as an outsider (a Yankee, I’ve been told) and I’ll be working harder than I’ve ever worked before. Many of the fun things to which I have grown accustomed will have to fall by the wayside—at least in part—but at least I’ll develop phenomenal time budgeting skills.

Yes, there’ll be ups and downs these next three years, and I can only hope the sum of my positive experiences far outweighs the negative ones when my time at Wake Forest comes to an end. Based on the emails I’ve gotten from professors and conversations I’ve had with future classmates, I’d say I’m already off to a great start.

For now, it’s time to get down to North Carolina, get settled, and make new friends before the hectic pace of the new semester sets in. I will try my best to keep you, my readers, updated on school and life as the time passes.

Go Orange and Go Deacs.

Closing the Orange Chapter

I’m in the car as I write this, surrounded by the familiar belongings that made my apartment home these past two years.

I spent the better part of the morning packing. It was tedious work, and my back has been in protest most of the afternoon (I’m an old man, I know).

My emotions had been neutral the entire day as I put things in bins, bags, boxes. The work was too frenzied and tiring for me to have any feelings about it. They remained neutral as we filled up our van (and I mean filled our van) with the things I’ve accumulated the past two years of school.

I began to have inklings of sadness when I surveyed the emptiness filling my apartment after we’d finished moving everything out. So many great memories were made there. I know these memories will forever dwell in my mind, but leaving the place behind is always hard.

As we drove away from campus and I surveyed the beautiful old buildings for the last time for some months, I grew sadder. These past four years, I made wonderful memories on the Quad, in writing classes in HBC, at houses on Livingston, Euclid, and Sumner. I’ll be forever fond of 301 Winding Ridge South and the front porch of 726.

But these are just places, of course. They’re material. What made them truly special were the people who called them home.

I met wonderful people throughout my time at Syracuse. Really wonderful people. People who will be in my wedding, who my kids will grow up hearing stories about, and who will be lifelong friends. I developed a fantastic circle of friends, especially this year.

Leaving these people behind and watching them go start their lives around the country is difficult. So difficult.

No more Tuesday night trips to Faegan’s. No more spontaneous golf outings. No more late-night calzones.

But the friendships will endure. Although hundreds of miles might lie between us, friendship doesn’t count those miles. It counts the memories.

I can’t be all sad, though. This fall, I’m beginning law school at Wake Forest University, and with that comes new challenges, opportunities, and memories. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.

But closing a chapter of your life is always hard, especially when that chapter has been so amazing. I look forward to coming back to campus from time to time, and to spend time with the people who made that place so amazing.

It’s not going to be easy, but I know everything is going to be okay. I look back on these past four years with fondness, and to the future with anticipation.

Go Orange.

Building a Positive Online Community: Five Rules for Social Media Users

A few years ago, when Facebook made the switch from ordinary profiles to Timelines, I was incredibly excited. It meant I could look back at all the things I’d shared over the years–those moments from years past became easily accessible, and the thought of that was just awesome. Now, in 2014, I lament the fact that I (or anyone else I’m friends with, for that matter) can easily go back and look at the things I’ve posted over the past almost-six years I’ve been on the site.

Why, you ask? Because I wasn’t very smart about using it back then. Ask anyone who’s been Facebook friends with me the past three-to-four years. Really.

A few years ago, I used Facebook primarily for two things: 1) Starting raucous political debates, and; 2) Complaining about ridiculous things, such as losses experienced by Syracuse athletics. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s sadly true. I think I’ve gotten better in the past few years–a lot better, actually. And I hope my Facebook friends would agree with me.

Social media is unique in that it allows us to control exactly how others perceive us and how we build ourselves, both personally and rhetorically. No one can know exactly what people are thinking at any given moment, but the things we choose to share on social media offers us a glimpse into the minds and lives of others at any given point. What we choose to share and how we choose to share it has a huge impact on how others perceive us and the lives we live.

Some of you may be thinking “Well, so what? I’ll share what I want to share, and if people don’t like it, there’s always the ‘unfriend’ button.” The problem is that this was exactly the attitude I used to have, and it really proved to be a poisonous one.

Think of it this way: If you had a friend who, when you spent time together, did nothing but complain about the negativity in their life and start arguments with you, would you want to continue spending time with that person? I didn’t think so.

Social media friendships are really no different. When we accept a friend request or follow someone on Twitter, that means that we at least want them in our social media lives badly enough to make that initial connection (except, of course, in rare cases when people will accept any request or follow back anyone). And these connections have a dynamic quality to them–we have at least a subconscious expectation that the people we connect with are going to make an effort to not only keep up with the goings-on of our own lives, but also share moments and content that make us laugh, cry, or think about things in a meaningful way.

On Facebook especially, that’s what I’ve begun to do–share things that my friends on that platform will find meaningful, engaging, funny, or thought-provoking. And my social media presence has only become more positive for it.

With these things in mind, I propose the following rules for building yourself in a positive way on social media platforms and building a more healthy online community:

1) Privacy is of the utmost importance.

This holds especially true for services like Facebook, Foursquare, and others where your privacy settings are very controlled. When someone posts a photo of their kids with their friends on Facebook, their intent is to share that photo with their friends, and only their friends. Respect your social media friends’ privacy by not sharing their personal posts. Or, if you really feel the need to share it with your friends, ask them first. Additionally, try to refrain from using children’s names or personal information–as good as privacy settings are now, you never know who can see that information.

2) Don’t like or comment on everything.

It’s great to like or comment on someone’s posts (or to retweet/favorite tweets you enjoy)–it shows the person posting the content that you found it meaningful or enjoyable in some way. But when someone interacts with everything someone shares on social media, it loses sincerity. Don’t be that person who likes something just for the sake of liking it.

3) Don’t post or share too much.

A few years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for me to post four or five Facebook statuses a day. Now, it’s rare for me to post four or five a week. I’ve found that less is more on social media (at least on services like Facebook; Twitter is a different story entirely)–the less frequently you post/share things, the more likely people are to interact with your content.

4) Be a positive contributor to the social media community.

Life really can suck sometimes. I know–I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. But if life is getting you down, the last thing you should do is go on a spree of posting nothing but passive-aggressive or whiny statuses/tweets. The reaction from your social media friends likely won’t be positive–I learned this one the hard way.

Posting a nice memorial to a deceased loved one? Go right ahead. That’s actually a pretty touching thing to do.

Asking for encouragement in hard times such as unemployment? Also an appropriate use of social media platforms–your online community will more than likely react in a positive, incredibly supportive way.

But posting a rant-filled status about a personal issue you’re having with someone? Not okay in most situations (there are always exceptions to rules). And starting contentious, nasty political debates? Also not a good thing to do. Not only are most people set in their political ways, it’s also a waste of your time and energy, and previously healthy friendships can become damaged (I also learned this one the hard way).

The main point here is that you should try your best to make positive contributions to the social media communities of which you are a part–no one can be exclusively positive, but it’s good to at least attempt to share more positive content than negativity.

5) Turn off the computer and put down the smartphone once in a while.

Social media is great, but spending time building personal, face-to-face connections with people is better than any social media platform out there. It’s good to turn off the iPhone and spend time with people you care about, and to build friendships in person, not just online.

I used to spend way too much time on social media–it was actually pretty unhealthy. When I wasn’t logged into Facebook on my computer, I’d more than likely be browsing it on my phone. You’d be surprised how refreshing it is to unplug yourself from the digital world for a while and spend time honing your talents, practicing your hobbies, and making memories with those you care about.

Now, I don’t claim to be a social media “expert,” and I’m certain not everyone reading this is going to agree with these rules. These aren’t meant to be hard-and-fast rules that guarantee you’re going to have a happy existence on social media. No, these are just things I’ve learned (often with hard lessons) from my experience on a variety of different social media platforms.

The remarkable thing about platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is that the community is what we make of it–your contribution to it matters just as much as mine. The posts we share and the comments we leave make our collective experience. We’re all in this social media experience together, and we should strive to make it as positive and memorable as we can. So let’s get started.

Hello, world!

Hi everyone! I finally decided to become even more of a technology geek by getting a blog. People who know me will tell you that I usually have a lot to say, so what better way to say it than through this? I started this blog is to write about anything and everything: my experiences at school, my thoughts and ideas about life, and about current events – it’s all fair game! I hope you have as much fun reading this blog as I do putting it together! Enjoy!