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What are the similarities and differences between a democracy and a monarchy?

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The major similarity between monarchy and democracy is that they are both forms of government. Government is dedicated to establishing hierarchy of authority, rule of law, social order and security. With this comes government taxation, government military needs, government assistance for the poor and disabled (e.g., workhouses, pensioners homes, Welfare and food relief).


Monarchies are limited, also called constitutional, or absolute. In limited, or constitutional, monarchies there is a division between the governing body and the ruling body so that an independent body, usually a parliament, establishes laws, while the ruling body, the monarch, remains influential in affairs of state and public welfare. With the monarchy limited by a constitution, as Great Britain's monarchy is, the role of the monarch is defined constitutionally.

In absolute monarchies, except for monarchical advisers, there is no body other than the monarch his- or herself who makes laws and sets the governmental taxes. One thing that confuses the roles of a monarchy is that lesser heads of state, such as dukes and earls, originally had overlapping powers, such as to raise an army and to levy taxes on the people living on their land (once called peasants), but this overlap was on a lesser scale and only mimicked the absolute authority and power an absolute monarch has. Modern-day absolute monarchies exist in Saudi Arabia and in United Arab Emirates.

Monarchs are not elected nor are they appointed. Monarchs gain their power, during a peaceful succession, by hereditary right. Generally, the crown of a monarch is passed to the eldest son upon the monarch's death or abdication. If there is no son in line of succession, the crown may go to the nearest relative, sometimes to a girl, as in the case of England's Queen Elizabeth I, but often to a male relative.

During a militant succession, in which the right to rule is contested or challenged, as was usually the case in the ancient Scottish monarchy, the crown of the monarchy is passed to whoever is most powerful in the battle that ensues over the right to rule. It is during these militant successions that new dynasties or forms of government are introduced, as when Cromwell was a signature to the beheading of Charles I (January 1649) and the monarchy was deposed altogether to be replaced with short-lived republican rule in the Commonwealth of England.


Democracies are governed by elected heads of state, usually a President or a Prime Minister. The right to make laws, levy taxes, raise a military and engage in war resides in the legislative bodies , a parliament or a congress, that have also been elected by the populace. The president or prime minister of a government works in tandem with the legislative bodies, while the court system tests and validates or challenges laws and actions that are called into question. The paramount difference between an absolute monarchy and a democratic (and/or republican) government is that there are safeguards in place in a...

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democracy so that any action taken by a head of state or a legislative body can be challenged in the highest court and, possibly, rescinded. The flaw comes in that courts cannot ultimately be challenged; when the highest court gets it wrong, it usually stays wrong.

Power is transferred in democracies in peaceful elections that may usher in new leadership and, possibly, new ideology, as when a Communist wins an election instead of a republican in a South American democracy. It is true that the process of peaceful democratic election can be thwarted if certain groups join together to overpower or corrupt the process. This may happen in the case of a military coup or in the case of election tampering and/or intimidation. Some historians hold to the idea of election tampering in Florida during the 2000 presidential election pitting George W. Bush against Al Gore.

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Unless we are talking about a constitutional monarchy like that of Britain, there is very little similarity between a democracy and a monarchy.  Britain long had a monarchy in which there was a great deal of democracy.  That, however, was relatively unusual.

A true monarchy has little in common with a democracy.  In a monarchy, the monarch is not responsible to anyone.  Monarchs are not elected.  They do not have to have elected parliaments that make laws and that convey the will of the people to the government.  A monarchy is really an autocratic form of government while a democracy is based on the will of the people.

Of course, there are many kinds of monarchies.  The British monarchy, especially after the Glorious Revolution, did have a Parliament that was elected and that brought a great deal of democracy into the system.  But this is not true of all monarchies.  

A monarchy is typically a form of government that is very different from a democracy.

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What are the differences and similarities between democracy and monarchy?  

I will begin with the contrasts or differences between the two forms of government. First, a monarchy is top-down: if we imagine a society as a pyramid, the monarch is at the very top. Traditionally, across societies around the world, the monarch is understood to derive his or her power from a divine force and to be enacting the divine will. His power comes from God and flows down through him to the aristocracy and finally to the people, who are expected to obey his commands. In contrast, in a democracy, power is bottom-up: the people choose the government, and those chosen to govern are expected to obey the will of the people.

A monarchy, in pure form, is the rule of one person. Its advantage is that there is no confusion about who is in charge and policies can be quickly implemented. Democracy reflects the collective will of the majority of the population. Its advantage, in contrast to a monarchy, is that everyone get a voice, which can lead to more thoughtful outcomes because the needs of different groups are taken into account. Its disadvantage is that it can be slow and cumbersome.

Similarities between the two systems of governance are more difficult to understand, but I will point out two: in Aristotelean thought, the monarch and the people are naturally allied against the aristocracy. The monarch appeals to and gains the support of the mass of people so as to check the power of the aristocrats, who would otherwise grab the crown. In a democracy, the president or chancellor or prime minister of a country is generally also aligned with the people, who are, after all, those who elected him.

Second, both systems can warp into tyranny. A monarch can decide to grab too much power and can make irrational or irresponsible decisions. In what John Stuart Mill called the tyranny of the democracy, a majority of the people can elect to follow an irrational and destructive course or leader.

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What are the differences and similarities between democracy and monarchy?  

When speaking of a monarchy, it is important to differentiate between a constitutional monarchy like that of the United Kingdom and an absolute monarchy like that of Saudi Arabia.

A constitutional monarchy is similar to a democracy in most respects. Elections are held. Freedom of press is guaranteed. There are political parties. Elections, freedom of the press, and multiple political parties are key hallmarks of a democratic system. The monarch, a king or a queen, has little, if any real authority. The constitutional monarch is really a symbol of the state.

In an absolute monarchy, the king's decisions are final. The freedoms enjoyed in democracies are forbidden. Dissent is crushed, and people are imprisoned without trial or reasonable cause. Today, there are few absolute monarchies. In the past, they were far more common. Louis XIV, King of France from 1643 to 1715, was the quintessential absolute monarch.

What do democracy and monarchy have in common? Not much. Both are very old. Both reject anarchy—the absence of government. But the differences far outnumber the similarities.

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What are the differences and similarities between democracy and monarchy?  

Historically, there are not many similarities between democracy, which is rule by the consent of the people, and monarchy, which is rule by a hereditary ruler. In a democracy, the people make basic political decisions, either directly or more often by electing representatives. In a monarchy, at least theoretically, the monarch makes political decisions. But in modern terms, many monarchies, such as those of Great Britain, Norway, and the Netherlands, are actually democratic in nature. In these systems, the monarch has very little actual authority in practice. Actual power is held by representative assemblies and prime ministers, all of whom are chosen, at least indirectly, by the people. Monarchs are really figureheads. So theoretically, there are really no similarities between monarchies and democracies, but in practice the actual systems vary. The monarchy of the United Kingdom has more in common with the democratic government of the United States than it does with Saudi Arabia, another monarchy.

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