The article is written by Tejaswini Kaushal, a student at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow. This article seeks to elucidate the difference between two of the most prominent forms of governmental structure across the world, monarchy, and democracy. 

This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Every country has a certain form of governmental body, commonly referred to as the government. It was done in order to uphold the law and establish rules and regulations. Many governing systems throughout the globe are founded on specific factors, including geography, religious convictions, and political allegiances, that are ruled differently. Common types of government, like monarchies and democracies, are frequently at odds with one another because their laws and regulations run counter to one another. The oldest type of government is a monarchy, in which a person serves as the head of state for life and obtains his position by inheritance, passed down through a dynasty. In earlier times, the monarchy was most common, and a single individual was granted supreme authority to rule over everything.  However, people ultimately learned that if all the authority is handed to one individual, he or she may dictate and abuse his or her position instead of addressing issues. This idea gave rise to the notion of democracy, in which the populace elects its leaders. Since these two forms of governmental structures are the most common across the world, it is essential to differentiate between them to better comprehend their pros and cons.

Features of a democracy

  • A democracy is a system of government in which citizens elect the government.
  • In a democracy, individuals chosen by the public must have the final say in all decisions.
  • A free and fair election must be the foundation of democracy, with the incumbents having a reasonable chance of losing.
  • Each adult citizen must have one vote in a democracy, and each vote must have a single value.
  • A democratic government operates within the bounds of citizens’ rights and constitutional legislation.

Features of a monarchy

  • A monarchy is this system or type of government, and a monarchy is a nation that is ruled by a monarch. 
  • A king or queen is in charge of a kingdom or empire. He/She enjoys absolute power.
  • The monarch’s authority is constrained by the constitution in a constitutional monarchy. However, the monarch in an absolute monarchy enjoys unrestricted power.
  • The Monarchs are not accountable to the people and can’t be put out of power in a democratic manner if the public is dissatisfied.

Constitutional monarchy as a form of democracy

A form of monarchy in which the monarch exerts their power in line with a constitution and is not the sole decision-maker is known as a constitutional monarchy. A constitutional monarchy is, hence, referred to as a democratic monarchy. A  constitutional monarchy has a strong element of dual legitimacy because the monarch and parliament must support each other in order to form or dissolve a government. The monarch is under the control and regulation of a constitution.

This concept has gained much support from philosophers from earlier times, and one such thinker was Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. One of the most absurd claims in Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, in the opinion of many interpreters, is made at its apex: constitutional monarchy is rationally justified with a hereditary basis of succession. The status of Hegel’s claim that constitutional monarchy is the most reasonable form of governance in the modern world is at the heart of many key questions surrounding the interpretation of the Hegelian political theory. Although Hegel’s analysis of constitutional monarchy in the Philosophy of Right cannot be limited to an ahistorically rational or merely historical account of European political life, it does show us how highly he regarded the thought of a constitutional monarchy.

Difference between monarchy and democracy

Definition of monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

As per Merriam-Webster, democracy is “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections”.

  • Monarchy

As per Merriam-Webster, monarchy is “an undivided rule or absolute sovereignty by a single person” or “a government having a hereditary chief of state with life tenure and powers varying from nominal to absolute”.

Meaning of monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

A democracy is a system of governance in which citizens elect the government. When a nation’s government is chosen by its population through electoral processes, it is said to be a democratic state. The elected candidate then governs the country alongside the other branches of the government. Democracy is, therefore, called a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

  • Monarchy

A monarchy, on the other hand, is a system of governance in which a single person has all the authority. A state of monarchy is one in which kings and queens rule the nation. They may expand their authority in several ways, including through the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The hierarchy wins the position since it’s possible that his family formerly governed the country, i.e., the authority to control a nation is passed down via a dynasty and not by means of elections. 

Nomenclature of monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

‘Democracy’, as a term, has Greek origins, where ‘dēmos‘ means ‘people’ and ‘kratos‘ means ‘rule’, It means ‘rule by the people’. 

  • Monarchy

Monarchy, on the other hand, is also derived from the Greek language. It’s derived from monarkhiā or monarkhos, which was converted to the term “monarch.” It is an anglicised meaning of ‘alone’ in Greek.

Origin of monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

Greece is where the idea of democracy first emerged. The Ancient Greeks, who developed a direct system of government in Athens, coined the term “democracy.” Athenian Democracy is frequently referred to as the world’s first recorded democracy

  • Monarchy

In the Middle Ages and the Ancient World, monarchy was the most prevalent type of governance. In the long run, especially post the 20th century, people have tended to choose democratic forms of administration. However, there are currently 45 independent states with monarchies, including 16 Commonwealth countries, with Elizabeth II serving as head of state.

Types of monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

Direct democracy and representative democracy are the two main kinds of democracy. In a representative democracy, people vote for representatives who subsequently enact policy proposals, whereas, in a direct democracy, the people make policy decisions without the help of any intermediary or representation.

  • Monarchy

Different types of monarchies exist today, including subnational, absolute, Commonwealth Realms, constitutional, and semi-constitutional monarchies. A subnational monarchy is a region with an inherited ruler that is subject to a larger national government that may be monarchical or republican in structure. A form of governance known as an absolute monarchy is one in which a single individual has hereditary control over all aspects of the government and exercises absolute, dictatorial power. Furthermore, a Commonwealth realm is one where Elizabeth II is the monarch and head of state of a sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations, where each state has its own independent government. Constitutional monarchies are those having a distinct head of state in charge of the executive and a ceremonial monarch. On the other hand, semi-constitutional monarchies are those with a ceremonial monarch but with a significant executive or legislative power remaining in the hands of the royal family.

Constitution 

  • Democracy

In a democracy, there always exists a written or unwritten constitution that governs all the actors of the state. The democratic state is governed by its constitution, which is a collection of principles or precedents. It is significant because it is a set of laws and regulations that give the people control over the government and safeguard a nation’s founding ideals, including the protection of individual freedom.

  • Monarchy

The presence of a constitution depends upon the type of monarchy. There is no constitutional governance in an absolute monarchy, and the king and queen have complete authority over their subjects. On the other hand, in a constitutional monarchy, the monarch (the king or queen) and a constitutional government like parliament shares political authority. A monarchy of this kind is distinct from an absolute monarchy since it has an unwritten or written constitution in place. Countries governed by constitutional monarchies today include the United Kingdom, Belgium, Norway, Japan, and Thailand.

Process of election of a ruler in a monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

A democracy is a form of government that involves the conduction of proper elections as a process to elect a ruler. The nation, therefore, is headed by a ruler chosen by the people.

  • Monarchy

On the other hand, a monarchy is headed by a monarch who is a descendant of the contemporary ruling family. It follows a system of dynasty-succession instead of elections. 

Nomenclature of the head of the state

  • Democracy

The posts of President or Prime Minister are frequently bestowed upon democratically elected representatives.

  • Monarchy

Titles such as king, queen, emperor, raja, khan, sultan, duke, duchess, etc. are frequently bestowed upon monarchs.

Control

  • Democracy

In a democracy, the elected representatives function under the guidelines of a written or unwritten constitution and are bound by the law. They are regulated and restricted to ensure their accountability and service motive. The elected representatives, therefore, do not enjoy absolute control or unqualified powers regarding the functioning of the government. 

  • Monarchy

In a monarchy, the rulers are treated as being above the law and have complete control of the states’ affairs without any restrictions or checks on their functioning.

Decision-making authority in a monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

A democracy is a system of administration in which the populace directly or indirectly impacts the decision-making process of the government. The laws, rules, and regulations are created by the elected representatives on behalf of the people and for the benefit of the people. The leader is accountable to the people for his acts since he was chosen by them, and if they so choose, they may also criticise or challenge his policies.

  • Monarchy

In a monarchy, on the other hand, the Kings and Queens create the laws. They act as the sole decision-making authority. Laws are made without the participation of the public.

Decision-making process in a monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

In a democracy, the government takes the majority of the decisions, keeping in mind the suggestions of the citizens of the nation. The decisions are taken ensuing a long and lengthy process of debate and deliberation, which ensures that the decisions taken are made for the greater good and with the approval of the majority of the nation. This ensures well-conceived and well-planned decisions.

  • Monarchy  

The decisions in a monarchy are taken solely by the monarch with disregard for the public’s opinion and wants. This may lead to ill-conceived and careless decisions due to a lack of debate and deliberation.

Prime focus of decision-making

  • Democracy

In a democracy, it would appear that the government makes significant decisions while keeping in mind the interests of the nation’s citizens. Hence, all decisions are focused on public welfare and are undertaken without taking into account the difficulties of the rulers but the benefits of the common public.  

  • Monarchy

In a monarchy, the king makes decisions based on his preferences and comfort. His need for comfort and peace may overpower his prime motive of public welfare and service.

Accountability of the government in a monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

In a democracy, the main characteristics are that the government is answerable to the people and that they can even challenge its policies. The citizens of the nation have the power to hold the elected officials responsible. Elections are thus held, and if representatives fail to live up to public expectations, they lose their ability to rule. 

  • Monarchy

In a monarchy, the monarch is not answerable to the nation’s people, and the people cannot question his actions. The Kings and Queens are treated as being above the law. If people are unhappy with the way a king or queen is running their country, they cannot force them out of office. 

Bestowal and protection of Civil Rights

  • Democracy

Regardless of colour, religion, or other personal traits, civil rights are promises of equal social opportunity and legal protection. The state’s authority must grant and guarantee civil rights. In a democracy, there is always a provision for fundamental civil rights and their protection. For instance, in India, as civil rights have been enshrined in the Fundamental Law of the Land and are upholdable in a court of law, the rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution are fundamental.

  • Monarchy

In a monarchy, no provision for the bestowal and protection of civil rights may be there. For instance, in England, the English Bill of Rights established a constitutional monarchy in which the king or queen serves as head of state but has legal restrictions placed on their authority. In this system, the people were bestowed individual civil rights, and the king was unable to rule without the approval of Parliament. 

Freedom of speech and expression in a monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

People are allowed to express themselves to their liking, create assemblies and engage in activities as per their wishes, subject to only a few restrictions. Further, there is the freedom to comment on public policy in a democratic government. They have the authority to criticise the government and can modify the policies as they see fit.

  • Monarchy

People in a monarchy system of government are not allowed to express themselves in several manners if the royal authority bars them. This significantly reduces their civil rights and freedoms. Furthermore, there is generally no freedom to criticise the monarchy or any laws enacted by the monarch.

Right to equality in a monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

In a democratic society, all are considered equal. Therefore, all citizens are treated equally under the law and cannot be subjected to discrimination under any circumstances. For instance, in India, Article 14 to Article 18 of the Indian constitution guarantees the right to equality. Thus, on Indian soil, the State cannot exclude anyone from the rule of law or refuse them equal protection of the laws based on their religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.

  • Monarchy

People are not treated equally in a monarchy system of government, and there may be forms of discrimination meted upon them. It may be done on economic, social, racial or caste-based parameters and results in oppression and denial of opportunities to certain segments of the public.

People’s involvement in a monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

For the welfare of the populace, regulations, laws, and rules are made by elected representatives in a democratic system, keeping in mind the opinions, needs, and wants of the public. It ensures that the general public also has a say in the laws that will govern them. 

  • Monarchy

In a monarchy system of government, the Kings and Queens create the laws. The general population has no input into the creation of these laws. This system is more or less arbitrary.

Oppression by the state in a monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

In a democracy, the rulers do not victimise the populace and, if they do, they also take severe action for the benefit of the populace, i.e., all actions are for the welfare and wellbeing of the public. Yet, if the state makes the people suffer a loss or detriment, it is done for the greater long-term good of the people only. 

  • Monarchy

The public is frequently victimised and oppressed by the monarch under a monarchy since no one may dispute the monarch’s decisions. The monarch may oppress the citizens of his nation to fulfil his own motives and reeds, say levy heavy taxes on essential commodities, not for public investment but for self-pleasure.

People’s satisfaction in a monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

People’s satisfaction with democracy is higher since representatives of the government that were democratically elected do not oppress the populace. Citizens feel empowered to express their opinions and exercise their rights.

  • Monarchy

Tyrannical authority may result in the oppression of the populace. Since monarchies do not engage in an electoral government and do not ensure civil rights and liberties to people, people’s satisfaction is lower. 

Expression of criticism in a monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

In a democracy, the government is open to criticism and consistently seeks suggestions and constructive criticism to improve its functioning and increase the welfare of the public. Any elected ruler has to answer questions that are raised towards him. People are free to express their opinions on policies, have the power to modify existing policies, and can criticise the government.

  • Monarchy

In a monarchy, the monarch is not open to both suggestions or criticism with regard to his or her decisions. There might even be a backlash or imposition of penalties for those who raise any questions with regards to royal decisions or policies. Hence, the expression of criticism by people in a democracy may be restricted by the rulers as and when it suits them. 

People’s feedback in a monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

In a democracy, the people of the nation are the only ones who can hold elected officials accountable. Hence, the public’s feedback on government functioning and efficiency is respected and upheld. As a result, elections are held, and if the candidates fall short of the public’s expectations, they are removed from office.

  • Monarchy

In a monarchy, the kings and queens are above the law and cannot be removed from office by the people if they are unhappy with the way things are being run. The public’s feedback on government functioning and efficiency is ignored and not given appropriate consideration.

Global popularity

  • Democracy

Democracy is still regarded as the most effective type of government. Democracy is the most popular form of governance globally. A report by  the Pew Research Centre, conducted over 38 nations across the globe, says that when it comes to the future of democracy, there are good reasons to be both calm since representative democracy is viewed as a very or rather effective form of government by more than half of the respondents in each of the polled countries.

  • Monarchy

Although monarchies are still present in some parts of the world, they are not a very popularly accepted and embraced form of government in present times. The elimination of a rival system that might be hostile to an incoming system, hostility to undemocratic and hereditary institutions, the perception of monarchy as antiquated or outmoded, and opposition to a specific monarch or dynasty are some of the reasons for the abolition of monarchy in present times.

Examples of a monarchy and democracy

  • Democracy

The USA, France, and India are a few countries where democracy is practised.

  • Monarchy

Middle Eastern nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are a few examples of those under monarchical control.

Summary of difference between monarchy and democracy

S. No.BasisDemocracyMonarchy
1DefinitionDemocracy is “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation, usually involving periodically held free elections.”Monarchy is “undivided rule or absolute sovereignty by a single person” or “a government having a hereditary chief of state with life tenure and powers varying from nominal to absolute”.
2MeaningA democracy is a system of governance in which citizens elect the government. A monarchy is a system of governance in which a single person has all the authority. 
3Nomenclature ‘Democracy’, as a term, has Greek origins, where ‘dēmos‘ means ‘people’ and ‘kratos‘ means ‘rule’, It means ‘rule by the people’.Monarchy is an anglicised meaning of ‘alone’ in Greek (derived from monarkhiā or monarkhos).
4OriginThe Athenian Democracy, which originated in Greece, is frequently referred to as the world’s first recorded democracy.Monarchy originated in the Middle Ages and in the Ancient World, it was the most prevalent type of governance.
5TypesTwo: Direct democracy and representative democracy.Five: subnational, absolute, Commonwealth Realms, constitutional, and semi-constitutional monarchies.
6ConstitutionIn a democracy, there always exists a written or unwritten constitution that governs the actors of the state.The presence of a constitution depends upon the type of monarchy. There is no constitutional governance in an absolute monarchy.  On the other hand, a constitutional monarchy has an unwritten or written constitution in place.
7Process of the election of a rulerIt involves the conduction of proper elections as a process to elect a ruler.It is headed by a monarch who is a succession of the contemporary ruling family.
8Nomenclature of the head of the statePresident or Prime Minister.King, queen, emperor, raja, khan, sultan, duke, duchess, etc.
9ControlElected representatives function under the guidelines of a written or unwritten constitution and have regulated control. The rulers have complete control of the states’ affairs without any restrictions. 
10Decision-making authorityIt is in the hands of the elected representatives and is approved by several levels of government. Public opinion is taken into consideration as well. The Kings and Queens create the laws. They act as the sole decision-making authority without the participation of the public. 
11Decision-making process
The government takes the majority of the decisions, keeping in mind the suggestions of the citizens of his nation and after a long and lengthy process of debate and deliberation. This ensures well-conceived and planned decisions. The decisions are taken solely by the monarch with a disregard for the public’s opinion and wants. This may lead to ill-conceived and careless decisions due to a lack of debate and deliberation.
12Prime focus of decision-makingThe government makes decisions to ensure the welfare of the public.The king makes decisions based on his preferences and comfort.
13Accountability of government The government is answerable to the people, and they can even challenge its policies.The monarch is not answerable to the nation’s people, and the people cannot question his actions.
14Bestowal and protection of Civil RightsThere is always a provision for fundamental rights and their protection.No provision for the bestowal and protection of civil rights may be there.
15Freedom of speech and expressionPeople are allowed to express themselves to their liking, create assemblies and engage in activities as per their wish, subject to only a few restrictions.People in a monarchial system of government are not allowed to express themselves in several manners if the royal authority bars them.
16Right to equalityAll citizens are treated equally under the law and cannot be subjected to discrimination under any circumstances.There may be forms of discrimination meted upon people.
17People’s involvementRegulations, laws, and rules are made by elected representatives in a democratic system for the welfare of the populace, keeping in mind their needs and wants. The Kings and Queens create the laws and the general population has no input in the same. 
18Oppression by the state The rulers do not victimise the populace and, if they do, they also take severe action for the benefit of the populace.The public is frequently victimised and oppressed by the monarch under a monarchy since no one may dispute the monarch’s decisions.
19People’s satisfaction People’s satisfaction with democracy is higher since representatives of the government that were democratically elected do not oppress the populace.Since monarchies do not engage in an electoral government and do not ensure civil rights and liberties to people, people’s satisfaction is lower. 
20Expression of criticismIn a democracy, the government is open to criticism and consistently seeks suggestions and constructive criticism to improve its functioning.In a monarchy, the monarch is not open to both suggestions or criticism with regard to his or her decisions. 
21People’s feedbackPeople’s feedback is respected and if the candidates fall short of the public’s expectations, they are removed from office.People’s feedback on the functioning of the government is not respected and the monarch cannot be removed from office by the people if they are unhappy with the way things are being run.
22Global PopularityDemocracy is  regarded as the most effective type of government and is the most  popular globally.It is not a very popularly accepted and embraced form of government in the present times.
23ExamplesUSA, France, and IndiaSaudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Criticism of democracy

  • An unstable and chaotic government gets formed. The government and its policies are open to criticism from a wide range of political parties. In certain cases, this results in the country’s reelection and the demise of the ruling party. The government becomes unstable as a result.
  • A sluggish, ineffective government gets formed. The most frequent flaw in democracy is how slowly it operates. Long-lasting discussions and debates in Parliament are a necessary part of the decision-making process. Decisions are not made for a very long period.
  • The lack of ability to lead and govern in most politicians is another demerit. Every person has the right to voice their concerns in a democracy. As a result, everyone and everything in the world is focused on individual interests rather than shared ones. This occasionally results in the selection of government candidates who are incompetent and unfit to lead.
  • The role of money and increased corruption in a democracy is also responsible for ruining the democratic character of a nation. The cost of setting up protests, town hall meetings, and speeches is high. Election results determine which of these candidates can raise the most money for the party.

Criticism of monarchy 

  • Critics of the monarchy contend that the government only grants control of the entire country to a small group of people, completely erasing the people’s voice. The public is not permitted to freely interfere with the creation and application of legislation. If the monarch is egotistical and self-centred, they worry. Even though the situation is bad for the people, they are unable to change it.
  • Some opponents claim that the kings receive all the amenities from the Sovereign Grant, including the maintenance of their royal residences.
  • A king will hold power for many years because their reign only ends with death or abdication. There is no way for the populace to stop a bad ruler from doing wrong. Unlike a democratic system of administration, where citizens have a choice of who they desire to lead their nations.
  • Another aspect is constitutional or hereditary monarchies. There is a line of succession, and the next ruler will come in line. Whether or whether he or she possesses traits that might make a future leader of the state. They also said that someone should not automatically inherit the right to rule a country just because they were born into it.
  • Monarchy results in bad governance. In a monarchy, there is only one ruler who rules the country, and the people have no authority to overthrow him. if he is not acting as anticipated.
  • It gives one person a lot of power. Despite the fact that they always have the ultimate say. Even if they have counsellors to help them, the rulers always have the final say. However, once a choice has been made, it cannot be questioned.
  • Lack of checks and balances exists in a monarchy. The ruler doesn’t answer to anyone, so they only make decisions based on what they need rather than what the populace wants.

Conclusion 

Various governmental structures govern different countries. The monarchy was the most popular form of government before the 20th century, but as time went on, people began to learn about other types of government, such as democracy. As soon as people began to fight for their rights and refused to submit to the monarchy any longer, it quickly became the most popular form of government. The monarchy continues to rule 45 independent countries today. A monarchy is a type of administration in which the king is chosen by hereditary succession rather than by popular vote. No one may challenge or question his policies, and he is not held accountable for his acts. Democracy, on the other hand, ensures accountability and reliability. In view of these facts, it becomes clear why democracy is a much more popular form of government over monarchy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a democracy?

A democracy is a system of governance in which citizens elect the government. The elected candidate then governs the country alongside the other branches of the government. Democracy is, therefore, called a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

What is a monarchy?

A monarchy is a system of governance in which a single person has all the authority. They may expand their authority in several ways, including the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The authority to control a nation is passed down via a dynasty and not by means of elections.

What is the major difference between monarchy and democracy?

The political structure of a monarchy is founded on the sovereign control of a single king. On the other hand, a democracy is a political system in which the people directly or indirectly decide on laws, policies, leaders, and significant governmental initiatives.

What are the various types of monarchy?

Subnational, absolute, Commonwealth Realms, constitutional, and semi-constitutional monarchies are the various types of monarchies.

What are constitutional and absolute monarchies?

There is no constitutional governance in an absolute monarchy, and the king and queen have complete authority over their subjects. On the other hand, in a constitutional monarchy, the monarch (the king or queen) and a constitutional government like parliament share political authority. A monarchy of this kind is distinct from an absolute monarchy since it has an unwritten or written constitution in place. Countries governed by constitutional monarchies today include the United Kingdom, Belgium, Norway, Japan, and Thailand.

Which are some democratic nations?

The United States of America, France, and India are only some of the many countries where democracy is practised.

Which are some examples of the monarchy?

Middle Eastern nations like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are some good examples of monarchy in the present time.

References


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