History records that it was a “mad” monarch, King George III, who lost the American colonies so very long ago. British researchers have since studied his scribbled notes, the diaries of his advisors, and his royal decrees to suggest he suffered from possible psychiatric illness such as bipolar disorder.
Fortunately, America has no monarch.
We are taught from our earliest days in school that our government is comprised of three separate and equal branches. The idea of a monarch, above the law, immune from scrutiny and without accountability to anyone is an attack on the very foundation of our democracy. Americans would take to the ramparts once more if we were threatened with such a form of government.
And yet, one could ask, what constitutes a monarchy?
Must it be the traditional construct of a single individual holding court with scepter and crown. Must it be an obvious dictator issuing orders behind a squad of bodyguards? Or could a monarchy take a far more sinister, stealth-like form? Could there be those who abdicate their oaths of office and thereby secretly pursue policies and actions that avoid the sunlight of public scrutiny?
Or could a monarchy be the abdication of authority to those who were never elected to serve in that position? Or maybe they have left office but still exert enormous influence – even control – over foreign and domestic decisions made by the executive branch?
Once again, history reflects on what happens when a monarch cedes authority. When King George III would retreat to a distant palace to recover from one his bouts, researchers say, London power-brokers were thrown into crisis. Those who sought to fill the power vacuum included the King’s son, with whom historians say he had a miserable relationship. With a diminished monarch, the knives were out for power, policy, and position.
Of course, in Washington today we will assume we don’t have a monarch with diminished abilities.
But what if we did?
Could we, in effect, be living with a monarch and not even know it?
Depending on your definition of “monarchy,” the scenarios are chilling. Like the experience of George III, would those close to power seek to advance their own political agenda at the expense of anyone and everyone? Would social media, tuned to the ideology of their corporate owners, actually dictate the nation’s agenda? Would a federal budget be so loaded with pork barrel deficit spending that it destroys the nation’s economic future? Would control of America’s nuclear arsenal actually be in the hands of a constitutionally authorized commander in chief?
It is the stuff of national nightmares.
Historians speak of the “Madness of King George III,” as if it were a distant footnote in the history of a nation that once had an empire.
(Lawrence Kadish serves on the Board of Governors of Gatestone Institute)