What form of government was most effective-democracy or absolutism- for the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe?
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there were two forms of government. The two forms of government were democracy and absolutism. Both of these forms of government were effective in their own ways. Absolutism though was the most effective during this time. Absolutism is when the ruler has unlimited power. Many rulers had a democracy government but absolutism was more effective because the rulers had all the power and it was hard to take advantage of them rather than a democracy where many rulers can get over thrown by the people of that country. Machiavelli, who wrote The Prince, felt that the best way to rule was to be feared. He wrote in his book The Prince, “Men have less hesitation in offending a man who is loved than one who is feared, for love is held by a bond of obligation which, as men are wicked, is broken whenever personal advantage suggests it.” What he means by this is that if you rule by fear people are less likely to defy you than if you rule with love.
This would be extremely helpful when running a country. King James I also believed that absolutism was the way to rule. He thought that kings were like Gods therefore he believed in Divine Right. Divine Right is the belief that kings get their authority from God. “The state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth; for kings are not only God’s lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon God’s throne, but even by God himself they are called gods”. What he means by this is that Kings have every right and power needed to rule. With Kings having every right to rule there would be no questions as to whether or not a King is fit to rule King Louis XIV believed in absolutism. He once stated “The head alone has the right to deliberate and decide, and the functions of all the other members consist only in carrying out the commands given to them. . . . The more you grant . . . (to the assembled people), the more it claims. . . . The interest of the state must come first.” King Louis XVI is saying that if a country is ruled by a monarch it is more organized.
He also says that people are greedy, so they are more interested in themselves and not the country. He says that Absolutism is the government that makes sure the country is taken care of. The interest of the state must come first, otherwise the entire country would collapse Even though absolutism was the most effective form of government during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries many philosophes believed in democracy. Democracy is when the people of the government have a say in what goes on in the government. One philosopher who believed in democracy was Voltaire. He believed that people’s freedoms are essential, especially the freedom of speech. He once wrote “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. . . . The best government seems to be that in which all ranks of men are equally protected by laws. . . .” He is stating his belief in the right of free speech, and that democracy is best.
While his beliefs are tempting to many people, if the government did as he believed, there would be nothing but chaos. At that point in time, the people’s minds were not as smart and reasonable. This type of government would end terribly. John Locke is another philosopher who believed in democracy. He wrote in Two Treatises on Government “Men being . . . by nature all free, equal, and independent, no one can be . . . subjected to the political power of another without his own consent. . . . To protect natural rights governments are established. . . . Since men hope to preserve their property by establishing a government, they will not want that government to destroy their objectives. When legislators try to destroy or take away the property of the people, or try to reduce them to slavery, they put themselves into a state of war with the people who can then refuse to obey laws.” If the governments did as Locke proposes there would be so many revolts about little things, that nothing would ever get done.
Also when Locke states “no one can be subjected to the political power of another without his own consent” that is untrue. If the majority of a population votes for someone to be put into power, the smaller portion of the population that voted against that person will, in fact, become subjected to the political power of another without his own consent. Baron de Montesquieu wrote in The Spirit of Laws “Although the forms of state-monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy- were united in English government, the powers of government were separated from one another. There can be no liberty where the executive, legislative, and judicial powers are united in one person or body of persons, because such concentration is bound to result in arbitrary despotism.”
What Montesquieu is saying is that if there were separate powers, there would be liberty. That may be true, but with one absolute monarch the government would be more effective. Everything would get done faster. Both Absolute and Democratic forms of government were effective in their own ways, but Absolutism was the most effective during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe. Absolutism brought on faster solutions to problems. It also was in the best interest of the whole country, and kept the needs of the state first. It kept everything in order, and raised little questions from the people. Overall absolutism was the most suitable government for Europe at this time.