Just listening to some thinking kind of stuff on YouTube and came across an interview with Stephen Fry, a highly respectable man in the "empiricist" and "rationalist" circles. I found most of what he said compelling and believable, but he made this very precise claim:

Countries that have kings and queens, which are rationally stupid weird ideas, are empirically freer and more socially just than countries that don't.
- "Stephen Fry on Political Correctness and Clear Thinking", The Rubin Report on YouTube, approx. 4:05 to 4:21

He offers up as markers "social justice, happiness, freedom, and equality". He further lists as examples "Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Benelux countries, Britain, and Holland", countries all with kings and/or queens and "constitutional monarchies".

I would hope that someone of his caliber would have actual empirical studies in mind when he lays out freakonomics like this. What evidence is there to support or reject this claim?

  • 2
    It may be historical: monarchy in the 21st century seems to be negatively correlated with revolutions or dictators in the 20th century. And it may be difficult to show for example a Finland/Sweden or Iceland/Denmark or Dominica/Saint Lucia difference in freedom and justice. But for example, Fiji was freer and more socially just as a monarchy than as a republic, but this reverses causality: Queen Elizabeth would not accept being responsible for the results of the various coups there.
    – Henry
    Jul 7, 2016 at 23:15
  • 1
    @Henry Wars and revolutions are on the decline overall ... I've heard it argued that democracy is responsible.
    – user11643
    Jul 7, 2016 at 23:27
  • 1
    fredsbend: McDonald's has been cited as a cause too
    – Henry
    Jul 7, 2016 at 23:31
  • 2
    fastcodesign.com/3030529/infographic-of-the-day/… I think Stephen fell for a coincidental correlation, but it's is not of any real significance in determining the causation.
    – JasonR
    Jul 8, 2016 at 16:01
  • There is a list of constitutional monarchies on Wikipedia. Looking through it I don't see that they are clustered at the top of the list. Jul 8, 2016 at 22:22

1 Answer 1


Yes, the top countries in social justice, happiness, freedom and equality are mostly the specified constitutional monarchies.

Caveat: the specified top countries might not be a good sample of constitutional monarchies.

Second caveat: at best, if they were a representative sample, this would still show a correlation, and certainly not a causation.

Social justice

According to this Bertelsmann Foundation 2011 study, as reported by Huffington Post those countries do pretty well:

Social justice index 2011


According to the 2013 World Happiness Report, commissioned by the United Nations, they also do pretty well:

World Happiness Report


According to the Cato institute, who compiles the Human Freedom Index in 2015, they did well, although not all of them are straight on top, but in the top 15:

Human Freedom Index


Clearly this is part of social justice, but in particular, gender equality is well studied in Europe and some of those countries are well above the average

four countries — the Netherlands, Finland, Denmark and Sweden — are leading

gender equality index

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 9, 2016 at 5:18

You must log in to answer this question.