Political dynasties have existed long before society knew what politics or a dynasty meant. From the tribal chieftains who passed on the responsibility to their kin to the chosen royalty line to the supposedly predestined leaders of a whole nation from one single-family name, political dynasties have long been part of humanity’s history.
They have also had a huge impact on global events that have sparked revolutions, the upheaval of nations, and economic disasters. Through the good or bad, these dynasties have been around and they most likely will stay in the foreseeable future.
What is a Political Dynasty?
Dynasties are defined as “a line of hereditary rulers of a country.” In the field of politics, there are two instances in which a dynasty can be established: First when an elected government official is succeeded by a direct member of their family; second, when several members of the same family name or heritage are in various positions of the government at the same time.
Why do political dynasties exist in the first place?
You have to wonder why so many political dynasties exist now and have successfully succeeded in building their empire by monopolizing an entire nation’s government. In a democratic country, the existence of political dynasties has always been a big question mark for many.
If the power to elect leaders is enshrined with the people through fair elections, why do political families still exist? Is it because of popularity? Perhaps because of the human psyche that associates familiarity with comfort and positivity? This is despite the ever-increasing data that political dynasties contribute to a nation’s bad governance and impoverished countries’ declining economy.
Similarities of Dynasties and Family Businesses
Businesses, in general, oppose monopolies because they are considered bad for the economy. When the demand and supply only come from one group, there is no other choice for consumers and the supplier can raise their prices without fear of losing customers because there is no alternative to them.
Just like in a family business, political dynasties require a certain amount of supporters to flourish. Dynasties rely on one or two heads of the family to start their business in politics, promote their family’s ideologies, and bank on the ignited interests of voters. The following generations who wish to follow their family leaders’ steps should either have the same charisma or present themselves as better leaders than their predecessors.
That’s not to say political dynasties and family business don’t have their differences as well. Instead of banking on an individual or set of individuals to continually amass a steady following from voters, family businesses only need to make sure their wealth comes from the revenue they gain from the business. As long as there are customers, their business can be sustained.
In addition to that, succeeding generations of the family business can choose how much or how little involvement they want to contribute to the business. Whereas in a political dynasty, you pretty much have to follow in the footsteps of your predecessors or attain a higher position.
Why Dynasties Are Considered “Bad” in Politics
Political dynasties limit political competition, exacerbate corruption and poverty, and have the tendency to abuse their power. There are notable effects of having a political dynasty in a nation. A political theory called the Carnegie effect, named after Andrew Carnegie, explains it well. Carnegie argues that giving all his wealth to all of his non-family members will give his son more incentive to earn his way through life rather than being assured of family wealth.
The idea of the Carnegie effect is to discourage inherited wealth and power to encourage the future generation to earn their keep. Political dynasties work in the same opposite; inherited wealth, power, and connections are inherited from the lead politician to their children and grandchildren. The last name is preserved and is banked upon to amass supporters and voters. Other inherent consequences of political dynasties are listed below.
Mediocre or Bad Governance
When a dynasty has control of an entire town, city, or state, they are most likely to consolidate their power and act as one body rather than separately and fairly govern the place of their jurisdiction. This setup is bound to make their governance mediocre or bad at worst because the leader is not able to focus on the specific needs of their constituent. The leader is instead bound to support whatever their family says or does.
Fairness of Free Elections
An obvious advantage to political dynasties is their popularity. It is easy for them to win via landslide simply because they carry a known family name. Whereas, neophyte politicians who are much more qualified for the job aren’t recognized half as much. Some voters would vote for the children of the 20-year-long incumbent mayor as the successor because of the accomplishments of the parent. This is neither fair nor progressive, especially if the next generation of the dynasty is neither qualified nor deserving of the people’s trust and future.
Competent Leadership in Question
An individual’s competence, capabilities, work ethic, and values should stem from their education, their experience, and their well-founded beliefs. These characteristics should not be and cannot be inherited by name only. When a political dynasty’s foreleader is corrupt and disreputable, people would expect their familial successors to be the same. While this is not true for some, it is becoming the case for more and more political dynasties all over the globe. A family that has been in power for far too long may get too comfortable in their position and influence.
By the very definition of a dynasty, everything is inherited, including their wealth and power. When a family can wield influence, power, and connection for a long time, they are bound to amass wealth. They can and will most likely use their power to take advantage of business opportunities in and out of their home country.
This generational wealth isn’t a bad thing, per se, but it can be if it comes from taking advantage of what is supposed to be a position to serve their constituents. Generational wealth can also become the disparity of public servants from their people; the elites from the common folk.
UNITED STATES POLITICIAL DYNASTIES
Dynasties have played a significant role throughout American history. Their existence has spanned centuries, perhaps even before there was an America. It was only solidified when the colonizers arrived in the land and claimed it as their own. There are “founding fathers” whose descendants still take pride in this.
Despite revolting against Britain’s ruling monarchy, it is quite ironic that half of the elected representatives in the very first US Congress served alongside their kin or direct family members. To this day, there have been a thousand families who have had two or more members serve in the government. Below are the top 5 political dynasties in America.
- Harrison Dynasty
- Roosevelt Dynasty
- Adams Dynasty
- Kennedy Dynasty
- Bush Dynasty
GLOBAL POLITICAL DYNASTIES
Suffice to say, it is not just in the United States where dynasties prosper. All over the world, political families have been ruling over entire nations for decades, and even centuries. In the occasional case, a dynasty would help their country prosper until the last of their member enters politics either retires or messes up the family’s name.
Then that dynasty would fade into the background, many without facing the consequences of their actions as national leaders. Below are some of the most-known political dynasties all over the world.
- Frigerio Dynasty of Argentina
- Beazley Dynasty of Australia
- Chowdhury Dynasty of Bangladesh
- Chiang Dynasty of China
- Báez Dynasty of the Dominican Republic
- El Assaad Dynasty of Lebanon
- Aquino Dynasty of the Philippines
- Mandela Dynasty and Machel Dynasty of South Africa
- Astor Dynasty of the United Kingdom