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The Gulf States Constellation

May 10, 2014 at 12:59 am | News Desk


Tammy Swofford


Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE are the trading bloc which form a constellation known as the Gulf States. The CCASG was established 25 May 1981. The Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have an absolute monarchy. The UAE has a federal monarchy.  Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar have a system of constitutional monarchy, albeit Kuwait also supports a parliamentary system of governance.  This constellation has a strong showing within a country comparison of GDP per capita on a purchasing power parity basis (using the metric of international dollars) . In 2013, Qatar was the richest nation in the world with a per capita GDP (PPP) of over 105,000 dollars. The UAE and Kuwait are also firmly ensconced within the top twenty.

Approximately one-third of Western Europeans also live under a monarchy form of governance. The majority are Constitutional monarchies, which means the head of state is vastly limited in use of executive fiat, or the monarch declines to utilize the powers invested in the office by convention. There are two exceptions: Liechtenstein and the Vatican City.  The former, is considered a semi-constitutional monarchy due to the sway which the prince still has on national politics.  The latter, is a theocratic absolute elective monarchy.  Public opinion polls currently show a high level of support for the families of the monarchs and the role assumed within modern society.

There is something that I know, and I feel it deep within my bones.  Kingdoms do not last forever; at least not in original form.   Only the people and their soil remain. The Gulf State dynasties may not survive the century. Why do I write such a startling thought? Perhaps it is because I know there is something within man’s spirit which craves freedom. He is born with it and none can take it away.  This quest for expanded freedom in my own life causes me to cling to the motto used by Henry David Thoreau as the opening salvo for his pamphlet, “Civil Disobedience”:

“That government is best which governs least.”

Good governance, mimics in great part, non-linear systems found in nature.  The natural order of things is meant to teach us how to manage the practical nature of this business of social contract between men.

In classical antiquity it was believed that natural order was based on a static existence. This belief fed into the orthodoxy which was propagated through the religious state organs. A firm belief that nature was static led to doctrine which was also static and increasingly stagnant. The sun peeped across the horizon, was seen to arc across the sky and disappear as it fled the tentacles of darkness. Truth was based on observation.   In the truest sense, what could be observed with the naked eye, blinded all but the brave few. Luckily the world of the unseen was pondered by great men who took even greater risks to pen their thoughts.  They took their scientific gifts and liberally bequeathed them to mankind. Galileo comes to mind. His views on heliocentrism were seen as a violation of the Council of Trent.  For his innovation, he was sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life.

We now understand that nature is quite a bit more chaotic and dynamic than the average human ever imagined it to be.  It is nonlinear (or aperiodic) systems which provide for such tremendous variety in our universe. This immense variety still submits to mathematical rule, but the expressive function can be geometrically beautiful. Nonlinear systems multiply uncertainty because they never achieve a steady state where they can replicate themselves in exactly the same manner. A world which is truly changeless will soon cease to exist.  The same is true, for systems of governance.

Good governance is meant to be creative, expansive, and dare I say it?  It can be a bit chaotic too, when it comes to opening up the process to civilian participation in the highest levels of government. Problematic with the Gulf States Constellation is the static and stagnant nature of dynastic family rule.  Just as inbreeding increases the likelihood of inherited anomalies, ideological inbreeding can also create unhealthy political corpus. When looking at the GDP (PPP) of the Gulf States it must be remembered that a metric which merely identifies the capability to acquire creature comforts does not satisfy the greater drive for freedom.  History has demonstrated a steady march of the men who chose freedom with personal lack as a preferred course of life; and many such men still exist.

The beauty of democracy is that in truest form it allows for an expansion of human liberty.  From a place of human liberty, citizens can achieve their highest potential. Happiness is tightly tied to a universal triad:  freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of conscience.   Much of the unhappiness which has been expressed throughout this wintry season known as the Arab Spring has been directed against dynastic forms of governance which lack the variety which is noted within non-linear systems. The systems can show such minute changes that they can be hard to detect.  But the change is there!

As Europeans moved toward enlightenment in science, they also moved toward enlightenment in their religious beliefs. These subtle shifts in perception sculpted the constitutional monarchies which exist today.

I stated earlier that kingdoms do not last forever.  Only the people and their soil remain. The last imperial dynasty of Russia was the House of Romanov.  It lasted from 1613-1917.  My personal library contains a lovely book:  “Royal Russia: The Private Albums of the Russian Imperial Family”. The selection is from the James Blair Lovell archive with accompanying text by Carol Townend.  The images are stunning.  But as with many tumultuous events in history, things change forever in a moment of time. The princesses died wearing the Romanov family jewels sewn into their corsets. That, of course, is the nature of political chaos.

The writer is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Arsenal. She can be reached at



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