In defence of Monarchies


9:02 am - April 19th 2011

by John B    


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My lack of interest in the forthcoming Royal nuptials is about as total as it gets. However, people will keep writing about it, and I don’t always look away from their articles in time…

So Johann Hari has written a fairly boilerplate piece about the monarchy, and why the UK shouldn’t have one. He sensibly and rapidly deals with the fatuous points that monarchists make about tourism and ‘defenders of democracy’.

But there’s also this:

In most countries, parents can tell their kids that if they work hard and do everything right, they could grow up to be the head of state and symbol of their nation. Not us. Our head of state is decided by one factor, and one factor alone: did he pass through the womb of one aristocratic Windsor woman living in a golden palace?

The US head of state grew up with a mother on food stamps. The British head of state grew up with a mother on postage stamps. Is that a contrast that fills you with pride?

Not pride exactly, no: but I prefer the honesty of the UK’s system. In order to be President of the USA, you have to be immensely wealthy, successful and lucky. In order to be immensely wealthy and successful in the USA, you pretty much have to be born to a wealthy and successful family.

President Obama is no exception: his parents both had postgraduate degrees, and his maternal grandmother was Vice President of a bank. Obama’s mum did technically live on food stamps while finishing her PhD, but he was living with his banker grandma at the time. His is not a rags-to-riches American Dream story.

The pretence of meritocracy in the US, based on the belief that anyone can become President, breeds a society in which people who end up poor are treated incredibly badly, because they are perceived as having failed. I’d far rather a system that’s honest, under which we accept that someone who’s born in a slum will never have the same chances in life as someone born with a silver spoon, but try and narrow the inequalities in outcome that this creates as much as we possibly can.

Despite the Thatcherites’ and post-Thatcherites’ best efforts, the UK is far better than the US at doing this. I suspect it’s not a coincidence that the countries which are best at equality overall (e.g. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands) also tend to be monarchies.

The monarch is a permanent symbol that life is unfair, and that if you take credit for your own success – rather than accepting that it’s primarily down to luck and that you owe a duty of care to the less fortunate in society – then you’re an arrogant prick.

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About the author
John Band is a journalist, editor and market analyst, depending on who's asking and how much they're paying. He's also been a content director at a publishing company and a strategy consultant. He is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy and also blogs at Banditry.
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Reader comments


Nice.

[You like this.]

Excellent. At least if I fail to become head of state in the UK I can reassure myself that the system was geared against me the whole time, whereas in republics, my failure to succeed the highest status will wholly be upon my own head. Even though secretly that’s false (wealth etc is needed), there can be no reassurance in such internal matters.

Thank you John B.

“The monarch is a permanent symbol that life is unfair, and that if you take credit for your own success… then you’re an arrogant prick.”

The monarch is merely a semi-permanent symbol that life is unfair – just ask the Romanovs. This is a shameful capitulation.

4. Jonathan Phillips

Entertaining and even convincing piece from US monarchist on 11 April on BBC World Service – available as podcast – BBC World Service podcasts DocArchive “For King or Country – Part 2 America. Well worth a listen.

The conflation of head of state and head of government US-style is a thoroughly bad idea (the US constitution is actually feudalism tempered by elections).

Figurehead presidents – parliamentary republics – may be better in theory, but (a) presidents come and go, while the nation stays, and (b) who knows who the president of Germany or Austria or Italy is? Maybe not even a lot of Germans, Austrians or Italians.

Whereas practically everybody in the world knows who HM is, and quite a lot of people (at least in Europe) are at least vaguely aware of King Juan Carlos of Spain and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. King Albert of Belgium maybe not (though his predecessor Baudouin was a bit better known), Queen Margrethe of Denmark? Oh dear.

But in their countries all these monarchs provide a focus for national unity and a link with the past that a president never could.

So three cheers for HM (60 glorious years! – I might even put out some bunting next year), two cheers for monarchy, and something or other for the Prince of Wales and his missus.

5. Charlie Kiss

The UK monarchy is a world of difference from those of Norway,Holland etc. Their monarchs use public transport & cycle!
The UK monarchy is also ridiculously expensive compared to having a head of state. Compare the UK costs of £180m to Irelands £1.8 m
I’m shocked that you can defend. There is no correlation between
‘equal societies and monarchies’ I also n

6. Jonathan Phillips

PS I may have been the last person in the world to see this Royal Wedding spoof to the tune of East 17’s House of Love, but if anyone hasn’t it’s quite a giggle.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kav0FEhtLug

7. Chaise Guevara

“The pretence of meritocracy in the US, based on the belief that anyone can become President, breeds a society in which people who end up poor are treated incredibly badly, because they are perceived as having failed. ”

I think you’re stretching things here. The American Dream is based on the idea that the US is a land of opportunity where anyone who tries hard can succeed – and, as you point out, the flip side of that is the idea that anyone who didn’t succeed didn’t try hard enough, and only has themselves to blame. I don’t think it’s based on the fact that their head of state is electable.

Americans may be proud of the fact that anyone (in theory and with exceptions) can be president, but it doesn’t mean you’re a failure if you don’t get to be president. The article seems to be impyling that having an elected head of state in Britain would encourage us to adopt this American attitude to success and failure, and I don’t see the logic there at all.

8. Jonathan Phillips

@5.

“The UK monarchy is a world of difference from those of Norway,Holland etc. Their monarchs use public transport & cycle!” I can assure you that Hare Majesteit de Kongingin Beatrix does not use public transport or cycle. I don’t expect Juan Carlos does either (though he does, or at least did, go round on a motorbike).

Figurehead presidents may be cheap but they aren’t much use either. And they don’t bring in the tourists. And nobody knows who they are.

The Royals may have too many hangers-on, and perhaps too much does get spent on pomp and circ, but at least let’s see what kind of job HRH the P o W does before we start storming the barricades. Maybe it will be another 20 years before he mounts the throne anyway.

“The monarch is a permanent symbol that life is unfair”

We could have immense fun with this logic……..

Is there any reason why you didn’t include Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on your list of countries which are best at equality overall?

3
You would get a better idea of life’s unfairness if you asked the subjects of the Romanov empire.

@11 – ask the Romanov family about the nature of permanence, not unfairness!

13. Chaise Guevara

@ 8 Jonathan

“Figurehead presidents may be cheap but they aren’t much use either. And they don’t bring in the tourists. And nobody knows who they are.”

I suspect that the Tower of London, The Crown Jewels, Buck House etc can bring in tourists plenty good enough without our Liz hanging around behind the scenes.

As for nobody knowing who figurehead presidents are – why does that matter, exactly? I couldn’t tell you the names of most figureheads, but that doesn’t make me unaware of the countries they come from

“The Royals may have too many hangers-on, and perhaps too much does get spent on pomp and circ, but at least let’s see what kind of job HRH the P o W does before we start storming the barricades.”

Not that I’d recommend storming the barricades, but do we really need to see “what kind of job” an unelected monarch does before opposing their rule? Isn’t the fact that they are unelected reason enough? Even the most likeable King is a symbol of unfairness and class prejudice, not to mention a collosal national embarrassment.

Sorry but I’d rather have the queen and all that entails then some bloody Blair or Cameron or God forsaken Brown leering down at me like some pretend queen or king, can you imagine Cherie Blair, or even Thatcher, yes yes you can vote them in and out, they can do that in Italy as well.

I’ve never understood why, if the monarchy were abolished, we’d have to replace it with anything. Does there really have to be an office devoted to tasks like dissolving parliament and inviting the formation of a new government? I can very easily imagine our getting by without a figurehead president, and with many of the constitutional tasks performed by the monarch simply becoming a matter of convention.

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 14 Robert

“Sorry but I’d rather have the queen and all that entails then some bloody Blair or Cameron or God forsaken Brown leering down at me like some pretend queen or king, can you imagine Cherie Blair, or even Thatcher”

Which kinda reveals that you think the only way a head of state can be valid is if they’re royal. Hint: they wouldn’t be pretending to be king, they’d actually be being president.

But I love how your way of defending the monarchy is by listing five people you don’t like and wouldn’t want to be head of state. Guess the safest thing to do is to entrust the position to someone qualified by being born to the right people, eh?

“yes yes you can vote them in and out, they can do that in Italy as well.”

Know where they can’t vote them out? Saudi Arabia. OMG having a monarchy means we’re like Saudi Arabia!!!!1111

See now why making bad comparisons adds nothing to the conversation?

17. flyingrodent

Some good points but I’ve long suspected that of all the Europeans, the French might’ve had the right idea when it came to monarchy.

Some good points but I’ve long suspected that of all the Europeans, the French might’ve had the right idea when it came to monarchy

What, kill them, then replace them with an emperor , then lose a war, then replace them again, then lose them again, then replace them with another emperor, then lose another war, then lose them again, then lose another war, then replace them with an autocratic president, and then a Vichy President, and then a crooked President…

There’s lots of things to admire about the French, but I’m not convinced that their record in Heads of State is one of them.

19. Planeshift

“? I can very easily imagine our getting by without a figurehead president, and with many of the constitutional tasks performed by the monarch simply becoming a matter of convention.”

It would mean BAE systems had to employ their own salespeople.

20. Charlie Kiss

I think this piece is really an excuse to habe a go at the
American system.& perceived ‘American Dream’
Britain wouldn’t necessarily adopt the US model anyway. There are plenty of
Others such as the French, Irish, German.

12
You’ve changed the goalpost, you said @3 ask about life being unfair.
This family lived in unimaginable splendour in the Winter Palace while less than a mile away people lived in total squalor. While Nicholas entertained his German cousins, he sent ill-preprared peasants, many under 15 years old, with antique weapons to fight the Germans with their superior arms
The only person responsible for the semi-permanence of the Romanovs was the tsar..

Even the most likeable King is a symbol of unfairness and class prejudice, not to mention a collosal national embarrassment.

Last I heard, the King of Spain was highly regarded by the Spanish.

23. Mike Killingworth

[4] And what, Jonathan, is the matter with Queen Margrethe of Denmark? Isn’t she the one with more brains than the rest of them put together?

24. Chaise Guevara

@ 22 ukliberty

“Last I heard, the King of Spain was highly regarded by the Spanish.”

…And I believe most Brits are in favour of the monarchy. Not sure how that reflects on the fact that having a monarchy makes me embarrassed on behalf of my nation.

@14…Why would Cherie Blair be president? That’s just confusing.

Not sure how that reflects on the fact that having a monarchy makes me embarrassed on behalf of my nation.

I thought you said a monarch is a national embarrassment, not a personal embarrassment?

27. Shatterface

‘“The monarch is a permanent symbol that life is unfair”

We could also scrap the education system because it encourages the myth of meritocracy, scrap universal health care as it encourages the myth we all have equal access, abandon politics as it tricks us into believing our votes make a difference, withdraw from the Geneva Convention because it misleads us that war can be carried out in a civilised manner, scrap the Human Rights Act because it is often ignored, etc.

This is a nonsense argument that can be used in support of any reactionary idea.

28. Chaise Guevara

@ ukliberty

“I thought you said a monarch is a national embarrassment, not a personal embarrassment?”

Yeesh. Yes, in the sense that (as I already said) it makes me embrassed about my country. Whether or not an aspect of a nation is “embarrassing” is pretty obviously subjective. I’m really not sure what your problem is with this.

29. Chaise Guevara

@ 27 Shatterface

“We could also scrap the education system because it encourages the myth of meritocracy, scrap universal health care as it encourages the myth we all have equal access, abandon politics as it tricks us into believing our votes make a difference, withdraw from the Geneva Convention because it misleads us that war can be carried out in a civilised manner, scrap the Human Rights Act because it is often ignored, etc.”

Losing any of those things would do more harm than good. The monarchy, not so much.

30. Shatterface

The purpose of a figurehead is to act as a surrigate mummy or daddy for infantile people who can’t speak on their own behalf.

Whether or not an aspect of a nation is “embarrassing” is pretty obviously subjective. I’m really not sure what your problem is with this.

I don’t have a problem with it at all, it’s entirely up to you; it was my understanding of your use of the word “national” that you were talking about the nation not something personal.

32. Jonathan Phillips

@ Mike

You’re quite right about Queen Margrethe of Denmark – absolutely nothing wrong with her at all. My point was simply that she was among the lesser-known royals.

@ 27

‘“The monarch is a permanent symbol that life is unfair” – I read this as meaning that the monarchy was a permanent *reminder* that life is unfair – and that life would still be unfair even if they were the Windsor family of Surbiton.

There are lots of far worse unfairnesses about the place than the monarchy – we’d do far more to reduce unfairness by abolishing the “public” schools, for a start. And preventing the growth of privileged “faith” schools. And making it unnecessary to jump the queue for medical treatment. And using general taxation to improve the urban environment and public transport in ways that chiefly benefit the less well-off.

33. Chaise Guevara

@ 31 ukliberty

“I don’t have a problem with it at all, it’s entirely up to you; it was my understanding of your use of the word “national” that you were talking about the nation not something personal.”

No problem then, on the assumption that that wasn’t sarcasm. To clarify: I don’t feel that it’s embarrassing to ME exactly, because I’m not exactly involved, but if I think about the UK as a country I find it a bit embarrassing. Which is obviously still personal.

@22

Let’s not forget, the King of Spain is the only reason that fascist Spain came to an end. It’s well worth reading up on because King Juan Carlos clearly has some serious chutzpah.

What does the monarch actually do? Apart from wave and wear a funny hat, and read out a pack of government lies every year. Have you heard HM stand up and launch a withering attack on Cameron’s policies ruining her subject’s lives? The monarch is purely a figurehead that is used to prevent the people having a say in how they are actually governed. Long ago we had prime ministers who were accountable to parliament but Blair pretty much finished that, his policies were devised by unelected loonies and simply imposed on the country thanks to a supine cabinet and a party reduced to lobby fodder by government non-jobs (at one point Balir had nearly half the Labour MPs on the pad). And who elected Blair to the office of Supreme Ruler? Only the people of Sedgefield, no-one else in the entire country actually got a say. Cameron is even worse, a manifesto full outright lies and there’s no way to hold him to account. If prime ministers want to wield presidential power then they should be elected on a presidential system, doesn’t have to be the barking mad electoral college system of the US. I don’t care whether the monarch remains a powerless symbolic head of state but let’s have some say over the real one.

The failure of Britain to have a succesful revolution is at the root of all the country’s problems, when we tried it we wound up with such a mess under misery guts Cromwell that we welcomed the monarchy back and have been lumbered with any passing piece of Eurotrash culminating in the world’s biggest family argument World War 1 which can be blamed to no small extent on the Kaiser’s feelings of inferiority to his British relations. The failure to permanantly remove the monarch has left the aristocracy largely intact in Britain thus preventing land reform which is the country’s enduring problem. Those whose families had vast wealth a thousand years ago are likely to have it now according to Radio 4 a few weeks ago

36. Chaise Guevara

@ 35 Schmidt

“And who elected Blair to the office of Supreme Ruler? Only the people of Sedgefield, no-one else in the entire country actually got a say. ”

It does seem pretty unfair that Blair was elected All-Powerful Emperor of Albion when every single non-Sedgefieldian in the country voted Tory. Oh, wait.

FWIW I agree with Soho Politico @15 and some of the sentiments expressed by Schmidt @35.

38. Jonathan Phillips

@24

Absolutely, George.

The monarchy was in abeyance under Franco, who picked Juan Carlos as his “successor” rather than Juan Carlos’s father, whom Franco saw as more liberal.

Juan Carlos played a vital role in stopping Colonel (?) Tejero’s attempt at a revolt by strengthening the army’s loyalty to the new Spain.

And the presence of a powerful figurehead (not a contradiction in terms – symbols can have great power – has helped preserve the country’s unity in the course of thoroughgoing devolution of power to the regional and local level.

So, American-style republicanism = inequality; European-style monarchies = equality.

Eh?

How about French-style republicanism, with its liberté, égalité, fraternité? More equality than the UK. Germany, with a buggins-turn presidency, almost as much equality as Holland with its monarch. Monarchy-obsessed Britain is the most unequal place in the developed world, with the exception of the USA. Republican Holland in the 17th century was socially cohesive; Venice with its ancient republic was one of the most hierarchical places in Europe. But then so was Japan (though today, it is relatively equal and cohesive, unless you’re not ethnically Japanese). The presence or absence of a monarchy, I think, has nothing to do with it.

@21 – “You’ve changed the goalpost, you said @3 ask about life being unfair.”

No, you’ve misunderstood.

My first response was simply repeating what the article said, adding “merely” and “semi-” – the emphasis on the “semi-“. Hence: ask the Romanovs about the idea that the monarchy is necessarily “permanent”. Of course, it isn’t – the Romanovs were shot and other royal families have suffered a similar fate.

I called the article a “shameful capitulation” so it should be obvious where my political sympathies lie. I wouldn’t actually shoot the queen or whatever, but I’d certainly abolish the regime and confiscate all royal wealth. She can get by on a state pension.

What about Bill Clinton?
His parents were really poor.
Pure meritocracy.

42. Merrymaker

I have a rather neutral view of the monarchy – I can see advantages and disadvantages on both sides of the monarch versus president debate. However, I cannot think of single case where a monarchy has been replaced by a republic without the change being preceded by some violent event; war or revolution. And do not forget the English were the first down this road: replacing Charles I by the Commonwealth. Since I do not see any modern Cromwell, nor imminent violent revolution on the radar, I suspect the UK will muddle along with the monarchy for a long time yet. The current level of republican sentiment is not very high – it reached a modern peak after the death of Diana, but is nowhere near as strong as it was in the 1870’s and 80’s. A final point: the Australians came closest to a peaceful change, but the republican case was lost in the referendum. If any UK government contemplated removing the monarchy a referendum would be expected. Would the republican cause win?

43. Shatterface

‘Losing any of those things would do more harm than good. The monarchy, not so much.’

Sorry, meant *retaining* the monarchy in order to keep lack of equality in the public eye would be the same as *scrapping* these institutions for the same reason.

Seems more like an attack on america than a defence of the monarchy.

Ps. Im happy to give my self credit for my success and also happy to learn from my mistakes. I do care about others less “fortunate”, whilst still having pride in my achievements.

I hope you dont think Im an arrogant prick. That would be bad… or just unlucky. Not that it matters as I dont have to take any responsibility for anything I do, its just luck

45. Shatterface

‘However, I cannot think of single case where a monarchy has been replaced by a republic without the change being preceded by some violent event; war or revolution.’

Thats because most countries abandoned monarchy centuries ago when civil wars were more frequent than elections.

Andreas Mosser,

What about Bill Clinton?
His parents were really poor.
Pure meritocracy.

I’m not sure how poor they really were by local standards. And his wife’s family were certainly not poor.

And was his wife not nearly president of the US as well (I have to assume anyone who was not Al Gore would have won that election for the Democrats)? Succeeding a man whose father was president of the US in his turn (and whose brother was a state governor)? The history of the US is rather too littered with prominent families monopolising power (only in the rapid-growth and radical change of the mid-nineteenth century do you really see outsiders (Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln spring to mind) continually crop up) to make any argument it is purely meritocratic.

My concern with the US system is that it privileges lawyers and businessmen against others – only the odd celeb gets in otherwise. Not sure that it is an argument for monarchy though – although unless someone can suggest a reason to risk our head of state being elected (and therefore partisan) I can’t see particular issues with monarchy.

47. Chaise Guevara

@ 43 Shatterface

“Sorry, meant *retaining* the monarchy in order to keep lack of equality in the public eye would be the same as *scrapping* these institutions for the same reason.”

Ok, with you. I assumed that the comment that you were replying to – that the monarchy is a permanant symbol of unfairness – was meant to argue that we should get rid of the monarchy, not retain it as a reminder.

That seems rather a large logical leap. The monarch is a symbol that you’re never going to have the same chances in life as others… which means people will not treat those who are poorer as having failed.

Surely you’d rather have a system which gives people something to aspire to, at the same time as narrowing inequality, rather than having this permanent fixed glass ceiling?

Incidentally, since we can aspire to be Prime Minister (and since our pool of recent PMs is far more diverse than US Presidents) does it matter that we cannot aspire to be a ceremonial figurehead whose only valuable function is to avert a very unlikely attempt at totalitarianism by the dominant party in parliament? It is still possible for you or me to aspire to be the actual leader of the country; that we won’t be the ruler is surely a bonus (or should we be aspiring to having our heads of stamps?).

Interesting argument. I didn’t expect to be particularly convinced but this is certainly thought provoking, thanks.

Thanks for comments, all.

This is a part-troll defence, as you may have gathered – it’s really more anti-anti-monarchy than pro-monarchy. I’m not convinced that the reason Sweden and Denmark are egalitarian societies is *because* they’re monarchies – but I do find it interesting that the societies that, as a left-liberal, I think the UK would do well to be more like are predominantly constitutional monarchies themselves.

(“constitutional” is obviously important – I don’t think there are any absolute monarchies we should be like….)

I do think this question is really important, though:

I’ve never understood why, if the monarchy were abolished, we’d have to replace it with anything

The point is, we need someone who isn’t David Cameron or Gordon Brown to ceremonially represent our country *apolitically*, so that the political leader doesn’t gain spurious glory from their role as Britain Incarnate, and so that the head of state isn’t tarnished by politicking. In a country where the roles of Head of Government and Head of State are not separated (basically, absolute monarchies and dictatorships + the US + sometimes France), this is a real problem.

If we could guarantee replacing the monarchy with a situation where we had a Head of State whose ongoing role was like Germany’s or Ireland’s, then that would be excellent – or at least, no worse than the current setup. On the other hand, an elected Head of State, even one with the same or fewer formal powers as the Queen, could be dangerous if they were party-political.

I don’t think, given the UK’s non-federal nature and also the fact that the major reason to abolish the monarchy is on democratic grounds, that we could get away with a German-style unelected president. While Ireland has managed to have an elected presidency without the Head of State playing politics, there are some very specific cultural things to do with the way the Irish political system was forged amid the struggle for independence that don’t necessarily translate to a UK context.

It’s interesting to note that – despite the fact that the Queen of the UK being the Queen of Australia, Canada and New Zealand is obviously even more ridiculous than the concept of monarchy in the UK – those countries have so far failed to get rid of the monarchy, primarily because of this problem. Not “we love the Queen”, but “we’re concerned that if we get rid of the Queen, the head of state will be a grandstanding political dickhead”.

My preferred solution would be to do it by lot: like jury service, pick a random voter, and make them head of state for five years. Give them a giant enough pension that they’re not worth corrupting. You could even make it revenue-neutral by selling “KING FOR FIVE YEARS” lotto tickets whenever the next term comes round.

My preferred solution would be to do it by lot: like jury service, pick a random voter, and make them head of state for five years. Give them a giant enough pension that they’re not worth corrupting. You could even make it revenue-neutral by selling “KING FOR FIVE YEARS” lotto tickets whenever the next term comes round.

Seconded, except I wouldn’t want to be a head of any state that would have me as head of state.

If the head of state doesn’t have any real power they won’t be worth corrupting. But I agree with your point.

54. Chaise Guevara

@ 52 john b

“My preferred solution would be to do it by lot: like jury service, pick a random voter, and make them head of state for five years. ”

I hope you’re joking. The head of state, or at least the type of head of state you describe, needs to be neutral (or failing that democratically accountable). You don’t want some random with no experience being let loose to do whatever they feel like. I know for a fact that I personally would make a dreadful head of state without a lot of time for soul-searching and training.

Chaise,

The head of state, or at least the type of head of state you describe, needs to be neutral (or failing that democratically accountable). You don’t want some random with no experience being let loose to do whatever they feel like. I know for a fact that I personally would make a dreadful head of state without a lot of time for soul-searching and training.

Expressing the latter indicates you might make a good head of state.

We could give them a years training, fully paid, before they’re set loose. We might have minimum qualifications – they would have to be literate, for example.

The only reason we keep the Monarchy is because when we don’t have a tory govt, all the tories can console themselves that the Monarch is head of state. All those chief constables, and Admirals, and Air vice Marshals can have a picture of the Monarch up on their wall, and not have to think about a Labour leader.

Just like the Tory House of Lords before Blair got rid of the heredity Peers it was there as an extra goalkeeper for the benefit of the tories when they were out of office.

The worst thing with having an elected head of state is that most electors elect people most resembling themselves. For most nations that is a terrifyingly god awful prospect.

Mencken predicting such an outcome and the ascension of W.

” But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre—the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. “

58. Chaise Guevara

@ 55 ukliberty

“Expressing the latter indicates you might make a good head of state. ”

My nefarious plan is working…

“We could give them a years training, fully paid, before they’re set loose. We might have minimum qualifications – they would have to be literate, for example.”

My problem with this lottery system is that even if there were preconditions – literacy, a clean criminal record, maybe – is that you could still end up with practically anyone.

So they could be someone who can’t get their head around the idea of protocol being different in foreign countries, or who can’t talk to foreigners without patronising them, or who find it impossible to treat the opposite sex with respect. They might be people who can’t help gossiping confidential info to their friends, or who think it’s funny to interrupt solemn state ceremonies (which it would be, in fairness, but it probably wouldn’t be a great idea), or who would offend a foreign power by not bothering to go the the offical dinner.. Or they could try to use their influence to achieve their own political ends – one of the reasons you wouldn’t want me in the job, I suspect.

On the other hand, they could be wise and reserved and shrewd and charming, but it’s essentially pot luck. I hate to say it, but at least royals are brought up from birth to be statespersons.

59. Chaise Guevara

@ 57 Richard W

All broadly true, but it’s the same as using democracy to elect our leaders – the system isn’t great, but it’s better than the alternative.

“In most countries, parents can tell their kids that if they work hard and do everything right, they could grow up to be the head of state and symbol of their nation”

Why should we rearrange our constitution to suit the fantasies of power-mad children? Seriously, if anybody wants to be head of state they’re probably not suitable.

61. Charlieman

@51 john b: “While Ireland has managed to have an elected presidency without the Head of State playing politics…”

Overall, an interesting thought experiment, John B.

With regard to Ireland, though, we have to remember the political role played by Mary Robinson. She was a liberal, very subtle, but very political. If we consider her to be an apolitical Irish President, we are disregarding her talent and contribution.

I enjoyed Stephen Law’s assessment of “Race, Class, Intelligence and Genes – bit more” at http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2011/04/race-class-intelligence-and-genes-bit.html (via Chris Dillow). Nicholas Soames MP is the grandson of Sir Winston Churchill but has been weeded out from advancement within the Conservative Party.

From a few years ago, I also recall an interview an interview with a friend of Condoleezza Rice. The interviewer framed a question with surprise that a black woman could achieve a high role in a Republican administration. The interviewee responded that it would be remarkable that a highly intelligent woman from a privileged background did not succeed.

62. Charlieman

@57 Richard W: “The worst thing with having an elected head of state is that most electors elect people most resembling themselves.”

Wrong. They elect people that they *perceive* to resemble themselves #1.

Perhaps less harm would be perpetrated if politicians genuinely reflected the electorate; a representative of the general population might be vulnerable to populism when an idea is first presented but will be more inclined to listen to rational argument than an ideologically driven individual.

#1 Jimmy Carter presented himself as a “peanut farmer”, a representation that was used against him; reality is that he was a retired military officer and engineer.

I am not and never have been a monarchist, even as a five year old made to sit at the roadside during the local jubilee celebrations holding a paper flag and waiting for the Queen’s car to come past I knew it was an institution for which I had little time.

Even so I’m finding it hard to have feelings of any kind about the impending marriage of Prince Nice but Dim to Katie Ordinary. I’ve tried everything, anger over the amount of money being wasted, principled objections to inherited privilege; nothing works.

Which, I guess, is the secret of the Windsor’s survival, they are the mogodon monarchy, pickled in an aspic of flummery that prevents them doing or saying anything controversial or even remotely interesting. Quite how long this will outlast the current Queen is anybody’s guess; the whole thing will probably collapse within a decade or so as the younger members of the family fall foul of one tabloid scandal after another.

The question then is what will take the place of the monarchy? My favoured option has always been to leave the powers of whoever holds the office of Prime Minister as they are and have the speaker of the House of Commons handle the pomp and circumstance side of things. Although you’d have to hope that John Bercow had left office before any of this happens.

64. Charlieman

@53: ukliberty: “…I wouldn’t want to be a head of any state that would have me as head of state.”

That’s the bloody Marx family for you. The old one analyses history and pronounces inevitability of worker control, then the new generation come along waving cigars in your face whilst cracking jokes. If you seek evidence that respect for elders has declined, you don’t have to look hard.

I would quite happily live with the monarch as head of state, if we could properly define and understand what the functions are. What I can’t stand is all the hangers on that seem to have no purpose whatsoever, and the ghastly crawling and toadying that the monarchy seems to bring out in some people in this country. An example: the BBC and ITV coverage of this wedding is cringeworthy and infantile in the extreme.

As someone has pointed out above, it’s the same monarch for Canada, Australia, NZ, so why is it only the UK that gets so childish about it?

66. Jonathan Phillips

@65

“As someone has pointed out above, it’s the same monarch for Canada, Australia, NZ, so why is it only the UK that gets so childish about it?”

Because somehow we’ve all been infantilised. At the most fundamental level it’s an evolutionary trend (neoteny) that helps keep our behaviour flexible and enables us to learn. But it suits politicians, advertisers and the mass media to keep us from putting away childish things for as long as possible. And the forces of history have somehow conspired to make us Brits more susceptible to this kind of infantilisation than some other nations. Personally I’d blame Rupert Murdoch and Micky Mouse ‘cept it’s just as much our fault for going along with it all.

I can remember being forced to go out with the rest of the school when I was 11 to wave at HM’s passing car – this was in the mid-’50s. Absolutely couldn’t see the point of it. Couldn’t see her either. Am mildly pro-monarchy these days, but it is all very silly all the same. And once enough of us stop taking it seriously it starts to crumble away before our eyes (cf John Wyndham’s tale of the tube train that went to hell).

67. Jonathan Phillips

Further to 66:

The Wyndham story is called, appropriately enough, “Confidence Trick”.

“Seriously, if anybody wants to be head of state they’re probably not suitable.”

Well that should rule Charlie boy out because he definitely wants to be head of state, and he is completely not suitable.

As I said before the Monarchy is tory through and through, and that is why we keep it.

an important point is that the UK has been stable politically for a long time. The last “crises” such as hung parliaments in 2010, 1973, 1963 and the Lloyd George budget were not exactly crises. Coimpare with when tejero and his pals burst into the Spanish cortes in 1982(?). At that point, the constitutional monarch, Juan Carlos, played a major role in calming the situation. he has also played a masterly hand in settling socio-political tensions after Franco’s death. Don’t underrate constitutional monarchs and their potential ability to stabilize. I am not sure how Charles would have done, however. The Queen or her mother would just have drunk the insurgents under the table.

70. Charlieman

@63 Adam Colclough: “I am not and never have been a monarchist, even as a five year old made to sit at the roadside during the local jubilee celebrations holding a paper flag and waiting for the Queen’s car to come past I knew it was an institution for which I had little time.”

Adam, you are a remarkable man for such perspicacity at young age. My memory of a five year old is more humble:

* School milk was curdled, vile filth. Owing to Maggie T’s abolition of school milk, I should be an adherent of hers, but no chance.

* I got my head stuck in the school railings, which are still bowed owing to the act of my delivery. It is nice to be part of history.

* FG was a five year old class mate who could not tie his shoe laces. FG works at the dental practice that I attend but there is no way that he will get near to my teeth.

Grovelling Monarchy supporter….”the reason we have a Monarchy is because they are not political”

Prince Charles speaks out on just about every issue there is, so when he becomes King we will know his political bias.

Grovelling Monarchy supporter………… “He should be free to express his views.”

Nothing to see here……. move along.

I would attribute the fact that you have to be immensely wealthy to become President in the USA to their economic and social policies rather than the fact they have an elected head of state rather than a monarch. If a presidential system was used in the UK, a (relatively) more left leaning country where there is arguably a greater equality of opportunity than in the USA, we may see a ‘rags to riches’ head of state.

“”‘Yes, in the sense that (as I already said) it makes me embrassed about my country””‘

Oh riiight. THAT does.

So having a Queen shames our country does it?

And this coming from you.
No surprise really.

As you obviously don’t feel this same shame that we have a country that actively goes out of its way (in the 21st century) to increase child brides, female circumcision, forced marriage, increasingly religious based (and excused) homophobia and sexism, first cousin marriage, 1000 year old religious bigotry being forced into the minds of little schoolchildren (some in veils) and whole areas of out cities declining into a religiously fanatic 3rd world mire.
NO…Nothing embarrassing there at all!

That Queen though! Man, she shames us. Wow!
I guess she’s too White and Western to dodge your embarrassed feelings.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    In defence of Monarchies http://bit.ly/hmDZfC

  2. Tom Chance

    Brilliant… the monarchy should be cherished as a reminder that "life is unfair", not meritocratic http://bit.ly/ejtVRT

  3. criticalpraxis

    RT @libcon: In defence of Monarchies http://bit.ly/hmDZfC

  4. King Obama « An American Point of View

    […] In defence of Monarchies (liberalconspiracy.org) […]

  5. Kirstin Donaldson

    @Frau_BH ah, but http://bit.ly/edNgi5 😉





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