Why I think the Monarchy is great


by Chris Dillow    
8:13 pm - April 28th 2011

      Share on Tumblr

Timothy Garton Ash gives some guarded support for the UK having a monarchy. I’d go further, and suggest it is a good idea, for three reasons.

First, the existence of a monarchy is irrational, out-of-date and absurd, with all its pomp, invented tradition and flummery. But this is an argument for it, not against it. The monarchy is much like the NHS: idiotic in theory but surprisingly successful in practice. It therefore reminds us that rationality is a very weak tool for judging the efficacy of institutions.

Only “progressives”, with their unthinking and self-regarding faith in their limited stock of reason, believe rationality should be the sole arbiter of how we should organize ourselves.
Secondly, John Band makes a superb point:

I suspect it’s not a coincidence that the countries which are best at equality overall (e.g. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands) [he might have added Japan - CD] also tend to be monarchies

This, he says, is because monarchies remind us that our fate in life is due not solely to merit but to luck, and thus increases public support for redistribution. Is it really an accident that monarchical Spain is more equal than presidential Portugal, or Canada more egalitarian than the US, or Denmark more than Finland?

The Observer says that “meritocracy and monarchy is one marriage that just doesn't work.” True. But a true meritocracy would, as Michael Young famously pointed out, be even more horribly inegalitarian than the fake one we have now. So given the choice, give me monarchy.

Thirdly, there’s a question. If we had an elected presidency, what sort of preening, self-loving narcissistic egomaniac would think they were capable of representing and symbolizing the nation? (Tony Blair, you all answer.)
An elected presidency would thus symbolize – and so help entrench – our culture of ego, the belief that people are to be valued for who they are as individuals rather than for their roles.

By contrast, a monarchy embodies the opposite principle – that people matter for what they do, not for who they are. In this sense, of course, a republic would be “modern”. But this is precisely a reason for opposing one.

Now, I can imagine two objections to all this. One is that a monarchy is a symbol of a society that is disfigured by class division. True. But we should worry about the bird, not the plumage. Secondly, my objections to a republic could be overcome by having not an elected president but one chosen by lot. This would replace the lottery of birth with the lottery of, well, a lottery. There is, though, a very high chance that this would throw up as our head of state someone far more obnoxious than our present Royals.

And given that there is a little to be said for impressing the outside world, we might as well stick with what we have.  

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Chris Dillow is a regular contributor and former City economist, now an economics writer. He is also the author of The End of Politics: New Labour and the Folly of Managerialism. Also at: Stumbling and Mumbling
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Humour ,Our democracy

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


you should link to the original blogpost where you posted this. Because I read it thinking you’d nicked it off someone else!

“Only “progressives”, with their unthinking and self-regarding faith in their limited stock of reason” ,,,, erm, it’s not really worth continuing a conversation when someone releases lines like this from their back passage, so I won’t.

Being pragmatic, then OK for now. When Charles inherits the throne…?

I began by thinking, “Yes, well the money people buy the president, so that fucks that up…” to then remembering that monarchy is the entrenchment of the practice.

What I suspect this comes down to is that our Queen is very good, so Respect to her.

The rest of them have work to do, or out come the tumbrils.

This article, and I use the word article rather generously, is an utter piece of brain dribble. What in the name of **** is irrational about the NHS (besides the increasing imposition of markets upon it)? It’s an entirely rational institution!

The author, and again I use the word author generously, also seems to think that the only alternative to a Monarchy is a US style Presidency (complete with its cult of personality, and imperious unitary executive). There are myriad alternatives, all of which are better than upholding the hereditary principle. Taking Switzerland’s federal council as inspiration, we could have an executive council with representatives elected to specific posts to fulfil specific roles. To coin a phrase from US politics, if the British people want a ‘dove’ as foreign secretary, they could elect a dove for foreign secretary. If they wanted a green for environment secretary, they could elect a green. If they wanted some preening tit to serve as ceremonial president (a glorified chairman and holiday rep for foreign dignitaries) then they deserve a preening tit as their interface with the wider world.

That would of course neuter the power of parliament, at least it’s executive branch, but I can’t see that as a bad thing per se. I’m a big fan of the principle of the separation of powers. The mixed legislative/executive model we have in our parliamentary system gives far too much power to political parties and unelected oligarchs (unelected in the sense that nobody elected the cabinet or prime minister directly to those roles). It does lead to strong government, but strong governments (especially in the extreme) weaken the principle of popular sovereignty as we have seen time and time again in this country (parliamentary sovereignty is supreme in the UK).

That a constitutional monarchy which has historically embraced parliamentary sovereignty over popular sovereignty pontificates on the world stage as the ‘mother of all parliaments’ and as a ‘democracy’ is a travesty. One that the British public are all too ready to accept for a bit of bunting and a trumped up celebrity wedding. Pageantry, like patriotism, is the first refuge of a scoundrel!

You wait till Prince Charles becomes King. There will be a constitutional crises in this country. He has spent the last 30 years telling us what all his political positions are, so the argument that the “Monarchy is not political” will go out of the window.

You only have to see the guest list for this shindig to read Charles great paws all over it. Political vendetta’s all over the place. The Monarchy is tory to it’s roots and will always be so. We keep it so that when we don’t have a tory govt the tories can console themselves that the head of state is an aristocratic tory.

You will of course have read ‘The Napoleon of Notting Hill’ where the King is indeed chosen by lot. In that story, this results in an increase in heraldry, pageantry and violent patriotism. It’s quite brilliant.

@Cherub:

“Yes, well the money people buy the president, so that fucks that up…”

This is a problem which effects us even now. We may not have a president, but our prime minister and cabinet ARE the executive branch of our government in all but name, and their respective parties war-chests were filled by private donations.

The only means of removing the interference of private vested interests from politics is to either fund campaigns via state grant (candidates applying individually for a grant or low cost loan). Any system of anonymous donation doesn’t counter the effect of immense wealth on shaping politics. The Conservatives could still court wealthy bankers even with anonymous donation, knowing full well that bankers have far greater wealth to spare.

@7 Quite, but another layer of the same? That was my initial thought, before realising that monarchy is just old money.

@8 Cherub

Oh indeed, but the more pressing need is to tackle the existing issue which would of course solve it at all levels. I don’t see the buying of a ceremonial president (if the UK went down the republican route I can’t see them/us opting for a executive president) being that compelling (such presidents are essentially powerless).

Also, with a directly elected official it’s a lot easier to kick them out when they stray from their manifesto. That why I like the idea of an elected executive council, where candidates are elected to specific roles. If the secretary of the environment is bought by big oil after standing on a green platform, it’s rather obvious to see. Whereas the complex power structures within political parties makes it very difficult to penalise the right person for such corruption (MPs in safe seats will rarely lose their seats, those not in safe seats might lose their seat due to the actions of their party overlords).

Is it just a question of what we can get out of a monarchy? They bring a lot of money into the country through tourism, good ambassadors for the country (in general) and great for charity =).

“They bring a lot of money into the country through tourism,”

Last time I looked Legoland did better than them.

@10 mark

“Is it just a question of what we can get out of a monarchy? They bring a lot of money into the country through tourism, good ambassadors for the country (in general) and great for charity =).”

So is the London Eye, but nobody has suggested (until now) that IT be made ceremonial head of state. :-p

“Last time I looked Legoland did better than them.”

Also, how many people actually come to England to see the Royals? They come for the weather *cough* no, no, in all seriousness they come for the history. The only time that the Royals themselves bring in tourists is during the very rare royal wedding or coronation. Should the British public really be forced to accept the hereditary principle to appease a few sycophantic tourists who watched too many old Disney movies when they were young?

Meritocracy is no substitute for equality and undermines democracy just as much as the hereditary principle (of which it is a darwinian variant). Meanwhile, William’s mean minded exclusion of former Labour PMs marks him out as a Cameron/Osborne type hooray henry. There is no way I will feel any loyalty to such a partisan royal.

13

yup, although I think it has his Dad’d finger prints all over it.

Non political my arse!

Oh, you infuriating person. If ‘rationality is a very weak tool for judging the efficacy of institutions’ (point one), why on earth should we take seriously the rational pro-monarchy arguments you put forward in points two and three? And if you’re trying to persuade us to support the monarchy precisely because it’s irrational, why would you weaken your case by offering rational arguments in its favour?

If you’re serious about irrationality being preferable to rationality, fine – just write an article that says ‘support the monarchy because Zeus demands it’, or ‘wibble wibble wibble, tee hee hee, let’s all support the mon-ar-chee’. If not – if you think rational arguments of the sort you put forward are actually a pretty good way of settling questions – why say such silly things?

@13 Briar (the unlucky)

“Meritocracy is no substitute for equality and undermines democracy just as much as the hereditary principle”

Meritocracy would only undermine democracy if it was taken to the extreme (as in a technocracy). In a healthy democracy, some element of meritocracy is necessary if only to provide for expert oversight to the legislature. I object to the designation of MPs as experts for the mere fact that they inhabit a Ministerial post. They are not experts! experts dedicate their entire lived to their chosen field, and their incite cannot be replicated by reading the dummies guide to economics or science.

This is why I object so strongly to an entirely, or even majority elected upper chamber. The upper chamber serves a vital purpose in overseeing legislature (though it’s important to recognise that it is junior to the commons). By reducing it to a mere annex of the lower chamber we would neuter it, rendering it unqualified to provide knowledgeable oversight of commons legislature (by blocking or amending it). In fact the only value, rather perversely, in having an elected upper chamber would be in its ability, through shear bureaucratic wastage, to delay legislation and give lobbyists and campaigners more time to object. We may as well opt for a unicameral parliament, it would be far cheaper.

“…of which it is a Darwinian variant”

The hereditary principle is categorically NOT an variant of Darwinian evolution. For one thing the modern Monarchy isn’t subject to the same environmental stresses and competition which existed during the feudal/medieval period. For another, in terms of sexual selection the Monarchy has (until historically recently) practised a form of selective in-breeding (frowning on morganatic mariages such as between William and Kate) which is far from healthy (or Darwinian).

“Meanwhile, William’s mean minded exclusion of former Labour PMs marks him out as a Cameron/Osborne type hooray henry. There is no way I will feel any loyalty to such a partisan royal.”

The idea that the Monarchy is non-partisan and apolitical is a falsism. Perhaps the Queen is apolitical, but her son Charles certainly is not, and in an age where the past is just a click away on youtube et. al. a future King Charles will find it very difficult to insist that he is apolitical. Sally (@5) is correct, when Charles becomes King, there will be a constitutional crisis afoot, and I doubt our parliamentarians will be as overtly pro-monarchy as they are today.

Addendum

“This is why I object so strongly to an entirely, or even majority elected upper chamber…”

Please note, I’m not saying that I favour the status quo with respect to the upper chamber. The current state of affairs where the Prime Minister is charged with selecting appointees to the House of Lords is reprehensible. It leads to partisan Lords of no real expertise flooding the upper chamber, and makes the House of Lords resemble a retirement home for former MPs, MEPs, MSPs and business men like *shudders* Lord Sugar. People who little to know business overseeing legislation as ‘experts’.

Appointments to the House of Lords should be made by an independent body charged with identifying and appointing genuine experts. Lords should also be subject to recall (via public petition), impeachment (where corruption is discovered) and termination (should their expertise be called into serious question).

If we had an elected presidency, what sort of preening, self-loving narcissistic egomaniac would think they were capable of representing and symbolizing the nation?

why have either?

If Parliament never sat for years on end no one would notice the difference as the civil service would just carry on running the country as normal. I would love to have confidence that the British public would not have chosen Jade Goody or Jeremy Clarkson as President. Unfortunately, they would choose the dumbest option.

At the end of the day you have to have somebody in that role and a king or queen does it best because:

The business of being head of state is their family business. They are therefore less likely to screw it all up since they have been doing it for centuries and don’t want to be remembered for getting it wrong .

The monarch is trained for that role from an early age.

Yes they hold unelected power but that isnt necessarily the same as tyranny. There are plenty of corrupt elected politicians, they come and go. Monarchs on the other hand are geared to executing that role over a long term. The Queen for instance has advised 9 Prime Ministers. That’s experience. Likewise they are able to take a longer term view of things than politicians elected over a fixed term.

21. Mr. Divine

I can’t stand the Royal Family. They represent to me undeserved privilege. Why should they receive tax payer’s money? It’s a form of theft.

Nobody has voted for them. And both major parties are quite happy allowing this to continue. To elevate the status of one family because of birth is against what British people regard as fair. There’s supposed to be equal opportunity, for people to prosper because of their hard work and talent. Not because of a silver spoon.

How is the nation supposed to be united if this is happening in front of our faces? Is it any wonder why so many people are pissed off with the way society is? We’re all equal apart from these bastards and their mates. Sod them one and all.

This is shittest analysis I have read in a long time (oh no, Jenkins’s analysis was of similar calibre).

The Blair mantra is nonsense – the choice isn’t between Blair and Lizzie. It’s between democracy and the Middle Ages.

“I suspect it’s not a coincidence that the countries which are best at equality overall (e.g. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands) [he might have added Japan - CD] also tend to be monarchies”

You could also say (with the exception of Japan) that ‘it is now coincidence that countries which are best at equality constitute predominately white people/ blonde people’.

In any case, Britain is a terrible example of equality – and yet it’s a monarchy.

Could I just ask: Is this article a spoof?

23. abraham_funkingcoln

Who gives a flying monkey if the ‘morons’ vote for Clarkson or Zombie Goody, more reason to oppose them both once they assume power.

for once, I agree with Chris, knowing that he wears the kid of brwon shirt that appeals to sally

@19 Richard W

“If Parliament never sat for years on end no one would notice the difference as the civil service would just carry on running the country as normal.”

Whilst this may be technically true, there are a vast number of shortcomings in the status quo which do need to be rectified via legislation. The trouble is that out blasted legislators are too shy or beholden to the party political system to tackle many of these shortcomings.

Of course we also live in a changing world, which demands an active legislative and executive branch. So I do think we’d notice were our elected officials dismissed and replaced by dis-empowered civil servants. The government would be paralysed when ever an international or national crisis arose.

“I would love to have confidence that the British public would not have chosen Jade Goody or Jeremy Clarkson as President. Unfortunately, they would choose the dumbest option.”

I do not share this cynicism of yours, and I’m a self-professed misanthrope!

@20 Hengist McStone

“The business of being head of state is their family business. They are therefore less likely to screw it all up since they have been doing it for centuries and don’t want to be remembered for getting it wrong .”

Firstly, this is most unprincipled and specious line of reasoning I have ever had the misfortune to read. Secondly, how does the fact that this is their ‘family business’ mean that they, as individuals, are better suited to the role of a ceremonial head of state? George III was pretty terrible from the standpoint that he lost the colonies and went bonkers!

The only role the Monarch fulfils today, as our ceremonial head of state, is to ascend bills into law (a mere formality, as were she to refuse to do so she WOULD be forced to abdicate by parliamentarians), request that a specific politician form a government (traditionally the winner of a general election; I have no idea what would happen were she to ask an election loser to form a government) and host international delegates. All of these roles could be performed by a complete moron, much less an elected official who’s managed to persuade the majority of Britons that (s)he is suitable to represent the United Kingdom.

“The monarch is trained for that role from an early age.”

The Monarch is indoctrinated in stuffy Royal protocol, which makes it nye impossible for her to relate to the people she ‘rules’ and, frankly, is a form of abuse upon her as much as it is a ridiculous farce. Furthermore, as far as any formal roles she plays within government go, she has been trained to say yes and read what the prime minister writes for her (that is hardly difficult).

“Yes they hold unelected power but that isnt necessarily the same as tyranny.”

The point is they don’t hold unelected power, they hold unelected wealth, the illusion of power and a overly-generous allowance for doing what is essentially a very easy job (play host, attend charity functions, etc…). It would be nice if our ceremonial head of state had the option to defer bills to plebiscite/referenda, and not just be reduced to the role of yes (wo)man. However a constitutional Monarch is not qualified to know where it is appropriate to call such referenda. Whereas a popularly elected ceremonial president is much better placed to make that call, as (s)he was elected by the people on the basis of his representations to them (if he represented himself as a pacifist, and won the election, it’s reasonable for him to assume that the people would view a declaration of war as a contentious issue worthy of referenda).

“There are plenty of corrupt elected politicians, they come and go.”

The whole institution of Monarchy is corrupt! It was founded on the basis of the aristocratic principle; that certain people (aristocrats) are inherently better than others (commoners). Let us not forget that the Monarchy owes it’s very existence to thugs and tyrants who stole everything they have. It cannot escape that history, even if the current holders of the title are little more than puppets to parliament.

“Monarchs on the other hand are geared to executing that role over a long term.”

What role is that. The role of the Monarch is to sit there, shut up and do what they are told by parliament. If they ever stepped out of line their days as Monarch would surely be numbered. The Monarch serves a very important role for parliament, in defence of parliamentary sovereignty (and in opposition to popular sovereignty). The Monarch, in inhabiting the role of ceremonial head of state prevents the calling into being of a powerful executive president (who could directly challenge the authority of parliament as chief legislator) or a less powerful ceremonial president (who could defer any bill to referenda and/or block legislation in a way the Monarch never could).

“The Queen for instance has advised 9 Prime Ministers. That’s experience. Likewise they are able to take a longer term view of things than politicians elected over a fixed term.”

This is precisely the role that civil servants and government advisor’s have been fulfilling for centuries. What’s more they are far better qualified to do so, being the ones who actually run government day in, day out. I fail to see what advice the Monarch could provide (in private might I add) that could be offered by any other politically aware adult could. In fact, living as she does in the artificial and protected world of the Royal court, she would be far less qualified to offer advice on most subjects.

Also, do you honestly think that a politician would defer to the Monarch’s (hypothetical) long-termism views (she’s supposed to be apolitical mind)? They have elections to worry about, and the short-termism you have identified is inherent to our system of representative democracy. The only check for this is to have a class of legislator and/or executive who is not hampered by the need to seek re-election. The Monarch however lacks any executive authority (it being vested in the Prime Minister and his/her cabinet) and the nearest thing we have to a legislative check on political short-termism is the House of Lords (which is likely to be converted to a majority elected chamber; making it as short-termism as the House of Commons).

Let’s just clear up a few points about the Monarchy and wealth;

The Monarchy costs the UK about 60m a year. Most of that cost is actually spent on the upkeep of buildings, which is a fixed cost regardless of having the Monarchy or not (unless you’re happy to see those buildings rot).

Tourism generated by the royal family is estimated to generate about 500m a year.

Prince Charles, for all his foibles, is actually a pretty canny businessman. His eco and organic businesses along with his other projects actually make him one of the UK’s biggest net taxpayers (and he certainly can’t go non-dom).

In short, the Monarchy pays for itself.

@26 Tyler

That not a great argument for royalty per se. The buildings would still be kept up, given our love of “things old” – no doubt the National Trust could do it better, more cheaply, and open them to the public. Let the Windsors keep their own places from their own money.

The tourism point is specious; few people come here only for the Royal family, fewer still would refuse to come if they were deposed.

The monarchy has just cost us millions in security for a wedding only a minority are remotely interested in. We wouldn’t have to pay for that if we had a non-executive President or Council of some sort.

The argument above about “Oh no, President Blair/Goody/Clarkson” is also misguided. We’d have an indirectly elected President who had no executive powers; this isn’t France or the USA. Getting rid of the monarchy could be twinned with some other long overdue reforms of our system too; as noted above a little more emphasis on separation of powers might make our over-mighty parliamentarians realise that it is not the institution of parliament which should be sovereign, but the people.

@ Anubeon

Thanks for your very full response. Your point of view is perfectly valid but different from mine, I want to focus on one thing you say : “The Monarch serves a very important role for parliament, in defence of parliamentary sovereignty (and in opposition to popular sovereignty).”

We don’t really know how things work at that level but I don’t think she is in defence of parliamentary sovereignty . Parliament ordered one of her ancestors heads to be chopped off, when she makes a speech at Parliament an MP has to be sent to the palace as a hostage. She shares a role of authority figure with Parliament , the PM etc, how much she is sharing depends on your point of view. You and I probably both consider ourselves dissenters from the way things are , and we’d like to see an awful lot of changes. The gist of what I am saying is that from a dissenter’s point of view she is a sideshow. I think theres loads of things need changing , but I don’t include the Royals in that , we just don’t have time. Stalin found he couldnt purge the civil service , its much the same with the royals here now. In short I just feel that Republican activism is a waste of useful dissent.

29. Peter Gartshore

22
What we all tend to forget is that like attracts like. The half wits that parade their Royal credentials can identitify with the Royal family because….(easy enough to fill in the missing words!)

@27 Galen10

“The argument above about “Oh no, President Blair/Goody/Clarkson” is also misguided…”

It’s also misguided for the very fact that none of these people enjoy popular support today, and to be honest, even at the height of Blair’s power I doubt he had the popularity necessary to be directly elected (under AV). Blair remained in power for so long purely because Labour remained in power, it’s far easier to out an individual elected to an individual office than it is a Prime Minister (who are often parachuted to safe seats).

“We’d have an indirectly elected President who had no executive powers; this isn’t France or the USA.”

I’m not a fan of the unelected ceremonial president. For them to serve any real purpose they must have both the power and mandate to divert legislation to a referendum. An unelected ceremonial president may have the power, but the mandate come only come from being directly elected (if they get stuck they need only refer back to their election campaign literature to see what platform they ran on, or if their own conscience if they are that rare thing – an honest politician).

@28 Hengist McStone

“We don’t really know how things work at that level…”

We bloody well ought to if we insist on calling ourselves a democracy. The lack of transparency surrounding the relationship between Prime Minister and Monarch is staggeringly undemocratic.

“…but I don’t think she is in defence of parliamentary sovereignty.”

I wasn’t suggesting the the Queen herself operates in defence of parliamentary sovereignty. What I was suggesting, was that the very existence of a powerless ceremonial monarch prohibits the existence of a meaningful check on parliamentary power in the form of either an executive president (e.g. The US President) or a ceremonial president (e.g. Germany and France). The Queen, as a constitutional monarch, is in no position to block legislature or defer it to a referendum, and even if she (as an unelected official raised in a bubble) had the power to defer legislation to a referendum should would have no mandate to do so (she would have to interpret whether or not said legislature was a contentious enough issue to warrant a referendum, and only a popularly elected official has the mandate to do that).

“Parliament ordered one of her ancestors heads to be chopped off, when she makes a speech at Parliament an MP has to be sent to the palace as a hostage.”

I was unaware of this particular tradition. Another example of the archaic drivel that our constitution provides, along with the pink ribbons for parliamentarians to hang there swords and black rods role as chief door knocker.

“She shares a role of authority figure with Parliament , the PM etc, how much she is sharing depends on your point of view.”

The Queen is in no way an authority figure. She holds no executive power what so ever, and has less authority than a ceremonial president does. All executive power resides with the Prime Minister and his cabinet. This is not a matter of point of view, it is a matter of fact. The Royal family is little more than a glorified puppet show, which serves to protect parliaments interests (whether the Queen recognises this or not is anybodies guess).

“You and I probably both consider ourselves dissenters from the way things are , and we’d like to see an awful lot of changes. The gist of what I am saying is that from a dissenter’s point of view she is a sideshow.”

Well yes and no. As I said above, the existence of monarchy (as a side show) makes the sort of reforms (e.g. separation of power, popular sovereignty, etc…) that I (and perhaps you) would like to see nye impossible. As long as the monarch inhabits the role of ceremonial Head of State, there can be no real Head of State, whether that be a ceremonial or executive president (both of which could exert a lot more authority over parliament on the public’s behalf than the monarch under the current constitutional settlement can)

“Stalin found he couldn’t purge the civil service, its much the same with the royals here now”

The purging of civil servants (not something I’d ever advocate) requires a much more extensive effort than the abolition of the monarchy. There are principled reasons to abolish the monarchy, not so for the great purges under Stalin.

“In short I just feel that Republican activism is a waste of useful dissent.”

Republican (not in the US sense) activism is entirely useful dissent, for the very reasons outlined above. With the monarchy in place it is inconceivable that we’ll ever see a degree of separation of power in this country, nor will we see any mechanism by which popular sovereignty can exert itself directly over parliamentary sovereignty as only an elected figurehead(s) can acheive.

Blast my grammatical typos are getting out of hand. I must remember to proof read my posts before I click send. Apologies to all who read, I hope it doesn’t detract from the intended message.

SPaG: 0

Hegelian bullshit

Elizabeth must go.

I accept all that stuff about most folk being unconvinced about the alternatives for the function of head of state to the monarchy.

But the reality relates to bread and circuses. A combination of Libya, Syria and the Royal Nuptials has crowded out the public debate about the NHS from BBC news bulletins and most front pages of the daily press – IMO as intended.

On the BBC Today programme this morning, amid all the news about the imminent Nuptials, John Humphrys made a passing snide remark about a front page news item regarding the NHS in the FT so I checked it out:

Hospitals told to look for 50% more savings
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b087ff20-71d1-11e0-9adf-00144feabdc0.html?ftcamp=rss&ftcamp=crm/email/2011429/nbe/UKMorningHeadlines/product#axzz1KuTsvIGG

I wonder how many more healthcare jobs will go because of that, and how much care for patients will be cut back and how many patients will die sooner as a result..

@33: “Elizabeth must go”

Remember the Treason Felony Act of 1848 is still on the statute book:

It is treason felony to “compass, imagine, invent, devise, or intend”:
- to deprive the Queen of her crown,
- to levy war against the Queen, or
- to “move or stir” any foreigner to invade the United Kingdom or any other country belonging to the Queen.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treason_Felony_Act_1848

Sentence on conviction was transportation to Australia or life imprisonment, presumably depending on which seemed the worse prospect to the trial judges.

35. Billy Bob Huggie Bear

I HATE YOU FUCKING LOUSY, TRAITOROUS, SELF-LOATHING, LEFTY, COMMUNIST, ISLAMIST FANBOY SCUM.

WHAT A GREAT DAY THIS WAS FOR SO MANY PEOPLE TO COME TOGETHER (OF ALL SKIN COLOURS) AND JUST CELEBRATE BEING BRITISH AND TO BE PART OF THE FINEST HISTORIC CULTURE IN THE WORLD.

ISLAMIST CUNTS AND STALIN COCK SUCKERS CAN GET ON A PLANE AND LEAVE!

WE’RE SICK TO DEATH OF YOU ALL ANYWAY.

36. Mr S. Pill

Can an admin please block the troll? Ta.

the very existence of a powerless ceremonial monarch prohibits the existence of a meaningful check on parliamentary power in the form of either an executive president (e.g. The US President) or a ceremonial president (e.g. Germany and France).

a) the French president isn’t ceremonial, he’s executive (de facto 100% when his party controls the NA, and shared oddly with the PM under cohabitation).
b) the German president doesn’t provide a check on parliamentary power – that’s done by the constitutional court.
c) the US model is the *most insane way* possible to run a democracy, which is why nobody else has adopted it.

I’d be happy with an Irish or German style powerless president. But I genuinely disagree that they are any different from a monarchy.

38. Billy Bob Huggie Bear

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/wikileaks/8475290/Islamist-extremism-so-did-we-cure-the-problem.html

There is a reason why Britain, in the words of one French official, is and remains the “Pakistan of the West”, an incubator, entrepot and exporter of Islamic radicalism.

There is a reason why, according to MI6, we face a “unique” threat from home-grown extremists.

There is a reason why Britain is the only country in the Western world to have been subjected to a successful suicide terror attack by its own citizens.

These things have happened, in part, because the last government, and Britain’s security establishment, got its policy just about as wrong as it was possible to get.
We were harsh where we should have been liberal – and liberal where we should have been harsh.

@36 Ms S. Pill

I resent being called a troll! :-p

@37 John B

“a) the French president isn’t ceremonial, he’s executive (de facto 100% when his party controls the NA, and shared oddly with the PM under cohabitation).”

The French system is a semi-presidential system; not as powerful as a full executive president, though not as powerless as a ceremonial president. I suppose the French president is thus more of an executive than a ceremonial president. Apologies for the error.

“b) the German president doesn’t provide a check on parliamentary power – that’s done by the constitutional court.”

I didn’t say he did, I merely included the German president as an example of a ceremonial president. I personally see no point in having an entirely powerless ceremonial president, If we were to go down that route I would like the president to hold some limited powers to divert legislature to a referendum (as I believe the Icelandic president can do).

“c) the US model is the *most insane way* possible to run a democracy, which is why nobody else has adopted it.”

The US model has it’s advantages and disadvantages. The obvious one being the potential for government shut downs and the oft combative relationship between the executive and legislative branches of government. Of course this is by design, and is intended to prevent any one branch of government gaining excessive power. The Americans appear to like it this way, and I have to admit that it sounds good to me.

What sounds even better to me is a system wherein each and every cabinet member is elected directly. The president would not be the imperious figure that (s)he is in the US or France, but rather a chairman (of the cabinet/executive council), de facto head of state (hosting foreign dignitaries), negotiator of last resort (between the legislative and executive branches). Whilst the various elected cabinet members would direct policy in their respective portfolios and the cabinet/executive council as a hole would have the power to either sign legislature into law or redirect it to a referendum (which the president able to make a final decision in the event of deadlock).

Similar to the Swiss federal council, only council members would be directly elected to a specific post and do not play musical chairs over the course of their term. Also, no all power full president or prime minister, and a cabinet whose various policy commitments are rubber stamped by the electorate directly (and not indirectly via party elites who are less accountable in their safe seats). There are of course the inevitable issues with having a separate legislature and executive, but that is the cost of having a democracy and the US appears to have done quite well out of their separation of powers (the right-wing bias of their politics not withstanding).

@38 Billy Bob Huggie Bear (The Real One I Presume)

This is precisely why we need some accountability in the way we govern our nation. The separation, at least in part of the legislative and executive branches of government would be a good start, but also a written constitution which dictates that major decisions such as declarations of war MUST be deferred to a referendum.

That target painted on our backs might not be so luminous were it not for the fact that a minority of elected officials decided that we needed to go to war with a nation half a world away and no threat to us. If the British public decided that we should have gone to war in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, fine, at least then we would have painted they target on our own backs. Instead, it was painted on our packs by an elite few who are far less likely to suffer the consequences than the troops we send out there and the civilians who travel to work everyday via public transport.

@37 john b

“I’d be happy with an Irish or German style powerless president. But I genuinely disagree that they are any different from a monarchy.”

Of course it would be different; the Irish and German people don’t have to put up with paying for the security at the weddings of their Presidents grandchildren for one thing, but more importantly, their relatively powerless, “figureheads of state” are not invested with all the baggage of medievalist nonsense attendant on the House of Windsor, nor do they represent all that is worst in their societies with respect to the atavistic forelock tugging and cringeing that goes along with the British class system.

Most of us just don’t care that much, or are actively anti-monarchist, more so the further away you get from the SE. I hear there were 30 street parties in the whole of Scotland… and most of them were probably in St. Andrews!!

The biggest threat to the monarchy isn’t republicanism…it’s disinterest, and the fact that the family is a dysfunctional freak show.

@35: “WHAT A GREAT DAY THIS WAS FOR SO MANY PEOPLE TO COME TOGETHER (OF ALL SKIN COLOURS) AND JUST CELEBRATE BEING BRITISH AND TO BE PART OF THE FINEST HISTORIC CULTURE IN THE WORLD.”

What some of us perennially celebrate in Britishness is a remarkable national history of tolerance, adaptability and scientific and literary achievement.

Karl Marx with family sought asylum here in 1848 after being hounded out of mainland Europe when Britain was the leading capitalist superpower of the time – see the Blue Plaque on the Quo Vadis Restaurant in Dean Street, Soho.

“The founder of the world’s first socialist state, Vladimir Il’ich Lenin, visited London six times between 1902 and 1911, and on at least five of these occasions found the time to call into the British Museum whose Library collections were in his view unparalleled. At the time of his 1907 visit he said:

“‘It is a remarkable institution, especially that exceptional reference section. Ask them any question, and in the very shortest space of time they’ll tell you where to look to find the material that interests you. ..Let me tell you, there is no better library than the British Museum. Here there are fewer gaps in the collections than in any other library.’”
http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpsubject/history/history/lenin/lenin.html

“Trotsky’s escaped from Siberia and fled to London in 1902. Why London? It was a magnet for Russian exiles and other personae-non-grata. Lenin had also escaped to London . . ”
http://theforvm.org/diary/blaisep/leon-trotsky-part-second-london-1903

One consequence is that, unlike France post-war until Mitterrand was elected to the Presidency in 1981, the Communist Party here didn’t regularly attract nearly 20% of the popular vote in general elections. And we produced celebrated writers like George Orwell, surely one of the most potent early literary critics of the Soviet system, the outcome of his experience of fighting for the International Brigade in Spain’s civil war until he and his wife were obliged to escape over the border with France ahead of an arrest warrant issued by the Republican government – see Peter Davison: Orwell – A Literary Life (1996). Contrast that with the Stalinist inclinations of Jean-Paul Sartre, one of the post-war literary stars in the French republic.

A Royal wedding to make the idiotic British sheep feel patriotic and nationalistic so they accept their austerity like good little morons, and pay back off the bankers debts without complaining.

Nice of the Prince to time his wedding to take of the heat of his relative David Cameron’s anti-social misson. They really are all in it together.

What needs to be remembered is that most who rant on about the Monarchy and Britishness are quite clueless about Britain’s history, its empiricist and libertarian philosophical tradition and its heritage of literary and scientific achievement.

Try George Orwell on: England, Your England (1941) in this collection of his essays:
http://orwell.ru/library/books/htm_file/eye

Tyler @ 26

In short, the Monarchy pays for itself.

I tried that trick with double glazing once, but Everest weren’t impressed. If the monarchy do pay for themselves, then why I need to shell out for the bastards? We could sell off the buildings to the highest bidder and let the private sector run them. Surely you would approve of that?

You pull this sixty million quid out of the air, but how much of that sixty million quid was spent on today’s shindig? I bet that came out of the Government’s (i.e. our) pockets!

Is there any evidence that the Queen generates anything like 500 million a year in tourism? The French don’t have a Royal family, what kind of Tourism do they get?

“The French don’t have a Royal family, what kind of Tourism do they get?”

By reports, France attracts the most income from tourism in the world league table but then it has more than twice Britain’s land area, a wonderful summer climate in the south and great winter skiing opportunities in the east during winter. We can’t really compete with all that but, besides our historic heritage, London is reckoned to be the theatre capital of the world. The trouble is that most foreign tourists come to see London and the theatres and possibly the ancient unis and York minster but not much more.

46. Robin Levett

@Jim #44:

“I tried that trick with double glazing once, but Everest weren’t impressed. If the monarchy do pay for themselves, then why I need to shell out for the bastards? We could sell off the buildings to the highest bidder and let the private sector run them. Surely you would approve of that?

You pull this sixty million quid out of the air, but how much of that sixty million quid was spent on today’s shindig? I bet that came out of the Government’s (i.e. our) pockets!”

The Crown Estates made £210m last year; that income has been signed over to the Treasury by successive monarchs since George III. In return, last year Betty received payments for herself and family of what? £60m?

Walter Bagehot on: The English Constitution is a recurring source of illumination on a constitutional monarchy:
http://dbwf.net/images/W_Bagehot_on_the_British_Constitution(1877).pdf

“No feeling could seem more childish than the enthusiasm of the English at the marriage of the Prince of Wales. They treated as a great political event what, looked at as a matter of pure business, was very small indeed. But no feeling could be more like common human nature as it is, and as it is likely to be. The women — one half the human race at least- care fifty times more for a marriage than a ministry.”

“Royalty is a government in which the attention of the nation is concentrated on one person doing interesting actions. A Republic is a government in which that attention is divided between many, who are all doing uninteresting actions. Accordingly, so long as the human heart is strong and the human reason weak, Royalty will be strong because it appeals to diffused feeling, and Republics weak because they appeal to the understanding.”

“To state the matter shortly, the sovereign has, under a constitutional monarchy such as ours, three rights — the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn.”

“In the course of a long reign a sagacious king would acquire an experience with which few ministers could contend. The king could say: “Have you referred to the transactions which happened during such and such an administration, I think about fourteen years ago? They afford an instructive example of the bad results which are sure to attend the policy which you propose. . . “

48. Billy Bob Huggie Bear

Millions of people had a great day.
And you fuckers just hate it!

Remember Jo Moore and her infamous email to colleagues on 11 September in 2001 that it was a good day to bury bad news?
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1358985/Sept-11-a-good-day-to-bury-bad-news.html

A news item on the front page of Friday’s Financial times:

Hospitals told to look for 50% more savings
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b087ff20-71d1-11e0-9adf-00144feabdc0.html?ftcamp=rss&ftcamp=crm/email/2011429/nbe/UKMorningHeadlines/product#axzz1KuTsvIGG

50. Billy Bob Huggie Bear

Just because the hospitals are flooded with immigrants who have never paid anything into the NHS.

Simple really. Grotesque suicidal immigration has crippled the NHS.
Endless Polish have their babies here, and yet they’ve never paid anything towards it.
Which is WHY they have their babies here.

Muslims have loads of kids, again new here, not paid anything towards the NHS. Add to this the massive cost of the massive increase in in-bred illness thanks to Islamic first cousin marriage that the NHS has to treat and once again…we see the NHS sapped of money by imported health problems we should never have had anyway and no one involved has paid anything in to cover the cost.

Lefties…You’re to blame for NHS troubles.
As YOU supported (and still do) mass immigration into this country, you support instant free health care for new arrivals and you support medieval breeding habits.

Well done.

@50

Do you actually bother to check any facts before spouting your ignorant bigoted drivel? Silly question.

You seem to have found youself at the wrong place. Why don’t you go off to play with your fellow morons at thesun.co.uk. You’ll find plenty of people at your intellectual level over there.

Have a nice day.

52. Dan Factor

No get rid of them! They don’t belong in today’s democratic society!

Robin Levett @ 46

The Crown Estates made £210m last year; that income has been signed over to the Treasury by successive monarchs since George III.

Good, so what is the sixty million for, then? Why not just take the £200 million and forget the civil list? We simply cannot afford it any longer. We are constantly being told there is no money left to look after the sick, so why spurlge 60 million quid out on healthy people who could go out and find proper work? They could become members of the big society in their spare time.

54. Robin Levett

@Jim #53:

“Good, so what is the sixty million for, then?”

It’s the amount the Treasury gives back; leaving the Treasury c£150m in profit.

“Why not just take the £200 million and forget the civil list?”

At what level of property ownership do human rights to property cease to apply? The deal is that the monarch hands over the income to the Treasury, and the Treasury gives back so much of it as it thinks the monarchy can run on. If that deal is off, then the £210m goes to the monarchy, and the Treasury has a £150m hole (pinprick, really) in its accounts to deal with.

“We simply cannot afford it any longer. We are constantly being told there is no money left to look after the sick, so why spurlge 60 million quid out on healthy people who could go out and find proper work?”

‘Cos that’s the deal?

All this is independent of whether one is monarchist or republican. The point is a simple one – that “We can’t afford them” is actually a non-starter as an argument against monarchy. Unpicking the financial deal means the Treasury loses, not gains.

As a republican I couldn’t care for this article but I’d like to point out that “e.g. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands) [he might have added Japan - CD]” are NOTHING like the UK, so it makes your argument mute.

The mentality, culture, social norms, history differ hugely from us and so there is absolutely no comparison. In fact, those countries listed above have more in common with each other, bar say Japan, then we have to them. We have more in common with the USA in many ways but not in others.

We have an unhealthy obsession with a feudal system in this country that I don’t see in the countries pointed out in the article. They can take or leave their monarchy, us, we go emotionally mental for them.

We seem to thrive under the concept that a bunch of people are better or have to better then us to function as a society. Be it celebs or sports stars or the royal family.

No other country holds such a top down mentality apart from the more religous countries…from what I know.

@55: “As a republican I couldn’t care for this article but I’d like to point out that “e.g. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands) [he might have added Japan - CD]” are NOTHING like the UK, so it makes your argument mute.”

C’mon. We at least have it in common that all these countries and Britain remain constitutional monarchies in the 21st century. It seems beyond mere coincidence that countries at the western edge of the European continent and an island country on the eastern edge of the Asian continent retain monarchies. We are denying reality if we fail to remark on this shared characteristic symbol of enduring political stability.

I think that Britain’s aspirations for a welfare state, with support for families from “the cradle to the grave” in Beveridge’s words, has more in keeping with the welfare states and social market economies of western Europe than with the American tradition of “free market capitalism”, in spite of our common trans-Atlantic language and our common law judicial systems.

I am not a monarchist or a republican. In fact, I just don’t care one way or another. The British style has always been compromises to specific problems and muddling through. There is no argument that I can think of in favour of dynastic succession, so I can’t favour constitutional monarchy as a matter of principle. However, I see the issue as matter of whether any other system of government would be inherently better rather than principle. It is only by being fooled by randomness and luck that we do not recognise that we are all a product of our genes and circumstances of birth. We so want to believe that our achievements are down to our brilliance that we allow ourselves to ignore that it was nearly all random.

Would the brilliant physicist have achieved their academic greatness if they had been born without the genes that allowed their brain to achieve its brilliance? Would their brilliance still have been achieved with a gene combination that only allowed the brain to attain a maximum of an IQ of 80? Therefore, how much of the achievements was down to the person and how much was purely random and entirely the circumstance of birth? The brilliant sports star who achieves excellence in their sport could not achieve the excellence without the correct physiology. The vast majority of people no matter how hard they try and how long they train will not be able to run in an Olympic 100m final, because they do not have the physiology to run fast. Plucking a figure out of the air, I would say most achievements are 90% random and 10% down to the person and that applies to almost every field of human endeavour. So, being a product of the circumstance of our birth is not unusual, it is the norm.

Has our and others constitutional monarchy arrangements led to an awful situation for the British people? If you think yes. I would suggest getting out into most of the world and seeing what awful really means. If the founding fathers and framers of the US system of government could have peered through to the future and seen what became of the societies in the European constitutional monarchies. They would see some of most civilised places on earth. The mind boggles at the sadness they would feel comparing the civilised constitutional monarchy of Canada to the dystopian nightmare that befell their republic. They would recoil in horror that every part of government was bought and paid for by lobbyists and as consequence was corrupt to the core. The military industrial complex- the medical industrial complex- the prison industrial complex would stand as testament to unintended consequences. They would see a propaganda echo chamber otherwise known as the US media pushing relentlessly the American Dream. A rather sick joke to deceive the listeners to believe they can achieve anything that they want to achieve. However, the reality is if they are born poor they will almost certainly die poor.

With their ideals lying in tatters one can only guess their response to seeing the future. My guess is that they would have ripped up their lofty ideals and possibly crowned George Washington king.

@ Richard W

At length, when you could have said that All is for the Best in This, the Best of All Possible Worlds!

I think the point the anti-monarchists are making is not that it’s as bad here as elsewhere, but that we can see a way of starting to make things better still. It involves getting rid of the prehsitoric anachronism of our monarchy.

From this press report, the scale of interest in Australia in the royal nuptials has been an upset for the Republican movement there:
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/special-reports/wills-and-kates-day-watched-by-all/story-fn888sz0-1226047634410

Robin @ 54

Well let us put the crown estates out to tender. Surely no one can object to that? There would be nothing to stop the Queen from tendering a bid and if she is the cheapest, then what is the harm? We will have got the best possible deal for the taxpayer. Perhaps a ‘not for profit’ group of volunteers could run it for ‘free’? Surely the ‘big society’ is this type of thing? What could be more important for the success of the ‘Big Society’ than people running the Crown Estates for the good of the Nation?

Funny how there is no money left to keep mentally ill people in accommodation, however, public money can be found to keep the Royals is the luxury that they have became accustomed to?

61. Robin Levett

@Jim #60:

“Well let us put the crown estates out to tender. Surely no one can object to that? There would be nothing to stop the Queen from tendering a bid and if she is the cheapest, then what is the harm?”

Whence are you going to find the money to buy the estates from the monarch in the first place – or were you planning uncompensated expropriation?

David Allen Green is, as so often, excellent on this topic: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/david-allen-green/2011/04/monarchy-queen-republic-done

@61 Robin Levett

“Whence are you going to find the money to buy the estates from the monarch in the first place – or were you planning uncompensated expropriation?”

My understanding is that the Crown Estate is the property of the reigning Monarch as sovereign Head of State. Thus the Crown Estates (and the Crown Jewels incidentally) belong to the office of Monarch, and not to the Monarch his/her self. Neither the reigning Monarch, nor the Government of the day are able to sell the Crown Estates, and the Monarch is not entitled to the surplus revenues derived from the Crown Estates which are paid to the Treasury every year (and from which the costs of the Civil List are satisfied).

Essentially, without an Act of Parliament dissolving the Crown Estates Commission and transferring ownership to either the reigning Monarch (in person) or the Government of the day, the Crown Estates cannot be sold off. Interestingly, if I recall correctly, the Conservatives did put forward a proposal to do precisely this. They wanted to transfer ownership of the Crown Estates to the Queen (in person) and put an end to the civil list. It would be just as easy for any future Government to transfer ownership of the Crown Estates to the Government, though of course the reigning Monarch would theoretically have to sign any such bill for its ascent into law.

Any notion that the Queen has a moral or legal right to own (in person) the Crown Estates is pure bunk in my view. The current complex state of affairs with regards ownership of the Crown Estate came about as a result of the fecklessness of one King George III. Without the intervention of the Government of the day (and by extension its taxpayers) he would have pissed away the Crown Estates to pay off his gambling debts. So legally and morally the Crown Estates belong to the people (which is why they are entrusted to the reigning sovereign be (s)he a Monarch or a President) and not the Queen, nor the Government. Additionally, the Crown Estates came into being through centuries of thuggish expropriation and political connivances which saw landowners become tenants and aristocratic families turfed out because they fell out of favour. Any notion of that the Queen or her successors have a moral right to the Crown Estates, or that their sell-off demands monetary compensations is thus ludicrous. If those lands are sold-off the revenue should go to The State (as a trustee of the people), as the people have paid for them with money and bloody over the centuries.

This is an absurd article. You liken it to the NHS because the NHS is ‘idiotic in theory’? I’d question what part of nationalised health care is an idiotic notion?

Then you go on to say, ‘Is it really an accident that monarchical Spain is more equal than presidential Portugal, or Canada more egalitarian than the US, or Denmark more than Finland?’

It really is beginner skills to see that correlation doesn’t always imply causality. I’m sure there are countless other trivial things that the countries share that have equally little to do with how equal a society we live in.

There may well be a debate to be had about the benefits of monarchies and republics that we would differ over, but these points are simply nonsensical.

“I’d question what part of nationalised health care is an idiotic notion?”

CD didn’t say the NHS is “idiotic”. What he said is that it is “idiotic in theory”, which it is for providing healthcare services “free at the point of delivery”.

66. When Bells Chime Loud

“”Do you actually bother to check any facts””

Yes.
Feel free to actually counter my points. Go on.

Go look up the strain in the NHS from the massive increase in birth rates from Muslim/Eastern European mothers and the huge (unknown in this country in living memory!!!) increase and cost of treating inbred illness in a lot of almost exclusively Asian/Muslim families.

Even Left Channel 4 had to admit that, and did a whole documentary on it.
A doc that pointed its finger at PC cretins JUST like you for denying the facts and so nothing gets done!
Well done.

And no one has to ‘check’ the basic fact that if you come here and use the NHS but have never paid (or not remotely paid enough yet) taxes into it…you are a burden!
Basic common sense. Oh sorry…You of course lack that.

So rather than just say “nah nah nah nah naaaah”…which is really what your moronic post does, try to prove me wrong. Counter my supposedly stupid bigot points if you think they are just that.
After all IF they are you can prove it. Yes?
Exactly….But you can’t.

67. MonkeyBot 5000

“If that deal is off, then the £210m goes to the monarchy, and the Treasury has a £150m hole (pinprick, really) in its accounts to deal with.”

That deal was done because parliament became responsible for paying for government. If that deal is off, shouldn’t the monarchy then take over funding the NHS, education, police etc?

Evertime I read one of these articles about how great the monarchy is, I always wonder, “How do you explain this to your kids?”

How do you explain to your child that, no matter how hard-working, dedicated and talented they are, they will never be able to be head of state because the Windsors are just better than them? Who could look into their child’s eyes and tell them that they are simply inferior?

I think the point the anti-monarchists are making is not that it’s as bad here as elsewhere, but that we can see a way of starting to make things better still. It involves getting rid of the prehsitoric anachronism of our monarchy.

But it’s underpants-gnome-logic.

1) Abolish the monarchy
2) ???
3) Egalitarian Nordic-style society

Why bother devoting our efforts to a sideshow which makes absolutely no difference, against an institution which is still more popular than not among the public, rather than to the struggle against *actual* inequality?

If I were starting a new government for a new country today, I obviously wouldn’t pick a monarchy as the way of doing so. But we’ve got one, it costs 1% of a rounding error in the government budget, and it saves us from the horrors of having a politician being our ceremonial representative overseas.

@68 john b

The side show DOES make a difference though, both in terms of the direct costs, the indirect costs, and probably more importantly in symbolic terms.

The fact that the majority still support the monarchy (altho a lot of us suspect many of them are fairly tepid in their support) isn’t some knock out argument in favour of it’s retention. You aren’t the first to use the “this is a sideshow, we have more important things to tackle” line; and it is totally specious. It’s the same kind of flawed logic used by those who thought we should do nothing to stop an imminent massacre in Libya, because we weren’t taking action elsewhere.

Also as pointed out above, the “natural” replacement for a monarchy in our system would be indirectly elected; a figurehead president (or even council?) with no executive power. I’d wager it would be a lot less of a risk than depending on some random first born of a bunch of in-bred minor North German royalty. Bear in mind our next head of state is hardly someone I’d hold up for his estimable character!

In the general scheme of thinks the direct cost of the monarchy may not be much, but how much do you think the security operation for the wedding cost..? It could have bought a lot of other things.

Nobody is saying that abolishing the monarchy will result overnight in a more egalitarian or meritocratic society…. but it would sure as hell be a start!

70. Robin Levett

@Anubeon #63:

“My understanding is that the Crown Estate is the property of the reigning Monarch as sovereign Head of State. Thus the Crown Estates (and the Crown Jewels incidentally) belong to the office of Monarch, and not to the Monarch his/her self. Neither the reigning Monarch, nor the Government of the day are able to sell the Crown Estates, and the Monarch is not entitled to the surplus revenues derived from the Crown Estates which are paid to the Treasury every year (and from which the costs of the Civil List are satisfied).”

All of which is in large part correct; and, given that the Civil List and other grants in aid amount to less than a third of the Crown Estate surplus revenues, shows that far from the monarchy being a burden on the Treasury, the Treasury makes a profit from the arrangement. What you are missing however is that the arrangement whereby the surplus income goes to the Treasury is one that is renewed by each successive sovereign. The right to receive income from property is just as much a property right as any other.

The Crown Estates are property belonging to the monarchy, just as prior to the late 19th-early 20th century land reforms many aristocratic estates were held in fee tail; land passed with the title – or the land was subject to a trust that had a similar effect. All those arrangements restricting alienation were swept away by the reforms, and the land became the personal property of the Duke (or whoever) for the time being. That affecting the Crown Estate could not be, given the peculiar position of the Crown.

“Any notion that the Queen has a moral or legal right to own (in person) the Crown Estates is pure bunk in my view. The current complex state of affairs with regards ownership of the Crown Estate came about as a result of the fecklessness of one King George III. Without the intervention of the Government of the day (and by extension its taxpayers) he would have pissed away the Crown Estates to pay off his gambling debts.”

Not quite accurate. Prior to George III the monarch of the day retained responsibility for the cost of civil government (from William III the cost of the armed forces had been removed from the Crown’s responsibilities) including for example the national debt; that cost had grown to exceed the revenues available from the Crown lands and other revenues available to the monarch, so the monarch started to run up personal debt to keep government going. On George III’s accession, he signed over the income from Crown Lands and in return he was relieved of responsibility for the cost of civil government and granted a civil list annuity.

Subsequently, he ran up other debts (not solely, or even largely, gambling debts), and the civil list was increased to keep pace – but that wasn’t why the Crown lands income was signed over in the first place (Wikipedia has a decent summary of all this which is in my understanding broadly accurate).

“Additionally, the Crown Estates came into being through centuries of thuggish expropriation and political connivances which saw landowners become tenants and aristocratic families turfed out because they fell out of favour…If those lands are sold-off the revenue should go to The State (as a trustee of the people), as the people have paid for them with money and bloody over the centuries.”

*All* landowners were tenants in some sense of that word but that is by the by. The Crown lands however didn’t grow by expropriation over the centuries from the Conquest – they shrank by grants to Crown supporters (although there was some turnover).

More generally, though, how far though do you propose to extend that principle? To everybody who has been granted estates by the Crown? Or just those related to the current, or to current or former, sovereigns? To anybody who has ever acquired land by unsavoury means? And how unsavoury? Are you going to be Whiggish about this, or will you judge by the standards of the time?

At what point does uncompensated expropriation cease to be a remedy of past injustices and become a present injustice?

@70 Robin Levett

“All of which is in large part correct; and, given that the Civil List and other grants in aid amount to less than a third of the Crown Estate surplus revenues, shows that far from the monarchy being a burden on the Treasury, the Treasury makes a profit from the arrangement.”

It doesn’t show that the Monarchy isn’t a burden, it shows that the Crown Estates aren’t a burden. Were the civil list abolished the State (and by extension its taxpayers) would benefit from a third more revenue, and it’s specious to argue that the mere existence of the Monarchy in any way contributes to the revenue of the Crown Estates.

“Not quite accurate. Prior to George III the monarch of the day retained responsibility for the cost of civil government (from William III the cost of the armed forces had been removed from the Crown’s responsibilities) including for example the national debt; that cost had grown to exceed the revenues available from the Crown lands and other revenues available to the monarch, so the monarch started to run up personal debt to keep government going. On George III’s accession, he signed over the income from Crown Lands and in return he was relieved of responsibility for the cost of civil government and granted a civil list annuity.”

Apologies, I was relying on memory for the most part (I shouldn’t do that). I shall consult wikipedia post hast.

This does suggest though, does it not, that the ownership of the Crown Estate was tied to the office of sovereign (be (s)he Monarch or President) in exchange for the Government taking on the costs of running the country. Any reversal of this should place the cost burden squarely on the shoulders of the beneficiary (i.e. the Monarch) else it be a thoroughly dishonourable act (the deal is made, if it is to be unmade, let it be unmade in its entirety)

“*All* landowners were tenants in some sense of that word but that is by the by. The Crown lands however didn’t grow by expropriation over the centuries from the Conquest – they shrank by grants to Crown supporters (although there was some turnover).”

A tenant is a rent payer, plain and simple, and during the Norman conquest a large number of landowning non-rent payers lost their lands to conquest, thuggish expropriation and political connivance on the part of the conquering forces. The fact that from this point onwards the Crowns lands shrank as a result grants to supporters is to a large part irrelevant. The fact remains that those lands came into the Crowns possession through bloody conquest and expropriation.

To a large extent all land ownership in the legal sense (as opposed to the natural/territorial sense) can be traced back to force majeure as the basis of ownership. I simply don’t recognise the legitimacy of this (and even the legal ownership of landed property itself). I’m with Prodhoun and the Native Americans on this is; my home is were a lay my hat.

“More generally, though, how far though do you propose to extend that principle? To everybody who has been granted estates by the Crown? Or just those related to the current, or to current or former, sovereigns? To anybody who has ever acquired land by unsavoury means? And how unsavoury? Are you going to be Whiggish about this, or will you judge by the standards of the time?”

As I alluded to above, I simply don’t agree with the concept of land deeds and the legal ownership of land. At some point it always boils down to either

a) A thug kills the previous occupiers of said land, and is granted the legal deed by another thug friend of his who happens to be Monarch.

b) A man sets foot on unoccupied land, sticks his flag pole in the ground and declares this land his.

The prior is, by modern standards, appalling and I find applying a statute of limitations on this rather appalling. The latter is a mere ritual based on entirely subjective values; how far does his land claim extend? As far as the eye can see? As far as the land extends? To the edge of the continental shelf, or simply as far as the flag poles shadow falls? In fact the later inevitably falls back to the force majeure as the basis of the claim, for the claim is worthless is the land cannot be defended.

I’m very much of the opinion that as land is a finite and uncreated (by man) resource that it cannot be legally owned by anything other than the commons. History has, as of yet, demonstrated no palatable means by which land can be claimed. The only means by which unoccupied land can be claimed is by highly subjective conventions (which are meaningless), and the only means by which occupied land can be claimed is through force majeure seizures and expropriation. The relatively civilised practice of buying and selling land was established on the bones of these practices, and will only lead to the gradual accrual of land into the hands of the wealthy, and subsequently, rent slavery for the rest of us.

So I’m very much of the opinion that we should stop this feeble merry go round and simply claim all land as a common asset, held in trust by the state (for the people), and managed for the common good. Council housing is a very good example of this kind of commons, though it’s painted today as housing for the poor.

If all housing were owned on a common basis, and rented out by the State (or local agents thereof) the vast majority of us would benefit. Tenants under this system would be apportioned housing on the basis of need (no wealthy baronets living in 20 acre country estates). They would pay rents commensurate with the actual costs of maintaining and improving the housing stock (and not in-line with central government formula intended to force council tenants to subsidise private rents via housing benefit). They would enjoy all of the benefits of owning their own property (secured tenure, ability to make home improvements, etc…) at a mere fraction of the cost of private rent and mortgage payments (and probably less than current council rents given the subsidy tacked on by central government). It’s even possible that, were all land managed in this way, tenants could bequeath their family home to one or more of their offspring (on the understanding that said beneficiary release any other property upon which they have tenure). There’s also the added benefit of economies of scale being applied to housing maintenance costs and broadly desired improvements such as micro-generation and solar panels.

I confess, I was born and raised in a Garden City within which the common ownership of land was a founding principle (though, this, I only recently discovered). Unfortunately, the Governments development plans during the 1950s and 60s put something of an end to this lofty ideal and turned my home town into another dormitory of London. I often wonder what life under Howard’s ideal regime of common land would have been like. A much more fair and joyous one I would guess.

“At what point does uncompensated expropriation cease to be a remedy of past injustices and become a present injustice?”

At the point when you are expropriating the only home of an average family, and most certainly not at the point when you are expropriating a vast estate of lands from a family with a large pool of personal wealth. There’s nothing particularly unjustified in reclaiming land expropriated from all of our ancestors by the ancestors of one Monarch, our beloved Queen. I’m fairly certain, that with her personal wealth of tens or hundreds of millions she and her brood will be able to eke out a decent living where the Monarchy abolished and the Crown Estates transferred to the State.

72. Richard W

@ 71

I agree with your views on the common ownership of land, Anubeon. Although, I think it is important to make a distinction between land and property. Someone can create property from their own endeavours so I have no problem with them owning that property. However, they can’t create the land and if they claim ownership they deprive everyone else from claiming ownership. There is no way that I can think where the original person claiming ownership could do so in a legitimate manner. Therefore, if the original claim was illegitimate all other claims to sole ownership must be considered illegitimate. Common ownership of land with those who wish to claim sole use leasing from the common ownership seems fair to me. Moreover, in such a system there is nothing preventing the monarchy leasing land from the common ownership stock of land. The whole point should not be about preventing people having the use of large tracts of land if that is what they want. However, they should compensate the whole community for the privilege of claiming sole use.

@72 Richard W

“Although, I think it is important to make a distinction between land and property. Someone can create property from their own endeavours so I have no problem with them owning that property.”

I agree entirely, in fact it’s this distinction that has led me to my views on land as property. Although the advent of land reclamation projects does throw my views somewhat up in the air? ;-)

To use borrow from the GSCE exam vernacular, if Alan discovers a piece of wood, naturally shed by a tree during last nights storm, his only claim to it at that moment in time is territorial. That is to say that Alan’s ‘ownership’ of the wood is entirely contingent on his ability to keep hold of it and prevent others who covert it from taking it from him. There is no moral case for Alan or anyone else to claim the wood as their property per se. However, if Alan were to take that wood home with him and fashion it into a sculpture or a tool, there would be a clear moral case for him to claim the sculpture or tool as his property. In fashioning the wood, Alan has greatly increased its utility and thus its value, and as such their is a clear moral case for him to claim the sculpture or tool as his property. This is termed the Labour Theory of Property (not to be confused with the Labour Theory of Value or the Labour Party), and it’s pretty much my take on property rights (as it would eliminate to a great extent the high-earning free-loader problem, inheritance not withstanding).

“However, they can’t create the land and if they claim ownership they deprive everyone else from claiming ownership. There is no way that I can think where the original person claiming ownership could do so in a legitimate manner.”

This is pretty much my view of land as property.

“Common ownership of land with those who wish to claim sole use leasing from the common ownership seems fair to me. Moreover, in such a system there is nothing preventing the monarchy leasing land from the common ownership stock of land. The whole point should not be about preventing people having the use of large tracts of land if that is what they want.”

Well precisely!

The status quo isn’t exactly poised to bring about such a revolution in land rights. We British have a peculiar fascination with home ownership*, something I’m sure is in large part due to folk memories (and sadly modern examples) of rent slavery. With the mass sell off of council housing and its re-framing as housing for the poor, we have lost our best chance of selling common land ownership as both viable and desirable. The notion is now, and for the foreseeable future, off the agenda (save a revolution). :-(

* Curiously, there’s little public recognition of the fact that it’s this very fascination with home ownership, coupled with unregulated mortgage markets, which has inflated the prices of these houses and also private rents (which I’m sure increases buyer panic, thus further inflating house prices). When will the bubble burst?

“However, they should compensate the whole community for the privilege of claiming sole use.”

I would agree, with the provision that such leases are at least regulated to ensure that excessive lease-holding and sub-letting don’t become issues. Leases being apportioned on the basis of need (e.g. the need for home and shelter, the need to preserve a sight of special scientific interest, the need to preserve an historical site or artefact, etc…), rather than the basis of ability to pay.

74. Chaise Guevara

I call Poe’s Law. Nobody could be so stupid as to suggest a “unthinking and self-regarding faith in their limited stock of reason” is the hallmark of one particular group they happen to hate. I mean, do non-progressives always assume that their own reasoning cannot be trusted? Nope.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why I think the Monarchy is great http://bit.ly/kpFcDj

  2. Marc Vincent

    This is a piss-take, right? RT @libcon Why I think the Monarchy is great http://bit.ly/kpFcDj

  3. MUSHKUSH

    I read this -> RT: @libcon: Why I think the Monarchy is great http://bit.ly/kpFcDj and agree that elected president is bad. Choose by lot.

  4. Steve Trow

    RT @libcon: Why I think the Monarchy is great http://bit.ly/kpFcDj

  5. Paul Cookson

    “@libcon: Why I think the Monarchy is great http://t.co/B6trLw2” utter mince!

  6. Nephron

    Monarchy is not more unjust than the rest of our meritocracy: http://t.co/ASbI9SA http://t.co/a6Y3UgY

  7. ‘Staged’ cracks in the coalition, debate over new GDP figures, and Cameron’s ‘Dear’ moment: Political blog round up for 23 – 30 April 2011 | British Politics and Policy at LSE

    [...] 12 conservative quotes in support of the monarchy, and Chris Dillow at Liberal Conspiracy thinks the monarchy is great. Political Scrapbook has pictures of David Cameron in tails, commenting that may not have been his [...]

  8. Três razões que fazem da Monarquia uma escolha práctica, por Chris Dillow « omantodorei

    [...] Três razões que fazem da Monarquia uma escolha práctica, por Chris Dillow Posted by grifedes ⋅ May 5, 2011 ⋅ Leave a Comment Why I think the Monarchy is great [...]

  9. Isobel Hadley-Kamptz

    @olaberg hittade: http://bit.ly/kdYgiG @iahmia

  10. Isobel Hadley-Kamptz

    @olaberg hittade: http://bit.ly/kdYgiG @iahmia

  11. Isobel Hadley-Kamptz

    @AndraAnais denna http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/04/28/why-i-think-the-monarchy-is-great/

  12. Ester Pharasyn

    @Arizon inte då! http://t.co/4d3zKeC

  13. Ester Pharasyn

    @BoBo_ism utan tvivel denna :) http://t.co/8uMnxoPo

  14. Bourgeois Bohemian

    STJÄRNAS! VARFÖR MOI BYTT STÅNDPUNKT (igen tshihi) RT @AndraAnais Ester Pharasyn @
    @BoBo_ism utan tvivel denna :) http://t.co/OVshEBHb

  15. Bourgeois Bohemian

    @johanmuren varför moi släppt värsta meritokrativurmen och nu har en mer förlåtande syn monarkin http://t.co/OVshEBHb via @AndraAnais

  16. Ester Pharasyn

    @antteist Jag har postat den här flera gånger tidigare. läst? http://t.co/8uMnxoPo

  17. Bourgeois Bohemian

    Lydon: "You know, we're seen as antiroyalists, yet I'm rather fond of the royal family." Me 2! http://t.co/OVshEBHb via mon ami @AndraAnais

  18. Bourgeois Bohemian

    @LouiseEpsteinp1 the Queen etc, intelligent försvar av monarkin som fått moi att tänka nytt. http://t.co/OVshEBHb via mon ami @AndraAnais





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.