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You just can’t be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy


11:05 am - March 9th 2012

by Mark Thompson    


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We are now in the build up to the celebrations of The Queen’s 60th Jubilee. I was actually out of the country during the 50th celebrations in 2002 so I missed Brian May playing guitar on the roof of Buckingham Palace etc.

As a republican this stuff generally leaves me cold.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with my view that the head of our state should be elected. Indeed it is clear from polling that I am in a minority.

What I do find strange however is when I come across people who are clearly in favour of a meritocracy and improved social mobility supporting the principle of an hereditary head of state. And there seem to be quite a lot of them judging by discussions I have witnessed on Twitter recently.

Make no mistake, these positions are incompatible. You cannot credibly be a meritocrat whilst simultaneously supporting the monarchy in its current form.

It is not just because of the inherent contradiction between wanting positions to be awarded on merit and allowing someone to achieve the pinnacle of our public life through who gave birth to them. Even more pertinent is how the Monarchy and the aristocracy prop up our entire class system which works against this very idea.

With the Queen or King at the top, a shining beacon of privilege of birth, it is always going to be more difficult to have a society where people achieve positions on the basis of merit.

At last year’s Lib Dem Spring Conference, Nick Clegg made a speech in which he declared that “Birth should never be destiny“.

I wholeheartedly agree with him. Of course his meritocratic conviction did not extend to declining to attend the wedding of the second in line to the throne a couple of months later.

Some may say this is churlish of me. Maybe it is a bit. But there are always grounds for claiming that certain comments about the monarchy are “disrespectful” or “mean spirited”.

I will continue to speak out in this way until we properly start to recognise how our support as a country for a system that rewards birth over achievement is damaging us.

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About the author
Mark Thompson is an occasional Liberal Conspiracy contributor. He is a Lib Dem member and activist and blogs about UK politics here
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Reader comments


Absolute meritocracy is impossible because equality of opportunity is impossible – unless we decide to confiscate everyone’s wealth and allocate it centrally. And money isn’t even the most important determinant. Those born to intelligent, attractive and mentally and physically fit parents are likely to enjoy vast advantages over others.

For example, being good-looking has got very little to do with merit – it’s an accident of birth – yet it completely changes how we are treated by others and how we see ourselves. I’m afraid the only response to fortune, good or ill, is to shrug one’s shoulders and get on with life while looking out for those less fortunate than ourselves.

Abolishing the Monarchy wouldn’t really make us feel better or more equal. It would create instability and remove something that makes most British people feel a little bit special. After all, foreigners seem to think it’s cool that we have a Royal family so why shouldn’t we?

“create instability ”

I contest your claim sir.

Meh. There’s no such thing as a ‘meritocracy’ anyway. It’s just another excuse to raise up a group of people as elites to lord it over the rest. So fully compatible with monarchy.

And money isn’t even the most important determinant. Those born to intelligent, attractive and mentally and physically fit parents are likely to enjoy vast advantages over others.

This is hopelessly wrong.

You only need to look at the generation of middle aged Windsors to knock this assertion out of the ballpark.

Democracy (popular voting) isn’t meritocratic either, so a presidential-syle republic is hardly a solution. Arguably, accident of birth leads to a little more dignity in a head of state than a vote-grab exercise.

Mark, I wouldn’t put too much faith in polls – I’ve worked on them, you can get whatever result the sponsor wants.
As to the monarchy, the immediate family probably cost us no more than the head of state of a ‘banana republic’. However their position seems to justify a panoply of hangers on and general parasites and the largesse they enjoy trickles down to the level whereby we provide round the clock security for a grandchild of the Queen on her ‘gap year’ and pay to ‘redecorate’ her student flat.
C’mon.
It’s a medieval anachronism, ignore the odious and utterly pathetic BBC Royal/Diamond Year propaganda machine and let’s stop pretending we still have this glorious empire on which the ‘sun never sets’..
We may still be told that we are the fifth richest nation on earth but most people I speak to think we’re a shitty little corrupt bankrupt island of the coast of Europe – it’s time we came to terms with it.
When the less timorous dare to enquire as to the public cost of this ‘celebration’ (bear in mind the BBC have refused to release the cost of covering the Royal Wedding) remember, across this sceptred isle, libraries and public toilets are closing, street lighting is being turned off and our infants have to take their chance with traffic, because we cannot afford school crossing patrols.
Yeah, ‘long may she reign over us’?

7. Matt Wardman

I’m quite happy to be a pragmatic monarchist on the basis that it evidently works at least as well, and probably better, than any other available alternative over any reasonable time period (= 1-2 centuries).

Which European country demonstrates that republics can work better?

That and the brain-dead argumentation put forward by Republic.

I too am against this so called meritocracy. What is this, some careerist jungle where it’s all down to the survival of the fittest? I hate the modern CV culture that we have nowadays, where you can’t get on unless you have proved yourself in a way that others judge to be worthy.

As for the monarchy, I don’t care that much for them either, but I won’t begrudge people what they want in that regard. I can’t stand seeing that little warmonger Prince Harry dancing in his blue suede shoes in Jamacia – but a lot of people do like that crap, so I accept that I’m in a minority. But I disagree with the OP about Brian May playing on the roof of Buckingham Palace. That’s positive.
I actually quite like these Jubilee celebrations as they bring people together.
I haven’t been, but have seen a nice harmonious vibe at these big royal events from the TV. In Leicester yesterday it was a chance for people from all racial backgrounds to come out and do a bit of flag waving and all be British together.
Not ideal I admit, but better than nothing.

Being anti-monarchy is a bit too ultra for me. It becomes elitist IMO, because it ends up looking down on the masses who are pro-monarchy.
A bit like people who say they ”abhor betting shops”.

We don’t need a head of state. Not at all. Let’s set an example and get rid of the whole stupid idea.

10
The position of the royal family, or more precisely the queen, is totally undemocratic, although I tend to question the notion of ‘meritocracy,’ having a head if state, who is there on the basis of birthright, is a contradiction within our political system.
Having a monarch who is both head of state and church is also problematic, especially with regard to the issue of eg gay marriage, in which the state may be in opposition to the stand made by the church.
Even if we ‘need’ a figurehead as a cultural representative of the country, the royal family are not it.

My objection to monarchy is quite simple. I reject totally the ludicrous notion that the Royal family is non political. Of course they are political. The current Queen has done a good job of hiding her views but not so Charles. When he becomes King we will know his views on almost everything. And I am opposed to most of his views.

A future labour govt will have big problems when he is king because he quite clearly can not be trusted to stop meddling. It always amuses me when we are told the alternative is President Thatcher or President Blair. But that is nonsensical. If we have a ceremonial head of state, then it can be anyone

The real function of the Monarchy is so when we don’t have a tory govt tories can console themselves by knowing the head of state is ‘one of us’

The case for retaining the monarchy is essentially a pragmatic one. As Walter Bagehot famously put it in: The English Constitution: “the Sovereign has, under a constitutional monarchy … three rights—the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn.”
http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/econ/ugcm/3ll3/bagehot/constitution.pdf

The Royal Assent to an Act of Parliament has not been refused since 1707, when Queen Anne refused it for a Bill for settling the militia in Scotland.

The prior substantive issues are whether to retain the sovereignty of Parliament and Parliamentary government in which the Prime Minister is head of government but not head of state. If so, a secondary issue is who would then become head of state, a monarch or another elected politician to perform the functions of a constitutional monarch. The German presidency, for example, has such limited, largely ceremonial functions – the recent incumbemt, President Wulff, has recently found it necessary to resign and the post is currently vacant until a new consensus appoinment is agreed between the political parties in the German Parliament.

An interesting historical question is why countries on the western fringes of Europe remain constitutional monarchies: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium, Britain and Spain.

13. Shatterface

Meritocracy is just another oligarchy, so no wonder there’s a cross-over with monarchism.

Its another way of dividing up wealth and power, more sinister than the monarchy because it ‘legitimates’ its inequality of outcome by appealing to a proposed equality of opportunity.

Worse still, the mainstream ‘left’ buy into it, hook, line and sinker, because they think they possess merit.

Even if equality of opportunity was achievable, and people did succeed on ‘merit’ alone, having a natural talent does not make you more deserving of power and wealth, and to live off the labour of those less fortunate than yourself.

@13: “Its another way of dividing up wealth and power, more sinister than the monarchy because it ‘legitimates’ its inequality of outcome by appealing to a proposed equality of opportunity. ”

Denmark and Sweden, both constitutional monarchies with Parliamentary forms of government, have among the most equal distributions of incomes among OECD countries – and the highest tax burdens to fund their welfare states.

The Nordic Social Market Models are usually celebrated for combining affluence with high levels of employment, supportive welfare states and more equal distributions of income. These countries are the very antithesis of the images painted in contributions here of dysfunctional monarchies with grotesquely unequal distributions of income and power.

15. Shatterface

I don’t think the Statist Left is prepared to critique meritocracy.

Monarchy is the ultimate expression of inherited wealth, capitalism is the ultimate expression of accumulated wealth, and meritocracy is the ultimate expression of bureacracy.

None address the fact of inequality itself.

16. Planeshift

“polls – I’ve worked on them, you can get whatever result the sponsor wants.”

Because it is possible to rig polls through clever design, that means every poll must have been rigged.

The logic of the right here.

(I’d hazard a guess that at least 50% of the people reading this have at some point worked on a poll – it’s hardly a unique thing to have done)

The worst fate that can befall a satirist is to be taken entirely seriously. When Michael Young wrote The Rise of The Meritocracy, his targets took him entirely seriously, and have been doing so ever since. His dystopia was, and is, their utopia, in which those with material wealth and paper qualifications determine “merit” on the basis of material wealth and paper qualifications. Clearly, they include his son.

Liberty is the freedom to be virtuous, and to do anything not specifically proscribed. Equality is the means to liberty, and is never to be confused with mechanical uniformity; it includes the Welfare State, workers’ rights, consumer protection, local government, a strong Parliament, public ownership, and many other things. And fraternity is the means to equality, for example in the form of trade unions, co-operatives, credit unions, mutual guarantee societies and mutual building societies, among numerous that could be cited. Liberty, equality and fraternity are therefore inseparable from nationhood, a space in which to be unselfish. Thus from family, the nation in miniature, where unselfishness is first learned. And thus from property, each family’s safeguard both against over-mighty commercial interests and against an over-mighty State, therefore requiring to be as widely diffused as possible, and thus the guarantor of liberty as here defined. The family, private property and the State must be protected and promoted on the basis of their common origin and their interdependence, such that the diminution or withering away of any one or two of them can only be the diminution and withering away of all three of them. All three are embodied by monarchy.

Monarchy also embodies the principle of sheer good fortune, of Divine Providence conferring responsibilities upon the more fortunate towards the less fortunate. It therefore provides an excellent basis for social democracy, as has proved the case in the United Kingdom, in the Old Commonwealth, in Scandinavia and in the Benelux countries. Allegiance to a monarchy is allegiance to an institution embodied by a person, rather than to an ethnicity or an ideology, as the basis of the State. As Bernie Grant understood, allegiance to this particular monarchy, with its role in the Commonwealth, is a particular inoculation against racialism. No wonder that the National Party abolished it in South Africa, lowering the voting age to that end. No wonder that the Rhodesian regime followed suit, and removed the Union Flag from that of Rhodesia, something that not even the Boers’ revenge republic ever did. No wonder that the BNP wants to abolish the monarchy here. It is not only because, via the “Negroid” Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the Queen is descended from the part-black royal line of Portugal. It is not even only because, via the part-Moorish Elizabeth of York, the Queen is descended from Muhammad.

The important prior is whether we want to retain Parliamentary government or switch to a Presidentiual form of government with an executive presidency, as in America – France has a hybrid system. The question of choosing the selection of head of state if we choose to retain Parliamentary government is secondary.

17
Superb piece of prose wriing but bullshit nonetheless.

Trade unionists and activists peremptorily dismissed an attempt to make the nascent Labour Party anti-monarchist. Theirs was a movement replete with MBEs, OBEs, CBEs, mayoral chains, aldermen’s gowns, and civic services; a movement which proudly provided a high proportion of Peers of the Realm, Knights of the Garter, members of the Order of Merit, and Companions of Honour, who had rejoiced in their middle periods to be Lords Privy Seal, or Comptrollers of Her Majesty’s Household, or so many other such things, in order to deliver the social democratic goods within the parliamentary process in all its ceremony. Attlee not only made no attempt to introduce life peerages, not only created 82 hereditary peers in only six years as Prime Minister, and not only accepted an earldom on his own retirement from the Commons. But during those six short years, he sanctioned eight promotions in the peerage. It is impossible to imagine a clearer expression of commitment to the principle.

Attlee appointed Mountbatten as Viceroy of India, and Mountbatten was also Wilson’s first choice for the new position of Secretary of State for Defence, which he felt obliged to decline only because of his closeness to the Royal Family, no small part of why he had been asked in the first place. The Silver Jubilee was held under the Callaghan Government. The Queen had famously good relations with Wilson and Callaghan, in stark contrast to her famously bad relations with Thatcher, who called her “the sort of person who votes for the SDP” and who sought to usurp her position in public life, using Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers to vilify the Royal Family and giving statutory effect to Murdoch’s desired weakening of constitutional ties between Australia and the United Kingdom. Callaghan threatened to resign as Labour Leader rather than contest a General Election on Tony Benn’s policy of abolishing the House of Lords as that House was constituted in 1980.

John Redwood may dine out on his opposition to the Major Government’s decision to scrap the Royal Yacht, but it was Peter Shore who denounced it at the time, and Shore also supported Canadian against Spanish fishermen not least because Canada and the United Kingdom shared a Head of State. Both on the Royal Yacht and on fisheries, even the Scottish National Party now agrees with him, while recent calls for a new Royal Yacht have been joined by a Labour MP, Kate Hoey. Labour MPs opposed Thatcher’s cutting of Canada’s last tie to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, so opposing for the sake of the Aboriginal peoples and of the French-Canadians, in both cases specifically as Her Majesty’s subjects. Both King George VI and the Queen Mother were honorary members of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, which the latter accepted from her great friend, Ron Todd, with specific reference to her late husband’s great admiration for Ernest Bevin. The Duke of Edinburgh also enjoys honorary trade union membership, courtesy of the lightermen and stevedores. Bernie Grant vociferously supported the monarchy because of its role in the Commonwealth.

Only a movement of this kind, steeped in royal, parliamentary and municipal pageantry and charity, could preserve and celebrate the pageantry and charity of the City of London while ending its status as a tax haven and as a state within the State, Europe’s last great Medieval republican oligarchy, right where the United Kingdom ought to be. The liberties of the City were granted to a city properly so called, with a full social range of inhabitants and workers. The Crown should explicitly guarantee the hereditary economic and cultural rights of, for example, the Billingsgate fish porters, in the same way as it guaranteed or guarantees those of Aboriginal peoples elsewhere in the Empire and the Commonwealth. The British national interest is never to be confused with the interest of a separate state, Wall Street’s tax haven, which the Queen may not enter without special permission and where the writ of Parliament does not run, thereby denying its British inhabitants parliamentary as well as municipal democracy, since the legal rights and protections enacted by the House in which they have an elected Member do not extend to them.

Buy the book here.

That’s more verbal diarrhea which fails to address the fundamental question of whether Britain would retain a Parliamentary system of government or switch to an executive presidency.

Nutcases apart, few would argue for returning to the old arrangement at the time of Charles I or James II where the reigning monarch considered himself the executive head of state by divine ordinance.

What would be the point of nation-wide popular elections for a head of state whose only role is ceremonial? What sort of turnout would there be? If anything, the electorate has grown tired of politics and politicians. It’s no accident that turnout at the last three general elections has been low by historic standards:
http://www.ukpolitical.info/Turnout45.htm

The cost of the nation-wide referendum on an alternative voting system last year was c. £80 million. Add to that campaign spending to elect a president with ceremonial functions and that amounts a gross waste that could be better spent on public services.

22. Dick the Prick

Meritocracy’s a fucking joke – all these teenagers getting in the way; no respect! Let’s show a bit of time to waxing lyrical… Lady Gaga has recommended a new Bruce Springstein album so off I waddle. All the best folks, have a lovely weekend.

Oh, dear, Bob B, you do walk into these things, don’t you? Charles I? In sillier circles, the imposition of the greatest tyranny in English (never mind Irish) history is termed “the English Revolution”. In fact, of course, it long preceded the emergence of any industrial proletariat and is wholly inexplicable in Marxist terms, just as is the very existence of any Marxist movement in, say, the Russia of 1917, or Albania, or China at least until very recent years, or Korea, or Vietnam, or Nepal, or Bengal, or Sri Lanka, or Ethiopia, or Zimbabwe, or Uganda, or Rwanda, or South Africa, or Cuba, or Peru, or Bolivia, or … well, make your own list. At their respective heights of Communism, certainly Spain, and arguably also Italy and even France, were standing contradictions of the whole theory. If there is any truth at all in the Marxist analysis of history, then these things simply cannot be. I think that we all know what follows from the fact that these things are.

But didn’t Charles I believe in the Divine Right of Kings? No, he did not. Or at least he certainly expressed no such view at his grotesque “trial” pursuant to a Bill of Attainder, and before eighty of his carefully selected parliamentary and military enemies under a second-rate lawyer, John Bradshaw, created “Lord President” because all the proper judges had fled London rather than have anything to do with the wretched proceedings. There, Charles declared repeatedly that, by denying the authority of the “court” to try him, he was simply upholding the law as it then existed, including the liberties of the English people and the parliamentary institutions of the English State. No law permitted the trial of the monarch, he argued. On the contrary, the law of treason then in force provided for exactly the opposite, namely that any attack on the monarch’s person was itself an offence. Simply as a matter of fact, he was right. And the subsequent behaviour of the Cromwellian regime fully vindicated him.

And James II? The roots of the American Republic, of the campaign against the slave trade, of Radical and Tory action against social evils, of the extension of the franchise, of the creation of the Labour Movement, and of opposition to the Boer and First World Wars, all go back to Catholic, High Church (and thus first Methodist and then also Anglo-Catholic, as well as Scottish Episcopalian), Congregationalist, Baptist, Quaker and other disaffection with the Whig Revolution of 1688, such that within those communities, long after any hope of a Stuart restoration had died, there remained a sense that the Hanoverian State, its Empire, and that Empire’s capitalist ideology were less than fully legitimate, a sense which had startlingly far-reaching consequences. Radical action for social justice and for peace derived from testing the State and its policies against theologically grounded criteria of legitimacy. It still does.

You find yourself against all the people whom I listed at 20, but on the same side as the Prime Minister who scorned the Commonwealth, social cohesion, historical continuity and public Christianity. She called the Queen “the sort of person who votes for the SDP”, arrogating to herself the properly monarchical and royal role on the national and international stages, using her most popular supporting newspaper to vilify the Royal Family. And she legislated to pre-empt the courts on both sides of the Atlantic by renouncing the British Parliament’s role in the amendment of the Canadian Constitution, as well as, on the instructions of Rupert Murdoch, to abolish the power of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to legislate for individual Australian states, to end the British Government’s consultative role in Australian state-level affairs, and to deprive the Queen’s Australian subjects of their right of appeal to Her Majesty in Council. If you approve of these attitudes and changes, then you approve of Margaret Thatcher.

Instead of debating the monarchy, which is a non-issue, IMO it would make better political sense – and it is certainly a greater priority – to discuss turning the House of Lords into an elected chamber. That is highly likely to get pushed through in the near future since all three of the main political parties want to make the Lords “democratically elected”.

The question is: Why bother, when the Lords has little real power compared with the upper chambers in other legislatures, like the US Senate or the Bundesrat in Germany, which can and do block or amend legislation? The Lords can’t debate finance bills and it can only block other legislation passed by the Commons for a year unless it’s a bill to extend the life of Parliament. Unlike the US Senate, the Lords doesn’t have the power to approve or block cabinate appointments.

If the Lords is turned into an elected chamber, that will wipe out the cross-benchers who make debates in the Lords informed, worthwhile and influential. That is probably the main motive for the partisan political pressure to turn the Lords into an elected chamber – which is sad. It only makes sense to turn the Lords into an elected chamber if it is given real legislative powers, like the US Senate or the Bundestag. But that isn’t going to happen.

Bob B, it was as wrong to silence the voice of the aristocratic social conscience by abolishing hereditary barons as to silence the voice of organised labour by abolishing trade union barons. One way or another, both of those voices must be heard again.

The principle of male primogeniture in the hereditary peerage, and in the monarchy, does in fact point to the importance of the male line, and thus to the paternal authority of which the State has a duty to guarantee the economic basis. That basis is intimately bound up both with public ownership (which is also a key safeguard of national sovereignty and of the Union) and with trade unionism, as well with the pursuit, in which the unions are again significant, of the peace that protects children from being deprived of their fathers, who are thus able to exercise their familial and wider social responsibilities precisely as fathers, assisted as ever by the State.

Thank goodness that there is still some part of our parliamentary system from which it remains possible to speak from outside the nasty but inevitable union between, on the one hand, what has always been the anti-parliamentary New Left and, on the other hand, the sociologically indistinguishable New Right’s arrival at hatred of Parliament as the natural conclusion of its hatred of the State. From that union, together with the SDP’s misguided Alliance with the Liberals around their practically Bennite constitutional agenda, derives the Political Class’s desire to abolish the House of Lords.

For those who keep such scores, the House of Lords has a higher proportion of women, a higher proportion of people from ethnic minorities, a broader range of ethnic minorities, and far more people from working-class backgrounds generally and the trade union movement in particular, than can be found down the corridor. More significantly, and despite the very hard efforts of successive governments, it also retains a broader range of political opinion, more reflective of the country at large.

But that is under grave threat, both from the party machines and from the way of all flesh. The future composition of the House would be secured, at least in part, by providing for each current life peer, at least who attends very or fairly regularly, to name an heir, by no means necessarily or even ordinarily a relative, but rather a political and a wider intellectual soul mate. That heir would become a peer upon his or her nominator’s death, and would thus acquire the same right of nomination.

However, if there must be an elected second chamber instead, then let each of the English ceremonial counties, the Scottish lieutenancy areas, the Welsh preserved counties, and the traditional six counties of Northern Ireland, plus perhaps the London Boroughs and the Metropolitan Boroughs, elect an equal number (say, six), with each of us voting for one candidate, with the requisite number declared elected at the end, with no Ministers in that House although they would appear before it for Departmental Question Times, and, which is perhaps the most important point of all, with parties that contested elections to the House of Commons banned from contesting elections to the second chamber.

26. So Much For Subtlety

2. Step Left

I contest your claim sir.

Contest away. What’s your evidence? A Republican form of government that is also stable is a bit of a contradiction in terms. I can think of one example – the US. The rest tend to be monarchies. As we see in the Arab world where the so called Arab Spring has taken down a series of republics but has only touched one monarchy although without removing the ruler from power. Compare Sweden and France. When was the last time Sweden had a radical change in political form? That would be back in the time of Napoleon? Since the Revolution France has had Four Republics, two Empires, two Restorations, one Commune and Vichy. Plus a military coup every fifty or sixty years.

Nick

Democracy (popular voting) isn’t meritocratic either, so a presidential-syle republic is hardly a solution. Arguably, accident of birth leads to a little more dignity in a head of state than a vote-grab exercise.

So how about we make it a genuine accident of birth? We can combine both systems. The next time we need a new ruler, once the Queen has died, we can copy the Tibetans and search out the Empire for her born-again Reincarnation. Some baby girl so selected could then be raised to do the job. Random and hence democratic. Yet combining the stability and continuity of the monarchy.

Barrie J

We may still be told that we are the fifth richest nation on earth but most people I speak to think we’re a shitty little corrupt bankrupt island of the coast of Europe – it’s time we came to terms with it.

And that is one of the many reasons the republican movement – and the Left in general – is so weak. Hatred of your country and fellow countrymen is a prescription for Vichy, not for electable government.

@6: “We may still be told that we are the fifth richest nation on earth but most people I speak to think we’re a shitty little corrupt bankrupt island of the coast of Europe – it’s time we came to terms with it.”

Until recently, Britain had the sixth largest national economy, as measured by GDP, but Brazil has just overtaken us so we now have the seventh largest (NOT affluent or richest) economy.

This table shows various estimates of national GDP per capita:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita

It is contested whether per capita GDP is a dependable measure of national affluence but Britain certainly does not rate as the fifth richest nation by the estimates shown.

“You just can’t be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy”

Aye ya can. If you wanted to find a common ground between getting rid of the royalty and keeping them then the answer is simple. Make them self reliant by completely cutting their funding. Find me one credible argument that the royal family can’t pay their own way.

“Meritocracy” is the liberal’s compromise with the right to restrict equality to “those who deserve it” and so exclude from liberal utopia all the “undeserving”. Just what constitutes desert is, of course, left to the determination of those who have accumulated power, cultural and economic, and who therefore can impose their decision on the rest of us. Tough if you fall outside the definition, for what ever reason, and must therefore face the judgement of the lucky that you have deserved your misfortune and poverty.

30. Charlieman

@28. Daniel: “If you wanted to find a common ground between getting rid of the royalty and keeping them then the answer is simple. Make them self reliant by completely cutting their funding. Find me one credible argument that the royal family can’t pay their own way.”

No thanks. If the royal family act as political busybodies, I take comfort that I am paying for them and can shout at them. If they pay their own way, they become private citizens and I have to treat them with civility. Just imagine the dilemma of treating Prince Charles as an intellectual equal.

31. Man on Clapham Omnibus

This is one of those arduous questions that come up from time to time ;basically space fillers. To be a Monarchist is to comply with a fuedal ideology. To be a Meritocrat is to comply more to an idealised socialist society. Can people believe in both? Of course they can. To think they can’t suggests that individuals belief systems are coherent and informed neither of which is generally the case.I think Gramsci referred to it as ‘common sense’.

32. Chaise Guevara

I have to disagree with this. You can support meritocracy in general and still be in favour of keeping a silly old tradition alive for the sake of history. I think we should get rid of the royals, but I wouldn’t keep insisting that someone was lying about believing in meritocracy just because they were a royalist.

Can I just say that I love the argument that a monarch, as a fundamentally undemocratic institution who cannot legally be replaced or recalled, makes a brilliant fundamental guarantor of UK democracy?

a) It’s brilliantly twisty
b) It repurposes something from another era in a very clever-cloggs conservative way (no wonder Michael Gove loves it)
b) It’s never been proved wrong. Or right…

Anyway, I tend to see the UK as a dictatorship where the Supreme Dictator spends her time trying to make her choice of Prime Minister conform to democratic wishes so as to avoid anyone noticing that she is the Supreme Dictator. She is also head of a church of whose priests about a tenth dislike the idea that a woman can become their equal.

Also, I can’t believe Tim Worstall hasn’t posted anything pithy on this thread yet. Something’s gone wrong somewhere.

No cigar there. Nothing on whether we want to retain a Parliamentary system of government or switch to a Presidential system with an executive head of state, as in America. If we retain Parliamentary government and reject the monarch as head of state, how should we decide on the alternative?

Yes you can!

“Yes you can!”

The monarch rules by the Act of Settlement of 1701:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Act_of_Settlement_1701

Parliament is sovereign so it can amend the legislation as to who is to be the head of state but then a decision has to be made as to the alternative to the monarchy. If we really live in a meritocracy, it is reasonable to expect some answers to that but none have been forthcoming.

38. Plasma Man

A hereditary monarchy and racism are the same thing. They both rely on the idea that someone’s worth is determined by their ancestry.

“They both rely on the idea that someone’s worth is determined by their ancestry.”

In recent years, much medical research has gone on into whether inherited genes create a predisposition towards developing some diseases – such as breast cancer in women and heart disease. It has long been recognised that there is an ethnic bias in susceptibility to sickle cell anaemia. It would be absolutely absurd to label that research “racist” because of the genetic links.

It remains the case that Britain’s monarch rules because of the Act of Settlement of 1701 and Parliament can amend that legislation. The question is still unresolved as to who is to be the head of state if not the monarch. We would also need to decide on whether the alternative head of state is to be restricted to exercising only the ceremonial functions of the monarchy or to have the greater powers of an executive president – as in America.

40. Trooper Thompson

As the Queen is Head of the Church of England, would a compromise be for the Archbishop of Canterbury to take over as Head of State?

41. Man on Clapham Omnibus

Why have a head of state at all. If you need one have the Mayor of the City of London.
Even the Queen waits for him to arrive.

“Why have a head of state at all.”

Why do almost all nations choose to have a head of state?

The abolition of a formal head of state in addition to a head of government – the Prime Minister in the case of Britain – would leave the latter with no one to answer to and become, effectively, the head of state in addition to being head of government.

Parliament, as sovereign in Britain’s constitutional arrangements, is certainly competent to create an executive presidency, combining the roles and functions of head of state and government, but has chosen not to do so, presumably because Parliament values the contributions of a constitutional monarch as described by Bagehot – see the quote and link @12.

There is also the matter of those Commonwealth countries which choose to regard the monarch as their head of state alongside their national systems of Parliamentary government. India, of course, is a republic, but it has a Parliamentary system of government and its elected president has the role and functions of a constitutional monarch.

Occasionally, monarchs and presidents in Parliamentary systems in Europe have intervened to resolve political deadlocks. In 1981, King Juan Carlos of Spain intervened to thwart an attempted coup made against the Spanish Parliament:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_Carlos_I_of_Spain

By most accounts, there is continuing wide public support for the monarchy in Spain. As remarked, it is an interesting historical question as to why nations on the western finges of Europe have chosen to stay as constitutional monarchies. It can hardly be argued, on the evidence, that the Nordic constitutional monarchies are characterised by traditions of rampant inequality lacking extensive provision for social security.

I really don’t think this is a pressing issue. The likely reform of the House of Lords is far more important in terms of the ways in which that will affect legislation. As mentioned, the last time a monarch refused to sign an act of Parliament was Queen Anne in 1707.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    You just can't be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy http://t.co/gOR0SnYZ

  2. Nick Forbes

    You just can't be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy http://t.co/gOR0SnYZ

  3. Paul Crowley

    You just can't be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy http://t.co/gOR0SnYZ

  4. Edward

    You just can't be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy http://t.co/gOR0SnYZ

  5. Jason Brickley

    You just can’t be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy http://t.co/3PPMLXWv

  6. TeresaMary

    You just can't be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy http://t.co/gOR0SnYZ

  7. anotherwhitemug.com

    You just can't be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy | Liberal … – The EDL and BNP start to join forces. 5… http://t.co/P9ZGEv5M

  8. Michael Moore

    You just can't be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy http://t.co/gOR0SnYZ

  9. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – You just can’t be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy http://t.co/qxQu2UyB

  10. Patron Press - #P2

    #UK : You just can ’t be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy http://t.co/9BABcmw4

  11. Rhys Hartley

    You just can't be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy http://t.co/gOR0SnYZ

  12. Andy S

    You just can't be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy http://t.co/caE9rdqB (via @libcon)

  13. Alf

    No se puede ser monárquico y creer en la meritocracia http://t.co/CILY2Akd

  14. Roberto Ortiz

    No se puede ser monárquico y creer en la meritocracia http://t.co/CILY2Akd

  15. Dissenting Liberal

    But meritocracy has its limits RT @libcon: You just can't be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy http://t.co/EgeLXY2T

  16. William Hill

    @RepublicStaff http://t.co/vmoBrblx good article

  17. Mark Thompson

    You just can’t be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy – my latest for @LibCon http://t.co/Dj6AZJQJ via @libcon

  18. Peter Risdon

    You just can’t be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy – my latest for @LibCon http://t.co/Dj6AZJQJ via @libcon

  19. Janet Graham

    You just can't be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy http://t.co/gOR0SnYZ

  20. Nick Hall

    I still don't really understand people's support for the monarchy, this pretty much sums up my views http://t.co/g0xbwQ8f

  21. Republic Staff

    “@hillww1: @RepublicStaff http://t.co/W9bWPn5B good article” Join the debate…

  22. The WOO

    http://t.co/C253y6wW Liberal Conspiracy on meritocracy

  23. Labour are doorstepping naked, ‘public schoolboy’ Cameron is suffering and the government isn’t loved by anyone: political blog round up for 3 – 9 March | British Politics and Policy at LSE

    […] not possible to be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy, argues Liberal […]

  24. Hil

    You just can’t be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy http://t.co/tBXp84vv

  25. Tom King

    “@hillww1: @RepublicStaff http://t.co/W9bWPn5B good article” Join the debate…

  26. Labour 4 a Republic

    "You cannot credibly be a meritocrat whilst simultaneously supporting the monarchy" http://t.co/Lbaz40Mf

  27. Labour 4 a Republic

    "the Monarchy and the aristocracy prop up our entire class system" http://t.co/Lbaz40Mf

  28. Labour 4 a Republic

    "A system that rewards birth over achievement is damaging us" http://t.co/Lbaz40Mf

  29. A common lawyer

    "A system that rewards birth over achievement is damaging us" http://t.co/Lbaz40Mf

  30. A common lawyer

    "@Labour4Republic: "the Monarchy and the aristocracy prop up our entire class system" http://t.co/B4OsVe2M" @petewjames #republicnow

  31. Tom King

    "You cannot credibly be a meritocrat whilst simultaneously supporting the monarchy" http://t.co/Lbaz40Mf

  32. Lyn Poole

    "A system that rewards birth over achievement is damaging us" http://t.co/Lbaz40Mf

  33. Republic Scotland

    "the Monarchy and the aristocracy prop up our entire class system" http://t.co/Lbaz40Mf

  34. Complex

    Shout to @MarkReckons for his piece "You just can't be a monarchist and believe in meritocracy" http://t.co/ozDKQTHr #republicnow

  35. Michael John Morriss

    You just can’t be a Monarchist and believe in meritocracy | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/rgX6rbfX via @libcon

  36. Purbeck Pashmina

    "A system that rewards birth over achievement is damaging us" http://t.co/Lbaz40Mf





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