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Another thought about the monarchy, which I didn’t quite finish in time to post immediately after the last one.

Say you live somewhere without a monarchy. You’ve got a government running things in the form of a representational democracy. It’s based, at least in theory, on politicians holding office for limited terms to carry out the will of the people who directly elected to put them there. But it’s still a flawed system in many ways, and you’re wondering how it could be improved.

While discussing this very subject, your drinking buddy Ten-Toed Jake pipes up.


Hey, [opines Jake], you know what I reckon’d sort this government out? If they put me in charge of everything. Make me the big boss of the whole country, I’d knock ’em into shape.

Oh god, [you sigh], this is going to be another of your implausibly drawn-out, baffling flights of fancy that I’m going to have to play along with, isn’t it? Alright, then, let’s see. Putting you in charge of the whole country… It’s not quite in keeping with the whole notion of democracy or egalitarianism, is it, Jake?

Nah, but look where just voting for people’s got us. Everyone hates politicians. They’re just in it for themselves, they spend more time campaigning than actually working to help anyone. They could do with being taken down a peg, having someone they have to suck up to, make sure they don’t get too big for their boots. I reckon I’d be good at that. And then when I die, my son can take over.

One-Nosed Colin? What, so he gets to run the country after you? And then his kid, I suppose, and on and on down the generations forever?

Yeah, why not?

For a start, your family all seem to have weird names that describe perfectly normal and unsurprising characteristics.

You’ve not met my cousin, Gary Twoballsbutnotwhereyoumightexpect.

But mostly, why should it be you and your family, indefinitely? I mean, you’re not even pretending to be democratic about this. Who gave you the right to just decide you’re in charge of everything now?

Oh, I see. You want in on the action, eh? Making a power-grab? I’ll arm-wrestle you for it.

What?

I mean, I think it should be a basically arbitrary choice who gets to rule over everything, and obviously I think that arbitrary choice should be me. But it might as well be based on any number of things. We could arm-wrestle for it, or maybe have a “whose ancestor was the awesomest” contest. Just so long as we pick someone, then stick with them and their descendents forever. No changing things around centuries down the line. At least not without a massive, devastating civil war.

This still sounds insane, Jake. I admit the current system could stand some serious changes, but I don’t see how this can possibly be an improvement.

Okay, fine. Have it your way. We can say I won’t have any power to actually run the country, I won’t get to make any of the actual decisions – but they’ll all still have to, like, ask my permission to do everything, and stuff. Not because I really get to decide, it’s just ceremonial. Keeps them from getting too uppity, y’know? For the look of the thing. And I’ll need millions of dollars of taxpayer money every year to keep up this fabulous new lifestyle of mine.

Hmm.

I’ve got to be able to pay for my gold-plated butler, otherwise how can I expect the Junior Senator from Oklachusetts to feel appropriately demeaned when he has to kiss my feet and call me “your glorious, well-endowed worshipfulness” every time he wants a bill passed?

You’re not selling me on this, Jake.

Oh, come on. Think of the pageantry! The glamour! The spectacle! People will flock just to be near me! It’d be great for the tourist industry.

I’m not sure people would want to get closer to you if you declared yourself king and started ordering everyone around, Jake. Actually it’s starting to have the opposite effect. But even if they did, I don’t think it’s worth giving up the ideas of equality that we at least nominally cherish, and raising some arbitrary line of individuals onto some kind of diamond-encrusted pedestal, regardless of their merit or qualities, and exacerbating any class problems our society might have by reinforcing the notion that some people are inherently better than others and deserve fealty and unearned wealth as part of their birthright, just in the hopes of bringing in some hypothetical, hard-to-calculate, harder-to-prove foreign coin.

Huh. That was quite a speech. Really tripped off your tongue, there. Almost like you’d crafted it ahead of time in order to make some sort of point.

What can I say, I’m a fluent public speaker. Look, Jake, it’s not about you, you’re a great guy… It’s just the idea of having anyone in that position of bizarre pseudo-authority. It doesn’t sit right. It seems like an entirely superfluous addition to a supposedly egalitarian society.

Hmm. Well, I’m going to go ahead with the coup I had planned anyway. I think it’s my round first though. Another pint?

Cheers.


I may have lost the thread at the end a bit there. But the point, of course, is that introducing a purely symbolic monarchy seems to make very little sense, if you imagine a world where we don’t already have one. Our own system evidently isn’t one we’d want to switch back to, were the status quo different. So maybe it’s time for a change.

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