Immoral Monarchy

At qwghlm, Chris dissects the ‘myth of 62p’, the amount that the Royals cost each UK resident, each year. He rightly points out that the figure is derived from the civil list, and does not include those associated costs such as security for royal visits and weddings. I might also add that the 62p figure is derived by dividing the total cost (£37.4m) by the population of the UK (approximately 60m), whereas it should be divided by the number of taxpayers, which would yield a significantly higher figure.

While I understand the nature of Chris’ argument, I fear it will fall on deaf ears. Debates over cost will always be futile, because – as he points out, in fact – many monarchists will declare 62p to be good value for money, and would be glad to pay more.

The argument over the monarchy is an argument over the very system of politics, not value judgements over the allocation of our shared wealth and resources. The debate cannot therefore be about value-for-money, or economics. The monarchy institutionalises privilege at the very centre of our political system. It would still be immoral even if it were free. In fact, it would still be immoral if the Queen paid us to be Head of State. Cutting down the civil list, and persuading the Royals to pay tax, are mere fudges designed to give the impression of progress, where in fact none is being made. It would be more honest if Her Majesty had kept her Royal Yacht, her private jets, and locked the tourists out of Buckingham Palace. We would then look upon her as she truly is: Not some kind of A list celebrity, but as the hereditary ruler of these islands, with dominon over us all, her subjects.

Queen's Coronation

33 thoughts on “Immoral Monarchy

  1. Security is not just for Visits and Weddings – it is for all the residences and for all the bodyguards etc needed. Camilla keeps on her pre-marital residence and even that has full time security. Ours is not to reason why I suppose.
    I like the idea of monarchy but I find the idea of some of the protocol which assumes they are better than us offensive – eg How she must be called Maam and not the longer Maarm and you don’t speak unless spoken to and even the curtsey – I defer to people if I believe that in that particular sphere they are better than me but I don’t know the Queen so have no idea whether I should defer to her. I have always maintained that if I was nursing Charles in his PJs in a ward full of other patients I would treat him the same as anyone else.

  2. I don’t think you can have it both ways, Kathy. The “idea of the monarchy” is precisely a set of protocols based upon the idea that they have power over other people, by right of birth.

  3. Yup, I would indeed far rather pay £10 a year for the monarchy that £1 a year to Gordon Brown’s pension.

    The trouble is, to say that the monarchy is morally wrong because it entrenches priviledge is to fundamentally deny that priviledge actually exists. You’ll be telling me that the republican USA’s Kennedy family are the salt of the earth next.

    Yes, priviledge exists, so what?

    DK

  4. Its not priviledge per se, but institutionalised priviledge I have a problem with. Despite appearances to the contrary, the American dynasties aren’t actually part of the system of government.

  5. It isn’t really clear Rob if it’s the economic privilege of the monarchy you object to, or the political power. I think we have had this debate here before, but economic inequalities (and therefore privilege/disadvantage) are, I think, a fact of life, and the man-made ones are underpinned far more by the actual government and its policies than by the monarchy. Look at that grand republic, the us of a. And as for an argument about the monarchy’s political power, well that’s clearly a non-runner, isn’t it, since the monarchy doesn’t actually have any.

    So what exactly is your objection? The argument over the monarchy is NOTHING to do with a system of politics – as such it had its day back in the 1600s. Its involvement in our democratic government is purely symbolic and ritualistic.

    I would argue that people who want to abolish the monarchy do so a) out of malicious pique that some people have more money than they do, or richer parents, or more illustrious lineage – and are probably the same people who think that all must have prizes (clearly a ridiculous and immoral position) – and/or b) because it is more comfortable for them to gloss over and forget the historical inequities upon which our country is based, than to acknowledge and remember them, which is one useful function the monarchy serves. This too is an immoral position.

    The monarchy is also an important part of our cultural identity, whether we are proud of our history or not, and because it is a living link to our ancestors, it is a little more meaningful than a government which changes every four years, and whose members carry very little long-term responsibility for the mish-mash of self-serving policies they pursue.

    The monarchy serves as a perhaps uncomfortable reminder of past and present man-made inequities, and for that reason I think it’s a very good thing, and yes, a moral thing, to keep a symbolic ritualised version of it, to keep the concept of equity foremost in our consciousness.

    Yes, our past is morally dubious, with institutionalised inequities, but so is the present, in ways quite unrelated to the monarchy. Why not focus on those, since many more individual lives would be transformed for the better?

  6. It isn’t really clear Rob if it’s the economic privilege of the monarchy you object to, or the political power.

    Political. Obviously. They represent the idea that some people should rule over others by virtue of their birth. To endorse any kind of hereditary monarchical system is to endorse this idea. There is no avoiding it.

    gument about the monarchy’s political power, well that’s clearly a non-runner, isn’t it, since the monarchy doesn’t actually have any.

    Huh? The notion that they do not have political power is an odd one. They do not make policy, but political power is invested in the office they hold by birth. The Queen signs a bill and it becomes an Act. That is a very real power over me. When I am put before a judge, I am prosecuted in the name of the Queen, whose subject I am, not my fellow citizens.

    So what exactly is your objection? The argument over the monarchy is NOTHING to do with a system of politics – as such it had its day back in the 1600s. Its involvement in our democratic government is purely symbolic and ritualistic.

    … and a law cannot actually become one until the monarch signs it!

    I would argue that people who want to abolish the monarchy do so a) out of malicious pique that some people have more money than they do, or richer parents, or more illustrious lineage – and are probably the same people who think that all must have prizes (clearly a ridiculous and immoral position)

    This doesn’t apply to me. It doesn’t apply to the argument either. I would have a problem with a monarchical system even if the rulers were forced, as part of the consitution, to live in pig-swill.

    and/or b) because it is more comfortable for them to gloss over and forget the historical inequities upon which our country is based, than to acknowledge and remember them, which is one useful function the monarchy serves. This too is an immoral position.

    The monarchy is the primary symbol of many of these inequalities. I don’t see how suggesting the founding principles of the system are wrong leads to forgetting about other inequalities. Indeed, I would suggest it brings them into focus.

    The monarchy is also an important part of our cultural identity, whether we are proud of our history or not, and because it is a living link to our ancestors, it is a little more meaningful than a government which changes every four years, and whose members carry very little long-term responsibility for the mish-mash of self-serving policies they pursue.

    Yup.

    The monarchy serves as a perhaps uncomfortable reminder of past and present man-made inequities, and for that reason I think it’s a very good thing, and yes, a moral thing, to keep a symbolic ritualised version of it, to keep the concept of equity foremost in our consciousness.

    This is bizarre, nineteenth century logic. You seem to be saying, because the world, and our system is unfair, we should place a symbol of unfairness at its centre, as a reminder? What kind of crappy example does that set to people who aspire to, like, anything? Homer Simpson said: “Son, you tried and you failed. The moral of the story is: Never try.” You are telling everyone that life isn’t fair, and that they should know their place. And if they forget it, they can always be reminded by the stamps, coins, and commemorative plates.

    Yes, our past is morally dubious, with institutionalised inequities, but so is the present, in ways quite unrelated to the monarchy. Why not focus on those, since many more individual lives would be transformed for the better?

    Why not focus on both? The practical challenges facing this country and the world should indeed be addressed. By thats a practical argument. I’m talking about a moral argument, the general principle of the thing. As I said in the post, we shouldn’t use economic or administrative arguments to justify an immoral sentiment at the heart of our political system.

  7. Well, I can’t do italics, so I will just have to fisk with numbers.

    1. The monarchy does NOT represent the idea that some people SHOULD rule over other people by virtue of their birth. It represents the idea that some people USED to rule….etc etc.

    2. You may not know this, but the Queen doesn’t actually have much choice about signing bills that have been voted in by Parliament. She doesn’t in practice have the right to refuse. And she doesn’t have the power to make up and sign her own bills. If you call that real political power, then perhaps you should do a degree in PPE. The “power” you refer to is in name only. I don’t see why this is so difficult to see, it’s as plain as the nose on your face.

    3. You may call my logic names if you wish, but that doesn’t make my argument wrong. I never said that suggesting that the founding principles (of monarchy) are wrong leads to forgetting about other equalities. What I said was that removing something which is little more than a potent reminder (and a lucrative one) of said principles and that they were wrong is like saying you’d sooner forget. I think we have a moral duty to remember.

    3.5 I am not especially saying either that because the world is unfair, we should have a symbol of unfairness at its centre. Firstly it may surprise you to know that the UK is not the centre of the world. What I was saying was that because our history has enshrined a political system which is fundamentally unfair, and taken this unfairness around the world through empire, we have a duty to acknowledge and remember this fact, however uncomfortable it may be. The system is changed now that we are governed by parliamentary democracy, but the symbol of how we got here is important. I was trying to distinguish between two sources of unfairness, which perhaps I did not make clear. There is a degree of “unfairness” inherent to the human condition – some people are born uglier, or less intelligent, or with or without any number of “disadvantages”. This is life and it is childish and petulant to punish anyone for it. However, there is also a degree of unfairness created and perpetuated by people and by political systems. This kind of deliberate unfairness is morally dubious, and those people who seek to perpetuate it should be stopped and/or punished. eg murderers and tyrants. The Queen is neither of those, she is a puppet of Parliament, that’s all.

    If you accept that not everyone has the same parents, or the same abilities, and you accept that the monarchy is an important part of our cultural identity and symbol of our history (and source of tourist dollar), and you can appreciate that the Queen has power in name only, and that the monarchy only represents what USED to be, not what is or should be, then your arguments for abolishing the monarchy fall rather flat, and look rather silly. That you’d sooner not have a reminder of Britain’s dubious and thereby illustrious political history tells me you’d sooner forget.

    The Queen is not at the heart of our political system. You’re thinking of the Prime Minister. You can’t blame the Queen for *his* immoral sentiments. The monarchy as a symbol merely REFERS to our past immoral system of government, not our prestent one, since the monarchy now has no real political power. If you are objecting to the monarchy on moral grounds, then you are saying that it is immoral to even REFER to our dubious past. I think it’s immoral not to.

    If you want to root out and eliminate immoral institutionalised unfairness, the monarchy just seems rather a silly and ineffectual place to start, which implies that you are not serious about the cause.

  8. Well, I can’t do italics, so I will just have to fisk with numbers.

    s’easy. the HTML code is < em >the quote< /em >. Although this isn;t strictly speaking semantically correct (it should be quote or blockquote tags) we get away with it…

    1. The monarchy does NOT represent the idea that some people SHOULD rule over other people by virtue of their birth. It represents the idea that some people USED to rule….etc etc.

    All i can say that this is a very slippery slope. I find the idea of a political system based around tradition and heritage a worrying one. It should be about higher values than that – equality, a social contract between people, etc etc.

    2. You may not know this, but the Queen doesn’t actually have much choice about signing bills that have been voted in by Parliament. She doesn’t in practice have the right to refuse. And she doesn’t have the power to make up and sign her own bills. If you call that real political power, then perhaps you should do a degree in PPE. The “powers” you refer to is in name only. I don’t see why this is so difficult to see, it’s as plain as the nose on your face.

    I did know that. The last royal veto was by Queen Anne. And what’s more, another one would be impossible without a constitutional crisis. This is precisely the problem. Why is something technically possible that would bring down the system.

    You are arguing that the monarch herself has no power in reality. This may be true. However, the system of monarchical government, even a constitutional monarchy like ours, does have the monarch, or rather, The Crown, at its heart. c.f. my point above: When I am tried in a court, I should be tried in the name of The People, not The Crown. Her Majesty’s Constabulary. Her Majesty’s Ship. The Crown Prosecution Service. The language of our country is one of deference to powers that arise with the monarch and delegated down from there. It is, frankly, too much symbolism for me. I don’t think you can argue the value of historical symbolism, while a the same time suggesting that the symbolism in the present day has no meaning.

    3. You may call my logic names if you wish, but that doesn’t make my argument wrong. I never said that suggesting that the founding principles (of monarchy) are wrong leads to forgetting about other equalities. What I said was that removing something which is little more than a potent reminder (and a lucrative one) of said principles and that they were wrong is like saying you’d sooner forget. I think we have a moral duty to remember.M

    My point is precisely that it is a potent symbol. It shouldn’t be a part of the formal constitution.

    In any case, a statue or a blue plaque helps us rememeber!

    3.5 I am not especially saying either that because the world is unfair, we should have a symbol of unfairness at its centre.

    This is what seemed to be implied, which is why I suggested it was odd logic.

    Firstly it may surprise you to know that the UK is not the centre of the world.

    Obviously a slip of the keyboard. Move on.

    What I was saying was that because our history has enshrined a political system which is fundamentally unfair, and taken this unfairness around the world through empire, we have a duty to acknowledge and remember this fact, however uncomfortable it may be. The system is changed now that we are governed by parliamentary democracy, but the symbol of how we got here is important. I was trying to distinguish between two sources of unfairness, which perhaps I did not make clear.

    But acknowledging the unfairness in no way suggests that it should be worked into the political system, however symbollically. I still think this is a huge non-sequiter.

    The Queen is neither of those, she is a puppet of Parliament, that’s all.

    And that, by the way, is also lame. If Parliament passed some piece of horrible draconian legislation, bypassed the Lords somehow… she could not act as the final check/balance in the chain. Consitutional Heads of State can do that, and are elected accordingly. Let’s have a Head of State with some bite.

    If you accept that not everyone has the same parents, or the same abilities, and you accept that the monarchy is an important part of our cultural identity and symbol of our history (and source of tourist dollar), and you can appreciate that the Queen has power in name only, and that the monarchy only represents what USED to be, not what is or should be, then your arguments for abolishing the monarchy fall rather flat, and look rather silly. That you’d sooner not have a reminder of Britain’s dubious and thereby illustrious political history tells me you’d sooner forget.

    No. The idea that we would forget our glorious and not so glorious history when we abolish the monarchy is what is silly. Buckingham Palace would still be there the day the Queen becomes plain old Lizzie Windsor…

    The Queen is not at the heart of our political system. You’re thinking of the Prime Minister. You can’t blame the Queen for *his* immoral sentiments. The monarchy as a symbol merely REFERS to our past immoral system of government, not our prestent one, since the monarchy now has no real political power. If you are objecting to the monarchy on moral grounds, then you are saying that it is immoral to even REFER to our dubious past. I think it’s immoral not to.

    This is repetition of the earlier point. Refering to the immoral past is fine, but there are more ways to skin a cat. And I repeat – The Crown as a concept is central to the political system. Most of its power is delegated to the Prime Minister, who we elect… so its not a total lost cause. Give me the system we have over a dictatorship, any day.

    If you want to root out and eliminate immoral institutionalised unfairness, the monarchy just seems rather a silly and ineffectual place to start, which implies that you are not serious about the cause.

    I might point out that I’m hardly campaigning for a beheading in Whitehall. It is precisely because we are served OK by the de facto arrangements that I don’t get too hot under the collar about it. I think change can be brought about quicker by focusing on policies of the Prime Minister. But that’s a different blog post! This one is a moral discussion about the nature of our political system.

    Overall, I’m arguing a couple of things.
    - First, even though the Queen herself has no de facto power, that is a different thing from saying that the idea of The Crown is redundant in our political system. I don’t think it is.
    - Second, even if the monarch herself has no de facto power, that is not an argument for keeping the status quo with regards to the de jure arrangement. In fact, I would argue that the opposite is the case.
    - Third, I’m saying that the de jure arrangements are immoral regardless of what the de facto situation is. For me, ‘acknowledging our past’ is not a strong enough excuse. In fact, I think its a dangerous red herring, under which all manner of dodgy morality could slip back into our system.

    Why do you suppose that Canada, Australia and New Zealand keep the Queen as their Head of State, while other Commonwealth Countries have a President? The Commonwealth countries acknowledge their past (they’re in the Commonwealth, after all) without including the Queen in their constitution. The symbolism of removing her as Head of State is an important one.

    In fact, I’m surprised you give symbolism such short shrift.

  9. Thanks for the summary Rob, makes it easier to do justice to your reply in mine, and to try and keep it brief. I fear I will not succeed.

    First, I wasn’t arguing that the idea of “the Crown” is redundant in our political system. It has a notional presence, yes, but I would argue that this is a linguistic/conceptual hangover from bygone days, and really nothing more sinister than that.

    We keep the monarchy just because it’s easier than to get rid, not because we secretly think that inherited political power is a good way to go. Our system has evolved since our politically functioning monarchy – that evolution builds upon and leaves traces of what went before really doesn’t have to be troubling. To divorce ourselves conceptually from our past because that past is morally troubling to us, despite the fact that in practice we have (hopefully) moved on from it is, I think, of dubious moral value and psychological health. I genuinely do not understand the drive to do so, unless you are trying to run away from the past, and erase the obvious trace of it – and for what end?

    All political systems in states with any amount of history are built upon heritage and tradition AS WELL as other more substantial values. The two sets of values are not mutually exclusive. I’m sure you can appreciate this.

    If The Crown is yoked to the elected government then it reflects the views of The People. If both terms refer to essentially the same thing in the law example you give, then what’s the problem?

    I am not, as you suggest, arguing for the value of historical symbolism, while at the same time suggesting that the symbolism in the present day has no meaning. I’m just saying that there are two sets of symbolism, with different meanings, and it seems you are conflating the two.

    A statue or a blue plaque helps you remember only when you a) know about it and where it is, b) look at or think about it. It’s easy to look away. The commemoration needs to be a bit deeper than that, it needs to be entwined into our consciousness. You say there are other ways than keeping the monarchy to refer to our past. This of course is true, but I think you would be hard-pushed to think of a way that was as natural and as deep-rooted in our collective psyche, or as effective, or economical.

    Second, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Unless the monarchy is doing actual harm, why this urge to get rid of it? You’ve already agreed that it serves some useful functions (though not political ones), but I would argue that the harm you think it does by virtue of its moral status is simply not true. I have not yet seen a convincing argument here for WHY it is immoral. Perhaps I am being thick, but I really do not buy the notion that references to The Crown, and lip-service to an unelected but essentially powerless Queen is in and of itself immoral. Who does it harm exactly? I also do not buy the notion that such things imply a belief that political power is or should be inherited.

    Third, why do we need an “excuse” for the institutional reference to the past that the monarchy represents? I do not think that refering to things needs to necessarily be excused, as long as there is a good reason for it, eg if it is relevant. I would argue that it is highly relevant. If it keeps in our minds an awareness that we do not wish to be subject to an unelected power (even a benign one), then perhaps it might keep in our minds an awareness that we should not seek to inflict the same on others.

    Without knowing terribly much about the history of the Commonwealth, I would gues that Australia, Canada and NZ have kept the Queen as head of state because they were territories colonised by British settlers to a much greater extent than, say, certain African countries in the Commonwealth, who were conquered but not settled so extensively. The cultural identities of the former countries are therefore more closely tied to those of Britain, and their current populace largely shares in Britains pre-colonial history, since we share ancestors. The pasts of the latter countries’ current populaces however are of a different moral flavour altogether, since the majority do not share common ancestors with the British in the last, say thousand years. The descendents of conquerors have a different moral responsibility I would say than those of the conquered, and I do not think we should seek to shirk it.

    I’m sorry this has turned out long, and perhaps a bit repetitive. I will re-read the original post and see if I can root out after all any compelling argument for the immoral aspect you claim, taking into account the subsequent discussion.

  10. OK. You say “The monarchy institutionalises privilege at the centre of our political system”. Saying it is so doesn’t make it so, I’m afraid. You are expressing an opinion, not an absolute fact.

    I argue that the monarchy does no such thing, since it is purely symbolic, and where we disagree also is on what we think it is symbolic of. I say it is symbolic of our past, and of the path that led us to the system we have today. You say (I think) that it is a) not purely symbolic and b) symbolic of an acceptance of privilege in political systems. I think you are wrong on both these counts, as I have droned on above.

    Since we are largely arguing then over a matter of interpretation, I guess we will have to agree to differ. But I think what is interesting is if we can both acknowledge that there is more than one interpretation to a symbol. Meaning is socially constructed and determined by consensus, it is not an absolute, and symbols contain a large amount of redundancy. We will both then have to modify our positions, to agree that the monarchy COULD BE interpreted by some as institutionalising privilege etc etc. The question of morality you raise then hinges on how one is moved to interpret the meaning of our having a monarchy – and it seems there is no absolute answer to that.

    Your argument against the aspects of the monarchy I consider morally positive is largely that such positives do not outweigh the negatives. But if one accepts that the alleged immorality of the monarchy is a question of interpretation and opinion, then perhaps the balance of morality is shifted. Surely you would not rather shirk one moral responsibility (the positives of keeping the monarchy, with which you agree in at least a limited sense) for the sake of trumpeting a separate “moral” argument whose veracity is based upon a subjective interpretation of the facts. I feel quite strongly that an objective argument carries more weight than a subjective one. But maybe that’s just me :-)

  11. OK. You say “The monarchy institutionalises privilege at the centre of our political system”. Saying it is so doesn’t make it so, I’m afraid. You are expressing an opinion, not an absolute fact.

    In all honesty, I think we’re falling at the first hurdle here (or rather, for me, the monarchy falls at the first hurdle).

    The fact is that the Head of State is not elected. The citizens of the country have no input into the matter. I am saying this is wrong wrong wrong, because it offends basic concepts of political equality and justice. You seem to be OK with it.

    One final attempt, again peppered with latin: Ceteris paribus, I think it would be better if we had a referendum before the reign of a new monarch commences. Do you?

    (As an aside, I also worry that the arguments you use could justify more oppressive monarchies, but that’s a very wide question that I haven’t thought about in depth).

  12. Yes, the Head of State is not elected. That is fine with me, because it has no practical powers. If it had any political power, of course I’d be outraged and offended by it. Though I agree that political power *should* be elected, not every characteristic of a person can be – that way madness lies. I think that you know this, though your argument does not bear it out.

    The whole point of the monarchy though is that the Queen is *not* elected; we want her to be the head of state because she is a living link to our history, and for no other reason. It may seem unfair to you that she is the most direct heir to William the C, Eliz I, Henry VIII and all the rest, and you are not, but I’m afraid that’s life. It’s neither right, nor wrong wrong wrong, and doing away with the monarchy won’t change that anyway.

    As for your (in my view slightly unnecessary, since the idom exists in English) ceteris paribus clause, no I don’t think it would be better if we had a referendum before the reign of a new monarch commences. Partly because all things are NOT equal, and neither do I expect them to be by the time such a referendum would be indicated, but even if they were, I really think it would be an unnecessary waste of time and money, to make such a big stupid fuss over something that has no moral or practical relevance to anybody’s daily life except perhaps prince charles. I also think such a referendum would lack validity, since it would most likely not actually measure what it set out to measure, especially in the context of our media.

    As an aside, since the arguments I use are based on the fact that our particular monarchy has NO political power, I hardly think they could be used to justify a monarchy that did, oppressive or not.

  13. I’m not sure we’re ever going to communicate on this one, Clarice. I’m approaching the issue with Rawlsian tactics, whereby no-one behind a ‘veil of ignorance’ would choose to institute a monarchy as their political system. You seem to be coming from a more ‘narrative’ perspective. Within that, your arguments hold, but (as I’ve said before) I worry that this approach is too relative, and the same arguments would allow less benign traditions to remain in force.

  14. I agree, but the whole thrust of my argument is premised on the fact that our particular monarchy (or what’s left of it) IS benign. This I think is the fundamental source of our disagreement. In a case where such a fact did not pertain, my argument would, like, totally suck.

    I also disagree that we have a monarchy AS our political system – I thought we had a parliamentary democracy, maybe I was wrong. If we did have a monarchy as our political system, it would no longer be benign, and I would not be supporting it.

    I am also not chooisng to institute a monarchy as the political system, and neither would I wish to do so. Just because what remains of the monarchy we have is fine with me, that doesn’t mean I’m arguing that we should reinstate it for a moment, thank you very much, and it’s rather naughty if that is what you are implying.

    I know this is getting (has got) repeititious and circular, but I really do not want to be misunderstood or misrepresented.

  15. That’s a slight drawback to the WP display style Rob’s chosen, it isn’t 100% clear that those are trackback pings with an article summary, I guess.

    Interesting discussion, I’m mostly commenting so that it adds to my comment tracker tor emind me to come back when I’ve the energy. Really do need to write up another “why I’m a reforming constitutional monarchist and have ditched republicanism” post, but, well, after the summer.

  16. After a while you get used to those square brackets and parentheses.

    I think one reason where Clarice and I agree is over the battleground of debate. As I mentioned in the actual post, its not about money generated (either by the monarchy, or be abolishing it).

    Longriders post has helped me clarify a few things in my head, and also backs up my argument here. He points out that Albert, Duke of York and later George VI, was a better King than Edward VIII, his brother. The latter may could well have been reinstalled on the throne, had the Nazis succeeded in 1940. The power would have lain elsewhere – with Hitler and his cohorts – but the ‘tradition’ and ‘link with the past’ would have sweetened the bitter pill. Indeed, precisely those the arguments above would have been used to justify it.

    Longrider also emphasises the need to elect a Head of State, who would then have the moral authority to start vetoing stuff in extreme circumstances. Clarice seems to think a Head of State without power is a good thing. Now I consider it, I think the opposite (I’m referring to situations where the Head of State is not the Executive, as in the case of Ireland).

    Part of the morality of a system of government is how well it stands the test of time. Simply saying that this incarnation is benign simply doesn’t meet the standards required. The Constitutional Monarchy argument rests on convenience. That ain’t good enough.

  17. What a lovely new verb MatGB has introduced me to: “to emind”. Thank you for that.

    What I am wondering is, if an elected government can’t be trusted to represent us (eg “in extreme circumstances”)?, why should an elected Head of State be any different? If there *is* a need for the Queen to have some power of veto (presumably because elected power is flawed?), then one *could* argue that she should be elected – despite the fact that this would presumably be perpetuating the same flaw – (though this election would automatically select a self-serving, not necessarily well-trained individual, not necessarily one who is inclined to take the long view, and one of a rather particular and unsavoury personality type in relation to power) – but then we’d have to elect someone to have power of veto over *his/her* power of veto and so on and so on ad infinitum. Where does it end? That’s what I’d like to know.

  18. simply saying that this incarnation is benign simply doesn’t meet the standards

    I never said it did. Since the monarchy doesn’t have political power, it is neither benign nor malignant. It is neutral. It is neutralised because it has no political power. Whatever the Queen thinks has no influence on our lives or on government policy, so it really wouldn’t matter if she were a sexist racist Nazi. Or not. That’s the beauty of it. That’s why it’s ok that she’s not elected.

  19. Yeah. You’re missing the point. A Head of State without influence; and a system that can only be moral if we take them to be without power; and a situation that would not be acceptable if the de jure was also the de facto… these facts mean it fails my standards.

    But hey – you have different political standards. That’s fine. Just know that these same facts fail the standards of anyone who is in the business of devising new political systems, too. Like I said, it depends whether you buy in to Rawls or not.

  20. Clarice? The Queen has no power in the same way that the Governor General of Australia has no power. Oh, wait, he has the exact same powers as her, and used them to sack a Prime Minister and call an election. Minor, pedantic, quibble, given you picked me up on my typo (and got it wrong, I typed “tor emind”; frequent mistake, I misplace spaces.

    Robert; I personally favour a ceremonial Head of State, little to know governance power, but constitutional roles that are essential and non-party-political.

    We don’t, currently, have that, we have someone with immense powers that chooses not to use them that often (she’s only personally fired one PM, and only personally chosen two, for example).

    Then there’s the whole powers of the Crown thing…

  21. I’m not sure Clarice was being pedantic. “emind” is a lovely verb, whatever its provenence.

    I didn’t realise ole’ Queeny had actually fired a Prime Minister. Who was that? If its Callaghan, then Clarice would surely argue that the power to sack was technically weilded by the Queen, but actually weilded by the Parliament who forced a no-confidence vote… Personally though, I still think that’s a rubbish system. Such things must be judged not by how they are being used, but by their potential. Why does no-one think that the general principle of the thing has any relevance!?

  22. Well, Rob, I am getting very frustrated by this. You seem to be changing your argument as you go.

    I see no problem with a head of state without influence, assuming the actual political system is working nicely.

    Secondly, I’m not sure the system can only be moral if the monarchy is without power. At first, I would have taken this as read, but surely the moral imperative is towards the “best” possible political system out of available alternatives. Given certain flaws inherent in our present “democracy”, a monarchy with some power would go some way to counterbalance these flaws, thereby improving the system of government. What’s immoral about that?

    Third of all, your de jure/de facto argument I don’t think is exactly true. It’s just a pedantic belief, which is not very nice to force on other people.

    Clearly we do have different standards – yours I think are pretty mean and macho, and I’m afraid I do not buy into them.

    As for MatGB, you took the words right out my mouth Rob. Although I think he was talking about some Australian thing, it wasn’t the Queen who sacked anyone. Whether it’s true, or the same or not, I a) doubt and b) don’t much care – it simply isn’t relevant to the present context.

    And I’m disappointed that the “emind” thing was just a fortuitous typo. You can see why I thought otherwise, given the context. He must have thought I was being rather mean, but I wasn’t. I love that word and concept.

  23. Oh, ok, my typos are good. Cool.

    Being very picky, she fired Heath. 1st ’74 election, he lost his majority but was largest party (I think) in a hung Parliament. He went to her and told her he could form a govt, precedent said he should be able to do so, she changed precedent by saying no and calling for Wilson. I recall reading a paper that said it shocked quite a few constitutionalists (who tend to not actually be democrats per se).

    Then there’s Whitlam in Aus, but that matters less.

    Wish I wasn’t exhausted after the 13th 12+ hour day in a row, there’s some good stuff above but I really can’t analysise it properly for a few more weeks.

  24. there’s some good stuff above but I really can’t analysise it properly for a few more weeks.

    Stick around. I haven’t finished with Clarice yet, and I sense she hasn’t finished with me. This one is going to run and run.

  25. Well said, Rob. You sense correctly.
    It’s OT but I want to know why MatGB (and thanks for the Heath/Wilson info, which I did not know) is doing 12+ hour days.

  26. I work in the tourism industry, specifically I find host family beds for kids travelling to learn English for short stay breaks. As you can imagine, July is a bit busy, and host families aren’t the most reliable breed, so when someone cancels at the last minute, I have to find replacement accommodation. Tomorrow is my last busy arrival day, after that I’m merely ‘busy’ for a month, then I’m done, and can take a month or so off…

    Annoying, several good conversation going on in blogland, and some major news in politics, and I’m too exhausted to worry about it too much, let alone write.

  27. Pingback: Not Little England

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