Monday, May 9, 2011

The monarchy, this friendly absurdity

Better not think about it. Better to ignore and bury himself in his chair to enjoy the beautiful staging, dress tastefully chosen and the moving spectacle of the happiness of William and Kate. The English engaged with panache to their national rituals. They love it. Otherwise, they begin to wonder why the job the most class of any country - after the monarch - should absolutely go back to the eldest son of the eldest son of the eldest daughter of a guy who had inherited the position because his big brother had not married the woman he wanted.

All such rights are only "the absurdity mounted on stilts," to paraphrase Jeremy Bentham [1748-1832, philosopher]. On the other hand, the monarchy is a state institution. Democracy and expects such institutions to undergo the trial of common sense and public opinion. So when one of them, based on the principle of heredity is against assumed values of democracy - equality of opportunity, for example - he must plead his cause.

At a time when the future head of state is about to marry, it is interesting to ask why we have a monarchy, and if we still want it. The principle of heredity has always bothered philosophers. Distribute jobs, property and privileges according to some of their parentage, so that these issues should be a matter of merit, an affront to the idea of justice.

It said the plan he had inherited the advantage of being more reliable in terms of succession and therefore better for the country's stability than the elections of the Doges, consuls, Republican presidents and other creatures. For Edmund Burke [1729-1797, Irish politician and philosopher, often considered the father of Anglo-American conservatism], this system provides "the permanence of a responsible ruling class united by the bonds of family from generation to generation ".

The French guillotined their king in 1793 and spent two centuries - and 16 constitutions - to find him a better substitute. Such discussions are obviously futile today. Who cares to know that Spain is a monarchy, but not Portugal? If one wonders about the cost of the monarchy, the calculation of civil list [€ 9.5 million allocated annually to the queen to cover expenses related to its function] and the rather fuzzy boundary between alienable and inalienable assets of the crown make purely financial considerations rather difficult.

Real property, such as Windsor Castle, and some treasures are the property of the state, and the personal wealth of the Queen does not compare with those of the King of Thailand, quantity of Arab leaders or the President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari. However, despite recent conservation measures, the British monarchy remains the most expensive in Europe.

It also accuses the regime of the monarch to give privileged access to the Prime Minister that he can "advise and warn," the royal family being able to use his position to defend personal opinions. The appointment of Prince Andrew to the position of Business Ambassador of the United Kingdom was a mistake [the younger brother Charles is the center of several scandals dating to his dubious: an American millionaire sentenced for pedophilia, but also, among others, the family Ben Ali].

The Prince Charles crazes are questionable, even ridiculous [he rolls his Jaguar and Land Rover with biodiesel derived from waste cooking oil], but the system is sufficiently robust to withstand these occasional quirks. As for access to the Prime Minister, it is a privilege shared by many tycoons, financial contributors, former statesmen and representatives of the press.

The British establishment is full of such networks and, if the monarch indeed occupies a unique position, the Prime Minister has no obligation to listen. It's not as if Margaret Thatcher was regularly taken over economic policy with the queen. Here are the answers to the traditional criticisms against the monarchy.

They are worth some pragmatic claims that she wants "served England." The system works and does not need to be changed. There are other problems with the Constitution, then leave the queen alone. All these arguments amount to saying that since the monarchy is hereditary, much leave it in place.

If this logic is not unreasonable, it is lame. It applies to many other institutions enshrined in centuries as the Anglican clergy at Oxford University and wigs of judges. Like many things that seem self-evident, they are sometimes hidden costs and should be dusted regularly. Nothing prevents replacing the Windsor family by a chairman designated by the electors or by Parliament.

There are stable democratic republics in the United States, Germany, Ireland or India, whose heads of state are not hereditary and are doing well. On the other hand, there are also constitutional monarchies, as in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium, which are equally stable. Note that they are not stable because they are monarchies but they are monarchies, because they are stable.

As the United Kingdom, these countries have never felt the need to change. Expected of a modern monarch, however, it works like any other head of state. De Gaulle rallied this function being to "inaugurate the chrysanthemum," but the reality is that a state must be someone to do it and it would be a waste of time for a Chief Executive.

The problem is familiar to French and American presidents, which combine the functions of party leader and chief executive at the top of the state. It is estimated that the U.S. president spends at least half his time performing official duties, of which the queen is in charge in England.

The problem is not only see a member of the royal family to bend about a thousand times a year to formalities often boring is to celebrate, reward, receive, and the problem is to see those tasks completed by a person representing the the entire nation. Two things go without saying. The first is that the principle of heredity always depend on the qualities of the monarch.

The system would not survive a king idiot, criminal, or acting out against the "dignity" of the function. It is difficult to imagine what solution would be found in such a case, but would eventually find one. The monarchy is not immune to change. The steamroller of human rights is already under way.

In 1998, a bill calling into question the principle of succession of male heirs has led the Labour government to agree to "address this issue." What would happen, for example, if the first-born child of Prince William was a girl or if he married a Catholic? Could not we question the Act of Settlement [this law, enacted in 1701, requires that the succession to the throne was Protestant]? That has never happened yet, and Tony Blair has avoided the issue during his tenure.

But if a girl was entitled to the estate, why not a cousin or a brother more qualified? The slightest flaw in the system can cause its collapse. Every nation has its own myths and rituals, which can be found in palaces and churches, museums, galleries or rituals and traditions. Hereditary monarchy is a remarkable embellishment, but falls within the same category.

We did not invent it if it did not exist, if only because its essence lies in its ability to embody the continuity of the nation, what a family is better able to make any other institution. I will not try to justify it. Politics is not just about right. Wherever the monarchy exists, as in the United Kingdom, it carries benefits.

Inherit the throne may be a chance for a monarch, like inheriting of a monarch may be a chance for a nation.

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