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Flee the Jubilee!

For reasons I hope to be able to explain next week, I'm going to be thin on the ground for the next six days—well okay, I'm going to be at Book Expo America, one of the two biggest English-language publishing trade shows.

This has the happy side-effect that I will be absent from the UK during the Queen's 60th anniversary, and thus missing out on the orgy of self-congratulatory forelock-tugging and brown-tonguing reactionary apologetics that will turn the media into a cess-pit of nostalgic feudal wank for the duration. Ahem. Not that I bear any grudges against the current incumbent, but I find the institution intrinsically offensive simply because it defines two classes of citizen in the UK: those who are eligible to be head of state by ancestry, and those who are not and never will be.

Why can't we have a (purely ceremonial) head of state selected by random lottery from the adult population—national-level politicians and serious criminals excluded—to represent us? Discuss.

271 Comments

1:

Can you imagine some random guy becoming the King? He'd wake up one day to find that A) He's King! and B) his most embarrassing Facebook photos are on the front page of the gossip rags!

How long would it last? What about the Royal Family? What's it pay?

That last would turn it into more or less a lottery :)

2:

Oh dear, oh dear.
NO Charlie - and you know why.

If we were to go to a republic, we could have either:

A] A titular head-of-State, probably a filed and past-it politico, with no real powers. Ac omplete deadbeat, in other words.
or
B] A President with real powers.

The latter really gives me, and most people the cold shudders - and you - imagine Pres Blair, or Pres Thatcher ... euuuwwww.

You are fighting a battle that doesn't EXIST.
Please, please stop it, and concentrate on the real corruption and power-brokering that is going on ...
Like the 0.1% we've been discussing on-&-off over the last few weeks.
If anyone needs stopping it's them.
But of course, they are a many-headed hydra, and much more difficult a target tham Lizzie.

3:

Well, as long as it's not President Blair.
You can probably deduce my feelings as a former member of the Roundhead association.

4:

Why not compromise and find the person who most fits your ideal of what the monarch would be like, then let them act the part at functions? For ERII's succesor, I nominate the guy who played King Charles III in House of Cards: To Play the King and is now Foyle in Foyle's War.

5:

The only defense of having a figurehead monarch for your constitutional republic (and mine) is that it seems to work well. Most of the places where one would want to live are constitutional republics with figurehead monarchies; republics with a president have not been terribly successful outside the US, and the US has turned their presidency into an elected monarchy anyways. If I wanted to do a constitutional reform in Canada, I would think about breaking the power of the PMO and limiting party whips and changing from first-past-the-post before I worried about the monarchy ...

6:

Well, Scotland did once have a procedure for electing the King.

OTOH that led to Toom Tabard, and to a Norman invasion...

7:

Go on, tell us why not, I'm interested in what you think.

The system we have at the moment is literally a lottery, just a lottery selected by birth rather than a lottery selected by viperously bouncing balls. The only concrete difference I can think of is that with our existing system we select only from the 'very posh people' pool rather than the general population. I can't think of any reason that's likely to be desirable.

8:

". . . national-level politicians and serious criminals excluded . . ."

Seems like a redundant statement to me...

9:

It seems to me that that has the causation backward. What actually happens is that you know the specific people in question are going to be Head of State, so they are brought up to be Very Posh from the outset.

10:

If what you want a head of state for is to perform ceremonial functions that are rooted in sentiment rather than rationally functional, I can't see all that much point to wanting a rational procedure for choosing the ocupant. When the Romans got rid of the monarchy, they instituted the office of rex sacrorum to carry on the purely ceremonial and religious functions of the monarchy, while having the actual powers granted to the consuls and "the senate and people of Rome." Having a rex sacrorum did very little harm.

11:

Why exclude criminals?

But I've got a better idea: royalty is chosen from a stable of historical impersonators, largely at random. For the duration of their "reign", they re-enact key events from the life of the royal they're impersonating. The whole timeline is compressed so that we can cycle out royals every 5 years or so. And they also have to use Twitter.

@HenryV: Women, amirite? You say one word and they just lose their heads!

@HenryV: Rush L. visiting to talk sanctity of marriage. Said something about 'smoking dominicans'. That Yank for cigars?

12:

The Queen was not expected to end up being head of State, but she still got quite a posh upbringing.

13:

Charlie you are clearly behind the times. The monarchy should be elected via pay for text voting on popular Television shows. We can use the proceeds to cull predators that prey on pheasants.

I'm headed to Cornwall for the weekend for a stag do and I'll be happy to give all the Jubilee naffness a swerve. Happy for the long weekend but wish it was in the name of something else.

14:

Or you could end up with a paradigm-shift where the President is actually regularly an intellectually-gifted, cultured servant of the State, like here in Ireland for the past three incumbents?

Unfortunately, it's also an electoral process, so you're subject to the usual risks of someone getting the job who not only isn't 'a filed and past-it politico' but is actually a rather unpleasant political entity (paging Mr McGuinness... when a valid question during your campaign is criticised as 'West-Brit', as a 'full-blown Brit' resident in the country twenty years it does make you wonder if there would still be a list come the revolution).

So, unless you can come up with a way of guaranteeing a better incumbent than HRH, it's less broken than the alternatives.

Or we could just have "Presidential Idol" every 8 years. That might actually be fun. And the income from the phone voting could go toward palace upkeep.

15:

Because such a randomly-elected purely ceremonial head of state would serve no purpose: they would just cost money to maintain. Specifically they would not serve the purpose of bringing in tourism: I have no idea of the figures but I would not be at all surprised if the current royal family are not rather profitable for the UK.

16:

"Two classes of citizen in the UK: those who are eligible to be head of state by ancestry, and those who are not and never will be."

Come on! There is a third class: Those who are eligible to be head of state by conquest! I'm starting to think Rupert Murdoch is/was angling for membership.

Arguably this should be a major meme in the present political culture. We already have the "Lake Wobegone on Steroids" argument brandished by the 0.1% against the 99.9%: "If you weren't so lazy, you could have been a multi-millionare!" The logical extension of this is: "If you had any gumption, you would have conquered Britian and set yourself up as King!"

Actually, if we wanted a head of state that represented us, a periodic lottery wouldn't be a bad idea, in the sense that the resulting winner would most likley be a representative sample. The other possibility would be to, on a regular basis, appoint the median individual in the population.

The advantage of either policy is that it would have a considerable potential to shame a country to improve the way it treats the general population. As opposed to the present system which is apparently meant as a public service advertisement with regard to the dangers of inbreeding.

17:

I have occasionally wondered exactly how many people I'd have to wantonly slaughter in order to become next in line to the throne.

18:

St. Crispin's Day again--Peeps! Me and the Duke of Burg are gonna totally rock the Dope's world, Boom-Shaka.

19:

"but I find the institution intrinsically offensive simply because it defines two classes of citizen in the UK"

In that case, I would recommend against ever watching "Downton Abbey".

20:

Well, over here (Croatia) we have a more-or-less figurehead president, and it's not so bad. True, they don't bring in the tourists, but I have a suspicion more people visit the UK in order to see places associated with the monarchy than hoping to catch a glimpse of the actual queen. If she stopped being the head of state tomorrow, people would still want to see where she used to reign, just like France still has a pretty healthy Napoleon-based tourism, and a-whole-bunch-of-Louises-based tourism.

Also, I can see where Charlie's coming from: the very idea that there is only one group of people who can ever become $THING creates an unhealthy atmosphere in society, always pulling towards the mediaeval mindset of everyone with a fixed, pre-determined place.

21:

No I think you miss the point of a head of state. They are needed to help form governments and (especially for countries without a constitution) are important to resolve constitutional crisises. Obviously the Belgium king has been very unhelpful on both fronts...but anyways that's supposed to be their job.

I don't think a president chosen by lot could do a good job in either role. And democratically elected presidents are overly distracting (see Germany or the rapist in Israel). If you have a royal family which has some credibility then I think you have a big advantage.

Or look to the US where head of government and head of state are the same and you have a real problem of talk of 'respect' putting an end to debate when theres a Republican president.

The best argument against all this was how close the UK was to having a Nazi king suring WW2. Or just that in general a king is a good way for a foerign occupier to gain unearned credibilty.

22:

At least big ears doesn't go around shooting elephants like ours does.

Never thought I'd be proud of a Florida Republican but Rick Scott's needling of the Spanish King over the elephant incident brought a smile to my face.

23:

Why can't we have a (purely ceremonial) head of state selected by random lottery from the adult population—national-level politicians and serious criminals excluded—to represent us? Discuss.

You know the answer to this: because getting there from here would involve having whoever was in the government enact root and branch the relationship between the Parliament, the government, and the judiciary. I fail to believe that you can look at any UK government of the past 30 years and honestly tell me that you think it would be a good idea to have them bugger round with the constitution.

24:

As someone looking at the Royals from outside, but who hasn't contracted that horrible regophilia that Yanks seem prone to, I"m in favor of "Monarchial Idol". Our "Presidential Idol" in the US is mostly borken for two reasons: there's actual political power in the position, and we only get to vote on 2 contestants; the judges filter out all the others. But if the position were completely ceremonial and there were a few more rounds of voting I think it could be quite a lot of fun.

25:

Good idea, but do it twice a week.

26:

"I don't think a president chosen by lot could do a good job in either role."

Why do you think they would do any worse than a person chosen by ancestry? It's just as random.

27:

Whilst having no particular like or dislike for The Royals being pragmatic I can only see more problems with the alternatives.

Regardless of whether it was a position with or without power it would devolve into political football if elected, or worse if a lottery. Under the current incumbent the monarchy has managed the transition from the top of the class system to a titular head of state.

Isn't it better to have someone in the job that has been groomed to it from birth?

28:

I'm with Greg (well, I would say that, I've got a scroll that says I am Trusty and Well Beloved of Her Majesty).

I'm a pragmatic constitutional monarchist; I don't believe anyone is "better" than me, by birth or otherwise. I pay my respects to the concept of a Head of State, but that's no different to any other country (just watch everyone stand up when President X enters the room). Yes, I cringe at the rubbish pumped out by the media and the brown-nosers, but the current generation appear to have sufficient grounding not to be swayed by it; in that respect, they do better than the politicians.

What we've got works. We have someone who is trained from birth, pretty much incorruptible, and spends enough time in the job to provide continuity. She and her husband work hard at the job, when it would be easy to slack off; and for all that people ridicule the Duke of Edinburgh, I've got a lot of time for him.

Let's face it - when the children of politicians come of age, it's a comfy job with a mate at a merchant bank. When the next in line to the throne comes of age, it's off to Sandhurst, where it hurts just as much no matter who your granny is (and in Prince Harry's case, it was followed by a part-tour as a JTAC in a patrol base somewhere in Helmand Province).

29:


My head of state is a citizen of another country, and has no ancestors who came from my country. She pays no taxes here. She also doesn't live here, although occasionally she and her entourage show up for a nice vacation, and expect to be treated like bloody royalty.

Canada, FTW.

30:

Why can't we have a (purely ceremonial) head of state selected by random lottery from the adult population—national-level politicians and serious criminals excluded—to represent us? Discuss.

You know the answer to this: because getting there from here would involve having whoever was in the government enact root and branch the relationship between the Parliament, the government, and the judiciary. I fail to believe that you can look at any UK government of the past 30 years and honestly tell me that you think it would be a good idea to have them bugger round with the constitution.

31:

Based on the figures banded about by the Guardian the other day, it looks like the Royals are technically making the government money.

Mostly because the amount the government pays out in the civil list and assorted benefits looks to be quite a bit less than they take in - the agreement that formed the civil list means the government gets to keep all rents & income from the £7b worth of Crown Estates, which adds up to quite a significant chunk of the UK.

I imagine the hyperinflation of land value along Oxford & Regent streets hasn't hurt either.

32:

Ahem: you got the wrong Henry.

33:

Seems there has been another zombie attack in the USA. Clearly they have the wrong political system.

34:

Martin: "for all that people ridicule the Duke of Edinburgh, I've got a lot of time for him."

?

The man has a long established, well deserved record of casual racism and occasional misogyny.

See...

http://listverse.com/2007/09/11/top-15-quotes-of-prince-philip/

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Prince_Philip,_Duke_of_Edinburgh

...and the number one spot at...

http://www.evesjournal.com/Misogynistic_Quotes/index.html

For my money (which as a taxpayer it bloody well is) the man's more national disgrace than national treasure.

35:

Dirk @ 3
Yes, you'd be for our CURRENT constitutional monarchy, and against dictators like Cromwell & Charles I ....

Ian S @ 12
Err: Our Gracious Monarch was expected to become Queen at some point after December 1936, when she was 10.5, and it was expected before that, since George V, and others had begun to despair of Edward as far back as 1933/4.

Matthew Seaman @ 17
Err... there was this famous "Ealing" film called "Kind Hearts & Coronets" (!)

Ian Monroe @ 22
How little you know! The best argument against all this was how close the UK was to having a Nazi king during WW2 And why, do you think, was Ed pushed out in 1936? Wallis Simpson was a wonderful excuse - hiding realpolitik behind a facade of public "morality" ...

Martin @ 28
Yes, you've got it.
Also, the not-in-immediate-line can do some interesting and dangerous things.
Andrew in the Falklands, or George VI, before they realised Ed was a wrong'un, was a turret-commander on a battleship at Jutland. Not the safest job on the planet!

Actually all of this is a time-wasting diversion, and I'm going to risk it ....
If we are talking constitutional re-settelements, and we are, then,

Why are still in the EU?

It is corrupt and unaccountable, and NOT the "free-trade zone" we were led to belive when we voted to join, me included, back in the 70s'.
Here is another persons' slightly edited rant on the subject:
The amount of EU influence needs to be quantified, if this marvellous beneficence was so obvious. Then, every time the moment the EU was mentioned; in the pub, on the shop floor and in the local shops - people would smile and gab excitedly about the wondrous EU, well wouldn't they?
Why is everything so covertly done, what have they got to hide?
Answer: we are being robbed blind and the project was and is a political putsch, to remove and trash all remaining democratic institutions across all of Europe ( but particularly here in Britain?).
When the people have been cowed and 're-educated' the European elite can rule through 'benign' authoritarian diktats, and we already are used to this in Britain.
How many laws and how much control is wielded and how does this impinge on our lives is hard to say, we need to know though, yes we need it spelling out and marking.
'They', do not want us to know though - do they?
I hark back to the Python sketch, "what have the Romans ever done for us?"
But some Romano-Brits did very nicely and lived like Emperors themselves, just go to Bignor Sussex.
In comparison, what have the EU ever done for us?
Britain has, for all the 'gelt it has directed to the new Rome of Brussels' very little to show for it.
We can claim, with real justification to have built infrastructure projects across Spain and kept the Spanish North Western fishing industry in permanent work since they joined in 86.
The rest of it, after 40 years is not at all obvious.
Unless, you count the myriad number of middling council executives pulling north of £150K up and down the country. Oh yes, and the gravy trainers shuttling to and from Brussels - no, actually some have done very well out of the EU!
The establishment smile and ECHR rules OK.

Well - to echo OGH - what do YOU think?

36:

"Yes, you'd be for our CURRENT constitutional monarchy, and against dictators like Cromwell & Charles I ...."

I'm not a fan our our current system but not overly troubled by it either. I suspect that whatever the existing political establishment came up with would be worse than having a monarch who kept her mouth shut and did what she was told by Parliament. As for Cromwell, that was a BIG opportunity missed to get rid of royalty for good.

37:

Anyway, off to London now because tomorrow (or maybe Sunday?) it looks like most of the bridges will be closed and it will be a nightmare trying to cross the river.
Fiona wants to go and see the parade of boats on Sunday.

38:

I'm with the pragmatic constitutional monarchists for now, but I don't think we've had the system really tested for a while. For the last 60 years, we've had a Head of State who appears, at least, to be comfortable with the fact that her role is purely ceremonial. Her son, by contrast, has shown signs that he might want to interfere in politics - and even that he would be bringing some kind of royal 'wisdom' to the role (see for example this article from Nick Cohen: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/20/nick-cohen-prince-charles-fool). Now I don't for a moment think that Charlie would start actively intervening in the forming of Governments, but I find it equally hard to believe he will be entirely silent on matters of political moment and I'm not sure that a monarch who is seen to be a political figure will last long, at least once he ends up on the wrong side of public opinion...

That said, I'm not especially enamoured of the Presidential model of government either - at least in the American/French mould. If we go down the Republican road, we could do worse than copy the German/Irish model

39:

Greg: Yellow card.

We know your opinion of the EU. You've made it clear elsewhere. This is not a discussion of the EU, so please leave it alone for now. OK?

40:

I think the United States might benefit from a ceremonial head of state. Ted Nugent, maybe. The office would give the populist right wing what it wants without interfering with actual policy. He could yell "bring it on" even as the Prime Minister is reassuring the leaders of the countries or groups being challenged to bring it on.

41:

Oh dear. I won't mention it again, unless someone else does - noted.
But, could I, therefore, please ask that you do introduce a discussion on the subject, at some futire point, given that it (the EU) seems to have changed, radically, over the years?

42:

I'll consider your request. Not this week, though. (Travelling: see above.)

43:

The concept of hereditary monarchy bothers me at gut level because of the hardcoded class distinction as bited above, but also because just as in capitalist oligarchy, in a hereditary system (de jure or de facto) one is likely to end up with leaders or figureheads who, despite extensive grooming and training, may be utterly unsuitable for the job by temperament or interest. Why should someone be forced to be a king? And then what if people don't successfully have kids to carry on the tradition -- history is full of that problem.
As for the tourism argument -- there are other ways to get tourist dollars.
Mostly it seems like a drain on the public purse (if not the only one of its kind -- although standards for dignitaries being what they are doesn't help elsewhere).

That said, the whole concept of having a singular head of state seems problematic to me . . . of course the process of election is the real problem.
My memory for polisci vis a vis potential structures of government is fuzzy, gotta read up again. Preferably ones field-tested. Of course scale matters as well . . . Most voting structures are borked.

I admit, I do not like my birth country, but at Gilbert and Sullivan show in it where they played "God Save the Queen" and everyone stood up, I refused to, saying "Didn't the guys who founded this place fight a war so we didn't have to do that?"

Sigh.

44:

The Crown Estate consists of land the Queen's ancestors stole, generally having the previous owners murdered at the same time. Any decent government could nationalise the lot in five minutes.

45:

I think that a 'Britain's Got Royalty' show would make for a cracking TV extravaganza every year, and as a bonus side effect would cary on lining Simon Cowel's ample pockets.

46:

You could just take the Canadian route. Appoint a semi-random dignified citizen, usually from the CBC, to go to formal events and whatnot, leaving the government to do the actual business of running the country.

47:

I'm with the pragmatists here. I agree with you on principle - why should one group be treated better than the others - but it works far better than anything else we are likely to get (I'm not saying it's the best model, I'm saying that it's a clear local maximum).

And I'm far from sure which of your two groups is the privileged one: far and away the best argument I've seen against the monarchy is that it's unfair to to that to anyone just because of an accident of birth.

That's perhaps how I'd pitch the question: is it fair to sacrifice a few person to this for the benefits we get from it. I find that a much more troubling question.

48:

I note with some amusement that the weather here is doing what it usually does over bank holidays over the entire Jubilee bank holiday period: pouring. (Downside: it's forecast to start pouring one hour before the next airshow at Old Warden is due to start. Bah.)

I plan to stay indoors this Jubilee... because it's peak hay fever season and going into allergic shock for Her Majesty is not on my to-do list.

49:

I whole heartily support Mr. Stross's suggestion, may I suggest a crowning ritual similar to the experiences of John Malcolm.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Malcolm_(Loyalist)

Maybe a little less harsh...abit.

50:

As someone looking at the Royals from outside, but who hasn't contracted that horrible regophilia that Yanks seem prone to, I"m in favor of "Monarchial Idol". Our "Presidential Idol" in the US is mostly borken for two reasons: there's actual political power in the position, and we only get to vote on 2 contestants; the judges filter out all the others. But if the position were completely ceremonial and there were a few more rounds of voting I think it could be quite a lot of fun.

51:

Sorry for the double post; got an Internal Server Error and tried to reload.

52:

I live in London - I'm dreading the next three months, between the Jubilee and the olympics it'll be a nightmare of crowds, clogged-up traffic, and clueless tourists.

I rather like the idea of electing a ceremonial king / queen for a year, with no job except to be a stalking horse for royalist nutters, then making sure that they never hold any civil or political office again. Wicker men may possibly be involved in this concept...

53:

I think that the Prime Minister is expected to discuss things with the Queen every so often, and from a protocol standpoint, the PM is supposed to act like the servant of the Queen, even though he's the one with all the real power? If this view is somewhat correct, could it be useful just to keep the PM from getting too uppity, sorta like the ancient Roman generals who had a slave during their triumphs telling them they're mortal?
This assumes that the PM is normally surrounded by yes-men (IOW - does the Cabinet keep the PM from thinking he's master of the universe, or since a PM chooses his Cabinet, he can pretty much do what he wants as long as the polls are good?) and that the ceremony of deferring to the Queen actually does have some psychological benefit in reminding the PM that he's not actually MotU.

54:

Down here in the antipodes (The one with Kiwis, not the one that's basically inimitable to all non poisonous bitey lifeforms), we're not too badly off with the vacant landlord version of constitutional monarchy, although we're currently a bit confused because our current right wing Govt just gave the Duck of Edinburgh the Order of NZ, which we thought was supposed be occupied by the best 20 living New Zealanders, not aged brit situational/shock comedians.

55:

The most troubling aspect of the monarchy is how much money it costs. Since Canada pays for all the visits of the Queen and Royal Family to our country, I'd support a law stating that they would no longer be invited. No need for constitutional change.

56:

Phooey: I want a white elephant aristocracy: Any time someone gets rich enough, they get a noble title, along with estates to manage, and image to maintain, and the whole 99 highly constrictive yards. And at least one white elephant, preferably a museum, a crumbling heap of an historical landmark, or a park full of endangered species that they have to spend a mint taking care of. Or else they lose both money and position.

In other words, I want to make getting stinking rich so limited by conventions and traditions that most people would rather not bother, thank you very much.

57:

That would indeed be a major improvement on the current situation!

58:

That works sometimes. Every once in a while, however, said dignified citizen takes the bit in their teeth and declares themselves the "head of state", much to Parliament's annoyance:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrienne_Clarkson#Governor_General_of_Canada

Said teapot-tempest amuses nobody save the citizens, who generally look upon this pie fight like a Benny Hill skit, so Mission Accomplished.

59:

I think the best solution would be to keep the monarchy, but replace the Windsors with some family of suitably regal animals. Maybe not lions, they have some unpleasant habits. Eagles would be good. They would still divert all the ceremony which would otherwise go to swelling the head of the Prime Minister, the papers would still be able to write vacuous articles about their sex lives, but they wouldn't be tempted to interfere with the running of the democracy, and it would remove the principle that some humans are better then others by birth.

60:

To those saying, "You'd get President Blair or Thatcher", well if it was a true democracy, then so what? The principle of a hereditary monarchy is obscene and wrong and should be changed. What would replace it is a matter for debate.

When talking to my colleagues here in the US, some of whom like the Royals and all the pageantry, I like to ask what they would think if a family in the US tried to become hereditary monarchs: What would happen if someone tried to institute a monarchy?

61:

Apart from the principled argument against a monarchy, I'd say the current system simply doesn't work. The system of monarch/ Prime Minister evolved at a time when the former had real power, and sort of assumes that they will balance each other out. But the monarch, not being elected, can't act as any kind of check on the Prime Minister, so we get PMs who have far too much power and won't, for example, have the behaviour of their ministers enquired into even when it (allegedly) stinks to high heaven.

As for tourism, well, France does OK for tourism, doesn't it - and so do loads of countries which have no monarch any more. Indeed, we might do better as tourists could see many bits of the various palaces that are currently off limits.

62:

"Canada, FTW."

Keep yer' fork, there's pie.

63:

I'll happily vote OGH into the position of Lord Protector. Of course, we'd have to chop some heads off first, and that might not go down too well these days.

And yes, looking at this from a NZ perspective, since when has an absent landlord ever been a good idea?

64:

Re: 29,46,54,55. The Canadian and NZ form of monarchy works quite well here in Australia. I say this as a convinced republican. People ask. "have you got a monarch? " and Australians can just say "Yes, next question? " The monarchy is distant and not that interesting and this absentee version is only one step removed from saying "a monarch? What's that? " Australians in the last few years have seemed much more interested in the real Australian queen, who is now in charge of Denmark. To those who think the English version of monarchy is a good idea, how do you justify the political meddling of Charles Windsor? Just try getting a fraction of the private meetings with the PM that he gets.

65:

Robin@ 45:

"I think that a 'Britain's Got Royalty' show would make for a cracking TV extravaganza every year"...

Run a web-search for "It's a Royal knockout". It didn't end well.

66:

Excellent idea. Australia would have as its king Fatso the Fat Arsed Wombat. (Look him up). Fatso has already proved his ceremonial worth since the 2000 Olympics and since he is already 'the battlers' prince', its just a small step to the full coronation.

67:

Another vote for the Irish presidency, which is an example of a monarchical lateral conversion: when the Irish Free State was formed, the position of Lord Lieutenant, or King's representative in Ireland, was stripped of as much power as possible. When the Free State was converted to a republic, it was made an elected office. Previously a retirement home for old revolutionaries (Erskine Childers, I'm looking at you) and senior party figures, Mary Robinson won it and terrified everyone by taking a sinecure and making it meaningful.

68:

Hmm, the first thing that comes to mind is "the king must die". Nah, that's Theseus. More what I had in mind is harvest king; john barleycorn.

You know, to promote the renewal of life, the king is sacrificed and buried in the fields. I like it for kings, presidents, prime ministers, banking ministers. Sort of the reverse of hunger games. Now that's job creation.

69:

I don't think monarchy is the huge problem in the current British system.

If you want a privileged class, look at the House of Lords. And I would argue that the few hereditary peers are less of a problem than the many politically-selected peers.

An elected upper house would be able to take back some power from the Commons. And that may be why it will never happen. But I think it would be far more important than an elected ceremonial head of state. We don't have a dictatorial single legislative chamber, but the current system can do a frightening job of faking it.

70:

It seems like an excellent way to ensure that the majority of the population isn't caught up in senseless maneuvering for what isn't a very meaningful position. That said, I refer to people advocating a republic here as the pro-Bush camp.

Of course, for us, the Queen is a free monarch.

B>

71:

Time for a "show my ignorance" question.

Why do we need a head of state?

Are there any countries without one?

72:

Of course, most of Canada is territory that a large group of our ancestors stole from a smaller group, in some cases quite recently (vide "BC native land claims" in your favourite search engine). A good part of Poland was stolen from Germany, a good part of Belarus and the Ukraine were stolen from Poland, and so on. So you might want to think twice before rejecting property claims on the basis that they descend from an act of violence long ago.

73:

And, based on posts-to-date, the title goes to Madonna! Madonna has been living in England for some time now, has lots of money, is already a celebrity, very experienced in stage-managing crowd-pleasing extravaganzas, is comfortable with technology (esp. medical/cosmetic and probably pharma) and has been trying oh so very hard to become 'posh', and appeals to the younger (larger) age groups.

First royal project: update the Royal guards' uniforms and spice up the choreography.

Second royal project: update 'God Save the Queen' - add some new lyrics, change 'the Queen' to 'Madonna', etc.

Third royal project: remove old futsy ceiling murals throughout Buckingham Castle and replace with mirrors and spot lights (with wrinkle-minimizing gels).

74:

I quite like the Queen, because she is more polite, less offensive, better looking, less costly, more elegant, less selfish and in pretty much all dimensions superior to a bunch of MPs voted in by a population who are in the main completely ignorant of the issues at stake.

Democracy sounds wonderful if you're 4 years old, and then only because it "seems fair" (toddlers having a strong sense of fairness). In practice (at least the way we practice it these days) it's a disaster.

With a monarch you get a person who has been trained *from birth* to do it right.

With democracy you get a fat hausfrau from a farm in Southland who has No Idea.

As for heredity, why is there the perception that the monarch is the lucky one and everyone else is missing out? I'm not actually sure being The One is such a stroke of good fortune. I suppose at least the monarch may abdicate if the prospect of trying to lead, inspire and organise a bunch of wild post-Picts is intolerable.

You get a damn sight more empathy from a Queen than you do from GlobalBastardCorp (a fully-semi-obscurely-owned subdivision of UberBastardCorp.CaymanIslands.FU).

75:

Are there any countries without one? I'm just been to see a film, Mugabe, about Zimbabwe. They don't have a King. Mugabe seems to have pretty much moved into the top spot himself and it is working badly. I'd like to argue that a ceremonial monarch is the same kind of thing as the Scots "not proven" verdict.

In many jurisdictions the jury returns a verdict of "guilty" or "not guilty". In scottish criminal cases the verdicts are "proven" or "not proven". There is something odd about this, for all agree that the prosecution has to prove its case "beyond reasonable doubt". It doesn't matter which two labels you stick on the two verdicts.

I like the scottish system. I like the built-in reminder, present in the very words of the verdict, that a criminal prosecution is not to be seen as a contest between equals and the jury is supposed to be assessing, not whether the accused likely did it, but whether the prosecution has proved the point. I like the "built-in" quality. You are not just depending on the judge explaining the burden of proof and jury remembering that "guilty" and "not guilty" are not 50:50.

In a democracy, the person in charge wields power for a term of office, five years, perhaps less. The whole thing gets a bit iffy if, like Margaret Thatcher, she wins a second term.

I like the ceremonial monarchy because the reminder that the prime minister is a temporary office holder is built-in, always there, in a never-to-be-forgotten, celebrated with pomp and circumstance, year in, year out, sort of way. Zimbabwe serves as a reminder of what can go wrong when the elected leader is not continually reminded that he is number two and will demit his office in due time.

76:

Duke of Edinburgh... ? The man has a long established, well deserved record of casual racism and occasional misogyny.

Or alternatively, the guy's got a track record of putting his foot in his mouth when trying to make light conversation. Many of his quotes aren't verbatim - they're second hand from someone who talked to him, and who is pounced on by journalists looking for a story.

He's a product of his era - on the one hand, it was the era where the Black and White Minstrels would appear on prime time TV, and racism was casual. On the other hand, it was the era where Punjabi, Pathan, Bantu and Gurkha fought side by side with Scots, English, Irish, and Welsh while they were trying to defeat the Japanese. Try reading George Macdonald Fraser (any of the Flashman books, but ideally "Quartered Safe Out Here") if you want to get your head around that era's thinking.

I've got a father-in-law of almost the same age; some of his comments might be carbon copies of DofE, but he isn't racist... not really. Although it does lead to some heated discussions when he triggers one of my hot buttons on the subject...

77:

anonemouse @ 67
Erm wasn't Erskine Childers murdered by hos "own" side?

And where did my previous comment about other possible (and actually useful) constitutional reforms go?

Mrtin @ 76
THe D of E was a very very junior officer during WWII - I think he was at the battle of Matapan, for instance .....

78:

Somewhat off topic but related.

I have an opportunity to visit London for a few days between June 16 and June 24. Is this period all sufficiently within the window between the Queen's thing and the Olympics such that the days I pick don't matter?

79:

When talking to my colleagues here in the US, some of whom like the Royals and all the pageantry, I like to ask what they would think if a family in the US tried to become hereditary monarchs: What would happen if someone tried to institute a monarchy?

Think of a really bad car wreak. We're drawn to look but really don't want to be a part of it.

80:

A good part of Poland was stolen from Germany

That seems to be a wee bit of an over simplification.

81:

Ref DofE at Matapan - indeed, he was in charge of a searchlight. That doesn't sound like much, but in the days before night vision equipment it was a key part of aiming the main armament, and not that well armoured. He had a busy war; he put his life on the line for five years to fight Fascism.

82:

Here in oz, we get to have a remote Queen at minimal expense, (except during visits). The HoS stuff is done adequately most of the time by an citizen of merit appointed by the government of the day as Governor-General, theoretically "on behalf of the Queen of Australia".
Most folk here don't have any objection to the present incumbent, her actions don't really impinge on us on a day-to-day basis.
I doubt that it would be a real problem here if the Governor-General just became the HoS without the Queen as backstop.

83:

I have to ask, why a head of state at all?

Shouldn't a country be represented by its decisions rather than a single member of its populace?

84:

"What would happen if someone tried to institute a monarchy?"

Assuming the circumstances were right for it to be possible, the first thing to happen would be roaring acclaim and a sense of relief from whatever problem it was that the incoming monarch fixed.
It'd be a couple generations before the titles catch up with the powers, though.

The first monarch is a savior, the second one's there for a desire for continuity and to avoid a return to the bad old pre-monarch days, and after that it's just the way it's always been done.

85:

How about a randomly chosen criminal? They run Canada, why shouldn't they become King or Queen?

Oh wait, Charlie also said no politicians...

--dave

86:

As an Australian, I can remember our previous attempt at a referendum on a republic. It was done very quickly, without much thought put into things, and largely consisted of a constitutional version of s/monarch/president (I think I have that the right way around?) where the President of an Australian republic would be selected by the parliament and given the same powers as our current Governor-General. Now, the GG at present is a political figurehead - they don't interfere in the day-to-day running of the country (the last time one tried was back in 1975, and the repercussions of that are still echoing around parliament even now). The PM of the day when we had the republican referendum was one of the last surviving politicians who'd been around when the Dismissal happened (and even though his party had benefited - the PM in question was John Howard[1] - he remembered enough of the fuss it caused to not want it happening again) and is a die-hard monarchist, so he basically rigged the referendum to get the "no" answer he wanted.

Now, as an Aussie, I don't really find myself touched too much by the whole Diamond Jubilee thing. Yes, QE the 2 has been in charge a long time. But then again, she's of that generation - one of the last ones which was heavily weeded by childhood diseases (before widespread vaccination), and which then grew up alongside some massive improvements in medical technology. She doesn't smoke, I doubt she drinks to excess, she doesn't have a particularly sedentary lifestyle, and her job, such as it is, isn't precisely the most stressful one on the planet, since a lot of the real responsibility is delegated at least one or two ranks down the ladder. It's likely she'll survive to her nineties, possibly to her first century date (just like her mother did). If she's anything like her mother's side of the family, she'll probably be alert and with it until the day she drops down dead. Would to the gods I had her genetics, quite frankly (I'm more likely to be senile when I die, and that terrifies me).

Now, the biggest problem I can see with a lot of the suggestions for removing the monarchy is that they tend to focus either entirely on the political role of the monarch (which still exists, even though it has been very carefully pruned out of the mainstream since approximately the 1600s) or entirely on the social and ceremonial role of the monarch (which has basically altered from "leader" to "figurehead"), forgetting that in the case of the UK, both roles are combined. So someone who would be a good ceremonial monarch (the winner of Royal Knockout, for example) might not be a good political monarch (in that they wouldn't have the necessary historical or political knowledge to determine when interference - in the sense of questions like "are you sure you're allowed to do that?" - is required). And, of course, vice versa - people who are good at politics generally don't look all that impressive ceremonially. You'd need a really interesting set of selection criteria to get appropriate applicants for the job.

Then again, if you're going to bring in a different person to head the monarchy, I suggest Tim Brooke-Taylor (of the Goodies). At least he can rock the frocks, and we know he looks good in a tiara.

[1] Who, incidentally, has just received the Order of Merit from HM the Q in the past week.

87:

The problem with a lottery monarchy is that it gives too much power to the ceremonial bureaucracy surrounding the head of state(also known as "The Palace") sooner or later.

I would rather have no head of state at all, like most people in my province.

We don't hate the current queen but we consider the monarchy to be irrelevant and scandalously wasteful. We have proof that our jazz musicians, comics and other artists are more than enough to attract tourists. We have not invited the Queen to any of our cities since the Montreal Olympics in 1976. Our tourist industry has been going quite well without her in those 36 years!

Also, the king or queen or her representatives here, the governor generals have proved to be totally useless in settling federal level constitutional emergencies. We're not about to forget the Byng - King crisis.

Unfortunately the people in my province are a minority in Canada (less than a quarter of the population) and the rest of Canada loves old queen Lizzie so much that they're willing to forget about her eldest son. They also fell madly in love with the Kate and William show when it visited them (while keeping an incredibly low profile in my province, of course) last summer. The show made them forget William's father.

Boy, are they ever going to be surprised when Lizzy kicks the bucket and something else is going to appear instead of the Kate and William show!

To sum up, we would be much better without heads of state and bringing on a jubilee should be left to alternate history novels.


88:

The monarchy are fairly useful in other ways, too - they're sometimes welcome in places where some of our politicians aren't and they do take part in a lot of quiet diplomacy.
This might be a highly contestible point, but is it better to have the institutions such as the polica and armed forces at least nominally loyal to a non-partisan head of state, rather than swearing allegiance to the government or president of the day?

89:

Much better to make them swear to respect the constitution.

90:

Is it any more oversimplified than summing up centuries of wars, revolts, inheritances, and court cases as “the British Crown Estate was acquired by armed robbery?” You can think of the Südtyrol, or Schleiswig-Holstein, or Tanu Tuva, or the Dithmarschen, or Sardinia, or Calais if the events of 1945 are too ugly. But I'm glad that its been illegal to annex thy neighbour's land for sixty years now.

91:

New virus. The newspaper says a new king hell virus is running wild in Iran. How long before it gets over here?
I'm not English and I am not getting in this. But don't landlords who live on site (THEY OWN JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING, RIGHT) take better care of whats theirs than the one who are getting ready to run away like we have in the states? Just wondering.

92:

One reason for a head of state is history. We humans have this pattern of getting government by a big strong man, eventually becoming the King, from whom all power derives. In the case of Britain, the idea of the personal authority of the monarch being the root of the system runs pretty deep. We refer to the "Crown" as a vague entity apart from the particular monarch, and we don't have a formal written constitution, which even the politicians have to obey.

There is a lot more to getting rid of a monarch than just patching in an elected President. Can we have the Royal Navy without a monarch?

I think getting a written constitution matters far more than abolishing monarchy. It is something that works well in several other European countries which retain monarchy. And we might do well to consider Charles XIV John of Sweden as an example of how monarchy need not depend on ancestry.

93:

Charlie,

Any chance that there will be a pub get-together while you are in New York City ?

94:

If the Head of State is just ceremonial, why should they be rich or deferred to in any circumstance other than the ceremonies they perform at?

I like the lottery idea, but make sure it's a five year contract, a five figure stipend, and has the option of refusing to participate if one takes up the role.

Of course, the British monarchy is far from ceremonial – the Queen right now wields a hell of a lot of soft power behind the scenes. This is a much, much bigger problem.

95:

>>Most of the places where one would want to live are constitutional republics with figurehead monarchies

I'm guessing you mean Netherlands and the Nordics. That's an accident of history, though, or in some ways reflective of the cultures – the people were just too nice and polite to chop the heads off their kings. But their similarly-profiled neighbours without monarchs (Switzerland, Finland, Iceland, Germany...) do just as well, and I see little merit to the argument that Canada, Australia and New Zealand is in any way affected by their head of state arrangement.

96:

one word: spam.

97:

i think this is part of the problem in many systems: there are no strings attached to wealth and power. adding personal responsibility could vastly improve things and keep the sociopaths away. say what you want about the monarchy, they do dedicate their lives to the service of their country, and they set an example to other privileged people. imagine a parasite like mitt romney doing that...

98:

If an institution has been around for a very long time, unless there's some transparently obvious, urgent and compelling reason to get rid of it you should keep it.

A tradition is a solution to a forgotten problem; but the fact that it has been forgotten -does not mean- that it has gone away.

Constitutional monarchy has a good deal going for it. A hereditary monarch makes an excellent symbol of continuity -- of the succession of the generations. It helps remind people that they're all part of the same ongoing story, which is an important function.

More generally, we don't understand how our societies work, and it's always easier to make things -stop- working than to make them work.

In short, if it ain't broke, don't try to fix it.

99:

I'd say it is broken, a token monarch leaves the Prime Minister with too much unchecked power.

100:

I love that there are 21 mentions of the phrase constitution. Did you know Britain does not have a written or agreed Constitution ? some people incorrect point to the Magna Carta , others believe that there is a Document ( or documents ) which convey the British Consitution and its Laws. In reality British Law by way of layers of Monarchy , Government and Authority is a Lasagne of Laws and a Spaghetti of Amendments to ACTS all of which are a layer cake of what people misguidedly refer to as British or English Constitution.

The single most important feature of the monarchy that we need is that the armed forces are directed by the Monarchy and not the Government. The Police are directed by the Government and as a result our Internal enforcement is managed by Police and externally by our Armed Forces. If you gave the Armed Forces to the Government they would be on the same internal layer as the Police. Instead we appear to be Arming and Armouring our Police as if they were an Armed Forces group to management of policy internally because the Government does not have access to the Armed Forces.

This appears to be the only reasonable cost of maintaining a monarchy which is to keep the government away from the tanks.

101:

Actually bear in mind that the Queen isn't neccesarily qualified to do the political end of her role any better than Chaz Blogs from Putney – the assumption that she's got some qualities that make her better than Chaz Bloggs from 31 Bumhole avenue, Putney, is based on the fact she's queen not any demonstration that she has some queen-specific accumulated knowledge base to make judgements on. there is an assumption I suppose that since she's been raised from a young age to be queen she has been tutored in her monarchal duties and legal role, but I'm not sure how true that is (especially given the changing nature of the law which governs this nation).

However, these problems suggests an obvious solution and a model that might work: Currently the monarch is selected at birth from a pool of people who's selection criteria is familial – why not increase AND decrease the arbitrariness of the selection process by say getting rid of the current british aristocracy and seizing all their lands, and then replacing them with say 1% of the children under 5 in the foster care who haven't found a home yet, training them up from a young age to put up with the stresses of being in the media spotlight constantly (the one notable thing about the monarchy is that its members have a remarkably low rate of suicide compared to most types of celebrity), train them in thier constintutional role and then test them to sort out the line of seccession, with the previous lordly land holdings and estates used to house them (probably a few to an estate, and the cost of education and maintainence funded through selling the international streaming rights of the mansion's security cameras.

viola, sorted.

102:

Why exclude anyone from a purely ceremonial role? At that point everything is going to be so stage-managed by the bureaucracy attending the head of state that it's unlikely even a highly unstable person could cause problems.

The only big problem I see is that it does give the organization in charge of randomly selecting a head of state the power to put potentially disruptive individuals on ice for a couple years. Someone gaining a little too much power or political momentum? They're the lucky "random" winner.

103:

According to some jurists (my former professor of constitutional law, J.R. Mallory included, may he rest in peace) England has an oral constitution. In this they are similar to the Iroquois:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Law_of_Peace

Given the current state of England I do believe that it requires to be fixed in some way.

I'd like to point out that before the repatriation of the constitution in 1982 (New Zealand and Australia dis something similar in 1986) we only had the BNA act as a basic law, and it left many things unsaid, such as the exact role of the monarch. This had the effect of saddling us with a partly oral constitution, like the brits had but at a variable X % force instead of at 100% force.

The important thing to remember is that having an oral constitution does not prevent you from making minor and major fixes to it when it is broken.

We made many of them.

One of the biggest was in the ceremonial role of the Monarch. It took several generations but sometime in the 1960s the federal government finally realized that parading the Queen in my province could only end in tears. We had riots each time she was foisted on us, since we considered her to be a parasite. We considered the politicians who foisted her on us to be parasites of a parasite and most of the boos, rotten eggs and empty beer bottles were launched for them.

Some time after 1967 somebody in Ottawa had the bright idea to orchestrate the queen's visits so that her main presentations / ceremonies / speeches would take place outside my province. Nobody wrote this down. It's been part of the oral side of our constitution for nearly 50 years. It works. There are no more anti-royalty riots in my province. We just get noisy about things like student tuition fees.

So, the solution for England might be to reach a polite consensus on the shuttering and/or conversion of those palaces which are not the private property of the Windsors and of cutting down the number of ceremonies (opening malls for instance) where a member of the Windsor family is present. Scotland might want to do something more radical like burning in effigy those princes which have speaking issues.

Also it might be a good idea for the English to have a really big meeting near a Weymouth pine and transcribe their oral constitution on wampum belts if they are still allergic to pen and paper and do not trust electrons and magnetic fields. It worked for the Iroquois.

104:

After the Mayan/zombie/Peak Oil/etc. apocalypse brings civilization to its knees, who do you think the ragged survivors in the UK would be most likely to rally 'round: The PM, some lotto/game-show winner figure-head, or His/Her Britannic Majesty?

Might be best to consider the royals a kind of insurance policy or fall-back plan...

105:

Exactly. Why do we need a head of state at all? Being in favour of an elected head of state is like a slave being in favour of an elected master; it's likely an improvement, but doesn't address the fundamental problem.

Switzerland has a collective head of state, which is probably the least offensive system currently in existance.

106:

(I know some of (or blimey, probably all of) my points have already been made. I wrote them before I read that someone made the same point.)

Why does there need to be a head of state at all? If it is a purely ceremonial role, what's the point actually? I've thought the position quite unneeded since the last referendum in Australia on the issue. Any opening of bridges or the like can be done by ministers, or majors, or random passers-by (or mad loons on horse back). The idea of keeping the government in check is absurd (see next point).

To the comments about having a head of state with power, do you really think the Queen could actually do anything the parliament didn't like? If the Queen actually tried to exercise those reserve powers, the parliament would get rid of the monarchy within the day. The Monarchy has no actual power. In Australia, NZ and Canada (I assume the second two, I know for the first one), while the Monarch does have real theoretical power, again, if they tried to exercise it, they would be booted before the month was up! Well, actually, in Aus, that would require a referendum, but the government of the day would have one. The only case in Australia of the Governor General actually exercising power is considered a constitutional crisis, because no matter what the constitution says (about the GG being the executive head), no one actually thinks it's a good idea.

And yes, there are loads of other problems with the British (and other Commonwealth) political system (first-past-the-post for one, the parliament having too much power for another, etc.). But, that does not mean people can't fight for multiple things at once!

Tourism is a really bad argument to keep the Monarchy. Millions of people still visit Versailles, even though the French haven't had a monarch for ages. Loads of tourists still visit the palaces in Austria, etc. In fact, getting rid of the Monarchy would mean that people could actually go inside the palaces, into places they aren't allowed at the moment!


In conclusion, the British people should do what the French did, off with their heads! (If they don't want to lose their heads, all the need to do is abdicate, and/or refuse all benefits of their position and declare that they are unwilling to serve, and to refuse to serve. They should do that now, before the revolution; otherwise they might not be believed.) (Alternatively, if the Monarch goes to a Dominion, they could do the deed. I'd like that as well.)

107:

The British monarch is not chosen by birthright alone, indeed on three seperate occasions [1649, 1688 and 1936], we have disposed of the reigning monarch and replaced them with someone more attactive to the ruling class.

Peculiarly, Elizabeth II is not the legitimate monarch of England and rules by force of conquest alone, having no legitimate blood connection to the Norman/Plantagenet line that so many of the British aristocracy have...

this man has a more legitimate claim to the throne of England
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Abney-Hastings,_14th_Earl_of_Loudoun
but being an Australian resident, and a republican too, he has no real interest in toppling the current regime and taking his rightful place

in short if the ruling class, [the aristocracy, however formulated] says you are king or queen, and your people do not rise up against you, then you are the monarch.

many people have been excluded from the throne of England

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_successions_of_the_English_crown

unfortunately for Charlie, Elizabeth I [Elizabeth Stuart-Guelph-Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Windsor, b. 1926-] is the rightful Queen of Scotland, by descent and conquest alike

the only land owned by the monarch as an individual is in Scotland, unsuprisingly

108:

"the only land owned by the monarch as an individual is in Scotland, unsuprisingly"

Wait a minute, doesn't she also own (privately) Sandringham house and its lands, in addition to Balmoral?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandringham_House

109:

Canada did not become the personal property of one family. The borders of postwar Europe were agreed by treaty and are fixed by international law.

110:

"Ahem: you got the wrong Henry."

I'm sure that he got the ladies, as well. Just with less Papal conflict.

111:

Was the Instrument of Government ever formally repealed?

112:

Also the Duchy of Lancaster belongs to the Monarch personally, rather than to the Crown?

113:

If you're going to play the "current royals aren't legitimate because they're descended from a conqueror" game, why on earth should you stop there? What makes the Norman conquest more legitimate than those that came after it?

Find me someone with a traceable line of descent from pre-Roman rulers of (at least some part of) the British isles and maybe we can talk. Because at least that would be entertainingly silly.

114:

Don't some monarchs wander in from alternate histories? Why else would James VI and I, King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns, care enough about Astronomy to visit Uranienborg, the Danish astronomical observatory operated by Tycho Brahe?

115:

Ahem: you got the wrong Erskine.

116:

Speaking personally, as a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, the very notion of monarchy is repulsive.

Also, our head of state is better than your head of state, so nyah! Michael D is possessed of a towering intellect and a blazing social conscience, and has gotten the position through merit and not just because he has the right *blood*.

QEII might win in a fight, though, he's pretty titchy.

117:

There's no reason to think that things didn't start out innocently enough, first come first serve, natural selection, then random selections, lotteries and raffles, sore losers and cheaters, extroverts exceeding the supplies of very little demand, while some were off busy tending to other concerns, plots were thickened and webs woven, to what becomes habit and be made into laws and traditions, that must be treated as sacred, lest they seem trivial, temporary and gasp...unnecessary.

118:

I meant the three low countries, the three Scandinadvian monarchies, Japan, Spain, and the rich countries that share a monarch with the UK. I suggest that the real causation is that the sort of gradual political change that leaves traces of the old system, such as a figurehead monarch, tends to give more peace, order, and good government than sudden and violent political change. Once a democracy with figurehead monarchy has been in place for fifty years or so, its probably safe to get rid of the figurehead, but why risk it?

Of course monarchy is arbitrary and irrational. But designing institutions as if man were the rational, and not the rationalizing, animal tends to lead to disaster. I strongly suspect that most humans want a single leader to look up to, and its better for that leader to be powerless than for them to be both practical and symbolic leaders. Canada has been invaded by American political thinking, which is a problem because a Canadian PM doesn't have the checks and balances on his actions that an American president used to.

119:

One problem I have with monarchy is that there is no recall mechanism. If someone turns out to be batshit crazy I'd like some sort of method to disempower them.

120:

While we're at it, how about a definitive Libertopian debunking post as a counterpart to the Space Cadettism/Colonization ones?

It is a topic that heavily influences SF and our real-world future, isn't it?

121:

There was a recall mechanism in 1649, and in 1936 to some extent, as well as other occasions I have probably missed. I don't see why there should not be one now,

122:

After the Mayan/zombie/Peak Oil/etc. apocalypse brings civilization to its knees, who do you think the ragged survivors in the UK would be most likely to rally 'round: The PM, some lotto/game-show winner figure-head, or His/Her Britannic Majesty?

Might be best to consider the royals a kind of insurance policy or fall-back plan...

Ahem. I would be rallying round my neighbours and community. In fact, building local communities to rally round is generally accepted as a good idea anyway ...

The only reason to rally around a national figurehead would be if the nation was attacked. Basically this "rally round" business is a hangover from wars.
Best to plan your government on more sane principles than which flag to run to on a battlefield.

123:

Best plan your societal survival strategy on human nature. Shaved apes, along with being poor space travelers, are also often short on principles, etc.

For example: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/victory_lab/2012/06/racicalization_michael_tesler_s_theory_that_all_political_positions_come_down_to_racial_bias_.html

Perhaps it's best to have someone on hand for when our better angles decide to take a hike...

124:

One problem I have with monarchy is that there is no recall mechanism. If someone turns out to be batshit crazy I'd like some sort of method to disempower them.

This is incorrect; there are multiple recall mechanisms. The mildest involves some trusted nobles having a quiet word with the monarch, an orderly and scheduled abdication, and the installation of a more stable successor. Progressively more energetic options are available, eventually culminating in the use of an axe, noose, or guillotine - this last method tends to be very messy over a wide area, and is to be avoided when possible.

125:

What we've got works. We have someone who is trained from birth, pretty much incorruptible, and spends enough time in the job to provide continuity.

With all due respect, it seems to me you're committing a logical error, by considering that the monarchy works just because it works with the current monarch.

There's absolutely no guarantee that, say, Prince Charles, would be as "good" a monarch as Queen Elizabeth. There's also no guarantee at all that we won't have future king who proves to be, say, a sex maniac like Dominique Strauss Kahn proved to be.

Is there stress and all? Yeah, I think so.
But (and this isn't directed to you, but to the general idea of royalty) I find it utterly insulting to consider that, pressure issues aside, even if you spend a year teaching me how to wave my hand at public ceremonies, I would still necessarily be a worse (and more corruptible!!!) king than "Random Royal ##".

And to answer charlie:
BUT, sadly, I fear that there's this notion that royalty is "in the blood", so to speak, and that such a random ruler would only be a "false" king. I mean, Denethor and Boromir are good, but not as good as Aragorn, not by a longshot, even thought they spend their whole life into their roles. And that is the issue at work here :-(

126:

You're thinking of Robert Erskine Childers (author of Riddle of The Sands), the person you're replying to is probably thinking of his son, Erskine Hamilton Childers.

Confusingly they're both known as Erskine.

(There was a grandson, Erskine Barton Childers, who was a UN diplomat.)

127:

And what about the Dalai Lama: randomly selected in very early childhood then raised to fill a role that has historically included governing a people as well as being their moral conscience. Guess he has a better press agent.

Read about this recently and think it might appeal to this crowd: Kenneth Arrow (1972 Nobel in Economics) tried to figure out a system to determine the best voting representation method based on 5 axioms he developed that are truisms for most democracies/republics. His conclusion: it can't be done, the axioms are self-conflicting and produce paradoxes. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow%27s_impossibility_theorem)

(Also see: Social Choice theory.)

128:

"I suggest that the real causation is that the sort of gradual political change that leaves traces of the old system, such as a figurehead monarch, tends to give more peace, order, and good government than sudden and violent political change. Once a democracy with figurehead monarchy has been in place for fifty years or so, its probably safe to get rid of the figurehead, but why risk it?"

Yes, there seems to be no good reason to risk a total, absolute eradication.

On the other hand I find a good argument here for a gradual removal of the more wasteful aspects of the presence of nobility. It's a bit like meal moths and other parasites in warmer climes. You can't totally eradicate them. Or maybe you don't want to because of the high costs involved. But you can diminish their negative effects considerably.

Looking at this list of privately held versus government held palaces:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_British_royal_residences#Former_Royal_residences

I see that if Buckingham palace and Windsor castle and the other spectacular government held places were emptied of royal blood and converted to useful purposes there would still be more than enough privately held royal stately homes in which nobility (an interesting term isn't it?) could cavort, gambol and strut away to the pleasure of royalists and temporary fans.

Passing tourists, romantic couples and foreign business persons would be ravished with the idea of holding destination weddings or conferences in refurbished versions of Windsor and Buckingham. Every nook and cranny of those places would be converted for these purposes and the money would go straight in the public purse.

Right now the Queen (or any other person of royal blood) is forbidden to enter the House of Commons, by tradition. It would be a simple measure to establish a tradition forbidding the monarch (and assorted relatives) to enter parts of cities and defined sections of the countryside. That way people who have no interest in the current life of the English nobility (which includes tourists like me as well a quite a few natives) would not be indisposed by the presence of those titled parasites and their security staff.

129:

I think (and I'm quite serious) that we should have a National Alligator. Make that head of state. Insist on visiting heads of state meeting it. Carry ont he rule that the PM must regularly consult. Commission and swear forces, issue knighthoods, the whole kaboodle.

It'll cost almost nothing. The existing Crown Esates we'll whittle down through death duties and capital transfer, and in no time at all everyone will forget we ever managed without the alligator.

130:

It dawned on me that we've bypassed one point in favor of some form of inherited position.

We've seen a number of organizations fail due to various Loot & Leave schemes on the part of whoever has weaseled themselves into positions of power near the top. Trying to fix this appears to be a Hard Problem, as shown by the long series of lawsuits and criminal charges against departing CEOs. For organizations stable over many decades (many religions and nations, but few corporations), there's a loophole: humans are very poor at planning for the long term, particularly when circumstance offers the chance to pocket a pile of cash instead, but they do care about their children. Hereditary monarchy, for all its failure modes, gives the person in charge a real interest in the future of the system well beyond a single human lifetime; there's no way more certain to give the kids and grandkids the very best future available than to take good care of the nation now.

Turning parenting instincts to the good of the larger group was certainly why the current system came to exist, but it does have a certain appeal to it. The same advantage doesn't exist for elected officials, who generally show very poor ability to plan for generations to come.

131:

lke 29
My head of state is a citizen of another country, and has no ancestors who came from my country. She pays no taxes here. She also doesn't live here, although occasionally she and her entourage show up for a nice vacation, and expect to be treated like bloody royalty.


Look on the bright side, you get the delux monarchy package at discount prices.

132:

Many Americans are trying to do precisely that. Worse, the monarch they have in mind is Jesus...

133:

Now, that's a thought. Timeshared monarchies: if a nations want a figurehead, they can hire a share of another country's monarch. They get an appointed professional Governor-General to do the routine work, and a certain quantity of royalty. Princes and princesses come pretty cheap, while an actual visit by the Monarch needs several years of accumulated royalty vouchers.

134:

Wasn't that almost the system in Europe up until WW2)?
Well, OK, not timeshared, just shared. Princes or similar from one place would be invited to other places to become the new king, if for whatever reason, they didn't have one.
William of Orange was invited to become the King of England, the Swedes asked a Frenchman to become King at one point, and of course the system became very incestuous such that Victoria was grandmother of most of the royalty in Europe in 1914. (I can't just think of any other examples, but would welcome them. The highlight that hereditary rule is not so perfect.)

Also, I do like the word parasite in reference to monarchy. Esp. the constitutional monarchies where the bastards don't have any real responsibility. And what do we do with parasites...

135:

Alain:


Right now the Queen (or any other person of royal blood) is forbidden to enter the House of Commons, by tradition. It would be a simple measure to establish a tradition forbidding the monarch (and assorted relatives) to enter parts of cities and defined sections of the countryside. That way people who have no interest in the current life of the English nobility (which includes tourists like me as well a quite a few natives) would not be indisposed by the presence of those titled parasites and their security staff.

As i understand current EU civil rights law, that's illegal.

I doubt they'd challenge the House of Commons over that, but adding normal territory?

Howsabout solutions that would not provoke outrage amongst the public if the public were the recipient...

136:

Why not allow serious criminals? I mean, those who are ceremonial head of state by ancestry are by no means require not to be felons...

Actually, I think the ideal might be to have it be an elected position with no real powers but lots of ceremonial ones (cut the ribbon at openings of large public buildings, christen ships, give televised addresses twice a week). Then, advertise it as being an immensely powerful position. In this way, politicians can be encouraged to do the things they do best (campaign, give speeches, act as public figures) while avoiding all those things that belong to that skillset they ignored in favour of rhetoric (making laws and other meaningful decisions that should be made in a nuanced and balanced way by people not worried about partisanship).

137:

it already is entertaining silly - you'd have to be mildly demented to regard Britain's royal paraphernalia as anything other than a elaborate, stage-managed tourist-friendly farce

all monarchs are functionally illegitimate - no one can be certain if they belong to the bloodline they claim, nor many of the aristocracy either

in the words Oscar Wilde "the British aristocracy is the finest work of fiction in the English language"

any legitimacy any monarchy has is either obtained by force, or the consent of those they govern, and since 1688 the Crown has been "the Crown-in-Parliament", ie the Crown chooses a figure congenial to them and the prevailing prejudices of the time to be its Head of State from a limited pool of potential candidates

Britain can get rid of its monarchy any time it wants - we have before, we can again

we just prefer to torture the poor, benighted, ill-equipped personalities available for the job in return for the palaces, ceremony and free money

maybe they enjoy it, who knows?

138:

Oh yes, many recall mechanisms. Of the last 20 English and UK monarchs three were permanently deprived of their throne by political action (Charles I, James II, Edward VIII) and two temporarily (Charles II, George III) Thats a quarter of them. So there is a quality control system of sorts.


My personal opinion on them, as others here, is why have a head of state at all?

139:

"As i understand current EU civil rights law, that's illegal."

Those laws apply to normal people, not to kings and queens and princes and princesses.

Just think at how they differ.

You can bypass those EU laws very easily in a multitude of ways.

For instance, you can say that special police protection (or military protection or whatever extra protection they give to the royal family and close relatives) will henceforth apply only in certain parts of cities and certain zones in England. Outside those zones, sorry, but we're cutting on costs these days and we can't afford to give you any extra protection there.

Oh, and you're not allowed to be a public nuisance either so bringing amateur bodyguards to form human shields around you is out of the question.

140:

Oh, and a detail, not that I have ever been in a jail, if HMtheQ says Go To Jail, I'll go, with reasonably good grace. If any corporation ever tries to hold me prisoner I swear they will regret it in spades.

141:

@ 138
Wrong
It is a point of principle that no-one at all is above the law.
Charles I tried that, and it ended very badly for him.

Generally
IT AIN'T BROKE
Why do you want to fix it?

There are much more serious constitutional and policy problems, affecting the UK than this debate about our constitutional monarchy.
Even leaving out you-know-what, we have:
Reform of the upper/second chamber, to make an effective "Senate" - which is desperately needed.
Control/regulation of financial institutions and multinational corporates - as much discussed here, before.

Then theres' long-term policy decisions, such as: power generation
food security
adequate defence.

142:

Hey, don't look at me! Charles Stross is the one who's asking about fixing the Windsor problem.

Personally, I'm pretty glad about the way we fixed what used to be our Windsor problem by unofficially keeping her out of my province for nearly 40 years.

We've got more pressing problems to fix in our constitution, like the tricky case of our upper house, the Canadian senate. Just about everyone in my province wants it abolished completely, while in the rest of Canada they're torn between making it effective (and elected) or abolishing it or keeping it like it is.

Can of worms! Serious can of worms!

Much more fun to speculate on what to do with Lizzy Windsor and her castles.

143:

Greg @ 140

"There are much more serious constitutional and policy problems, affecting the UK than this debate about our constitutional monarchy."

The monarchy is part of our constitution, and if it isn't working (ie being non elected it can't provide any check on the over powerful PM) then the rest won't get fixed any time soon.

144:

We should privatise the monarchy, and introduce much-needed competition into the industry. Charles Windsor should get a business startup grant on Mrs W.'s death, to establish his own royalty business, but so should another dozen or so members of the public, and corporations/municipalities/government departments/Dominions/etc. can invite tenders from all of them to fulfil traditional royal functions.

Each one can hold their own choice of title (King/Queen/Grand Duke/Archduke/Lord High Goat-Furtler/whatever) and institute their own knightly orders.

Of course, we'll need a new regulatory body for the head-of-state industry, but given the amounts of money historically sloshing around in it that should be self-funding. We can call it Ofhead.

145:

If I hear one more simpering talking head from the BBC asking people how in awe of the Queen they are, I'll puke.

Queenie is better than any politician option - can you imagine President Boris? However, I think Charlie (HRH) will be the death of the Royal family - he's not smart enough to keep his mouth shut.

The best figureheads are made of wood.

146:

Can't think of anything in particular happening in that time frame. But bear in mind London is already much more packed with tourists etc. due to the Jubilee, I expect this will continue until after the Olympics. There are also ongoing travel disruptions in some areas due to the construction of Crossrail, a big rail transport project, which will continue for the next few years. Most notably, traffic is seriously slow around Oxford Street, Paddington station, and other areas where construction of stations etc. is in progress.

147:

People keep asking

why have a head of state at all?

To which there is, I'm afraid, a simple answer. In the UK, our HoS is someone nominally important who can have dinner parties (and afternoon tea, and so on) with foreign visitors who are too important to upset. This allows the PM (the only other person acceptable as an equal to, say, an oil sheik or random president) to get on with running the country, rather than having to babysit official visitors all the time.

Our head of state is necessary to maintain the egos of people who refuse to talk to anyone who isn't in charge. If everyone round the world got rid of kings and unelected presidents and other heads of state, then we wouldn't need ours anymore. But until that time comes....

148:

I can really see President Blair putting a check on PMs pursuing his old policies. The problem with an elected president is that the same old hacks will be up for the job, and voting for anyone not backed by one of the Big Two will be a waste of a vote.

149:

Im fairly sure that school history aside William of orange was "invited" to become king (co king) once it was realised he intended to land with a large army and a vaugly plausible but tissue thin clai on the throne

150:

R Lloyd @ 148
Not quite
James II had made himself deperately unpopular, in a mere three years, and Willem was married to a legitimate successor - James' daughter, Mary.
Thus, the "legitiamet succession" could be followed, and James conveniently got rid of.
Furthermore, when Willem DID land, James led an army against his son-in-law, only to find that large chunks of hios army promptly cahnging sides.
James was then conveneintly "permitted" to escape, this saving embarrassment all around.

151:

"I can really see President Blair putting a check on PMs pursuing his old policies."

Given the odium in which Blair left office, and the scorn heaped upon him since, I very strongly doubt he (or any other recently departed PM) would ever be elected as president. But in the end that's up to the voters. At worst we'd get a nonentity or hack unable or unwilling to act - whereas currently we have a figure with no democratic legitimacy who is unable to act.

In any case I don't think their role would be to constrain policies, it would come in over matters like investigating Jeremy Hunt where at present the PM's is the sole view that matters.

The trouble is that it seems to be assumed that the Queen's role is 100% ceremonial, so it doesn't matter who does it. I think it's more like 99%, and the 1% matters a lot.

152:

I was reading the Act of Settlement only the other day (no, really...) some very delicate language to skirt round the fact that here was Parliament acting without benefit of the sitting monarch to bring in an alternative who would then retrospectively legitimise the whole thing. I think the central fiction was that in fleeing, James VII/ II had abdicated.

Of course, history being written by the winners, nobody is fussed about this...

153:

"At worst we'd get a nonentity or hack unable or unwilling to act"

No, at worst we would be a party political president only too willing to act.

154:

The trouble is that it seems to be assumed that the Queen's role is 100% ceremonial, so it doesn't matter who does it. I think it's more like 99%, and the 1% matters a lot.

This seems a reasonable analysis from my distant perspective. (Of course, living with the combined head-of-state and executive system I do, the grass looks green and pretty over there.) I expect that most of the time the British government rolls along pretty much automatically without the Queen - and the occasions it doesn't are important.

155:

This thread has had the unexpected effect of turning me into a supporter of the monarchy.

I agree with the theoretical basis that privilege by heredity is A Bad Thing(TM). Although I'm sure if I suggested we should tax everyone 100% of their value at death and spread evenly among people being born there would be major outcry - and that's supporting privilege by heredity too.

I look at the countries with an elected head of state and I frankly cringe. There are none that I look at and consider their system superior to ours. There are some that do well for a time and badly for a time, but the monarchy keeps rolling along. It does a pretty damn good job of opening hospitals, visiting people after disasters, having anniversaries that get people out and shopping, living in houses that attract tourists and so on, as well as forcing the current PM to go and chat about the world once a week to someone with I'm pretty sure a very different view to him (or her a few decades ago).

At first glance a HOS-by-lottery seems to answer many of objections to yet another politician. But then I look at samples of people I know and wonder. People on this blog probably all like to think they're reasonably intelligent, educated and interested. If it's not you that's selected by ballot, which of the others would you support as King/Queen/President? The transhumanists? The libertarians? The space cadets? The bolshie feminists? The guy that joked about hiring prostitutes to talk to us? The guy who keeps telling us we're missing the 'superior spiritual dimension'?

Take out the intelligent, or the informed... do you want them?

What happens if you pick someone whose got exhibitionist nudist tendencies? I don't think that would be a disaster, but I imagine a fair few people would be up in arms.

What if you get someone who is just rude? Or someone that hates being out in public? It would drive me mad, having Trooping the Colour for my birthday, a big Jubilee because I've been around for a decade or six and so on.

I'd like clear evidence that the new system is better before a change I think, despite the issues I have with the current system. HOS-by-lottery could work brilliantly for a few HOSs but the bad ones will be terrible. I think worse than the current one.

156:

Alian:


"As i understand current EU civil rights law, that's illegal."
Those laws apply to normal people, not to kings and queens and princes and princesses.

Alain, your argument here is either appalling or self-parodying...

157:

I don't think EU law addresses "civil rights" as such, it's more about economic freedoms - you'd look more to European Court of Human Rights for things like freedom of assembly, right to start a family and so on. Clearly there is scope for overlap.

In principle I suspect that the the very nature of monarchy could poses challenges for either, if strictly applied. (Let alone the specifics of UK law, which explicitly excludes Roman Catholics of their spouses - looks rather like religious discrimination). So there may well be carve outs for the monarchies.

158:

passing thought: Baroque Trilogy and the relationship between the Greater English state (aka the UK), the modern banking system and the post Glorious Rev monarchy… kick away one of the legs of that tripod and it might be easier to sort out the other two…
And before anyone jumps to any conclusions, James II & VII was a git, the Enlightenment was a good thing etc...

159:

@ Eloise 155
The Naked Rambler as president - i think you may be on to something...

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Gough

160:

Overheard during the exit interview as the U.K finally decides that to fire the Queen: "Sorry Ma'am, it's not that we have anything against you personally, this is purely an organizational restructuring that's long overdue. As I'm sure you agree, Britain must show the world that it does indeed have both feet firmly planted in the 21st century, wot?"

Wonder what kind of severance package she'll get.

161:

I was reading the Act of Settlement only the other day

Fascinating, isn't it? Although it's important to read it in tandem with the Bill of Rights 1689 - that's the one that dealt with getting rid of James II and putting Williamandmary on the throne. One little wrinkle I wasn't aware of was that the original version of the Bill of Rights was actually the Declaration of Right, which couldn't be passed by Parliament because Parliament could only be summoned by the King - the one they were trying to get rid of. So the Parliament declared themselves a Convention, passed a Declaration, used the terms of that to install a new King... who then summoned them as a Parliament so they could pass it as an Act.

Then of course the colonials copied the process a century later, but with a president instead of a king. History is fun, isn't it.

162:

I keep reading your posts referring to 'my province'. Would it be too much trouble to say Quebec?

163:

You're taking my comment out of context!

When I write that they are not normal people I refer to the fact that they need massive police protection everywhere they go, 365 days a year, every year of their lives.

No sane constitution guarantees a normal citizen highly costly police protection, everywhere, at all times.

164:

Mark Twain recommended Persian cats.

165:

[quote]No sane constitution guarantees a normal citizen highly costly police protection, everywhere, at all times.[/quote]

Because most of us don't need and would resent such close monitoring, but professional, continuously patrolling, proactive egalitarian police forces pretty much are that, and are a comparatively recent invention.

166:
I agree with the theoretical basis that privilege by heredity is A Bad Thing(TM). [But] I'd like clear evidence that the new system is better before a change I think, despite the issues I have with the current system.

This, yes. Evidence that the new system is not worse in any way would probably be acceptable if you're arranging the (s)election in some plausibly fair way.

Also


Although I'm sure if I suggested we should tax everyone 100% of their value at death and spread evenly among people being born there would be major outcry - and that's supporting privilege by heredity too.

I'd support that, provided it could actually be universally applied[1]; given the way these things tend to go, the mega-millionaires would all get round paying the tax in some way - while still claiming their children's share of the money being handed out. I'd probably argue that there should be some kind of small tax-free allowance for certain types of low-financial-value object; I think it's fair to allow people to inherit the copy of "Winnie the Pooh" that their grandmother used to read them as a child, say. Unless it's a signed first edition, the sentimental value of the memories will be far greater than the financial value of the book. (But obviously you need a low threshold to prevent people collecting first editions that their descendants then "reluctantly" sell to pay for a couple of houses once the tax has been dealt with.)

[1] and given suitable running-average calculations to make it a bit more even in terms of money per child.

167:

And why would you deny them that, but keep it for a dozen or so ministers, senior army officers, intelligence agency senior staff, and last but not least hollywood and other celebrities and captains of industry?

Until the IRA started going after the family a few decades back the protection detail was one armed officer per family member, roughly. Now it's presumably more and secret ( these things never seem to ratchet down ).

168:

The answer, in Westminster parliament systems, about why you have a head of state, is that the military is loyal to, and answerable to, the Crown.

Officer commissions come from the Crown. The Crown is actually a complex legal entity involving a bunch of elected ministers in a particular state as well as the person of the monarch, but the appearance of the Crown is the monarch.

This is very, very important, because it gives an inherently conservative -- meaning very traditional and tribal -- organization a totally unambiguous, monkey-brain definition of who and what they are loyal to. (Strictly, in the British system, the monarch is whomever Parliament says it is; the hereditary system chosen was chosen to avoid a particular flavor of religious politics.)

This is far from perfect but it's much, much better than having "who is the army loyal to?" be a question.

169:

"Britain can get rid of its monarchy any time it wants - we have before, we can again"

Not really. Oliver Cromwell was the Regent (then called Lord Protector.) And he governed as if he was a king. And his son was chosen to succeed him.

170:

I'm not talking about total removal of protection but limitations to it.

Ministers, senior army officers, intelligence agency senior staff are not born into their job. They require costly protection only while they are functioning in a productive fashion within government.

Hollywood and other celebrities and captains of industry all pay for their own protection. Taxpayers don't pay a dime.

Note that insurance companies put limitations on what movie stars can and cannot do and where they can go.

171:

Any discussion of elected monarchy in the context of speculative fiction should give a tip of the old Hatlo hat to G.K. Chesterton's The Napoleon of Notting Hill, which novelised the process entertainingly by suggesting that a romantic revival would be a good thing because it would lead to more exciting wars and a consequent reduction in dull live people.

As it happens, I'm way ahead of you; my submission to the last Australian government inquiry on the head of State issue suggested random selection by a central computer, with the additional twist that the person selected would remain anonymous to everybody, including themselves; only the computer would know. This would mean that the current system, where a governor-general stands in for the monarch, could continue utterly unchanged, save that an Australian national would be HOS and national pride could correspondingly swell unindered. Revolution without change - what could be more attractive?

Could work in England, to; have your own Governor-general, see how you like it.

172:

Did you propose to run the lottery once a year? Once every 4 years?

173:

Alain:


I'm not talking about total removal of protection but limitations to it.

You did explicitly suggest totally removing protection in some locations to keep them out of those locations. I'm not sure how you justify that as reasonable or appropriate.

174:

I'm explicitely stating that some of the limitations would be geographical.

Just like my (temporary) insurance company told me that if I took my rented car from West Berlin into East Berlin I would lose all coverage. It seemed reasonable and appropriate.

175:

Nancy @ 164
Surely a Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest?
They have semi-opposable "thumb" claws!
Though for sneer, it would be hard to beat some Birmans.
Like Ratatosk here Oh dear - yes, he's like that all the time.

176:

East and West Berlin were different countries though. You're talking about enclaves where different laws apply.

Oh, and while I don't know about all ministers, retired PMs in the UK retain their bodyguards while alive. Ted Heath used to live down the road from my mum for a while and it caused all kinds of fun when he went for a walk with bodyguards everywhere. Especially since he lived in the middle of a city.

177:

Theoretically, if you can find someone who comes as close as possible to always being wrong, install him/her as anti-King or anti-Queen and have the governmental complex system of The Crown always do the opposite of what the anti-monarch says.

178:

"someone who comes as close as possible to always being wrong"

Oh I can find loads of those, they're called "people with opposite political values to mine"

179:

Well, that's what I'm suggesting, enclaves that are royalty-free.

I think that England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are very well suited for this kind of thing because of all the quaint traditions, all the quaint local laws and privileges that they keep on over the centuries within their borders. I mean, one region within England will have a custom of five meat meals a day for the farm staff, another one will have something else.

180:

indeed he did, and he ruthlessly sought to extirpate any political resistance to him in the New Model Army, and repress any genuinely revolutionary political factions, like the Levellers, Diggers, Ranters, Fifth Monarchy men etc

self-styled new forms of government very closely resemble that which went before

181:

"all monarchs are functionally illegitimate - no one can be certain if they belong to the bloodline they claim, nor many of the aristocracy either"

This is going to change if DNA typing keeps getting cheaper. Heck, at current costs, it's probably possible *now* to do a bunch of scans of the living and interred and reconstruct the "actual" heredity history of a family fairly far back. (Greater historical reconstruction will require more samples, of course.)

Note that I'm not saying this is a GOOD idea, just that it is probably going to happen eventually. Hopefully, genetic profiles will be kept private by the authorities who have them for some time yet.

However, as DNA typing gets cheaper, folks who have heredity of interest are going to have to be very careful with their cells as the 'genetic paparazzi' are probably inevitable past a certain price point.

I'd like to think that people won't care too much - "She's my great-granddaughter even if she shares no chromosomes with me [1]" - but I in general don't get to think what I'd *like*.

[1] Note that this is entirely possible for a legitimate great-granddaughter as well, if unlikely. [2]

[2] ~1 in 747, if I did the math right.[3]

[3] Note that due to geometric increase in the number of ancestors, by great^4grandbabies, odds are about even a legitimate descendent shares no chromosomes with you.

182:

People can suggest anything they like for their ideal political system. However, its a bit like winning the lottery - very improbable and definitely impossible if you don't buy a ticket.

183:

No sane constitution guarantees a normal citizen highly costly police protection, everywhere, at all times.

Actually, they do. Think about the protection of witnesses against intimidation and harm; or of authors and journalists against those whom they have offended (I'm thinking of Salman Rushdie). Think of the protection offered to the Mafia prosecutors in Italy.

Where there is a credible threat, the state acts with its duty to protect its citizens. Granted, this is imperfect and budget-limited, but we apply it to politicians (the Swedes have lost a Prime Minister and a Foreign Minister in the last thirty years - Olof Palme and Anna Lindh; the US has lost several Presidents), so why not to Heads of State?

I think that England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are very well suited for this kind of thing because of all the quaint traditions, all the quaint local laws and privileges that they keep on over the centuries within their borders.

From where I'm sitting, Scotland isn't "quaint", although the tourist industry (worth a fair amount) might want the world to think otherwise.

"Quaint" is in the eye of the beholder; for instance, I might look at part of Canada, and think it terribly sweet that they still spoke French there, 250 years after the political reality changed; or "quaint" that the rest of Canada went along with their insistence that it be bilingual, to keep them happy (to the extent that its Head of State even gives speeches in French there, when she doesn't even make speeches in Wales in Welsh, or the Hebrides in Gaelic).

184:

Apart from many quaint local customs only being 2 or 300 years old, the highly corrosive effects of globalisation, money, modern cultural changes and imports and movement of people have probably greatly reduced the number of local quaint customs, and changes in diet have undoubtedly meant many are totally moot.

185:

A couple of suggestions:
1) Elected gods.

2) Make ALL governmental positions elected. Everyone from head of state to the lowest-ranking part time clerk.

186:

Hereditary rights usually devolves into a silly infinite regress argument ... give it enough time either forwards or backwards and everyone can prove an equal degree of kinship.

As a SF scenario, one might consider the below.

Where degree of kinship in heredity is a big deal in the selection of an absolute monarch (or sole inheritor of vast estates/fortunes): identify your preferred 'rightful' monarch, exhume and extract DNA then either attempt to clone, do a DNA database search/match to locate the closest kin (% match), or pool the DNA of everyone in the related to "Monarch-0 (zero)" database and create a new, improved 2.0 version of the maniac whose most then-legitimate claim to rule was the ability to connive in order to slaughter thousands.


187:

That goes both ways. You're assuming unique ancestors, none of them with the same chromosomes. Though since a male can only get their Y Chromosome from their father, the calculation isn't as simple as you think.

This makes Y-Chromosome markers useful in tracing ancient population movements. Most of the British Y-chromosomes pre-date the Roman conquest, whatever part of the British isles you come from.

188:

The symbolism of the monarchy is just awful.

I watched the Queens speech a few weeks back - the formal declaration by the Queen to Parliament of the governments policy priorities for the next two years. It was amazing!! A woman worth several hundred million pounds wearing a million pound hat, sitting in her finery telling all her citizens they were going to face years of austerity and falls in living standards. Awesome!!

Next thing you know, two weeks later, we get subjects stump up over £3 million of tax payers money to pay for the celebrations of a woman worth over £400 million!!

Of course these things matter as I'll explain in a minute. They encourage us all not to question the order of things and the motives of the ultra rich.

189:

For a while now I have been focusing on the question of what economic policies would cure the Global Financial Crash. This is as we have seen a trivial question with a straightforward answer. 

The real question I should have been asking is why hasn't a solution been proposed and debated. The shocking answer I have come up with is that those with the power to get us out of this mess have decided it is not in their interest to fix the world economy. 

Consider that under austerity the relative wealth of the world richest people has increased. For example the Times Rich List of the 1000 wealthiest people in the UK has shown their combined wealth has increased by 5% in the last 12 months to a new record high of £414 billion-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17883101

As an aside we might ask why these people are so desperate to earn their next billion. My own preconception is their greed is a product of the way they were potty trained, serious only child syndromes and seriously bad bullying in certain English boarding schools. Certainly these people are dysfunctional enough that they are capable of inflicting limitless misery on everybody else in order to get exactly what they want. 

Back to the point though which is to compare the effect of austerity on the super rich and the other 99.999% of the population. The effects of the austerity policies propagated by the Tory led coalition have been severe and immediate 
With average incomes dropping over 6% last year in the UK (according to ONS earnings figures). 

Indeed austerity is likely, with only 10% of the Tories cuts implemented, to intensify and carry on for at least a decade. For example see last years IFS report- 

Presenting its analysis of 2011 autumn statement, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) predicted real median household incomes would be no higher in 2015-16 than they were in 2002-3. In other words, more than a decade will have passed without any increase in living standards for those on average incomes. The same analysis estimates 1 in 4 children will also end up in poverty. 

So the implications are clear. Our current policies lead to rising incomes for the ultra rich but grinding poverty for everybody else. But what would endanger this balance and result in policies that increased living standards for the 60 million UK citizens as the expense of constraint in inequality for the ultra wealthy?

To my mind the answer to this and the reason the entire right wing press, the Institute of Directors, CBI, economic think tanks, Tory donors and so forth are behind the austerity is the role of wage equalisation in international trade. 

It has been known for a long while (
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factor_price_equalisation ) that when two countries enter a free trade agreement, wages for identical jobs in both countries tend to approach each other. After the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed, for instance, unskilled labor wages gradually fell in the United States, at the same time as they gradually rose in Mexico.[citation needed] The same force has applied more recently to the various countries of the European Union.

The implication of this is that globalisation has begun to open up the huge workforces of China and India who are currently paid much lower wages than their US and European counterparts. 

Given that we know, through Factor Price Equalisation, as long as we continue free trade, that the wages of these workers are going to equalise over the next 20 years. 

There are of course two ways that wages could equalise. In the first scenario governments in Europe and the US deliberately pursue their current austerity program's and suppress workers wages. The Chinese and Indian wages gradually rise to meet our levels and the converged wage for workers in a decade or twos time is modest. This scenario of course supplies much larger profit margins to the ultra wealthy owners and managers of multinational corporations as their wage bill is low. Bankers are happy to as austerity allows greater indebtedness to them and inflation isn't allowed to eat into the real interest paid by households on the debts owed to those that have lent the money. As a side benefit, privatising the profitable parts of the state (tuition fees, the NHS, NATs etc) under the excuses of austerity allows further tax payer backed profit opportunities. 

The other scenario for wage equalisation- sovereign debt monetization, tax reform , financial transaction taxes, Keynsian stimulus etc- are not to be welcomed by the global elite. They circumvent the Austerity for the hundreds of millions of citizens in the US and Europe but at the cost of wage equalisation at a higher level with China and India. 

This is an unacceptable outcome for the worlds global elite who will lose profit margin from the higher wage bills they will need to pay their workers. This is the reason we see the forces of business, Tories, all right wing economists and so forth lobbying do hard for austerity and the continuation of misery. 

190:

The remedy is to DO something about it, not complain about it on the Net.
I bet those in the govt who know about the Net just love people mouthing off in blogs like this, believing that that have actually done something while in reality they will accomplish fuck all. It's a lesson China still has to learn - let them complain, and ignore them.

191:

"That goes both ways. You're assuming unique ancestors, none of them with the same chromosomes. Though since a male can only get their Y Chromosome from their father, the calculation isn't as simple as you think."

On reflection, the second half of my post was a distracting tangent. The important point is that it is likely that we will be able to determine the actual lines of descent for various hereditary types fairly far back quite soon now, and that it could cause some Consternation.

What happens when it become public knowledge that Monarch X is actually descended from an illegitimate (by the relevant rules of secession) line, and that their second cousin twice removed Dissipated Fop Y is the "true" heir?

The bit about sharing chromosomes is probably not *legally* interesting, although it may become so.

192:

Mouthing off about it on the net is a part of the process of change - it spreads memes and normalises ideas. It makes people realise they aren't alone in their opinion and makes them more likely to do something about it in the real world. It allows a space where people can check their facts and refine their rhetoric.

193:

"What happens when it become public knowledge that Monarch X is actually descended from an illegitimate (by the relevant rules of secession) line, and that their second cousin twice removed Dissipated Fop Y is the "true" heir?"

this is already quite well known in the case of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha/Windsors - if you get a Channel 4 documentary made about the true king of England

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britain%27s_Real_Monarch

and no-one is bothered, there's not much more you can say

also it has been fairly well known that the current Duke of Sutherland

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Egerton,_7th_Duke_of_Sutherland

is not a descendant of his highland-clearing ancestor

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Leveson-Gower,_1st_Duke_of_Sutherland

but he is still the Duke of Sutherland

in the words of the Attorney-General, Nicholas Lyell, after another famous hereditary peerage trial

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Moynihan#Peerage

"it is essential that no-one be admitted to the House of Lords who is not properly qualified"

the son of a Manila drug-dealer inheriting a peerage, egad!, give it to a Tory ex-cabinet minister instead!

194:

Alternatively, it isolates people into small ghettoes of self reinforcing conformity that has no bearing on the real world. What's had the most effect on the world in the past year - this blog or the Occupy movement? At some point there must be a connection to the real world, and I don't see it happening. Organizations that make the connection are things like wikileaks and Anonymous.
I've seen and heard people (including myself) ranting on the Net in political groups for 15 years with generally zero effect. Similarly, I've been involved with Transhumanism for almost that long and despite our hosts rant about it I have to say that as a movement it is equally ineffectual. Charles credits it with vastly more influence than I do. In fact, almost all of the realworld influence of H+ happened before its Net presence. Since then one might claim that the Net has sucked the life out of it as we all settle down to our mutual masturbation and call it progress.

195:

You stop being quaint when you start insulting the tourists.

Alas, this started to happen in many Montreal restaurants about ten years ago, as if the staff found it was really cool to copy their distant Parisian cousins in this matter. Other restaurants in the province soon followed suit, heaving good doses of sarcasm and insulting wit on foreigners. We're still talking of a minority, but the quaintness goes flying out the doors when just a few start to do it consistently.

In contrast everyone, I mean absolutely everyone I've ever dealt with in my trips through England has been unfailingly polite, and even charming, obliging and all around adorable.

I think this is why Charles Stross proposed a lottery for kingship or queenliness. He knew that all UK citizens are raised from birth to be just as polite as The Queen (or king) at all times.

196:

Could that be because your friends online are scattered in a hundred jurisdictions, because you don't follow events in 95% of them, and because you don't hear about their offline political activities?

I don't think that that self-reinforcing conformity bit is any better a description of the internet than the real world. People normally seek others like them. For starters, any of us on the English internet have to listen to a lot of Americans, and people infected with American memes.

197:

The US congress missed a really good opportunity when they failed to take Emperor Norton at face value. We could have gotten all the advantages of a ceremonial head of state, which would have left the Presidency to be what it was meant to be all along: the top post of the bureaucracy. That Norton was a certifiable crank only adds to the appeal and sets a good precedent for how the American monarchy should function.

198:

We Brits know all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and... satire.

199:

"We Brits know all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and... satire."

Yes, yes! But don't forget that you have architecture too. That's why I suggested taking back the under-exploited Buckingham Castle (and other crown properties) from the Windsors. Don't waste those assets. Don't waste any asset.

200:

To be fair San Francisco seemed to do right by him, possibly it was the technology that was lacking, maybe in a more connected age the whole country may have recognized him.

201:

Buckingham castle? Where's that then?

202:

Buckingham castle? Where's that then?

Well, it used to be in Buckingham, but it was demolished in 1777 and turned into a churchyard.

For the benefit of our foreign correspondents, this town of Buckingham is not the County Town of Buckinghamshire.

203:

Buckingham Castle? Why, it is in the town of Buckingham, of course. As any helpful local will tell you:

204:

Of course not. It's barely even in Buckinghamshire. (Oddly enough, Windsor Castle almost is in Bucks.)

205:

For those wondering what Charlie has been up to: read this on Tor.

(Edited - it's odd how the human eye can't see the difference between 'hef' and 'href')

206:

I don't think that is the case.
I am coming to believe that much of what passes for politics on the Net detracts from real politics. That it bears the same relationship to the real world as something like Call of Duty does to the real military.
In effect, it provides a cheaper feel-good factor than the real thing. In other words, most people engaging in politics on the Net are misusing the technology.
This blog entry is a case in point. How many here are actually going to *do* something about the opinions they post?

207:

That link doesn't seem to go anywhere, unfortunately; I imagine Bellinghman's post should be pointing here.

208:

"if you get a Channel 4 documentary made about the true king of England
...
and no-one is bothered, there's not much more you can say"

Alternately, no one cared because it was unprovable speculation and in the remote past.

I think things would be more interesting if the oops was within the last hundred or so years and supported by hard evidence - and your last link seems to support this.

209:

The idea that people who talk about politics here don't act on them an interesting hypothetical. How would one test it? Many of us are for the status quo, so the default action consistent with our beliefs is to do nothing. More aren't confident about a change, or don't think it would be worth a lot of trouble. This is the rationalist's dilemma in politics: its only possible to be well informed on a handful of issues at once, but politics are set up to be dominated by noisy masses.

People sitting around and talking politics with their cronies is nothing new. Its visible in early 20th century radical groups, and in Niven's Laws from the '60s and '70s. For that matter, we can see it in imperial Rome, where schoolboys wrote revolutionary speeches and old men waxed nostalgic about a return to the republic with no intention of moving beyond speech.

210:

True.
However the Net provides a yet another level of abstraction away from where the leverage needs to be applied.

211:

I'd like to address one of the popular anti-monarchy comments: the Royals' wealth.

Earned Income:
Compared with what pro athletes, A-list actors or Fortune 500 CEOs earn, the Queen is vastly underpaid. Or one can also say that she's required to run a high-profile, efficient PR firm on a very tight (small) budget.

Net Worth:
As far as the Royals' net worth is concerned - have you folks never heard of a Trust Fund? I've no idea what's in the Royals 'Trust Fund' apart from the obvious estates, art, jewels, etc., however, such assets are typical investment forms even nouveau riche billionaires get into: (E.g., Bill Gates of MSFT owns some original Da Vinci prints/manuscripts.)

Next, I doubt that any of the Royals are allowed access to more than a very small portion of the family nest egg.

Finally, In terms of Forbes ranking and ab$olute wealth, the Royals' net worth has actually decreased over the past 15 years or so.

212:

Discerning the full extent of the British Royal Families true wealth & land holding has rather been like nailing jelly to the ceiling, as the writer of this book found...

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Owns-Britain-Ireland-Kevin-Cahill/dp/1841953105/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1338922358&sr=1-1

[tl:dr version - the same people who owned it 150 years ago, pretty much..saved you 134 quid]

helpful journalists have been downgrading the extent of Her Majesty's wealth for those fifteen years, even promoting the myth that J.K. Rowling was richer than her...yeah, right

the truth is she is "considerably richer than you" unless your surname is Maktoum, Rausing or Grosvenor

213:

TV news on CNN, an hour or so ago, claimed that there was extremely little sign of anti-royal sentiments at the Diamond Jubilee, while admitting that one anti-royal demonstration at the Thames had approximately 1,500 people. How wrong is that?

214:

Out of a million or more who actively went out of their way to celebrate the occasion?

215:

By random lottery, you wouldn't come up with impressive people.

If someone has to represent, it better not be a pathetic(evoking pity) individual.

Egalitarianism is one thing, it's another thing to be seen as headed by a moron. Iranians are headed by a moron. Ahmadinejad has largely ceremonial functions, he is ridiculed in his own country, yet his stupidity is widely exploited abroad.. and confuses the whole issue of Iran.

I believe it'd be better to select the head of state by a series of games.

All mental, and variously requiring abstract thinking and also social intelligence.

Then they should have some powers too, just to make things interesting for the entrenched interests...

216:

I'd just like to say that not everyone reads a forum because it re-inforces their beliefs. Some may, but that gets exceedingly boring in short order.

I enjoy reading the ideas and comments on this forum, not because I necessarily agree with them but because they are unfailingly interesting and take me to ideas and facts I would never otherwise have known about.

The idea that we can all become the Incredible Hulk if certain research proves fruitful was news to me.

Also, before reading about H+ here, I was completely unaware that there even was a political movement advocating that.

I think I think that the internet itself has been a step in a process towards greater freedom of information, whether that turns out to be a positive for an idea or not - well, the jury's out. But is that not as it should be?

My point is merely that Dirk Bruere should be more upbeat about the potntial of this media - at least one more person now knows about his political party.

217:

@195:
Other restaurants in the province soon followed suit, heaving good doses of sarcasm and insulting wit on foreigners.
---
I'll stand up and walk out. I've done it before.

218:

"By random lottery, you wouldn't come up with impressive people."

Yes, that's what I'm afraid of with a lottery system. In England (or in Denmark) everybody is polite, but that doesn't mean they'll impress foreign diplomats.

That's why I was suggesting keeping the Windsors but paying them less and using them less. Say a 50% cut to start with.

But I like your idea of games to select the head of state, the representative of the crown. All kinds of televised games, to narrow down some precise attributes.

219:

"Also, before reading about H+ here, I was completely unaware that there even was a political movement advocating that."

There wasn't until Zero State. A rather big claim probably, and one that will no doubt be disputed, but we are filling in the forms in the next couple of weeks to register a UK political party to act as a template for a pan-European version. And no, we do not realistically expect to be elected to government.

"My point is merely that Dirk Bruere should be more upbeat about the potntial of this media - at least one more person now knows about his political party."

I can say with some irony that nowhere will the word "Transhumanism" be present.
I guess I might post something here if Charles is not too pissed off with me. However, I doubt that there will be anything in the constitution or policies that might overly offend him.

On the larger issue of this media, there are good ways to use it and bad ways. The bad way is, as I have explained, to use it simply as a pressure valve that takes the heat off politicians in the real world.

220:

"By random lottery, you wouldn't come up with impressive people.

If someone has to represent, it better not be a pathetic(evoking pity) individual."

Historically, picking from a reduced pool of inbreds has resulted in precisely that

221:


Historically, picking from a reduced pool of inbreds has resulted in precisely that

Which is why the position has to go to someone who isn't three diamonds short of a crown.

People who can out-think others in games are better material than those who rely on intimidation, charm or brown-nosing.

222:

By random lottery, you wouldn't come up with impressive people.

As someone in the US who has no interest in a monarchy there's a draw back to "impressive" people. Check out the book "The Best and the Brightest". Kennedy surrounded himself with brilliant people. They produced and/or implemented the Bay of Pigs and the Vietnam War. And also dealt with the Cuban missile crisis and started us to the moon.

Impressive people can be a mixed bag of results.

223:

For a private reason I was in Wales from Saturday to Tuesday.

I now can understand Charlie's attitude much better. When I arrived I first saw Daily Mail on the kitchen table at the place I was staying.

After watching the Jubilee on the telly for two days and then reading the next morning in the Daily Fail how BBC was reporting it badly, I just had to go and buy the Guardian on Monday, just to see that there are sane people in Britain.

My hostess commented later, after seeing the Guardian, that "did you know this is a left paper?"

I could've picked a better weekend to spend in Britain.

224:

I just had to go and buy the Guardian on Monday, just to see that there are sane people in Britain

Replying to myself, but read 'sane' here as 'people thinking like me', which really isn't the same thing.

Also, Elizabeth has done a very good job at it - but it seems to me that the institution is very strange.

When watching the pageant on Sunday, I just began to wonder how much it affects the people it is for. I mean, if people organize, for example, a thousand boats to pass one on a river and get ecstatic if one waves at them, what does it do to one's feelings of worth?

225:

Yes, I suppose constitutional monarchies do look strange ...
But: Britain, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Sweden.
Are they ALL wrong, and would any of them actually be BETTER OFF as a "republic"? Almost certinly not.

This is not to deny (@ 223) that the Daily Fail/Nazi is a revolting rag, and the brown-nosing is un-needed.
There are other forms of "monarchism", even if it is only "It aint broke".

Meanwhile, as I've said before there are other things that really DO need fixing - Charlie's ongoing comments on the alien takeover by the corporarions from Mars is one, or second-chamber reform.
Talking of corpororate oppression, there is ahem, another event this year, which unlike the monarchy you aer not allowed to protest against, at all.
If you are a republican, fine, that's your opinion.
But, if you oppose the corprate state fascist rip-off that is afflicting London (& the rest of Britain) in July-September, you had best be careful.
Mrerely expressing loud opinions get you surveilled, and actually protesting, no matter how peacefully (like blocking roads) gets you jail and labelled as a terrorist.

I am, of course referring to:
London 2012
In your face
On your lap
At our expense.

"Bitish games", spoansored by Heineken, Dow Chemical and MacDonalds.
Euwwwwww .....

Have a Victory Gin, Winston?

226:

Well Mikko, here's my take on the little of the BBC coverage that I saw:-

"An octogenarian woman who's managed to not die or resign her job in the last 60 years went for a drive in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce" - Was this really the most important thing that happened in the Worldd yesterday, to the extent that it justified 1/3 of the available news coverage, when it was shown live less than 12 hours earlier?

227:

I've seen grumbling about the quality of the BBC coverage of the events, and the Thames Pageant was certainly done poorly. Nobody at the BBC seemed to be paying any attention to the boats and small ships. We had a whole bunch of historic ships assembled to honour the Queen, and the BBC didn't seem to care about the ships.

They've done that before: reviews of The Fleet, including foreign warships, and all the BBC cared about was The Queen waving.

It almost seems to be an insult to the people who made the effort to be there. It certainly feels way out of balance.

The Concert was better, but the camera-work got some criticism: more a question of style, I think. It maybe was a little too much modern pop concert.

228:

@ Alan Crowe @ 75

That’s not quite how Scottish criminal verdicts are.

A Scottish jury has three options available to them.

Guilty, not guilty and not proven.

Guilty is the verdict to use where the Crown has proved its case beyond the usual standard of criminal proof, beyond reasonable doubt.

Not Guilty is the verdict to use when either it is obvious that the person didn’t do it or the Crown has totally failed to make even a rudamentary case.

Not Proven is the verdict to use where the Crown has not established guilt beyond reasonable doubt but the jury thinks that the person might just be guilty. As one judge famously explained it, where the Crown has not established guilt beyond resonable doubt but the words “not guilty” stick in your throat then you should return the verdict of not proven. Not proven is basically, we know you did it but we couldn’t prove it.

Part of this turns on an usual evidential requirement in Scots Law, that criminal guilt can only be established by two, separate and corroborating pieces of evidence. So you need two eye-witnesses, or an eye-witness and a DNA sample or CCTV footage and the discovery of the stolen goods in your home. I think this is mainly to prevent people being convicted on the word of a single person (who might be hostile to the accused or in the pay of powerful people).

So, you could have a situation where two witnesses give evidence, one is very reliable and the jury believes them. The other isn’t reliable at all and the jury has to disregard their evidence. They think the evidence of the first, reliable witness demonstrates that the accused is guilty but without being able to rely on the second witness the case is not proven beyond reasonable doubt.

229:

Well, yes, the BBC coverage was absolutely over-the-top in my view too. First showing it live and then repeats was quite enough, thank you.

My point was that while I thought that the BBC reporting of the event(s) was over-the-top, the Daily Mail reported that it was bad and not respecting the Queen enough.

I'm not sure what kind of reporting would've been good, from the DM point of view.

230:

For what it’s worth I’m not in favour of a hereditary monarchy and would much prefer an elected head of state.

Whether this head of state is purely ceremonial (except in the very rare situation of two potentially viable governments) or has some powers and acts as a check and balance to the Prime Minister on an on-going basis I’m undecided.

However, I think there are more pressing constitutional reforms in the UK at the moment. I’d offer up Scottish Indepedence, House of Lords Reform, the move or not to Proportional Representation for House of Commons elections as starters for ten.

Would a randomly selected individual do as well? That depends on whether the public were prepared to believe they meant as much as the Queen does.

Ironically, I think the current Queen would probably win an election to be Queen.

231:

Re #227 and #228 - I don't read the Daily Wail, and actively avoided the live feeds of these "events".

Dave, you've echoed that the (Glasgow) Herald said about the Thames flotilla - too much talking heads and not enough ships.

Mikko - I agree totally about showing events live being enough; people either watched them live or just plain weren't interested in them!

232:

Actually, I read both the Daily Mail (biggest newspaper site in Europe) and the Guardian. They both do a good job but are obviously aimed at different segments of the population. I really cannot understand the snobbery aimed at popular news media simply because they report stuff whose existence might offend Guardian readers.

233:

Previously a retirement home for old revolutionaries (Erskine Childers, I'm looking at you)

anonemouse, Erskine Childers didn't get to spend a comfortable retirement as President of Ireland. He was shot.

234:

the orgy of self-congratulatory forelock-tugging and brown-tonguing reactionary apologetics that will turn the media into a cess-pit of nostalgic feudal wank for the duration.

2012: I'm sick of all the self-congratulation and reactionary apologetics in the media, I'm off to America.

2013: I've had enough of this heatwave. I'm off to Kuwait.

235:

Two comments.
First, I am very much in favour of the idea of a constitutional monarch, based on the experiences of Spain under Juan Carlos. It takes a certain kind of person to reject being handed absolute power *twice* within five years in favour of a representative democracy.

Also, it means that the various People in Charge (generals, parliament etc) have a significant check on their powers if it ever becomes needed. While the Queen has no official power, what do you think would happen if she made a public statement of no confidence in the government of the day?

As for the comments about the military above, please remember that the Her Majesty's Armed Forces consist of the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force, and the British Army, only two of which the Crown is entitled to. The very existence of the army has to be approved by Parliament every five years, so it isn't quite the defence against tyranny the Americans are so proud of. Especially since in the UK the tyranny is more likely to come from Westminster.

236:

While we're at it, how about a definitive Libertopian debunking post as a counterpart to the Space Cadettism/Colonization ones?

IIRC the sequel to Rule 34 will deal with a Strossian take on politics...can.not.wait

237:

"...or second-chamber reform."

By dragging out the house of lords reform repeatedly you've been giving me ideas for a reform which involves a fusion between the house of lords and the monarch, but without the Windsors (or any hereditary monarch) and without any lords.

First, you pension off all the lords currently in the house of lords, and send the Windsors packing. They own (independently, as a family) hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property in North America alone so they can go pretty much anywhere they please. But you just send the Windsors away, you keep the principle of The Crown.

Second, you hang up a big sign that says "Regency chamber" above the door of what used to be the Lords chamber.

Third, you fill the regency chamber, in rotation, with all the worthies which have been named knights or dames in the past and will be in future yearly honours lists.

Fourth, the members of the regency chamber constitute a 12 member regency council which is filled from their numbers, in rotation over several months. The regency council fulfills all the ceremonial duties formerly undertaken by the Windsor family.

Fifth, as in the Swiss Federal Council:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_Federal_Council

there is a rotation within the regency council for those instances when it is more proper to have a single individual acting as the crown. One week you'll have a knight with an honourable military past decorating soldiers for valour. Another week you'll have a dame with a life of experience in the theatre and film decorating actors or anybody who's stricken with the cinema and acting.

This means, of course that one week in the future Sir Roger Moore might be the monarch of the kingdom and in another week in the future Sir Jonathan Ive might be the monarch of the kingdom.


238:

If the monarch ever made a public statement of no confidence in the government, the UK would suddenly get a new monarch. The succession is in the gift of parliament (as settled in 1689 and 1701).

239:

I'm sorry if this seems slightly off-topic, but Ray Bradbury just passed away this morning. His works reflect quintessentially American small town values, and transcend that to enter World Literature. As a believer in meritocracy rather than royalty, I consider that The King is Dead; Long Live the King.

240:

I grew up reading Ray Bradbury. That is a sad loss.

241:

It may be in their gift, but that doesn't mean that there wasn't bloody war as a result. The Irish people are still divided over the events of 1689, as it came to affect their island.

242:

Bellingham,

Was the Battle of the Boyne, the seminal story in that era, not 1690? Perhaps the tea towels are wrong?

243:

The Battle of the Boyne was indeed one of the effects. The result of the parliamentary decision of 1689 was a civil war, of which that battle in 1690 was one of the engagements. Parliament may have given the crown to someone else, but not everyone agreed, any more than they had on the previous occasion.

(I'll note that one of the local landowners in that campaign was one of my ancestors, who picked up a Baronetcy for his services as a guide to King Billy. One of his descendants became a Papal Knight. Yes, we've been both sides.)

244:

and in that particular punch-up, it was King Billy had the backing of the Papacy, and not the catholic James II [VII], which is not something you see on murals in Loyalist communities [or Republican ones for that matter] ;-)

245:

@ 237
You ARE aware that there are no "hereditaries" in the Lords at preaent?
They are all "appointed" ...
Try again?

246:

This is wrong on several counts. Ninety-two hereditary peers still sit in the house, two ex officio as holders of obscure archaic royal offices, the others elected by the other lords. You've also forgotten an entire category of members of the upper house: twenty-six priests are entitled to sit in the legislature solely by virtue of their priestly rank.

247:

I know about the bishops.
They I really DO object to ...
I was under the impression that all the hereditaries had already gone - so I'm obviously ahead of myself, if that is the case.

We SERIOUSLY need upper-house reform, which, of course, the commons object to, because an elected [ On a different basis, and preferably with no political party-representation - we really want/need a section of the "great-&-good" there ] uper house would weaken the strnglehold of professional politicos in the lower house.
People who have done nothing AT ALL besides politics, since they went to university, with no experience of work, the real world, science or business.
No wonder we're in a mess.

248:

I was under the impression that the hereditaries had already gone - if you are correct, I'm obviously ahead of myself.

Of course, the "commons" WANT to keep it as it is, because it gives them a stranglehold on power.
With the rise of 100% "professional" politicians, who have done only politics since going to university, with no experience of work, science, business, or anything except manipulating people.

I note that apart from a few, most proposed reforms of the "Lords" includes keeping the bishops - presumably to make sure they are unrepresentative.

We desperately need an elected (at least 75%-elected, if not 100) upper house, with a completely different mode of selection to the commons, and anyone with party memebership should be disbarred .....

Like I've said before, there are much more serious problems that need sorting than our largely ceremonial head of state.
We all know this, don't we?

249:

We desperately need an elected (at least 75%-elected, if not 100) upper house, with a completely different mode of selection to the commons

Agreed. Personally I'd like to see the commons elected via PR rather than FPTP block voting. Make it so that anyone can form a party and stand in the general election. The top ten parties get MPs proportional to their percentage votes of the top ten i.e. with 500 positions a party that gets 10% of the votes gets 50 MPs. If one party is has over 50% of MPs they form a government, if not then it's a free for all to form a coalition. The coalition's cabinet must reflect their percentage break down as best as possible (so if a party with 40% of the MPs combines with one with 20% the cabinet must have a 2:1 mix).

As for the upper house make that totally elected, possible with the staged voting proposed at the moment (1/3rd of the house up for election every 1/3rd of the term time). Perhaps as well to deal with local issues upper house members should be voted for in constituencies and agreed that they should not be members of a party.

Just a few thoughts that IMO would increase democracy.

250:

"Make it so that anyone can form a party and stand in the general election."

Anyone can, and they do not even need to be registered as a party

251:

Third, you fill the regency chamber, in rotation, with all the worthies which have been named knights or dames in the past and will be in future yearly honours lists.

This was the status quo for a century - Life Peers (e.g. those created by HM at the "suggestion" of the PM - Baroness Thatcher, etc) would sit and vote.

The problem is that the political parties have on occasion used the Life Peerage as a reward for time served, and not because of the skills still to offer the nation; or because it's a handy way to buy off one of two sitting MPs rather than face a messy battle in the local party over "which one gets the nomination" when their constituency map is redrawn.

You have the delight of seeing the previous Speaker (the subject of accusations of theft) appointed a Lord because all previous Speakers had been so appointed on retirement. Or perhaps Baron Watson of Invergowrie (MP whose constituency disappeared, set fire to a hotel). Maybe Lord Archer (did time for perjury). There is also the little matter of the "cash for peerages" scandal, i.e. the accusation that making a suitably large contribution to Labour Party funds got you made into a Lord.

Having spend nearly a century packing the House of Lords with party-political nominations, I think that those politicians who try and spin it as a refuge for hereditary rights are somewhat hypocritical. Perhaps that's the only party-acceptable way of suggesting that they want to clear out the party hacks...

252:

One possibility for a second chamber would be to allow organizations with a certain percentage of the population as members to appoint representatives. This would obviously lead to religious orgs dominating, but that may not be a bad thing since it would be representative of the population.

253:

Contrarywise - Exactly why should, say, the CofS get significant numbers of seats when they can't speak for those who have no active church connection.

I, for example, am technically a communicant member of the CofS but haven't been in any church for any reason other than funerals, weddings and social events since the late 1970s.

254:

Each org would keep a register of its official membership. Any individual could sign up to a limited number of orgs. This would include political parties, religions, cults, social groups (Freemasons etc), news media official membership etc

255:

I always felt it should be an appointed body, where you had a quota divided up against the various bodies you would want to scrutinise your laws.
Make the term reasonably long so as to not coincide with the electoral cycle, change half the body every half term, noone can sit for more than 2 terms and must stand down for a full term after being in.

Then, have a quota for lawyers, engineers, scientists, teachers, polititians, union leaders, religious leaders, hereditary peers ... basically you want a broad spectrum of society. Set a high minimum age so they have to have some life experience and lose some of their ambition, and a maximum age so they don't petrify in there.

The key is this group needs a broad makeup where all the biases are out in the open. These people are there to look closely at your proposed laws and shoot down the ones with obvious holes. They are *not* there to make policy. You *need* them to be relatively conservative - these laws will stick around a long time after so have to be well thought out. Open Bias in one direction can be easily balanced by bias in another to enforce compromise, and you want to keep the population of polititians and career civil servants out of the mix as much as possible so it doesn't become a retirement path. You still need them - they know the government's tricks, but you don't want anything more than 10% or so.

I definitely think an elected upper house is a terrible idea. The kind of finicky nit-picking expert-in-their-own-field person you want carefully scrutinising laws is the last kind of person who would ever win an election. On the other hand, do you really think the kind of person who can command the money to persuade the country to vote for them is likely to fight against things that are in their funders interest?

256:

As for why you need union types and religious types or hereditary peers - at the end of the day, these people represent either large groups of the population, or large blocks of land, or at its simplest level, these people have or had power. You cannot reasonably exclude them, so bring them in and make them part of the solution - multiple points of view are always good, and you don't need unanimity to get a justified consensus decision on something.

Plus it means that pretty much every aspect of society will have a representative that they can relate to, and can lobby directly if necessary to put a word in the correct ear.

257:

"Make it so that anyone can form a party and stand in the general election."

Anyone can, and they do not even need to be registered as a party

I know but that's not really what I was refering to. Mainly I was considering the harm of bloc voting (a system wherein a party can get near 30% of the votes but have only 8% of the MPs in parliament is nonsense).

This affects whether or not anyone can stand for election because the reality is that the vast majority of constituencies will oscilate between two, perhaps three parties because people's votes are wasted on anything else.

258:

... and of course, unions

259:

My reply seems to have been eaten but essentially my point was to remove bloc voting to make it far easier and fairer for people to stand and get votes in a general election. At the moment you it's possible to get a high percentage of the votes and a low percentage of MPs which is absurd IMO.

RE unelected, meritocratic/representative upper houses. I am totally against this idea. Giving large organisations a place in parliament gives members of that group more of a say in government than the average person because they are now represented twice. How is it fair that everyone gets a vote but because a group has 2 out of ten people in it they get a second say?

Also whilst meritocracy is tempting I don't see how it could work practically. Bear in mind that there is nothing stopping experts being advisors or parts of committee but ultimately a healthy government should be totally accountable to the people. If someone is about to have power over how I and my peers live our lives then that person should be accountable to me. If I can't choose to vote them out and someone else in, if they were selected by a group of people and I had no say in the matter then that is wrong.

I'd rather have democracy over special interest any day.

260:

I agree - a healthy government should be accountable to the people. But don't confuse how they get in with a mechanism to get them out again.

And most importantly don't confuse the House of Lords in the UK with the Senate in the US. Frankly Congress is an example of everything that will go wrong with an elected body - you have vested interests everywhere, the seniority rules mean the most captured by the system have the most power, and some senators stay in until they die. That doesn't even begin to cover the problem of the partisan nature of the place due to there being only two political parties of any note.

261:

DIrk @ 252
NO
NOT EVER
Try again?

& @ 260
That is our problem also.
So we want a "lords" with NO parties, a differebt systen of election.
NO elections in same year as commons-election ...
NO professional politicians
e.g. If ex-commons a 5-year moratorium before being eligible for "lords" .....

262:

Sorry Greg, but we are starting to lean towards such a position within Zero State. What is a definite fail is having an elected second chamber in our current two party systems.

263:

#257 and #259

You appear to be confusing the ideas of (1)"first past the post, winner takes all" and (2)"bloc voting".

(1) is the system we have in the UK, where the person who gets most votes in a particular seat is elected for that seat, and the other votes cast in that seat have no effect on the makeup of the chamber.
If we consider Anytown East and West, and design them as illustrations:-
AW contains primarily properties priced over £500k, and 40% Con voters, plus 30% each Liebour and Pseudo-Dems.
AE is effectively a social housing estate, and contains 50% Liebour + 20% Con and 30% Pseudo-Dem.
If we assume the turnout in both seats to be equal, Anytown will return 1 Con, 1 Liebour and no Pseudo-Dem representatives even though votes cast for each party across the entire town are almost equal.

(2) is the term normally used for systems where a single individual is assumed to speak for all members of the body he represents.
Let us say that we have a committee consisting of 5 members representing Eire, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. They are deciding whether to have coffee or tea for elevenses.
Eire, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all vote for coffee. England, as chair, notes this and records the vote as "12 million for coffee", then casts its vote for tea, and records that as "48 million for tea". So despite only 1 of the 5 reps wanting tea they all have tea because England has the largest bloc of votes.

See the difference now?

264:

You appear to be confusing the ideas of (1)"first past the post, winner takes all" and (2)"bloc voting".

I do seem to have used the wrong term but perhaps not in the manner you are correcting (but thank you anyway). I'm critical of the constituency method of having smaller regions that are voted for and the overall winner is the party that wins over half the regions.

This creates unfair situations where certain diverse regions hold more power (and thus recieve more campaigning and promises). It also means that the percentage of MPs in parliament wont reflect the percentage of votes. For example:

Consider five regions, A-E, and three parties, (1) (2) (3)

A: (1) 40% (2) 35% (3) 25% - A wins
B: (1) 60% (2) 10% (3) 30% - A wins
C: (1) 30% (2) 50% (3) 20% - B wins
D: (1) 65% (2) 10% (3) 15% - A wins
E: (1) 35% (2) 40% (3) 25% - B wins

So in terms of nationwide percentage of votes Party A recieved 46%, Party B 31% and Party C 23%.

But in terms of percentage of MPs in parliament Party A accounts for 60%, Party B accounts for 40% and Party C accounts for 0%.

It's things like this that create set ups wherein only major parties ever have a chance of getting in nationally. This is bad because it prevents people from voting for who they want and instead turn to tactical voting (in our example if region F looks to be close between A and B someone who wants C is unlikely to vote for them but instead vote for one of the other two in an attempt to prevent the other getting in) and it creates voter apathy and resentment. If people don't feel like they have a say in politics or that the system renders their vote pointless you're going to get social tension.

265:

Darn I've mucked up the example names of the parties and regions a few times. Hopefully people still understand :)

266:

Not really. Rules can be interpreted 'creatively' or changed outright. Plus it's a bit too abstract, from a psychological perspective a person is better for stuff like that then a rule book.

I'm also one of those people who suspects that having someone who technically outranks them, even if they don't actually have much power, helps stop the politicians being even worse then they are already. As someone pointed out before, it's a constant reminder that they're not the most important person on the planet and that they won't be in power forever.

Plus, as I've said to various Americans who've asked why we still have a monarchy rather then being a republic 'like them', well, we tried it once and it was a disaster. Having a monarchy just seems to suit us for some reason, particuarly once we did a bit (okay, a lot) of fine tuning.

267:

Total and utter agreement well said, getting rid of the monarchy and the feudal system would at least be a move towards democracy. Shows a bad example that we still have these anachronisms lingering on.

268:

I can't be bothered working through your example; suffice it to say that we do appear to be in agreement about the potential unfairness of FPTP in a body htat has 3 or more parties with sufficient organisation to stand a candidate in most or all seats.

I'm not convinced that we have the correct forms of PR in Scotland either.

269:

I always liked the quote from her to Blair.

"You are my tenth prime minister. The first was Winston. That was before you were born"

Talk about a good way to put him in his place.

Add to that the fact that she gets a copy of the weekly red book intelligence summary, and daily copies of all important house of commons & foreign office reports and she undoubtedly knows more about how to actually run the country than any of the muppets in Downing St.

270:

Charlie is clearly not the only Brit genius to come to this conclusion.
(Via http://lwn.net/Articles/501164/)
In a discussion on ACPI, Alan Cox claimed "I spent the holiday avoiding the English queen's party and turning from a republican into a raving republican." Linus's response can only be read in its entirety:
http://permalink.gmane.org/gmane.linux.kernel/1310239

271:

Plus she has personal knowledge of the sort of plans made to preserve the monarch's freedom from capture, from the days when she was a teenager. (She has been Colonel-in-Chief of the Grenadier Guards for seventy years.)

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