Sunday afternoon is always that time of transition from weekend to regular week. I would have said work week but I don’t get paid to work, so the two time periods are hardly distinguishable except for the change in traffic patterns. And I don’t watch television on a regular basis so there are no weekday and weekend shows of which I must keep track to view. Back when I was a teen and then a young man the days of the week were defined by television shows. But the late seventies and eighties cured me of that pastime. I didn’t have a television and did far more reading and studying. Now my biggest and worst time wasting activity is the internet. The financial news and investment blogs take time to process. Mostly, I use the internet for information with an occasional side trip for a movie or old television show on youtube. But no facebook or twitter or whatever is the latest rage in time wasting. Of course writing a blog takes some time, usually an hour or two depending on the word count. Of course it takes a bit of reading to find the right subject and sometimes it is difficult to find that subject.
So I was faced with that prospect today. But after a cold beer, a hot shower, and a bit of the BBC production on the Royal family of Britain I finally found my subject for today. Now most of the world’s democracies and political thinkers view monarchies as a waste of space and money. We, in America, simply can’t conceive of the need for a King and Queen (yes, I know Hillary wants the be the Queen and Madam President all in one, but I say, off with her head!), after all, don’t we elect representatives and presidents? Well, that is debatable given the amount of money spent on election campaigns from local to national political offices. No one is ever elected King every four years, much to Bill Clinton’s chagrin and Obama’s wish. And it is not like the political parties in Britain don’t spend money running for office there. Maybe not as much as we do but per capita they are far from parsimonious. Of course Queen Elizabeth doesn’t seem to do much. The royal family doesn’t seem to do much. Yes, there is the charity work where they show up and like the Pope, give their blessings. And the men do things like join the Navy or the Army, or the Air Force and are given commissions (no prince has ever served as a private, heavens forfend) and something to fill their day. Indeed, the military in the UK seems to function as a make work organization for various royals, you know, the various dukes, viscounts, earls, and what not. Call it the Old Royal network.
On the other hand, the Royals do help to sway public opinion, shape public spending. Prince Charles helps to provide the impetus to conservation of natural resources, the conservation of historic buildings, the preservation of public lands, the restoration of old crafts (not that such crafts will ever be in wide employment in modern construction) to assist in historic restoration of public works, from buildings to hedgerows. Many of the Royal women are involved in the arts and education. Granted, they may not always know what they are doing but they help to focus attention to a few important issues. Now you might be saying that the Billionaires do this already and you would be right. But while Bill Gates may be a very smart man he is hardly of the intellectual calibre to know what is best in education. He is like so many millionaires and billionaires. They throw money at the problems but can’t be bothered with the details. They want instant progress. But the Royals, all through their childhoods, have learned the value of gradual change, of persuasion, of long suffering service. Whether you lead a horse to water or drive in quickly with a whip makes little difference if the horse doesn’t drink. This is, perhaps, the problems with our own charitable organizations and political solutions. We, in democracies all over the world are in a hurry. We want to fix it all now without much thought.
On the other hand, Royal interference has always had a cost associated with it. The “subjects” don’t brook too much interference in their daily lives from any Royalty.They have, you know, had the audacity to behead a King when he dared not listen to their voice. Think about that. The beheading of a President, a few Senators, and a bunch of Congressmen just might be a good idea every forty or fifty years. It might keep those idiots a little more humble. Did not the people turn out Edward over his love affair for a twice divorced woman of ill repute? Our politicians do not hold our opinions so dear, just go ask Hillary. No, the Royals exercise a certain discretion (yes, they screw up like everyone else) in public. They tend to act as a brake on the more idiotic actions of politicians and public figures. When the men dared to tell an off color joke amongst themselves in the throne room Queen Victoria asked what was the joke? The answer was not one that could be repeated in from of the Queen and her Ladies. The Queen issued the moral statement on that affair. We are not amused! That is the Royal We, by the way. When the Royal We do not concur, agree, are not amused, and so forth, the Queen and the other Royals are issuing a moral statement upon the situation. The Royals, and in particular, the Queen (because she is the reigning monarch) do not agree, are not amused, object, or otherwise tell you that you are out of line, it has a moral effect on the populace. The Royals, when they are acting for the nation, for their subjects in the best of traditions, are the moral conscience of the nation. When individuals and groups cross that moral line they put themselves in opposition to the Queen and the Royals. Public disapproval is sure to follow to some degree. We, in America, have no such check on the questionable moral behavior of individuals and groups. And we are the culturally and morally the poorer for it. In a way, I find it funny that the Brits don’t really see this point. So, long live the Queen, she serves a very valuable public service.