The royal family gives pride and pleasure
Regular Network Norfolk columnist James Knight reflects on the weekend's Jubilee celebrations.
I had such a nice time over the Queen’s Jubilee weekend. The cul-de-sac on which I live had a street party on the Monday, and our lovely neighbours organised a barbeque for Tuesday. Despite mixed weather, the four day weekend was a lovely occasion, and I got to meet lots of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Add to that the stunning shots on television of London at its most glorious and we had something special to remember.
When it comes to debates about the Royal Family, I find I am not a strong Royalist nor am I anti-monarchy either. I do think, however, that the Queen deserves a tremendous amount of praise and support for her 60 years service. I think she has conducted herself with a great deal of credit over the years, and in a time in which so many people undignify themselves just to get noticed in the faux-ironic world of celebrity-ism, it is wonderful to see a lady monarch (who is one of the most famous women in the world, if not ‘the’ most famous) conduct her affairs with such dignity and grace.
In a nation that has changed so much these past 60 years, it is worth remembering that the monarchy stands as a symbol for sovereignty and leadership – one that continues to reflect the Christian ethos of leadership and willingness to serve others. The changes I mentioned are to do with attitudes and perspectives, not science, technology and industry (which obviously is better). 60 years ago young people had more respect for police and teachers, and there seemed to be a greater respect for our nation’s religion, traditions, laws and institutions. I think one can see in the Queen a symbol of many of the qualities this country used to have in abundance before the wave of counterculture flowed into our nation. But we mustn’t grumble – there aren’t many countries that can say they have had a 1953-2012 as successful, progressive and peaceful as ours.
What of the objections from the anti-royals? I don’t think they make much sense. I’ll come to the cost issue in a moment – but first, the next most common objection is that monarchy is counter to democracy by devaluing the Parliamentary system. I don’t know why anyone would argue that, because we have a democratically elected Parliament that acts (at least legally and formally) for the people. Any deference to the Crown produces Royal action under the advice of Parliament, so there is no undermining of democracy. Moreover, over 80% of people are said to be in favour of the monarchy, so it’s not as though popular opinion is being undermined. The executive authority of the Monarchy actually acts a guarantor against Parliamentary misuse of constitutional power (we all know what happened with Cromwell’s Republic), so those who want the state to be a republic ought to be careful what they wish for.
When I see the French equivalent with the political impartiality of the French Legion of Honour, the Presidential situation, and the continual jostling for positional power, I can’t help but think the British monarchy is not outmoded or elitist – far from it. It seems like a breath of fresh air in comparison. Personally I think the objections to the monarchy involve the raising of issues that do not directly affect very many people at all. The truth is, I think, society is so vast and complex now that your life won’t be made any worse by having a monarchy, and it would be no better by living in a UK republic. Conversely, it seems clear from the celebrations and the mass support over the weekend (and William and Kate’s recently televised wedding) that many people do derive immense pride and pleasure from the Royal Family – and long may it continue.
Now the cost – just how much does it cost the taxpayer? Well, estimates vary from 100 to 200 million pounds per year. Let’s be generous to the republicans and say it costs 300 million, and let’s even forget all the revenue the Royals bring into this country. So pretend we have a £300 million deficit, which means it costs every person in the country about £4.30 per year to have a Royal Family – which is not even 1.2p per day. With an 80% popularity, I’m sure the majority of the nation thinks she’s worth it.
But there’s something else that’s overlooked by republicans. If we took all the Royal assets and accumulative wealth, had a joint presidency/parliamentary system, and put all that money back into the economy, everyone would be better off, right? Wrong. Most of the Royal assets are in equity that is not currently injected into the economy. If the Royals sold everything and put the equity in the banking system then everybody else would be worse off. You see, the mega rich people who hoard their wealth in stocks, bonds and international currency actually make us all financially better off by doing this, not worse off. I think it is because most people don’t grasp this that they are forever having enthusiastic paroxysms about economic stimulus systems that state they will put more money in our banks and lighten the load of the mega rich. It’s nonsense!
Hang on, I hear you object, if the mega rich man gave some of his wealth to feed the homeless, then that’s good for the economy, because the more the rich man spends the more the hungry have to eat. Here’s what you are overlooking – the food that feeds the homeless people doesn’t just come out of thin air – it has to affect the economy somewhere. If he feeds the homeless then the cost of that food is impacted in the rest of the economy – either others eat less or others pay more for their food. I’m not saying it is not moral to feed the homeless – I am simply saying that the argument about spreading the wealth in the economy is mathematically wrong. While the Royal assets are kept out of the economic system, almost everybody is better off.
All in all, I think the net pleasure of having a Royal Family outweighs the net negatives – and I for one am proud of our Queen’s past 60 years and impressed with the legacy her sovereignty has left. Long may she continue.
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James is a Christian writer and local government officer based in Norwich. You can access his current collections of columns here
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