Friday, 25 May 2012

Up the republic

A poll published today shows that sixty-nine per cent of people in Britain support the monarchy, the highest level for over a decade. Apparently, support for the monarchy remains solid across the country and social classes.

It's hardly surprising that support for the monarchy has risen in the run up to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee given the round the clock pushing of it on TV, in the press and by supermarkets and other retailers.  As a republican, I'm actually quite heartened that only just over two-thirds of people still support the monarchy. I would guess it was much higher at the time of the 1977 Jubilee and pretty much universal at the coronation in 1953.

The democratic case for abolishing the monarchy is unanswerable which is why defenders of the instituion never argue that inherited power and privilege is democratic but rather base themselves on flimsy arguments about "stability" and tourist income.

Tom Paine put it well in the revolutionary year of 1776:

"To the evil of monarchy we have added that of hereditary succession; and as the first is a degradation and lessening of ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult and an imposition on posterity. For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and though himself might deserve some decent degree of honours of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them. One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion.

Secondly, as no man at first could possess any other public honours than were bestowed upon him, so the givers of those honours could have no power to give away the right of posterity. And though they might say, "We chooses you for our head," they could not, without manifest injustice to their children, say, "that your children and your children's children shall reign over ours for ever." Because such an unwise, unjust, unnatural compact might (perhaps) in the next succession put them under the government of a rogue or a fool. Most wise men, in their private sentiments, have ever treated hereditary right with contempt; yet it is one of those evils, which when once established is not easily removed; many submit from fear, others from superstition, and the more powerful part shares with the king the plunder of the rest."

1 comment:

  1. Good old Tom Paine; so much better put than I could manage. Although I'm not a communist in the USSR sense, I've been wearing my own jubilee badge this year: the red star with hammer and sickle. After all, this year is the 95th anniversary of the founding of the USSR, whose ideals we can (generally) applaud, even if not the reality.