Monday, 13 June 2011

A Right Libertarian Case for Republicanism

There is no point denying that as things stand, committed republicans like myself make up a minority of the Uk's general population. Polls would put our share of any vote on the subject as low as 15%, with even the most optimistic forecast leaving the republican cause well short of a majority in its favour. There are reasons for this - the Monarchy has managed to remain one of Britain's 'sacred cows' which is not up for discussion. It is never healthy when in a supposedly free society, serious scrutiny of a massive constitutional issue is in any way forbidden. However, the suppression of any sort of conversation in the mainstream media has successfully resulted in the characterisation of republicans as 'oddballs' or 'fruitcakes'.

The Queen is immensely respected by many in the Uk, regardless of how blind and misguided this deference might be. I have nothing against Lizzy whatsoever on a personal level, but find it impossible to hold lasting respect for an individual who heads an institution which I hold in utter contempt. However, perhaps the single biggest barrier to the republican cause is the sheer scale to which a massive section of the general public feel that same sense of contempt towards politicians. Sleaze, fiddled expenses, lies and broken pledges have not helped the standing of parliamentarians as a breed one iota in recent years. It is likely that the thought of having another one as head of state does not carry widespread appeal at this moment in time, leading some to conclude that a constitutional monarch is the lesser of two evils.

One of the issues facing the republican movement is the assumption that is some sort of socialist offshoot and a by-product of the statist politics of envy. Now with my politics coming from a very different position on the Nolan chart, not only do I wholeheartedly reject this claim, but I seek to demonstrate the inherant flaws behind such a line of argument. A move towards a democratic head of state is, in my view, as central a part of Libertarian ideals as it is to the Socialist/Social Democratic thinking of the statist left. We will disagree on a multitude of issues, but on this key battleground find ourselves in the same corner, so hopefully such differences can be laid to one side while discussing an area of common ground. The four central themes to a Libertarian case for a republic are liberty, meritocracy, social mobility and taxpayer value.

The meaning of liberty and freedom have many different interpretations depending on your political perspective. However, the notion that all are born free and equal is something to which we would hopefully all wish to subscribe to, and this brings us immediately into conflict with the notion of a constitutional monarchy. If you as an individual are no more than the subject of a monarch, then by definition that constitutional figurehead has a greater claim on your life than you do, ergo you do not possess personal liberty, and cannot be free as a result. Moreover, you could never be seen as the equal of the other human being to whom you are a mere subject, either in constitutional terms or before the law. The logical conclusion therefore is that monarchy is incompatible with the concept of personal liberty in a genuinely free country.

The Libertarian take on freedom is that of the ability to succeed or fail as a result of one's own skill, efforts or lack of. I have nothing but respect for those who have acquired status and wealth through their own aptitude and endeavour. I believe that punitive taxes on such people from government are immoral, because what they have has been earned by these individuals themselves on their own merits. The problem with any monarch is that their status and wealth, which are both immense, have not been earned by any degree of effort or personal ability, nor are they subjected to the continuous pressure to justify their status as you or I will be on a daily basis.

Therefore, a royal who happens to be stupid, or lazy, or both need not worry about the consequences of failure catching up with them, and it becomes abundantly clear with frequent regularity that the monarchy in no way reflects our best and brightest, or our hardest-working. For anyone like myself who is committed to a meritocratic society, the concept of a constitutional monarchy is at best an obstacle, and if we're being honest, is more like a cancer. Like all cancers, it needs to be cut out at the earliest opportunity. Meritoracy goes hand in hand with social mobility, which appears to be something of a soundbite for mainstream politicians these days. Of course the acid test of social mobility is:- can a deprived kid from a rough council estate at least hypothetically rise to become head of state? It goes without saying that Britain crashes and burns immediately on this front, for the sole reason that the monarchy is in the way.

When talking about social mobility, a lot of people miss a key element of the conversation. Half of it clearly lies in the ability of people to better the achievements, status, quality of life and material wealth of their parents. Society can only benefit from unlocking and utilising the talents of every person within it, regardless of their background. However, social mobility is a two way street, and it is sometimes forgotten that there can only be so many CEOs, managing directors and skilled professionals in any society. Entrenching privilege is only possible as a result of pinning a less fortunate individual to the ground and sabotaging his slow wriggle up the social and economic ladder.

Therefore, the freedom of a person to fail, to squander what advantages they were born with as others accelerate past them from a lower base, is just as important to a climate of social mobility as the plethora of rags-to-riches tales that you would wish to hear. Of course, a royal family can never be described as free to fail, and their continued existence makes a mockery of any claims towards the pursuit of a socially and economically mobile society. Until and unless this applies to absolutely everyone, with the potential of all people to move either up or down in terms of status, quality of life and wealth, then a string of platitudes on the subject from mealy-mouthed politicians will continue to mean the square root of zilch.

Finally, the issue of taxpayer value. I believe that taxes, and with them general public expenditure, should be kept as low as possible, since higher personal taxation stifles initiative and invariably has counter-productive consequences. It is a rational next step therefore to conclude that £1.14 billion (quoted from a Reuters piece in April) spent every year on the white elephant that is the royal family is obscene, an act akin to flushing vast quantities of taxpayers' hard-earned down the proverbial. I'm also sick of Conservative politicians 'reminding' me that this represents 'great value' at 'only' £20 a year. Isn't this a party which usually believes that people can get better value for their money than the state ever could? Unlike the monarchist slime of the Tories, I subscribe to this view 100% of the time, and will guarantee you that I can spend this £20 better than the state has on my behalf - but then again, that wouldn't be terribly difficult would it?

And another thing - £6 billion of lost productivity due to the Royal Wedding, with billions more no doubt thrown away to indulge the circus that is the diamond jubilee next year. Forgive me but is this not supposed to be 'the age of austerity?'. How many more days off would people like to celebrate the fairytales of fantasy and make-believe? And how are we going to get the economy back on track when people are attending street parties to pay homage to kings, queens and princes instead of actually turning up for work? I tried my best on Royal Wedding Day by arriving on site at the usual time only to be refused access to the building by security. Thwarted, I stopped in a supermarket on the way home where some of the real heroes of that day were actually doing something productive - kudos to every single one of them. The only choice at that point was to go home and avoid coverage of the wedding like the plague, which I just about managed.

The point of this piece is that there are many political standpoints from which you can conclude that a royal family has no place in our society. Those of the Socialist/Social Democratic tendency of course see the monarchy as a barrier to the pursuit of a more 'fair' and economically equal country. People like myself, who you could tag as Libertarians or Classical Liberals, have no time or place for a monarchy either as it falls into conflict with the principles of meritocracy, personal liberty and the freedom of men and women to either succeed or fail based on their own talents and efforts. The republican cause can win support from different strands of the political spectrum if it persuades people to follow their noses and their instincts. Only hardened conservatives actually believe in the monarchy with genuine passion, so that leaves the vast majority of the population who are at least open to our side of the argument. I continue to have faith that in time we can win them round.

10 comments:

  1. A good article. I agree with what you say about monarchy. It's also good to see someone approaching the subject of republicanism from a right of centre perspective. Monarchists often shoot themselves in BOTH feet in claiming ownership of the royals.

    The freedom to fail aspect is actually a pretty sound argument. Yes, freedom to suceed and 'the pursuit of happiness' is important. Sucess takes many forms, not only in a monatary and material sense. Happiness and contentedness should come from more than just being wealthy.

    However the freedom to fail as you put it is important from another aspect too. One can learn from one's mistakes. Most successful entrprenuers, the Bill Gates, Richard bransons, Steve Jobs etc of this world all had failures. However they as with most of us learn from our errors.

    Of course, someone like William Windsor is guaranteed his position in life without having to try. he will face no interview, selection panel, election or leadership contest. And as long as he plays by the albeit rather lax rules, he is unsackable.

    So yes, I think I do agree with you. The royals do not have the free dom to fail. As such they can never really learn from their mistakes as most of their mistakes have few if any real consequences.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lancashire Lad13 June 2011 at 22:46

    I'm going to set up The Peoples Republic of Chorley. The four cornerstones of our constitution will be Liberty, Democracy, Fraternity and Cup of Tea.

    Who fancies a mintball?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I enjoyed reading this post; it was well thought out, coherent and plausible. Also, although I suppose I am left of centre, all the ideas of meritocracy and rising on your own talents makes perfect sense. Most republicans on the whole believe in the sanctity of the people as opposed to the sanctity of a small elite at the top, forever hogging wealth and power, and more importantly trying always to thwart the ambitions of ordinary people.

    The problem of this is that if the little stop dreaming, society becomes bankrupt. What's the purpose of a few individuals in any society having vast chunks of wealth and not spending it? This creates all kinds of problems, not least of which a bar to social mobility.

    It's time we woke up to the reality of Britain, and time we demanded a fairer society.

    T. Hughes

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lancashire Lad you are stealing three quarters of my country's constitution and adding Cup of Tea to make it all homely and Northern. Next you will be making your silly Chorley Cakes your the dish.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Daz,

    I have read your article and I think it is really nice and sensible and well thought out and it sounds like your own ideas and you haven't had to ask your Mum or anything. But, I don't like this Meritocracy idea. It really does sound like hard work and I wonder if you had thought it through. Perhaps you could just have a pretend meritocracy for the proles, you know to keep them happy. You could give people medals for doing good stuff like forcing sorry helping old people accross the road you know like an MBE but obviously not mentioning the empire, because of course we have to pretend there isn't one. Anyway have to go it's getting cold and I need to throw another Chav in the woodburner.

    ReplyDelete
  6. £1.14 billion a year eh?

    Why stop there? Whack an extra few zeroes on that bad boy.

    The monarchy costs the tax payer ONE HUNDRED BILLION SQUILLION POUNDS A YEAR! Whats that? No you cannot see my working! It is 100% confirmed by the voices in my MASSIVE EMPTY HEAD.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I've searched Reuters for the 1.4 billion you speak of but was unable to find it. I notice The Auditor was also raised this point but forgotten his manners it would seem. Would you be able to link this ? And Auditor you need to calm down eh. Pathetic royal lick-up.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Even if it is 1p my objection to being chattel does not diminish.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hiya Anon - link comes from a pro-monarchist article so can be trusted to be low end if anything

    http://blogs.reuters.com/columns/2011/04/28/britains-royal-family-is-an-affordable-indulgence/

    Daz

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think I asked before ? Do you know of a good republican forum ? Thanks in advance -

    ReplyDelete