It’s hard to believe that the ALP didn’t make a run on ‘The Republic’ a the last election. Usually when they are failing dismally and have not a policy leg to stand on they try to vamp up a ‘principle’ that they think will stir up the ignorant (or chattering – same thing really) masses. I suppose they gave their traditional xenophobia a bit of a go with an ‘anti-skilled worker’, but running that in opposition to their pro illegal immigrant waffle looked too hopelessly confused to motivate many people. They had to fall back on their traditional misguided and misunderstood class warfare claptrap, again with the problem that we live in an age where supposedly blue collar plumbers and miners earning several times what supposedly white collar accountants and technicians can earn. Their definition of class is about a century out of date.
This is where you would think an anti-monarchy diatribe might cut some ice. After all, what is better than hereditary priveledge for stirring the pot? Unfortunately the average voter has long since worked out that much, much worse than a hereditary monarch on the far side of the world who doesn’t bother us much: would be a republic run by the politicians who want more power over everything for the politicians and chattering classes who absolutely believe they know what is best for us, and what we should be forced to accept… for our own good of course.
My issue with this is that the problem is always unearned power.
Hereditary power is not necessarily unearned, and elected power is not necessarily earned.
For instance a current Monarch in a constitutional monarchy slaves for decades doing a lot of public service and often taking considerable risks in defense of their fellow citizens (Prince Harry on the front line if Afghanistan and Prince Edward decoying Exocet missiles away from his aircraft carrier with his helicopter for instance), before getting stuck with the uneviable job of state figurehead. While a current President is usually whichever undistinguished party hack has built the most connections within their - usually corrupt and venal – political party over decades.
Given the choice between Prince’s Charles or Edward or Harry; and President’s Hollande, Putin and Xi Jinping: who would you trust to look after the interests of the general public? Who would you consider to be so corrupt and manipulative and self serving (and beholden to the manipulators and financiers who putll the strings in their parties) to be completely unprincipalled? (Should I put Obama in the mix to make you think harder?)
The point being that if monarchies become ‘divine right’, then they can’t be trusted. They will quickly become corrupt and venal. But if monarchies are about service to the poulation, with an expectation of working to earn that service, then they will probably be very very trusted by their people’s.
Similarly if elected politicians actually came from the people and were interested in doing good for the people (as many once did), they might be trusted. But when the vast majority come from poitical machines where they have to work for decades backstabbing each other to get position, and are only interested in acheiving and maintaining power for their party, they cannot be trusted. (No matter how many fancy slogans they try to deceive people with.)
Let’s look at a few other samples of earned priveledge crossing the line into unearned.
Medieval knights and barons lived lives of luxury by comparison to their peaseants, but this is because if you are going to set up a protective warrior class, they need to be better fed, fitter, healthier, better equipped and spend their entire life training to be effeective. Otherwise why bother?
They also have to be willing to lay down their lives to protect their peasants (and their livelihood), and the assumption is that if they die doing their best to protect you, you owe their family and heirs loyalty as long as they are willing to do the same. Earned priveledge.
But if this aristocracy of talent devolves into a mere nobility of priveledge, it is no longer earning its way. When the French nobility lost their military role, but tried to hang on to all the accompanying priveledges anyway, they deservedly reaped a revolution.
Similarly the Roman Catholic Church was set up to do good, and to a large extent, still does good… at least in terms of charity and hospitals and education etc. Priests and nuns who slave to help the poor - there still are a few -deserve the priveledge of respect. However (unlike many other denominations) the institution is far too hierarchical and overcentralised, and is subsequently in constant battle against the purpose being lost, and the concept of unearned priveledge making it seem reasonalbe to protect corrupt officials and outright pedophiles.
The decision to make the church celibate in the feudal period was specifically to maintain central control against the evils of local hereditary bishoprics going their own way. It may have been a good and even necessary thing at that time. Now, it is just a reinforcement of the tendency by too many priests to put the hierarchical structure ahead of the actual community. Combined with a fanciful celebacy, it simply means that Roman priests have a higher rate of pedophilia than protestant (or Orthodox) ministers and priests who are allowed to marry, have less hierarchical structure to impress, usually have to actually answer to their parishioners, and sometimes even focus locally not hierarchically. (Interestingly, per head of population, the most dangerous pedophiles movement in Australia is not the Romans, but the Salvo’s. Hierarchy or power?)
An Australian comparison is our Union movement. At the ground level it still has a vague memory that its good works amount to helping individuals who are being mistreated by an uneven power structure. In fact I have met shop floor unioinists who still do this work and actually believe in it. Unfortunately for them, their hierarchy has long since becoms a bastion of unearned priveledge, and most unioin ‘awards’ or ‘agreements’ these days are about priveledge, not helping people.
They dress it up well. Higher status, or higher education plans for ‘improving’ whatever industry it is effectively locking out the vast majority of lesser educated or immigrants. ‘Equality’ of wages effectively insuring that youth unemployment will skyrocket to European levels. ‘Local jobs’, effectively destroying the oppprotunities to get skilled workers in to spread the wealth and raise the standards across the board. In every case their appraoch is that it is much better to pay ever higher wages to an ever smaller group of good loyal unionists. Buggar the welfare of the general population.
It amuses me that some of the Union rhetoric talks about ‘bastions of priveledge’ as if that is some sort of wealthy elite, and the union movemnt is protecting us against it. The average union member in mining or car building or the civil service are the power elite, very often the wealthy elite, and even (considering the maritime workers) sometimes in hereditary positions. Their taxpayer funded priveledges are the same evil that the French aristocracy was 250 years ago… a once valuable service hanging on to no longer relevant priveledges for their own venalness.
At another level we have bastions of priveledge in the media, who honestly believe that everyone should be forced to think as they do; that people who don’t are immoral, even evil; and that legislation should be used to force people to their norms. This is not so much a problem with groups like Fairfax, who have to answer to the market eventually. Their superior sneering at the majority of the population is leading to their rapid irrelevance in the system. The Age in particular has its moral head so far up its own superiority backside that it will self destruct within a few years. The Age is absolutely certain that the moral superiority it once earned in the 60’s and 70’s is still there for it, and is actually earned priveledge. In fact its modern version of sneering at the majority is also unearned priveledge, and is just as offensive.
Unfortunately the taxpayer funded ABC - which has the same offensive self righteousness, and the same belief that anyone who disagrees is immoral and evil and should be forced into line – is not subject to the market. Taxpayer funds distributed by an unrepresentative political/chattering class make it practically immune from reality. From this perspective, the ABC’s pompous preaching is unearned priveledge at its worst.
The Australian Greens are even more amusing in this. The remaining thin coating of green that is left on the ‘Watermelon Party’, had some semblance of reality in its defence of the wilderness in Tasmania. But the rampant socialism that underlies the vast majority of its modern platform is straight from the ‘reds’. Since their beloved communist parties have collapsed in the sort of horrendous bloodbaths and degradations that are inevitable for fanatically idealistic, but unthinking, losers like fascists and communists: they have had to find a new sheepskin for their stupidities. Green movements have been more than happy to be infiltrated and taken over by professional operators who are happy to use their genuinely earned moral positions to hide their unearned manipulations.
In truth any organistion that is founded for the best of motives can become corrupt and venal if the people on top become more interested in controlling and using the power of the organistaion, than in what the organistaion was originally put together to achieve. This is true of Kings and President’s, churches and unions, media and the law. Particulary the law.
In the last couple of weeks we have had representatives of Australia’s most priveledged vested interests, - the legal fraternity – actually state publicly that their superior understanding and morality should allow htem to overrule the legislative agenda of a popularly elected movement. (Queensland government and anti-Bikie gang legislation.) Simply because THEY KNOW BEST.
In fact there is little to choose between the two possible evils here. Voters as a mass are stupid enough to elect dictators and indulge in classism, racism or ethinic cleansing. So there is a need for a rule of law that preserves some basic human rights. But just because the laws should be followed, does not give the legal fraternity the right to say what laws they will accept or dismiss, or how they will choose to interpret what basic rights the rule of law will cover this week. That is dictatorship in its own form.
The tendency for our – and other – High/Supreme Courts to decide that our constitutions do not mean what they say, but what the legal fraternity would like to read in as more modern interpretations of what reasonable people might believe: is abuse of priveledge in an extreme form. In practice any such decision cannot be considered earned unless and until is is tested by popular referendum. Otherwise ist is just dictatorial behaviour by yet naother overpriveledged class who have not earned the right to such behaiviour.
Personally I will take an inherited monarch who understands their role and works hard for it, over any institutional functionary who has lost sight of the reason their organistation was once valued, and now uses and abuses a memory of earned priveledge to pursue unearned venality.
Perhaps that is why we won’t see another ‘Republic’ campaign in Australia any time soon… or at least not one that would need genuine public agreement and support.