Royalty

Will Mccarthy, in his amusing book The Collapsium, suggested that people are happier with a king or queen. I think there is something to that. A king gives tangible expression to people’s aspirations. A king is a representative of the country as a whole. A king is somebody who you can never be, but you feel honored to be in his company.

In Mccarthy’s novel a queen was found from the royal family of Tonga. The obvious problem of succession was dealt with by making her (and everybody else) immortal. The problem of ennui was side-stepped. The queen had little real power, but had a great deal of power by custom. Among sketchily presented science fiction social systems, the ideas are in some ways similar to those in Heinlein’s novel Glory Road. This is the sort of king that I mean; not the absolute ruler of history but the limited power of the modern monarchy.

Back in real life, people want somebody to admire. I think the lack of a king in the U.S. leads to the cult of the celebrity. The problem with celebrities is that they are created directly by us, and so, when they are inevitably attacked, they fail. Kings have a power rooted in history. Thus, the British monarchy, to cite the obvious example, can easily withstand all the attacks that have been made on them in recent years.

Unfortunately the lack of history in the U.S. means that there is no reasonable way that we can get a king. Tip O’Neill reportedly said of Reagan “He was a lousy president, but he would have made a great king.” I think he was right on both counts. When Reagan was on the scene we didn’t have anybody competent to run the country, and when Reagan left the scene we didn’t have anybody left to inspire us.

1 Comment »

  1. fche said,

    December 23, 2006 @ 5:38 pm

    > When Reagan was on the scene we didn’t have anybody competent to run the country,
    > and when Reagan left the scene we didn’t have anybody left to inspire us.

    I don’t know. That sounds just so simple, and taken literally, just wrong.

    Presidents don’t “run” countries. Masses of people do. Presidents are
    largely focused on external affairs, and in this regard surely Reagan was
    a success in the most important way (the defeat of communism).

    As for inspiration, do ex-presidents necessarily fail to inspire? How about the
    fan crowds of Al Gore? Clinton? Many would say that Reagan’s actions and
    speeches have continued to inspire modern conservatives. And of course,
    that’s just inspiration as per your political executive. Most people don’t seem
    to put *them* as the primary source, leaving that to artists, heroes, and others
    in the present and past flotsam and jetsam of society.

    As for the underlying point about monarchy, no question that historical endurance
    plays a factor. I wonder whether a hallowed concept of the Constitution in popular
    consciousness is the closest thing.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

You must be logged in to post a comment.