Prince William and Kate Middleton began their married life on April 29, 2011. Osama bin Laden’s life was terminated on May 2, 2011. On the Friday, the world was toasting the newly wed Windsors. By Monday, that Hallmark-happy event had been eclipsed. The news story du jour was American brute force.
Harmless though it was, the occasion of William’s marriage to Ms. Middleton drew nasty barbs from pundits on this side of the pond. Trashing the British monarchy appeared to be their way of asserting American exceptionalism.
Thomas Paine hated the monarchy, went one libertarian argument. Therefore the monarchy was – still is – bad. But to denounce the queen with reference to Thomas Paine is hyperbolic at best. Paine, an 18th-century Che Guevara, also sympathized with the Jacobins and lauded the diabolical, blood-drenched, illiberal “Revolution in France.”
The queen of England might be a member of the much-maligned landed aristocracy, but she has acquitted herself as a natural aristocrat would. Elizabeth II has lived a life of dedication and duty, and done so with impeccable class. The queen has been working quietly (and often thanklessly) for the English people for over half a century. Elizabeth Windsor was 13 when World War II broke out, which is when she gave her first official radio broadcast to console the children who had been evacuated “from Britain to America, Canada and elsewhere.” Still in her teens, Elizabeth joined the military, “where,” according to Wikipedia, “she … trained as a driver, and drove a military truck while she served.”
This is precisely what the Bush girls ought to have done in Iraq or Afghanistan, but didn’t. Both the queen’s grandsons, I venture, show more mettle than most members of America’s pampered political dynasties. I may not share these young men’s version of duty and patriotism, but I can, nevertheless, appreciate what it takes. William works as an RAF search-and-rescue helicopter pilot. His younger brother, Prince Harry, served in Afghanistan and wore his Afghanistan Campaign medals on the wedding day. (In 2010, Barbara Bush graduated as a royal pain in the behind: She assumed her official duties as spokesperson for Obama’s health-care plan.
If forced to choose between the mob (democracy) and the monarchy, the latter is far preferable and benevolent. This thesis is anatomized in “Democracy: The God that Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order,” by libertarian political philosopher Hans-Hermann Hoppe. In his seminal work, Hoppe provides ample support – historical and analytical – for democracy’s inferiority as compared to monarchy:
… democracy has succeeded where monarchy only made a modest beginning: in the ultimate destruction of the natural elites. The fortunes of great families have dissipated, and their tradition of a culture of economic independence, intellectual farsightedness, and moral and spiritual leadership has been lost and forgotten. Rich men still exist today, but more frequently than not they owe their fortune now directly or indirectly to the state.
“[I]n light of elementary economic theory, the conduct of government and the effects of government policy on civil society can be expected to be systematically different, depending on whether the government apparatus is owned privately or publicly,” explains Hoppe. “From the viewpoint of those who prefer less exploitation over more and who value farsightedness and individual responsibility above shortsightedness and irresponsibility, the historic transition from monarchy to democracy represents not progress but civilizational decline.”
The democratically elected ruler has no real stake in the territory he trashes during his time in office. It was no mere act of symbolism for the Clintons’ staff to have vandalized the White House on the eve of their departure. Besides, the democratic political transient has learned that he can trust court historians and assorted hagiographers to re-write history for him.
Pat Buchanan captured the rival perspectives – the despot’s vs. the king’s – in the following anecdote:
“Louis XVI let the mob lead him away from Versailles, which he never saw again. When artillery captain Bonaparte asked one of the late king’s ministers why Louis had not used his cannons, the minister is said to have replied, ‘The king of France does not use artillery on his own people.’”
Like or dislike her, the British queen is harmless. Her role is purely ceremonial. Conversely, life and death are in the hands of the monarch who sits in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.