Reflections on Democracy and a Prince’s Wedding

The media frenzy is silly, of course, but I have to admit there’s something appealing about Prince William’s approaching wedding. It’s a modern fairy tale, the real-life equivalent of every little girl’s dream… well not every little girl but you know what I mean.

It got me thinking about the monarchy and the centuries of history that will be reflected in the wedding’s pageantry.

History. Ah, there’s the rub.

So much oppression, so much deception, so much betrayal, so many horrors…

So why has the monarchy persisted through the centuries?

The short answer is that a lot of people like it.

When most people conceive of Heaven, they don’t conjure up a democracy run by an elected council.  They picture a benevolent dictatorship.

Of course, the United Kingdom is no dictatorship, benevolent or otherwise. It’s ruled by elected politicians, much like America. The monarch is a symbol, not a ruler.

But the monarchy has been retained – not only by the UK but also by Australia, Canada, Jamaica and other members of the British Commonwealth. I suppose the objective is to assure a measure of stability, to be a reminder of the glory days of an empire on which the sun never set, and to reflect the social and ethical standards that citizens of these countries would like to live up to.

It’s an awe-inspiring responsibility, and it is perhaps impossible to achieve, but Prince William seems a good lad, and Kate seems quite solid (pictured above). I think they’ll do a good job when their time comes.

And I know this sounds cynical, but there’s something to be said for a system in which the head of state is wealthy enough to have no need of further looting.

Far too many elected officials see their time in office as an opportunity to feather their nests.

Furthermore,  in countries like the United States, even the most honest politicians are obliged to play nice with the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and weak – and the country as a whole. The facts of life are that it costs so much to get re-elected that incumbents are dependent on the deep pockets of corporations and the wealthy. Inevitably, the system produces an oligarchy.

An article in Salon today, describing the way in which Washington has converted the idealistic freshmen in Congress, includes this revealing piece of information:

Many of the Republican freshmen in the House won election vowing to shake up Washington, so it’s a little surprising that many of them seem to be playing an old Washington game: raising much of their campaign money from corporate political action committees.

More than 50 members of the class of 87 GOP freshmen took in more than $50,000 from PACs during the first quarter of 2011, according to new campaign disclosure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Eighteen of the lawmakers took in more than $100,000.

(Click here to read the article.)

In my darker moments, I wonder if – human nature being what it is – good government is even possible. As Winston Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others.

So we might as well enjoy the fantasy of a prince’s wedding – if only to remind ourselves that fairy tales sometimes do come true.