|The Queen riding at Trooping the Colour, 1986|
A few thoughts on the Queen's official birthday. (Read the full article in the June issue of theFrenchPaper):
I grew up in the Soviet Union – one of the biggest republics of them all, apart from six years spent in Australia when my father was posted there with the TASS news agency. In my professional adult life I have lived and worked, for several years each, in Japan, the States, the UK and now another great republic, France.
That’s three monarchies and three republics, so I feel entitled to throw my own observations into the debate. And the longer I dwelt on it the more I concurred: in monarchies – and obviously we are talking modern, constitutional monarchies here not the absolute regimes of the past – people appear, in my experience, if not necessarily happier, then certainly more relaxed and at ease with themselves.
A monarchist state encourages a sort of anarchist, self-motivated compliance with rules rather than a republican anarchist rejection of them.Of course, in the 21st Century, the very notion of a hereditary monarchy with its system of titles, curtseying , pageantry and palaces is absurd. But if we set this aside for one moment, it is still interesting to examine the apparent paradox that, generally ‘subjects’ are enjoying better lives than ‘citizens’.
In a republic, the state takes on the mantle of a higher power; in a monarchy that mantle is already taken so the State is less respected, less resented and less relevant.
The value of a sitting monarch is that they stop politicians indulging in delusions of grandeur. I was astonished to see David Cameron, when he drove to the palace to be invited to form Her Majesty’s Government, stopping at traffic lights! Monarchs keep politicians in their place – and that is healthy.
This leads us to the second major difference between the two systems: the size and (self-) importance of the state. What do expatriates who settle in France – or indeed in Russia, where my wife lived for many years – complain about most? (As well as the French and Russian peoples.) A bureaucracy which is cumbersome, oppressive and arrogant? Shouldn’t it be the other way round – that the machine of the state is more authoritarian in a monarchy? So perhaps it is in their attitudes towards the state that subjects and citizens differ? In a republic, the state takes on the mantle of a higher power; in a monarchy that mantle is already taken so the State is less respected, less resented and less relevant.
Surely it couldn’t be that driving is safer in monarchies? Yet the figures bear this out!Again, it is kept in its place leaving ‘subjects’ to get on with their lives. Ironically, by being more responsible for their own lives, ‘subjects’ are more positive, self-confident and at ease.
An inevitable, in my experience, consequence of an all-powerful state is a higher level of subversion as the populace seeks to get its own back on the plethora of rules and regulations – it is well known that where there are hundreds of rules they tend to be disregarded but where there are but one or two they are generally obeyed. So I looked up figures for the black economies – and bingo! European studies show that in the UK, undeclared work amounts to about half of what it is in republican France and Germany. In Russia, the black market is a means of survival, amounting to about 50 percent of the economy. In the Emperor’s Japan, it is negligible.
So there seems to be, under a monarchy, more willingness to play by the rules rather than to ignore them; the relatively lighter bureaucracy of a monarchist state encourages a sort of anarchist, self-motivated compliance with rules rather than a republican anarchist rejection of them.
These startling figures lead me to examine another common complaint about France: the driving. Surely it couldn’t be that driving is safer in monarchies? Yet the figures bear this out! Looking at the statistics of deaths in road accidents per 100 thousand of the population, per year, the figure in the UK is approximately half of that of for France – 3.5 against 6.9. The difference between the USA, a republic, and Canada, a monarchy, is equally striking: 12.3 against 9.2. I remember Japan, a constitutional ‘empire’, for its disciplined, courteous behaviour on the roads – compare their road fatalities with those in the neighbouring republic of South Korea: 3.85 against 12.7. In the kingdom of Sweden the figures are less than half those of republican Finland: 2.9 to 6.5. And in Russia? Way over the top with a depressing 25.2 per 100 thousand.
(The Daily Telegraph video)
Photo from here.