On Monarchies
Brian Gongol

For the sake of the monarchs, end the monarchies.

The baby born to William Windsor and Kate Middleton is an instant celebrity, and will never have more than a sliver of a chance of self-determination. Instead, he is an object of intense public scrutiny from before the very moment of his birth. Right-thinking people who look at "Honey Boo Boo" and think what a monstrous offense is done to that child's welfare cannot possibly turn around and gush about the arrival of an heir to the English throne.

We are well past the time when sensible people think that leadership and wisdom and good judgment are perfectly heritable traits. At best, they may be passed along under a lifelong sort of apprenticeship. Just maybe. And while most people would likely agree that Queen Elizabeth II has herself played the role of monarch quite well, her own son has shown himself to be a busybody full of terrible ideas that he cannot help but try to foist upon his countrymen. In something resembling a meritocracy, he would be just another wealthy crackpot. But because his name is preceded by the title "Prince" and is routinely followed by "heir to the throne", his pronouncements are echoed around the world as though they carried some weight of authority.

But what authority? That one of his ancient ancestors happened to be the lucky Protestant to descend from a man who rewrote the Bible to suit his own tastes? Surely the people of the 21st Century are advanced enough to question the divine right of kings.

Just imagine that your occupation -- and most everything else about your life, including your presence as a celebrity on the world stage -- had been set by your father's father's mother's uncle's decision to quit that very same job because it conflicted with his social life. Most of us would be hard-pressed to know what our father's father's mother's uncle did for a living -- much less be satisfied with being shoehorned into taking the same job.

Monarchy is fair neither to the subject nor to the sovereign. Certainly, there's a place for a ceremonial head of state -- but why fill that role by a genetic lottery, rather than an election, a draft among eligible voters, or even a television game show? America, having selected some great Presidents to occupy the White House, has produced very few legitimate political dynasties -- note that no Washingtons, Lincolns, or Roosevelts run for office today under the family name, and that the right is as quick to criticize the Kennedys as the left is to eye the Bushes with suspicion. Heredity simply isn't a legitimate prequalification for greatness, and it's unfair to the subjects to insist that they bow to a mystical power that put the head of state on the throne.

At the same time, monarchy is unfair to the royals, as well. One need look no farther than the tragic death of Princess Diana or the great (and clearly unwanted) scrutiny placed upon Prince Harry to see that becoming royalty is no assurance of personal happiness. It cannot possibly be fair to tell this brand-new baby boy that he must live an entire life in the spotlight of the world's attention strictly because of his father's father's mother's day job, which will be his someday, even if he wanted to be a fighter pilot or an architect or a commercial fisherman instead. His will certainly be a life without material want or need, but it cannot possibly be as psychologically fulfilling as the lives of millions of "commoners" who get to choose their own paths through life.

The United Kingdom is a great ally to the United States, and generally a great presence for good in the world. Saying anything about their culture or form of government from the outside is nothing more than perhaps an attempt to nudge an old friend in the right direction. But monarchies there and in the rest of the world are a reminder that sometimes we as humans keep doing things well after it has become obvious that they are a raw deal for everyone involved. The exuberance of the day will soon fade, and what will be left is a tiny baby boy whose life is from its very start a sentence inside a glass prison.