On monarchy

September 13th, 2022

Taleb has an interesting take on monarchy in a recent Twitter thread:

I dislike the v. idea of monarchy & being a “subject”, even if cosmetic. But experience shows that, just as w/religion, when you remove kings, you tend to get something vastly worse (nature abhores a vacuum).

Removing the king is like bulldozing museums.

Pple don’t get Burke.

2) In the UK, the effective head of state is a regular citizen who works in what bankers would consider a shoddy townhouse, leaving the distractions of the pomp to the defanged nominal one. In France, the president is a monarch. Mitterrand was effectively a modern Louis XIV.

3) There is something vicious by “commoners” keeping aristocracy in nominal positions: nobody considers them intelligent, not even themselves.

Royals are therefore self-excluded from the elite: it makes them non-dangerous, relegated to a degrading form of human dog breeding.

And even ties it into his views on religion:

The main purpose of religion, I wrote in the Incerto, is not to affirm that there is a God, but to prevent humans from thinking they are Gods. Likewise the purpose of a modern king is not to rule, but to prevent politicians & office climbers from thinking that they are kings.

He has a point, and there’s definitely something to this. The most functional countries in Europe (Scandinavia plus the Netherlands) are constitutional monarchies. This gets even more curious when you consider that ostentatious displays of wealth and inequality are social faux pas.

Compare this with the United States or France, where there’s an obsession with the president’s family down to the “first dog”.

There’s more from an Unherd piece:

Elizabeth Windsor was tasked as a twenty-something with a job that required her to say or do nothing that could be misconstrued, controversial, or even interestingly human — for the rest of her life…

Part of the hard-to-explain grief I feel is related to how staggeringly rare that level of self-restraint is today. Narcissism is everywhere. Every feeling we have is bound to be expressed. Self-revelation, transparency, authenticity — these are our values. The idea that we are firstly humans with duties to others that will require and demand the suppression of our own needs and feelings seems archaic. Elizabeth kept it alive simply by example.

With her death, it’s hard not to fear that so much she exemplified — restraint, duty, grace, reticence, persistence — are disappearing from the world…

She was an icon, but not an idol. An idol requires the vivid expression of virtues, personality, style. Diana was an idol — fusing a compelling and vulnerable temperament with Hollywood glamour. And Diana, of course, was in her time loved far more intensely than her mother-in-law; connected emotionally with ordinary people like a rockstar; only eventually to face the longterm consequences of that exposure and crumble under the murderous spotlight of it all.

Elizabeth never rode those tides of acclaim or celebrity. She never pressed the easy buttons of conventional popularity. She didn’t even become known for her caustic wit like the Queen Mother, or her compulsively social sorties like Margaret. The gays of Britain could turn both of these queens into camp divas. But not her. In private, as in public, she had the kind of integrity no one can mock successfully.

There’s something wonderful about not being a drama queen.