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Just shut up and president

January 23, 2017

My late mother-in-law (may she rest in peace) was a big fan of the British royal family. She even subscribed to magazines about them. ‘Struth. As you might imagine, the Windsor family was a topic we didn’t talk about often. But we got on extremely well otherwise.

Once, while touring Britain with my in-laws, we stopped for the night at a pretty cool old English inn called the Wheatsheaf hotel. I think it was this place in Lincolnshire but I’m not certain. (‘Wheatsheaf’ is the name of several inns and hotels in the UK.)

Since we’d arrived late in the day, we headed for the public room to find a cool glass of and to meet the locals. We succeeded. And before long, I heard MIL telling some of those locals that she thought the U.S. needed a royal family too. Sigh…

So I liked this post by Warren Meyer at Coyoteblog. Plus, it’s a three-fer: Meyer, Boudreaux, and Williamson all make good points on this topic.

A Modest Proposal: Let’s Adopt A Ceremonial Royal Family for the US To Safely Absorb People’s Apparent Need for Powerful, Charismatic Presidents

I have been watching the Crown as well as the new PBS Victoria series, and it got me to thinking. Wow, it sure does seem useful to have a single figurehead into which the public can pour all the sorts of adulation and voyeurism that they seem to crave. That way, the people get folks who can look great at parties and make heart-felt speeches and be charismatic and set fashion trends and sound empathetic and even scold us on minor things. All without giving up an ounce of liberty. The problem in the US is we use the Presidency today to fulfill this societal need, but in the process can’t help but imbue the office with more and more arbitrary power. Let’s split the two roles.

Update: Don Boudreaux writes:

A Trump presidency comes along with awful risks for Americans. Yet one very real silver-lining is that Trump’s over-the-top buffoonery and manic barking like a dog at every little thing that goes bump in his sight, along with his chronic inability even to appear to be thoughtful and philosophical and reflective and aware that he is not the center of the universe, might – just might – scrub off some of the ridiculous luster that has built up on on the U.S. Presidency over the course of the past 90 or so years. Let us hope.

He also links a good article from Kevin Williamson on the cult of the Presidency

In this vein, I recommend Gene Healey’s book The Cult of the Presidency. You can read it for free.


Here’s an interesting anecdote that I read recently: many Swiss people can’t tell you who their president is. It turns out that the Swiss president is simply the presiding member of the seven-member Swiss Federal Council.

Wouldn’t that be a nice change? A president who does the job in quiet anonymity? A servant of the people who doesn’t think of the job as director of a reality TV show?

Where’s Calvin Coolidge when you need him?

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