Today, at 3 am, as I tune in to watch the grand spectacle of the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, I reflect on the difference between a constitutional monarchy and a presidential republic. Although I recognize the public choice advantages of the latter – most notably the separation of powers – deep down in my heart I prefer the former. I prefer it not because of its pageantry – though to be sure the Royals are more impressive in their dignity than any American president in the history of the Republic.
Fundamentally, I prefer the Royals because they work so hard to remain above politics. They will not be bought and sold in the market-place of politics. They will not send their bagmen out to purchase votes and political support through the spoils system that now dominates United States politics. To put it bluntly, there is a political cleanliness about the British monarchy that is nowhere to be seen within the United States presidency.
Interestingly, the Royals are able to move around the capital, even on days of great pageantry such as this, without the overt police-state provisions that surround presisdential inaugurations. The people who line the streets are not penned in behind huge barriers as they are in Washington, DC. The police presence, though of course it is in place, is much more reserved and largely hidden. The people at large are free to come close to the Royal Family in a way that no American president can now experience.
In a way, that tells us a lot about the non-partisan nature of the peoples’ regard for their sovereign as compared with the partisan bifurcated relationship between any president and the electorate.
I feel unexpectedly close to my own country today, after so many years in America. That is why I write my short letter from America to my happy band of brothers and sisters.