Friday, May 24, 2013

British Monarchy Expenses Should Be Transparent

Perhaps the old country of England is changing. Queen Elizabeth II recently announced that Prince Charles is taking over some of her duties. 

More transparency of royal financial taxes and expenses would be a huge change for the better. This post explains my position, and extends a challenge.

1. Myth: British royalty doesn't have power

It does. 

The British are supposed to revere their monarchy and not complain. The main virtue in England is to get along with stiff upper lips when necessary.  Citizens of the small beautiful green island nation value peace, civility, and cooperation. And these goals are truly laudable ideals.  Except it's untrue that monarchy doesn't exert influence over the British. The methods they use can be sharply stark and psychologically cruel while coated with a veneer of charm and beauty.

In England, the three million unclaimed pounds the monarchy takes from Cornwall citizens, by inherited right, is an unfettered display of raw power. With this recent example, England doesn't deserve to call itself a democracy, as it does, if royalty can descend on municipal offices and make off with taxes. Most democracies would call that an act of theft. In England, the monarchy calls those funds entitlements and the royal tradition of the rights to the taxes has prevailed unchallenged.

2.  Myth: British royalty isn’t expensive 

It is. 

Millions of tax dollars fund British royalty. And British Commonwealth nations rationalize the costs of sponsoring royalty. The venerable institutional office supposedly costs every person only a tiny affordable amount each year. The theory is the costs and benefits of royalty are spread around the population.

Ask me, however, and I say the true costs aren't that clear. I would prefer to have visual proof before I can agree to that. And I believe the total cost of employing the army of people associated with the support of royalty is a huge cost at the expense of individuals.

It’s probably not possible to reduce all the costs of the British monarchy to the form of a balance sheet. But it would be nice if an effort could be made to publish a rough outline of such a list of royal taxes and expenses paid by the government. And the sheet should be available to everyone online for free.

3. Myth: British royalty is democratic

It isn't. 

A major issue many internationals have with the British monarchy is that the finances, rights, and powers of the monarchy remain mysterious and private. 

One well-known historic right of British royalty is the right to bestow titles and elevate commoners to the aristocracy. And the Honors List is clearly one such incestuous poorly-understood system. Titles favor one person and family over others visibly for a lifetime. This bad habit promotes permanent, deeply ingrained, undemocratic social inequality. For the Honors Lists often bear scant similarity to the actual importance to society of the contributions of individuals so honored and titled. Easy for me to say this, many extremely hard-working, deserving, and worthy British scientists are repeatedly ignored by Her Majesty.

It's high time for Britain as an independent country and head of the Commonwealth to take this opportunity. Aim for more equality by showing the public the true costs of the monarchy. So many of the public relations efforts of The Firm are secret and priceless. Royals assert they do important work. It's another wonder of the world why they do it, and don’t tire of it. Must be well-rewarding if they say so. And it would be nice to know exactly how well they're rewarded for their hard work every year in tax forms, for example, or a financial balance sheet. 

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