A few days ago, when US news and social media were awash in news that I couldn’t care less about, I tweeted:
If BS royal baby news is the price the world had to pay for a relatively stable transition away from relevant monarchy in Britain, well, OK.
— Randall McElroy (@mcelroyr) July 22, 2013
What I meant by this, if it wasn’t clear, is that many societies that did away with their monarchies suffered great social upheaval in doing so. For the many problems that the French monarchy was behind, the Revolution engendered a generation’s worth of chaos, violence, and war along with some positive changes. Whether you consider the historical trade-off good or not, it clearly could have been better. Britain, too, had its share of war in the transition away from autocracy, but by slowly diminishing the power of the monarch as opposed to turning society on its head, they avoided a lot more probable violence. I’m sure I hardly need to say that from my perspective supporting the royal family is a waste of British tax money, but imagine how much worse off their society would have been as a consequence of the violence that would likely have accompanied a French-style deposition. All of the people who died as a result and the descendants they never would have had would have been a greater setback to their society than the several million pounds a year they dump into the royal family.
We’re talking about the real world, not my ideal world or yours, which could of course always be better than reality. But here in the real world, this seems like a tolerable trade-off.