The royal wedding: the celebration of the constitutional monarchy by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is beautiful

Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle are scheduled to get married this Saturday at noon GMT (i.e. 7:00 a.m. Eastern and 4:00 a.m. Pacific in the United States) at Windsor Castle about 21 miles west of London.

Numerous US networks, including ABC, BBC America, CBS, CNN, E !, Fox News, HBO, NBC, PBS and TLC, will broadcast the ceremony live, with coverage starting two or three hours earlier, and a number Outlets, including the New York Times and PBS, are broadcast live on YouTube:

The wedding will be a real massive public spectacle. When Harry’s brother William married Kate Middleton in 2011, around 300 million people watched, and retail spending in the London area increased by around £ 107million ($ 145million) in April. Since live streaming on the web and mobile devices is much more prevalent than it was seven years ago, and given the expected increase in the number of American visitors to the country because Markle is American, the number viewership and the economic numbers could be higher this time around, but probably not as high as the billions of viewers and billions of economic growth that some gullible observers have predicted marriage will generate.

Any event of such magnitude is doomed in turn to generate massive backlash, or at least calculated indifference. A YouGov poll commissioned by anti-monarchy group Republic found that 66% of Britons say they are not interested in the event, and 57% think the Royal Family should pay for both the wedding (which is the case) and security costs (which taxpayers largely cover).

To take it even further, a small but noisy minority of Britons – around 17% in 2016 – advocates the abolition of the monarchy and the adoption of a republic. And British Republicans are extremely passionate about it; during William and Kate’s wedding I was studying in the UK and a few of my classmates burned the Union Jack in one of our college yards.

It is an understandable impulse. In the modern age, royal families can feel like anachronisms at best and colossal and offensive wastes of money at worst. And they offer an uncomfortable commonality between democratic countries that protect civil liberties like the UK and outright monarchies that commit grotesque crimes against their own citizens and neighbors, like Saudi Arabia.

But constitutional monarchies and absolute monarchies have about as much in common as current republics like the United States, Ireland and France do with dictatorial “people’s republics” like China, Laos or Korea. North. Indeed, there is evidence that constitutional monarchies, especially entrenched ones like the UK, Sweden or the Netherlands, may be more voter-sensitive and more inclined to solve problems through elections than through voting. manipulation of elites.

I am not British, and if the British people want to get rid of their monarchy, it is their prerogative. But here are a few reasons why they might want to keep the Windsors in their castle – or at least feel a little less embarrassed to have fun watching Saturday’s festivities.

Monarchies are more democratically legitimate

Windsor Castle, location of the wedding.

Generally speaking, in a parliamentary system, you need a Head of State who is not the Prime Minister to serve as a disinterested arbiter when there are disputes over how to form a government – say, whether the largest party should be allowed to form a minority government or if small parties should be allowed to form a coalition, a dispute that arose 10 years ago in Canada.

This head of state is usually a distinguished president elected by parliament (Germany, Italy) or the people (Ireland, Finland), or a monarch. And monarchs, in my opinion, are better.

Monarchs are more effective than presidents precisely because they have no semblance of legitimacy. It would be offensive if Queen Elizabeth or her representatives in Canada, New Zealand, etc. get involved in domestic politics. Indeed, when the Governor General of Australia did so in 1975, it triggered a constitutional crisis which made it clear that such behavior would not be tolerated. Nothing like this has happened since.

As Margit Tavits of Washington University in St. Louis once told me, “Monarchs can really be above politics. But distinguished presidents have a certain degree of democratic legitimacy and are generally former politicians. This allows for more shenanigans – like when Italian President Giorgio Napolitano successfully plotted to remove Silvio Berlusconi from his post as prime minister, at least in part at the request of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to do so.

Napolitano is the rule rather than the exception. Oxford political scientists Petra Schleiter and Edward Morgan-Jones have found that presidents, whether elected indirectly by parliament or directly by the people, are more likely to allow governments to change without new elections than monarchs. In other words, they are more likely to change government without any democratic input:

dissolution of government

Dylan Matthews (before I knew how to do charts correctly)

Worse, Tavits, in his book Presidents Wwith prime ministers, finds that directly elected presidents make the public less politically engaged, reducing turnout in parliamentary elections by around 7%. Even indirect elections can be extremely polarizing, she notes, and tend to produce presidents who rule in a way that subtly benefits their parties.

If you’re going to have a parliamentary system of government – and you should – a monarch is a much better way to go than a president.

The cost of the monarchy is low

Opponents of the British royal family often cite its spending as the reason for abolishing it. Republic, the anti-monarchy group, estimates the royal family costs £ 354million ($ 477.5million) a year. In contrast, an earlier Republic report estimated that the German president costs just £ 26million ($ 35million) per year.

But by Republic’s own admission, monarchies don’t have to be that expensive. The Spanish monarchy, according to Republic, costs just £ 8million ($ 10.8million) a year, considerably less than the presidents of Portugal, Finland and Germany. In fact, the Luxembourg, Belgian, Danish and Swedish monarchies also all cost less than the German Presidency. Monarchy can be done on the cheap.

That said, it’s not clear if cheaper would be better in the UK context. Unlike, say, the Spanish monarchy, the British monarchy has an exceptionally powerful and profitable brand. Even conservative estimates, like one that puts the monarchy in tourist value at £ 500million ($ 768million) per year, suggest the monarchy is paying for itself. Specifically, the $ 145 million the 2011 royal wedding would have generated in retail spending more than covered the taxpayer’s costs for securing the event.

It’s a very small economic boost, of course. But that belies the price-based criticism of the Monarchy.

The British monarchy is not an anachronism. It is not a waste of money. This makes UK democracy more responsive to citizens’ concerns at low or negative cost to UK taxpayers. It’s good to watch their ceremonies and think they’re fun, because they are.

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