Thursday, December 29, 2011

Are royals obsolete?

kw: current events, royal families

My wife has been reading the online Japanese newspapers, and recently informed me of the controversies surrounding the succession to the Chrysanthemum Throne of Japan. There are miles of ink on this, nearly all of it in Japanese, but this Wikipedia Article is a good starting point for the English-language reader.

To put it briefly, Crown Prince Naruhito married a bit late, and his wife Masako was just twenty-nine and a half on their wedding day. Then it took eight years before they had a child, a girl who is now ten years old, Princess Toshi (Aiko). They have no other children. The prince's brother Akishino is second in line to the throne, and Akishino's five-year-old son is third in line. Aiko is presently out of the loop.

Controversy one: Discussions have been going on for years whether to allow Aiko to succeed to the throne after her father, effectively putting her second in line. The negative opinion of the current Prime Minister indicates there is little chance of a new law to that effect. It is said, but seldom printed, that the problem is the added support needed for a larger royal family into the future: money problems.

Controversy two: The failure of Crown Princess Masako to produce further children led to a nervous breakdown and several years of psychotherapy. Her father-in-law, the Emperor, has been less than supportive, such that she declined to visit him during a recent hospital stay of nineteen days. The Crown Prince and his family live on the palace compound, but in isolation. The little cousins apparently nearly never meet.

To be short about it, if these "royals" are genuinely noble, both Princes ought, upon the death of the Emperor, to abdicate and declare the Chrysanthemum Throne to be vacant forever. Let most of the royal properties become museums and other tourist attractions. The families will need national support for this generation, but succeeding generations would need to get a job.

On our walk today, my wife and I had a long talk along these lines. I have similar opinions about the royal families of Europe. It seems the only one that brings in enough tourist money to "pay for itself" is the British royal family of Queen Elizabeth. This is unlikely to continue much longer, unless Prince William turns into a real whiz-bang of a popular king a few decades from now. But in my opinion, history has left royalty behind.

And it is dangerous to have monarchical leaders. Most current governments are dictatorships, and the reason we hear little about most of those are that they are poor. Dictatorship equates with a poor economy. Republics and even socialist republics simply do better.

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