Jubilee – First Thoughts

I arrived back in Scotland just after Bermuda Day, to resume my studies.  The ‘Queen’s Jubilee’ has had an almost oppressive presence in my life since.  It is not so much prevalent in Scotland itself, although there have been some related events, from beacons, to cannon salutes and the odd street party.  I myself came across one such party as I cut through the Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh (home of Sean Connery and the terminus of the Union Canal) on my way to Haymarket Station.  I understand it’s physical presence was far more prevalent in England.

But it’s presence was felt nonetheless, particularly in the stores, with their bunting and jingoism, but perhaps nowhere was it more ‘in your face’ than in the media.  The newspapers, the radios, the television channels, and even the cinemas, were saturated with references to the Jubilee.

I’ve written before that, in the British sense, I am a republican.  That is to say I am opposed to the concept of a monarchy, of an inherited head of state, be they absolute or constitutional.  To that end, as much as Ms. Windsor may indeed be ‘officially’ my ‘head of state’, I do not recognise her as legitimate, and I look with some mix of disgust, curiousity and sadness when I see my fellows fall all over themselves to celebrate what I see as the forfeiture of their human rights and a rejection of the proud legacy of the republican movement, which perhaps saw it’s first clear articulation in the Putney Debate between the Levellers and plutocrats following the defeat of the monarchy in the first English Civil War (the anti-monarchy forces, led by Cromwell, were composed of a ‘radical’ and a reformist wing; the reformists, under Cromwell, won, leading to reaction against the radical Levellers and, in time, the Restoration of the monarchy).

However, while I think it’s important to keep carrying the banner of republicanism (which has it’s history in Bermuda too, from the very beginning of our society), what strikes me more is the co-optation of the idea of ‘jubilee’ by which this current spectacle is being known by.  The original notion of ‘jubilee’ actually has a quite radical meaning, and was a central idea of the radical republicans and associated radical groups of the 17th century, and much earlier.  Indeed, the idea of ‘jubilee’ has been a radical thread running through the entire history of the Judeo-Christian civilisation, and has had particular importance in both our own, Bermudian history, and that of the wider trans-Atlantic histories, in as much as it has animated such phenomena as the slave rebellions, piracy, the American and Haitian revolutions and emancipation.

I hope to be able to expand on this ‘other’ meaning – and importance – of the term jubilee in a later post.

For now however, I would recommend the website of the main British republican group, Republic, as well as these two excellent commentaries by similar minded (on republican issues) writers on the issue of the ‘Queen’s Jubilee’.

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15 thoughts on “Jubilee – First Thoughts

  1. All societies have their absurdities. The Monarchy may well be ours.

    The question though is whether alternatives to a monarchy are any more or less absurd.

    When you look at a listing of modern day Republics, there are many that make you draw a deeper breath, than when you look at the UK, even with it’s absurdities.

  2. Equally there are many monarchies which are nightmares too, of which Swaziland, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia immediately spring to mind. Ultimately I agree that both republics and monarchies are open to corruption and tyranny, and it is up to the people themselves to guard against this in either system. I don’t dispute this.

    But I do find it absurd that there is a fear that the UK moving towards a republic will open itself up to tyranny (or something to that effect) any more than staying a monarchy.

    To me having the right to elect my head of state, rather than have someone born into it (with all the wealth that that includes), is far less absurd and something worth working towards. I personally do find the institution of monarchy, of inherited wealth, power and title, inherently demeaning and harmful.

  3. There are indeed some dreadful monarchies in the world, as you rightly say. Some may evolve into better places in time (Saudi?), others will not.

    The notion that it is up to the people to safeguard against tyrannical republics or monarchies, is probably something of a none starter in places like Zimbabwe of course.

  4. “I personally do find the institution of monarchy, of inherited wealth, power and title, inherently demeaning and harmful.”

    Are you opposed to the idea of inherited wealth, power and title or to it just applying to the monarchy?

  5. I can’t tell if you’re being serious or if you’re trying to set up another argument between my socialism and your objectivist rational egoism…

    Anyway, yes, I object also to the idea of inherited wealth, power and title, not just to the institution of the monarchy, although I see the monarchy as forming (in a UK/Commonwealth sense) an important ideological bedrock or anchour for this.

  6. You say you object to the idea of inherited wealth, what do you think should happen to an individuals assets when they die?

    Do you feel the same way about citizenship? One could easily argue that it is a form of inherited wealth, power and title.

  7. No, I don’t feel the same about citizenship, although I personally would strive towards the dissolution of the nation state (and hence ‘citizenship’ in that sense).

    I tell you what Mr. Galt, I’m curious to hear your own thoughts, on inherited wealth for example. Does it not lead to wealth inequalities and the rewarding of mediocrity (in the sense of people inheriting wealth rather than earning it), and so possibly being contrary to what I understand as your own ideology? I am for , of course, collective inheritance of social wealth, but I see inheritance of private wealth and property (which is different from personal property, such as one’s bed or toothbrush) as a way of both maintaining and reinforcing ineqaulities.

    But please, I look forward to you elaborating.

  8. My thoughts on inherited wealth. As you know I believe that an individual should be free to decide how they wish to spend the fruits of their labor. So if they want to leave it to their children, or leave it all to charity, that’s totally fine.

    “Does it not lead to wealth inequalities and the rewarding of mediocrity”

    I’m not sure I understand, your idea is to take the wealth from people who have earned it, regardless of their wishes and give it to society, would that not lead to a mediocre society? I think one of the greatest incentives for people is to work to make the lives of their children better, than their own. Why would you want to remove that incentive? What do you think people will do, with their wealth if they know it will all be taken away, when they die?

    Why is wealth inequality wrong? If you work harder and are able to produce more should you not be rewarded for your work? If I choose to not to work, why should I be allowed to make a claim on your labor?

  9. I think as an aside I should point out to readers that Mr. Galt and I have had related discussions on these issues, both here and on other forums. For readers unfamiliar with Mr. Galt’s ideology, he takes his pen-name from the key character in the novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’ by Ayn Rand, who advocated a very extreme form of capitalism – what some may even characterise as anarcho-capitalism, although it may be best for Mr. Galt himself to expound on that.

    So, back to the argument at hand…

    Individuals should be free to decide how they wish to spend the fruits of their labour. And yet under our system we are not all free to choose what our labour will be. We have those who own the means of production and those who own nothing more than their own labour – and as such are not free to determine their life choices but can only do so within a certain scope. They can choose – again, to a degree, and this depends on a number of things, including family wealth to afford education, as well as ‘family capital/human capital’ regarding education, and a host of other things, including such available amenities as the built environment, transport, public education, health, etc. – but they can choose to a degree what kind of work to be. A carpenter, a plumber, a mason, a janitor, for the working classes, a clerk, a lawyer, etc in the middle classes. Only the upper classes, with sufficient inherited wealth and/or ownership of the means of production has true freedom to even determine their lifestyle, let alone how to employ the ‘fruits of their labour’.

    And even then they are far too often compelled to be slaves to capital. Beyond that, due to their wealth (inherited – and this goes to the middle classes too), they can ‘afford’ to expend their wealth with a greater degree of freedom than the poor who are forced to ensure their basic necessities are covered first. So this freedom is really quite limited; we are bound by the realm of necessity, at least within the capitalist wage-labour framework.

    Essentially, we are not ‘free’ to choose, and under inherited wealth we have a accumulation of wealth at one pole, and an accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation at the opposite pole.

    Far from allowing individuals to realise their full-worth, and further the mutual benefit of society, we have wealth assigned by accident of birth rather than virtue of labour, be it mental or manual – accident trumping genius, and condemning genius to slave for the accidents of birth.

    Such is life under capitalism.

    I do agree with you that one of the major incentives for people is to leave their children better off. But can this be done through the nightmare scenario of gated communities, ghettoes and de facto caste systems, which I see as the logical consequence of your ideology? Or is it not better to realise this through a levelling of the playing field, giving each of us the tools and support needed to negate accident of birth and further individual ability? As such, it can be done personally (which I think actually leads to a counterproductive social nightmare) or socially. And the emphasis of private profit can just as easily be transferred to that of social profit.

  10. “Individuals should be free to decide how they wish to spend the fruits of their labour”.

    I am still not grasping this. You say you are against inherited wealth, yet you then say individuals should be free to spend the fruits of their labour as they wish. I am assuming by the way that “spend” has a wide definition, i.e to leave it to one’s children as distinct from buying an object you always wanted to buy.

    And, is your view of inherited wealth changed, if the rationale for leaving it to your children is not that you want them to start life with a wider and better range of choices being available, but that the alternative is to leave it to the State; an alternative that is not acceptable to me?

    (Why would you want politicians to fritter away your money)

    I am thinking death duties, remains of pension scheme investments where the UK taxes that at 55% as they do under self invested pension schemes.

  11. You claimed earlier that you objected to the idea of inherited wealth, but your first sentence concedes the point.

    ” Individuals should be free to decide how they wish to spend the fruits of their labour.”

    You suggest that under our current system we are not all free to choose what our labour will be. To this I ask what system gives anyone that choice? Remove society and put yourself in nature, you wouldn’t be free to choose what labour you had to do to survive, if you came across a fruit tree you would have to labour to get the fruit, or labour to hunt, etc… without the system where man can accumulate wealth, then the majority of your life would be spent laboring to survive.

    Nature is not a Disney movie it is brutal, harsh and unforgiving. The truth of life which your socialist idea’s seem to ignore, is if you are consuming a good, be it food, shelter, health care, somebody had to labour for it, if you didn’t some one else did.

    If I labour and build a shelter, create a garden, you would propose that my children should be denied that shelter and source of food, when I die, because others did not or could not provide the same for their children? That’s the inequality you are trying to correct, and It is by that inherited wealth, those children not having to start over, searching for or building a new shelter or starting a new garden, that they could spend more time improving their lot, perhaps with that time, they increased the yield of the garden. With that extra food they were able to trade with others. Thanks to that extra food, Others had time to improve shelters or develop other skills, which allowed us to advance as a species to the levels of wealth we have today.

    You suggest

    “Only the upper classes, with sufficient inherited wealth and/or ownership of the means of production has true freedom to even determine their lifestyle, let alone how to employ the ‘fruits of their labour’.”

    then rebut yourself in the very next sentence.

    ” And even then they are far too often compelled to be slaves to capital. Beyond that, due to their wealth (inherited – and this goes to the middle classes too), they can ‘afford’ to expend their wealth with a greater degree of freedom than the poor who are forced to ensure their basic necessities are covered first. So this freedom is really quite limited;”

    Just because I have left my children a garden doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be worked, to produce more food, if they do not work the garden or take care of the shelter over time it will expended and the advantages left to them will rightly be lost.

    ” we are not ‘free’ to choose, and under inherited wealth we have a accumulation of wealth at one pole, and an accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation at the opposite pole.”

    The poles that you talk about will always exist, no matter what system you choose, there will always be a bottom 10%, but you really are stretching to suggest that it’s all misery, and agony etc… the quality of life for the bottom 10, 20, or even 30 percent in western society is far better than the existence they would have under any other demonstrated system, or no system at all. Their lot is far improved over the existence the top 10% would have had just 100 years ago. Why is that? In large part because of wealth accumulation.

    “we have wealth assigned by accident of birth rather than virtue of labour, be it mental or manual – accident trumping genius, and condemning genius to slave for the accidents of birth.”

    This is not entirely true, you can look at examples of people creating their wealth, take Buffet or Gates as extreme example. But even it was, are you suggesting wealth should be rewarded to genius? Genius is an accident of birth as well, you had no say in the genetic lottery that awarded you your intelligence, So why is that criteria any better?

    I think it comes down to freedom, if you believe that a man’s life is his own, and you believe that he is entitled to dispose of the fruits of his labour as he sees fit, then you can’t deny him his freedom of choice to leave those fruits to his family, or society or who ever he see’s fit.

  12. Hey, I just wanted to apologise for not having an opportunity to reply properly, I’ve been a bit busy, and will likely be busy through to the weekend. But I will reply properly at that point.

    At best I’ll just paraphrase a few things at the moment.

    The initial sentence about the rights of people to the fruits of their labour, that should have been in quotation marks. In general I was trying to argue that while we may agree on that proposition, under capitalism we are not free to choose our labour, and at that, our labour is exploited and the ‘fruit’ of our labour is ‘skimmed off’ by the capitalist.

    I should also make clear that I also oppose the nationalisation of all property into the State, but would instead support the socialisation (or democratisation) of both the means of production and the State. That may need some expanding on…

    By ‘genius’ I wasn’t referring to the idea of ‘a’ genius, but, rather ‘genius’ in the sense of creative labour.

    As said though, I’ll hopefully expand on all that later!

  13. “I think it comes down to freedom, if you believe that a man’s life is his own, and you believe that he is entitled to dispose of the fruits of his labour as he sees fit, then you can’t deny him his freedom of choice to leave those fruits to his family, or society or who ever he see’s fit”.

    It does come down to freedom. Or, in my words, Liberty. We wax lyrical about “democracy”, as if it is the panacea, but really, give me Liberty at any time over Democracy.

  14. “Hey, I just wanted to apologise for not having an opportunity to reply properly, I’ve been a bit busy, and will likely be busy through to the weekend. But I will reply properly at that point.”

    How is it possible that you still hold on to your socialist ideology after all of our discussions?

    The reason I ask, is you have never presented a sound defense of your postion and once it becomes clear in a thread that it is indefensible, instead of conceding the point, you show very poor form and leave the debate.

  15. Hi Mr. Galt,

    I’m sorry you feel that that is my response. The truth is I do have other responsibilities beyond this blog, and, to be frank, I’ve been on de facto vacation and avoiding the internet.

    The posts here over the last few weeks pre-scheduled ones instead. I’ll be resuming writing posts and responding properly to this discussion next week, if that’s alright with you.

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