• U.S.

The Nation: Kingly Thought for the Day

2 minute read

In the wake of Watergate, all sorts of cures, old and new, are being offered for the ills of the republic. While not quite a prescription, one arresting thought was put forth by the London Economist, inspired by the soothing pageantry of Princess Anne’s wedding amid Britain’s own current economic travails and by the disarray afflicting the U.S. The journal rightly divines that both the incumbent in the office and a good many Americans seem to identify the presidency with the country itself. When “we cloak a head of government also with the dignity of a head of state,” that person will face “steadily greater temptations to breach the rights of ordinary men.”

The Economist seems to suggest that if the U.S. only had a constitutional king who symbolized the nation, it would be a lot easier to dismiss Richard Nixon from the White House since the nation’s image of itself would not suffer so grievously in the process. In other words, let politicians govern—and come and go if need be—but let kings embody the dignity of the state.

The idea is perhaps politically valid in a quaint sort of way, but was pretty well rendered moot for the U.S. by the unpleasantness at Concord and Valley Forge in the 1770s. All things considered, Americans prefer the stability of a system combining the functions of real and symbolic leader in one person and one office. It is part of the scale of the original American experiment, asking much of its citizens and those they elect.

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