originally posted by: grainofsand
I completely agree that the 'head of state decided by accident of birth' thing is ludicrous, even ridiculous in the 21st Century...
I put it to you that the accidents of historical survival have actually left us with a very important feature of constitutional democracy- namely,
having a Head of State who is by definition "apolitical". Someone who does not belong to any political party, and is completely neutral in the
questions that divide us. That has to be an element of stability. Whatever else happens, we have the chance of uniting ourselves around that focus of
unity. In the middle of a political crisis, there is someone who can be accepted as a neutral umpire. That's why people get worried by the apparent
tendency of Prince Charles to "get involved".
Where the country has a Head of State who belongs to a political party, that state of neutrality can't be achieved so easily.
I remember reading a newspaper story in the De Gaulle era, about some Frenchman who had been criticising his government and found himself in hot water
for implicitly attacking the Head of State (which, of course, threatens to undermine the foundations of the state).
We can see on this site how the "elected President" system affects the American political outlook. The fact that Americans cannot criticise their
government without going against the man who is at the very centre of the nation must be contributing to the bitterness of their divisions. They can't
identify with anyone as a neutral focus.
No, "political neutrality" is the way to go. If we did not have it already, we would have had to invent it.
If we did want to invent this concept from scratch, of the poltically neutral Head of State, how would we go about it?
Elect one? But how the dickens do we keep politics out of an election? Even if the candidates promised faithfully that they had no politics, like
Ernest Worthing, the voters themselves would be influenced by perceptions of their political views. Draw names out of a hat? (That would be
Aristotle's definition of true democracy). But that could have catastophic results, because there would be no guarantee of wisdom and moral
The only way to go about it would be to select a family to take the job on an hereditary basis and get themselves educated for it from birth, so that
they could move into the role (including the essential neutrality) as a matter of routine.
Now there's just the problem of choosing the family. No. it's all right, we've got one already.