Nobility = No Ability

“What’s wrong with everyone nowadays?” So complained Prince Charles of the House of Windsor in a note to an aide after a typist had tried to get a promotion. What followed was truly delicious:

“What is it that makes everyone seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities? This is all to do with the learning culture in schools. It is a consequence of a child-centered system which admits no failure and tells people they can all be pop stars, high court judges, brilliant TV personalities or infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary effort or having natural abilities.”

No doubt the good Prince has a point, but what effort did he put into becoming the head of state? Besides being born, of course, which takes very little “natural ability,” at least on his part.

P.S. Of course, some people differ in their appreciation of hereditary privilege.

(Credit to my colleague David Boaz.)

6 Responses to “Nobility = No Ability”

  1. Jude Blanchette

    I hate to disagree, but it would seem that Prince Charles has put quite a lot of effort into being head of state. While it’s correct that he did nothing do earn the title “Prince,” he has certainly put effort into fulfilling the duties the title requires. I also think his point is valid even though he may not be its best spokesman. As a more or less recent product of the public schools, I can attest to the “whatever you do, you’re a winner” attitude. He is 100% correct that it is a child-centered system and the word “failure” is not part of the pedagogical lexicon.

  2. Tom G. Palmer

    Jude expresses himself admirably, as always, but I’m afraid that he and I are speaking past each other. I asked “what effort did he put into *becoming* the head of state?,” and Jude pointed out “that Prince Charles has put quite a lot of effort into *being* head of state.” There’s a significant difference between “becoming” and “being.” No doubt the typist who drew Charles’s royal wrath *might be* a better typist after being promoted, but what had she done to deserve the promotion?

    Charles would still be in line to be head of state even “without ever putting in the necessary effort or having natural abilities,” so it’s rather rich of someone in his position to wag his finger at others who also seek undeserved status. Had he actually “earned” the position of being king by, say, slaying the other aspirants to kingship in combat, that would be different. But all he did was to be born. (And I should add, in addition, that his “work” skiing in Switzerland, cutting ribbons on hospitals, and attending the races at Ascot is not much evidence of productive work and merits precious little admiration. The British royals are useful as tourist attractions and as the vestiges of a sense that the constitution is not merely an expression of the “general will,” so there’s something to be said for keeping them on. But they don’t “deserve” their wealth or status, all of which dates back to conquest and theft, and I don’t immediately think “oh, the British royal family” when the idea of productive work is mentioned.)

    Again, I do appreciate Charle’s point, as I indicated in my post above (“No doubt the good Prince has a point”), but he may be the very last person on the planet who has any credibility in making it. (Were he to resign and renounce his inherited status and wealth, of course, that would be different. I’m not holding my breath.)

  3. Jude Blanchette

    Dr. Palmer is, alas, correct in his response. However, while he is correct that Charles did little to “become” head of state, I think he is incorrect that “being” head of state requires little effort. I wish to contrast the Royal family with, say, the American version of royalty–the progeny of millionaires and billionaires. Let’s take Paris Hilton, for example, and compare her with Prince William. I think it is clear that the latter has shown discipline, effort and direction that Ms. Hilton has not and probably cannot. While she prances around in her underwear at NYC nightclubs, William is preparing himself for the throne. Both did nothing to earn their respective spots on top of the social circle. It’s not William’s fault (or Charles’ for that matter) that they were born into such a system. This does not mean that they should lose all voice over controversial issues. While I do not advocate monarchy, I think Dr. Palmer is too quick to disregard what Charles, et al., may have to offer. When I was in London this past weekend, everyone I talked with about this a) believed in the monarchy and, b) thought Charles was right (granted I only talked with conservatives). We Americans may find the idea of Kings and Queens silly, but they don’t.

  4. Vota Nointe

    Quite a few people in the UK think that having monarchy is silly. Generally, it is the lower classes and the elderly that support the institution.

    Still, Prince Charles does work extremely hard with his food company, Duchy of Lancaster, Prince’s Trust, etc and has a large and active debating society around him.

  5. Indeed, his pulpit has never been earned in the slightest. And his birth-given status has, of course, propelled him to places his limited “technical abilities” would not have taken him in a genuine meritocracy (like Cambridge for starters).
    But, if it weren’t for the awful stink that he kicked up a few years back, unpasteurised cheese would have been outlawed here. Goodbye goregeous, oozing, camembert and brie, hello plastic Velveeta and his tasteless friends. For that, dear Charlie, I am eternally grateful.

    P.S. Charlie’s ‘Duchy’ food company do some fine cheese crackers which go swimmingly well with a ripe brie.