No doubt, while traveling through Australia (and New Zealand) Kate and William have drawn enormous media attention. And they seem to have enchanted millions of people around the world. What their followers don’t know is that they could do even more than that.
Not that I have ever been interested in royal families, their lives or even their names. Appreciating the luxury of being born in a time and society that enabled me to think freely, I never followed the life of any human being, be it the pope, Michael Jackson or Angelina Jolie. To be frank, I don’t see any benefit in doing so. However, the exaggerated media response the royals’ down-under tour has caused, made me think twice. Why on Earth are millions of people – the majority of them voters and hence representatives of a democracy – interested in a couple that represents aristocrats?
Well, the obvious reason is probably that such disrupters are a good excuse to distract from the real challenges we face, be it climate change, social injustice or the state of society as a whole. As others have claimed, (normal) people like to see that apparently privileged members of society are just as human as they themselves: they walk, they talk and they dress. Or as we say in Switzerland: “even royals smell when they shit.” Not that I’ve been sitting next to some monarch while they were doing their business but I assume the saying brings it to the point.
When we see that monarchs do things we do, then we feel safe; convinced to be doing the right thing. And this is good, because we know that we do a lot of things that are wrong. However, that doesn’t make us different from royals either: even if Kate and William are a couple that makes it easy for us to like them, they contribute fairly little to for example fighting climate change. In fact, wearing a new dress every single day is not a model for sustainability and it’s almost as decadent as the behaviour of some French monarchs before they were ousted in a historic revolution back in the 18th century. A pity Kate and William didn’t do more, because what makes royals different is that they could actually change things. That is, if they had the means to doing so.
It has been argued by many that an eco-dictatorship is what might eventually save the planet from the consequences of too much freedom for selfish individuals. People often assume that democracy guarantees the best outcome for society. This is not necessarily true in economic terms or as regards maximization of social benefits. What theoretical models suggest, can easily be observed in reality. One only needs to consider how little we have achieved to solve pressing problems while speding billions of tax-payer money on non-sense.
What’s more, in many democracies worldwide election campaigns have become totally ridiculous in recent times. Many governments are more concerned with being re- elected than with delivering benefits for all. And, apart from spending their resources mainly on election campaigns, they have a big temptation to pursue short-term populist policies in exchange for votes.
By contrast, authoritarian regimes do not need to worry about elections. They only need to keep the population satisfied enough to prevent general uprising, while using their resources to pursue long-term and potentially even unpopular policies. This in turn leaves enough room for doing the right thing. China makes a good example on how things can change for good and fast if a government takes the steps in the right direction without having to consult the whole citizenry first.
To conclude, maybe we need royals even in the 21st century. I, however, would rather support some monarchs that had the power and the brains to pursue an eco-dictatorship rather than such that change their clothes on a daily basis just to impress the crowds, as their ancestors have done since the Middle Ages.
 While I understand that some Australian newspaper of the Daily Mirror might cover such events, the fact that even a Swiss newspaper was dedicating significant resources to the Royal tour, made me raise both eyebrows. It wasn’t just some newspaper but the NZZ (Neue Zürcher Zeitung), until recently avoided even by intellectuals due to its apparent “excessive coverage of business and economic issues”.