Sunday, May 23, 2004

Old World Love of Status Lives Strong
By Alexander Marriott 23 May 2004


Spain’s Crown Prince Felipe has married former TV anchorwoman Letizia Ortiz, in the country’s first royal wedding in nearly a century. This occurred to the delight of thousands of onlookers who braved heavy rains, as well as representatives of the Royal Families of the world, including the Prince of Wales. Also in attendance were such international luminaries as former South African President Nelson Mandela. What does this all mean this sobbing and celebrating at the marriage of a cute couple, who will one day be the King and Queen of Spain? It means that the Old World, as Defense Secretary Rumsfeld called it “Old Europe,” is still fascinated by the non-producing and non-meritorious thing the historian Isabel Paterson called the “society of status.”

It is somewhat humorous that anti-American aficionados like Mandela and Prince Charles are awestruck by wealth and status held by non-producers like monarchs and bureaucrats and yet they condemn the businessman who produces a value and then trades it for another value, i.e. money. The monarch is given wealth by another monarch who was given it by another and so on, but the origin of this wealth was and is inevitably tied to a time when the King or Queen collected the wealth of their subjects by force because, in the words of the infamous autocrat Louis XIV, they were the state. This is what Mandela looks up to, not to those who produce things and allow poor countries and people, of which Africa abounds, to have a chance to improve their lot. Instead the ideal is a person who lives rich and luxuriously because they are fortunate enough to be related to some long dead series of despots.

But it is America, a country that embraces (or is perceived to embrace) the businessman and the idea of the businessman, that is the problem in the world today. The rejection of the status society, for one of contract and individual rights, was embodied in the American Revolution and the founding documents of the United States. Americans didn’t substitute one aristocracy for another as was done in France, or one apartheid for another as was done in South Africa, they instead threw off the old world ideal of status and replaced it with contract, which laid the groundwork to getting rid of another vestige of the old world status society, slavery.

We don’t have social betters in American because people happened to be born into particular castes, though some people have tried to create such a system around certain entities like the Kennedy family. Anyone can become wealthy if they are willing to work hard for it in a society of contracts. In a status society people work merely to be the favor granters or favor receivers. The favors used to be granted by monarchs who were the state, but into the modern world the favors are granted by the state, which people are told is themselves. Instead of creating a value and then trading it for other values as in a society of contract, the purveyors of status grant titles and posts by which they can dispense money which has been taken from the lowly scum who bother to engage in that unmitigated evil known as trade.

It is a sad testament to the state of the world when, at the height of human achievement, people come to celebrate a marriage, not of a friend or someone they know, but a Prince just because he is a Prince. It is a sign of the decline that has taken hold of the world when, instead of relishing the fall of societies of status, we lament it and look fondly upon the vestiges that remain and wish that we too can be Kings.

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