The Duck of Minerva

Change back from that regime?

26 June 2005

Earlier this week, the British government released data showing that the royal family costs each taxpayer just 61 pence ($1.12) per year. This was down £100,000 from last year, and is almost 60% less than the cost in 1991-92.

Apparently, Princess Di had expensive tastes.

The chief British government accountant put recent thrift in perspective for Reuters:

“We believe this represents a value-for-money monarchy,” said Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, who looks after the queen’s finances.

We’re not looking to provide the cheapest monarchy. We’re looking at one of good value and good quality.”

“Some members of Parliament are nonetheless unhappy by certain questionable expenditures by junior members of the royal family. Prince Andrew, challenged last year for spending too much public money on golf vacations, spent £125,000 this year chartering one flight to the Far East. MPs would like to see the royals using public transportation, like, well, commoners:

Lawmaker Ian Davidson, a member of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour Party…described the royal train, used just 19 times over the year, as “a gross extravagance”.

“We ought to have more of the royals using normal trains then perhaps they would put pressure on the powers that be to make sure the train service was improved for everyone,” he told the BBC.

To me, it is interesting that the monarchy has been responsive to those demanding more openness and accountability. I have an academic interest in finding ways to make closed and unaccountable international institutions more democratic. After Princess Di parted with Prince Charles, and died, much of the media and general public turned on the royals.

Maybe one day conservative Republicans will be lauding the “value-for-money” World Bank or United Nations.

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