Reuters blog archive
By Robert Cole
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
On Sunday, access to the banks of the river that runs through London had to be closed four or five hours before anything actually happened. Half a mile down the Thames, at a location boasting nothing better than a squinting view of some boats and no chance of seeing Britain’s queen, people lined up fifteen deep. It was cold. And very wet. Why were people there, in such huge numbers? And why, a distance away, did an 86-year-old woman and her 90-year-old husband stand shivering in the rain for what must have seemed like an eternity? Because people do not always make logical decisions.
The nineteenth-century Scottish writer Charles McKay observed that extraordinarily popular delusions can drive people to bouts of madness and markets to extreme bubbles. In fact, London’s jubilee crowds did not take leave of their senses completely. The celebrations were, for the most part, free at the point of receipt. And as any supermarket manager will attest, customers love a giveaway. Moreover the celebrations came with an extra holiday. It is logical, surely, for people to express appreciation for that if only in the hope the gesture is repeated. Britain’s royal family, among others, might also point to the importance of public service. They might have you believe that duty, rather than money, motivates them.
In herds, however, people can make the oddest of choices. In affairs of genuine importance public policymakers have to confront the madness of crowds when it is dangerous. There is an acute danger that demagoguery replaces good sense if the will of the masses always goes unchallenged. But sound policy goals may be scored more easily if the sentimentality of crowds - and voters - is harnessed. How much easier would it be to solve, say, the euro-zone debt crisis if people looked with affection on the single currency?
In the end, the Queen’s jubilee celebrations expose the raw strength of common feelings. As the aptly named ska-pop group Madness sang from the roof of Buckingham Palace on Monday, “It Must Be Love.” And while Londoners expressed their sentimentality with a peculiarly British blend of deference and euphemism, it is a force that manifests itself in different ways all over the globe, not least in the financial markets.
By Edward Hadas
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. The postal address of Queen Elizabeth II is simply “Her Majesty The Queen”. It doesn’t say what she’s queen of. As a gift for her 60th anniversary on the throne, why not extend her realm by making her Queen Elizabeth of Europe?
from The Great Debate:
Sixty years ago in London, Queen Elizabeth was crowned in succession to her father, the now famously stammering chain-smoker George VI. For most Brits the queen’s Diamond Jubilee is a chance to celebrate her reign with street parties, fireworks, concerts, and pageants along the Thames. They will be toasting the woman who has so far presided over 12 prime ministers, including perhaps the greatest of them all, Winston Churchill.
It is a mark of Elizabeth’s benign demeanor and quiet charm that she will be celebrated not only in the 54 member states of the Commonwealth, the independent nations that were Britain’s former colonies and dominions, but around the world, too. Few countries do pomp as well as the Brits, as the weddings of Prince William to Kate and Prince Charles to Diana attest. But not all Americans, when they watch the Jubilee, will grasp the true role of the queen.
from Andrew Marshall:
Thailand has the strictest lèse majesté laws in the world. As a result, the full story of the country's dramatic political conflict and the likely upheavals to come cannot be told in public.
As David Streckfuss writes in Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason and Lèse Majesté:
from Andrew Marshall:
The New York Times reports from Bahrain where beleaguered King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has called in troops from neighboring Saudi Arabia to help crack down on peaceful protests by the island state's Shi'ite majority demanding more rights and greater equality:
With Saudi troops now in the country to support King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, Bahrain has taken on the likeness of a police state. There have been mass arrests, mass firings of government workers, reports of torture and, on Sunday, the forced resignation of the top editor of the nation’s one independent newspaper.
from Royal Wedding Diary:
Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of the royals. From Kate Middleton's dress to the estate of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, people are tripping over themselves to get hold of something with an association to the monarchy.
The most extreme example was probably the 65,000 pounds/$105,000 (plus a 13,000-pound commission) paid out by an unidentified buyer from Jersey for a see-through, black mesh slip dress designed by Charlotte Todd and worn by royal bride-to-be Kate Middleton at a charity fashion event in 2002. The significance of the racy item is that it is widely believed to have convinced Prince William, who was in the audience on that day, that Middleton was the one for him. The couple are to marry in Westminster Abbey on April 29.
from Fan Fare:
I'm looking forward to the April 29th wedding of Prince William to his long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton as a chance to celebrate some of the good things about Britain.
People on my street and the street next to it are considering clubbing together for a street party on one or the other, my seven-year-old is learning a little bit about the political make-up of the country where he was born and a Friday off work in spring in a country that's pretty miserly with the public holidays can't be too bad of a thing.
from Royal Wedding Diary:
For royal wedding guest list, read guess list.
Palace officials refuse to say exactly who has been invited to the big occasion on April 29, but that has not prevented royal pundits from filling their alloted column inches with creative conjecture, and then another army of commentators pitching in with what they think about those believed to be attending.
If you want to be on-message, then the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton are not about celebrity, but more a reflection of a surprisingly ordinary young couple. Well, if it is normal, that is, to count among your friends the likes of David and Victoria Beckham, who are expected to attend.
(Photo: King Abdullah on a visit to Jordan, July 30, 2010/Muhammad Hamed)
Saudi authorities are taking greater liberty in celebrating the modern monarchy’s anniversary, a sign of their growing clout against clerics who have criticized holidays outside of the Islamic calendar.
Present ruler King Abdullah, 86, emphasised his push to reform the deeply conservative country upon taking power in 2005 by decreeing September 23 as an official holiday marking the kingdom’s unification led by founder King Abdul-Aziz and an army of ultra-conservative followers.
from Andrew Marshall:
Thailand's stock market is charging ahead and the baht is at its highest levels since the 1997/98 Asian crisis. But the supercharged sentiment may be underestimating some serious risks. Elections that must be held in 2011 are likely to lead to another bout of political turbulence, whoever wins. And with King Bhumibol Adulyadej in hospital for a year already, the issue of succession is growing in importance. Strict lèse-majesté laws prevent the subject from being discussed openly, and this may lead some foreign investors to assume the risks are limited. But many Thais dread the end of Bhumibol's reign - and these fears are a key factor behind the current political conflict.
The Economist has an interesting new article warning against ignoring the risks: