Hereditary Succession: Surviving & Thriving

In Common Sense, author Thomas Paine takes a strong stance against hereditary succession. The power to pass down the crown to blood relations permitted the British monarchy to keep power tightly within their family’s grasp and accumulate wealth while simultaneously keeping other Brits in the same social and economic position that they were born into. Paine hates this system and makes rips it apart at any and every opportunity he can get. He writes:

  • “Oppression is often the consequence, but seldom or never the means of riches; and though avarice will preserve a man from being necessitously poor, it generally makes him too timorous to be wealthy.”
  • “Monarchy is ranked in scripture as one of the sins of the Jews, for which a curse in reserve is denounced against them.”
  • “For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and though himself might deserve some decent degree of honors of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them.”

In short, Paine hates wealthy people who think that their opinion is the most valuable (because of who their dad was). He encourages Americans to put themselves above that.

Today in the U.S., pride in the democratic system remains pretty deep-seated. However, I’m not so sure Paine would be so happy with the approximately 24 million Americans that woke up at 4 A.M. to watch Kate Middleton and Prince Williams’ wedding.

Take a look at the below photo and caption from the Associated Press.

With dining chairs forming makeshift pews and tacky "Royal Wedding" t-shirts in lieu of formalwear, Jen Barnette and five bleary-eyed friends settled in her living room before dawn on Friday to watch Britain's Prince William marry his longtime sweetheart, Kate Middleton.”

I think Paine would go into cardiac arrest.

However, the monarchy’s legacy in America is much more than the global broadcast of a wedding— it permeates American politics each and every day. While both the Republican and the Democratic Parties accuse each other of nominating solely privileged and well-heeled candidates, the truth is that both of them are equally culpable. The Kennedy family’s tentacles have extended to both coasts and have elevated the family’s political and cultural influence to such a level that an eight part movie was made to document their family history.

Hey, Jackie-O is your second-cousins’ aunt? You would be perfect for this highly-paid prestigious political position!

The Republicans don’t get off easy either. After all, a father and son both were elected president less than fifteen years apart. And although George H.W. Bush lost his bid for a second term, his failure certainly didn’t stop George W. and Jeb Bush from following in his footsteps as President and Governor. Is this possible in a truly democratic system? You be the judge. Perhaps an indication otherwise is the fact that the below video is one of a playlist on youtube that has received millions of hits…

In the end, family ties still tip the scales on a regular basis in a country that distances itself from the European monarchial form of government. What do you think? Although the Kennedy/Bush family isn’t automatically supported by tax dollars, do we care that they and others have substantial advantages? How can (or should) we remedy this if it is even possible?

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2 Responses to Hereditary Succession: Surviving & Thriving

  1. bronwyn2011 says:

    Today, there are some people in public office, like Senator Scott Brown, who truly exemplify the quintessential self-made success story. Senator Brown came from an extremely broken home and was able to successfully run for Senate. Although, there are a few others in office today that did not come from family money, most of them do and this gives them a great advantage. I agree, Paine would be greatly saddened by our current system where only select elites are able to govern.

  2. arullis says:

    I think that this is a very good point and it shows how even though there isn’t a monarchy in the United States we still see “political dynasties” can be created by families. We see that the Bush family has been in politics since Prescott Bush in the 1950’s and the Kennedy’s dating back even further. I feel that this point is the antithesis of what Paine argued about lotteries and the common man holding office. Paine would find as much of a problem with these political families as he did the monarchy. While there isn’t a direct heredity succession these families are much more likely to be in office since they have greater access to money and higher education. These examples show how difficult it is for an average person to successfully run for office. Something that Paine was much in favor of.

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