As the world knows, the royal wedding is fast approaching. As always, I am impressed with the level of obsession generated in America. After all, it is somewhat ironic that we gave George the boot only to have the masses in a fine frenzy over royal weddings. But, at least we do not have to foot the bill for the show.
I have seen various estimates of the cost of the wedding. Some have estimated that the security for the event will cost £20 million and that the time off for the wedding will cost their economy billions. The wedding dress alone is supposed to cost $50,000. That is more than the average worker in America makes in a year. The British economy is, of course, not in the best of shape. One might suspect that the money could be better spent on more substantial things rather than being dumped into a short public spectacle. There is also the obvious concern that it is the public who is largely footing the bill for this spectacle. As Mary Wollstonecraft, said in her 1792 Rights of Women:
Taxes on the very necessaries of life, enable an endless tribe of idle princes and princesses to pass with stupid pomp before a gaping crowd, who almost worship the very parade which costs them so dear.
That certainly seems like an apt description of this event. After all, the royal family does not really do much and certainly does not do enough to warrant such extravagant expenditures. As such, it would seem to moral irresponsible to have such a lavish event largely at the taxpayers’ expense, especially in such troubled economic times.
Of course, there are some replies to this view.
One obvious reply is that the wedding might generate more money than it costs. After all, journalists and tourists will be flocking to the wedding, eagerly dumping their money into the economy by renting hotel rooms, eating meals, buying plane tickets, and buying memorabilia. If so, the burden to the citizens could be thus offset by the gain of those lucky enough to be the beneficiaries of that spending. However, it seems unlikely that this will be the case.
A second obvious reply is that the royal family is contributing to the event. After all, they are really rich and can contribute to the cost. Of course, there is still the question of how much they will contribute (which will certainly not be the entire cost of the shindig) and whether or not the public should be expected to contribute at all.
A third obvious reply is that the event is worth the cost in terms of the entertainment value. It will be a spectacular show for the “gaping crowd” and paying for it can be seen as being on par with paying the admission fee to a circus or concert. True, everyone else in the world gets to see the show for free on TV or Youtube while the Brits get to pay the bill. However, this can be seen as an act of generosity on their part-they are sharing their show with the world. While we do not have a useless class of royals in the states, we do have our entertainers (like Charlie Sheen) and we pay them very well to amuse us. We even provide security at their events. Of course, we do not support their lavish events directly with state money, which could be a very important relevant difference.
A fourth obvious reply is that the UK is a democracy and can decide how to spend public money. If they have decided to spend on a royal wedding, that is their choice and hence morally acceptable on those grounds. If they really don’t like it, they can always boot the royals or, at least, refuse to subsidize their lavish lifestyles. Since they are consenting to the expenditures, then it would seem to make it acceptable. Not wise, but at least acceptable in that the people are not being coerced into supporting the royals.
Overall, I think the wedding is a colossal waste of money and that those who gape at the event are naught but fools. But, it seems to mean a great deal to a great many people and if they want to pay for an event that will give them an illusion they can cherish, then so be it.