Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Acknowledging the American Aristocracy

We all know there's no such thing as an American aristocracy, right? Unlike, say, England, we do not have kings, queens, dukes, earls*, counts, barons, viscounts, lords, ladies, princes, or whatever. Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution spells it out pretty clearly -

"No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States..."

Less clear is the rest of that section, the much-cited and disputed "emoluments clause," which goes on to state that -

"... no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."

We won't talk about the emoluments issue here ... that's a topic for another post. For the time being, let's just talk about whether or not we have an American aristocracy.

Hint: the answer is yes.

Of course, we don't call our betters by hifalutin' titles like people with official aristocracies do. We have a president, not a king, although Donald Trump seems not to comprehend the difference. The American aristocracy is based not on a happy accident of birth, but on a combination of wealth, success in business, and political influence (which is often an outgrowth of the first two). American aristocratic families, albeit without formal titles, include the Rockefellers, the Astors, the Kennedys, the Clintons, and the Roosevelts. We even have an American court jester, although at the moment he doubles as the president, and not everyone thinks he's funny.

But let's consider this: why don't we just go ahead and acknowledge that there really is an American aristocracy? After all, it seems to work for our British cousins and, Constitutional restrictions notwithstanding, it seems as if we might as well go ahead and accept reality. I propose the following Constitutional amendment to rectify the problem:

Amendment XXVIII

Section 1.
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution is deleted and replaced with the following: "Titles of Nobility may be granted by the United States or by the several States as acknowledgement of achievement in business or finance, significant accumulation of wealth, or great political influence from whatever source derived. Persons bearing titles of nobility shall be exempt from laws governing taxation, conflict of interest in government service, and transparency of records and actions in public service.**"

Section 2.
The following officers of the federal government shall hold the indicated Titles of Nobility:

The President of the United States shall henceforth hold the title “King” or “Queen,” and be addressed as “Your Majesty.”***

The Vice President of the United States shall henceforth hold the title “Grand Duke” or “Grand Duchess,” and be addressed as, “Your Highness.”

Senators and Members of the House of Representatives shall henceforth hold the title “Lord” or “Lady,” and be addressed as “Your Lordship” or “Your Ladyship.” In writing, they shall be addressed as “The Right Honorable _____” (for Republicans), “The Left Honorable _____” (for Democrats), and “The Halfway Honorable” (for Independents).

Cabinet Members other than the Secretary of the Treasury shall henceforth hold the title “Lord” or "Lady," and be addressed as “Your Lordship/Ladyship.”

Justices of the Supreme Court shall have the title of “Lord” or "Lady," and be addressed as “The High and Honorable Justice _____”. The Chief Justice shall be addressed as “The Most High and Honorable Justice _____.”

Section 3.
Other titles of nobility to be applied to lesser positions in the federal government shall be decided and bestowed by the incumbent President, except for the Director of the Bureau of the Census, who shall henceforth hold the title "Count" or "Countess," and be addressed as "Your Lordship/Ladyship the Most High Enumerator."

Section 4.
Family members of individuals bearing titles of nobility, who have been appointed by their parents or siblings to government positions, shall henceforth hold a title appropriate to the position. If they are appointed to a position for which no title has been established, the family member who appointed them shall select an appropriate title.

Section 5.
Individual States, Cities, Counties, Parishes, or other political subdivisions of the United States may establish their own Titles of Nobility.

Section 6.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

This takes care of the issue of aristocracy in government, but what about the need for an aristocracy that recognizes the political and economic disparities among other Americans? This one's a little harder, but I have (as you would suspect) a few suggestions:

CEOs of major corporations would hold titles based on the economic worth of their holdings, with "Lord" or "Lady" being the top tier.

Heads, presidents, or directors of major political and national special interest organizations would hold the rank of Lord. The heads of the Republican and Democratic National Committees would be addressed, like Senators and Representatives, as "His/Her Lordship/Ladyship the Right/Left Honorable _____" (depending on the party to which they belong). Heads of national special interest organizations would be addressed according to the focus of their organization. For example, the head of the National Rifle Organization might hold the title Lord High Master of Arms, and be addressed as "Lord/Lady the Most High Caliber _____."

I think it's time we recognized and accepted the existence of an American aristocracy, and I believe my suggestions are a good start toward that recognition and acceptance. What do you think? Should we use the same aristocratic titles as other countries (kings, queens, lords, etc) or come up with some that are uniquely American, particularly at the state level? Leave a comment and let's get your ideas.

Have a good day, and be comfortable with the title you will always hold under any system - "serf."

More thoughts tomorrow.


* Although we do, of course, have a Duke of Earl, a King of the Road, and a Queen of the Silver Dollar.

** Mr Trump has already made this a fait accompli, so we might as well live with it.

*** A transgendered incumbent would be permitted to choose his or her title.

† It just seems more appropriate.


Mariette said...

We already have a title of nobility. Holders are called "Coach."

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Well, sometimes the serf's up, like in 1776 or 1789!

I could deal with titles of nobility if they were awarded by individual states, not transferable across state lines. But whatever people are called, they're not exempt from certain olfactory properties.

Grand Crapaud said...

Some politicians or film and television performers regard themselves as a type of nobility, anyway. Might as well make it official.

Hell Hound said...

I'm old fashioned, but I prefer no titles of nobility at all.

allenwoodhaven said...

What about the Secretary of the Treasury? Section 2 Paragraph 4 states "Cabinet Members other than the Secretary of the Treasury shall henceforth hold the title “Lord” or "Lady," and be addressed as “Your Lordship/Ladyship.” For that position I suggest "Your Eminence". The Presidential Press Secretary should be called The Minister of Truth.

There has always been a need for serfs. Where would the nobility be without them? There'd be no one to do all the work and to exploit. However, since the people get a say in constitutional amendments, I think those with official titles should be heavily taxed. The serf's should get something!