Bull taming, shark taming: an argument for our absurd honours system

There are supercharged, bullish high achievers in the gene pool, many of them ruthless and hubristic. The political question is: how do we stop these big beasts becoming tyrannical monsters.

Under capitalism the sharks make money. They also buy political influence, or, where there is no functioning democracy, grab power. Under socialism they join the Party and run it for themselves and their cronies, as we have seen in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, North Korea, Cuba, various newly independent African countries, etc. They become tyrants with a monopoly of power, money, propaganda and the law. There is no defence against them. Since we are not going to eradicate over-confident and brilliant go-getters (and would not want to), the question becomes, how do we integrate them and limit their excesses?

By accident of history, the British have stumbled upon the answer: let them make money; tickle their tummies and whisper about generosity and public-spiritedness whilst dangling in front of their eyes, but at a distance, peerages. “You can be recruited into the lovely ceremonial aristocracy… for services to charity.”

Arguments for honouring school dinner-ladies and long serving lollipop men are fine, but much too sensible. They miss the point. The function of these honours is to keep the sharks from seizing real power in our country, to tempt them towards public works. And very cunning it is.

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