The Null Device

Rank hath privilege

The latest bounty from Wikileaks: an exposé of the Saudi royal welfare system, a system of government finely tuned for meeting certain criteria (i.e., keeping an ever-expanding ruling class in caviar and luxury cars, and maximising the number of palaces per capita; they even have palace-building grants). Alas, even the generous stipends bestowed upon Saudi princelings sometimes fall short when it comes to maintaining a lifestyle worthy of one of such stature, but the beauty of living in the top tier of an absolute monarchy is that there's always more for the taking:
Then there was the apparently common practice for royals to borrow money from commercial banks and simply not repay their loans. As a result, the 12 commercial banks in the country were "generally leary of lending to royals."
Another popular money-making scheme saw some "greedy princes" expropriate land from commoners. "Generally, the intent is to resell quickly at huge markup to the government for an upcoming project." By the mid-1990s, a government program to grant land to commoners had dwindled. "Against this backdrop, royal land scams increasingly have become a point of public contention."
The confiscation of land extends to businesses as well, the cable notes. A prominent and wealthy Saudi businessman told the embassy that one reason rich Saudis keep so much money outside the country was to lessen the risk of 'royal expropriation.'"
Meanwhile, in Equatorial Guinea, an oil-rich West African country most of whose children don't live to their fifth birthday, it emerges that the son of the President had commissioned the world's second most expensive yacht, costing $380m, or three times the country's combined health and education budgets.

And in Belgium, Prince Laurent has incurred the wrath of the parliament (does Belgium have a parliament now?) for attempting to fly business-class whilst only having an economy-class ticket. The prince and his wife were asked to move back to cattle class, and apparently kicked up a disgraceful tantrum for being treated like commoners, refusing to pay for drinks.

It's somewhat heartening to see that Belgium, whilst nominally being a monarchy, is a Northern European "bicycle monarchy", in which rank hath little if any privilege, and monarchy is tolerated as a constitutional eccentricity and little more; certainly, it doesn't entitle one to demanding free travel benefits from local airlines, and any princeling who thinks otherwise won't get treated any differently than a drunken footballer would. I wonder what would happen in the UK if, say, some minor baronet occupied a first-class seat on a train or aeroplane without the appropriate ticket. Would they be told to move on as Prince Laurent was, or would the (privatised, of course, as per Anglocapitalist values) carrier swallow the cost or invoice the public purse?

There are 2 comments on "Rank hath privilege":

Posted by: Greg Wed Mar 2 12:07:55 2011

Is it just me or has Wikileaks disappeared from the news?

Last December it dominated newspapers and sites. Whatever Wikileaks released was that day's headline. Assange's trial in England was likewise a permanent headline. But now it seems to have dropped off the radar. The trial outcome a few days ago barely made the newspapers and people don't seem to be talking about it. The leaks themselves don't seem to rate a mention.

Posted by: datakid pineappledonut.org Wed Mar 2 23:37:53 2011

I agree. The first problem is obviously the fact that certain newspapers have exclusive access to the content - if they re-deploy the journalist, then it's dead in the water. Potentially it's to do with the newscycle - not a lot of interesting news in the Xmas lead up (for the non-tabloid/The Age at least) makes it more prominent, but atm we have the Middle East in crisis, Charlie Sheen in crisis, a new parliamentary year...

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