The Royal Mint announced Thursday that it would be issuing 2,013 “lucky pennies” to families who give birth to a child on the same day as the duke and duchess of Cambridge.
Just one problem: The cost of issuing these coins is estimated to be more than £50,000 ($74,522), straight out of the Royal Mint’s, i.e. HM Treasury’s, i.e. British taxpayers’ pockets.
Having been educated in the United Kingdom, I do love the royal family, and am a shameless frequenter of People.com’s “Royal” section. I also remain grateful for my entire day off classes on the day of the royal wedding, in which we live streamed the wedding in our assembly hall and celebrated with a Very Royal Picnic which consisted of scones, tea, and non-alcoholic champagne. But I have some serious problems with this.
Spending £50,000 of taxpayer money to celebrate Wills and Kate’s firstborn is, I must say, rather ridiculous. To borrow a term from former Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, this money could be spent much more prudently on many other aspects of British daily life. Don’t forget that the United Kingdom is still experiencing a sluggish recovery from the 2008 financial crisis — it’s been almost five years and real GDP growth is still at 0.2%, and the unemployment rate at 8%. (As a simple comparison, in March 2013, GDP growth in the United States was reported to be 1.8%.)
That having been said, Kate Middleton must still be credited for singlehandedly boosting the UK economy since she became a royal. Sure, fashion store Reiss’ website crashed after the duchess of Cambridge wore one of its dresses to meet the Obamas, prompting the dress to sell out almost immediately. Sure, the royal wedding, watched all over the world despite the time differences, triggered an extra four million tourists, managed to boost the UK economy by £2 billion (almost $3 billion). But this still remains an insufficient justification to spend so much of taxpayers’ money on royal memorabilia.
Still unconvinced? Have a little perspective here, folks — we're celebrating the birth of a baby here. Granted, he or she can boast of having some pretty important ancestors, but since the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the power of the English monarchy has been reduced to that of a figurehead anyway. In other words, while this baby is third in line to the English throne, he or she won’t be wielding any real political power anyway. Said £50,000 of taxpayers’ money is, essentially, being used to celebrate a baby being born into a family that just so happens to be part of a long line of symbolic heads of the British state.
I acknowledge and appreciate the importance of the royal family to boost patriotism and indirectly stimulate the British economy. But I do urge everyone not to forget the high opportunity costs of investing so much of taxpayers’ money into promoting the royal family. Given the current economic climate, this is not a sustainable economic model at all. As much as they love their royal family, the British need to do some deep rethinking about their finances.