The Value of Titles Questioned

Ever wondered what the values of honors were? Honors under the UK system are conferred to individuals of considerable achievement and service to the its credibility recently came under some scrutiny in Britain in light of the stripping of Fred Goodwin’s – the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland – knighthood.

Key criticisms center on how the decision to annul his knighthood was a highly politicized one that seemed to come on the heels of anti-business hysteria following some though financial crises in recent years.

This article from The Guardian mentions how former chancellor Alistair Darling has been leading a political backlash, citing how it seem “tawdry” how government leaders seem to be directing fire at specific business individuals on a whim and without more a thorough due process – especially since the fault in such failures can hardly be pinned so easily on one man. Will Heaven from the Telegraph was more scathing, claiming how the move reflected how “British honours system is now fully politicized…” and that David Cameron is merely “pandering to the mob”.

Andreas Whittam Smith from The Independent goes a little further to suggest how the system, specifically the conferring of titles in the higher divisions, exacerbates widening societal divisions:

“I also dislike titles because they exacerbate divisions within society. We have heard a lot recently about the widening gap in financial terms between the haves and the have-nots. Moreover, we live in a country where the disparity is unusually wide, second only to the US. The use of titles exacerbates the condition. Whereas an order, say OBE or Légion d’Honneur, elicits respect, a title demands deference. Titles are harmful.

Simon Heffer from The Daily Mail cautions that such a controversy would never have erupted if the titles themselves had been more carefully considered in the first place:

If prime ministers were no longer able to shower honours like confetti on their cronies or on people whose only talent was to be popular with the voters, the system would suddenly become far more reputable […] Had Mr Blair only ten or 12 awards of Knight Bachelor to bestow in the Birthday Honours of 2004 instead of 23, would Fred Goodwin have made the cut? The spectacle of the removal of his knighthood will only have convinced the public — not that they needed convincing — that the process of awarding these things is almost casual. If the system is to continue, it must be drastically reformed…


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