Accident of Birth?

No one’s birth is an accident. The hand of the Sovereign God governs all. 

A recent op-ed bemoaned Brexit and the state of the British government. The English author opined that the prime minister was weak, Parliament was fractious, and once respected democratic institutions were losing public trust. Against this gloomy backdrop, one which has persisted for decades, the British monarchy has rarely been so popular. Why, the writer asks, should a democratic country so revere its constitutional monarchy, which after all selected its leaders not by merit but by an “accident of birth?”

The phrase “accident of birth” has been used a lot in the past 20 years, often to make prosperous people feel badly about prospering. People say “You were born (white, Asian, male, female, rich, American, European, etc.), but your success is merely an accident of birth. You didn’t do it, and you have no right to be proud of it.” Former US President Barack Obama’s “you didn’t build it” gaffe during his 2012 reelection campaign is a variation – partly true, but partly false. The claim “your prosperity is merely an accident of birth” is also used against selected (usually materially successful) members of traditionally disadvantaged groups such as African Americans and Hispanic Americans. The poor can airily dismiss the rich, even as the rich have airily dismissed the poor, with this handy phrase.

Continue reading “Accident of Birth?”

Advertisements