Our congratulations to the actor Patrick Stewart and the
film director Peter
Jackson on being knighted by the
Some say it is absurd that modern celebrities are given
titles of medieval military leadership. However, we have seen with our own eyes
how Sir Patrick defeated the Borg and Sir Peter triumphed at the Battle of
Helm’s Deep, so surely their awards are well deserved – although it is ironic
that David Niven and
the recently deceased Richard Todd, who both fought in a real life production
called World War Two, were never knighted.
More questionable are honours doled out over the years to
“business leaders” like Sir
Fred Goodwin, late of the failed Royal Bank of Scotland, and the disgraced
financier Sir Allen
It is notable that this year’s Honours List has less
“business leaders” than usual.
Yet the contribution that entrepreneurs make ought to be
No one ever set up a business because he wanted a knighthood
or an “OBE”.
However it is important that a nation acknowledges that its strength and
reputation depend on those who make extraordinary efforts – in public service,
in charity, in the arts, and in business life. The last may be the least
glamorous, but an economy depends on its entrepreneurs and a nation depends on
Even the most egalitarian countries operate some form of
public honours system. New Zealand abolished knighthoods, but has just brought
them back – Jackson’s is the first since their return.
States Constitution forbids titles of nobility, but no other country has as
many unofficial awards, prizes, and testimonials. At the other end of the
spectrum, Communist countries cover their favoured citizens with medals. The French Revolution
abolished all honours – ten years later, Napoleon brought them back. When
egalitarian revolutionaries objected, he pointed out “With such baubles are men
All nations have baubles of one sort or another. A nation
that understands it needs enterprise more than ever could do worse than giving
some of those baubles to its entrepreneurs.