The differences between Catherine II and our own dear Theresa I (and, one hopes, last) are obvious. However, ever the seeker of the positive, I’d also like to point out some similarities.
Granted, Catherine – I’m guessing here – was probably more libidinous than Theresa. She also tended to reward her more ardent lovers with titles, large estates and sometimes whole provinces.
Theresa, even if she had lovers, would probably be disinclined to reward one with, say, Cumbria, even if she were in a position to do so, which she isn’t.
Nor would she ever follow Catherine’s example by having her female staffers (then called ladies-in-waiting) take her prospective lovers out for a test drive to make sure they satisfied her exacting performance standards and were free of VD.
Even though Theresa, by the very nature of her profession, has to have a certain amount of ruthlessness and powerlust, I doubt she’d have her hubby-wubby murdered by her lovers even if her job depended on it (and if she had lovers). So Mr May has no fear of suffering the fate of Peter III.
Admittedly the similarities between the two ladies are less apparent, but they do exist. One is the vast distance separating their words and deeds.
Catherine (who was considerably better educated than Theresa, but this is by the bye) was involved in brisk correspondence with prominent Enlightenment figures, such as Diderot and Voltaire.
That most absolute of monarchs referred to herself as a republican and a ‘philosophe on the throne’. She admired all the progressive ideas, and their originators admired her.
Voltaire, in particular, was completely smitten, calling Catherine an ‘enlightened despot’ and saying that, if he were younger, he’d make himself Russian. Catherine smiled benevolently – and immediately extended serfdom to the Ukraine (intimations of Putin there?).
Acting in the same spirit, Mrs May coughed her way through a speech extolling the virtues of capitalism, a term coined by William Thackeray but popularised by that great Tory Karl Marx.
Thereby she mirrored Catherine’s professed admiration for the liberal values of the Enlightenment – but then came a reality check.
For at heart Theresa is, mutatis mutandis, as much of a statist as Catherine was. That’s why most of the policies she… I almost wrote ‘announced’, but then remembered that Theresa doesn’t really announce policies. She hints at them obliquely, leaving herself an out to change her mind if the focus groups say so.
In this case, however, she was less equivocal than usual. While complimenting free markets, she stated her intention to cap energy prices, a measure that relates to capitalism the way Catherine’s serfdom related to liberté.
This capping was the flagship of Ed Miliband’s electoral programme, and Theresa has decided to grab that relay baton and run with it. I wonder how she feels about wholesale nationalisation as a way of protecting free enterprise and preempting Comrade Corbyn.
There are many other hints at policies that indeed make Catherine sound like an economic libertarian by comparison. Most of them are opportunistic, cowardly and hare-brained, which Catherine wasn’t and Theresa, alas, is.
But one is truly disgusting. Theresa plans to the change the organ donation system from ‘opt-in’ to ‘opt-out’. Do you see what this means?
At present, a hospital can’t remove organs after death in the absence of explicit consent in the person’s will. Now, if that item has been forgetfully left out, doctors will take it as implicit consent to harvest the organs as they see fit.
Combined with the delights of euthanasia reaching our shores from Holland and other progressive EU members, this neat trick will create brisk business in organ harvesting, with more and more patients put out of their presumed misery for the sake of their livers and kidneys.
I’m not going to dispute the intrinsic benefits of organ donation, nor its morality. Obviously one can see its usefulness, and even the Catholic Church isn’t opposed to the practice. Yet equally obvious is that the choice to donate organs has to be made by the person and not by the state.
I shouldn’t have to ask a Romanian immigrant not to pick my pocket – if I wish to help out, I ought to hand over my wallet voluntarily.
In the same vein, a man leaving 40 per cent of his estate to charity commits a charitable act. Yet the state extorting 40 per cent of his estate isn’t charity. It’s oppression.
Just as inheritance tax (and other unjust taxes) discourages charity, so does the ‘opt-out’ system discourage opting in.
Belgium that, along with Holland, pioneers every ghoulish perversion of modern ‘progress’, has adopted the ‘opt-out’ system, only to see a marked reduction in voluntary organ donation. At the same time she has seen a spread of euthanasia performed specifically for the purpose of organ harvesting.
Our hearts (along with other internal organs) belong to Daddy, the omnipotent, paternalistic state – this is the message Theresa the Puny is sending out. At least Catherine the Great couldn’t be tested on that issue: medicine wasn’t far enough advanced for organ transplantation in her time.
But not for medical experiments on humans. Thus Peter I, Catherine’s role model, was known to amend death penalty orders by writing “not to be punished by execution – to be passed on to doctors for experiments.”
That practice acquired a bad name in the twentieth century, but perhaps the time has come to revive it. How about it, Theresa? All in the name of free enterprise of course.