Monarchy Rules!

Kings and queens are out of political fashion these days. And that's a pity, say two American political scientists who argue that monarchies are not merely a rich source of tabloid entertainment but represent a "royal road to prosperity, democracy and world peace."

To examine the benefits of royal rule, Lee Sigelman of George Washington University and Jeremy Mayer of Kalamazoo College in Michigan analyzed data two other political scientists had collected for a study that examined how income inequality, support for revolutionary change, interpersonal trust and other measures of civic culture were correlated with the overall level of political rights and freedoms in the United States and 26 other Western societies. Mayer and Sigelman wanted to know--just for fun--whether it made a difference if a country had a monarchy.

Did it ever, they reported in a delightfully deft summary of their work that appeared in PS: Political Science & Politics, a journal published by the American Political Science Association.

Mayer and Sigelman found that "other factors being equal, in monarchies, public support for revolution was significantly less widespread, interpersonal trust was significantly higher, per capita wealth was considerably greater, income was significantly less concentrated, and the political system [was] significantly more democratic" than in non-monarchies.

Despite this apparent royal bounty, it's been a tough century for monarchs, Mayer and Sigelman acknowledge. Throughout the world, only 28 royal dynasties remain out of the hundreds that once ruled. But there are faint signs that kings and, perhaps, queens may be making a comeback. In 1994, for example, the Royalist Party in Estonia, which holds almost 10 percent of the seats in the national parliament, offered to crown Britain's Prince Edward, now the newly minted Earl of Wessex, as king there because of their admiration for "him, Britain, its monarchy, democracy and culture" and, the two researchers added, "presumably because he had so little else to do."

Sigelman and Mayer go so far as to suggest that more countries should revert to monarchies in order to reap the benefits of ruling royalty. But where will all the new kings and queens come from?

Not to worry, they say: "Decades of determined inbreeding among the crowned heads of Europe have produced scores of royal relatives available for consignment, including more double cousins than would be found even in a random sample of Arkansas."

Gambling by the Numbers

Americans have a love/hate (but mostly love) relationship with gambling. Nearly seven in 10 adult Americans say they've gambled legally sometime in their lives. In the upcoming issue of the journal Public Perspective, the editors highlighted some noteworthy numbers from recent surveys:

44

Among those Americans who gamble, the percent who told pollsters in 1975 that they bet mainly to win money.

66

The percent who told pollsters in 1998 that they bet mainly to win money.

27

Among those Americans who have gambled in a casino, the percent who said they won more money than they lost.

9

Among Americans who have played the lottery, the percent who said they have won more money than they lost.

52

The percent of Americans who agree that investing in the stock market is "a form of gambling."

22

The percent of Americans who do not think that playing a state-supported lottery is a form of gambling.

Sources: Surveys conducted by the National Opinion Research Corp. at the University of Chicago in 1998 and by the Gallup Organization in 1999

Alive at 55?

When Congress repealed the 55-mph speed limit for federal highways in 1995, some experts predicted the worst--thousands more deaths and perhaps a million more injuries each year.

That didn't happen, according to Stephen Moore, director of fiscal policy studies at the Cato Institute, in a newly released study. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that the traffic death rate per vehicle mile traveled on interstate roadways dropped to a record low level in 1997. So did the rate at which people were injured in traffic accidents on the nation's highways, even in states that raised their speed limits.

Speed still kills, the NHTSA insists: The drop is partially due to a steep decline in fatalities on roads where the posted limit is less than 55 mph (the increased prevalence of air bags is one reason for this). On roads where the posted limit is 55 or higher, there has been a slight increase in deaths and injuries since 1996.

STUPID STATS

Check out this statistical howler in the latest issue of Newsweek. The news mag suggested that right-handed presidential candidates have a huge advantage over their left-handed opponents. The purported evidence: Only 12 percent of all past presidents were left-handed. One problem: Only about 11 percent of all Americans are left-handed--virtually identical to the proportion of our presidents who were left-handed. Thus, being a southpaw neither helps nor hurts your chances of becoming president. So breathe easier, lefties.

MISTAKEN IDENTITIES

Scott McBride of the market research firm Hollander Cohen & McBride says his firm's recent mail survey of museum donors found that, when asked their race, about 3 percent of the 800 respondents identified themselves as "Native Americans." That might not be particularly noteworthy, but this is: When the research firm examined the religious affiliation of these Native American respondents, it found that half were Jewish. McBride suspects that some respondents, regardless of race, checked "Native American" if they were born in the United States.

You can reach The Unconventional Wiz at: morinr@washpost.com