As the Queen celebrates her ninetieth birthday tomorrow, is the country a better place than it was 90 years ago?

The Queen Presents New Colours To The 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
The Queen celebrates her ninetieth birthday this week (Source: Getty)

Stian Westlake, executive director of research at Nesta, says Yes.

If you hopped in a time-machine and went back to 1926, the first thing that you’d notice is how much poorer Britain was. Real GDP is 5.8 times lower than it is today. What’s more, the UK has already lost its industrial edge to upstarts in Germany and America.

Life is shorter too. A newborn baby can expect to live to 59, compared to 80 in 2016. Having no antibiotics, statins or chemotherapy doesn’t help either.

Perhaps you’ll get by without Facebook or LinkedIn. But no computers? No washing machines? No aeroplanes? No contraceptive pill? No credit cards? The old days are pretty hard work.

If the economy depresses you, don’t expect politics to cheer you up. There’s a General Strike in Britain, and the early rumblings of Nazism in Germany and of Communist purges in the USSR.

And if you’re female, enjoy waiting till 30 to vote. Best to get back in the time-machine: 2016 doesn’t look so bad after all.

David Bowden, who works at the Institute of Ideas, says Yes, but...

By every conceivable measure, life has become better for Her Majesty’s subjects during her lifetime: from longer and healthier lives through to ever greater freedom.

But let’s not kid ourselves and pretend Liz has had anything to do with it – quite the opposite, in fact.

The monarchy survives not through divine right, but through a crisis of secular values: a crisis exploited by anti-democratic opportunists both in the UK and Europe. As subjects, we have remained, and continue to remain, in arrested development – forever beholden to a higher power.

Little wonder that monarchists dread the day when anti-growth Malthusian Charles assumes the throne and reminds us why much of the modern world dispensed with kings altogether.

If the monarchy ended tomorrow, the UK would remain much the same: except that We The People would be forced to take responsibility for our society.

So life is vastly better than it was 90 years ago – but it would be even better if we didn’t have the Queen.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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