The City of Brass

The twenty-eighth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here, here , here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here , here , here, here and here.

There is a curiously prophetic quality to some of Kipling’s poems.  He saw the birth of the welfare states, just as we are witnessing the death throes of such states.  He saw all too clearly where all this would lead.  For the poem we are looking at in this post, he took as his inspiration the tale of The City of Brass from the Arabian Nights, and shaped it into a prediction of how increasing taxation to pay for welfare would end up in disaster.  Kipling wrote the poem in 1909 in white heat in reaction to the so-called People’s Budget of Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George, the first British budget to explicitly call for raising taxes to redistribute wealth to establish what would become known as a welfare state:

This is a war Budget. It is for raising money to wage implacable warfare against poverty and squalidness. I cannot help hoping and believing that before this generation has passed away, we shall have advanced a great step towards that good time, when poverty, and the wretchedness and human degradation which always follows in its camp, will be as remote to the people of this country as the wolves which once infested its forests.

(How many empty promises like that have been made in the intervening one hundred and five years!)  Lloyd George was ably assisted by Winston Churchill, then President of the Board of Trade, although Churchill would always reject socialism, and do so with more vigor as the years passed.

Passages in Kipling’s poem read as if they were current commentary on America in the Age of Obama:

“Who has hate in his soul? Who has envied his neighbour?

Let him arise and control both that man and his labour.”

They said: “Who is eaten by sloth? Whose unthrift has destroyed him?

He shall levy a tribute from all because none have employed him.”

They said: “Who hath toiled, who hath striven, and gathered possession?

Let him be spoiled. He hath given full proof of transgression.”

They said: “Who is irked by the Law? Though we may not remove it.

If he lend us his aid in this raid, we will set him above it!

Kipling always had a strong distrust of the power of the State and as for the politicians who wielded that power he accurately summed up most of them in the phrase: “little tin gods on wheels”.  Here is Kipling’s poem:

The City of Brass

“Here was a people whom after their works

thou shalt see wept over for their lost dominion:

and in this palace is the last information

respecting lords collected in the dust.”

  The Arabian Nights.  

In a land that the sand overlays – the ways to her gates are untrod –

A multitude ended their days whose gates were made splendid by God,

Till they grew drunk and were smitten with madness and went to their fall,

And of these is a story written: but Allah Alone knoweth all!

 

When the wine stirred in their heart their bosoms dilated.

They rose to suppose themselves kings over all things created –

To decree a new earth at a birth without labour or sorrow –

To declare: “We prepare it to-day and inherit to-morrow.”

They chose themselves prophets and priests of minute understanding,

Men swift to see done, and outrun, their extremest commanding –

Of the tribe which describe with a jibe the perversions of Justice –

Panders avowed to the crowd whatsoever its lust is.

 

Swiftly these pulled down the walls that their fathers had made them –

The impregnable ramparts of old, they razed and relaid them

As playgrounds of pleasure and leisure, with limitless entries,  

And havens of rest for the wastrels where once walked the sentries;

And because there was need of more pay for the shouters and marchers,

They disbanded in face of their foemen their yeomen and archers.

They replied to their well-wishers’ fears – to their enemies laughter,

Saying: “Peace! We have fashioned a God Which shall save us hereafter.

We ascribe all dominion to man in his factions conferring,

And have given to numbers the Name of the Wisdom unerring.”

 

They said: “Who has hate in his soul? Who has envied his neighbour?

Let him arise and control both that man and his labour.”

They said: “Who is eaten by sloth? Whose unthrift has destroyed him?

He shall levy a tribute from all because none have employed him.”

They said: “Who hath toiled, who hath striven, and gathered possession?

Let him be spoiled. He hath given full proof of transgression.”

They said: “Who is irked by the Law? Though we may not remove it.

If he lend us his aid in this raid, we will set him above it!

So the robber did judgment again upon such as displeased him,

The slayer, too, boasted his slain, and the judges released him.

As for their kinsmen far off, on the skirts of the nation,

They harried all earth to make sure none escaped reprobation.

They awakened unrest for a jest in their newly-won borders,

And jeered at the blood of their brethren betrayed by their orders.

They instructed the ruled to rebel, their rulers to aid them;

And, since such as obeyed them not fell, their Viceroys obeyed them.

When the riotous set them at naught they said: “Praise the upheaval!

For the show and the world and the thought of Dominion is evil!”

They unwound and flung from them with rage, as a rag that defied them,

The imperial gains of the age which their forefathers piled them.

They ran panting in haste to lay waste and embitter for ever

The wellsprings of Wisdom and Strengths which are Faith and Endeavour.

They nosed out and digged up and dragged forth and exposed to derision

All doctrine of purpose and worth and restraint and prevision:

And it ceased, and God granted them all things for which they had striven,

And the heart of a beast in the place of a man’s heart was given. . . .

               .          .        .          .          .           .          .          .          

When they were fullest of wine and most flagrant in error,

Out of the sea rose a sign – out of Heaven a terror.

Then they saw, then they heard, then they knew – for none troubled to hide it,

A host had prepared their destruction, but still they denied it.

They denied what they dared not abide if it came to the trail;

But the Sward that was forged while they lied did not heed their denial.

It drove home, and no time was allowed to the crowd that was driven.

The preposterous-minded were cowed – they thought time would be given.

There was no need of a steed nor a lance to pursue them;

It was decreed their own deed, and not a chance, should undo them.  

The tares they had laughingly sown were ripe to the reaping.

The trust they had leagued to disown was removed from their keeping.

The eaters of other men’s bread, the exempted from hardship,

The excusers of impotence fled, abdicating their wardship,

For the hate they had taught through the State brought the State no defender,

And it passed from the roll of the Nations in headlong surrender!    

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Published in: on January 7, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (46)  
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46 Comments

  1. […] ☞ The City of Brass—Almost Chosen People. […]

  2. The Secret People

    Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget,
    For we are the people of England, that never has spoken yet.
    There is many a fat farmer that drinks less cheerfully,
    There is many a free French peasant who is richer and sadder than we.
    There are no folk in the whole world so helpless or so wise.
    There is hunger in our bellies, there is laughter in our eyes;
    You laugh at us and love us, both mugs and eyes are wet:
    Only you do not know us. For we have not spoken yet.

    The fine French kings came over in a flutter of flags and dames.
    We liked their smiles and battles, but we never could say their names.
    The blood ran red to Bosworth and the high French lords went down;
    There was naught but a naked people under a naked crown.
    And the eyes of the King’s Servants turned terribly every way,
    And the gold of the King’s Servants rose higher every day.
    They burnt the homes of the shaven men, that had been quaint and kind,
    Till there was no bed in a monk’s house, nor food that man could find.
    The inns of God where no man paid, that were the wall of the weak,
    The King’s Servants ate them all. And still we did not speak.

    And the face of the King’s Servants grew greater than the King:
    He tricked them, and they trapped him, and stood round him in a ring.
    The new grave lords closed round him, that had eaten the abbey’s fruits,
    And the men of the new religion, with their Bibles in their boots,
    We saw their shoulders moving, to menace or discuss,
    And some were pure and some were vile; but none took heed of us.
    We saw the King as they killed him, and his face was proud and pale;
    And a few men talked of freedom, while England talked of ale.

    A war that we understood not came over the world and woke
    Americans, Frenchmen, Irish; but we knew not the things they spoke.
    They talked about rights and nature and peace and the people’s reign:
    And the squires, our masters, bade us fight; and never scorned us again.
    Weak if we be for ever, could none condemn us then;
    Men called us serfs and drudges; men knew that we were men.
    In foam and flame at Trafalgar, on Albuera plains,
    We did and died like lions, to keep ourselves in chains,
    We lay in living ruins; firing and fearing not
    The strange fierce face of the Frenchman who knew for what he fought,
    And the man who seemed to be more than man we strained against and broke;
    And we broke our own rights with him. And still we never spoke.

    Our path of glory ended; we never heard guns again.
    But the squire seemed struck in the saddle; he was foolish, as if in pain.
    He leaned on a staggering lawyer, he clutched a cringing Jew,
    He was stricken; it may be, after all, he was stricken at Waterloo.
    Or perhaps the shades of the shaven men, whose spoil is in his house,
    Come back in shining shapes at last to spoil his last carouse:
    We only know the last sad squires ride slowly towards the sea,
    And a new people takes the land: and still it is not we.

    They have given us into the hands of the new unhappy lords,
    Lords without anger and honour, who dare not carry their swords.
    They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes;
    They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.
    And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs,
    Their doors are shut in the evenings; and they know no songs.

    We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet,
    Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street.
    It may be we shall rise the last as Frenchmen rose the first,
    Our wrath come after Russia’s wrath and our wrath be the worst.
    It may be we are meant to mark with our riot and our rest
    God’s scorn for all men governing. It may be beer is best.
    But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet.
    Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.

    G.K. CHESTERTON

    The Song Of The Wheels

    G.K. Chesterton

    [Written during a Friday and Saturday in August, 1911]

    King Dives he was walking in his garden all alone,
    Where his flowers are made of iron and his trees are made of stone,
    And his hives are full of thunder and the lightning leaps and kills,
    For the mills of God grind slowly; and he works with other mills.
    Dives found a mighty silence; and he missed the throb and leap,
    The noise of all the sleepless creatures singing him to sleep.
    And he said: “A screw has fallen—or a bolt has slipped aside—
    Some little thing has shifted”: and the little things replied:

    “Call upon the wheels, master, call upon the wheels;
    We are taking rest, master, finding how it feels,
    Strict the law of thine and mine: theft we ever shun—
    All the wheels are thine, master—tell the wheels to run!
    Yea, the Wheels are mighty gods—set them going then!
    We are only men, master, have you heard of men?

    “O, they live on earth like fishes, and a gasp is all their breath.
    God for empty honours only gave them death and scorn of death,
    And you walk the worms for carpet and you tread a stone that squeals
    Only, God that made them worms did not make them wheels.
    Man shall shut his heart against you and you shall not find the spring.
    Man who wills the thing he wants not, the intolerable thing—
    Once he likes his empty belly better than your empty head
    Earth and heaven are dumb before him: he is stronger than the dead.

    “Call upon the wheels, master, call upon the wheels,
    Steel is beneath your hand, stone beneath your heels,
    Steel will never laugh aloud, hearing what we heard,
    Stone will never break its heart, mad with hope deferred—
    Men of tact that arbitrate, slow reform that heals—
    Save the stinking grease, master, save it for the wheels.

    “King Dives in the garden, we have naught to give or hold—
    (Even while the baby came alive the rotten sticks were sold.)
    The savage knows a cavern and the peasants keep a plot,
    Of all the things that men have had—lo! we have them not.
    Not a scrap of earth where ants could lay their eggs—
    Only this poor lump of earth that walks about on legs—
    Only this poor wandering mansion, only these two walkng trees,
    Only hands and hearts and stomachs—what have you to do with these?
    You have engines big and burnished, tall beyond our fathers’ ken,
    Why should you make peace and traffic with such feeble folk as men?

    “Call upon the wheels, master, call upon the wheels,
    They are deaf to demagogues, deaf to crude appeals;
    Are our hands our own, master?—how the doctors doubt!
    Are our legs our own, master? wheels can run without—
    Prove the points are delicate—they will understand.
    All the wheels are loyal; see how still they stand!”

    King Dives he was walking in his garden in the sun,
    He shook his hand at heaven, and he called the wheels to run,
    And the eyes of him were hateful eyes, the lips of him were curled,
    And he called upon his father that is lord below the world,
    Sitting in the Gate of Treason, in the gate of broken seals,
    “Bend and bind them, bend and bind them, bend and bind them into wheels,
    Then once more in all my garden there may swing and sound and sweep—
    The noise of all the sleepless things that sing the soul to sleep.”

    Call upon the wheels, master, call upon the wheels,
    Weary grow the holidays when you miss the meals,
    Through the Gate of Treason, through the gate within,
    Cometh fear and greed of fame, cometh deadly sin;
    If a man grow faint, master, take him ere he kneels,
    Take him, break him, rend him, end him, roll him, crush him with the wheels.

    • G.K. Chesterton, great poet, lousy economist, as anyone can attest who has ever waded their way through any of his dismal distributist rants.

      • I have. Neil Gaiman is right – GKC was “the only poet who knew what was going on”. And quite frankly, I have to wonder how you can possibly support Ronald Thatcher after thirty years of failures, bubbles and decline of the middle class. An immense transfer of wealth is taking place from the many to the few, in spite of the fact that the few have already proved thoroughly unfit to manage said wealth (in fact, their monstrous failure to do so was, incredibly, the excuse to speed up the transfer) and you have the nerve to talk of “politics of envy”! Wake up and smell the coffee. We are going through yet another period of anarchy and revolution from above. Historically, in the English-speaking countries, there have been NO revolutions except revolutions carried out from above; whether benignant – George Washington, largely through his own efforts, was probably the richest man in America in his time – or, more frequently, malignant – the suppression of the monasteries, the “reformation”, the “glorious revolution”, the pestilence of enclosure – all to make sure that the rich should relieve the poor of their property and be allowed to go on doing so. Our rulers today are in the grand tradition.

      • This is an old debate between us Fabio and you are not going to change my mind. Welfare states have nothing to do with Christian morality and quite a bit with the desire of politicians to amass power in their hands and the desire of too many people to live off of the sweat of others. Rather than help the poor, Welfare states chain the poor to bleak lives of subsisting on government handouts while eroding freedom for all. I rejoice in the coming death of this system.

      • Answer the point! Or have you not noticed that the middle classes are being crushed into the dirt while the rich get richer? You did not say one word that answered anything I said here.

      • I completely disagree with your analysis Fabio. America did wonderfully under Reagan after that buffoon Carter almost drove the economy off the cliff. As for Thatcher, she and Churchill are the only two great prime ministers that Great Britain has had since Disraeli. Throughout the West the main problem with the economies is that they are drowning in public debt which will never be repaid due to debt repudiation, although that term will be disguised by some euphemism which will amount to the same thing. More of the dog that bit you in regard to public spending will merely speed up the inevitable collapse of the welfare states.

      • The buffoon Reagan, and the buffoon Clinton after him, oversaw the process of de-industrialization that led the country to the present wilderness of crony capitalism supported largely by military expenditure and McJobs. The same is true with Britain. And the idiots actually bragged of it. If a country does not make things, whatever flashy early shows of prosperity it can show will soon be drowned in debt. I have been saying this since I saw Meg Thug destroying the British manufacturing sector for party political advantage, and nothing will change my mind. Where do you imagine income is to come from, let alone employment, if all you do is retail Chinese products?

      • “The buffoon Reagan, and the buffoon Clinton after him, oversaw the process of de-industrialization that led the country to the present wilderness of crony capitalism supported largely by military expenditure and McJobs.”

        Untrue Fabio. The US actually manufactures just as much of the world’s goods today as it has for the past 40 years, about 21 percent of the world’s goods.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manufacturing_in_the_United_States
        It takes fewer workers to do so. Attempting to preserve manufacturing jobs through government programs would have been foolish in the extreme. It is easy also to exaggerate how desirable such jobs are. My father cut steel in a truck body plant in Paris, Illinois from 1961 until his death in 1991. I worked there two summers while I was in college. Working conditions were not good and the money was not great. If overall employment remains high, which it did in the US until 2008, I think the loss of manufacturing jobs is not that important, so long as the manufacturing being done with fewer workers remains high, as long as there are jobs in other sectors which can provide good livings for those who have them. The overall statistics on employment in the US belies your charge that we are a nation of McJobs.

      • The evidence for what I say is howlingly simple and obvious. The welfare state is working very well in Germany. Why? Because the country has a manufacturing sector that works – in the face of the imbecilic theorists who claimed that “advanced” economies should dismiss “rust-belt” industries – and exports what it makes, paying at least some tax on it. As a result Germany is hiring skilled workers across Europe, because they don’t have enough to keep all their workshops running, and Thugcherite idiots here in London howl in their well-paid newspaper columns about “German aggression” when they mean that Germany has the money and wants some say in the way their money is spent. This is how an advanced economy ought to work, when “creative-destruction” fanatics and other dream merchants are kept from the decision-making and not allowed to destroy what they never knew how to create.

      • Germany is better off than the rest of the EU, although that is setting the bar fairly low. A good overview of some of the challenges facing Germany economically:

        http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/07434b7e-3a54-11e3-b234-00144feab7de.html#axzz2q1O8QKZq

        Germany has been wisely making cuts to its welfare state. Its Agenda 2010 was a good start in the right direction.

      • I see that you deleted my remarks on British “experts” and media, so I will just comment on my own experience. In the last five years, these “exoerts” have been wrong on everything – and I have been right. They said that Greece would break off from Europe; I said that Greece would rather starve than leave, and I have been proven right. They kept giving new dates at which the Euro would collapse – and Europe’s main problem these days is that the Euro keeps on appreciating itself as compared with the pound and the dollar. Why is that? Because I know what I am talking about (my forecast about Greece was based entirely on my view of the Greek character) and they only know what their fanatically anti-European readership wants to read. The English are pathologically incapable of understanding anything that goes on beyond the Channel, and anyone who takes an English journalist’s view of Europe seriously deserves to lose all his money.

      • “I see that you deleted my remarks on British “experts” and media,”

        I deleted it because it included an f-bomb Fabio. Remember please that I want to keep the language clean for my younger readers. In regard to the Euro, I am surprised that it still survives. As for Greece, what choice did they truly have other than to remain part of the EU? However, I am certainly not going to debate you on either Greece or the Euro since over here we view it all “as in a glass, darkly”.

  3. The Founder of “the politics of envy”

    From the Gospel according to Mark

    10:23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 10:24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 10:26 And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? 10:27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

    12:41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 12:42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 12:43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: 12:44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

    4:18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, 4:19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

    From the Gospel according to Luke

    1.53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

    6.[20] And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
    [21] Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
    [22] Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.
    [23] Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
    [24] But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
    [25] Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
    [26] Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

    12. [15] And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
    [16] And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
    [17] And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
    [18] And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
    [19] And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
    [20] But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

    16. [19] There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
    [20] And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
    [21] And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
    [22] And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
    [23] And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
    [24] And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
    [25] But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
    [26] And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
    [27] Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
    [28] For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
    [29] Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
    [30] And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
    [31] And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

    Nasty practitioner of the politics of envy, eh, that Jesus?

    • You can look high and low in the Gospels Fabio and you will look in vain for any injunction of Christ to Caesar to impose “charity” by the tip of the sword. That is the politics of envy.

      • Because of course Christian morality ceases to have any meaning once you get elected to office.

      • “Because of course Christian morality ceases to have any meaning once you get elected to office.”

        Quite the reverse actually. I view Welfare states and socialism to be antithetical in practice, and largely in theory, to Christian morality. I agree completely with this statement by Pope Leo XIII:

        “For, while the socialists would destroy the “right” of property, alleging it to be a human invention altogether opposed to the inborn equality of man, and, claiming a community of goods, argue that poverty should not be peaceably endured, and that the property and privileges of the rich may be rightly invaded, the Church, with much greater wisdom and good sense, recognizes the inequality among men, who are born with different powers of body and mind, inequality in actual possession, also, and holds that the right of property and of ownership, which springs from nature itself, must not be touched and stands inviolate. For she knows that stealing and robbery were forbidden in so special a manner by God, the Author and Defender of right, that He would not allow man even to desire what belonged to another, and that thieves and despoilers, no less than adulterers and idolaters, are shut out from the Kingdom of Heaven. But not the less on this account does our holy Mother not neglect the care of the poor or omit to provide for their necessities; but, rather, drawing them to her with a mother’s embrace, and knowing that they bear the person of Christ Himself, who regards the smallest gift to the poor as a benefit conferred on Himself, holds them in great honor. She does all she can to help them; she provides homes and hospitals where they may be received, nourished, and cared for all the world over and watches over these. She is constantly pressing on the rich that most grave precept to give what remains to the poor; and she holds over their heads the divine sentence that unless they succor the needy they will be repaid by eternal torments. In fine, she does all she can to relieve and comfort the poor, either by holding up to them the example of Christ, “who being rich became poor for our sake,18 or by reminding them of his own words, wherein he pronounced the poor blessed and bade them hope for the reward of eternal bliss. But who does not see that this is the best method of arranging the old struggle between the rich and poor? For, as the very evidence of facts and events shows, if this method is rejected or disregarded, one of two things must occur: either the greater portion of the human race will fall back into the vile condition of slavery which so long prevailed among the pagan nations, or human society must continue to be disturbed by constant eruptions, to be disgraced by rapine and strife, as we have had sad witness even in recent times.”

      • So politics ought to leave these things untouched?

      • “So politics ought to leave these things untouched?”

        Not at all. We need root and branch reforms focused upon taking care of those who cannot support themselves through physical incapacity or mental defect, while forcing the normal, the vast majority, to fend for themselves. The goals should be to slash government spending to the bone, decrease regulation on the economy, allow private enterprises to succeed or fail, and to return government to a much more limited sphere.

      • Apart from the many other points that ought to be made, what makes the Pope’s teaching invalid is that we no longer have individual rich people facing a mass of poor. The rise of the corporation means that the whole element of personal responsibility simply does not exist, and anyone who starts from that point of view is preaching at the wind. Pope Leo had an excuse for it; in 1890, corporations were in their infancy, and even in Germany and America, where they were being developed fastest, they were still identified with individual persons – the Krupps, the Rockefellers. Today nobody has that excuse. And as a lawyer you ought to know that the corporation has only one duty: to maximize the return of shareholders on their investment. That is law, and specifically American law. If a CEO were seized by a fit of humanity and tried to do some honourable gesture that reduced the company’s income for that year, the board would have something close to a duty to sack him, and could legitimately be sacked themselves if they did not. That is, for instance, the reason why Marvel and DC comics have long refused to acknowledge the rights of the actual creators of their comics: it would have cost them money. So the whole appeal to the heart of the rich – who at any rate have never historically been rich in that commodity – is entirely meaningless.

      • “And as a lawyer you ought to know that the corporation has only one duty: to maximize the return of shareholders on their investment. That is law, and specifically American law. If a CEO were seized by a fit of humanity and tried to do some honourable gesture that reduced the company’s income for that year, the board would have something close to a duty to sack him, and could legitimately be sacked themselves if they did not.”

        Corporations in America are required to follow laws Fabio and the men and the women at the helm can face fairly dire consequences if they do not. Any number of Enron execs could attest to that. As for charitable contributions by corporations, American corporations do quite a bit. Corporate boards in America tend to be rubber stamps for the hired hands who run the corporation. In theory they could fire a CEO, in practice the CEO would be more likely to engineer a coup on the board. Corporate shareholders usually have little to say about the day to day governance of a corporation, even when a particular family has a controlling interest.

      • We need to let the losers starve.

      • Corporations are required to follow laws. Sure. And you know as well as I do – better, probably – that the aristocracy of your profession is the corporate lawyer. They make millions, because the heart of the corporate activity is what they can get away with, and the lawyer – along with the equally expensive tax accountant – is the one who tells them that. As it happens, my sister and I just had a Christmas party with a college friend of hers who went down the corporate lawyer path. This woman dripped money, living in one of London’s most expensive neighbourhoods (translated: one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in the world) and making the sort of occasional remarks that just showed that she assumed that she did not have to ask for the price of anything. (My sister is a college lecturer and has a nice house whose mortgage is killing her and her husband, a theatre designer.) But she told us she was taking early retirement because she simply could not live with her conscience any more; being a corporate lawyer meant finding ways to cloak immorality in law every day of the week; and that she envied us for having followed our ideals, expensive though that might have been in material terms. So yes, I know that corporations have to follow the law – the times when they have not written it and paid to have it passed through Parliament. My sister’s friend’s words only confirmed what I have known for years – living in London you can only miss certain things if you are deliberately blind – and it means that I am completely vaccinated against your selective, agit-prop version of facts.

      • “But she told us she was taking early retirement because she simply could not live with her conscience any more; being a corporate lawyer meant finding ways to cloak immorality in law every day of the week; and that she envied us for having followed our ideals, expensive though that might have been in material terms.”

        So I assume she is giving her ill-gotten lucre back Fabio? :)

        There are crooked people in every walk of life, most certainly in corporations and most assuredly in government. Giving huge amounts of power to governments is rarely a cure for the crookedness that besets Man as a result of original sin, since the watchdogs are just as likely to be corrupt as those they are watching.

      • That’s like saying that there is nothing special about the Mafia because “there are crooked people in all paths of life.” I will reply with a dear old Italian proverb that has helped keep me sane down the years: Nobody is as deaf as he who does not want to hear, and nobody is as blind as he who does not want to see.

      • “That’s like saying that there is nothing special about the Mafia”

        Corporations are like the Mafia Fabio? I trust you did not mean to imply that. Between governments and corporations I am quite clear on which have posed the greater threat to human freedom over the years.

      • “Giving huge amounts of power to governments is rarely a cure for the crookedness that besets Man as a result of original sin, since the watchdogs are just as likely to be corrupt as those they are watching.” And in your view there is no difference between the public, legal and corporate expression of the nation and a private enterprise. To which I answer with a bit of Christian doctrine you never seem to have heard: Romans 13.

      • “And in your view there is no difference between the public, legal and corporate expression of the nation and a private enterprise. To which I answer with a bit of Christian doctrine you never seem to have heard: Romans 13.”

        I am opposed to tyranny whatever its source Fabio. The Romans citation is not a license for Christians to put up with every piece of malicious idiocy imposed by the governments they have the misfortune to live under.

        Saint Thomas Aquinas in regard to that passage points out that it is not a license for slavish obedience to political power:

        “But, as we have already said, authority may fail to derive from God for two reasons: either because of the way in which authority has been obtained, or in consequence of the use which is made of it.
        There are two ways in which the first case may occur. Either because of a defect in the person, if he is unworthy; or because of some defect in the way itself by which power was acquired, if, for example, through violence, or simony or some other illegal method. The first defect is not such as to impede the acquisition of legitimate authority; and since authority derives always, from a formal point of view, from God (and it is this which produces the duty of obedience), their subjects are always obliged to obey such superiors, however unworthy they may be. But the second defect prevents the establishment of any just authority: for whoever possesses himself of power by violence does not truly become lord or master. Therefore it is permissible, when occasion offers, for a person to reject such authority; except in the case that it subsequently became legitimate, either through public consent or through the intervention of higher authority.

        With regard to the abuse of authority, this also may come about in two ways. First, when what is ordered by an authority is opposed to the object for which that authority was constituted (if, for example, some sinful action is commanded or one which is contrary to virtue, when it is precisely for the protection and fostering of virtue that authority is instituted). In such a case, not only is there no obligation to obey the authority, but one is obliged to disobey it, as did the holy martyrs who suffered death rather than obey the impious commands of tyrants. Secondly, when those who bear such authority command things which exceed the competence of such authority; as, for example, when a master demands payment from a servant which the latter is not bound to make, and other similar cases. In this instance the subject is free to obey or disobey.”

      • You use ST.Thomas as an excuse, but your attitude is diluted Ayn Rand. Your attitude is that public power is always worse than private, that it must be treated as a potential carrier of plague, and that it has no inborn dignity that demands we should respect it. I have never seen you postulate or imagine one situation in which a private corporation might be wrong, let alone morally worse than a public body. You have never given any evidence of respect for the State as such; but where I come from, being a servant of the State is a title of pride and something men have been willing to die for.

      • “but your attitude is diluted Ayn Rand.”

        Actually my attitude toward Rand is that she was a poor political theorist and a worse novelist. I have written this many times on the net. A recent post by me on Rand.

        http://the-american-catholic.com/2013/03/28/ayn-rand-rants-against-cs-lewis/

        “Your attitude is that public power is always worse than private, that it must be treated as a potential carrier of plague, and that it has no inborn dignity that demands we should respect it.”

        Caesar has his role Fabio, but Caesar is always a threat to liberty unless he is carefully watched and his power constrained.

        “I have never seen you postulate or imagine one situation in which a private corporation might be wrong”

        You obviously have never read any of my numerous posts on Planned Parenthood Fabio at my other blog, The American Catholic. To deal with private wrongdoing we have courts. The problem however is always the old one of Who watches the watchmen.

        “You have never given any evidence of respect for the State as such;”
        I distinguish between the country and those who momentarily hold power over it. Those men can be good, Abraham Lincoln is a great example, or evil. America will always have my loyalty and love, but part of being a patriotic American is making certain that government does not trample on those liberties America was created to safeguard.

      • And that is where you are wrong. “Caesar has his place”? Start from Socrates and the laws of the land, laws that are just as much our father and mother as our father and mother, and deserve just as much respect. Unless you understand that public power is different from private power not just in degree but in kind, that it is dignified from the beginning, that it belongs to the sphere of rightful, necessary and just things, then you will never even begin to understand even why corruption and private interest in public office are acts of treason. You will not understand why abuse of public power is a moral evil of peculiar significance. And then, of course, if you assume that the public power must be constantly treated as a potential enemy, then you will get an abnormal amount of people in it who are, one way or another, psychologically damaged and identify with the enemy. Which, so far as I can see, is exactly what has been happening in all sorts of administrative units in the USA. What has your negative, watchful, prejudiced attitude done to discourage administrative tyranny from family courts, from environmental authorities, from the police? Nothing. It has encouraged them. Because if you treat Caesar as the enemy, then the enemy he will become. You have shaped the image of your own nightmares and given it a place to live on Earth.

      • “Because if you treat Caesar as the enemy, then the enemy he will become.”

        Without an attitude towards Caesar of ever watchfulness in protection of liberty Fabio, Caesar ultimately becomes the master. The Founding Fathers understood that:

        “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

        James Madison

        I will take Madison over Rousseau any day of the week.

      • Thanks for the insult. Rousseau indeed! Try the founders of my country for size, instead. I’m afraid you have got to the point where you are answering with insults. A couple of more replies and you’d be calling me comrade.

        And you refused to answer my point. Consider how the ordinary public worker, doing work that is indispensable, none too well paid, and as often as not exhausting. must feel when people like you go around saying that hey are a danger to freedom. And then wonder why the public sector in America becomes populated with hostile and aggressive people. If you worry about “Caesar” becoming a danger to anyone, look at yourself in the mirror; you have caused it.

      • “Rousseau indeed!”

        Much of what you are saying Fabio sounds like the General Will to me. When in your view can a member of a democratic polity say that an action is tyranny by the state and call for a revolution? Your example of Socrates is instructive. I view his acceptance of the death penalty on trumped up charges to be not noble but a bowing to a government that was acting in a manner befitting a tyranny, rather than a restored democracy.

        “Consider how the ordinary public worker, doing work that is indispensable, none too well paid,”

        Most state and federal employees in the United States earn more than their private counterparts. Some of their work is indispensable, see the military for example. Other work in the public sector is simply empire building by bureaucrats, and actively harmful to the polity.

        “must feel when people like you go around saying that hey are a danger to freedom.”
        Not all of them certainly, but some of them are willing tools for a Caesar bent on limiting freedom. For example, the IRS scandal in this country where conservative groups were routinely deprived non-profit status given freely to similar liberal groups. The NSA has engaged in massive spying both domestically and abroad. It is not tinfoil hat wearing paranoia to be concerned about such activities. This country was founded by men who were suspicious of government and advocated eternal vigilance in regard to intrusions upon liberty by government.

  4. I deleted your last comment Fabio. Feel free to repost it, sans the reference to bovine droppings.

    • TOTAL, ABSOLUTE UNSPEAKABLE RUBBISH. Work out how much of its income the average corporation pays in tax. Then you will have a very good idea why public income is less than it ought to be.

      • P.S.: I hope that’ s what you wanted, but I cannot see that’s an improvement.

      • “P.S.: I hope that’ s what you wanted, but I cannot see that’s an improvement.”

        Thanks Fabio! There are homeschooling kids who regularly read this blog so I like to keep the language mild for them. My lunch hour is over so it is back to work for me. I will continue my part of my debate after I get back from the Law mines!

      • “Work out how much of its income the average corporation pays in tax.”

        Corporations do not pay taxes Fabio, by definition they collect taxes. Every dollar in taxes from a corporation comes directly from the customers of the corporation. Taxes on corporations are always indirect taxes on consumers.

      • Oh for the love of Heaven. So all their holding companies in Luxemburg or the Cayman Islands are there because they like the weather? Please don’t talk like the public’s bad idea of a lawyer.

      • “Oh for the love of Heaven. So all their holding companies in Luxemburg or the Cayman Islands are there because they like the weather? Please don’t talk like the public’s bad idea of a lawyer.”

        That does not make them immune from the law’s of the country that they are operating within Fabio. That is basic hornbook law.

      • At which point I have to believe that you are mocking yourself. The notion that the laws of the Cayman Islands would incommodate any crook is one that can only be put forward as part of a stand-up comedy routine.

      • “The notion that the laws of the Cayman Islands”

        I guess you haven’t been paying attention to what I wrote regarding corporations and the law Fabio. A corporation operating in Illinois is subject to the laws of both Illinois and the laws of the United States no matter where they are incorporated around the globe. Are we clear on that point? I have successfully sued foreign corporations for violations of such laws.

      • But you did not sue them for using foreign jurisdiction to dodge tax, so please don’t bring in extraneous materials. We are talking about taxation and revenue, not about zoning laws or local employment violations. And we are talking about tax dodging on a scale that would make Al Capone blush.

      • “We are talking about taxation and revenue”

        America taxes foreign corporations doing business within the country Fabio as does Illinois for foreign corporations doing business within the state.

      • Yeah. Right.


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