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Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Jerry Pournelle put up this comment I sent as a response in a discussion on how wealthy politicians get nowadays, all legally. We are getting the same problem here - Harold Wilson did not get particularly rich & his son is now a train driver, but Bliar is making vast amounts on the lecture circuit & as a director in friends' companies. Jerry's has a good response in italics about how the growth in government size leads to this.

Up until Taft Presidents used to keep a cow on the White House lawn for milk (admittedly by Taft's time it may have been posing but it wasn't in the early years). Somewhat earlier Andrew Carnegie provided a pension, from his own funds, to keep Presidential widows out of poverty, because the government had failed to do so.

In the Sherlock Holmes story the Naval Treaty Holmes suspects Britain's Foreign Secretary because the fact that he had had to get his boots resoled proved he was not rich & thus possibly susceptible to bribes.

The era when politics was not rewarding is over & I am not sure that that is a bad thing. Honest & capable people who are not independently wealthy should not be deterred from public service. On the other hand the greedy should not be encouraged. On the 3rd hand the honest but poor don't seem to be doing particularly well in the present system. On the 4th hand if Prince Charles is what you get from selecting your leaders by a different system I think I will stick with what we laughingly call democracy.

On the 5th hand when we see that even the poorest now buy their milk & shoes at the supermarket & are, in almost all ways that don't involve having human servants, richer than Alexander the Great perhaps we would benefit from some perspective.

Neil Craig

Indeed. We all have REAL freedoms that the wealthiest could not have when I was a lad. Such as the right to go to the DC/X reunion in Alamogordo or fly to Seattle (recall the scene in Captain Courageous when Leland Stanford needs to get across country in hours). But it is still the case that few of our masters in Washington have the foggiest notion of how we all live. Which is a great reason for limiting the power they hold over our lives. We need government. We need strong government; but strong in its sphere. That sphere ought to be as limited as possible.

You cannot abolish power, but you can distribute it among competing entities so that there is freedom in the interstices. We used to know that.

Entirely unrelated I recommend this stunning picture of star formation in a dust cloud via the same source.

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