Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Too clever by half

Before a middle class society came into existence, there was patronage and privilege. While the lesser orders bowed and scraped as good courtesans, the nobility could be filthily abusive. A middle-class society changed all that. From now on, everybody was middle class regardless of their economic condition. The emphasis was not on acquisition or wealth, but on how one related to other people. The first rule, the warm-up, was to internalise the dictum that our social positions are interchangeable. 
Catching up with the West begins with good manners; not cars, stereos or even blue jeans. It is simply a matter of putting the horse before the cart. Manners are all about how we treat others whom we don't know personally, and probably never will. If Europe has a head-start of more than a hundred years over us, it is not because they got to commodities first. The advantage they sprung on the rest of the world was in evolving social manners. While we were still aspiring to be good clients to mercurial patrons, they were learning to treat their social others as equals. 
As early as 1873, Professor Thomas E Hill wrote a runaway best-seller called the Essential Handbook of Victorian Etiquette. It flew off the racks and even carried the recommendation of Schyler Colfax, then vice-president of the USA. It was not just another book destined for libraries, but was read and re-read avidly by the public. It had a mass appeal because it addressed a genuine social aspiration. This work is essentially about manners. It instructs us on how to behave with those who may not be equally fortunate. …
Copycat materialism is clearly not working. It's not in the Yellow Pages, but there is a one-stop shop for good manners. It is run by the Welfare State and open only to the middle class. The writer is former professor, JNU.]

Hans-Hermann Hoppe's Democracy: The God That Failed analyses the failures of this deity very well. The book is sub-titled "The Politics and Economics of Monarchy, Democracy and Natural Order." The key difference between monarchy and democracy is this - the time horizon. A monarch looks far into the future, when his son will rule. A democrat only looks at his term - and loots and scoots, leaving hell to pay for the next guy, who does the same. Further, the monarch is quite separate from the masses - he does not have a "party" of looters to gift public offices to. He therefore rules with the "capital value" of his State in mind, seeking to maintain it for his successors. If he borrows in emergencies, he borrows less and he repays fast. If he goes to war, these are "limited wars." US democracy has unleashed permanent unlimited wars everywhere. Unlimited borrowing. Unlimited fraud with the currency. This is true of India as well - and the UK. Democracies have squandered the "capital value" of their states. Thus, while we have had long histories of "civilisation" under traditional monarchies, under modern mass democracies all we see is "de-civilisation" because of rapid "capital consumption" on a massive scale.]

For us, Heehs represents the last heap of the decline of the West. [TNM]

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