Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on October 31, 2011

in Country Problems, Current Affairs, History, Other People's Money

… is from page 384 of Vol. III of the 1855 Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans edition of Thomas Babington Macaulay’s The History of England; here, Macaulay is discussing 17th-century Scottish Highlanders:

It is not strange that the haughty and warlike MacDonalds, despising peaceful industry, yet envying the fruits of that industry, should have fastened a succession of quarrels on the people of Inverness.  In the reign of Charles the Second, it had been apprehended that the town would be stormed and plundered by those rude neighbors….  Their demand was that a heavy tribute should be paid to them….

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Greg Webb October 31, 2011 at 10:16 am

An insightful quote! The political elite have always despised the peaceful industry of common people as beneath them. Those political elite incite the thugs and the stupid in society to envy the productive and threaten them with violence in order for the political elite to extort more money from those citizens engaged in peaceful industry. The political elite then give the thugs and the stupid a pittance and then use the police and the military if the thugs and the stupid demand too much for they are merely useful idiots and not part of the political elite that they so desperately want to join.

Stone Glasgow October 31, 2011 at 5:24 pm

It’s better that the violent look down on the productive. If they become friends the worst things happen. Crony capitalism is worse than anything else.

Greg Webb October 31, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Stone, the worst thing that can happen occurs when politicians gain more power. Then they stiffle the innovative and the productive by limiting competition and giving government contracts to political cronies. It is doubtful that Steve Jobs would have been a political crony if he had not been a successful innovator and entrepreneur.

Randy October 31, 2011 at 10:27 am

Just one story among a thousand such stories. Their methods have changed over time, but their intentions have not.

Invisible Backhand October 31, 2011 at 10:35 am

That comment shows that without government you will always have guys with swords stealing your stuff.

Methinks1776 October 31, 2011 at 10:37 am

Yes. And with government you’ll always have guys with government issued guns stealing your stuff.

Anotherphil October 31, 2011 at 10:39 am

Theft is so much less barbaric when its done through the agency of the government, don’t you think?

Randy October 31, 2011 at 10:54 am

You may be right that government would be a solution. The problem is that the politicians are running the show, and the last thing that they want is a government getting in the way of their operations. So, do you have some idea of how to actually have a government? I mean, something more practical than the typical Platonian idealistic nonsense?

Randy October 31, 2011 at 10:59 am

P.S. Plato was an okay choice, but I should have gone with Hobbes or Hegel. Next time…

Anotherphil October 31, 2011 at 10:59 am

You may be right that government would be a solution.

There are no solutions, just tradeoffs!

Randy October 31, 2011 at 11:06 am

Interesting, but I’m not sure that not being robbed is a “trade off” for being robbed. But then, if I assume the existence of robbers, then I suppose it is a tradeoff to buy a gun or hire a security team instead of being robbed.

Anotherphil October 31, 2011 at 12:17 pm

The tradeoff of universal self defense with the establishment of a constabulary, is that the police department is unfortunately never a perfect organization. By empowering a small group to posess and use force, you still have risks. There are the risks of erroneous or improper interdiction of the innocent as well as police and judicial corruption.

In recent years, a new and more insidious risk has emerged. The use of police forces enforcing an increasing number of “malum prohibitum” laws as a source of revenue. Where I live the police are rather well known for their enforcement zeal for minor traffic offenses (including action-required warnings for minor mechanic defects). When my next door neighbors were burgled during broad daylight-well, they were left to tell them “we’ll try to recover your jewelry” (to bad thieves don’t frequent the local Dunkin Donuts). Among the stolem items: a near 75 year old engagement ring from my neighbors deceased mother she was planning to give to her granddaughter.

anthonyl October 31, 2011 at 11:35 am

“There are no solutions, just tradeoffs!”
Thats a great line.
Anotherphil-because of my inability to read, I thought your handle was Anotherpill! Which I always loved because it reminded me how my search for an alternative to either political party had landed me here at Cafe Hayek. Which is not absolute knowledge or absolute ignorance but admitting when something can’t be known. The option is to let everyone decide for themselves.

Anotherphil October 31, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Unfortunately, its not my line. It is the great Dr. Thomas Sowell’s. I should have attributed it in the post.

If you want a proper attestion as to his fog piercing brilliance, see the calumny and ill-will heaped upon him in an other thread by the resident trolls.

Invisible Backhand October 31, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Constitutional democracy?

Darren October 31, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Constitutional democracy?

That would be a great idea, but it doesn’t mean much if the associated constitution is ignored.

Nikolai Luzhin, Eastern Promises October 31, 2011 at 5:51 pm

best then to omit constitutional

vidyohs October 31, 2011 at 11:40 am

Not even the Mafia can do theft like the USA federal government, only another government can even hope to be in the running for top thief on the planet.

Steve C. October 31, 2011 at 11:46 am

Inverness is a lovely town. I stayed there a few weeks.

And it’s the home of Johnny Walker.

I’m glad they survived the MacDonalds.

vidyohs October 31, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Actually the MacDonalds ensured the survival of Inverness as the home of Johnnie Walker.

The Invernessians learned that if you drink enough of the stuff you forget about the MacDonalds. Therefore “enough” Johnnie Walker was always at hand.

Buckland November 2, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Interestingly, just a few decades later, a good chunk of the MacDonald Clan of this area were slaughtered by the British (assisted by the other strong clan of the area, the Campbell clan) in what’s called the Glencoe massacre.

Evidently the MacDonalds weren’t quick enough to pledge allegiance to William of Orange after the Glorious Revolution. Some British soldiers with help from the Campbells slaughtered 80 or so MacDonalds.

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