Thursday, November 17, 2011

Party Like It's 1848

Tea Partiers may seem to want to party like it's 1773, but the Off-the-Wall Streeters seem to wanna party like it's 1848. Alexander de Tocqueville said of that time period:
Society was cut in two: those who had nothing united in common envy, and those who had anything united in common terror. link
I finally bought the book 1848, recommended to me by a commenter several months ago.  I hope to read it next week.


  1. History always repeats.

    In ancient Rome it was bread and circus that kept that same element entertained. Now if only we can establish gladiatorial games (sort of like gang wars contained in a reality show) where there is a slot in the television that will spit out the occasional ounce of high grade chronic marijuana, the OWS people will stay home and be happy.

  2. Damn. I can't believe you beat me to a purchase of 1848. It had been calling me from the shelves of the capacious history section in my local Borders up until the store closed down, put on hold for a purchase of Pursuit of Glory first, and now put on hold indefinitely.

    The latter actually might be more up your alley given its focus on technological/infrastructural revolutions. In the meantime, my collection will have to await others that have been pushed ahead in that line, like Wickham's The Inheritance of Rome.

    I also recommend looking into another one on my list, which details the legal case brought forward by the first lawyer of the Anglosphere to successfully prosecute a monarch: The Tyrannicide Brief. Written by a renown British lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, my understanding is that it lays out legal precedents for limiting executive power that form the basis for the modern political systems of the West.

  3. Too bad Tocqueville didn't know about things like the Gini coefficient and income immobility.

    But Adam Smith, who came before him, arguably did:

    The luxuries and vanities of life occasion the principal expense of the rich, and a magnificent house embellishes and sets off to the best advantage all the other luxuries and vanities which they possess. A tax upon house-rents, therefore, would in general fall heaviest upon the rich; and in this sort of inequality there would not, perhaps, be anything very unreasonable. It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.

    I don't wish to belabor the economic arguments of "revolution" any more than we've already tried to, but to keep casting this as something having to do with envy really seems to miss the point.

    Just sayin'.

  4. Too bad Tocqueville didn't know about things like the Gini coefficient and income immobility.

    I wrote a science parable about income inequality which was rather skewed to thermodynamics: link, I mean, it dealt with equilibria without talking much about how energy (wealth) naturally redistributes when it is free to do so. I need to write another one on kinetics and dynamics.