Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Narrow Self Interest

"Unto This Last" (1860) John Ruskin

 "Unto This Last had a very important impact on Gandhi's philosophy...  Gandhi decided immediately not only to change his own life according to Ruskin's teaching, but ... translated Unto This Last into Gujarati in 1908 under the title of Sarvodaya ("well being of all"). "

So far as I know, there is not in history record of
anything so disgraceful to the human intellect as the modern idea
that the commercial text, "Buy in the cheapest market and sell in
the dearest," represents, or under any circumstances could
represent, an available principle of national economy.

Buy in the cheapest market? yes; but what made your market cheap? Charcoal
may be cheap among your roof timbers after a fire, and bricks may
be cheap in your streets after an earthquake; but fire and
earthquake may not therefore he national benefits.

Sell in the dearest? -- Yes, truly; but what made your market dear? You sold
your bread well to-day: was it to a dying man who gave his last
coin for it, and will never need bread more; or to a rich man who
to-morrow will buy your farm over your head; or to a soldier on
his way to pillage the bank in which you have put your fortune?
None of these things you can know. One thing only you can
know: namely, whether this dealing of yours is a just and
faithful one, which is all you need concern yourself about
respecting it; sure thus to have done your own part in bringing
about ultimately in the world a state of things which will not
issue in pillage or in death.

And thus every question concerning
these things merges itself ultimately in the great question of


"War is a Racket" (1935) retired U.S. Marine Major General Smedley D. Butler.

It has been estimated by statisticians and economists and researchers that the war cost your Uncle Sam $52,000,000,000. Of this sum, $39,000,000,000 was expended in the actual war itself. This expenditure yielded $16,000,000,000 in profits. That is how the 21,000 billionaires and millionaires got that way. This $16,000,000,000 profits is not to be sneezed at. It is quite a tidy sum. And it went to a very few.

The State Department has been studying "for some time" methods of keeping out of war. The War Department suddenly decides it has a wonderful plan to spring. The Administration names a committee – with the War and Navy Departments ably represented under the chairmanship of a Wall Street speculator – to limit profits in war time. To what extent isn't suggested. Hmmm. Possibly the profits of 300 and 600 and 1,600 per cent of those who turned blood into gold in the World War would be limited to some smaller figure.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rough and Rowdy Ways

Roughing It - Mark Twain 1872

Rough-hewn humor about Salt Lake City (including a scathing account of the Mormons), gold and silver prospecting (insanely hard work), real-estate speculation (101 cons and swindles),  gunslingers (10 feet tall), stage coach rides (horrible), and a journey to Hawaii.  Hilarious.

Twain is a bad man.