Wednesday, November 12, 2008

201-year-old advice on current issues


What benefit is there to building upon hundreds of years of civilization and literature if our economic advisors and politicians refuse to read and learn from other civilization's mistakes?

"Luxury, Mr Cobbett, blasting, consuming luxury, will be our ruin; and if we do not soon give an example, which has never before, I believe, been given in the world, luxury will make us fall under the overwhelming power of France, and blot us out of the list of nations.

"The great must set an example of heroic self denial, they must give up their splendid, extravagant, and senseless pomp, or the whole nation must suffer for their obstinate blindness; if taxes must be raised for the continuance of the war, they must be raised either by the total abolition of all useless places and pensions, or they must be raised from the fortune of the great exclusively, for the poor and middle ranks are already ground to powder; and if the rich have not prudence, or foresight, or virtue enough to make great sacrifices of luxury to safety, we mast all suffer together, but woe be to them who might have saved us and would not."

Cobbett's Weekly Political Register

Click the image to the right to zoom in, or load up the full version.

If you're interested in more ancient advice and insight along these lines, see the parliamentary debates when England was considering how best, if at all, to return to a resource-based economy in 1819. The parallels to today's fiscal crisis are astonishing; from large bank loans being the popular solution proposed by government, to characters not tainted by a vested interest in that loan standing up in Parliament to plead for sanity; to point out the obvious cons of an economy-based society of debt and scarcity, where labourers are punished for abundance and advances in technology.

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