Thursday, June 17, 2010

City Of Pigs

The Ancient offered a link to the transcript of a speech by Niall Ferguson at the Institute for International Economics, where incidentally FLG would probably work for free if he didn't have a mortgage and bills and whathaveyou, and this section stuck out:
PIGS are us, ladies and gentlemen, and it really is no consolation to say, but at least we’re not in a monetary union with the Germans, and we can therefore print our way out of this. I don’t find it very reassuring to imagine us printing our way out of a crisis of public debt, because we’ve done that sort of thing in the past, and unless you’ve got a very short memory, you’ll remember where it got us.

Now, PIGS in this case means Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain, but it reminded me, probably unsurprisingly, of Plato's Republic:
But, said Glaucon, interposing, you have not given them a relish to their meal.

True, I replied, I had forgotten; of course they must have a relish-salt, and olives, and cheese, and they will boil roots and herbs such as country people prepare; for a dessert we shall give them figs, and peas, and beans; and they will roast myrtle-berries and acorns at the fire, drinking in moderation. And with such a diet they may be expected to live in peace and health to a good old age, and bequeath a similar life to their children after them.

Yes, Socrates, he said, and if you were providing for a city of pigs, how else would you feed the beasts?

But what would you have, Glaucon? I replied.

Why, he said, you should give them the ordinary conveniences of life. People who are to be comfortable are accustomed to lie on sofas, and dine off tables, and they should have sauces and sweets in the modern style.

Yes, I said, now I understand: the question which you would have me consider is, not only how a State, but how a luxurious State is created; and possibly there is no harm in this, for in such a State we shall be more likely to see how justice and injustice originate. In my opinion the true and healthy constitution of the State is the one which I have described. But if you wish also to see a State at fever heat, I have no objection. For I suspect that many will not be satisfied with the simpler way of way They will be for adding sofas, and tables, and other furniture; also dainties, and perfumes, and incense, and courtesans, and cakes, all these not of one sort only, but in every variety; we must go beyond the necessaries of which I was at first speaking, such as houses, and clothes, and shoes: the arts of the painter and the embroiderer will have to be set in motion, and gold and ivory and all sorts of materials must be procured.

True, he said.

Then we must enlarge our borders; for the original healthy State is no longer sufficient.

1 comment:

The Ancient said...

Look at what NF says in the Q&A regarding the implications of his analysis for investment strategy.

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