Wednesday, July 5, 2017

the strange idea.........................

       The bourgeois, voluntary, egalitarian, bettering ideology writ across a society is recent, and therefore cannot be put down to ancient risings of empires and strugglings of classes, or to biological evolution on a scale of centuries.   We did not become rich at the time of the rise of trade, which is paleolithically ancient, or upon the establishment of towns and the agricultural state and the legal protection of real property, which are less ancient but nonetheless many millennia old, or in long times of peace, which has characterized life in economically stagnant places as much as in Europe 1815-1914.   An ideological change did it, and recently.  In northwestern Europe the strange idea grew up that aristocracy (the rule of the best by descent) and theocracy (the rule of priests) and even plutocracy (the rule of the present rich) were all nasty.  What replaced them in people's ideology, slowly, was the rule of the better technique, allowing free entry to compete with the monopolies that the aristocrats or the plutocrats had arranged under the aegis of a captured government.  The new ideology in places like Britain and Belgium around 1800 favored a "betterocracy," or, if you want the pure Greek, a "kaluterocracy."

-Deirdre Nansen McCloskey,   Bourgeois Equality:  How Ideas, Not Capital Of Institutions, Enriched The World

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