I don't recall where this came from, but it was something I decided needed saving, and happened upon it while going through some files. Certainly applies to today's politics. Enjoy.
The Gods of the Copybook Headings
The title of Rudyard Kipling's poem is obscure today but would have been clear to any educated Englishman of his day. A copybook was a kind of penmanship exercise in which the student copied over and over again a sentence printed in the heading at the top of each page. These copybook headings were usually aphorisms or statements of commonsense wisdom, so Kipling used the Gods of the Copybook Headings as a symbol for basic, immutable truths.
The point of the poem is that the various schemes for "social progress" being promoted at the time—and most of them are still with us today—are based on denying the basic truths represented by the Gods of the Copybook Headings.
Kipling's derisive reference to the "Gods of the Market Place" was not intended as anti-capitalist. "The market" is not short for "the free market," as it is in contemporary parlance. Rather, the "market" refers to the public spaces where people gather to listen to demagogues who promise the impossible and the irrational—the function performed by CNN today.
Which brings us to modern politicians and the collapse of the European welfare state. See if you recognize this warning from Kipling.
That's a concise summary of the inevitable disaster of the welfare state. And more: it names a key part of the mentality behind it—the systematic evasion of basic, obvious truths.
Who thought this was ever going to work? Who thought we could build a society in which an ever-increasing number of citizens are told that they don't have to work and that their needs will be provided for by somebody else—while the burden is shoved onto the shoulders of an ever-smaller, ever-more-despised minority of producers?
That's what Greece did, shifting a huge number of its citizens onto the government payroll and creating a lavish pension scheme in which the average retirement age is 61 and workers in some fields are guaranteed retirement at age 50. When the overloaded private sector could no longer pay for all of this, the Greek government borrowed money to paper over the shortfall—until the Gods of the Copybook Headings caught up with them and their scheme came crashing down.
We're all headed in that direction. A recent report revealed an ominous statistic. And I'm not using "ominous" in the loose, sloppy modern way that just means "vaguely bad." By "ominous," I mean: this is a harbinger of societal collapse.
The statistic? The percentage of income in the US that is derived from government payments—welfare benefits plus government payroll—is reaching an all-time high, while the percentage of income derived from private-sector wages is reaching an all-time low. If I understand the figures in this report, they imply that the government is paying out two dollars in income for every three dollars of private income.
Put simply, the takers are eating up the makers.
At some point—and it's not too far off—there just isn't going to be enough private income to seize to pay for the public income. The system is inherently, mathematically unsustainable. But nobody cares about mathematics. The welfare state is based on denying the truth that two and two make four.
The report linked to above quotes an economist who worries that "People are paid for being rather than for producing." And that's what reminded me of Kipling. His poem concludes by describing what will happen when "the brave new world begins."
That brings us to the motivation for this evasion of reality. It is not just avarice for unearned wealth, as Kipling implies. It is avarice for unearned wealth—combined with a moral code that makes parasitism seem noble. The altruist creed that one man's need gives him a claim on the wealth produced by others is not just an injustice—Kipling describes it as a system that hands out undeserved rewards, while shielding men from punishment for their vices. It is also an attempt to overturn the law of cause and effect. The cause of wealth is production, but the altruist welfare state is built on the assumption that a man's need will bring him wealth, regardless of whether or not he produces anything. In order to maintain a moral code that makes need into the ultimate moral claim—while denigrating as "greed" the virtues of hard work, ambition, and success—the defenders of altruism have to stage a rebellion against reality. In this, they are supported by a whole network of modern intellectuals and philosophers, who tell them that there is no objective truth and that reality is whatever we collectively choose to believe.
But reality is absolute and always asserts itself in the end, with dreadful consequences for those who rebel against it.
If you think that the last line of Kipling's poem, the part about terror and slaughter, is over the top, remember that this poem was written in 1919, when the terror and slaughter of World War I were still fresh. (The Battle of Loos had claimed an Irish Guard named John Kipling, the poet's only son.) Mercifully, Kipling did not live to see the terror and slaughter to come. As for the terror and slaughter this time around, take the riots in Greece—the firebombs thrown at banks in the heart of Athens, burning three employees to death—as a warning.
Let's hope we don't get around to the terror and slaughter here in America. Kipling tells us how we can avoid it.
There are no Gods of the Copybook Headings—not in the literal sense—so it is going to be up to us, those who insist that reality is real and cannot be cheated, to take on their role and limp up to explain it once more.