September 26, 2005

Douthat Applies Hammer to Nailhead

The context of the quote below is after Douthat describes a Harvard student protest that demanded that janitors and food servers be paid a living wage - up from their then $10.85 an hour. He discusses capitalism's contents and discontents, as well as one large negative concerning the "good old days".

From Privilege:
Of course, the rule of self-interest, which stretches back to John Locke's insistence that God gave the world "to the use of the industrious and rational", has made for a wildly comfortable world - a world in which a simple New England university might be worth nineteen billion dollars and its students might count on earning millions of their own. Even many of the this selfish world's apparent victims, its janitors and food servers and security guards, are victims with color televisions, with stereos and CD players and video games, with riches beyond the ken of an earlier age's servile classes.

But somewhere in the middle of my college years, lost in the dark woods of Harvard, I decided that I wished for a different world. I had no revolutionary program, none of the rage for equality that makes for a modern Marxist. I called myself a conservative still, but I was different from the Republican I had been...I wanted something higher and more romantic than American politics could offer. I decided: something nobler than the Heritage Foundation, more ancient than FOX News. A new form of chivalry, perhaps - but no, I had read Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, like any good conservative, and I knew the age of chivalry was dead and gone. We were doomed, Burke lamented, to inhabit instead the age of "sophisters and economists and calculator," which was as neat a description of 1990s Harvard as you were likely to find.

Of Burke, Thomas Paine once wrote sneeringly that "he laments the plumage, but ignores the dying bird." The remark is telling, a reminder that the world of chivalry was really a world of misery, of disease and death for the countless thousands unlucky in their birth or biology...('Look around you', [a professor] said to the twenty odd students, 'and know this: Maybe four of you would have reached your current age in 1300.')

No comments: