Archives for 31 January 2015

McStudge’s guide to capitalism

Reposted from a comment on The Passive Voice, in response to a discussion on Amazon, and why consumers hate and fear it so. (This remark may possibly have been made with the tongue somewhere in the vicinity of the cheek.)

Well, that’s capitalism for you.

You see, my poppets, under the capitalist system, the Wicked Capitalist (who always wears a top hat and a waxed moustache, like Snidely Whiplash; that is how you recognize him) gets his money by forcibly abducting Sweet Cathy Consumer and tying her to the railroad tracks in front of an onrushing locomotive: on which, for reasons not yet fully understood, is mounted a furiously whirling buzz saw. Nobody ever buys anything voluntarily, you see; it is all done by force and fraud. And of course Snidely twirls his moustache whilst he is doing it. That bit is Very Important.

All genuinely cultured and caring persons, including (it goes without saying) Great Authors and the Great Publishers who graciously permit them to live on leftover dog kibble, and occasionally on even richer and more Lucullan repasts than this, believe that there is a far more enlightened system, under which Sweet Cathy Consumer gives all her money to a Wise and Benevolent Bureaucracy, which then spends it for her on the Things That Really Matter (such as dog kibble for the right kind of Great Authors, and Mercedes-Benzes for the bureaucrats). Of course, if Sweet Cathy is insufficiently public-spirited (as, for some perverse reason, she almost always is), the Wise and Benevolent Bureaucrats will themselves have to resort to the locomotive and buzz saw to get her money out of her. But this is totally different from when a Wicked Capitalist does it, because, you see, it is All For Her Own Good and the Good of Society. Also the Benevolent Bureaucrats are clean-shaven, so they do not twirl their moustaches.

Just remember, nobody ever bought anything voluntarily from Evil Amazon. Then, my poppets, you will be properly educated so as to swallow the rest of the stories we require you to believe.

   H. Smiggy McStudge

One definition of knowledge

The way the word knowledge is used by many intellectuals often arbitrarily limits what verified information is to be considered knowledge. This arbitrary limitation of the scope of the word was expressed in a parody verse about Benjamin Jowett, master of Balliol College at Oxford University:

First come I; my name is Jowett.
There’s no knowledge but I know it.
I am master of this college:
What I don’t know isn’t knowledge.

—Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Society

(The ‘parody verse’ is generally attributed to Henry Beeching. I have here substituted the original for Sowell’s paraphrase, because the original scans better.)