Extreme self-lovers will set a man’s house on fire, tho’ it were but
to roast their eggs.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Ornamenta Rationalia

Thus spoke the Baron of Verulam, Viscount St Alban and Lord High Chancellor of England, whose Novum Organum is one of the principal landmarks of the scientific revolution. There is hardly a more apt phrase to describe the behaviour of most contemporary politicians and so-called leaders of public and private affairs, including business managers and journalists. And to compound the crime, hubris is added to such extreme self-serving egoism.

Obviously Greece is the most advanced example (after all they invented the word hubris), but it would be wrong to believe that the rest of Europe is not affected. Infected. Neither is the South any worse than the North! Within two years of privatisation in the Thatcher era, the managements of the british water companies had multiplied their own salaries by two or more (and raised the price of water noticeably). Some (many?) belgian politicians are willing today to burn down Belgium for their own political advantage with the dividing line being drawn by language. Now, if that isn’t roasting eggs! And the destructive forces of the extreme right and nationalist parties, which have been on the rise from Greece to Denmark, through Hungary or the Netherlands (to name the most visible countries) scrupulously follow that track.

David Cameron’s shameful tack on Europe is in the same league. But then I suppose it just proves that Britain really joined Europe in order to destroy it from the inside, as Sir Humphrey cynically explained to Jim Hacker on the marvelous Yes Minister BBC series.

Gone is the capitalism of the ‘protestant ethic’ of Max Weber or that defended by ‘le Père Bruck’ in his Le capitalisme: mais c’est la vie!, regrettably long out of print. The necessary fuel of capitalism is profit. And profit is what keeps a nation into money, the money necessary to keep the social machinery of work, education, security, culture &c. running more or less smoothly. But all we have today is pure, unadulterated greed at all levels, private and public. The continuous stream of books published on management and business ethics, or public for that matter, just serves to pay lip service to long-forgotten virtues. They have no more effect than the useless laws « for show » voted by parliaments whose left hand strenuously ignores what the right hand is doing in the till.

« Après moi, le déluge! » may be apocryphal, but it certainly is the most popular secret motto of all the high gentlemen.

Recommended reading (and watching):   (All links Amazon)

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and you might also consider Perry Miller’s classic account of The New England Mind

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