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“We must expect for a long time yet to see capitalists still striving to obtain the highest possible profits. But observe, that the passion for wealth is certainly in some senses new. It grew up very rapidly at the beginning of the present century; it was not so strong in the last century, when men were much more content to lead a quiet easy life of leisure. The change has really influenced the relations between men; but in the future it is quite possible that the scramble for wealth may grow less intense, and a change in the opposite direction take place.” — Arnold Toynbee (1852-1883), Lectures on The Industrial Revolution in England (1884)
Toynbee is described as an Economic Historian. He was an Oxford graduate. And no, he is not his nephew, Arnold Joseph Toynbee, who was a historian. The century he is speaking of was his own, the Nineteenth Century.
This quotation leads me to several observations:
- He must have missed the day his dons spoke about Marcus Licinius Crassus (115 – 53 BC) who was so famously avaricious that after his death in battle his enemies allegedly poured molten gold down his throat to slake his thirst for wealth.
- It is difficult to say whether his prediction is as bad as it sounds, since the weasel words are strong in this one. Has “a long time yet” passed since whenever he was saying or writing this? He died in 1883, which was 137 years ago. Should Bill Gates and Warren Buffet exist? How about Jack Ma? Or are these gentlemen “less intense” than some of their predecessors, such as the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers? Or have things changed several times in the generations since? For instance, the 1960’s counterculture does not seem to have been in a scramble for wealth, but then the 1980’s came along.
- As usual with someone described in Wikipedia as “noted for his social commitment and desire to improve the living conditions of the working classes,” he has no notion of human nature and its permanence.
Ever run across something so egregiously bad that you have to go to Wolfgang Pauli’s “not even wrong” description? This one did it for me. He has so many weasel words that I can’t say that he’s wrong, I just suspect he will never be right.
What has brought you up short in this way?Published in