Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Marie-Antionette and Entitlement Programs

My brother, David, posted an interesting comment on my last blog about Marie-Antionette, the Austrian born aristocrat who donated her head to french peasant science.

Gary Martin provides the following history of the phrase, "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" or "let them eat cake."

The origin of many phrases in English are unknown. Nevertheless, many people would say that they know the source of this one. It is widely attributed to Marie-Antoinette (1755-93), the Queen consort of Louis XVI. She is supposed to have said this when she was told that the French populace had no bread to eat.

The original French is Qu'ils mangent de la brioche. It has been suggested that the speaker's intention wasn't as cynical as is generally supposed. French law required bakers to sell loaves at fixed prices and fancy loaves had to be sold at the same price as basic breads. This was aimed at preventing bakers from selling just the more profitable expensive products. The let them eat brioche (a form of cake made of flour, butter and eggs) would have been a sensible suggestion in the face of a flour shortage as it would have allowed the poor to eat what would otherwise have been unaffordable. It's rather a mouthful, so to speak, but if the phrase had been reported as 'let them buy cake at the same price as bread' we might now think better of the French nobility.

Two notable contemporaries of Marie-Antoinette - Louis XVIII and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, attribute the phrase to another source. In Louis XVIII's memoir Relation d'un voyage a Bruxelles et d Coblentz (1791) he states that the phrase 'Que ne mangent-ils de la croûte de pâté?' (Why don't they eat pastry?) was used by Marie-Thérèse (1638-83), the wife of Louis XIV. That account was published almost a century after Marie-Thérèse's death though, so it must be treated with some caution.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau's 12-volume autobiographical work Confessions, was written in 1770. In Book 6, which was written around 1767, he recalls:

At length I recollected the thoughtless saying of a great princess, who, on being informed that the country people had no bread, replied, "Then let them eat pastry!"

Marie-Antoinette arrived at Versailles from her native Austria in 1770, two or three years after Rousseau had written the above passage. Whoever the 'great princess' was - possibly Marie-Thérèse, it wasn't Marie-Antoinette.

Her reputation as an indulgent socialite is difficult to shake, but it appears to be unwarranted and is a reminder that history is written by the victors. She was known to have said "It is quite certain that in seeing the people who treat us so well despite their own misfortune, we are more obliged than ever to work hard for their happiness". Nevertheless, the French revolutionaries thought even less of her than we do today and she was guillotined to death in 1793 for the crime of treason. (

Regardless of the originator of the phrase, it has become synonymous in modern nomenclature with entitlement. And politicians are great at promising hungry constituents that they can have more for less. Let them eat cake! Of course the elephant in the corner is who's going to pay for all this? Don't worry, let them eat cake! We can always adopt the philosophy of "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." That seemed to work out well for Russia.

The truth is we can't have it all. We have to live with contraints and choices. I don't want a government that promises to take care of my every need. It can't be done.

I don't know about you, but maybe bringing back the guillotine for lying politicians wouldn't be such a bad idea.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cure for What Ails You

I don't know about the rest of you, but this year has left me feeling more and more depressed. The state of the economy, the state of politics -- I can hardly stand it!

So, I've taken some advice to turn off the news and find pleasure in something that I can control.

I put together a playlist that I call "Guitar Heroes", things like "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple, "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin, "Comfortably Numb" by Pink Floyd, "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and "More than a Feelin'" by Boston. Songs that have some of the very best guitar riffs of all time. At lunch I pop on my iPod, crank up the tunes and head out on my mountain bike. I make for some of my favorite single tracks in the foothills of Provo Canyon and I ride until my heartrate maxes at 100%. I become, in essence, comfortably numb.

I find that after an hour of hard riding I'm pretty much too tired to care about what's going on in the world.

At night I'll sit down with the family and play a board game or watch the world series or go to a lacrosse match to watch Candice or Colin. Maybe it's irresponsible to disengage but I need my sanity.

Here's my full playlist:
"Smooth", Santana
"Comfortably Numb", Pink Floyd
"Hotel California", The Eagles
"Foreplay/Long Time", Boston
"Stairway to Heaven", Led Zeppelin
"For Whom the Bell Tolls", Metallica
"Iron Man", Ozzy Osbourne
"Freewill", Rush
"Rock You Like a Hurricane", Scorpions
"I Wanna Rock", Twisted Sister
"Hot Blooded", Foreigner
"Rocky Mountain Way", Joe Walsh
"More Than a Feeling", Boston
"Burnin' for You", Blue Oyster Cult
"Bohemian Rhapsody", Queen
"Renegade", Styx
"Smoke on the Water", Deep Purple
"Sweet Home Alabama", Lynyrd Skynyrd
"Crazy Train", Ozzy Osbourne
"Free Bird", Lynyrd Skynyrd
"Purple Haze", Jimi Hendrix
"Sultans of Swing", Dire Straits
"Final Countdown", Europe
"Aint Talkin' 'Bout Love", Van Halen

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rights? Whoa Nellie!

Okay, just as I was dosing off during all the pandering answers of the debate last night, a question was posed that jerked me to attention. The question asked by Tom Brokaw was, "is health care a privilege, a right, or a responsibility?"

Now, the last time I checked, there were three rights listed in the Declaration of Independence: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Additionally, the Bill of Rights in the Constitution lists 10 more. Not one of these lists health care as a Constitutional right of U.S. citizens. I'm not saying that it's not a good thing to provide health care but let's not put the cart before the horse. We do have, after all, a constitution which is the supreme law of the land.

So, John McCain provided probably the most correct answer in that he said it is a responsibility. A compassionate society will find a way to take care of it's citizens. Or, better yet, an employer will take care of his or her valuable employees by providing health care benefits. Barack Obama, on the other hand, said it is a right.

Again, I ask: where is it listed as a right?

Of course, the undecided voters, as measured by the weird lines on the graph below the picture, agreed completely with Mr. Obama.

Perhaps education should be at the top of our "to do" list. And at the top of education, let's teach people about the Constitution. What it is. What's its purpose. Why it's important.

The populist crowd is storming forward. "Let them eat cake!" seems to be the rally cry. Perhaps this was what Joseph Smith saw when he said that the constitution would hang by a thread.

If we have antiquated 20th century banking laws surely our 18th century constitution is antiquated.

Beware. As the 10th amendment states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

ZDRAS-tvuy-te Comrades!

Just getting used to the new greeting. Kind of want to be ahead of the January rush.

Do I really believe that communism is coming?! Of course not! The Lord has said that the people who possess this land will serve God or be swept off! (See Ether 2) So, I believe the land will be purged long before we reach the evils of communism.

But in the mean time, I do see a frightening trend towards socialism. Now, before you write me off as an evil hatemonger let me point out that I believe in helping our fellow citizens of the world. The second great commandment is to love our fellow man. It's the whole compulsion thing that gets me. I mean, wasn't that Lucifer's idea: I'll make sure everyone does exactly what they're supposed to do. A government that compels the people is not a government ordained of God.

As I see it, the constitution of the United States, a document that Latter-Day Saints hold to be inspired by God, clearly limits the role of government to: 1)establish justice, 2)ensure domestic tranquility, 3)provide for the common defense, 4)promote the general welfare, and 5)ensure the blessings of liberty. Well, I see our government doing a whole lot more than that (or, possibly, they're using the whole "promote the general welfare" to mean "nanny state.")

Yet, despite all this, U.S. citizens contribute more to charitable organizations by more than double per capita the next most generous nation, England. So, left to their own (without compulsory means) people will do the right thing without government intervention. And, given the chance, capitalism will always lead to greater prosperity. Not to just a few, but to everyone. Because everyone is free to compete and succeed. Why do so many immigrants succeed in America? Because they know that they are free to do whatever they want, to work hard, and become successful. Opportunities they didn't have to the same extent anywhere else in the world.

I'm not very impressed with any of the candidates this election. But I do feel that we, as citizens, need to stand up and take back the country. We have become lazy, turning our country and freedoms over to professional politicians. And, just like the D&C warns, "We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." (D&C 121:39)

Now, back to the communism thing. Enjoy: