The Power of Wealth

A man was strolling through the woods in Yorkshire. He had in his possession a knife. He decided to try throwing the knife at a tree, with a singular lack of success, when two policemen appeared. They arrested him and questioned him closely as to who he was, where he had got the knife, what was he doing and where he was staying. When the policemen discovered he was a guest of a very wealthy local banker they let the man go, with good wishes.

The man later reflected on the perennial temptation to a shameful admiration of wealth which has distorted and poisoned our police. He wrote

We have to keep watch ourselves. The power of wealth, and that power is vilest, is increasing in the modern world. A very good and just people…might not need to make clear rules and systems to guard themselves against the power of our great financiers. But that is because a very just people would have shot them long ago from mere native good feeling.

That incident was not written about any of today’s great financiers. Messrs Murdoch, Branson, Sugar, Goodwin, Hester, Abramovitch and the rest were not in the writer of that passage’s contemplation. Indeed they were not yet born. The writer was G K Chesterton and the passage written ninety years ago.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

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