Hyperions to Satyrs

by John Derbyshire


Sad to remember that the Anglosphere once — and not so very long ago — did have an ethic of selfless public service.

From We Are Doomed, Chapter 12:

Yet these tremendous emoluments are quite a new thing. When Harry Truman left office in 1953, he had no income but his army pension of $112.56 a month. He had to take out a bank loan while negotiating a deal to write his memoirs. That was the way of things all over the Anglosphere. It was part of the tradition of modest Anglo-Saxon government. When Bob Menzies, Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister, left office in 1966 after 18 years in power, having given up a lucrative legal career for politics, he could not afford to buy a house in Melbourne. (Some wealthy supporters eventually put up funds for a house in a respectable suburb.) As late as 1980, I am told, the Prime Minister of New Zealand had his domestic telephone number listed in the phone book. Farmers used to call him up and grumble about the price of sheep dip.

It all seems like a long time ago. Now government is the royal road to wealth.

Indeed it is. And when you compare the characters of Truman and Menzies with those of, say, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, it’s hard not to agree with Hamlet’s Dad: “what a falling-off was there!”

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