Mark: As it happens, I have just been reading Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men on the Bummel, follow-up to the late-Victorian humor classic Three Men in a Boat. “Bummel” is the German word for a stroll or jaunt, and in this sequel the three lads go for a cycling tour in Germany in the late 1890s. The great German welfare state was already in place, and much admired by “progressives” everywhere — Bertrand Russell’s first book dealt with it. Jerome was more skeptical:
“You get yourself born,” says the German government to the German citizen, “we do the rest. Indoors and out of doors, in sickness and in health, in pleasure and in work, we will tell you what to do, and we will see to it that you do it. Don’t you worry yourself about anything.”
And the German doesn’t. Where there is no policeman to be found, he wanders about till he comes to a police notice posted on a wall. This he reads; then he goes and does what it says.
How’d that work out for Germany?
[P.S. Roger Kimball introduced me to the following ditty:
Said Jerome K. Jerome to Ford Maddox Ford
“There’s something, old boy, that I’ve always abhorred:
When people address me and call me ‘Jerome,’
Are they being standoffish, or too much at home?”
Said Ford, “I agree;
It’s the same thing with me.”
You get bonus points on reading this post if you know — no googling! — what the “K” in “Jerome K. Jerome” stands for.]