Commonplace Book: G.K. Chesterton on politicians
Compelling passages, notable quotables, bon mots, disjecta, ephemera, and miscellany.
Our national claim to political incorruptibility on exactly the opposite argument; it is based on the theory that wealthy men in assured positions will have no temptation to financial trickery. Whether the history of the English aristocracy, from the spoliation of the monasteries to the annexation of the mines, entirely supports this theory, that wealth will be a protection against political corruption. The English statesman is bribed not to be bribed. He is born with a silver spoon in his mouth, so that he may never afterwards be found with the silver spoons in his pocket. So strong is our faith in this protection by plutocracy, that we are more and more trusting our empire in the hands of families which inherit wealth without either blood or manners. Some of our political houses are parvenue by pedigree; they hand on vulgarity like a coat-of-arms. In the case of many modern statesman to say that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth is at once inadequate and excessive. He is born with a silver knife in his mouth. But all this only illustrates the English theory that poverty is perilous for a politician.
What’s Wrong with the World, by G[ilbert] C[harles] Chesterton
Ignatius Press reprint (1994). Originally published in 1910 by Dodd, Mead and Company.