Category Archives: prosperity

Seek ye first the political kingdom

and all things shall be added unto you

So said Kwame Nkrumah, first president (1960-66) of independent Ghana, also winner (1962) of the Lenin Peace Prize.

Dalrymple writes that Nkrumah sought and found the political kingdom,

and within a few years his formerly prospering country was bankrupt, obliged to spend several decades trying to recover from his short reign.

Dalrymple points out that

within quite a range of circumstances, purely political action, however necessary it might sometimes be, does not produce the happy economic results expected of it. Prosperity for whole nations or large groups of people cannot simply be conjured by political fiat from a total economic product that already exists. The people themselves must have the attributes necessary to prosper; and no amount of political posturing by their leaders, whether they be self-appointed or democratically elected, will give them those attributes.

Man and nature

Dalrymple notes that

many of the most prosperous and best-governed areas of the world are not at all well-favoured by nature. Man is not at his best when he receives or hopes for something for nothing.

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How to join the 1%

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 12.33.35Theodore Dalrymple answers your questions

Should we wish to be of the 1%?

Wealth as such is not a very elevated aim in life.

What about you, Doctor?

I have never made it my principal aim or goal.

To have a sufficiency, though, is both necessary and gratifying, is it not?

A degree of prosperity is at least some evidence of worldly success — an imprimatur as it were, to which I have never been quite as indifferent as perhaps I ought to have been.

Do you feel wealthy?

Not enough to feel that a new car would not be an unwise extravagance if it were unnecessary.

What do you look for when buying a car?

My main desideratum is that it should start first time in the depths of winter. For many years I owned cars that could not be relied upon to do so.

How did you get into the 1%?

My wife and I lived well below our income for more than 20 years and invested the rest under the guidance of an adviser.

What criteria did you apply in selecting this adviser?

I had no real evidence of his superior financial wisdom, other than that I liked him.

Does such wisdom exist?

I am not convinced that it does.

How would you rate your own judgment in financial matters?

Let me admit that if I had had the misfortune to meet Mr Madoff before his scheme was exposed, I should have trusted him implicitly. He had such a trustworthy face.

What is your pattern of consumption and mode of life?

It does not differ conspicuously from those of many of my peers, except in so far as I have no television and buy many more books than most.

What do you fear?

To be poor — and to end up in the hands of the State, whose charity is simultaneously patronising and heartless, rule-ridden and capricious.

 

Prosperity is not enough

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 08.06.26Dalrymple writes that in High-Rise (1975), J.G. Ballard sets a small civil war in a vast luxury apartment building, where

the regime of trivial disputes and irritations . . . provided [the] only corporate life

of the 2,000 inhabitants.

The character Robert Laing, Dalrymple explains,

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 08.00.42is a doctor who is divorced, like all of Ballard’s protagonists.

This over-priced cell, slotted almost at random into the cliff face of the apartment building, he had bought after his divorce specifically for its peace, quiet and anonymity.

It seems to be part of the modern condition, writes Dalrymple,

that people find difficulty in living together, preferring an isolation in which human contact becomes superficial, fleeting, and primarily instrumental to immediate needs or desires.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 08.04.33Where people have few affective ties

but nonetheless live together in close proximity, the potential for conflict is great.

Though all the residents in the high-rise are well-heeled,

a version of class war breaks out, pitting the residents of the upper floors, who have paid the most for their flats, against those of the lower floors. Boredom and a lack of common purpose provoke aggression, and self-destruction follows.

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