If only this were the place to give details I would, just as Jean-Jacques would have if he had writen in the right place.

“If this were the place to go into details, I would explain how inequality of influence and authority become inevitable among individuals as soon as, being united in the same society, they are forced to compare themselves with one another and to take into account the differences they discover in the continual dealings they have with one another. These differences are of several kinds, but since wealth, nobility or rank, power and personal merit are generally the four principal qualities by which one is measured in society, I would prove that harmony or conflict between these several sorts of distinction is the surest indication of the good and bad constitution of a state. I would show that as between these four kinds of inequality, personal qualities are the origin of all the others, and wealth is the last to which they are all reduced because wealth, being the most immediately useful to wellbeing and the easiest to communicate, can be readily used to buy all the rest – an observation which enables us to judge fairly easily how far each people has distanced itself from its primitive institution, and the progress it has made towards the extreme stage of corruption. I would observe what extent this universal desire for reputation, honours and promotion, which devours us all, exercises and compares talents and strengths; I would show how it excites and multiplies passions, and how, in turning all men into competitors, rivals or rather enemies, it causes every day failures and successes and catastrophies of every sort by making so many contenders run the same course; I would show that this burning desire to be talked about, this yearning for distinction which keeps us almost always in a restless state is responsible for what is best and what is worst among men, for our virtues and our vices, for our science and our mistakes, for our conquerors and our philosophers – that is to say, for a multitude of bad things and very few good things. Finally, I would prove that if one sees a handful of powerful and rich men on the pinnacle of grandeur and fortune, while the crowd grovels below in obscurity and wretchedness, it is because the former value the things they enjoy only to the extent that the others are deprived of them and because, even without changing their condition, they would cease to be happy if the people ceased to be miserable.” P133 Jean-Jacques Rousseau A Discourse on Inequality.

Advertisements