Friday, October 10, 2003

I came across this commentary on Kipling's "Peace of Dives". I hadn't read the poem before, and it's decent, typical Kipling. It also sums up the capitalist-libertarian ideal pretty well. What's dispiriting (and the blogger in question didn't make the catch) was that Kipling was talking about, and writing during, the great Edward peace that came before the Great War. Kipling's argument in the poem is "don't worry about selling all the tools of Satan; the trade itself will keep those tools from ever being used", and that, indeed, describes the British attitude towards munition sales in that period. The world was blanketed with British and German and French munitions salesmen. But Kipling's "wager of Dives" turned out to be a sucker's bet, and the iron chains of trade turned to smoke the second the mobilizations orders were issued. Nationalist fervor was more than enough to overwhelm economic self-interest in Kipling's own time, and "There was never squadron loosed" was shown to be an empty boast. He'd go on to write brave words about "the Minesweepers" and "the Destroyers".

Thanks to Michael Totten for bringing Christopher Luebcke to my attention.

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