井底之蛙

10/10/2008

A Blog Post Upon Roast Pig

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 11:04 pm

I was reading a discussion of progressive economics at Progressive Historians and was stopped dead in my tracks by a quote from Henry George

There is a delusion resulting from the tendency to confound the accidental with the essential—a delusion which the law writers have done their best to extend, and political economists generally have acquiesced in, rather than endeavored to expose—that private property in land is necessary to the proper use of land, and that to make land common property would be to destroy civilization and revert to barbarism.

This delusion may be likened to the idea which, according to Charles Lamb, so long prevailed among the Chinese after the savor of roast pork had been accidentally discovered by the burning down of Ho-ti’s hut—that to cook a pig it was necessary to set fire to a house.

I love the analogy, but the reference to it being a long-standing Chinese belief seemed absurd, the kind of offhand “aren’t these exotic people a useful way to demonstrate irrationality” storytelling which was so popular at one time.

It wasn’t too hard to find the original essay by Charles Lamb, a critical figure in English letters who I’m fairly sure I’ve never heard of: “A Dissertation Upon Roast Pork.” The essay begins
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