Kings, Court and Civil Servants

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 7th, 2014

History 101

(Originally published June 4th, 2013)

King Louis XVI became the Face of the Ancien Régime during a Period of Great Debt from Decades of War

“It’s good to be the king.”  For you can pretty much do anything you want.  Right up to the point your subjects go French Revolution all over your ass.

“It’s good to be the king” was a constant refrain in the classic Mel Brooks movie History of the World: Part I.  During the French Revolution the people arrested King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette.  And sent them both to the guillotine.  Even though Louis was not really that bad of a king.  Certainly not like Mel Brooks portrayed him in his movie.  He even tried to modernize France with Enlightenment ideals.  And made America’s independence from Great Britain possible.

Louis had some faults.  But it was more bad timing.  Being the face of the Ancien Régime during a period of great debt from decades of war.  High taxes.  And the occasional famine.  The people had suffered for a long time.  In large part thanks to Louis’ predecessor.  Who fought a lot of wars.  And ran up a lot of debt.  While losing most of New France to Great Britain.  Losing a source of wealth and income just as the bill for all those wars were coming due.

Court was where all the Movers and Shakers Gathered

King Louis XIV (aka, Louis the Great; aka, the Sun King) ruled for 72 years and 110 days.  One of the longest reigns in European history.  He believed in the divine right of kings.  Which stated kings answered to no one but God.  Louis XIV created one of the most powerful absolute monarchies in Europe.  He transformed the Palace of Versailles into one of the largest and most lavish palaces in the world.  And moved his court there.  Where it remained
until the French Revolution.

The king’s court was an extended household.  Where the king’s blood family lived.  And all the bureaucrats that helped him run his personal life.  And his kingdom.  For not only is it good to be the king it can be very exhausting to be the king.  Officials took care of business at court.  World leaders sent their ambassadors to court to handle their international business.  And officials from around the country went to court to settle domestic business.  Court was where all the movers and shakers gathered.  And the Palace of Versailles was home to a lot of treaty writing.

This required a large palace to accommodate these people.  And a lavish one to impress them.  To make their image abroad more glorious.  These people needed spaces to live in.  And food to eat.  As did the king.  Who had the finest quarters.  And when he got up in the morning he did not make his own bed.  One of the thousands of his servants attended to that.  For running one of the world’s largest palaces took a lot of servants.  And a lot of organization.

It is Good for your Career to be Close to, and Loyal to, the Person who holds the most Power in the Land

As households grew larger nobles and royals established household offices.  And a big part of these larger households and courts was feeding the people.  Kitchens had a pantry for foods and a buttery for beverages.  A pantler ran the office of the pantry.  And a butler ran the office of the buttery.  Beneath these were other offices.  At the top in charge of managing the household was the chamberlain.  Some of these were positions with a lot of responsibility.  But, surprisingly, some other positions people probably wouldn’t want today were even more powerful.

The cup bearer was very intimate with the king.  And was someone the king trusted with his life.  For the cup bearer served the king drinks at the royal table.  With there always being someone who wanted to kill the king someone had to make sure that didn’t happen through poison in the king’s cup.  Sometimes, just to be sure, he had to drink from the king’s cup before the king did.  To prove it was poison-free.  Making the cup bearer one of the closest confidants of the king.

Then there was the groom of the stool.  The most intimate of the king’s servants.  Who spent time with the king while he was on the toilet.  And de-soiled the king’s bottom after a royal poop.  Only the most trustworthy people could be the groom of the stool.  For no one was closer to the king.  Who knew the king’s secrets.  Because he heard them directly from the king.  And people feared him.  For he could tell the king anything they said or did.  Making this one of the most coveted positions in the king’s court.

When the United States won their independence from Great Britain the king was no longer sovereign.  The people were.  So the king’s court became our civil servants today.  But they don’t physically wipe the president’s bottom these days.  Today they just kiss it.  Figuratively, of course.  Because despite the changes it is still good for your career to be close to, and loyal to, the person who holds the most power in the land.

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Kings, Court and Civil Servants

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 27th, 2013

History 101

(Originally published June 4th, 2013)

King Louis XVI became the Face of the Ancien Régime during a Period of Great Debt from Decades of War

“It’s good to be the king.”  For you can pretty much do anything you want.  Right up to the point your subjects go French Revolution all over your ass.

“It’s good to be the king” was a constant refrain in the classic Mel Brooks movie History of the World: Part I.  During the French Revolution the people arrested King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette.  And sent them both to the guillotine.  Even though Louis was not really that bad of a king.  Certainly not like Mel Brooks portrayed him in his movie.  He even tried to modernize France with Enlightenment ideals.  And made America’s independence from Great Britain possible.

Louis had some faults.  But it was more bad timing.  Being the face of the Ancien Régime during a period of great debt from decades of war.  High taxes.  And the occasional famine.  The people had suffered for a long time.  In large part thanks to Louis’ predecessor.  Who fought a lot of wars.  And ran up a lot of debt.  While losing most of New France to Great Britain.  Losing a source of wealth and income just as the bill for all those wars were coming due.

Court was where all the Movers and Shakers Gathered

King Louis XIV (aka, Louis the Great; aka, the Sun King) ruled for 72 years and 110 days.  One of the longest reigns in European history.  He believed in the divine right of kings.  Which stated kings answered to no one but God.  Louis XIV created one of the most powerful absolute monarchies in Europe.  He transformed the Palace of Versailles into one of the largest and most lavish palaces in the world.  And moved his court there.  Where it remained until the French Revolution.

The king’s court was an extended household.  Where the king’s blood family lived.  And all the bureaucrats that helped him run his personal life.  And his kingdom.  For not only is it good to be the king it can be very exhausting to be the king.  Officials took care of business at court.  World leaders sent their ambassadors to court to handle their international business.  And officials from around the country went to court to settle domestic business.  Court was where all the movers and shakers gathered.  And the Palace of Versailles was home to a lot of treaty writing.

This required a large palace to accommodate these people.  And a lavish one to impress them.  To make their image abroad more glorious.  These people needed spaces to live in.  And food to eat.  As did the king.  Who had the finest quarters.  And when he got up in the morning he did not make his own bed.  One of the thousands of his servants attended to that.  For running one of the world’s largest palaces took a lot of servants.  And a lot of organization.

It is Good for your Career to be Close to, and Loyal to, the Person who holds the most Power in the Land

As households grew larger nobles and royals established household offices.  And a big part of these larger households and courts was feeding the people.  Kitchens had a pantry for foods and a buttery for beverages.  A pantler ran the office of the pantry.  And a butler ran the office of the buttery.  Beneath these were other offices.  At the top in charge of managing the household was the chamberlain.  Some of these were positions with a lot of responsibility.  But, surprisingly, some other positions people probably wouldn’t want today were even more powerful.

The cup bearer was very intimate with the king.  And was someone the king trusted with his life.  For the cup bearer served the king drinks at the royal table.  With there always being someone who wanted to kill the king someone had to make sure that didn’t happen through poison in the king’s cup.  Sometimes, just to be sure, he had to drink from the king’s cup before the king did.  To prove it was poison-free.  Making the cup bearer one of the closest confidants of the king.

Then there was the groom of the stool.  The most intimate of the king’s servants.  Who spent time with the king while he was on the toilet.  And de-soiled the king’s bottom after a royal poop.  Only the most trustworthy people could be the groom of the stool.  For no one was closer to the king.  Who knew the king’s secrets.  Because he heard them directly from the king.  And people feared him.  For he could tell the king anything they said or did.  Making this one of the most coveted positions in the king’s court.

When the United States won their independence from Great Britain the king was no longer sovereign.  The people were.  So the king’s court became our civil servants today.  But they don’t physically wipe the president’s bottom these days.  Today they just kiss it.  Figuratively, of course.  Because despite the changes it is still good for your career to be close to, and loyal to, the person who holds the most power in the land.

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Kings, Court and Civil Servants

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 4th, 2013

History 101

King Louis XVI became the Face of the Ancien Régime during a Period of Great Debt from Decades of War

“It’s good to be the king.”  For you can pretty much do anything you want.  Right up to the point your subjects go French Revolution all over your ass.

“It’s good to be the king” was a constant refrain in the classic Mel Brooks movie History of the World: Part I.  During the French Revolution the people arrested King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette.  And sent them both to the guillotine.  Even though Louis was not really that bad of a king.  Certainly not like Mel Brooks portrayed him in his movie.  He even tried to modernize France with Enlightenment ideals.  And made America’s independence from Great Britain possible.

Louis had some faults.  But it was more bad timing.  Being the face of the Ancien Régime during a period of great debt from decades of war.  High taxes.  And the occasional famine.  The people had suffered for a long time.  In large part thanks to Louis’ predecessor.  Who fought a lot of wars.  And ran up a lot of debt.  While losing most of New France to Great Britain.  Losing a source of wealth and income just as the bill for all those wars were coming due.

Court was where all the Movers and Shakers Gathered

King Louis XIV (aka, Louis the Great; aka, the Sun King) ruled for 72 years and 110 days.  One of the longest reigns in European history.  He believed in the divine right of kings.  Which stated kings answered to no one but God.  Louis XIV created one of the most powerful absolute monarchies in Europe.  He transformed the Palace of Versailles into one of the largest and most lavish palaces in the world.  And moved his court there.  Where it remained until the French Revolution.

The king’s court was an extended household.  Where the king’s blood family lived.  And all the bureaucrats that helped him run his personal life.  And his kingdom.  For not only is it good to be the king it can be very exhausting to be the king.  Officials took care of business at court.  World leaders sent their ambassadors to court to handle their international business.  And officials from around the country went to court to settle domestic business.  Court was where all the movers and shakers gathered.  And the Palace of Versailles was home to a lot of treaty writing.

This required a large palace to accommodate these people.  And a lavish one to impress them.  To make their image abroad more glorious.  These people needed spaces to live in.  And food to eat.  As did the king.  Who had the finest quarters.  And when he got up in the morning he did not make his own bed.  One of the thousands of his servants attended to that.  For running one of the world’s largest palaces took a lot of servants.  And a lot of organization.

It is Good for your Career to be Close to, and Loyal to, the Person who holds the most Power in the Land

As households grew larger nobles and royals established household offices.  And a big part of these larger households and courts was feeding the people.  Kitchens had a pantry for foods and a buttery for beverages.  A pantler ran the office of the pantry.  And a butler ran the office of the buttery.  Beneath these were other offices.  At the top in charge of managing the household was the chamberlain.  Some of these were positions with a lot of responsibility.  But, surprisingly, some other positions people probably wouldn’t want today were even more powerful.

The cup bearer was very intimate with the king.  And was someone the king trusted with his life.  For the cup bearer served the king drinks at the royal table.  With there always being someone who wanted to kill the king someone had to make sure that didn’t happen through poison in the king’s cup.  Sometimes, just to be sure, he had to drink from the king’s cup before the king did.  To prove it was poison-free.  Making the cup bearer one of the closest confidants of the king.

Then there was the groom of the stool.  The most intimate of the king’s servants.  Who spent time with the king while he was on the toilet.  And de-soiled the king’s bottom after a royal poop.  Only the most trustworthy people could be the groom of the stool.  For no one was closer to the king.  Who knew the king’s secrets.  Because he heard them directly from the king.  And people feared him.  For he could tell the king anything they said or did.  Making this one of the most coveted positions in the king’s court.

When the United States won their independence from Great Britain the king was no longer sovereign.  The people were.  So the king’s court became our civil servants today.  But they don’t physically wipe the president’s bottom these days.  Today they just kiss it.  Figuratively, of course.  Because despite the changes it is still good for your career to be close to, and loyal to, the person who holds the most power in the land.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #52: “The political right is usually right.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 8th, 2011

Sitting in the French Legislative Assembly and Defining Future Politics

In politics we hear a lot about the Left and the Right.  What does that mean?  Where did these terms come from?  Probably the French Revolution.  So we need a small primer on the French Revolution.  So here goes. 

In late 18th century France, in the Ancien Régime (before the French Revolution), there were three main groups of people.  They called these the estates of the realm.  The First Estate was the clergy of the Catholic Church.  The Second Estate was the nobility (less the king).  And the Third Estate was everyone else (approximately 98% of the population).  The first two estates were exempt from most taxation and lived well and had full bellies.  The Third Estate paid the bulk of taxes, lived horribly and suffered a famine or two.

Well, this caused tensions.  The poor were deplorably poor and hungry.  Compounding this problem was the near constant state of war between France and Great Britain.  That and financing the American Revolution was bankrupting the Ancien Régime.  The régime had nothing to give to the poor and hungry.  So the poor and hungry revolted.  They met in the French Legislative Assembly of 1791 to debate the future of France.  Those in favor of the monarchy and the old order sat on the right.  The radicals who wanted to overthrow the old order sat on the left.

Right and Left become Conservative and Liberal

So that’s a brief lesson on the origins of the political labels ‘Left’ and ‘Right’.  They weren’t political parties.  They were just seating arrangements.  In those days, the Left were liberals.  Similar to our Founding Fathers.  In the classical sense of liberalism (it meant something completely different then than it does today).  Basically, the Left said the old ways just ain’t working anymore and it’s time to try something new.  The Right, on the other hand, was worried about losing their privileges.  As well as the potential chaos that could result from trying something new.  And for good reason.  The French Revolution got a little chaotic.  And a little bloody.

Since then the labels kind of morphed into new meanings.  Right and Left have become synonymous with conservatism and liberalism (or Progressivism, Socialism, Communism, Marxism, etc.).  Conservatives (the Right) believe in individual liberty, limited government, laissez-faire capitalism, low taxes, free trade, little business regulation, etc.  Liberals (the Left) believe in Big Government to redistribute the wealth, high taxes, strict controls on capitalism and business, oppose free trade and believes business operates best (and most fair) when ‘partnered’ with government.

So, to simplify, on the right you will find capitalists.  On the left you will find anti-capitalists.  On the right, people decide what’s best.  On the left, government decides what’s best.  On the right you keep more of your paycheck and buy what you want.  On the left you keep less of your paycheck so others can buy what they want.  And so on.

Free Markets and Planned Markets

The Right believes in free markets.  That if left alone, free markets will maximize employment and living standards.  The Right doesn’t believe that any one person is smarter than the collective of millions of individual decision makers in the free market.  The free market is always win-win.  When two people agree on an economic decision, they both prosper.  The seller gets what they value more (money).  And the buyer gets what they value more (what they bought).  When everyone is choosing what they value most in the free market, economic activity explodes.  This creates jobs.  Workers earn money to buy goods and services.  And taxes at low tax rates paid by the multitude of businesses and individuals swell the public treasury.

The Left, on the other hand, believe a free market economy is inefficient.  They prefer a planned economy.  They want to mettle.  To tinker.  To help people make economic decisions by regulating markets.  Enacting targeting taxing and targeting tax cuts.  To make us buy what they think we should buy (electric cars, for example).  And they think free markets are woefully unfair.  Because poor people can’t buy as much as rich people.  So they want to tax the rich to redistribute their wealth to the poor.  They call this stimulative.  Giving away other people’s money.  So other people can spend that money.  (So if you’re keeping score, net spending doesn’t change.  Just who is spending the money changes).

There’s a lot more to these political labels Left and Right.  But this will suffice for our purposes.  You will see more mature and elderly people on the right.  And more younger people on the left.  Remember the expression from the hippy counter-culture in the Sixties?  Never trust anyone over thirty?   You know who was saying this?  Inexperienced and ignorant young people.  Young college students who learned a thing or two from a radical professor.  You didn’t see many family breadwinners in the counter-culture movement.  Just a lot of people who hadn’t grown up yet or worked a job or raised a family.

Age, Experience and Family tend to make you Conservative

And so it is today.  The Left depends on the young.  That’s why they lowered the voting age to 18.  To get these people who haven’t experienced the real world yet to support things that sound good.  Yes, we should pay more taxes for a better education.  Of course, what the young don’t know is that they’ve been saying this for the last 50 years or so.  And the quality of our education has gotten worse.  Not better.  That’s why the older and more experienced voter tends to vote against these tax increases.  Not because they hate kids.  But because they’ve seen throughout their life that throwing money at education hasn’t helped any student.  Only the public school bureaucracy.

When you’re young and stupid you tend to think about today.  Your emotions easily sway you.  And your passions.  Your thoughts focus on having fun in the sun.  Going to a club.  Dating.  It’s a little different when you have a family.  You think about other things then.  Your kids’ school.  Paying a mortgage.  Putting money aside for your kids’ college education.  Putting money aside for your retirement.  Those kinds of things.  And, incidentally, those things require a good-paying job.  And tax rates that aren’t so onerous that you can’t afford those things you want for your family.

That’s why we call these people on the right conservative.  They’re not too keen on change.  Because they have a lot of responsibilities.  And they’ve made commitments to meet those responsibilities.  It’s one thing to be footloose and fancy free and have radical thoughts.  I mean, what have you to lose?  But it’s quite another thing when you do have something to lose.  Any by that time in your life, when you’re making a pretty good living, you’re paying quite a bit in taxes.  Unlike those young radicals.  You have skin in the game.  They don’t.  They are, in fact, gambling with your money.  Those radical changes (health care for everyone, taxing the ‘rich’, carbon taxes to end global warming, etc.) they’re fighting for won’t impact their lives much.  They’re not paying the taxes.  Yet.  You are.  But those things will impact your life.  So much so that they may alter your life.  You may have to make a choice between a college education for your kids.  Or a comfortable retirement.

Radicals tend to Live in the Heat of the Moment while Conservatives look beyond the Moment

Part of the reason those on the right stood with their king in France was that they saw the danger in radical change.  The breakdown of institutions.   Of tradition.  Things that they knew worked.  Things that made France a great empire.  There may have been problems.  Some inequities.  But the collapse of the old regime may unleash chaos and violence.  Back then, that’s how power changed.  Through chaos and violence.  And sometimes an imperfect system is better than chaos and violence.

Over in America, a group of liberal radicals led their revolution.  But once they won their independence from Great Britain they got very conservative indeed.  In fact, they called some of the Founding Fathers ‘too British’.  Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jay, to name a few, where attacked for letting down the spirit of ’76.  There were still a lot of passions in the states.  Still a bit of a civil war going on in the south between Patriot and Loyalist.  But it was time for the grownups to step in to win the peace.  Even if they were perceived as being too British.

Radicals are quick to point out your failings.  But they don’t often have the wisdom or experience to see the big picture.  They live in the heat of the moment.  And often act bold and impertinently.  Whereas wisdom and experience tend to make you act with restraint.  To be conservative.  To see beyond the moment.  Because some of the established institutions and traditions have worked.  And even have defined a people.

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