“The creatures see of flood and field,
And those that travel on the wind!
With them no strife can last; they live
In peace, and peace of mind.
“For why?—because the good old rule
Sufficeth them, the simple plan,
That they should take, who have the power,
And they should keep who can.
“A lesson that is quickly learned,
A signal this which all can see!
Thus nothing here provokes the strong
To wanton cruelty.”
—William Wordsworth, Rob Roy’s Grave, 1803
Is not that, broadly, and in the main features, the kind of thing you propose to yourselves? It is very pretty indeed, seen from above; not at all so pretty, seen from below. For, observe, while to one family this deity is indeed the Goddess of Getting-on, to a thousand families she is the Goddess of not Getting-on. “Nay,” you say, “they have all their chance.” Yes, so has every one in a lottery, but there must always be the same number of blanks. “Ah! but in a lottery it is not skill and intelligence which take the lead, but blind chance.” What then! do you think the old practice, that “they should take who have the power, and they should keep who can,” is less iniquitous, when the power has become power of brains instead of fist? and that, though we may not take advantage of a child’s or a woman’s weakness, we may of a man’s foolishness? “Nay, but finally, work must be done, and some one must be at the top, some one at the bottom.” Granted, my friends. Work must always be, and captains of work must always be; and if you in the least remember the tone of any of my writings, you must know that they are thought unfit for this age, because they are always insisting on need of government, and speaking with scorn of liberty. But I beg you to observe that there is a wide difference between being captains or governors of work, and taking the profits of it. It does not follow, because you are general of an army, that you are to take all the treasure, or land, it wins (if it fight for treasure or land); neither, because you are king of a nation, that you are to consume all the profits of the nation’s work. Real kings, on the contrary, are known invariably by their doing quite the reverse of this,—by their taking the least possible quantity of the nation’s work for themselves. There is no test of real kinghood so infallible as that. Does the crowned creature live simply, bravely, unostentatiously? probably he is a King. Does he cover his body with jewels, and his table with delicates? in all probability he is not a King. It is possible he may be, as Solomon was; but that is when the nation shares his splendor with him. Solomon made gold, not only to be in his own palace as stones, but to be in Jerusalem as stones. But even so, for the most part, these splendid kinghoods expire in ruin, and only the true kinghoods live, which are of royal laborers governing loyal laborers; who, both leading rough lives, establish the true dynasties. Conclusively you will find that because you are king of a nation, it does not follow that you are to gather for yourself all the wealth of that nation; neither, because you are king of a small part of the nation, and lord over the means of its maintenance—over field, or mill, or mine,—you are to take all the produce of that piece of the foundation of national existence for yourself.
—John Ruskin, The Crown of Wild Olive, 1866
Applications: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.