Learning from history – when wealth accrues to public office, disaster follows | Fin24

Learning from history – when wealth accrues to public office, disaster follows

Jul 18 2016 17:36

By Alec Hogg

For every person alive today, 15 other humans walked the earth before. Scientists believe our predecessors were at least as smart as we are – technology makes progress different.

On a philosophical level, there is much we can learn from dead guys. Including one of my favourites, Benjamin Franklin, the American polymath and Founding Father who died in 1790.

Over the weekend it was my privilege to visit the house in London where Franklin lived for 16 years. While there, Franklin was a central figure in his homeland’s long struggle for independence.

After colonists secured what Franklin described as a victory for virtue and justice, his greatest concern was England, which he loved, hadn’t learnt anything from the war.


The house in London where Benjamin Franklin lived for 16 years. Pic: Alec Hogg

The country’s “great disease”, Franklin said, was its system where the path to wealth and privilege came through public office. This created “avarice and passion” in those wanting and occupying such positions. He warned the English that “as long as riches were attached to office, your Parliament will be a stormy sea, and your public councils confounded by private interests.”

His words identified what would destroy the greatest Empire known to man. They remain equally accurate now as they were two and a quarter centuries ago. Someone should enlighten Luthuli House.

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biznews  |  alec hogg  |  uk  |  wealth  |  civil servants  |  public appointments


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