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The Great Game (1)

April 18, 2014

Here is an excerpt from Reginald Lane Poole’s Illustrations of the History of Medieval Thought and Learning, which was originally published in 1920. He is discussing the consequences of Pope Gregory the Seventh’s move to make the Church dominant over the civil authorities.

“On general grounds it is perfectly clear that if the church was to exercise that sway which all Christians agreed it ought to exercise, over the consciences of men, it must be as free as possible from those ties which bound it to the secular state; if, for instance, the churchman had to look to his king for preferment, he was not likely to be as vigilant or as courageous in the carrying out of his duty as if he depended solely upon his spiritual chief. The isolation and independence of the clergy being then postulated, it was but a step further to assert their superiority, their right of controlling the state.”

The Great Game (with apologies to Kipling) is to convert a statement about history into one about current affairs, with as few substitutes as possible. Thus:

“On general grounds it is perfectly clear that if the 1% were to exercise that sway which all capitalists agreed it ought to exercise, over the consciences of men, it must be as free as possible from those ties which bound it to the secular state; if, for instance, the job creator had to look to his government for preferment, he was not likely to be as vigilant or as courageous in the carrying out of his duty as if he depended solely upon his initiative. The isolation and independence of the wealthy being then postulated, it was but a step further to assert their superiority, their right of controlling the state.”

When done well, the Great Game is very depressing.

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