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Monday, November 21, 2011

'Let Them Eat Bread'

One of my pet peeves is the "Let them eat bread" thing; especially when conservatives (or, those who imagine that they are (*) ) uncritically repeat it.

I recently encountered it, yet again (and from a self-identifying conservative): "Was Maria Antoinette booed only for her dietary recommendations, too?"

1) Marie Antoinette never said, "Let them eat cake";

2) It's doubtful that *any* French queen ever said, "Let them eat cake";

3) Even if one had said it, everyone is misunderstanding the meaning within context as as being some sort of Scarlet O'Hara-esque "Oh, fiddle-de-dee! Why don't they just go get some cake? That's what I'd do", when, in fact, it was something quite different --

France had an ancient law requiring bakers to sell bread made of fine/expensive flour for the same price as bread made of coarse/inexpensive flour whenever they ran out of common bread.

So, the meaning of what Voltaire's unnamed queen allegedly said -- before the time of Antoinette -- is this: well, if the bakers are not supplying the common people with as much regular bread at regular prices as they want to buy, then let the law be enforced and make the bakers sell them expensive bread at common prices. In a word: socialism.

(*) Most American self-identifying conservatives only imagine that they are conservative; they are actually unprincipled "liberals". That is, they accept the premises of present-day leftism/"progressivism" ... they just reject, for now, some of the destinations to which those premises logically, and inevitably, take one.