Bentham, Lenin, and jokes

Curtiss Leung bofftagstumper at
Tue Mar 28 10:42:03 PST 2000


Of my long winded post, you wrote:

> CB: Hey, I tell jokes as much as anybody. You might
> want to make yours a little more succinct.

You know, you're absolutely right and I apologize. I mistook you to mean that Marx was a Benthamite, and thought an updated version of some invective against Bentham would be appropriate, as well as telling. But I now see the error of my ways. In the interests of giving a complete confession, though, I should give the original of what I mangled (detourned, to use the SI's term), so you could be so helpful as to point out the errors there -- but just so you know, it's actually longer than my version, and it is, I believe, from a text that actually existing socialist nations restrict access to. The orthodox may wish to avert their eyes:

"The sphere of circulation or commodity exchange within whose boundaries the sale and purchase of labour-power goes on, is in fact a very Eden of the innate rights of man. It is the exclusive realm of Freedom, Equality, Property, and Bentham. Freedom, because both buyer and seller of a commodity, let us say of labour-power, are determined only by their own free will. They contract as free persons, who are equal before the law. Their contract is the final result in which their joint will finds a common legal expression. Equality, because each enters into relation with the other as a simple owner of commodities, and they exchange equivalent for equivalent. Property, because each disposes only of what is his (sic) own. And Bentham because each only looks to his own advantage. The only force bringing them together and putting the into relation with each other is the selfishness, the gain, and private interest of each." Marx, _Capital_, p.280 (Ben Fowkes translation, Vintage, 1977)

> Think of it as a science, like Marx, Engels and
> did.

Indeed I shall, sir, and to save you the cost of the bullets for my summary intellectual execution, shall post no more on this matter, and confine myself to such manifestly unscientific topics as transformational/generative grammar, the misuse of factor and principle component analysis by IQ racists, and software development environments (thanks, by the way, to John Kawakami, for bringing me up to speed on the current state of Linux offlist). The final word is yours, much as it went to the editor of John Shade's last poem. In acknowledging how far I've gone astray, and how little I am fit for your true science, perhaps a phrase of Shakespeare's is appropriate -- even if I did encounter it in the same work of the same author I quoted above, and to make full and final confession of the errors of my ways, I must profess an allegiance to that thinker as deep as Kent's to Lear:

"To be a well-favored man is the gift of fortune, but reading and writing comes by nature." -- Curtiss

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