Kipling on income inequality


Now this is the tale of the Council the German Kaiser decreed,
To ease the strong of their burden, to help the weak in their need…

And the young King said: — “I have found it, the road to the rest ye seek:
The strong shall wait for the weary, the hale shall halt for the weak:
With the even tramp of an army where no man breaks from the line,
Ye shall march to peace and plenty in the bond of brotherhood — sign!”
And the men drew back from the paper, as a Yankee delegate spoke: —

“There’s a girl in Jersey City who works on the telephone;
We’re going to hitch our horses and dig for a house of our own,
With gas and water connections, and steam-heat through to the top;
And, W. Hohenzollern, I guess I shall work till I drop.”

And an English delegate thundered: — “The weak an’ the lame be blowed!
I’ve a berth in the Sou’-West workshops, a home in the Wandsworth Road;
And till the ‘sociation has footed my buryin’ bill,
I work for the kids an’ the missus. Pull up? I be damned if I will!”

And over the German benches the bearded whisper ran: —
“Lager, der girls und der dollars, dey makes or dey breaks a man.
If Schmitt haf collared der dollars, he collars der girl deremit;
But if Schmitt bust in der pizness, we collars der girl from Schmitt.”

4 thoughts on “Kipling on income inequality”

  1. The timing is peculiar;the Times had a long article on the Kaiser’s program for social reform that appeared on February 7th 1890, and this poem was supposedly published on February 10 1890. Wilhelm had only been Kaiser for a couple of years, so he couldn’t have been throwing his weight about that much. Which leaves me with several hypotheses:
    (1)Kipling could write really, really fast
    (2)Kipling could write really fast AND he had journalist friends who showed him a preview of the article
    (3)Kipling could write really fast AND he saw a preview of the Times article AND he had journalist friends who could get his poem published immediately
    (4) One of the dates I quoted is wrong.

  2. Translated into modern and unpoetic terminology, Kipling seems to be saying that female hypergamy drives male competitiveness, and you can’t level out the second unless you somehow eliminate the first.

    Also, I feel sure that the Kaiser’s leveling program stopped somewhere short of the higher nobility…

  3. Also, I feel sure that the Kaiser’s leveling program stopped somewhere short of the higher nobility…

    Somebody got up on the cynical side of the bed this morning…


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