Persian Letter Series: Letter 44 – Usbek to Rhedi, at Venice
From Paris, the 28th moon of Rajab, 1713

By , July 30, 2011 5:17 am

This is the seventh post in a series of posts examining excerpts from Charles Montesquieu’s book Persian Letters.  Each post in this series examines a selected excerpt for study and discussion.  The following is an excerpt from Letter 44:

Even the humblest workers argue over the merits of the trade they have chosen; everyone believes himself to be above someone else of a different calling, proportionately to the idea he has formed of the superiority of his own.

Comments on the excerpt above:

Humble Worker Pondering A Raise...

Okay, so after a couple of deep thoughts this one is a little closer to the surface. Have you ever noticed this behavior?  This is like a psyaxiom (link) that I have a post tag for.  People always believe themselves to be more important than the person they’re sitting next to.  Even at the most micro level you can see this.

Example:  there’s a guy who’s in his job that thinks he’s irreplaceable.  He thinks no one can do what he does because of how hard he works or how smart he is.  He or she always claims to do the work of two to three people.  Well, guess what?  you’re not that important.  If you can do it, someone else can do it.  That might wound the pride of a man, but it’s true.

After years of bitching, the guy finally leaves his job. He makes a call back to his co-workers fishing for the misery that’s overcome everybody now that he’s not there to do the work.  When he’s told that everything is fine, his tail tucks between his legs, he sulks & skulks, and doesn’t want to talk anymore.  Sorry guy, you’re only as special as the other 7 billion people living on this planet.  Get over yourself.

In this passage, I think Montesquieu is making this analogy to, for example, the baker versus the blacksmith.  But, it’s the same phenomenon across the board even after a couple centuries of the maturation of the division of labor.  I will be using this principle heavily in my economics blog Corn & Silver and my site to demonstrate the imbalanced relationship between, for example, a hedge fund manager and a doctor.  I will apply this logic to demonstrate the value added to society by each.  Simply, if a hedge fund manager makes $2 billion per year for hedging as compared to a doctor that makes $150k per year for helping 600 patients per year, which is more valuable to society?  By this logic, a hedge fund manager is worth the same to society as 13,333 1/3 doctors !?!?  Does common sense tell you that?  Anyone can see that legislation in America has been tainted to serve 1 man’s whim for every 100,000 working Americans’ expense.  I will be beating this example into the ground with charts and graphs using Thomas Paine’s pamphlet writing style.  Thomas Paine wrote the pamphlet Common Sense and played an integral part in the American Revolution.

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