Saturday, August 20, 2011

90 pages in

From Guard! Guard! by Terry Pratchett, HARPERTORCH, 1989.

The Patrician liked to feel that he was looking out over a city that worked. Not a beautiful city, or a renowned city, or a well-drained city, and certainly not an architecturally favored city; even its most enthusiastic citizens would agree that, from a high point of vantage, Ankh-Morpork looked as though someone had tried to achieve in stone and wood an effect normally associated with the pavements outside all-night takeaways.

But it worked. It spun along cheerfully like a gyroscope on the lip of a catastrophe curve. And this, the Patrician firmly believed, was because no one group was ever powerful enough to push it over. Merchants, thieves, assassins, wizards -- all competed energetically in the race without really realizing that it needn't be a race at all, and certainly not trusting one another enough to stop and wonder who had marked out the course and was holding the starting flag.

The Patrician disliked the word "dictator." It affronted him. He never told anyone what to do. He didn't have to, that was the wonderful part. A large part of his life consisted of arranging matters so that this state of affairs continued.

Of course, there were various groups seeking his overthrow, and this was right and proper and the sign of a vigorous and healthy society. No one could call him unreasonable about the matter. Why, hadn't he founded most of them himself? And what was so beautiful was the way in which they spent nearly all their time bickering with one another.

I don't usually read stuff like this. I don't have time. (You wouldn't believe how long it takes me to write what I write.) But only a few pages in to this book, it struck me over and over that, on top of everything else, Terry Pratchett was presenting an economic world.

This is the line that made me interrupt the reading, to write: " one group was ever powerful enough to push [the city] over..."

Reminds me of Hayek, from the end of Chapter 5 in The Road to Serfdom:

... it is not the source but the limitation of power which prevents it from being arbitrary.

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