The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond

G.K.Chesterton The Paradoxes of Mr Pond

“The next man with whom Pond fell into any sort of conversation, in a
cafe, was much more vigorous and vigilant, and belonged to a younger
world. But he also was very serious; a dark, strenuous young man who
was a Government official actually believing in the Government; or at
least in the principles of the Government; and he was the sort of man
who thinks first about principles. He denounced the strike and even
the trade union; not because he was a snob, for he lived as simply as
a workman; but because he really did believe in the old
individualistic theory of what he called free contract. The type is
almost unknown in England; the theory is more common in America.

[after many pages]…

“‘I understand the horrid truth [Pond resumed] that you yourself are
a perfectly honourable and high-minded person and that your own
problem is extremely difficult to solve… It was to the Republic, to
the idea of equality and justice that you swore loyalty; and to that
you have been loyal.’

‘You had better say what you think,’ said Marcus gloomily. ‘You mean
that I am really only serving a gang of crooks, whom any blackguard
can blackmail.’

[Pond] stood up before the astonished official, who had no apparent
alternative but to follow him as he passed swiftly across the cate.
Some vivacious and talkative young men were taking leave of M. Louis,
who courteously invited the newcomers to the empty chairs, saying
something about ‘my young friends often enliven my solitude with
their rather Socialistic views.’

‘I should not agree with your young friends,’ said Marcus curtly, ‘I
am so old-fashioned as to believe in free contract.’

‘I, being older, perhaps believe in it even more.’ answered M. Louis
smiling. ‘But surely it is a very old principle of law that a leonine
contract is not a free contract. And it is hypocrisy to pretend that
a bargain between a starving man and a man with all the food is
anything but a leonine contract.’ He glanced up at the fire-escape,
a ladder leading up to the balcony of a very high attic above. ‘I
live in that garret; or rather on that balcony. If I fell off the
balcony and hung on a spike, so far from the steps that somebody with
a ladder could offer to rescue me if I gave him a hundred million
francs, I should be quite morally justified in using his ladder and
then telling him to go to hell for his hundred million. Hell,
indeed, is not out of the picture; for it is a sin of injustice to
force an advantage against the desperate. Well, all those poor men
are desperate; they all hang starving on spikes. If they must not
bargain collectively, they cannot bargain at all. You are not
supporting contract; you are opposing all contract; for yours cannot
be a real contract at all.'”

I wont’ spoil the rest of the story for those intrigued enough to
look it up [it is “The Unmentionable Man” in the above title]

but i thought i’d offer it as an example of real writing, and real
thinking, for our friends who know all the answers in a few clumsy
words… and remind them that it is an old, old story.

by coberly