“Pour Discourager Les Autres”


Steve Sailer`s suggestion that investment bankers ought to be punished   to encourage the others reminds me that most people don`t realize what the Voltaire quote—“pour encourager les autres”—meant. It always sounds humorous to say “encourage” when what we really mean is `discourage” but Voltaire`s point is that Admiral Byng was charged with lack of courage, so   it was literally true in the case of Byng`s execution, that the British Government wanted to “encourage”—put courage into—the other British Admirals. This translation makes that clear:

He then asked who was that lusty man who had been sent out of the world with so much ceremony. The Execution of Admiral Byng, 14 March 1757When he received for answer, that it was an admiral.

“And pray why do you put your admiral to death?”

“Because he did not put a sufficient number of his fellow creatures to death. You must know, he had an engagement with a French admiral, and it has been proved against him that he was not near enough to his antagonist.”

“But,” replied Candide, “the French admiral must have been as far from him.”

“There is no doubt of that; but in this country it is found requisite, now and then, to put an admiral to death, in order to encourage the others to fight.”[Candide, Chapter 23]

Byng got a raw deal—he was not cowardly at all, but following the instructions of a Government that needed someone to blame. See At 12 Mr Byng Was Shot,by Dudley Pope, for details.)

Of course, what the investment bankers, and the people at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were guilty of was an excess of courage, making risky and foolish loans to underemployed illegal immigrants because it would have been racist not to.

They need to be discouraged, and to return to older lending standards.