I went to see Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles today. I believe the saying is that it’s good to be the king:
Excellent palace. And today it’s a museum and public garden available for the public to enjoy, as well as a key pillar of the extensive tourist infrastructure that makes Paris the most visited city in the world. But it’s also a powerful reminder that for the vast majority of human history, the primary use of the state has been to create monuments and pleasures for the ruling class. See not only the great palaces of Europe, but the grand cathedrals as well. The idea that public expenditure could be used for the purposes of social welfare provision is a relative novelty. And even after its arrival we still have many cases of regimes where this continues to be the case. Certainly the Communist dictatorships of the Cold War era seem to fit the bill. Progressive politics at its best has always been equally about the idea that public funds shouldn’t be misused for the private interests of the rulers as it has been about the positive agenda of using public funds for public purposes.