Vaclav Havel was talking about the mouth-breathing heavies who ran Czechoslovakia during the communist years.
One of the worst things about them, Havel said indignantly, was their awful taste. Havel gestured around a sitting room in his presidential residence in Prague. The room was handsomely simple and bathed in morning sunlight. "This was hideous when they were here," he said. "The furniture, the curtains . . ." Bad taste, he suggested, corrupts government.
I thought of Havel's idea when Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis died, and wondered what it is that good taste does.
In Havel's mind, brutality, stupidity and kitsch all...