Learning from history

Spent the last couple of days at the History of Economic Thought Society of Australia meeting which was, as always, filled with interest and revelation. There are a handful of us on the free market side of things, but it is always instructive. If you are interested in these sort of things, even just in economics as such, you should become a member of HETSA and perhaps come along to the meetings.

Two things occurred to me at this particular meeting, which perhaps I ought to have noticed before.

The first one was while I was in conversation with our guest speaker whose specialty was in the theory of capital which is also my own, his from the Marx’s Capital side of things, mine from another side of things. But as we pressed on about the nature of the oppression experienced by the worker today, it became clear to me for the first time what the difference in our perspective is, or at least one such difference. For me, I take the past as unalterable, the present as the bequest from what came before and the future thought about in relation to how things might be improved given where we are. But he had one additional aspect that permeated everything he said and thought, and that was how unjust the past had been and how important it was to punish those who had been at fault (as he saw it) for these sins of the past, and in some way provide some kind of retribution for the harm that had been done.

Of course, most of those who in his view had been wronged are now long dead. Those who would be helped now are somehow those who might be brought together in some present-day category of those who had been wronged, and whoever might be paying the compensation, are those who are not in any specific sense the actual direct beneficiaries of this presumed wrong-doing, but that anyone who is doing well in the present – pick some category, capitalist, the rich, you name it. It is they who owe compensation to those other categories and groups identified as not doing as well today.

The more I listened, the more it was clear that this is the mantra of the left in general. Their aim today is to decide which categories of people had, in their view, been a victim of some perceived injustice in the past, and then work out who in the present compensation can be paid. A madness, but given that we cannot change the past, a very poor way to go about framing public policy.

The other revelation was how the obvious bits of economic policy for an economist – such as the great great harm that is done by trying to assist anyone by controlling prices rather than providing whatever compensation one might feel is necessary only after the market has determined what prices should be charged – seems a fantastic wrong. You cannot tell such people of the certain harm that comes from rent control or minimum wages. Deaf, dumb and blind to markets, although they live in a world of such abundance and ease, beyond anything imaginable less than a hundred years ago, all brought to them through the market economy. The misery and harm such people cause to others with their sanctimony and ignorance is hard to calculate, but it is enormous.

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27 Responses to Learning from history

  1. stackja

    Leftists are inventive and always ready for OPM.

  2. Muddy

    A madness, but given that we cannot change the past, a very poor way to go about framing public policy.

    Firstly, not a madness at all, if one defines the possession of madness as producing a partial or full negative outcome for the possessor. These ‘mad’ people are on the ascendant, and have been for some time.

    Secondly, are you sure the past cannot be changed? I pose this as a serious question.

  3. Chrism

    in a similar vein…. an article discussing “Noble cause corruption” in WUWT, makes the point that intention v outcome is a fault line between the two groups, which I see as your analysis stated differently
    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2019/10/02/understanding-the-climate-movement-part-2-noble-cause-corruption/

  4. Steve:

    But he had one additional aspect that permeated everything he said and thought, and that was how unjust the past had been and how important it was to punish those who had been at fault (as he saw it) for these sins of the past, and in some way provide some kind of retribution for the harm that had been done.

    That a supposedly educated person has this line of thought as an underpinning for their worldview, shows an almost childlike understanding of reality.

  5. struth

    The more I listened, the more it was clear that this is the mantra of the left in general. Their aim today is to decide which categories of people had, in their view, been a victim of some perceived injustice in the past, and then work out who in the present compensation can be paid. A madness, but given that we cannot change the past, a very poor way to go about framing public policy.

    No Steve.
    You are being too nice.
    And Opaque when suggesting it is “some perceived injustice from the past” you suggest random selection of unjust behaviour.
    It is not at all.
    They are only interested in the sins of capitalism as they perceive them, of the west, and are totally blind to other injustices, like the millions and millions murdered and starved by socialism and communism.
    It is pure brainwashing of which your friend is a victim and now a manipulator himself.

    Plain old commo activism.

  6. bespoke

    Not just childlike but dangerous , you can program gilt into people but the resentment eventually comes to the surface. Look at ANTFA, some may generally believe that have gilt for things they had nothing to do with so taking it out on others is the next step.

  7. Roger

    But he had one additional aspect that permeated everything he said and thought, and that was how unjust the past had been and how important it was to punish those who had been at fault (as he saw it) for these sins of the past, and in some way provide some kind of retribution for the harm that had been done.

    Marxism is a graceless religion.

  8. Truth n Justice

    I love the way China deals with activism. Perhaps we should bring them to Brisbane to deal with the idiot climate activists who are currently either running rings around or alternatively acting in concert with the QLD state government!

  9. mem

    But he had one additional aspect that permeated everything he said and thought, and that was how unjust the past had been and how important it was to punish those who had been at fault (as he saw it) for these sins of the past, and in some way provide some kind of retribution for the harm that had been done.

    Some people unable to realize their own destiny become parasitic worms that troll through graves for sustenance.

  10. Didn’t a fellow named Eric Blair write a book about this ?

  11. billie

    of course you can rewrite history, apparantly Australia had “nations” when the first fleet arrived

    how anyone can talk about first nation people with a straight face in Australia is a measure of their ability to lie

    it’s Julia Gillard and Bill the Knife Shorten level of bullshyting, certainly up there with Helen Caldicott and quite Ruddesque

  12. Terry

    billie
    #3176146, posted on October 6, 2019 at 6:08 am

    +1

  13. Terry

    Michael K
    #3176131, posted on October 6, 2019 at 1:24 am

    “Didn’t a fellow named Eric Blair write a book about this?”

    No, I don’t think so. Let me just check that memory hole. Nope, didn’t happen.

    “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

  14. Entropy

    The other revelation was how the obvious bits of economic policy for an economist – such as the great great harm that is done by trying to assist anyone by controlling prices rather than providing whatever compensation one might feel is necessary only after the market has determined what prices should be charged – seems a fantastic wrong. You cannot tell such people of the certain harm that comes from rent control or minimum wages. Deaf, dumb and blind to markets, although they live in a world of such abundance and ease, beyond anything imaginable less than a hundred years ago, all brought to them through the market economy.

    Oh, it is worse when they adopt the language of markets and interfere with ever increasing regulation, tariffs, subsidies and penalties into the system to try and achieve their authoritarian wise and benevolent aims the real market’s unobstructed exchange between buyers and sellers steadfastly refuses to deliver.

    For example, anyone sprouting “market based instruments” and pretending it is other than egregious government interference in the market, using the force and powers of government to redirect money from one group of people (the consumer) to those favoured by the government, is a lying liar.

  15. lotocoti

    I’m guessing that guest speaker favours Ocrazio-Cortez’s A Just Society.

  16. Iampeter

    You cannot tell such people of the certain harm that comes from rent control or minimum wages.

    Yes, just like you won’t be told about tariffs.

    See Kates, everything you describe as correctly being a problem with “the left” includes everything that is a problem with your views too.

    You are on the left.

    Get it already…

  17. Nob

    Entropy
    #3176156, posted on October 6, 2019 at 6:43 am
    Oh, it is worse when they adopt the language of markets

    Yep.

    Usually for the purpose of interfering so much to distort the market then QED “we tried markets, didn’t work”.

  18. I_am_not_a_robot

    After enduring a barbecue or dinner party with academic ‘marxists’ one soon realises that they know perfectly well how a free market works when they discuss their personal affairs, e.g. local property values, the difficulty in finding good tradesmen or domestic help etc.

  19. bollux

    it’s simple economics really. Stop funding the Left and they will disappear up their own fundament.

  20. struth

    Yes, just like you won’t be told about tariffs.

    Tell us, oh great one, should China and Europe impose crushing tariffs on American made goods and the Americans do nothing?
    When you are a no bodes anarchist, the concept of fair trade would obviously elude you.

    If we go to war, you can stand up the front being shot at, and tell everyone on our side they don’t need to shoot back, because eventually the enemy will get sick of killing us and go home.

  21. Dr Fred Lenin

    How nany of you have seen a small child tying to force. a large object into a smaller hole ? They keep trying in an obsessed manner , That typifies socialists ,childishly obsessed they never learn .

  22. Iampeter

    Tell us, oh great one, should China and Europe impose crushing tariffs on American made goods and the Americans do nothing?

    Yes. They only cripple their own economies that way.
    The fact that everyone at the cat isn’t pointing this out is embarrassing.

    Isn’t this supposed to be a right wing blog?

  23. Tel

    The more I listened, the more it was clear that this is the mantra of the left in general. Their aim today is to decide which categories of people had, in their view, been a victim of some perceived injustice in the past, and then work out who in the present compensation can be paid. A madness, but given that we cannot change the past, a very poor way to go about framing public policy.

    This is the rational conclusion of a belief that equality of outcome is fundamentally necessary.

    You might even go so far as to say it proves why attempting to enforce equality of outcome can’t possibly work, but then people would say, “Oh no one would be that silly, as to try to redress every grievance from the entire history of humanity!”

  24. John A

    Tel #3176402, posted on October 6, 2019, at 3:37 pm

    “Oh no one would be that silly, as to try to redress every grievance from the entire history of humanity!”

    Stop giving them ideas. It merely encourages further excesses!

  25. max

    Marx gained support for his position precisely because it was purely economic/materialist. It abandoned all traces of historical explanation that were based on the idea that ideas are fundamental to the transformation of society. Marx believed that the deciding arena of class warfare is the mode of production, not the arena of ideas. He saw ideas as secondary outgrowths of the mode of production. His view was this: ideas do not have significant consequences. Take this idea out of Marxism, and it is no longer Marxism.

    This is why it never ceases to amaze me that conservative analysts accept the idea of cultural Marxism. They go to the writings of the Frankfurt School to get footnotes to support this idea. The sharper analysts take it back to Antonio Gramsci’s prison writings in the 1930’s. He was officially a Communist. He was an Italian. He had spent time in the Soviet Union in the 1920’s, and he believed that the Leninist tradition was incorrect. The West had not proven to be a fertile ground for Communism, precisely because the West was Christian. He recognized clearly that until Christianity was broken as a primary commitment of the West, there would be no proletarian revolution there. History certainly has borne him out. It never came.

    Gramsci argued, and the Frankfurt School followed his lead, that the way for Marxists to transform the West was through cultural revolution: the idea of cultural relativism. The argument was correct, but the argument was not Marxist. The argument was Hegelian. It meant turning Marxism on its head, just as Marx had turned Hegel on his head. The idea of Marxism in the earliest days was based on a rejection of the spiritual side of Hegelianism. It placed the mode of production at the heart of the analysis of capitalist culture.
    https://www.garynorth.com/public/12623.cfm

  26. max

    On July 26, 1969, it was my privilege to attend Dr. Hans Sennholz’s seminar on “The Dollar Crisis.” As Dr. Sennholz concluded his very able and intensely interesting account of our problem, he analyzed the decline of the paper dollar and the grim future and then concluded thus (to cite my summary notes): The people are to blame; the government is their tool. People make demands on the government for a growing list of services, demanding aids, services, grants, which create an inflationary economy. Peter has been taxed to pay Paul.

    The people must change, before the trend can change.

    The Marxist perspective is that not individual responsibility but environment is the source of sin, wrong, and evil. Men are victims, not sinners. Change the environment, and you change man.

    Sennholz had echoed the Christian presupposition: change the man, and you change the environment.

    Bible denies that history is the product of unconscious, impersonal forces and drives, it asserts individual responsibility. In Genesis 3, it made clear that the essence of sin is to blame other persons or the environment for one’s own guilt. Adam, by blaming his environment (God), and his wife (Eve), for his sin only aggravated his guilt.

    Men stand or fall in terms of their faith and character.

    Dr. Sennholz was right: The people must change, before the trend can change. Any conclusion other than individual responsibility is a denial of Christianity and is implicit Marxism.

    The people must change before the trend can change. This is not a popular program. People want an enemy to blame, not themselves. How much easier to expose and blame than to reconstruct! Marxism has a simple, sure appeal: “The bad guys did it to us.” People, as sinners, love this. Biblical faith has an unpopular message: whatever anyone else has done, and as sinners they will sin, what about your responsibility and guilt? The greatness of David was that he did not blame Bathsheba or anyone else: he acknowledged that it was his guilt, his act, his sin.

    But most people today will not acknowledge their guilt. They attend churches which preach another gospel, and they will not break with them. They claim that they are trying to reform the church from within, but each year these churches become more openly anti-Christian, and they still remain. These people profess loyalty to Christ, but the only loyalty they manifest is to an anti-Christian church. Are they not guilty?

    Suffice it to say that most people find it convenient to turn to the Marxist, environmentalist answer and say, “The bad guys are responsible for all our problems.” And they continue to believe that they can redeem the public schools, a socialist agency! They turn their children over to a non-Christian, socialistic school and then ask God to bless them. And they wonder why their children turn into rebels.

    https://www.garynorth.com/public/15420.cfm

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