What bravery looks like in the modern age

It seems but only for a moment that Catallaxy has gone over to the History of Economics. And while I was contemplating all this in that little discussion on Schumpeter here and here, which had followed my own postings on Mill and MMT, this arrived in my email inbox:

The undersigned officers of the HES condemn the deaths of Black people in police custody and the systemic racism that permits political, economic, social and physical violence. We acknowledge our special responsibility, as historians of economics, to educate ourselves and others about the roles played by racism, colonialism and other forms of bias in shaping the concepts, practices, agendas and professional institutions of economists and social scientists throughout history.

The pursuit of historical knowledge leaves no room for the silencing or marginalization of any individuals or communities. Therefore, we commit ourselves to taking concrete steps to foster diversity and inclusion in our Society and its activities. We pledge to support and encourage scholarship that brings new frames of reference to the history of economics. We will listen respectfully, engage honestly and amplify the voices of those who draw our attention to the ways that biases are perpetuated in our Society and our discipline. We will build on efforts to diversify our program and awards committees and the editorial board of the Journal of the History of Economic Thought, and we will encourage journal submissions that bring new perspectives to the past.

We commit to using our journal, conferences and other resources to further these important lines of inquiry. We will encourage critical conversations about our methods and practices that open our discipline to histories that have so far been ignored. We pledge to educate ourselves and to curate critical reading lists that support inclusive curricula, and we ask other historians of economics to make a similar commitment. We look forward to the development of richer and more comprehensive histories of economics.

Marcel Boumans, HES President plus eleven others.

I would never sign such a document, but then I am off in Australia and my career is done and dusted. But just now there is this rejoinder from Stephen Meardon, who is young, in mid-career and the immediate past editor of the Journal of the History of Economic Thought. This is truly brave:

I am sure the HES Executive Committee makes this statement with no intention of taking a side in the US culture war. But that is what it does. And it does no good for the HES.

People have been killed in the custody of US police, some of them egregiously. What the killings signify in some cases is not largely contested. In others it is. What they signify on the whole is contested very much.

Systemic racism? One can make an argument. I can see it. Why is the History of Economics Society, whose mission is to advance inquiry into the named subject, advancing this extraneous and contested argument?

We have a good thing going in our society. An uncommon thing. Scholars with different ideological, methodological, and other convictions communicate openly, learn from one another, and take pleasure in each other’s company and conversation despite their disagreements. Indeed because of them. It works because the HES does not suffer from the we- all-agree syndrome that plagues other scholarly societies and US academia at large. Which happens in good part because the HES sticks to its mission.

You and I just might have an interesting conversation about systemic racism in the United States — why you think it is the salient problem, why I think not. The kind of conversation that has been commonplace in HES coffee breaks and serendipitous hallway encounters for the couple decades and more that I’ve been involved. That conversation will be less common after the HES has decided which of us is right. Try thinking how frequently and freely you’ve heard such a conversation on any US university campus of late.

The scope of permissible conversation in US academic life is narrowing. If there is a salient social problem in the United States that relates to the mission of the HES, that’s it.

The HES has been an academic oasis where the range of values and scope of conversation is great. I hope the HES Exec. will take care in the future to preserve it.

Stephen Meardon
Bowdoin College

A brave brave statement which I could not agree with more.

I HAVE NOW WRITTEN TO THE SOCIETY TO SUPPORT STEVE MEARDON: This is what I wrote:

I would just like to add my own words of support to Stephen Meardon’s comment.

In the modern world as it now is, these are astonishingly brave words.

I agree with everything he has said.

Steve Kates
RMIT University
Melbourne Australia

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20 Responses to What bravery looks like in the modern age

  1. Nob

    What a fucking world where such a bland normal uncontroversial statement is thought to be brave brave.
    But in that context, it probably is. Guy’s career is probably on the line now.

    Do any of these HES people look back and realise how far they’ve slid?

    Do they stop to ponder how they got to that wretched place?

  2. Rex Anger

    @ Nob-

    Certainly not, comrade! The Comrades Bugmen are never wrong (Especially whem.tjey aren’t wrong)…

    This statement merely acknowledges what the Comrade Bugmen In Charge all agree (on pain of losing their positions and tenures, I.E. Their lives) that all the Comrade Bugmen beneath them agree that all us Proles, Undesirables and Unrevolutionary Nuisances must be made to agree with.

  3. Rob MW

    We pledge to support and encourage scholarship that brings new frames of reference to the history of economics.

    They should “cancel” the word history from there name. The quote sounds like they are going to topple a historical monument so that history can be abrogated and simply cast into the river of identity politics to create feelings of utopia forming the new all encompassing history.

    A history of feelings !

    History now starts in 2020, and is sure fired to repeat the totalitarians of the past.

  4. Charles Rasp

    Amazing. Who are these letter signers? Do none of them actually understand history? Are none of them sufficiently independent in thought that they would refuse to sign such a suicide note? And what does the society (as opposed to the sad individuals) actually gain from this trash statement? What has truly infected this and so many other learned (now not so learned) institutions?

  5. pbw

    The deeply puzzling question is: where does all of this crap come from?

    It is not an accident that a gang of ideological f*wits has taken over the HES, in parallel with the takeover of just about every other Society, Academy, Journal or what-have-you of every academic discipline in the Western world.

    The situation is such that almost every academic discipline (including STEM) can only be rescued by a purge. This is an evil choice to be left with, but conservatives (for whom this choice will be anathema) and libertarians who have some grasp of current realities will have to come to terms with.

    Every element of the “progressive” agenda is a zero-sum game. The underlying model for all of the “progressive” activity we have had the deep misfortune to observe over the past 40 or 50 years is the Red Guards. Ask Liu Shaoqi about “dialogue,” or the principle of “live and let live,” where the Red Guards are concerned. (Not that I would shed any tears over Liu, but his fate is instructive.)

    I am sure the HES Executive Committee makes this statement with no intention of taking a side in the US culture war.

    This statement is either carefully disingenuous, or utterly naïve, and the fact that we all know so, is indicative of the desperate situation in which we find ourselves.

  6. The brave writer misses the point. It’s not about concepts of right and wrong. It’s about who upholds correct morals and who doesn’t – ie. who is pure warm and cuddly on the right side of history, and who is evil and must be excommunicated, locked in stocks in the town square and disgraced with chucked up rotton tomatoes.
    .
    It partly correlates with “snakes and snails and puppy dog tails” and “sugar and spice and all things nice”, but with added complexities from the wonderfully enlightening world of intersectional social science.

  7. Rex Anger

    @pbw- Read up SJWs Always Lie and SJWs Always Double Down by Vox Day. They describe the concepts and processes of.SJW entryism and convergence, cancel culture, how to respond to it and what you can do to take SJWs down.

    I look forward to when he writes SJWs Always Project. The 3 Laws of SJWs, and 3 good reads…

  8. Tezza

    Why do all these letters signed by mobs asserting their woke virtue read as if generated by the same Chinese computer program?

    PS good on you Steve for you letter of support for Meardon.

  9. Leo G

    The undersigned officers of the HES condemn the deaths of Black people in police custody and the systemic racism that permits political, economic, social and physical violence.

    Are those officers expressing disapproval of systemic racism that permits violence, yet approval of systemic racism that promotes violence?

  10. NoFixedAddress

    Leo G
    #3509597, posted on July 10, 2020 at 11:31 pm

    The undersigned officers of the HES condemn the deaths of Black people in police custody and the systemic racism that permits political, economic, social and physical violence.

    Are those officers expressing disapproval of systemic racism that permits violence, yet approval of systemic racism that promotes violence?

    Actually, they sound pretty fucked in the head – talk about The Borg.

    Steve, you best grab an archive of the site now as it may be memory holed in 6 months.

  11. Blair

    What on earth is economic violence?

  12. Diogenes

    I have unsubscribed from at least a dozen education related mailing lists and rss feeds that banged about white privilege, micro aggression, unconcious racism etc. .

  13. Gilas

    This is what a “boot stamping on human face forever” metaphorically looks like..

    A boot with a nice, soft, comfortable rubber sole, designed so as not to unduly alarm its victims.

  14. tgs

    Stephen is an incredibly good writer. Good on him.

  15. Blair

    Colonialism is a form of bias?

  16. Lee

    That HES statement could have been written by a Marxist.
    Oh, wait …

  17. Progressives are the most regressive people.
    Man used to practice social justice. If someone from the village or town over did some harm to you and yours, you and some others would march over there and meet out some social justice, even to those who didn’t do harm to you.
    Then we “progressed” to holding individuals accountable for their actions, not whole groups.
    Everything preached by today’s progressives is regressive. It feels almost like we are in a thousand year cycle but on the wrong end of the curve.

  18. Leo G

    What on earth is economic violence?

    Feminist theories of interpersonal violence define economic violence as apprehended violence committed by by persons at one level of the feminist economic pecking order upon persons at a lower level, and violence generally as any act perceived as a challenge to personal status.

  19. Alex

    Gaer says “The brave writer misses the point. It’s not about concepts of right and wrong. It’s about who upholds correct morals and who doesn’t “. WADR, I would add that it is Gary who misses the point. In this current weird world “correct morals” can mean anything, certainly one thing for we older farts and another for left leaning younger people, you know the ones at the protests. So given there can be no agreement on what constitutes ethics then the upholding of ‘our’ morals is seen as ‘not upholding theirs’.

    The Marxists attack traditional metaphysics, epistemology and ethics in general and then refer these to attack more established political models.

  20. John A

    Rex Anger #3509584, posted on July 10, 2020, at 10:58 pm

    @pbw- Read up SJWs Always Lie and SJWs Always Double Down by Vox Day.

    Just bought my Kindle copies from Amazon. Thanks for the tip, Rex!

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