Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Progressivism's Dark Past That We Keep Forgetting About

~The first generation of American economists were not laissez-faire capitalists, as an observer might reasonably imagine based on the current state of the field. In fact, they were anything but. “As Christians they judged laissez faire to be morally unsound,” Leonard writes, “and as economists they declared it functionally obsolete.” The British (think Adam Smith) model was unsuited for the era of railroads, labor unions, and scientific management. They much preferred the German idea of society as a single organism. Granted the premise that individuals were shaped by the nation and not the other way around, progressive economists had to decide who would run the country. These people had to be unbiased, scientific, brilliant, and out for the public good. The progressive economists decided on themselves.~

The sorts of sentiments and thoughts found above are no great surprise to anyone familiar with the period.  Still, it seems that every few years that this sort of thing is unearthed about the Progressive Era and its adherents, which means that some forgetting is going on. That eugenics is at the heart of this also not be surprising; there was definitely an atavism to the concept that held mainly people strongly - be it Theodore Roosevelt or John Maynard Keynes.  And that atavism came with a series of attitudes about the state of humanity and how certain classes fit into such (based on all manner of arational bits of snobbery) - this logic leading to sterilization campaigns and worse.  

It has long been my thought that WWII and the experiences with the blood lands created by both Hitler and Stalin gave lots of people pause about the lengths they were willing to go to forgo individual liberty in the face of the so called logic of the state.  Indeed, it isn't surprising that much of the modern attachment of the Bill of Rights to state action (both at the federal and state level) as it applied to speech, "minorities" (think the _Carolene Products_ famous footnote), etc. occurs during the 1930s onward.  

I've added this to the pile of future readings.

Found here:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Too Small To Bail Out

As Richard Fisher (President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas) notes in this podcast, the ultimate problem is "scale and scope," which the recent "reforms" of the banking sector have not addressed.  He also argues that investment and similar banks could best be protected from bailouts (or rather, the taxpayer can best be protected from then) is explicit language that such banks will not be favored with such largesse (language that they would be required to display on whatever paperwork, etc. they display before the public).  Of course the problem with such a proposal (as Russ Roberts notes) is that it obviously isn't self-governing.  It depends on people honoring it.

Monday, January 6, 2014


"Interest and ambition, honour and shame, friendship and enmity, gratitude and revenge, are the prime movers in all public transactions; and these passions are of a very stubborn and intractable nature." - David Hume, "Of Eloquence"

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Here are some thoughts on the following monograph, Monism: Science, Religion, and the History of a Worldview by Todd H. Weir.

Much of German socialism (and thus socialism generally) was apparently quite in bed with the likes of Ernst Haeckel (who provided a very popularized totalizing secular worldview that rejected religious belief).  Not surprisingly this leads to many socialists who favored eugenics.  It also tends to explain much of the arrogance and hubris of socialists in the 19th century. 

The sort of all-encompassing efforts to explain all things also explains how Annie Besant can flip-flop from being an atheist to a theosophist yet remain a monist. 

Monism also reminds me of the views of the new atheists in a number of ways (and why Gould was so skeptical of the approach of Dawkins, etc.).  In particular the work of Sam Harris to create an objective secular ethics resembles the agenda of the monists.