Posts Tagged ‘John Maynard Keynes’

From the Editor’s Perch…

January 12, 2014

Lady Gaga2

Fashion

 

            In the book, Fascism versus Capitalism, Llwellyn Rockwell Jr. mentions the Harvard philosopher, Santayana’s observation “that ideas aren’t usually abandoned because they have been refuted; they are abandoned when they become unfashionable.”  Most people reading this who have tried to introduce an unfashionable notion probably have suffered this observation.  You either find yourself socially isolated.   Or you are made to feel as if you are speaking in a foreign tongue, as if, as a woman at a theater rehearsal once told me (regarding my thoughts):  “I feel as if I am talking to someone from the moon.”  Thoughts judged to be unfashionable are simply left to die alone while conversing to the backs and sides of heads, and thence to float away, detached and withered, into the cold outer reaches.

The most dramatic example I’ve run across of this phenomenon is from the same book as mentioned above.  Henry Hazlitt was an editorial writer for the New York Times from 1934 till 1945 who backed a return to the gold standard.  He was finally sacked for his editorials in opposition to the Breton Woods agreement of 1945 establishing the World Bank.   Hazlitt wrote: “it would be difficult to think of a more serious threat to world stability and full production than the continual prospect of a uniform world inflation to which the politicians of every country would be so easily tempted.”  Throughout his tenure, no one, as far as can be seen, joined him in his warnings.  He could not even generate a credible opposition.  His opposition around the Breton Woods agreement ignored him, claiming a world catastrophe if the measure were not passed.

History has proved Henry Hazlitt correct.  And millions of lives perhaps need not have been lost to the devastations of WWII if the advent of rampant inflation had not been there to fuel the rise of fascist philosophies.  But no matter.  WWII did occur.  The Times has never apologized.  (Don’t hold your breath!)  And Henry Hazlitt lost his job.  John Maynard Keynes ideas appeared to be new.  Henry Hazlitt’s appeared to be old.  To be included in a current conversation you must be perceived to be ‘new’ – otherwise, the argument goes, why have one?   Though there was no factual basis of incompetence for firing Henry Hazlitt, by 1945 the Times publisher,  Arthur Sulzberger, “had had enough.”  “When 43 governments sign an agreement, I don’t see how the Times can any longer combat this,” he said.

 

“How important is sound money?  The whole of civilization depends on it,” says Llewellyn Rockwell.  Nevertheless, fashion trumps it.

 

            If these anecdotes don’t arouse you, then I give up.  I can’t reach you with a sharp pin.

 

But fashion itself is a fascinating topic.  It seems to move and change on its own timeline, without regard for events.  (Which, I would suppose is as we should expect, given its impervious nature.)  In my younger years I lived in a home I’d purchased on the cheap in the Rainier Valley area of Seattle.   This section of Seattle contained (and still does) the most diversified population in terms of race and ethnicity of any area in King County.  While I lived there, gang violence was endemic.  I still remember my neighbor arguing loudly in the middle of our street with his son not to join the gang which was waiting for him on the corner.  I had passed the years watching this decent kid grow from a toddler, to the middle school aged youngster who now apparently had been judged old enough to join the gang.  I also remember a neighborhood friend relating the tale of going to pick up her son at school and having to hug the floor of her car outside of the school to escape the exchange of bullets passing overhead.  Our community and the city government tried this and they tried that.  Then, after it seemed I had given up hope and had moved on anyway, it just ended.  No more violence.  No more gangs on the corner.  And yet everything else was the same.  Same people.  Same laws.  Same police.   Same homes.  Same everything.  Only the people who did that sort of thing, didn’t do it anymore.  As near as I could tell, it just passed out of fashion.

Photo is Lady Gaga from Google Images


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