Modern economic theory is complete trash, as I have noted before, but which is now also discussed here: Dismal Economics.
Although neoclassical economics relies on assumptions that should have been discarded long ago, it remains the mainstream orthodoxy. Three recent books, and one older one, help to show why its staying power should be regarded as a scandal.
Economic theory reached its zenith of analytical power and depth of understanding in the middle of the nineteenth century among John Stuart Mill and his contemporaries. This book explains what took place in the ensuing Marginal Revolution and Keynesian Revolution that left economists less able to understand how economies operate. It explores the false mythology that has obscured the arguments of classical economists, providing a pathway into the theory they developed.
Modern economic theory provides no obstacle to any of the inanities that pass for public economic policy at the present time. If anything, vast oceans of public sector debt and huge increases in the stock of money are seen as in keeping with modern theory, which they largely are.
I have written a review of Jordan Peterson’s latest book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life which you can now read at Quadrant Online under the title that represents my take on what he wrote: Abandon Ideology. I will give you two passages from the review. You can read the rest at the link. This is the opening para.
Jordan Peterson is not everyone’s cup of tea, but he is my cup of tea. His writings are an oasis in the midst of the intellectual desert of our time. He says many of the thoughts that need to be said out in the open and in full, in ways that can be accessed and understood, which bypass the cancel culture of the Left that surrounds them. This is a book you should read, partly because of its message, partly just because of how well done it is.
And then there is this as well:
We must also confront the North American conservative/liberal distinction Peterson embeds. This is from Rule I:
“Some people are temperamentally predisposed to conservatism, and others to a more liberal creative perception and action … Those who tend toward the right, politically, are staunch defenders of all that has worked in the past … Those who rise to the top can do so through manipulation and the exercise of unjust power … It is this corruption of power that is strongly objected to by those on the liberal/left side of the political spectrum, and rightly so.” [emphases added]
This is straight-out wrong, politically ignorant and offensive. This may be the kind of statements required to get such a book published during the times in which we live. But whatever the reason, you would hope Peterson might have noticed the kinds of people who had embraced his previous writings. These are sentiments that will put off all kinds of people who might otherwise be sympathetic to what he writes.
That said, it is a wonderful book and deeply conservative, in spite of what Peterson himself might say. And who knows what he actually thinks since there must be some compromises in getting such a book published in the midst of the cancel culture in which we live.
C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters quoted by Steve Hayward as amongst his Relevant Classics. This is Lewis on how to ruin education. For 1962, this is incredibly prescient.
The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be “undemocratic.” These differences between pupils – for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences – must be disguised. This can be done at various levels. At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing things that children used to do in their spare time. Let, them, for example, make mud pies and call it modelling. But all the time there must be no faintest hint that they are inferior to the children who are at work. Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have – I believe the English already use the phrase – “parity of esteem.” An even more drastic scheme is not possible. Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma — Beelzebub, what a useful word! – by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age group throughout his school career, and a boy who would be capable of tackling Aeschylus or Dante sits listening to his coeval’s attempts to spell out A CAT SAT ON A MAT.
So far as cats sitting on mats is concerned, even Dr Seuss has been banned so what is really left? He even included the fear of “trauma” he was so ahead of his time!
“The New York Times is by far the most influential newspaper in the world and thus receives far too little journalistic scrutiny due to its power to affect careers. Any book that casts a critical eye on the Paper of Record’s history, as this book does, is performing a valuable service.”—Glenn Greenwald
Think a newspaper can’t be responsible for mass murder? Think again.
As flagship of the American news media, the New York Times is the world’s most powerful news outlet. With thousands of reporters covering events from all corners of the globe, the Times has the power to influence wars, foment revolution, shape economies and change the very nature of our culture. It doesn’t just cover the news: it creates it.
But the institution that is the New York Times is showing cracks. No longer the fact-stringing paper of record once known as the Gray Lady, the Times has become a political lightning rod that divides more often than it unites. It is frequently beset by scandal and has even emerged as a symbol of the political, cultural and social ills plaguing our society.
The Gray Lady Winked pulls back the curtain on this illustrious institution to reveal a quintessentially human organization where ideology, ego, power and politics compete with the more humble need to present the facts. In its 10 gripping chapters, The Gray Lady Winked offers readers an eye-opening, often shocking, look at the New York Times’s greatest journalistic failures, so devastating they changed the course of history.
These are the stories that mattered most, including the Times’s disastrous coverage of the:
Second World War – Holocaust – Rise of the Soviet Union – Cuban Revolution – Vietnam War – Second Palestinian Intifada – Atomic Bombing of Japan – Iraq War – Founding of America
The result is an essential look at the tangled relationship between media, power and politics in a post-truth world told with novelistic flair to reveal a uniquely powerful institution’s tortured relationship with the truth.
Most importantly of all, The Gray Lady Winked presents a cautionary tale that shows what happens when the guardians of the truth abandon that sacred value in favor of self-interest and ideology—and what this means for our future as much as for our past.
This is video I did for my introductory course in economics on Value Added (you will have to set it back to the beginning if you would like to see the whole thing yourself). When I came to write my text, it was an absolute necessity in my own mind that the core piece of understanding was the concepts that surrounded the notion of value added. You will virtually never see any mention of the concept in any modern text other than occasionally in relation to estimating the National Accounts.
But I cannot emphasise enough that it is a proper understanding of value added that transforms someone into an economist. If you don’t get this, you are useless in making judgments about how an economy works or what is needed to improve an economy’s performance.
If you are genuinely interested in what is wrong with modern economics, this is where you can find out. If you would like to understand the flaws in Keynesian macro, this is the book you must read. If you are interested in marginal analysis properly explained, you again need to read this book. Based on the classical principles of John Stuart Mill, it is what is missing today; a text based on explaining how an economy works from a supply-side perspective.
If you sincerely wish to understand how an economy works, other than reading John Stuart Mill himself, this is the place to find out.
Thanks to my very good friend Rodney, I have now discovered these on Youtube. This was on the day that Andrew Bolt launched my Art of the Impossible which was my collected blog posts on the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Quite a day, in many ways foreshadowing the events of the four years that would follow. My thanks to Andrew Bolt again.
Just finished John Armstrong’s In Search of Civilisation: Remaking a Tarnished Idea (Penguin 2009) and then went to look for more which turned out to include the video above. The oddest part is that the authorial sound of the book as you read it has no resemblance to the actual sound of the book’s author. That said, a wonderful book and cannot recommend it more highly. Excellent throughout, but this particularly caught me.
I try out an old strategy of inquiry: one most vigorously pursued by St. Augustine. Why, he asked of of the results of scholarly investigation, is it good to know that? … Augustine was in search of a principle of quality – a principle that would help us see what, out of the infinite variation of possible knowledge, it was important to devote one’s time and effort to. (Armstrong 2009: 159)
Why is it good to know anything? More to the point here, which bits of knowledge will make one “civilised” and which is just part of life. And in what way and for what reason is it good to be familiar with The Mona Lisa or with Cosi Fan Tutti?
A recent of issue of Captain America written by Coates features the villain Red Skull apparently sounding a lot like Jordan Peterson.
Wow! And with a book written by Mr Skull titled, “Ten Rules for Life”. These people are beyond caricature and not very subtle either. But here’s a reply from someone who gets Peterson.
I wanted to use the word “depraved” to describe what I read, but I don’t want to sound too harsh and negative because how are we then to open a fruitful dialogue with these people who obviously only have our best interests at heart?