Capitalism and ignorance

From Three wild speculations from amateur quantitative macrohistory but there is nothing wild about the diagram other than how ignorant most people are about what it shows.

In How big a deal was the Industrial Revolution?, I looked for measures (or proxy measures) of human well-being / empowerment for which we have “decent” scholarly estimates of the global average going back thousands of years. For reasons elaborated at some length in the full report, I ended up going with:

Physical health, as measured by life expectancy at birth.

Economic well-being, as measured by GDP per capita (PPP) and percent of people living in extreme poverty.

Energy capture, in kilocalories per person per day.

Technological empowerment, as measured by war-making capacity.

Political freedom to live the kind of life one wants to live, as measured by percent of people living in a democracy.

Two million years of “human” history where the only tools were made of stone, and then a bronze age, iron age, industrial revolution and now us.

We now have morons [who call themselves “progressives”!] trying to take us back in time to just where I don’t know, perhaps 1890, maybe 1920, but certainly to a time of greater poverty and fewer chances in life. The diagram is only for us because most of those trying to kill off our carbon-based energy sources would be too thick to understand any of it since the basis for their entire ideological view of the world is a hatred for the capitalist system that has transformed the human race.

Unprincipled ignorance

It’s clear enough that unprincipled ignorance is the single most defining characteristic of those who consistently attack the PM. His equation of ISIS with the Nazis, with a slight twist towards noting the astonishing pride the Islamic State takes in displaying their barbarity, has called to arms the usual brigade of anti-Abbott hysterics. But there is one difference between the Nazis and ISIS that is of singular importance. The Nazis disappeared in 1945. ISIS is a threat today. To distract from any of this is merely to attack the single most focused enemy of ISIS in Australian politics, and there would be few like him anywhere in the world. Objectively, as Stalin liked to say, attacks on Abbott over this issue transform someone into a defender of ISIS.

Daryl McCann has an excellent article at Quadrant Online: Hold the Front Page! Nazism = ISIS. Here is my choice of its central point, but do read it all.

The bloodcurdling irrationality of the Islamic State expresses itself not only in the annihilation of Christians, secularists, modern women, smokers, archaeologists, Yazidis, Kurds, Druse, Shiites, Alawis, historical landmarks, ancient manuscripts, foreign photographers and aid workers, homosexuals, adulterers, suspected Sunni apostates, but also in its exterminationist anti-Semitism. Thus, the call to “liberate” Jerusalem (al-Quds) refers to the drawing near of Islamic “End Times” and has nothing to do with achieving a two-state solution for the Israeli-Arab conflict (or East Jerusalem as the nascent capital of an Islamic Republic of Palestine). Abbott’s depiction of the Islamic State as an “apocalyptic death cult”, then, appears to be right on the money. Conversely, the accusation by leftist journalists and commentators in Australia that Tony Abbott’s analysis is mere hyperbole, intended only to boost lagging popularity at home, can be dismissed as a combination of ignorance and political point-scoring on the part of the commentariat – the very things, ironically, they accuse the Prime Minister of doing.

If I quibble about this, there is something about the wording at the start that does not come to grips with the intensity or the nature of the problems we face. ISIS are mass murderers who will murder many more if they can. I do not know where their drive for power and dominance comes from but it is not “irrational”. And “bloodcurdling” is too weak a word to do the job. With ISIS we are dealing with very rational people who are seeking power, first in the Middle East but also anywhere else they can. It is a global operation spreading with fantastic success. It is also not difficult to set up a franchise operation anywhere, which is why no country in the West is immune, where there is a large scale risk of much greater insurgency over the coming decades. ISIS is unlikely to have reached anything like the dominance it will one day have. If this doesn’t worry you, you lack political imagination and have almost no historical sense worth discussing. You are, whatever else you may think, helping to open the road to further incursions of ISIS barbarities into every part of the world.

Robert Groot, the President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, made this statement absolving the PM of missing the point.


OK, I get it. But side by side with that, I would like to see the Executive Council’s words on Obama’s agreement freeing Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Here’s my advice, Robert. You should back this Prime Minister to the hilt because whoever may be the next one is unlikely to take ISIS as seriously as Tony Abbott, and it will not matter which side of politics forms the next government for this to be true.

Hayek on Keynes’s ignorance of economics

I’d never seen this before and was apparently first published on 29 September 2012. The notes on the Youtube clip read:

Friedrich Hayek explains to Leo Rosten that while brilliant Keynes had a parochial understanding of economics.

“Parochial” is quite a word when the clip actually speaks of Keynes’s ignorance. It is well known that Keynes had a third rate understanding of economics but was a genius at polemical writing. After Marx, Keynes is the most destructive economist who has ever lived.

It is also interesting that Hayek sees understanding the history of economics as an important part in the education of an economist. Keynes’s ignorance of the economics of the past was seen as a great failing, a failing which now besets the whole of the profession. I wonder how much any modern economist would know about the monetary economists Hayek lists assuming they even know their names.

[My thanks to Harry for sending this on.]