- Deine Bibliothek (1,780)
- US (1,274), 20th Century (900), 19th Century (705), Economic (497), Europe (415), 18th Century (314), Diplomatic (313), Biography (264), East Asia (199), Military (171), Presidents (138), Cold War (119), 17th Century (118), Indians (113), Expansion (109), Global (108), Intellectual (106), Slavery (83), Race (64), 21st Century (62), West (56), 16th Century (55), Civil War (47), Social (46), Middle East (45), South (44), Revolution (37), Civil Rights (37), Ancient (33), Religion (32), Americas (31), Labor (27), Legal (26), Conservatives (25), New Deal (24), Depression (23), Middle Ages (23), Empire (21), 15th Century (21), Environment (21), Science (21), Constitution (21), Cultural (18), Capitalism (17), Reconstruction (17), Progressivism (15), Canada (12), 14th Century (11), Africa (10), Historiography (10), South Asia (9), Anti-Communism (9), Pacific Northwest (8), Pacific (8), Populism (8), Globalization (5), Central Asia (3), 13th Century (3), 8th Century (2), Medieval (2), Southwest (2), 7th Century (1), Political (1), 9th Century (1), 11th Century (1)
- Tag-Wolke, Autoren-Wolke
- Oct 19, 2008
- Bürgerlicher Name
- Über meine Bibliothek
- This collection includes only books that are sitting on my shelves, staring at me. Works of history dominate, mainly modern American and world history. Reflecting my professional experience and teaching focus, diplomatic and economic studies account for sizeable shares of my collection.
- Über mich
Retired Foreign Service Officer and part-time university professor who still doesn't know what he wants to do when he grows up. But he has some random thoughts drawn from the philosophical musings of poets and song-writers:
"The mind that is not baffled is not employed" - Wendell Berry
"I'm a loser at the top of my game" - Tom Petty
"I don't even remember what it was I came here to get away from" - Bob Dylan
"Feel like I been shot and didn't fall down" - Lucinda Williams
"The fire trucks are comin' up around the bend" - Alanis Morissette
"Oh, I know that the hypnotized never lie" - Pete Townsend
"All the people we used to know, they're an illusion to me now" - Bob Dylan
"You could cry, or die, or just make pies all day" - Patty Griffin
"I don't share your need to discuss the absurd" - Warren Zevon
"Life teaches a lesson, again and again, best thing to be is a faithful friend" - Eric Bibb
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now" - Paul Simon
"Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you." - Paul Simon
Ouch!: "It was something lacking in himself that made an attractive woman see him rather as a procuror of secondhand books than as a lover." - Barbara Pym
How Did We Lose The Idea of the Common Good?:
"Hostile responses to labor activism in New York [beginning in the 1870s] reflected the larger ideological shift in the Gilded Age...among middle- and upper-class Americans to turn from traditional republican values of mutuality, obligation, and the common good to a laissez-faire republicanism celebrating individualism, freedom of contract, and private property rights. New York in this era played a key role in promoting this ideological shift and an attendant formation of a bourgeois class identity and class solidarity on a national scale.... New York elites...became more assertive in pursuing their class interests, uniting behind a program of lower taxes, fiscal retrenchment, and disenfranchisement.... In struggles with their employees, they shed any remaining pretensions to antebellum paternalism and embraced the language of laissez-faireism to denounce strikes and celebrate freedom of contract and the unchangeable 'laws' of the market. And, reflecting a growing hostility towards and fear of the 'dangerous classes,' they demanded larger police and militia forces.... From 1874 until the 1890s, tensions and violence between police and labor in New York escalated steadily. Little wonder that virtually every New York working-class leader...harkened back to January 13, 1874 [the Tompkins Square police riot] as the moment they began to question the republican notion of America as essentially a classless society and instead see themselves as members of a distinct and besieged class." - Edward T. O'Donnell, Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality (2015)
Sound Familiar? Social Darwinism Rides Again!:
"[Humanitarians and philanthropists] see wealth and poverty side by side. They note great inequality of social position and social chances. They eagerly set about the attempt to account for what they see, and to devise schemes for remedying what they do not like. In their eagerness to recommend the less fortunate classes to pity and consideration, they forget all about the rights of other classes, they gloss over the faults of the classes in question, and they exaggerate their misfortunes and their virtues. They invent new theories of property, distorting rights and perpetuating injustice, as anyone is sure to do who sets about the readjustment of social relations with the interests of one group distinctly before his mind, and the interests of all other groups thrown into the background. When I have read certain of these discussions, I have thought that it must be disreputable to be respectable, quite dishonest to own property, quite unjust to go one's own way and earn one's own living, and that the only really admirable person was the good-for-nothing." - William Graham Sumner, What Social Classes Owe to Each Other (1883)
Where Do These "Polarizing" Attitudes Come From?:
"The post-Civil War years made Americans define the nation around a peculiar 'middle-class' ideology. Hardworking Americans, it seemed, held the great middle against disaffected Americans and unscrupulously wealthy businessmen. While both these outlying special interests seemed to want to hijack the government - and sometimes did - their opponents demanded that the government benefit everyone at once in an evenhanded system that promoted individualism. Since it was the government's job to help Americans, they believed it was the government's job to promote their way of life. It never occurred to them that they, themselves, might be a special interest. 'Special interests,' they thought, were organized groups that demanded government intervention in society to advance their own particular benefit. Organized labor, big businessmen, African American activists, certain women's rights activists, agrarian groups - all seemed to strike at the heart of America's unique individualism by trying to reduce God's beneficent world to one of struggling interests fighting over a finite set of benefits. If they succeeded in controlling the government, they would create the very limitations mainstream Americas feared, for government benefits would make the lazy stop working while the productive took their abilities elsewhere to keep from being bled dry by taxes. But legislation benefiting the great middle seemed to help the nation as a whole. It enabled more people then ever before to join the ranks of the middle class. It meant better working conditions and more oversight of the workplace. It meant a check on the power of employers. It meant better wages and some financial protection for workplace injury. As the economy rebounded from the depression of the mid-1890s and maintained a healthy level of growth in the early twentieth century, more and more workers identified with the vision of individualism that promised them upward mobility. The belief that labor and capital were naturally at odds lost ground to the idea that individuals could make it on their own...
The late nineteenth century defined modern America. Fewer than forty years separated the presidency of [Theodore] Roosevelt from that Abraham Lincoln, but it is impossible to imagine the two exchanging eras. Lincoln took the country into the Civil War to protect the idea that opportunity should be open to any man - no matter his race or background. By the time Roosevelt moved into the White House in 1901, the nation had reunited, but its principles were no longer inclusive. Instead of offering a hand to the poor and disenfranchised, government dedicated itself to advancing the interests of a new, economically powerful middle class, one that was largely white and unwilling to include in its ranks people of color, the needy, or other 'special interests.' As their enthusiastic support for the Spanish-American War demonstrated, American entered the twentieth century so secure in the values of middle-class individualism that united them that they believed it was their duty to impose those values beyond their borders. From 1865 to 1901, Lincoln's widespread egalitarian vision evolved into a middle-class American dream...
Americans' dislike of 'special interests' controlling government has meant that twentieth-century politics...swung between, on the one hand, opposition to businessmen controlling government and, on the other, a dislike of those laborers, immigrants, advocates for women's rights, and minority activists who call for government protection. During the Progressive Era, the Depression, and the sixties and seventies, Americans protested the businessmen who unfairly stacked the economic deck in their own favor through ties to the government. In these eras, Americans created legislation to protect individuals, disdained business leaders, emphasized government corruption, and worked to curb the power of the wealthy. In the twenties, the fifties, and the conservative revolution of the late twentieth century the pendulum swung the other way, as middle-class Americans argued that the poor refused to work, that calls for women's rights threatened the fabric of society, and that 'liberals' calling for legislation to address racial, economic, and gender inequalities were attacking the individualism that made America great...
At the turn of the twentieth century, Theodore Roosevelt exploded into national prominence as a man who would bring mainstream equality back to America, endorsing western values of individualism and sweeping away special interests at both ends of the economic spectrum that sucked up taxes from those doing the real work of the country. With Roosevelt, the cowboy came to maturity as the symbol of the nation. But the image of the American cowboy has always had two sides. It contains the great hope of American equality of opportunity, of a world where anyone can rise and where no one has special privileges. But it also contains the deliberate repression of anyone identifying racial, gender, or economic inequalities in society, as well as a dangerously self-righteous expansionism. Both sides of the cowboy represent America; both define our nation."
- Heather Cox Richardson, West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War (2007)
Still True, Even After the End of the Cold War:
"We are a people used to looking at the world, and indeed at ourselves, in moralistic rather than empirical terms. We are predisposed to regard any confilct as a clash between good and evil rather than as simply a clash between confiicting interests. We are inclined to confuse freedom and democracy, which we regard as moral principles, with the way in which they are practiced in America--with capitalism, federalism, and the two-party system, which are not moral principles but simply the preferred and accepted practices of the American people. There is much cant in American moralism and not a little inconsistency."
- J. William Fulbright, "Foreign Policy - Old Myths and New Realities" (March 25, 1964)
Does GOP stand for "Grab Overwhelming Power"?:
"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power...We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing...We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes a revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."
- George Orwell, 1984 (1949)
The Warning We Failed to Heed:
"Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally...The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual, and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to his own elevation on the ruins of public liberty."
- George Washington, "Farewell Address" (September 19, 1796)
Where It All Started:
"Free-market conservatives took the nightmarish fears inspired by anticommunism [in the 1950s] and turned them against the entire liberal state, making it seem as though the minimum wage and labor unions were about to usher in a new era of political enslavement. No spies were needed, no conscious treachery - the logic of liberalism itself was the threat. They used the shadow of Communist danger to bolster their case that dismantling the welfare state was a crusade for freedom. Years after McCarthy had been repudiated, they continued to fight for the market using the tropes they had developed when anticommunism was at its zenith."
- Kim Phillips-Fein, Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement from the New Deal to Reagan (2009)
Where the Politics of Anger and Grievance Was Launched:
"Reagan's greatest political achievement was to reconcile a politics focused on restoring white supremacy and godliness with his own neoliberal market orientation, with its emphasis on personal freedom and antagonism to the New Deal state. He did so by telling white southerners that the changes in American life that they loathed had been facilitated by a party of big government - the Democrats - that was strangling the cherished liberties of white Americans...Reagan's genius was to hang a giant scarlet letter around the neck of the federal government, identifying it as a tyrannical force that had violated the freedoms Americans regarded as their birthright: to worship God in public; to hire the employees they desired; to live among people of their own race; and to send their children to the neighborhood school without fear that they would be bussed, for the sake of racial justice, to another school many miles away. Take away the regulatory power that the central state had amassed to itself during the over-reaching days of the New Deal and the Great Society, Reagan argued, and the social engineering initiatives of the federal government would simply collapse. The God-given liberties of Americans on matters of race, religion, and employment would then be quickly restored. Reagan, seemingly, had found a way to draw on conservative racial and religious fury to propel his anti-government, neoliberal agenda. That was quite a feat."
- Gary Gerstle, The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order (2022)
The Corporate Dilemma:
"Unbridled corporate power has been a factor behind the rise of populism, especially rightwing populism. Consider how one goes about persuading people to accept [Milton] Friedman’s libertarian economic ideas. In a universal-suffrage democracy, it is really difficult. To win, libertarians have had to ally themselves with ancillary causes — culture wars, racism, misogyny, nativism, xenophobia and nationalism. Much of this has of course been sotto voce and so plausibly deniable.
The 2008 financial crisis, and the subsequent bailout of those whose behaviour caused it, made selling a deregulated free-market even harder. So, it became politically essential for libertarians to double down on those ancillary causes. Mr Trump was not the person they wanted: he was erratic and unprincipled, but he was the political entrepreneur best suited to winning the presidency. He has given them what they most wanted: tax cuts and deregulation."
- Martin Wolf, "Milton Friedman was Wrong on the Corporation," Financial Times (December 8, 2020)
Economic Insecurity and the American Worker:
"The problem was the rest of the world's voracious demand for dollar-denominated assets. In addition to inflating the mortgage debt bubble [in the 2000s], overabundant foreign financing also savaged America's terms of trade as trillions of dollars of uneconomic asset purchases distorted the U.S. exchange rate. Between the start of 1997 - the eve of the Asian financial crisis - and the beginning of 2002, the dollar appreciated by more than 20 percent against the currencies of its trading partners. While the dollar declined from then until 2008, it consistently remained far above its 1988-96 average. To the misfortune of American workers, the overvaluation of the dollar meant that American consumers would prefer to buy goods made abroad at the expense of domestic manufacturing.
The rest of the world's unwillingness to spend - which in turn was attributable to the class wars in the major surplus economies [e.g., China, Germany] and the desire for self-insurance [by holding dollar-denominated reserves] after the Asian crisis - was the underlying cause of both America's debt bubble and America's deindustrialization. Foreign financial inflows forced Americans to absorb their glut of manufacturing capacity at the expense of U.S. jobs and incomes. This necessarily required foreign savers to mitigate the impact of job losses on American spending by buying dollar-denominated assets, which pushed down interest rates, expanded credit, and facilitated a surge in [U.S.] household borrowing.
A careful study in 2017 by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York...summarized it: 'The displacement of domestic production by imports fueled demand for credit' to substitute for lost wages."
- Matthew C. Klein & Michael Pettis, Trade Wars are Class Wars: How Rising Inequality Distorts the Global Economy and Threatens International Peace (2020)
Trade Wars I: "Military language, containing expressions such as 'economic front' and 'defensive positions,' is especially inappropriate to the analysis of problems of international trade and of division of labor between countries....It suggests that a 'front' of economic conflict lies always between two countries, whereas in reality the conflict is between groups having different interests within each country."
- Gottfried Haberler, The Theory of International Trade with Its Applications to Commercial Policy (1936)
Trade Wars II: "It may be tempting to conclude that America has paid too high a price for China’s entry into the global trading system...A more helpful conclusion is that politicians should take more care to equip workers labouring far from the innovation frontier to adapt to shocks to their industries — from import competition or anywhere else...Cranking tariffs up or down may offer politicians the temporary sense that they can control foreign competition, but the costs of protection will be borne elsewhere in the economy, largely unseen. And the world will meanwhile move on regardless."
- The Economist (March 7, 2019)
Fiscal Policy: "A strong case can be made that World War II, however devastating in terms of deaths and casualties among the American military (albeit much less than the greater toll of deaths and wounded among other combatants), nevertheless represented an economic miracle that rescued the American economy from the secular stagnation of the late 1930s. In fact...the case is overwhelming for the 'economic rescue' interpretation of World War II along every conceivable dimension, from education and the GI Bill to the deficit-financed mountain of household saving that gave a new middle class the ability to purchase the consumer durables made possible by the Second Industrial Revolution."
- Robert J. Gordon, The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War (2016)
Social Policy: "The most important negative feature of American exceptionalism was the inability of the political system to adopt universal health insurance, defined as insurance that is a right of citizenship rather than being dependent on employment. Why should households suffering from devastating loss of income through unemployment also lose services to prevent diseases and ultimately death? Bismarck figured out this greatest of all economic policy issues in the 1880s, but even now an efficient system of the provision of medical care as a right of citizenship has thus far eluded the American political system."
- Robert J. Gordon, The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War (2016)
Inequality: "For me, the most maddening failure of the liberal elite was that too many of its members became indifferent to the declining share of corporate income devoted to wages. By the early 1980s, you could see clear evidence of their growing interest in accumulating wealth for themselves, of their focus on corporate profits that would pay them dividends and increase the value of their stocks; 'Wall Street Week' soared to popularity on PBS - it was the 'Downton Abbey' of its time. Profits have increased since the 1980s, yet wages have stagnated."
- Charles Peters, "I Remember When Appalachia Wasn't Trump Country" (New York Times, March 4, 2017)
Housing: "The fact that, under free market conditions, better quarters go to those who have larger incomes or more wealth is, if anything, simply a reason for taking long-term measures to reduce the inequality of income and wealth. For those, like us, who would like even more equality than there is at present, not alone for housing but for all products, it is surely better to attack directly existing inequalities in income and wealth at their source than to ration each of the hundreds of commodities and services that compose our standard of living. It is the height of folly to permit individuals to receive unequal money incomes and then take elaborate and costly measures [e.g., rent controls] to prevent them from using their incomes."
- Milton Friedman & George Stigler, "Roofs or Ceilings? The Current Housing Problem," Popular Essays on Current Problems 1, no. 2 (1946)
The 'Free Market' Fetish: "The neoliberal vision of globalization was that a system based on individual freedom, free markets, and the opportunities provided by 'flexible labor markets' [i.e., elimination of trade unions] would substitute for universal high-quality publicly funded education and health care systems, more efficient and cheaper privatized alternatives. The citizen was nothing more than a consumer. But neoliberals...abandoned any attempt to account for the possibility, let alone likelihood, of market failure in key social policy areas such as education, housing, or health. The losers were labeled, by conservative politicians on both side of the Atlantic, welfare moms, dole-scroungers, or indigent free riders. At the same time, the language of profit, efficiency, and consumption replaced that of citizenship, solidarity, and service. In the United States, Obama's health care reforms were prevented by the Tea Party nihilists from including any kind of public option capable of reducing the sometimes corrupt and universally escalating costs of private health care. Dominated by free market gospel, the irony of this brave new world was that it produced everything conservative politicians hated: insecurity, social, sexual and cultural changes, violence, and the collapse of community."
- Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (2012)
Political Dialogue: "Although [John Maynard Keynes] believed in rational argument, he also believed that 'words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking'."
- George C. Peden, "Keynes and British Economic Policy," The Cambridge Companion to Keynes (2006)
Politics and Society
The Fundamental Flaw of Laissez-Faire or Free Market Ideology I: "The man who wrongly holds that every human right is secondary to his profit must now give way to the advocate of human welfare, who rightly maintains that every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it." - Theodore Roosevelt, "The New Nationalism" (1910)
The Fundamental Flaw of Laissez-Faire or Free Market Ideology II: "The rugged individualist may have imagined that in economic life he was the person that God and his own will had made. But in fact he was a juristic creature of the law that happened to prevail in his epoch."
- Walter Lippmann, The Good Society (1937)
The Modern Perils of Democratic Idealism: "The people as a body have always honest views - they therefore never do wrong, but through delusion. The moment their delusion is removed, they return to principles of order, and leave their deceivers in the lurch." [But what if "the people" insist on clinging to "delusion" contrary to reason and evidence?]
- Noah Webster, American Minerva, September 17, 1795
On the Absurdity of 'Originalism':
"Had the [Constitutional] Convention attempted a positive enumeration of the powers necessary and proper for carrying their other powers into effect; the attempt would have involved a complete digest of laws on every subject to which the Constitution relates; accommodated too not only to the existing state of things, but to all possible changes which futurity may produce: For in every new application of a general power, the particular powers, which are the means of attaining the object of the general power, must always necessarily vary with that object; and be often properly varied whilst the object remains the same.
Had they attempted to enumerate the particular powers or means, not necessary or proper for carrying the general powers into execution, the task would have been no less chimerical; and would have been liable to this further objection; that every defect in the enumeration, would have been equivalent to a positive grant of authority...
Had the Constitution been silent on this head, there can be no doubt that all the particular powers, requisite as means of executing the general powers, would have resulted to the government, by unavoidable implication. No axiom is more clearly established in law, or in reason, than that wherever the end is required, the means are authorised; wherever a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power necessary for doing it, is included.
- Publius [James Madison], The Federalist No. 44 (January 25, 1788)
"Strict construction [now known as 'originalism']...is in a special sense the resort of persons under ideological strain. It represents a willingness to renounce a range of positive opportunities for action in return for a principle which will inhibit government from undertaking a range of things one does not approve of. It marks the point at which one prefers to see the Constitution not as a sanction for achieving one's own ends but as a protection against the designs of others which have come to be seen as usurping and corrupting."
- Stanley Elkins & and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800 (1993)
It was ever thus: "The greatest difficulty lies, in setting a huge massy body in motion. To point out to mankind their real interest, is easy enough; but to convince them of their duty, and to persuade those who are activated by different views, and subject to different passions, to lay aside their prejudices, to give up a strong attachment to their immediate interests, and to act in mutual concert, for the good of the whole, is an arduous task."
- "Libertas at Natale Solum," South-Carolina Gazette (August 20, 1770)
We live in a republic, not a democracy (I): “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
- Edmund Burke (1774)
We live in a republic, not a democracy (II): "[At the Constitutional Convention in July 1787] the commentary on the issue of property qualifications for voting and public service from many of the most ardent supporters of the new government - Governeur Morris, Charles Pinckney, John Rutledge, and, on occasion, Madison - displays in striking fashion the fear and distrust with which many of the Founding Fathers regarded the common people. They believed they were creating a republic, not a democracy, and most of the wealthy and privileged men serving in the Convention were convinced that true republican government depended on a virtuous, property-owning citizenry...One of the great fears motivating them as they created a new continental government was that a tyrannical majority of propertyless citizens might combine to render the rights of property insecure."
- Richard Beeman, Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (2009)
A 'conservative' view of democracy: "[Economist Joseph] Schumpeter advanced one of the first procedural definitions of democracy : 'Democracy is a political method, that is to say, a certain type of institutional arrangement for arriving at political - legislative and administrative - decisions and hence incapable of being an end in itself, irrespective of what decisions it will produce under given historical conditions.' Democracy is a means, not an end in itself. It works through competitions among elites for support rather than through mass participation. The minimal act of voting is therefore the proper form of popular involvement, meaning democracy should be representative and not direct. Schumpeter inspired countless scholars from Gabriel Almond to Raymond Aron in their elite theories of democracy, which verged on theories of aristocracy."
- Janek Wasserman, The Marginal Revolutionaries: How Austrian Economists Fought the War of Ideas (2019)
The "intellectual" basis of conservatism: "National Review [published by William F. Buckley, Jr.] rode an impressive postwar tide of conservative intellectual work....They believed that the bulwark of any civilization was not industry or riches or men under arms, but ideas. The West was imperiled because it was infected by error: by materialism, in the philosophical sense of the word, believing the world to be wholly composed of ordinary physical matter and valuing physical well-being as an ultimate end. And materialism's handmaids: humanism and egalitarianism, which assumed man had unlimited power to order his own world; pragmatism, which said whatever worked was right; and utopianism, the doomed attempt to establish the kingdom of heaven on earth. The offenders were both Democrats ([John F.] Kennedy: 'Our problems are man-made; they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants') and Republicans ([Nelson] Rockefeller: The ideal politician 'goes in and says, "I want to find out what the facts are." Then he adapts his program and his approach to the realities.') It was the political waters America was swimming in - a swamp, Buckley's acolytes thought."
- Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (2001)
"Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses."
- H.L. Mencken
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."
- Ascribed to Bertrand Russell
Ever wonder where Howard Roark came from?: "[Ludwig von] Mises's most controversial assertion [about economics] was his insistence on the a priori quality of the praxeological axiom: 'Its statements and propositions are not derived from experience. They are, like those of logic and mathematics, a priori. They are not subject to verification or falsification on the ground of experience and facts'.... Mises's elevation of economics to the status of logic had great seductive power. If all of Mises's economic assertions could be deduced from his core tenet - 'Human action is purposeful behavior' - then decisions that impeded the smooth functioning of human action violated scientific law and human will."
- Janek Wasserman, The Marginal Revolutionaries: How Austrian Economists Fought the War of Ideas (2019)
"In a dying civilization, political prestige is the reward not of the shrewdest diagnostician, but of the man with the best bedside manner. It is the decoration conferred on mediocrity by ignorance."
- Eric Ambler, The Mask of Dimitrios (1939)
"Simple minds understand the simple language of the victorious sword much more easily than they can grasp the cautious word with which the pen slowly binds together the results of claim and counterclaim, of compromise and concession. And simple minds are always in the majority."
- Erich Eyck, A History of the Weimar Republic (1962)
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
- Louis D. Brandeis (Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, 1916-1939)
"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."
- Robert Hanlon
"'Relativism' is the view that every belief on a certain topic, or perhaps about any topic, is as good as every other. No one holds this view. Except for the occasional cooperative freshman, one cannot find anybody who says that two incompatible opinions on an important topic are equally good."
- Richard Rorty, The Consequences of Pragmatism (1982)
"Democracy, to me, is liberty plus economic security. To put it in plain language, we Americans want to talk, pray, think as we please - and eat regular."
- Rep. Maury Maverick, D-TX (1937)
"Because the United States has preserved its Constitution in aspic, it continues to run its politics based on assumptions current in the 18th century rather than the 21st century, with rank and privilege continuing to be politically very important."
- Trevor Burnard, "An Infatuation with Titles: Hereditary Privilege and Liberty in the Era of the American Revolution," Historically Speaking 13, no. 2 (2012)
"Because of the way decision-making authority is dispersed in the American political system, the advocates of a stronger central state have had to win support (or at least acquiescence) in all three branches of the federal government; their opponents have often been able to block them or to force them to moderate their proposals by exerting a decisive influence in only one branch. The moments at which all the necessary elements come into alignment, and at which truly dramatic increases in state power are therefore possible, have proven to be few in number and short in duration."
- Aaron L. Friedberg, In the Shadow of the Garrison State: America's Anti-Statism and Its Cold War Grand Strategy (2000)
"The rights of mankind are simple. They require no learning to unfold them. They are better felt, than explained. Hence in matters that relate to liberty, the mechanic and the philosopher, the farmer and the scholar, are all upon a footing. But the case is widely different with respect to government. It is a complicated science, and requires abilities and knowledge of a variety of other subjects, to understand it."
- Benjamin Rush, "To the Freemen of the United States," Pennsylvania Gazette (1787)
"Business elements [in the 1890s] kept alive the antigovernment sentiment, [sociologist Lester Frank] Ward contended, not because they believed in laissez faire but because they feared that if the laissez-faire philosophy were abandoned, government would consider the unequal distribution of wealth, which was the greatest evil of society, as within its purview and, in coping with this problem, would trench on the domain of those who benefited most from the status quo. When big business cried paternalism, it was therefore merely referring to government action that would recognize the claim of the 'defenseless laborer and artisan' to a share of the state protection afforded business." [Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose]
- Sidney Fine, Laissez Faire and the General-Welfare State (1956)
"Nothing in the history of American business justifies undue confidence on the part of the American public that it can trust big business to take care of the community without supervision, regulation or eternal vigilance."
- Jacob Viner, Founding Father of "Chicago Economics," Speech to Williamstown Institute of Politics (1931)
"Businessmen have a different set of delusions from politicians; and need, therefore, different handling. They are, however, much milder than politicians, at the same time allured and terrified by the glare of publicity, easily persuaded to be 'patriots,' perplexed, bemused, indeed terrified, yet only too anxious to take a cheerful view, vain perhaps but very unsure of themselves, pathetically responsive to a kind word. You could do anything you liked with them, if you would treat them (even the big ones), not as wolves and tigers, but as domestic animals by nature, even though they have been badly brought up and not trained as you would wish. It is a mistake to think that they are more immoral than politicians. If you work them into the surly, obstinate, terrified mood, of which domestic animals, wrongly handled, are so capable, the nation's burdens will not get carried to the market; and in the end public opinion will veer in their way."
-John Maynard Keynes, letter to FDR (February 1938)
"For if you teach a people for ten years that the character of its government is not greatly important, that political success is for those who equivocate and evade, and if you tell them that acquisitiveness is the ideal, that things are what matter, that Mammon is God, then you must not be astonished at the confusion in Washington…. It is not only against the material consequences of this decade of drift and hallucination, but against the essence of its spirit that the best and bravest among us are today in revolt."
- Walter Lippmann, New York Herald Tribune (May 20, 1932)
"Our danger is neither from 'radicalism' or 'conservatism' but from incoherence and paralysis. What we have to fear is the inability of the government to determine policies and execute them…. For we are suffering not from tyranny but from weakness, not from evil purposes but from confused purposes, not from stupidity but from impotence."
- Walter Lippmann, New York Herald Tribune (July 19, 1932)
"A nation that demands of its government only the maintenance of order is already a slave at the bottom of its heart; it is a slave to its well-being, and the man who is to put it in chains can appear."
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Vol. 2, 1840)
On the Progressive Viewpoint: "The native [American] ethos of mass participation in politics and citizenlike civic consciousness…confirmed the idea that everyone was in some very serious sense responsible for everything."
- Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform: From Bryan to FDR (1955)
"Maximum wealth, badly distributed, does not lead to maximum happiness."
- Guido Calabresi, "The New Economic Analysis of Law: Scholarship, Sophistry, or Self-Indulgence?", Proceedings of the British Academy 68 (1982)
"It has been the function of the liberal tradition in American politics, from the time of Jeffersonian and Jacksonian democracy down through Populism, Progressivism, and the New Deal, at first to broaden the numbers of those who could benefit from the great American bonanza and then to humanize its workings and help heal the casualties."
- Richard Hoftstadter, The Age of Reform: From Bryan to FDR (1955)
"There is no little irony in the fact that inflation was the dominant fear in the depths of the Great Depression, when deflation was the real and present danger."
- Barry Eichengreen, Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the Great Depression, 1919-1939 (1992)
"I experienced at first hand the evolution of macroeconomics from literary exposition - where propositions seemed plausible but never completely convincing - into a mathematical discipline - where propositions were logically convincing but never completely plausible."
- Mervyn King, The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy (2016)
"Too large a proportion of recent 'mathematical' economics are merely concoctions, as imprecise as the inital assumptions they rest on, which allow the author to lose sight of the complexities and interdepencies of the real world in a maze of pretentious and unhelpful symbols."
- John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936)
"[Milton] Friedman published a detailed overview of his approach to economic analysis in his essay 'The Methodology of Positive Economics' (1953)...Crucially, the validity of a hypothesis was to be determined solely by its predictive capacity, and not by the conformity of its assumptions with our understanding of reality. The most elegant and valuable theories would present a simplistic mechanism to generate consistently successful predictions for the behavior of vastly more complicated sets of data...Friedman's emphasis on the necessary descriptive simplification entailed in the act of generating hypotheses reinvigorated the embattled theory of perfect competition. Economists had long struggled against the descriptive inaccuracies [of the theory]...its atomistic and coldly calculating vision of human activity utterly failed to explain many self-evident aspects of intersocial behavior. To Friedman, the individual falsities were beside the point, because the only criterion to use in evaluating the theory that individuals 'single-mindedly' seek to maximize their 'money income' was its relative capacity to predict successfully when confronted with aggregate data. Friedman's distinction between a theory's descriptive and predictive capacities helped justify economists' use of an abstract theory that appeared, when applied to individual cases, to be manifestly untrue."
- Angus Burgin, The Great Persuasion: Reinventing Free Markets since the Depression (2012)
"One way to think about economic models is as fables...They are simple and are set in abstract environments. They make no claim to realism for many of their assumptions. While they seem to be populated by real people and firms, the behavior of the principal characters is drawn in highly stylized form. Inanimate objects ('random shocks,' 'exogenous parameters,' 'nature') often feature in the model and drive the action. The story line revolves around clear cause-and-effect, if-then relationships. And the moral - or policy implication, as economists call it - is typically quite transparent: free markets are efficient, opportunistic behavior in strategic interactions can leave everyone worse off, incentives matter, and so on.
- Dani Rodrik, Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science (2015)
"One of the properties of internally consistent economic models is their enormous survival power. The predictions they generate may be demonstrably inaccurate. But, after the fact, confidence in the essential truth of the theoretical system can be salvaged so long as it can provide reasons to account for the discrepancy between the expectation and reality."
- William J. Barber, From New Era to New Deal: Herbert Hoover, the Economists, and American Economic Policy, 1921-1933 (1985)
"The point is to realize that economic models are metaphors, not truth. By all means express your thoughts in models, as pretty as possible…. But always remember that you may have gotten the metaphor wrong, and that someone else with a different metaphor may be seeing something that you are missing."
- Paul Krugman, "How I Work" (New York Times, July 5, 2013)
"If the right stylized facts can be used as a basis for theory, and theorists have good indications of the relative quantitative importance of various phenomena, it is clearly far more likely that the theory itself can make a useful contribution."
(Translation: Theories based on reality seem to be more realistic and useful.)
- Anne O. Krueger, "Trade Policy and Economic Development: How We Learn" (1997)
"Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful."
- George E. P. Box & Norman R. Draper, Empirical Model Building and Response Surfaces (1987)
"The advance of behavioral economics is not fundamentally in conflict with mathematical economics, as some seem to think, though it may well be in conflict with some currently fashionable mathematical economic models.
- Robert J. Shiller, Is Economics a Science? (2013)
"The prevailing emphasis on mathematical and logical rigor has given economics an internal consistency that is missing in other social sciences. But there is little value in being consistently wrong."
- John Quiggen, Zombie Economics (2010)
"To put it bluntly, the discipline of economics has yet to get over its childish passion for mathematics and for purely theoretical and often highly ideological speculation, at the expense of historical research and collaboration with the other social sciences."
- Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014)
"The measure of success attained by Wall Street, regarded as an institution of which the proper social purpose is to direct new investment into the most profitable channels in terms of future yield, cannot be claimed as one of the outstanding triumphs of laissez-faire capitalism, which is not surprising if I am right in thinking that the best brains of Wall Street have been in fact directed towards a different object."
- John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936)
"Keynes was a great and important man. But it is possible to describe the evolution of fiscal policy in America up to 1940 without reference to him. And yet, by the outbreak of the war a large part of the fiscal revolution had already occurred. It was accepted policy that we would run deficits in depressions, that we would not raise taxes in depressions in an attempt to balance the budget, and that in severe depressions we would raise expenditures, at least for relief and probably for recovery. We no longer believed that depressions were necessarily short and self-terminating, and we did not think depression deficits, even if fairly large and prolonged, would lead to national bankruptcy. Keynes helped this policy and these attitudes to emerge...but he was not indispensable for their emergence."
- Herbert Stein, The Fiscal Revolution in America (1969)
"A heavy progressive tax upon a very large fortune is in no way such a tax upon thrift or industry as a like tax would be on a small fortune. No advantage comes either to the country as a whole or to the individuals inheriting the money by permitting the transmission in their entirety of the enormous fortunes which would be affected by such a tax; and as an incident to its function of revenue raising, such a tax would help to preserve a measurable equality of opportunity for the people of the generations growing to manhood."
- President Theodore Roosevelt (1907)
"But the best state for human nature is that in which, while no one is poor, no one desires to be richer, nor has any reason to fear from being thrust back, by the efforts of others to push themselves forward."
- John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy (1886)
"Economists have to start innocent of all distracting ideas. They have to have minds sufficiently empty to construct or accept those axiomatic models of human behavior that are their bread and butter. Late adolescence is the ideal time to start such a training."
- Robert & Edward Skidelsky, How Much is Enough? (2012)
"Society refuses to turn itself into a giant vending machine that delivers anything and everything in return for the proper number of coins. When members of my [economics] profession sometimes lose sight of this principle, they invite the nastiest definition of an economist: the person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. Society needs to keep the market in its place. The domain of rights is part of the checks and balances on the market designed to preserve values that are not denominated in dollars. For the same reasons that an investor holds many different stocks and bonds in his portfolio, society diversifies its mechanisms for distribution and allocation. It won't put all of its eggs in the market's basket."
- Arthur M. Okun, Equality and Efficiency: The Big Tradeoff (1975)
"It is not human beings who need adapting to the market; it is the marketplace that needs adapting to human beings."
- Robert & Edward Skidelsky, How Much is Enough? (2012)
"If it is true that the economy must be deferred to, then there is a case not only for constraining the imprudent actions of the prince but for repressing those of the people, for limiting participation, in short, for crushing anything that could be interpreted by some economist-king as a threat to the proper functioning of the 'delicate watch'."
- Albert O. Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph (1977)
"How many people ruin themselves by laying out money on trinkets of frivolous utility? What pleases these lovers of toys, is not so much the utility as the aptness of the machines which are fitted to promote it. All their pockets are stuffed with little conveniences. They contrive new pockets, unknown in the clothes of other people, in order to carry a greater number."
- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)
Understanding Adam Smith
"With his notion of the invisible hand Adam Smith may be regarded as having founded modern normative economics. The claim that the market mechanism tended to promote the public interest led later generations of economists to explore both the concept of competitive markets and measures of the public interest in order to discover the conditions under which Smith's claim could be justified in more precise analytical terms. The part of economic theory that embodies the results of these explorations is known as welfare economics, and the core of the theory is the establishment of an equivalence between a competitive equilibrium and what is known as a Pareto optimum...A Pareto optimum...is essentially a situation where there is no waste in the economy: it is impossible to improve the outcome for one individual without making somebody worse off. Consequently, the conclusion is that the market economy under ideal conditions generates a situation where there is no waste; society's resources are used in an efficient manner....
[But] it may come as a disappointment to those who have found inspiration in Smith's vision of the market economy as a system working for the common good. For Smith's 'system of perfect liberty' modern theorists have substituted a notion of perfect competition that is so abstract and stylized that it is hardly recognizable as a representation of actual markets. And instead of the public interest they have introduced the concept of Pareto optimality that avoids the troublesome aggregation of individual interests but at the cost that hardly any institutional or political reform can unequivocally be said to be in the interest of society as a whole.
However, when it comes to the practical applications of economic theory to issues of economic policy, many modern economists would probably adopt a position that is in fact not very far from that of Smith... [R]egarding the public interest, many would subscribe to the opinion that...a system of free markets would be the best guarantee for an economic and social development that in the long run would benefit all classes in society. They would probably also emphasize that this conclusion hinges not on the analysis of the market system alone but also on the nature of the coexistence between markets and government....
One important role of the government, according to Smith, was to provide the institutional framework required for competitive markets to function...Smith also acknowledged that, although well-functioning markets were good for society, individual producers might well find it in their individual interests to limit competition by entering into 'conspiracies against the publick.' Therefore, an important role for government was to design an economic system that as far as possible discouraged the creation of private cartels and monopolies.
A further role of the state is to provide goods and services for which the market system does not provide the right incentives for private producers to supply them. Such goods are known in modern economics as public goods, and in regard to these Adam Smith argues that the role of the state consists in 'erecting and maintaining certain publick works and certain publick institutions, which it can never be for the interests of any individual, or small number of individuals, to erect and maintain'... Just as in the modern theory of public goods, Smith's emphasis is on the failure of private incentives when it comes to providing public goods at the efficient level... In the language of modern economics these are cases of market failure.
Another contribution that Smith makes to the economics of the public sector comes in his analysis of taxation. Taxes are required to finance the provision of public goods and services... Regarding equity he argues that '[t]he subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion...to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state'... The individual's income is a measure of both his ability to pay taxes and of the benefits receives from the government. The larger his income, the greater the benefits that he receives from a safe environment for his economic activities."
- Agnar Sandmo, 'Adam Smith and Modern Economics,' in Adam Smith: His Life, Thought, and Legacy (2018)
"In Wealth [of Nations] property is necessary but not sufficient, and Adam Smith supplies the essential Discovery Axiom that fuels wealth creation: 'the propensity to truck, barter and exchange'... Just as in [The Theory of Moral] Sentiments, it is process all the way up; it's not about the whiteboard mechanics of market clearing prices and outcomes, based on specialization, that creates wealth; it's about the discovery of prices, whose very existence calls for comparisons that otherwise would not be made between one's own circumstances and that of all others as revealed in prices as they form; prices provide the connection between the individual and all others in economic commerce, just as the 'impartial spectator' is the connecting link between the individual and all others in social commerce. This price discovery perspective in Wealth was lost in the neoclassical marginal revolution and its aftermath....
Each of Smith's two books models human betterment: Sentiments is devoted to social psychological betterment achieved through mutual sympathy and consensual rules of conduct, rules that define the boundaries within which our actions are not subject to resentment by others and may invoke gratitude from others; Wealth is about how exchange and specialization enable economic betterment, based on rules of property that define the boundaries within which we are free to take action....
Sentiments, already eclipsed by Wealth in 1790 when the sixth and final edition was published, represents not so much a legacy lost, as one that failed to achieve traction, an entire means of thinking that established no foothold on economics as the nineteenth and particularly the twentieth centuries turned to utilitarianism. The acclaim of Wealth was spectacularly justified but obscured Smith's equally penetrating examination of the pre-civil rules of order that emerge in culture."
- Vernon L. Smith, "Adam Smith and Experimental Economics," in Adam Smith: His Life, Thought, and Legacy (2018)
"A great deal of the confusion surrounding [Adam] Smith's presumption about human motivation and his assessment of the usefulness of different kinds of motives has tended to arise from not distinguishing between (1) people's reasons for seeking trade and (2) the motivations that make different kinds of economic activities, including trading, successful and stable. It is in answer to the first question that Smith noted the adequacy of the motive of self-seeking. He noted that to explain why people seek trade and pursue exchange, we do not have to go beyond the simple pursuit of self-interest. In this most famous and widely quoted passage from the Wealth of Nations (very popular in mainstream economics as well as in the specialized discipline that has come to be called 'law and economics,' and also in so-called rational choice politics), Smith wrote, 'It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love....' The butcher, the brewer, and the baker want to get our money in exchange for the meat, the beer, and the bread they make, and we - the consumers - want their meat, beer, and bread and are ready to pay for them with our money. The exchange benefits us all, and we do not have to be raving altruists to find reason to seek such and exchange. This is a fine point about motivation for trade...but it is not a claim about the adequacy of self-seeking for the success of a society or even of the market economy, or even the success and sustainability of trade and exchange.
Indeed, a market economy demands a variety of values for its success, including mutual trust and confidence.... Smith discussed why such confidence need not always exist. Even though the champions of the baker-brewer-butcher reading of Smith, enshrined in many economic books, may be at a loss about how to understand the recent economic crisis of 2008...,the devastating consequences of mistrust and the shattering of mutual confidence that was an important feature of the crises would not have appeared puzzling to Adam Smith."
- Amartya Sen, "Adam Smith and Economic Development," in Adam Smith: His Life, Thought, and Legacy (2018)
"It is one thing to see the market as being populated by rational, self-interested, acquisitive individual agents. It is quite another to develop a theory of value and distribution by translating that general characterization of economic man into a formal model of constrained optimization. Almost no political economist of any period would have been troubled by adopting the general characterization. But it was not until the advent of the marginalist approach to the determination of relative prices [in the 1870s] that this general idea was reformulated so as to become the basis of a theory of value. So ingrained has this model become that it is sometimes difficult to see beyond it when one looks back to writers of the past. It is often the case that when the idea of self-interested behaviour is encountered in earlier works, an interpretation is cast in these terms - an interpretation thus framed in a conceptual and theoretical language that would not have been available to the thinker concerned.
- Murray Milgate & Shannon C. Stimson, After Adam Smith: A Century of Transformation in Politics and Political Economy (2009)
"Political theorists...tend to believe that the history of political thought can be studied as a search for enduring answers to perennial questions that can enhance contemporary political thought. Historians, on the other hand, tend to hold that ideas are the products of particular circumstances and particular moments in time and that using them for present purposes is a distortion of their original historical meaning.... It's the theorists' claim that their present-day use of past ideas is true to the original way they were used in the past that historians quarrel with."
- Gordon S. Wood, The Purpose of the Past (2008)
"Historians draw on facts to construct stories. Political scientists arrange facts to validate hypotheses. For historians, facts are like stones: if sorted and stacked with sufficient skill, something of lasting value might result. For political scientists, facts serve as ornaments, selected and displayed in accordance with a predetermined design. For this reason, even the best political science seldom makes for good history."
- Andrew J. Bacevich, "Review Essay," Diplomacy and Statecraft 19, no. 4 (2008)
"The historian who becomes an advocate or a prosecutor instead of a judge forfeits his title to confidence, and, if he aspires to be a judge, he should not try a case by a code unknown to the defendant."
- Henry Charles Lea, "Ethical Values in History," American Historical Review 9, no. 2 (1904)
"But historians who write for the public need to keep in mind…that their books must have ideas as well as narrative, a point of view as well as stories. Too many histories written today for public consumption are biographies, many of them celebratory; and too few of them are analytical by any measure of that term.
- James M. Banner, Jr., "On Being a Historian," Historically Speaking 13, no. 4 (2012)
Attention Budding Writers: "The more alterations Congress made on his draft [Declaration of Independence], the more miserable Jefferson became. He had forgotten, as has posterity, that a draftsman is not an author, and that the 'declaration on independence,' as Congress sometimes called it, was not a novel, or a poem, or even a political essay presented to the world as the work of a particular writer, but a public document, an authenticated expression of the American mind...And what generations of Americans came to revere was not Jefferson's but Congress's Declaration, the work not of a single man, or even of a committee, but of a larger body of men with the good sense to recognize a 'pretty good' draft when they saw it, and who were able to identify and eliminate Jefferson's more outlandish assertions and unnecessary words."
- Pauline Maier, American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence (1997)
- Beliebte Autoren
- Daron Acemoglu, Fred Anderson, Warren I. Cohen, Barry Eichengreen, Pekka Hämäläinen, Richard Hofstadter, Ira Katznelson, Michael Kazin, Jonathan Levy, Fredrik Logevall, Louis Menand, James A. Morone, Heather Cox Richardson, Daniel T. Rodgers, Dani Rodrik, Emma Rothschild, George Sansom, Walter Scheidel, Jonathan D. Spence, Alan Taylor, Adam Tooze, Richard White, C. Vann Woodward
- Interesante Bibliotheken