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Sunday, July 24, 2016

His true greatest blunder?

Albert Einstein had an interesting life.

No, I do not mean revolutionizing physics and the human knowledge, or to become one of the most recognized faces in history. I mean he had, by any measure, a life full of interesting and rich experiences.

He got to closely witness the two World Wars and the advent of the Nuclear Age brought on his shoulders. He got to personally witness totalitarian - and racial - persecution. He got to witness the onset of communism in Russia and the rise of the Soviet Empire. He got to travel the world and experience many different cultures, in a time when that was a privilege for very few. When he took refuge in America, he had a good knowledge of much of the globe to compare to his new capitalist and rich home.

Before fame, he got to work within the bureaucratic machine in an alleged boring job (patent clerk), and afterwards in a few Universities owned by the State, so he was hardly a strange to Kafkanian government inefficiencies. Heck, he actually worked in Prague for a couple of years and had Kafka as an acquaintance.

And he got to witness all that from the height of a privileged mind, one that allegedly had much interest in society and the human condition, departing from the stereotype of the absent minded scientist.

All the above is to say that, to this blogger - a far lower mind than Einstein and possessing incomparably less world shattering life experiences - it is a complete mystery how Einstein could write this apology for Socialism.

It is a most daring effort for crackpots (and also real physicists) out there, since at least 1905, to try and prove Einstein wrong at his famous theories. I therefore invite the readers of this Great blog to take their shot at, in an once in a lifetime chance, really proving Einstein wrong upon reading his text. Beware though, for he is famed to always be right at the end - even when he was widely believed to be wrong, as the cosmological constant (his self declared greatest blunder) teaches us.


46 comments:

erp said...

... the exception that proves the rule?

Bret said...

In the following paragraph, it seems that Albert rather weakens his advice:

"Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?[emphasis added]"

Yes, well, that's rather the problem, isn't it? He didn't have the benefit of evidence from everything from the USSR to Venezuela when he wrote the article. (Note that in 1949, when Alby wrote his essay, a majority of economists believed that the USSR would eat the West's economic lunch with its wonderfully efficient centralized and planned economy).

Centralizing the means of production (if even possible anymore) centralizes power into the hands of all-powerful and overweening bureaucrats, which, even if economically more efficient, is extremely dangerous and likely damaging to freedom.

On the other hand, the main basis for his criticism is, I believe, adequately accurate:

"The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. [emphasis added]"

And it does seem that nobody has ever come up with a solution to this problem of crony-capitalism either. Or maybe they have (more below), but let's move on for now.

[continued due to 4096 character limit...]

Bret said...

[...continuation due to 4095 character limit]

There are a few outright falsehoods and/or subjective beliefs in the essay:

"... a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary..."

Uh, no. For example, I see that Amazon has 91,430 new book releases in the last 30 days. Do we really think that "a highly-centralized productive apparatus" could possibly support that level of economic diversity? And that's just books! One of millions of different products.

"Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society."

I rather think man (and woman) can find meaning in life via quite a number of diverse ways (religion, arts/music, hedonism, ...).

"It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product."

If the statement is that the EXACT payment is not determined, then I suppose, but in aggregate, even in a socialist economy, the aggregate payment to all workers cannot exceed the aggregate value of the workers' product, so there is indeed a link between work product and payment. Furthermore, in a reasonably functioning free-market, there is at least some competition for workers which strengthens the relationship between work product and payment.

"Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands..."

That's what Piketty (a more modern hero for socialism) says too (to large amounts of criticism). However, even if true (and if it is true probably more due to crony-capitalism than anything inherent in free-market interactions), the good news seems to be that less and less capital is required for producing more and more value, so it's not a detail that's critically important in my opinion.

---

If we change Alby's definition from the standard means of production being owned by the government to the "to each according to his needs" Marx/Engel's definition, perhaps Alby will be right in the end.

There's surprising support for the concept of Basic Income from both left and right. This doesn't solve socialism's "overweening" bureaucracies or crony-capitalism's own concentration of power and oppression, but it does alleviate some of the painful symptoms especially as robotics and automation and other technologies make the concept of meaning/fulfillment via hard work ever more iffy.

I don't believe that Alby is right in any sense (theoretical or practical) in calling upon a worldwide government owning of the means of production, but he is possibly correct in identifying some of the (perhaps) inherent problems of free-markets such as crony-capitalism.

erp said...

... the difference being when one is using one's own capital which is subject to the laws of supply and demand, the public isn't financing failure as it does when the government is in charge. I doubt Albert, smart as he might have been, could have foreseen today's world where failed theories and companies are propped up by taxpayers ...

Bret, crony capitalism is only when so-called capitalists are using our money, not their own or their private investors. That's the definition of fascism.

Simplistic in the extreme: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs." Makes no sense unless the terms are defined.

Bret said...

Splitting the "ability" and "needs" part of the idea is important. "Ability" is much harder to define, is dependent on nature and nurture (especially incentives), etc., while "needs" is much simpler, especially with the somewhat implicit "to survive" qualifier. We need air, water, food, and enough clothing/shelter to survive the elements in order to stay alive. This is pretty close to an objective statement, the main thing that's debatable is how much food, etc. is required.

The Basic Income addresses the more well-defined needs part of the equation while leaving the "ability" thing out of it and, as such, is a LOT more workable than the full Marx/Engels quip.

erp said...

... IOWs, it's psychobabble.

Our needs escalated from scratching the ground for potable water to salt water swimming pools and automatic garage door openers, not to mention, the vehicles that go in the garages, mind boggling arrays of foods and drink, art, and amazon.com which in 20 years has yet to let me down. Last week, an order self-destructed on the 4th or 5th use, I called them, they called me back a few minutes later to say our credit card was already credited for the full amount and I could dispose of the product anyway I wanted. The epitome of civilization IMO.

As for abilities, does the ability to scam others quality? We've got two excellent examples of these abilities on the ballot for the most important and powerful job in the world.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

Nice take.

To me, the mysterious part is the one you quoted:

---
how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?
---

This comes from someone who personally witnessed the Nazis ascending to power and needed to flee for good. And who helped many colleagues to flee from Hitler and Mussolini too. This is 1949 and many of the Stalin purges were known by then.

That he could still believe in the possibility of solving this overweening-all-powerful-bureaucracy problem speaks volumes to either his faith in humanity, or his lack of touch with humans :-)

To be fair, he often exposed political ideas that were a bit too idealistic, as his staunch pacifism. And I do not discard that he may have written the article to make a point, this was 1949 and anti-communism was getting hot in America.

Yet, as someone who had a high regard for personal/individual freedom (any Libertarian will find common ground with some of his writings), I find it a bit odd that he could not extend the notion to the realm of Economics too.

Peter said...

I can't decide whether the greater mystery is how Einstein could have written such drivel or why Clovis is puzzled. There is a long history of brilliant scientists and intellectuals turning their sights to how to order the world and save us all, and delivering up pabulum. Russell, Sartre, Wells are just a few Einstein would have been aware of and there have been plenty since. Just think of all the gurus on climate change, resource depletion, etc. who love to address audiences and tell us with great faux-pessimism that the only way forward is to "fundamentally change the way we do things".

What strikes about his essay is how banal and unoriginal it is. Did he imagine he was saying something profound? It's boilerplate socialism the world had been hearing for almost a hundred years at that point. Look at paragraph sixteen, the one that begins Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands.... That could have been lifted verbatim from Marx or any one of thousands of Fabian pamphlets or Labour party platforms. No need to reference actual history any more than the Ten Commandments need updating. Sometimes the only answer is to go with Orwell's quip that "There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them".

One thing that is interesting is how he tries to draw a sharp distinction between socialism and the planned economy, which is what many people of that era thought socialism pretty much was. He seems to be talking about some dreamy socio-cultural transformation that will alter human nature and set us on the right path. Perhaps he was aware that those socialists who were actually rolling up their sleeves and trying to do stuff in Eastern Europe were causing much chaos and getting rid of a lot of reactionaries and other class enemies. Messy for one who likes to dwell in the rarified air of how to perfect humanity. But it does explain the timeless appeal of socialism, which was actually a kind of Christian heresy that promised paradise on earth. Any problems on the way were caused by bad people and careerist apparatchiks and certainly had nothing to do with anything inherent in the doctrine.

erp said...

Peter, super genius' looking for a unified theory in everything when even us dodos know chaos is the norm.

erp said...

Thomas Sowell has a knack for saying complicated things in simple easily understood terms.

erp said...

A physicist makes sense.

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

---
I can't decide whether the greater mystery is how Einstein could have written such drivel or why Clovis is puzzled.
---
LOL.

Maybe that was not news to you guys, but this Einstein article was unknown to me until very recently.

I've read most of his books, some of his most important papers, his main biography, so I had this illusion I knew Einstein well enough.

A (socialist) colleague comes up a few weeks ago and, while we argued politics, drops that Einstein was a self-declared Socialist. I told him, "well, this must be one of the many things people say Einstein did or said which aren't true". So he proved me wrong.

Here I am know, trying to figure this out. I did not expect Einstein to be a genius at Economics - most Physicists I know show little interest at it - but I really expected he wouldn't fall for the planned economy trap after witnessing the planned devastation Germany did...

Howard said...

Clovis,

I like to say, "intelligence provides no immunity." Very smart people can think and speak ridiculous ideas. Peter covered it rather well. When someone turns their attention to new areas there is no substitute for doing the requisite homework. Those who do with sufficient depth become polymaths. Interestingly, Bastiat and Tocqueville understood the problem of bureaucracy and the administrative state a century before the miscue by Einstein. Bastiat couched it as "the great fiction" and Tocqueville as the risk of soft tyranny.

Bret said...

Peter wrote: "What strikes about his essay is how banal and unoriginal it is. Did he imagine he was saying something profound? It's boilerplate socialism..."

In 1949 what he wrote was common wisdom among the progressive crowd and I think he was just putting his stamp of approval on that thinking and he wasn't even vaguely trying to be original.

Sorta like when I spew forth standard libertarian drivel, except, well, I'm not quite as well-known as Einstein so my stamp of approval isn't worth quite as much. :-)

Harry Eagar said...

I am puzzled by the obsession here with crony capitalism. In America it doesn't account for much of economic activity, and it is hardy a newfangled concept.

Somehow, when the capitalists were rightwingers, it didn't cause such twitterings in the henhouse.

erp said...

Harry, it's not a newfangled concept, it's fascism.

Harry Eagar said...

It goes back way before fascism.

Harry Eagar said...

'(Note that in 1949, when Alby wrote his essay, a majority of economists believed that the USSR would eat the West's economic lunch with its wonderfully efficient centralized and planned economy).'

Really? The Russians themselves said the war had cost them 2 Five-year Plans (a view later endorsed by economic historians in the '70s, although since they used USSR production figures that conclusion may have been overoptimistic.)

In the US, it was widely feared that the war would be followed by a crisis of consumption, depression and widespread business failures, as had happened after 1815 and 1918. As it happened,the wise policies of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations eliminated the postwar recession, but no one ever doubted the capacity of the US to produce. The worry was that it would overproduce for an unready consumer market.

This is not a secret. You can read about it in the newspapers of the times, as I have done.

I seriously doubt that any economists thought the USSR, which already had a severe labor shortage because of its inefficient agriculture, thought it would become a production powerhouse after having another 10,000,000-plus workers killed in the war.

Even the US with a very small farm labor force was short of labor throughout the '50s and '60s.

erp said...

Harry, to misquote the great bard, What's in a name? That which we call fascism now. By any other name would smell as foul.

erp said...

Too hilarious, ... USSR production figures ... may have been overoptimistic

Everything before, during and after The Noble Experiment have been lies.

Harry have you ever talked to real people, not obscure "historians/scholars" who have actually lived in any of the soviets aka as countries taken over largely because Frankie allowed it.

One of the most popular "jokes" was "We pretend to work; they pretend to pay us." Socialism has been propped up by the complicit media and still is and if Hillary becomes president as is likely, I think the phrase, "you ain't seen nothing yet" will be born out in spades (that one's for you Harry as another example of my racism).

Also hilarious, ... wise policies of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations eliminated the postwar recession ... Gosh, wonder why Frankie couldn't eliminate the great depression by some of very same policies?

Harry, after all this time and no evidence that socialism is a viable economic system, you still cling to the same fantasies you had a youngster. Odd that?

Clovis e Adri said...

Harry,

I too think that Bret is overstating the case when pointing out most 1949' economists believed the USSR was in such a good shape. I think there was no such consensus on its economic growth capabilities by then.

Which is one more reason I ask myself why Einstein took for granted that planned economies would deliver better. Maybe he thought the efficiency Nazi Germany demonstrated was a model of what a planned economy would entail. In this case, he failed to understand how different the economy of war is from the economy of peace... just a guess.

Howard said...

It goes back way before fascism.

Sure, it's a lot like the privileges granted under monarchy.

...the wise policies of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations eliminated the postwar recession...

I find it very cute that in this cynical age, Harry is such a fan of children's fiction.

FDR's/(Hoover's) policies prolonged the Great Depression

Lessons of post war recovery:

The standard thinking of the day was that the United States would sink into a deep depression at the war’s end. Paul Samuelson, a future Nobel Prize winner, wrote in 1943 that upon cessation of hostilities and demobilization “some ten million men will be thrown on the labor market.”[3] He warned that unless wartime controls were extended there would be “the greatest period of unemployment and industrial dislocation which any economy has ever faced.”[4] Another future Nobel laureate, Gunnar Myrdal, predicted that postwar economic turmoil would be so severe that it would generate an “epidemic of violence.”[5]

This, of course, reflects a world view that sees aggregate demand as the prime driver of the economy. If government stops employing soldiers and armament factory workers, for example, their incomes evaporate and spending will decline. This will further depress consumption spending and private investment spending, sending the economy into a downward spiral of epic proportions. But nothing of the sort actually happened after World War II.
...
When the war ended, however, the command economy was dismantled. By the end of 1946, direct government allocation of resources—by edict, price controls, and rationing schemes—was essentially eliminated.[15] Tax rates were cut as well, although they remained high by contemporary standards. By any measure, the economy became less subject to government direction. Despite the pessimism of professional economists, resources that previously would have been directed to the production of war goods quickly found their way to other uses. The business community did not share the economists’ despair. A poll of business executives in 1944 and 1945 revealed that only 8.5 percent of them thought the prospects for their company had worsened in the postwar period. A contemporary chronicler noted that in 1945-1946 businesses “had a large and growing volume of unfilled orders for peacetime products.”[16] In fact, the elimination of wartime economic controls coincided with one of the largest periods of economic growth in U.S. history.
...
Ironically, it seems that the postwar prosperity that America enjoyed after World War II was less the result of a carefully crafted political agenda than a by-product of what government stopped doing.

Peter said...

Bret's right.

That most of the Western intelligentsia saw the Soviet Union as an economic success in the making (as well as a social and cultural success) until well into the seventies is a matter of record. That view was so prevalent it even convinced some American business leaders to tout for a planed economy and influenced CIA analysts. It took dissidents and samizdat literature to bell the cat and stop Western economists from just accepting Soviet economic stats at face value and start looking at what their lyin' eyes told them. When Helmut Schmidt (a socialist) called it Lower Slobovia with missiles he caused a lot of indigestion in Western faculty lounges. That today's left tends to claim it was never said is part of their collective denial about their historical failures, a syndrome I'm seeing more and more of on the right.

erp said...

Peter, your last statement is both puzzling and intriguing. First, I assume when you say the right, you do not mean fascism?

If, as I suspect, by the right you mean free market conservatism, which historical failures are being denied and by whom?

Bret said...

erp wrote: "Peter, your last statement is both puzzling and intriguing."

Yes, I know, "Bret's right" is sooooooooo rare and unusual as to be both puzzling and intriguing. :-)

erp said...

... Bret, sorry impaired synapses. I meant Peter's last sentence is ...

Your comments are often intriguing, but rarely puzzling as they're clear and well written.

Bret said...

erp,

I knew what you meant, but when I first read it, it made me laugh.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "I too think that Bret is overstating the case..."

I think you'll find if you research economic thinking from that era (and before), you'll find I'm not overstating the case at all. Peter backs me up in a comment above. Howard has several books in his library that further backs it up and perhaps he can share. Note that there's less available via google searches on that topic than many other topics at least partly because that information was pre-Internet.

The basic idea was that economies of scale trumped everything else and centralization was fantastic for economies of scale. Simple really. It wasn't until later that the intense diversification of western economies (and even economies like Brazil's) coupled with Hayek's knowledge problem concept convinced modern day economists to question putting the means of production into the hands of the central government. And that happened well after Alby's essay was written. Note that folks like Harry STILL think that the means of production should be placed in government's control.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret and Peter,

Sorry, I am not convinced.

If it was widely believed that a communist economy would be so wonderfully efficient, pray tell me, why most of the West refused it? All those countries just didn't want to get rich?

The paper Peter mentions is no proof of what you guys imply - by the contrary.

One of the main textbooks there mentioned, Samuelson's, had the following excerpt in older editions:

"the Soviet economy is proof that, contrary to what many skeptics had earlier believed, a socialist command economy can function and even thrive."

See the point? He says that, contrary to common belief, the Ruskies were not so incompetent with their planned economy as the models predicted. Hence, economists generally believed a planned economy wasn't good.

And the paper analysis only shows western textbooks believed the USSR to be more productive than it really was, but not that their model was *more productive* than a capitalist one.

Bret said...

Clovis,

I'll add that to the list of topics I eventually will (hopefully) blog about.

In the mean time, note that "contrary to what many skeptics had earlier believed" and "contrary to common belief" are not even vaguely the same. I didn't say that it was universally believed that USSR would eat our economic lunch, only that it was a widespread belief ("common wisdom"). Also, note that Samuelson's quote has the qualifier "earlier" implying that even the skeptics threw in the towel. Lastly, Samuelson himself was HUGELY influential and he himself predicted the Soviets would surpass the United States in his economics textbook:

"...the most widely used university textbook in economics, written by Nobel-prize winner Paul Samuelson, repeatedly predicted the coming economic dominance of the Soviet Union. In the 1961 edition, Samuelson predicted that the Soviet national income would overtake that of the United States possibly by 1984, but probably by 1997..." Acemoglu and Robinson (2012) "Why Nations Fail", pp. 128.

I don't have more time to try to convince you on this particular subject at the moment.

Bret said...

Clovis asked: "...pray tell me, why most of the West refused it?"

Because, at the time, freedom, liberty, individualism, religion, and the constitution were important to Americans and those ideals were clearly incompatible with the godless and collectivist Soviets.

From my grandparents there was actually a sense of foreboding and doom, partly with all the Soviet nuclear missiles pointed at us, but also they knew, knew for sure, that one day the Soviets were going to win economically and rule the world, because that's what folks like Samuelson told them, but why not be free as long as possible? (Note that my grandparents came from eastern europe/western russia so they definitely did NOT look forward to being under their thumbs once again).

Nowadays, if someone had Samuelson's influence and proclaimed that communism was vastly superior, our elites would march us towards a collectivist destiny because freedom and those other ideals just aren't worth what it once was.

erp said...

... prior to the 60's when the unions were allowed to take over the public schools and the curriculum, students were taught the truth about our history, rugged individualism ... that slowly changed until now even the grandparents of today's students are victims of the alternate history that the U.S. is the villain, not the savior of the world.

Khrushchev called it when he said we will defeat you from within because he knew there was no force on earth that could defeat us from without.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

I am more in awe about mysteries of the past than when I started this thread.

Take this description you gave me on your grandparents:

---
From my grandparents there was actually a sense of foreboding and doom, partly with all the Soviet nuclear missiles pointed at us, but also they knew, knew for sure, that one day the Soviets were going to win economically and rule the world, because that's what folks like Samuelson told them, but why not be free as long as possible?
---

This is the opposite of every image I had of Americans after WWII.

You won the War, you were confident, you were calling the shots over the whole World, building a whole new Western Europe and Japan on your image (to the extent that was possible). You were inventing, building and exporting the wonders of new technology to the Globe, and your economy was booming like never before.

Amidst all that, you tell me your grandparents thought they were doomed?

But how could I miss that "Doomsday is here!" ad amid all this clearly gloomy propaganda?

Howard said...

Clovis,

Those ads you point to reflect where many people were at - glad to put the Great Depression and the war behind them and focused on raising young children. Most people were neither gloomy nor triumphal. But for some people it was a different story.

"I know that I am leaving the winning side for the losing side, but it is better to die on the losing side than to live under Communism."

--Statement before the House Un-American Activities Committee, August 3, 1948

I would point you to a book of surprising emotional impact, Witness by Whittaker Chambers:

Witness is part espionage drama, part political thriller, part indictment of the self-righteousness of progressive New Dealers; above all, the text's soulful depth emerges from the intellectual and spiritual strength that lifted Chambers above the maddening ideology he had served. The title's manifold meanings point to Chambers' lasting significance as a thinker and writer about the condition of modernity, the nature of ideology, and the irrepressible feature of religion in human nature and politics. The meaning he ascribed to his conversion underscored how the political distortions of the 20th century emerged from the philosophical errors that had preceded them.
...
Chambers' diagnosis troubles us today because of the West's retention of so many of the ideas that shaped Communism. We still remain distant, if not cut off, from the intellectual and religious sources that shaped the West from its beginning. The contemporary West still asserts that reality should be understood through empirical reason alone, that man is merely a highly evolved creature, or that liberty is only a useful fiction because history, science, economics, and the state are the real movers carrying man forward. Chambers' witness and writings controvert this ideological reduction of man. He remains, as William F. Buckley Jr. wrote, a voice "that is magnificent in tone, speaking to our time from the center of sorrow, from the center of the earth."


see also very good video presentation by someone with a deep appreciation of the matter.

Mysteries? - you bet!

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "You won the War, you were confident, you were calling the shots over the whole World, building a whole new Western Europe and Japan on your image (to the extent that was possible). You were inventing, building and exporting the wonders of new technology to the Globe, and your economy was booming like never before."

Yes, but the Cold War had started and many (including my ancestors) believed that the long term prospects were grim. The Soviets had created a huge empire and aligned with the communist Chinese and between the two and their satellites controlled nearly half the worlds population and resources. Nobel prize in economics Samuelson writes in his economics text from which a majority of economics students are taught that the Soviets will surpass the U.S. in the 1980s and the Soviets are arming at an alarming rate (so did we, of course). When I was in grade school we had routine air raid drills on what to do should a Soviet missile attack against us be detected.

History is written by the winners and right this second the west is the winner, but the Cold War was really a very, very grim time, at least among significant segments of the population.

A popular saying was "Better Dead Than Red" which the Urban Dictionary explains as:

"An american saying about communism. As they used to think that communism was taking over the world. the saying basically means the americans would rather die than be communists, the red bit comes from the belief that red is a communist colour!"

Do you consider that to be an optimistic saying?

Anyway, be mystified if you must, but to those of us who were alive and in the United States during that time, there's no mystery whatsoever.

Clovis e Adri said...

Howard and Bret,

Well, I can only thank you for the links and impressions. I am sure learning new things here.

Erp - would you please give us your version? From what I could get from our personal conversations, I don't quite see you in the same page as Bret above... how afraid were you of the communist threat? Did you ever doubt your own?

Any opinion coming from you Harry, who also lived through those times?

erp said...

Clovis, even though I'm much older than the kids commenting above, my experience is pretty much the same. We worried about the bomb, commies, had to crawl under our desks during air raid drills ... McCarthy was basically right about communists infiltrating into the media and government as was corroborated in the Venona Papers and there was a lot of controversy over Chambers/Hiss/the Rosenbergs/HUAC/desegregation in the south ...

Living in New York was far different than say Harry's experience in the deep south where race was apparently the biggest problem. Race wasn't much of a factor where I lived. There were Negro areas as there were Irish, Italian, German, Polish, etc. areas, but there was no violence among us and ethnicity wasn't much of a factor in school or among us kids who ran around together.

It was about this time that Vito Marcantonio started importing Puerto Ricans to the Bronx to keep him comfortably in office as a lifelong sinecure and invented identity politics.

After the war, people were exhausted and glad to let life normalize and we were really on our way to becoming one people until the lefties/pinkoes/commies riled up the nutcases among the fundamentalists on one side and the kids facing the draft on the other side which led to the conflicts of 60's and the beginning of the slow erosion of our way of life.

Harry Eagar said...

If Howard is right, why didn't the recession end before Roosevelt was elected?

The wise policy was forced saving during the war. It didn't hurt that private businesses were given the public investments made during the war.

See, public investment works.

erp said...

You know why, Harry. We were being prepared and softened up for socialism. The war, however, brought a real sense of individual effort and the soldiers came back a far more sophisticated bunch than the farm boys who were sent to war.

The GI bill made the middle class stronger because back in those days, somethings a lot closer to the truth was taught in our institutions of higher learning.

However, it was that generation that spawned the boomers who were led around by the nose by commies and taught in public schools in the vise like control of the socialist teachers' unions.

I wonder if you'd like to comment on the situation in Venezuela and particularly on Chavez' daughter living in the US with billions of Venezuela's wealth. Should she be forced by one of the multitudinous UN agencies to return the stolen booty and go jail.

You did make a good, although obvious, point -- birthrates and in Africa. They would have been higher if it weren't for the fools banning DDT -- their deeds are still being felt with the Zika epidemic.

It will be interesting to see if their are any Zika victims in France, where they DO use DDT. Probably don't know that, I doubt it was in any newspaper and/or scholarly study. Got that one from the horse's mouth.

Socialism, ain't it grand.

Harry Eagar said...

Comment on Venezuela: I already did that, but I'll repeat for those who don't read newspapers: Nothing new for the poor. Now that the rich are getting a dose of what the poor got under capitalism they don't like it.

erp said...

Thanks for clearing that up. So, you confirm what I've always said, socialism makes all but the ruling elites equal in poverty and desperation.

What about Chavez daughter who absconded and took all the money with her?

Howard said...

why didn't the recession end before Roosevelt was elected?

Contractionary policies like tax hikes and Smoot Hawley already had time to do their damamge, but FDR wanted to be sure things washed out before he took over:

In his book, Alter quotes James Warburg, a member of Roosevelt’s inner circle. The Roosevelt brain trust “wanted it to get as bad as it was going to get before he took office, so that he could come in on the turn rather than in the continuing downward spiral.”

For his part, years later, Hoover wrote the bank crisis that ensued “was the most political and unnecessary bank panic in all our history” and “it could have been cured by simple cooperation.”


Upon taking office FDR got something right (devaluation) but subsequently offset that move with some statist stupid:

The devaluation of the dollar in the spring of 1933, overseen by the president personally, led to a 57 percent increase in industrial production in four months, easily the most rapid increase in U.S. history. Stocks rose even more dramatically. This upswing lasted so briefly because, during the summer, the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) — Roosevelt’s attempt to cartelize American industry — imposed very large wage increases on business. Stocks and industrial production both went into reverse.

Sumner makes a strong case for this story, even arguing that, without the attempt to fix wages in Washington, the Depression might have ended seven years earlier than it did. It might make more sense, he even suggests, to say that a second, hidden Depression began in mid 1933.
...
Maintaining the gold-exchange system under the circumstances of 1929 required cooperation among the great economic powers, and Sumner convincingly traces the stock-market crash and onset of the Depression to the dawning realization that it would not materialize.


If you want some appreciation for the failure of cooperation to stabilize global monetary conditions leading up to and following 1929 see Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed.

Harry Eagar said...

So how did Roosevelt, a state governor, arrange for the recession to get worse? I realize you are just parroting the Hillsdale economists (NOTE to Clovis: the economic historical equivalent of young earth creationists among geologist), but that is remarkably obtuse even for you.


It remains the case that the depression for farmers (40% of the labor force) began in 1922 and failed to recover at all despite applying the Mellon strategy (liquidate everything).

I already appreciate global gold policy, thanks, the legacy of Churchill. But you seem sadly confused about who was running policy. It was not statist Democrats.

Harry Eagar said...

Sorry, erp, I don't give a hoot about rich Venezuelans. They had a chance to show what capitalism could do for the poor -- it left them too poor to pay for a marriage license.

But thanks for confirming my opinion hat capitalists don't care what happens to the poor.

erp said...

Harry, like the rest of your opinions, sadly misguided.

Harry Eagar said...

'For his part, years later, Hoover wrote the bank crisis that ensued “was the most political and unnecessary bank panic in all our history” and “it could have been cured by simple cooperation.” '

If you are going to quote at me, don't quote people I know about. Hoover was president when over 900 banks failed in Nebraska and the state deposit insurance fund went bust; all this at the height of Coolidge Prosperity.

Funny, neither Hoover nor Mellon nor anybody else in the Republican arty thought of collective action concerning that.

I suppose Hoover is the least reliable opinionator on banking you ould find.