John McCain is an educated man. A highly educated man. A man who has attended many, many classes in manifold schools. And a man with enough (harsh!) first-hand experience of history and of war that he should possess a deep, personal understanding of the principles and causes of both. Any man who has endured what he has endured, without understanding its causes, would be driven almost certainly into insanity.
But an educated man would not have said what John McCain said in last night’s YouTube debate: “[The United States] allowed Hitler to come to power with that kind of isolationism.” The statement is so shockingly uninformed and uneducated that one becomes unsure what history (or even vocabulary) John McCain does understand. The errors in that statement are so numerous that it would take many blog entries to discover and to correct them. The errors are so profound that they raise serious questions of his competence for leadership.
The recent post on mises.org of Nock’s speech “The Theory of Education in the United States” explains the core issue: training is not education. John McCain is immensely, incredibly trained for war but seems not very educated about it.
And when senior US senators do not understand history, we are all doomed to repeat it.
The recent posting on mises.org of Nock’s lecture “The Theory of Education in the United States” resonated with me because I still remember attending my high school and college classes asking “Where did the Latin go?” I felt like Diogenes.looking for an honest education.
So after reading Nock’s lecture, I was struck by it’s similarity with the preface to the second German edition of Mises’s Socialism. Here’s the sixth paragraph from the Nock lecture: “Perhaps we are not fully aware of the extent to which instruction and
education are accepted as being essentially the same thing. I think you
would find, if you looked into it, for instance, that all the formal
qualifications for a teacher’s position rest on this understanding. A
candidate is certificated — is he not? — merely as having been exposed
satisfactorily to a certain kind of instruction for a certain length of
time, and therefore he is assumed eligible to a position which we all
agree that only an educated person should fill. Yet he may not be at
all an educated person, but only an instructed person. We have seen
many such, and five minutes’ talk with one of them is quite enough to
show that the understanding of instruction as synonymous with education
is erroneous. They are by no means the same thing.”
And here is the twentieth paragraph of Mises’s preface: “The habit of talking and writing about economic affairs without having probed relentlessly to the bottom of their problems has taken the zest out of public discussions on questions vital to human society and diverted politics into paths that lead directly to the destruction of all civilization. The proscription of economic theory, which began with the German historical school, and today finds expression notably in American Institutionalism, has demolished the authority of qualified thought on these matters. Our contemporaries consider that anything which comes under the heading of Economics and Sociology is fair game to the unqualified critic. It is assumed that the trade union official and the entrepreneur are qualified by virtue of their office alone to decide questions of political economy. “Practical men” of this order, even those whose activities have, notoriously, often lead to failure and bankruptcy, enjoy a spurious prestige as economists which should at all costs be destroyed. On no account must a disposition to avoid sharp words be permitted to lead to a compromise. It is time these amateurs were unmasked.”
The proscription of Latin and Greek (mentioned elsewhere in Nock’s lecture) is exactly parallel to the proscription of economic theory mentioned by Mises. And those proscriptions destroy the foundations of thought in their respective disciplines. (And thus any standard to measure qualifications, in particular for elective office. I’ve started to think that the Mises Institute should develop and proctor short exams on economics for any candidate for office.)
Also, the proscription of economic thought causes the need for Mises to open Human Action with a section on epistemology. Mises has to restore the foundations without which his magnum opus cannot stand.
As I’ve been reading through chapters of Human Action recently (and then re-reading each chapter to make sure I get it all), I was struck by the notion that there must exist some “dual” to Mises’s masterpiece with a political emphasis instead of an economic emphasis. Instead of the analysis of money, it would have an analysis of favors (or pieces of pork); instead of the market, it would have a legislature; instead of the business cycle, it would have the liberty cycle; and so on. The law of marginal utility would still hold, but applied to favors and/or pork. Ricardo’s law of association becomes logrolling, maybe.
An e-mail that my brother just sent me reminded me of the liberty cycle idea: “Government grows through apathy, then dependence, then fear – so maybe
it’s a cycle. People obtain freedom, then become complacent when they achieve
what that have been striving for, then the government takes back liberty bit by
bit, then the people become dependent, then because of the dependence, the
people become fearful of what the government can do to them, then when the fear
(and frustration) become too much, then the people revolt and take back some
While perusing Slashdot today, I saw a mention of EVE Online’s use of the TMS RamSan. It reminded me of another Slashdot post of a couple months ago, about EVE Online’s own economist. Here is a link: http://games.slashdot.org/games/07/09/13/156240.shtml
Some of the economist’s comments (scarcity, banking, etc.) made me wonder whether it would ever be possible to discover real-world economics laws through simulation rather than thought experiment. This idea is of special interest to me, as I write software for simulations myself. Maybe future simulations will become sufficiently accurate to allow entrepreneurial forecasting (for a single plan)? Of course, the inherent hostile environment in today’s RPG’s would skew any results too much to be useful.
Even farther into the future is the possibility of general artificial intelligences that run simulations to determine their actions toward goals. Although, I don’t know enough about AI to speculate how one would program the underlying dissatisfaction into them to get them to posit goals in the first place.
Supposedly, the EVE Online economist is going to produce quarterly reports of the economic development of the game’s world.
I live in silicon valley, and just recently I dropped by my local Smoothie King to acquire a strawberry shredder smoothie (my favorite). While there, I noticed that the person serving behind the counter was studying her high school mathematics textbook. She laid the book on the counter while making my smoothie. Having two degrees in math, and fondly remembering my own high school math texts, I was pleased to leaf through the text. Until I saw the cover: stamped on the bottom of the front cover was a large label saying “California Edition”!!
I know some are having a good laugh at my naivete, but I had never thought about an obvious result of government’s near monopoly of education – government-approved mathematics! In Galileo’s day, we had church-approved science, and in our day we have state-approved mathematics. The more things change …
I haven’t blogged in a while, as I just spent a couple weeks of vacation on the big island of Hawaii. To a geek like me, one of the highlights of the trip was a tour of the Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company’s factory in Kawaihae. The accumulated capital in the processing plant was a joy to see: the gleaming machines that roast the nuts, seal the cans, label the cans, fill the bags, seal the bags, and so on. One machine that the plant workers were especially happy to have was the mixer that mixes the spices (like wasabi) with the nuts, to coat them before they are bagged or canned. The workers recall that until recently all the mixing was done by hand. (Oy!)
The accumulated capital is allowing the company to grow and to branch out into other products; in the last month they have introduced a new line of coffee and a new line of honey-coated macadamia nuts, among other innovations. The tour guide said that the shelf life of roasted macadamia nuts is about two years, but they are already selling this year’s crop almost as fast as they can process it.
The plant is clean (even the bathrooms are clean!), they hand out lots of free samples of all the products (including great cups of coffee), etc. On an island that is known to “hang loose,” the company is a brilliant example of Austrian economics at work: enterprise and capital working toward better working conditions, more choice, more profits, great products, free samples, etc. Very cool.
(Also extremely cool was the beach down the road called Hapuna – the best beach in Hawaii. No, I didn’t spend the whole trip touring processing plants!)