Vail Daily letter: Price of ignoring past
Ryan Summerlin September 27, 2012
Today we hear criticism whenever the lessons of history are referenced for guidance. The same voices condemning the idea of learning from past mistakes then plea for us all to ignore our past and to look forward …
The same groups arguing to ignore that history are the very same ones trying to repeat the worse and most disastrous events of history. Why is this? What don’t they want you to know? Perhaps they heed the warning of Nikita Khrushchev: “Historians are dangerous people. They are capable of upsetting everything.”
History teaches valuable lessons, but only if you are willing to learn things that may challenge your preferred version of reality. Or as Will Rogers said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” To reject history is to reject past experiences, which only ensures more bad judgment going forward.
Remember the 1920 Depression? Unlikely, as it didn’t last long. The downturn was brief because there weren’t a bunch of “smart” people like FDR and Obama “fixing” things – just some dope named Harding who cut government spending and got out of the way.
Contrary to popular myth, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his treasury secretary, Henry Morganthau, both acknowledged their policies were abject failures, but today, those warnings go unheeded:
“The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fibre. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong … somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises … I say after eight years of this Administration, we have just as much unemployment as when we started … And an enormous debt to boot!” – Henry Morganthau, FDR’s treasury secretary
For those who prefer more recent history, please consider the Japanese stimulus. After more than a decade of increased government deficit spending and no improvement to their ailing economy, Japan has now decided to reverse its failed policies by slashing spending and reducing taxes – something the U.S. administration refuses to consider and condemns as “radical” and “extreme.”
Then there’s the Greek stimulus: If “government stimulus” actually strengthened economies, then by now Greece should be a global economic power house! Instead, people are still rioting in the streets against austerity measures because they still demand their free stuff from the government teat, even as the country discusses abandoning the Eurozone and its common currency. Apparently there is no Greek word for “broke.”
Government stimulus does not work because the money it supposedly injects into the economy had to be taken from other areas of that same economy. The euphemistically termed “quantitative easing” is simply the folly of trying to fill a bathtub by taking buckets of water from one end of the tub and pouring it back into the other end of the same tub, spilling large amounts into cronies’ pockets during the transfer. The criminals at the Federal Reserve are now proposing more of the same with QE3.
All this nonsensical behavior has historic roots, as well, but whether one favors the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes or F.A. Hayek, any attempt to implement government policy based on either must be constrained by the powers and authority granted to the federal government by our Constitution. Therefore, most Keynesian ideas can never be permitted because they can only be implemented through tyranny, yet Keyne’s “Broken Window” fallacy is still practiced in earnest today.As one form of government stimulus, Keynes proposed burying trash, then digging it back up. It has been suggested that this is where Paul Krugman gets his ideas from, but even Keynes wasn’t as completely oblivious to reality as his followers:
“Taxation may be so high as to defeat its object, and given sufficient time to gather the fruits, a reduction in taxation will run a better chance of balancing the budget than an increase.” And: “The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that carries any reward.” – J.M. Keynes, proving that even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and again.
None of this insanity should even be possible because the U.S. Constitution grants no power to the federal government to meddle in the economy at all. Article I, Section 8, identifies those things for which the government may collect and expend taxes, but neither “economic stimulus” nor anything like it is ever mentioned.
Politicians are not elected to office to be economists and scientists, or for that matter to act as our doctors and surgeons, or venture capitalists and investment advisers! Why does anyone think these things are the role of politicians or government in the first place?
Cicero said: “The men who administer public affairs must first of all see that everyone holds onto what is his, and that private men are never deprived of their goods by public men.”
Yet today, what we see from those administering our public affairs, in the words of Frederic Bastiat, are nothing less than pillage and plunder of private men and women.
History is of paramount importance because some things will never change no matter how hard you wish them to.
“Do not blame Caesar, blame the people of Rome who have enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him and rejoiced in their loss of freedom and danced in his path and gave him triumphant processions. Blame the people who hail him when he speaks in the Forum, of the new, wonderful, good society, which shall now be Rome’s, interpreted, to mean more money, more ease, more security, living flatly at the expense of the industrious.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106-43 BCE.
Sound familiar? The value of history has been acknowledged from Confucius to Cicero to Churchill and Clemons, yet the arrogant narcissists running things today insist we must ignore history, because they are certain they know better than all those who went before:
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.”
“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
(Gotta love Mark Twain!)
Time and again, history tries to warn us of the folly of our ways as those in power continue to ignore those warnings and instead do their best to convince a gullible public to embrace their idealistic vision of a new shiny bright Utopia.
History is replete with examples of the social engineering efforts by despotic leaders who deem themselves enlightened, and they always ended badly, resulting in misery and bloodshed and war. Anyone who thinks they are better than that is an arrogant fool whose head will eventually adorn a stick or meet some similar demise, like all those before them.
Utopia has never existed, and those who tried to impose their vision on everyone did so by subjecting millions of innocent people to misery, destruction, bloodshed and death.
Reality accepts history, whereas Utopia rejects it, and whenever Utopia and reality meet, reality just smiles … and then kicks Utopia in the crotch and steals its lunch money.