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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/13173/gathering-data-while-washington-burns/

Gathering Data while Washington Burns

July 6, 2010 by

It should come as a monumental embarrassment to future social scientists to observe that their mainstream predecessors were worse than useless for predicting and remedying the disaster. FULL ARTICLE by Mark R. Crovelli


Guard July 6, 2010 at 9:22 am

Throughout most of history social structures were viewed as having a sentient existence apart from humanity. Imagine a spiritual (call it psychic if you like) entity that is capable of influencing (the etymology of the word is control by outside spiritual forces) human behavior. This entity would strengthen and reinforce human thinking where such thinking would increase its power and therefore chances of survival, and thwart, repress and confuse any thought contrary to its rule.
Unless mankind admits that there are other players on the field besides man, nothing is going to change. The first line of defense for the powers is to keep everyone believing that they do not exist, leading to a constant stream of recriminations toward people for their supposed failings.
There are indeed failings, but they are not of the nature commonly supposed. Just look at discussions on this site where governments, corporations and the like are on the one hand constantly personalized and at the same time said to be mere figures of speech for a conglomerate of individual human actions.

BioTube July 6, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Abstractions don’t have any special power, other than the ability to deflect blame.

fundamentalist July 6, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I don’t have much hope that social scientists, especially economists, will change after this crisis. They learned nothing from the crisis of the stagflation in the 1970′s and they’re already selling their excuses this time. Check out Mario Rizzo’s work on the 1970′s over at econlog. They say that the victor gets to write history, but I’m convinced that those who write history choose the victors. That’s especially true in economics. Historians are in full gear writing that the latest crisis resulted from lack of regulation and too much free market. Keynesians have won because politicians want them to justify state intervention and the public wants them to win because they worship the state.

When the Queen asked the LSE why they failed to predict the crisis, the LSE wrote her that they had accurately predicted that no one can predict such crises because they are random events of market failure. They considered that a scientific response.

Allen Weingarten July 6, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Mr. Crovelli asks whether our politicians are stupid, or evil. He might have added that many may merely be concerned with their personal advantages. As to why the public elects them, he suggests faith in democracy and government, which does not explain why they lacked faith in a republic and in themselves. He then finds the root of the problem in an empiricist epistemology. I agree that this leads us astray, and appreciate his analysis.

However, there is something more influential than those technical considerations. The public has found the moral perspective of liberalism convincing. The liberal view is that: it is the evil of the greedy capitalists that cause recessions, depressions, and destructive policies; it is immoral for some to earn billions, while others are in poverty; this must be corrected by government, who acts as Robin Hood. (Even a high school dropout can say: the rich cause all our problems; its bad for them to got so much, while I ain’t got none; so their loot should be given to the community.)

Now of course the above is nonsense, however, it is clear, simple, and easy to apply. When we are able to present our outlook in as clear, simple, ‘moral’, and applicable manner as do the liberals, we shall be competitive.

Patrick Barron July 7, 2010 at 9:34 am

Excellent observation. Someone invariably asks me why the rich should not suffer just as much as the poor during an economic downturn. It is as if someone asks why the old and feeble should be especially suseptible to the flu–and might even die–when the young and healthy shrug it off in a few days. In economic downturns the poor, the unemployed, etc. look around and ask why it is that those who saved for a rainy day, got a good education, married well, built healthy personal relationships, etc. should live better lives than the profligate, school drop-outs, the divorced with the financial burdens of maintaining two households, etc. There is the all-too-human propensity to rationalize one’s adverse condition as “caused” by those who are currently better off. Thus, we get confiscatory taxes for every imaginable socially worthless (to the productive sector) welfare benefit.

Eric July 6, 2010 at 6:13 pm

I think that politicians are elected because they generally have but one other just as useless competitor to run against. Even in Las Vegas, one generally has a close to even chance at games with only two possible outcomes.

Are they stupid? I would think its more likely that they don’t have any skills other than what it takes to get elected – lying ability, proven loyalty to those who support them, reasonable looks, and an ability at giving speeches. Nothing about economics is required.

The public, on the other hand, is in the same boat as were those in the earlier centuries that were told to believe in witches. When you are told over and over that it’s someone (else) who is evil that has caused the crops to fail it’s human nature to go with the crowd and put someone on trial who is likely innocent. This century, we go after the big capitalists and speculators.

Another great lie to peddle is that our own bad behavior is causing the sky to fall. In this century, it is popular to cry that the earth is heating up and will cause great harm sometime soon. Without any individual ability to determine the truth (it’s simply who do you believe amongst the court intellectuals) it’s perfectly reasonable that future historians might look back with laughter – either way it goes. Each age thinks it’s soooooo smart.

Allen Weingarten July 6, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Eric, your explanation that the politicians and the public are backward appears to conclude that all is hopeless. If it is inevitable that human nature leads to this situation, not only is it pointless to do anything, but it always has been.

Guard July 7, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Quite so. There will always only be a small percentage of the population that has some insight into these matters. That percentage will not change. This small percentage can live with integrity and draw some satisfaction from that. Changing the percentage of people who understand and take action on the basics is hopeless. Education will not do it. Those who understand have seen it for themselves.

Raimondas July 6, 2010 at 9:39 pm

: why the others could not switch the roles?

Raimondas July 6, 2010 at 9:49 pm

like zuckerberg

Seattle July 7, 2010 at 3:55 am

Hillary Clinton is not an idiot. She is a Walrus.

They are clearly different.

John B July 7, 2010 at 4:07 am

I was with the writer – I celebrated the writer as one of the few people tackling the issue of the wilfully blind; crooks or fools? – until I got to the passage that indicated he was made of the same blindness that is afflicting western civilisation.
He says:

“It should shock them still further to learn that, at least as late as 2010, many in the discipline of political science still believed in the “democratic peace theory” — at the very moment that Israel, the United States, and the rest of democratic Europe continued their multidecade crusade to raze and depopulate the Middle East.”

Excuse me, sir, you are conflating victims and aggressors here, both in your argument and also in putting the US, Europe and Israel all on one side.
I have to wonder how one as obviously intelligent and perceptive as yourself can engage in such inaccuracies.
Is it wilful inaccuracy or folly?

BioTube July 7, 2010 at 8:21 am

Israel was founded with a terrorist campaign and the first action of the state was to displace numerous Palestinians because they weren’t Jews – but clearly Israel’s the victim.

Allen Weingarten July 7, 2010 at 11:27 am

John B, I agree with your analysis.
BioTube seems to have forgotten that the first act of the Arab states was to reject partition, and attack Israel. Moreover, whereas Israel gave citizenship to their Arab residents, the Arab states drove almost all Jews from their countries.

J. Russell July 7, 2010 at 11:46 am

That is because BioTube learned history from the same failed social scientists the author speaks of as failed.

Gray Shambler July 7, 2010 at 7:07 am

The mideast is far from being depopulated as their birthrates are among the highest in the world. they are populating europe.

Sione July 7, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Seems to be the case that the USA, Europe and Israel are not what might be considered “at peace” with the Arabs and the Persians.

Allen W- “the first act of the Arab states was to reject partition”.
Now why should they even have ever had to consider partition in the first place?

“Israel was founded with a terrorist campaign and the first action of the state was to displace numerous Palestinians because they weren’t Jews.”

So, the Arabs were RESPONDING to a previously committed uncivilised action (the ejection of people from their own property in their own country).

While the subsequent tit-for-tat actions of Arab and Persian governments have not been what could be considered libertarian, wise or civil, they DO NOT justify or excuse the actions of the governments of USA, Israel and Europe. Think on it for a while.

J Russel- Cheap shot little man. Makes it look like you’re a fool without the knowledge sufficient to make a decent argument. Given your shortcoming perhaps the conclusion to make is that YOU are the one who “learned history from the same failed social scientists the author speaks of as failed.” Lift your game.


Allen Weingarten July 8, 2010 at 6:13 am

Sione, when you ask why the Arabs should have considered partition, you are assuming it was their land. It wasn’t. Jews had not only lived there for centuries, but had built the place (much as the colonists, not the Indians, built America). The territory was owned by the Ottoman empire. Several Arab countries were formed by taking land from that empire.

Nor was it the case that Arabs were ejected prior to partition. On the other hand, there were Jews, such as in Hebron, who were massacred and tortured by the Arabs. It was as a result of the industry started by the Jews that led Arabs to come to what was called Palestine.

Sione July 8, 2010 at 4:11 pm


That’s a misleading and deceptive myth you repeat there, complete with collectivist premise and assumption.

The land belonged to the people who owned it at the time. The super-majority of those owners were not Europeans or refugees from Europe interestingly enough.

The tens of thousands of European refugees who moved to Palestine after the terrible experiences they had endured during WW2 were not owners of land in Palestine. Nevertheless, despite all they had experienced, they were not slow in organising their own version of lebensraum and forcibly ejecting existing owners. It’s a policy that has persisted since.

One should direct one’s attention to the real situation as experienced by the individual owners of property, rather than taking the collectivist approach wherein the analysis of history is reduced to a series of nationalist and racist myths.


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