Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Layer 446 . . . Genius, JMK, Hating Liberals, Understanding Economics, Friedman, Will Hutton, Elephant Mothers and Education

John Maynard Keynes was a liberal, and was a member of the British Liberal party.

Right wing and neo-conservative Americans hate all liberals, for reasons it's important for the world to understand.

JMK was a genius who received worldwide recognition for his work in economics - and yet very few of us have even heard of him, let alone educated to know about his work so that we understand his ideas even at a very basic level.

This is a level of ignorance we should be ashamed of. It's like having no knowledge of science whatsoever - like not even knowing that water can both evaporate and freeze depending on its temperature; like not knowing that matter is composed of atoms and molecules; like not knowing that micro-organisms can cause sickness and death.

The right-wing economic theories of Keynes-haters like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman have caused social devastation, sickness and death on a massive scale, but very few of us understand why.

Keynes was a political and ideological individual in that he wished to rid the world of the evils of poverty, unemployment, ignorance, greed, hyper-inflation, extreme inequality and unfettered capitalism. These are goals which are shared by all true liberals and socialists, who also understand that government of the people by the people and for the people has a massive role to play in putting the needs of "society" into political policy and practical action.

All true conservatives, like Hayek and Friedman (and Bush, Palin, George Osborne, oligarchs, bankers and the majority of financiers) hate the idea of being governed by the will of the people - hate the idea of collective action to end poverty and social injustice, hate the idea of regulating the activities of the rich and the super-rich.

Barak Obama is hated by American conservatives and Republicans because he's regarded as a liberal or even a socialist - since he advocates tackling poverty and extreme inequality, and wishes to re-regulate capitalism for the benefit of the people as a whole. He's hated because he expresses disgust at a world in which most people are undereducated and unnecessarily impoverished whilst a small elite live in conditions of unnecessary and unimaginable wealth and luxury. Obama wishes to 'spread our wealth a little more fairly'.

Conservatives do not. Conservatives love speculation, casino capitalism and financial bubbles because these things enable them to get even richer - at the expense of the poorer and the more ignorant sections of society. Conservatives hate the very idea of taxation and will do everything possible to avoid paying their share of it. Conservatives love the idea of a 'flat tax' which means that everyone pays (roughly) the same amount of tax, regardless of their abilty to pay.

So what did Keynes discover, and what did he say? Hands up everyone who hasn't a clue! Yes - you there at the back! Before jumping to Keynes' 'The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money', consider these quotes -

Ideas shape the course of history.

It is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.

It would not be foolish to contemplate the possibility of a far greater progress still.

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.

For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to every one that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still.

A study of the history of opinion is a necessary preliminary to the emancipation of the mind.

Americans are apt to be unduly interested in discovering what average opinion believes average opinion to be.

Education: the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the indifferent by the incompetent.

I do not know which makes a man more conservative - to know nothing but the present, or nothing but the past.

I work for a Government I despise for ends I think criminal.

If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid.

Long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead.

Most men love money and security more, and creation and construction less, as they get older.

Nothing mattered except states of mind, chiefly our own.

Successful investing is anticipating the anticipations of others.

The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that still carries any reward.

The biggest problem is not to let people accept new ideas, but to let them forget the old ones.

The day is not far off when the economic problem will take the back seat where it belongs, and the arena of the heart and the head will be occupied or reoccupied, by our real problems - the problems of life and of human relations, of creation and behavior and religion.

The decadent international but individualistic capitalism in the hands of which we found ourselves after the war is not a success. It is not intelligent. It is not beautiful. It is not just. It is not virtuous. And it doesn't deliver the goods.

The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.

The disruptive powers of excessive national fecundity may have played a greater part in bursting the bonds of convention than either the power of ideas or the errors of autocracy.

The importance of money flows from it being a link between the present and the future.

The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelope our future.

Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking.



That's probably enough Keynes and economics for today. Tomorrow we can consider the fact that Chicago-school Friedmanite economics has, for very obvious reasons, come to dominate political and economic discourse throughout the world - to the extent that a whole generation of politicians like Blair, Brown, Osborne, Cameron and Clegg have grown up in lectures and seminars where their tutors have deliberately set out to discredit Keynes and indoctrinate the ideas of Friedman and Hayek. Most of the civil service leadership and a new generation of political "special advisors" also seem to have taken MBAs which were mainly or totally free-market Friedmanite Chicago-school in their approach. And you don't get your MBA unless you subscribe to the globalisation/trickle-down/free-market/deregulation/small-governernment/low-taxes bullshit.

Homework for today is to read up on John Maynard Keynes from a variety of sources, eg





Those wishing to read around this subject should also have a look at:







Ignorance is an evil weed, which dictators may cultivate among their dupes, but which no democracy can afford among its citizens.
William Beveridge

Scratch a pessimist and you find often a defender of privilege.
William Beveridge

The object of government in peace and in war is not the glory of rulers or of races, but the happiness of common man.
William Beveridge


Will Hutton

It's impossible to overstate the need to read Will's book, The State We're In. Here's a man who never abandoned his allegiance to Keynesianism even during the dark days of Thatcherite triumphalism and the pre-bust days of neo-conservatism.

His last three or four pieces in the Observer are also well worth looking at:


Bringing the bankers to heel must start right here, right now

Big Finance has to be brought under control or outrageous bonuses will still be paid and there will be another crisis


Ten ideas for a better Britain

Here are ten challenges for the Labour party to rediscover its radical edge


Where are the leaders who will reform the world's economy?

The world financial system needs a radical overhaul, though last week's cosy Davos conference suggested otherwise


In this week's column Will raises some really key issues which are as much about education and schools as they are about economics, society and finance, insofar as they deal with innovation, creative thinking and imagination.

Don't be blinded by the web. The world is actually stagnating

If we want to step up the pace of invention, there has to be a huge shift in the way we think


Western policymakers were bullied by the financial oligarchs into believing that the market is magic. Thus banking could become a deregulated global market, privileged ahead of all other forms of economic activity. Innovation was left to look after itself. What were seen to matter were lower regulations, lower taxes and reduced worker entitlements – not using the state to build the ecosystem in which innovation, experimentation and investment flourish as had been done through the early part of the 20th century, even until the free market revolution.

If we want to step up the pace of invention, there has to be a huge shift in the way we think.

This is a huge ask. For 30 years or more the consensus has been that governments necessarily and always fail – and only markets succeed. But reality is beginning to intrude. Even the coalition government, wedded to the old-time religion, is finding that if it wants a growth strategy it has to do what used to be prohibited – design markets and build institutions that innovate.

An innovation strategy is being devised. Invention and innovation, we are discovering, are much too important to be left to the tender mercies of markets.

What Will doesn't emphasise, and what's hugely important, is that our education system nowadays doesn't even set out to help young people develop the skills that they, and we, desperately need. Our schools concentrate almost entirely on coaching children to pass tests and exams. Parents hire tutors to cram their kids to get better grades - even in piano and guitar playing. Grades are currency - the wealth of youth with which they purchase places at colleges and universities.

Meanwhile they're failing to develop the more crucial life skills - critical thinking, imagination, creativity, innovation, communication, team-working, and so on.

Of course we can't (and shouldn't) mark and grade and categorise these higher aspects of learning, which need continuous practice and encouragement from birth if they're to flourish.

The Chinese, the Finns, the Danes and a few others have understood the importance of a type of education that releases young people to develop their full potential. We have not. We once led the world in progressive education, but the conservative counter-revolution long ago killed off all innovation and progressive thinking in most of our schools.

We're now a stupid country led by stupid people and brainwashed by a mainly stupid media into thinking stupidly about children and education. How long will it be before people wake up and see the truth? How long before children are allowed to have a proper childhood and grow up as fully developed human beings?


The human race needs elephant mothers, not tiger mothers

Where is the appreciation that we are social animals in Amy Chua's competitive approach to parenting?


by Peter Singer

Many years ago, my wife and I were driving somewhere with our three young daughters in the  back, when one of them suddenly asked: "Would you rather that we were clever or that we were happy?"

I was reminded of that moment last month when I read Amy Chua's Wall Street Journal article, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," which sparked more than 4,000 comments on wsj.com and over 100,000 comments on Facebook. The article was a promotional piece for Chua's book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which has become an instant bestseller.

Chua's thesis is that, when compared with Americans, Chinese children tend to be successful because they have "tiger mothers," whereas western mothers are pussycats, or worse. Chua's daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to watch television, play computer games, sleep over at a friend's home, or be in a school play. They had to spend hours every day practising the piano or violin. They were expected to be the top student in every subject except gym and drama.

Chinese mothers, according to Chua, believe that children, once they get past the toddler stage, need to be told in no uncertain terms when they have not met the high standards their parents expect of them. (Chua says that she knows Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish, and Ghanaian mothers who are "Chinese" in their approach, as well as some ethnic-Chinese mothers who are not.) Their egos should be strong enough to take it.

Stanley Sue, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, has studied suicide, which is particularly common among Asian-American women (in other ethnic groups, more males commit suicide than females). He believes that family pressure is a significant factor.

Chua would reply that reaching a high level of achievement brings great satisfaction, and that the only way to do it is through hard work. Perhaps, but can't children be encouraged to do things because they are intrinsically worthwhile, rather than because of fear of parental disapproval?

Chua's focus is unrelentingly on solitary activities in the home, with no encouragement of group activities, or of concern for others, either in school or in the wider community.

Tigers lead solitary lives, except for mothers with their cubs. We, by contrast, are social animals. So are elephants, and elephant mothers do not focus only on the wellbeing of their own offspring. Together, they protect and take care of all the young in their herd, running a kind of daycare centre.

If we all think only of our own interests, we are headed for collective disaster – just look at what we are doing to our planet's climate. When it comes to raising our children, we need fewer tigers and more elephants.

Copyright: Project Syndicate 1995–2011


I agree with all of the above - I'm 100% behind the idea that we should educate children to become socially, emotionally and spiritually intelligent - but again it's important to stress the disastrous effect of indoctrinating young people into believing that competitive grade-getting is more important than learning to be creative, imaginative, innovative and critical thinkers.

Children also need guidance in setting their own learning directions and agendas, and encouragement to look within and think critically about what's there - to overcome negative and destructive ego-states.

Ego-driven hyper-competitive people like Amy Chua need to read some Chinese philosophy and try to cultivate some wisdom instead of mere academic attainment. They also need to be charged with being abusive to children.


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