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Words of wisdom for today

FDR, Obama and Bloodletting

Written by Donald Hank

Monday, 20 April 2009 03:22

The Keynesian cure for the economy.bloodletting_001

How long will it take for America to wake up and realize Keynesian economics (government-induced stimulation of the economy) doesn’t work?
First the bad news: Judging by past history, the restoration of common sense in government could take as long as 2400 years.
That’s how long it took medical science to abolish bloodletting, an intended cure for infectious diseases, which was first practiced in about the fifth century BC and persisted until the mid-1800s.
The theory was that diseases were caused by an imbalance in the “humors” (bodily fluids), but the effects were not beneficial. Not only did the lancet introduce infectious germs but the loss of blood weakened the patient, often leading to death. Yet doctors didn’t base their methods on results.
Human behavior is flawed. Our thinking is easily manipulated by the expectations of perceived authorities.
Even though millions of people witnessed the results of bloodletting, not enough noticed the lack of efficacy to bring about its abolition. I call this blindness the “respect effect.” Those who doubted the efficacy of bloodletting would never have dared say so because they would have been criticizing an untouchable group.
Europe and most of Asia had gone through a long feudal period where society was divided into the rich landlords and the serfs, their de facto slaves. The latter had no right to contest the wisdom of the former.
Worse, most of the doctors had had formal training, often at a respected university and were thus seen as “educated.” The scientific method, though articulated in the fifth century, was not commonly used in medicine. Thus the practice persisted until recent times. In the novel Fathers and Sons, for example, set in the mid-1800s, Turgenev mentions a doctor whose kitbag contains lances.
Apparently, medical training for physicians consisted simply of passing on the “wisdom” of the older professors and doctors to the students, who were not supposed to question them. Thus, a dangerous superstition gripped academe, while largely sparing the commoners.
Indeed, in those 2400 odd years during which doctors practicing bloodletting failed to cure their patients, while enjoying the full prestige of professional legitimacy, the commoners, who couldn’t afford doctors, discovered, thanks to the mother of invention, countless herbal and home cures for all sorts of human and animal illnesses, cures that were infinitely more effective precisely because they had been proven, through trial and error, to work and because the intelligentsia weren’t there to interfere.
Thus, for millenia “doctors” were overpaid quacks while the common man was far advanced compared to such practitioners.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that the intellectual elites discovered, using the common man’s time-tested techniques, that the unfounded assumptions about bloodletting were false.
Now what I have said about medical science applies in kind to economic science.
The principle of supply and demand had always been widely accepted by all social classes, whether or not they could articulate it. After all, the free-market system gave positive results, particularly once the industrial revolution was in place.
No one could deny it.
But a new superstition was about to grip academe.
In the 19th century, as physicians were abandoning bloodletting, a handful of intellectuals reverted to the old elitist ways, founding a new system based on nothing but unproven assumptions. Though couched in abstruse and high sounding prose, Das Kapital is nothing but a collection of random, loosely connected observations and theories. Vladimir Lenin foisted this so-called system on his country and after almost 70 years, his successors turned in the final results: abject failure.
By contrast, America turned in respectable test results, proving the efficacy of free market principles.
Conclusion: the more government, the worse the results. The less government, the better the results.
But before that, John Maynard Keynes had thrown his weight toward more government and had become the intellectual mentor of FDR, who implemented Keynesian economics. Keynes once suggested that if the government paid men to dig ditches and fill them back up again, that would stimulate the economy.
FDR adopted this idea of experimental government intervention, paying farmers to kill piglets in an effort to increase farm prices. It brought up meat prices but it didn’t help people buy meat.
It is now recognized that FDR, far from “getting us out of the Depression,” actually prolonged it<http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/FDR-s-Policies-Prolonged-Depression-5409.aspx&gt; by about seven years.
Yet FDR was praised as a “genius” by the media and the intellectual elite.
Why?
For the same reason that physicians for years had resorted to bloodletting: the respect effect.
Academe never seriously questioned FDR’s “genius.” Having graduated from Harvard and Columbia, he was one of their own. Their writings reflect that misguided respect, which was passed on to today’s Democrats and Obama, who has resumed economic bloodletting, calling it “stimulus.” It will bleed our children and grandchildren. Yet regardless of the economic ills of interminable debt, the elite dutifully extol his “genius.”
But here’s the good news: Unlike FDR, Obama did not win by a landslide. Nor, judging by our coast-to-coast tea parties, does he enjoy anywhere near the popularity or trust that FDR commanded for four terms.
There are good reasons for this:

  • In FDR’s day, the Soviet experiment was just getting started. Today, the world’s most visible socialist states have failed spectacularly.
  • There was no significant conservative/libertarian movement in FDR’s day. Today, such organizations flourish.
  • Today, thanks in large part to the Internet, the hot issues of taxation and spending are spotlighted despite efforts to obfuscate.
  • Sound economic theory supported by facts competes with socialist ideas in academe, as articulated by Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, etc.
  • FDR supported national defense. Obama has all but ignored the military and apologizes to our enemies.

The honeymoon is over, and the scientific method, applied to Obamanomics, will melt the Keynesian fantasies like snow in a spring thaw.

Donald Hank

is a former language teacher, currently operating a technical translation agency in Wrightsville, PA. A former language teacher, he holds an undergraduate degree in French and German from Millersville State University (PA), a Master’s degree in Russian language and literature from Kutztown State College (also in PA), has studied Chinese for 3 years in Taiwan at the Mandarin Training Center, and is self-taught in other languages, having logged a total of 8 years abroad in total immersion situations. He is also the founder of Lancaster-York Non-Custodial Parents, a volunteer organization that provides Christian counseling for non-custodial parents.

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Written by tfheringer

April 21, 2009 at 1:52 am

Posted in Freedom, Liberty, Obamanism

One Response

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  1. Great correlation there. I liked the post thanks.

    Freedom Thinker

    April 21, 2009 at 4:32 pm


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