May

4

 Paul Cantor has an essay in today's Mises Daily in which he quotes Keynes' snarky summary of his own beliefs about political economy:

Ancient Egypt was doubly fortunate and doubtless owed to this its fabled wealth, in that it possessed two activities, namely pyramid building as well as the search for precious metals, the fruits of which, since they could not serve the needs of man by being consumed, did not stale with abundance. The Middle Ages built cathedrals and sang dirges. Two pyramids, two masses for the dead, are twice as good as one; but not so two railways from London to York.

One has to admire Keynes for his remarkable candor. He was direct and open about his atheism and his belief in the effectiveness of "stimulus" - i.e. having the Treasury borrow and/or print money to pay people to dig holes and fill them up again. Holes dug up and then filled in are a neat and precise activity that has none of the troubling noises and threatening speeds of railway engines and cars. The market might well want two railways from London to York - one for slow and one for fast traffic, one for freight and one for passenger trains, etc. - but people should not want or need or even tolerate such mess and confusion and waste.

Keynes and his ballerina beard of a wife and most other performers, writers and artists - then and now - instinctively love socialism as matter of aesthetics. Oscar Wilde explained this in his essay on "The Soul of Man Under Socialism". Wilde admits openly that he finds poor people ugly and deeply troublesome. According to Cantor, "he would like someone to take care of them, which almost means to get rid of them." So many artists end up being socialists because, as Cantor says, "they would like someone else" -the U.N. or the World Bank or AmeriCorps or the Gates Foundation - anyone but the poor themselves - "to take care of the problem of the un-beautiful."

As Cantor says, Wilde is "looking back nostalgically to the age of patronage. He does not like the laws of supply and demand. He doesn't like the idea that a novel by Anthony Trollope should be successful because people like it. Why should common people be able to judge Wilde? It is a very good essay to see just how reactionary socialism is. The real key to understanding why Castro is so popular with Latin American authors-and why socialism attracts so many writers and artists-is that these writers feel underappreciated by the market. They are looking for the Great Man, the dictator who will recognize their genius and exalt their talents above the petty bourgeoisie." The same impulse led others to be attracted to the socialism of the right - i.e. fascism. As Cantor says, "this was the reason behind Ezra Pound's fascination with Mussolini, for example….It all stems from the same impulse…. They hope that socialism will liberate them from their greatest fear: being judged by the common man."


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