I don’t have a title for this post. I couldn’t think of anything non-corny. I do one of these every so often about how my point of view has changed over the last five years, but never so much about why. Marcus gave me the idea, musing on the comment section of my last post that he isn’t rich because he can’t pretend he’s stupid. I don’t know about his other readers, but I am immeasurably glad he doesn’t!
I’ve always had some peripheral interest in economics, but mostly from the angle of the study of history and politics – not for economics itself. I’ve studied the old economists like Bastiat and Smith, and some more modern like Friedman (one of my favorites). As the economic crisis began in 2008, and I witnessed society in a panic like I have never before seen, I wanted to know how and why.
One of my favorite living historians is Thomas E. Woods, a former Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute. He is quite the scholar and teacher. I became acquainted with his work when I bought his book on nullification (it is an excellent work and is well worth the read); and I found his website where he hosts a blog and has a library of videos of his lectures. I understand nearly all the points he makes; but I have to take what I want and leave the rest when he starts talking about economics (and I tune out the politics too). For most things related to history I deeply respect his point of view; however, no one quite perfect or without some fatal flaw.
It’s surprising that of all people who caused me to question what I was hearing about the Fed, inflation, and bubbles it was Mr. Woods. After all of the classical liberalism this man preaches, his economics seems quite out of place. I hear the same things from him that can be heard from most Austrians – bubbles are caused by people exercising their economic freedom; thus, they shouldn’t be allowed to have money (this is, of course, my abridged version). And economic freedom is a bad thing? The message seems so obvious to me after understanding the gold standard, and apparently even through all of this man’s brilliance, his inherent contradiction is lost to him.
That is when I set out to learn economics myself. I spent hours, days, and weeks sorting through websites, reading bits and pieces, and looking up terms that I wasn’t sure of their meanings. One of those terms was money illusion. I stumbled upon Scott Sumner’s website quite by accident in February of 2009 – and I became an addict of Scott’s very straight forward way of explaining basic concepts without requiring huge leaps of logic. I can follow his golden thread of logic from start to finish; and he pays enough attention to detail without overdoing it. He makes perfect sense when everyone else has gone mad.
Naturally, I wanted to spread the good news that at least someone had a handle on what was going on, why we had been brought to the brink of collapse and why there was so much ongoing financial misery. I had been writing diaries on RedState.com, and I posted as much as I could about NGDP, MV=PY, etc…, with links to Scott’s blog. But I found out that people really didn’t want to hear what I had to say the very hard way. I tried and failed; but not without there being plenty of sour grapes once I gave up altogether. Those nuts weren’t meant to be cracked. And that’s how I ended up here – to say what I want with the ability to filer out the nonsense.
From Scott’s blog I started exploring the other economists’ blogs he has linked. I didn’t care for all of them, but there are some very special ones. Most of them I have listed in my blog roll. People like Lars Christensen and Marcus Nunes, Bill Woolsey and David Beckworth, and David Glasner, I have learned more from than I could ever have imagined I would have the pleasure. And I especially appreciate Marcus for allowing me to swipe some of his very elegant graphs – mine turn out perhaps only slightly better than birdcage liner on a good day.
More than just economics, however, the things I’ve learned and the personal experiences over the last few years that were born out of economic stress, has changed the way view the world. I never realized what an angry place it is. I suppose I was always too busy just trying to get by in it to notice. I am sure that is now much more angry than it was in 2007; and it is angry in a way that prevents ears, hearts, and minds from opening up.
Sometimes, when I think about the situation, I wish I could unlearn and unknow what I know; get my innocence and ignorance back so I wouldn’t have to confront the true evil we’ve done to innocent people with an attitude that we don’t really care as long as these terrible things are happening to someone else. But that really is the problem – people don’t want to look so they just turn away, making up all kinds of excuses about how they are instead the victim – and they don’t want to hear the truth.
Of course I have some very special insight on what it’s like to be on the edge, seemingly with no end. I was doing some thinking on my way to work the other day, wondering how I would have viewed this monetary tragedy if I had never lost my job. I wondered about that because many of the people I work with again that I worked with many years ago don’t seem to understand how much of a tragedy it is to lose a job now. One of my old coworkers who was laid off early last year is still looking for a job. He’s a graduate in computer science from MIT and is an excellent programmer – yet he sits day after day, as I once did, wondering if he will ever work again. When I talk about him to people who also worked with him, they change the subject. I could be wrong about them; perhaps they change the subject because they do understand.
But I digress. And it probably doesn’t matter because my long winded post is drawing to conclusion. If it weren’t for the insight and patience of my economist-blogger friends, I simply wouldn’t have understood and probably would want to change the subject too – and I’d still be hanging around and listening to people who just really don’t care about what’s good for anyone but themselves. I hope to God that I shall never be so gullible and ignorant again.
PS: I also left the Republican Party – something I never thought I would do. But there is a time and a place for everything; and that was it.