30 Jul 2010

I Have No Idea What This Means, But I Love It

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At the LRC blog I saw this automatically-generated quote from Mises’ Socialism:

“In his life and his reading he remained so far removed from the facts of economic life that he was as great a stranger to the work of the bourgeoisie as a Hottentot to the work of an explorer taking geographical measurements.”

I don’t know which person Mises was criticizing here, and I don’t know what a Hottentot is, but I bet this isn’t flattery.

3 Responses to “I Have No Idea What This Means, But I Love It”

  1. Bob Roddis says:

    Oh no. It’s now a politically incorrect term and you and Mises will be persona non grata for life. I knew they were southern Africans but did not know that there’s a new PC name for them.


  2. Lucas M. Engelhardt says:

    Did some searching…

    This is from Chapter 11 of Socialism, and is describing Lenin. The preceding passage is: “This is all, absolutely all that Lenin had to say on this problem; and no socialist has a word more to say. They have no greater perception of the essentials of economic life than the errand boy, whose only idea of the work of the entrepreneur is that he covers pieces of paper with letters and figures. It was for this reason that it was quite impossible for Lenin to realize the causes of the failure of his policy.” [He had just quote a passage in which Lenin basically declares that entrepreneurship is really just about accounting.]

    “Hottentot” is a term used for certain nomadic Africans that the Dutch encountered when they entered South Africa. Which, in context with what went before, is a pretty good analogy. To an errand boy, it looks like all an entrepreneur does is write down cost and revenue figures. To a native, it looks like all an explorer does is write down geographical figures.

    • Bob Roddis says:

      Ralph Raico made a similar point about Trotsky in this reprinted (from 1979) book review:

      “With this piece of cretinism Trotsky doubtless agreed. And why wouldn’t he? Lenin, Trotsky, and the rest had all their lives been professional revolutionaries, with no connection at all to the process of production and, except for Bukharin, little interest in the real workings of an economic system. Their concerns had been the strategy and tactics of revolution and the perpetual, monkish exegesis of the holy books of Marxism.

      The nitty-gritty of how an economic system functions — how, in our world, men and women work, produce, exchange, and survive — was something from which they prudishly averted their eyes, as pertaining to the nether-regions. These “materialists” and “scientific socialists” lived in a mental world where understanding Hegel, Feuerbach, and the hideousness of Eugen Duehring’s philosophical errors was infinitely more important than understanding what might be the meaning of a price.”


      I’ve come to the conclusion that the Keynesians suffer from similar emotional afflictions. They see “the economy” as consisting of their inferiors who need to be “guided” by the Keynesians. That is why Keynesians will not even go through the simple steps of reading the basic concepts of the Austrian School They cannot bear the idea of the “small people” running their own lives without the firm guidance of their betters.