Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 31, 2011

in Civil Society, Complexity & Emergence, Education, History

… is from page 99 of historian William Manchester’s 1992 book A World Lit Only by Fire; here, Manchester is writing about 16th-century Europe:

[T]he sons of merchants led the way in learning foreign languages.  They were already among the most attentive pupils.  The growth of industry gave education a new urgency.  Literacy had been an expensive indulgence in an agrarian culture, but in an urban, merchant world it was mandatory.

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JS August 31, 2011 at 9:00 am

In Popper’s “Enemies of the Open Society”, the closed societies were kept that way in order to protect the status of the rulers, which was upheld by the many various mystical beliefs of the subjects. These beliefs were not ‘open’ to logical and scientific examination, and the societal norms were not ‘open’ to experimentation, all of which would threaten the power of the rulers if allowed. The most brutal of all these closed societies was the Chinese despotism that lasted a few thousand years.

What broke up these despotisms and the rate and order upon which they dissolved was merchant trade between one society and another. People within a closed society were then able to witness and experience how things were done and believed elsewhere. This led to their gaining the courage to challenege the belief systems of the tyrannies that they lived under.

Globalization has only been a force for good, the germination of which the above quotation illustrates.

kyle8 August 31, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Your argument is a good argument also why political embargoes do not work. We might have already gotten rid of Castro if we had not cut off Cuba.

Change in any tyranny is enhanced with more contact with free societies, not less.

JS August 31, 2011 at 3:36 pm

ditto that

vikingvista August 31, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Bay of Pigs–yet another example of violent US Federal government policy shoring up a dictator. Then Uncle Sam claims to have saved face during the subsequent Cuban missile crisis when the USSR succeeding in gaining US concessions in Europe. US maintains status quo in Cuba while the USSR gains concessions. Well played JFK.

david nh August 31, 2011 at 11:24 am

That’s a great book. Highly recommended.

Ameet August 31, 2011 at 11:36 am

Free trade, unfettered, in all forms (be it between nations, neighbors, employee/employer) seems to ultimately be a force for good. This to me seems to a quote that emphasizes one of the non-financial benefits of it – a better education to compete.

And also it illustrates another salient point: incentives matter. Otherwise, why would the sons of merchants be the most attentive?

If only the incentives could be made right in our current educational system!

JS August 31, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Much of education until college is monopolized by the state. One of the key methods of maintaining a ‘closed’ society is for education to be regulated in a way that defends the institutional status quo, rather than challenge it. In our case, it has been hyjacked by the Left, and our children are educated more toward egalitarian values “society owes you” than libertarian ones “personal responsibility”. Statism relies on educating the masses to look for the State to solve the problems of society. This is what the children are being taught.

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