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Sunday, January 18, 2009

WERE THREE GREAT ECONOMISTS OF THE LAST CENTURY --- INCLUDING KEYNES --- ANTI-SEMITES?

Today's 2nd Buggy Topic --- With Its Oddball Title

Like the 1st topic today, it's also found at the Marginal Revolution . . . and yes, despite its half-weirdo title, it's what the lengthy buggy commentary left in a thread at that admirable web-site discusses at length. 

In particular, Professor Tyler Cowen --- the head of that economic blog --- started a new post that linked to an autobiographical set of comments left by Professor Paul Samuelson . . . one of the three or four most influential and important economists of the 20th century.  A Nobel Prize-winner, he has illuminated virtually every topic in economic theory --- whether micro or macro or methodological.  He's also Jewish, and his young brilliant career at Harvard in the late 1930s was cut abruptly short there by the virulent anti-Semitism of the economic department's chairman . . . along with support from some other top-dog members.  So Samuelson moved on to MIT, then a fairly undistinguished engineering and science university, where he created one of the two or three most significant economic departments in the world. (The same thing happened to Norbert Wiener, another precociously brilliant young scholar --- the most important American mathematician in the pre-WWII era.  He too was rejected for tenure at Harvard by a mathematics department headed by an intransigent high-octane anti-Semite and moved to MIT, where he helped make it into one of the half dozen great mathematics departments around the globe).

The Three Economists Samuelson Knew Personally and Found Anti-Semitic

One is John Maynard Keynes.  The other two were Austrian émigrés to Britain and the US --- Friedrich Hayek and Joseph Schumpeter, both justly famous for their contributions to economic theory.  As Prof Bug seeks to show, Keynes shared the near-pervasive anti-Jewish sentiments that marked the European mentality by the early 20th century . . . amid intensified militant nationalism and the impact of a nasty form of Social-Darwinism, with its emphasis on racism (something alien to Darwin himself). 

Click here for Professor Tyler's post, and the two buggy prof comments on it.  (Added Jan. 18th, 2009: be sure to click on the "next" button at the bottom of the linked Tyler thread.  As it happens, prof bug tossed in a lenghty comment earlier today, and it's found on page 2 of the thread.  And on January 19th, he dealt with the same subjects at Economist's View

Some Clarifying Background Needs to Be Sketched In Briefly Here

Amid the upper-classes on the Continent of Europe and in Britain as well as among the Wasp elites in the United States, this anti-Semitism --- which stereotypes Jews as usually intelligent (a view justified, by the way, in IQ studies: European Jewry and its American offshoot having by far the highest IQ worldwide), but deficient morally and socially and ultra-pushy and assertive and definitely not "one-of-us": rather "the other" in European history and Christianity more generally --- this anti-Semitism was reinforced by fears about Jewish competition in the financial, business, and intellectual worlds.  (Remember, in Europe until the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Jews were segregated and ghettoized --- having earlier been ejected, one time or another, from almost all European countries, including Britain twice. 

It was only by the early and mid-19th century that Jewish emancipation from ghettos and non-citizenshi in Europe freed this tiny minority --- still less than 1/4 of 1.0% of the world's total population, but with well over 30% of all Nobel prizes --- that Jews were able to enter European or American universities in the increasingly democratic Western countries and begin a rapid upward ascent in the business, financial, scientific, and intellectual worlds . . . much to the dismay of the challenged upper-class elites everywhere in Europe and its offshoots in the New World.

Enter Genocidal Jew-Hatred

By the interwar period, to make things worse, the use of Social-Darwinism had generated exterminationist racial-hatred of Jews, found to flourish especially in German Nazism, with its analogues in Austria and throughout Central and East Europe. 

It drew on 20 centuries of anti-Jewish sentiments in Christendom, but was aggravated and made even more vicious and eventually demonic and mass-murdering by the collapse of Czarist Russia and its replacement by the Communist regime and a world-wide Communist movement centered on Moscow, along with the scapegoating of Jews in Germany, Austria, and elsewhere for their defeat in World War I and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire.  Then, to top it off, the Great Depression created a crackling, strung-out economic and financial crisis that could be blamed too on Jews --- capitalism industrialism never popular among the masses nearly anywhere in Europe, but especially disliked in the later industrializing and hence more backward peasant-societies of Central and Eastern Europe.

And so, by the 1930s, all these troubles in European civilization could now be blamed on Jews: singled out in Nazi and other ultra right-wing propaganda as behind both Bolshevism in Communist Russia and despised capitalism in London and Wall Street. 

The Holocaust

This feverish propaganda tapped deep, emotionally charged mental outlooks all over Europe --- less so, prof bug immediately adds, in Scandinavia, Holland, Britain, and even Fascist Italy than elsewhere --- and resonated with psychologically fearful masses and elites.  Small wonder that in occupied Nazi Europe during WWII, the Nazis found collaborating governments everywhere and lots of enthusiasm among certain elite and mass-circles to help them in their genocidal campaigns. 

The exceptions were one occupied country: admirable little Denmark.  And also two Nazi allies in the war against the Soviet Union: tiny Finland and Bulgaria.  Even the Francoist quasi-fascist regime in Spain --- which remained neutral despite Nazi pressure to join the German struggle for a Neue Europa, Juedenfrei and led by German Order and Discipline --- refused to deliver its small Jewish population to the Nazis for extermination.

Back to Keynes, Hayek and Schumpeter

As prof bug tries to show in his Marginal Revolution commentary (with a link there to an in-depth study of Keynes' anti-Semitism), Keynes did clearly share the garden-variety stereotyped anti-Semitism of the upper-class variant.  But he was personally a generous person; was always courteous and friendly to his Jewish mentors and friends; despised mass extremist movements like the small British fascist party headed by an upper class rabble-rouser, Oswald Mosley; and supported Zionism and its struggle to create a homeland for the world's persecuted Jews who survived the Holocaust. 

Prof bug also has some comments on Schumpeter's and Hayek's anti-Semitism.  Plus, to end with, some comments to clarify Paul Samuelson's unshakable reputation as an economist of enduring greatness . . . something hard for many of the more simpleminded libertarian posters in the thread at the Marginal Revolution to even contemplate, never mind believe.