Wednesday, October 23, 2013

We are all slaves of defunct ideologues

I may be becoming a binarian in my old age: I'm more accepting of simple divisions now. One is between purists and pragmatists. I try to stay in the latter camp, but I fail, of course. I stumbled on this John Maynard Keyes' quote a few minutes ago:
The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.
And I thought of another old observation that applies to all of us: generals are always ready to fight the last war.

I fear being the unwitting subjects of beautiful theories is part of the human condition. But it explains the fury of internet outrage, when people angrily promote vaguely-understand ideas that are no longer relevant, and may have never been as useful as their first promoters believed.

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