In numerous years following the war, the Federal Government ran a heavy surplus. It could not (however) pay off its debt, retire its securities, because to do so meant there would be no bonds to back the national bank notes. To pay off the debt was to destroy the money supply.
The study of money, above all other fields in economics, is one in which complexity is used to disguise truth or to evade truth, not to reveal it. The process by which banks create money is so simple the mind is repelled. With something so important, a deeper mystery seems only decent.
And there was a deeper, less visible effect of the Truman loyalty program. Seeing its consequences for certain individuals and fearing its intrusion on their own lives, many in the government sought protection by strongly asserting their anti-Communism. In the public action that ensued, policy was based not on reality but, instinctively or deliberately, on personal caution...Those who urged a militant and sometimes military anti-Communism were considered sound, trustworthy and personally safe; those who questioned such a course were politically unsafe, possible even slightly disloyal.
Money is a singular thing. It ranks with love as man's greatest source of joy. And with death as his greatest source of anxiety. Over all history it has oppressed nearly all people in one of two ways: either it has been abundant and very unreliable, or reliable and very scarce.
If anything is evident about people who manage money, it is that the task attracts a very low level of talent, one that is protected in its highly imperfect profession by the mystery that is thought to enfold the subject of economics in general and of money in particular.
Financial capacity and political perspicacity are inversely correlated. Long-run salvation by men of business has never been highly regarded if it means disturbance of orderly life and convenience in the present. So inaction will be advocated in the present even though it means deep trouble in the future. Here, at least equally with Communism, lies the threat to Capitalism. It is what causes men who know that things are going quite wrong to say that things are fundamentally sound.
People are the common denominator of progress. So... no improvement is possible with unimproved people, and advance is certain when people are liberated and educated. It would be wrong to dismiss the importance of roads, railroads, power plants, mills,and the other familiar furniture of economic development.... But we are coming to realize... that there is a certain sterility in economic monuments that stand alone in a sea of illiteracy. Conquest of illiteracy comes first.
Among all the world's races, some obscure Bedouin tribes possibly apart, Americans are the most prone to misinformation. This is not the consequence of any special preference for mendacity, although at the higher levels of their public administration that tendency is impressive. It is rather that so much of what they themselves believe is wrong.
Even in such a time of madness as the late twenties, a great many man in Wall Street remained quite sane. But they also remained very quiet. The sense of responsibility in the financial community for the community as a whole is not small. It is nearly nil. Perhaps this is inherent. In a community where the primary concern is making money, one of the necessary rules is to live and let live. To speak out against madness may be to ruin those who have succumbed to it. So the wise in Wall Street are nearly always silent. The foolish... Read more »
Complexity and obscurity have professional value - they are the academic equivalents of apprenticeship rules in the building trades. They exclude the outsiders, keep down the competition, preserve the image of a privileged or priestly class. The man who makes things clear is a scab. He is criticized less for his clarity than for his treachery.
In the United States all business not transacted over the telephone is accomplished in conjunction with alcohol or food, often under conditions of advanced intoxication. This is a fact of the utmost importance for the visitor of limited funds... for it means that the most expensive restaurants are, with rare exceptions, the worst.
The family which takes it mauve and cerise, air conditioned, power-steered, and power braked automobile out for a tour passes through cities that are badly paved, made hideous by litter, blighted buildings, billboards, and posts for wires that should long since have been put underground.
In the old days, land was important as the giver of all things. That period is gone now. Technology and brainpower are all that matters and yet conflicts over land, specially one like on the India-China border, that yields nothing, continue. This is a burden of ancient history that we continue to carry. If tomorrow there is settlement on planet Mars, we will begin to worry if others are interested.