Power & Market
- A Development of the Theory of the Ricardo Effect by Philip Ruys Is Garrison's Notion of "Secular Growth" Compatible With the Solow Growth Literature? by Robert P. Murphy
- Secular Growth in Garrison's Model: A Comment by Nicolás Cachanosky
- A Note on Block-Hoppe Debate on Indifference by Igor Wysocki
- Freedom, Counterfactuals and Economic Laws: Further Comments on Machaj and Hülsmann by Michaël Bauwens
- A Comparison of Investment and Cash Building of Savings: A Rejoinder by Alexandru Pătruți
Scandinavian Unexceptionalism: Culture, Markets, and the Failure of Third-Way Socialism by Nima Sanandaji. Reviewed by Per L. Bylund
Public Policy, Productive and Unproductive Entrepreneurship: The Impact of Public Policy on Entrepreneurial Outcomesby Gregory M. Randolph, Michael T. Tasto, and Robert F. Salvino Jr., eds. Reviewed by Per L. Bylund
The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Economic Growth, and Increase Inequality by Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles. Reviewed by David Gordon
In October 1962, I was given a lifetime advantage: a copy of Murray Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State. In the language of journalism, it was hot off the presses. It had just been published. I was sent a copy by F. A. Harper, known as Baldy, who was not bald. At the time, he ran the Institute for Humane Studies. Until early that year, he had managed the William Voker Fund. The Volker Fund had put up the money that subsidized the publication of Rothbard’s book. It was published by Van Nostrand, a small but respectable mainstream publishing house located in Princeton, New Jersey. Van Nostrand was also the publisher of a series of books that had been financed by the Volker Fund over the previous two years.
I was in my final year of college as an undergraduate. I had written to Harper the previous year about some questions I had about Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action (Yale University Press, 1949). Harper responded in a letter. I still have the fragments of that letter. For some unknown reason, I cut off the introduction to the letter, which would have had the date on it. I suspect this was in the summer of 1961.
By 1962, Harper was serving as my part-time mentor. I did not fully understand this at the time. In November 1961, he paid for me to fly to Burlingame, California, in order to spend a few hours with him. This was one of the turning points in my life, although I did not know this at the time. He gave me a copy of Israel Kirzner’s book, The Economic Point of View, which had been published by Van Nostrand in 1960. I wrote this on the front page: “presented by F. A. Harper November, 1961.” He was recruiting me. I have been grateful for this ever since. When he sent me Man, Economy and State, he was still in the process of recruiting me.
Within a few months after my visit, Harper was fired by the man who controlled the Volker Fund, Harold Luhnow, the nephew of William Volker, who died in 1947. Luhnow took over the management of the Fund in 1947. He shifted its focus from charitable activities in Kansas City, Missouri to financing the remnants of classical liberalism. In early 1962, he replaced Harper with Ivan Bierly, who had received his Ph.D. under Harper at Cornell years before. The Volcker Fund was renamed “The Center for American Studies.” That shift turned out to be crucial in my career. Bierly hired a new staff. One of the people he hired was R. J. Rushdoony. I wrote to him in the spring of 1962. I met him when he lectured for two weeks at a summer seminar sponsored by the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists. Rushdoony continued to recruit me in my senior year. He brought me to work for the Center as a summer intern in 1963, and I lived at his home. I spent the whole summer reading the basic texts of Austrian School economics, including Man, Economy, and State.
Rothbard’s book was a masterpiece, both conceptually and rhetorically -- the art of persuasion. He had a rigorously systematic mind. He also had a stupendous memory regarding materials he had read, which he demonstrated in the book’s footnotes. He had an unmatched ability to write clearly. I mentioned this in my article in the 1988 Festschrift for Rothbard, Man, Economy, and Liberty. In my article, “Why Murray Rothbard Will Never win the Nobel Prize,” I said that he wrote much too clearly to win it.
Mises was a clear writer. But in Human Action, he offered fewer footnotes than Man, Economy, and State. He also did not use the paraphernalia of modern economics. There are no equations and no graphs in anything Mises ever wrote. The famous supply and demand scissors are absent in his books. In terms of presentation, Rothbard in Man, Economy, and State was far closer to the mainstream academic community than Mises was. But he was not close to the mainstream community with respect to the content of what he wrote. He was an academic pariah in 1962, and he remained a pariah all his life. He shared this position with Mises.
This was not a liability in the long run. One of the important points made by Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm-shifting book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, also published in 1962, was this: major shifts in the worldview of intellectuals are usually generated from either the fringes of an academic guild or from outside the academic guild. If they are generated from inside, they are generated from young men who are reacting against the outlook of the guild. They are on its fringes. The other source of change in perception comes from brilliant outsiders who are in no way under the authority of a particular academic guild.
Mises was funded from outside of academia. New York University paid him no salary for a quarter of a century. He retired in 1969. He may have been the oldest professor in the nation. The money to pay his salary had been put up by rich friends of Mises, most notably Lawrence Fertig, who was on the board of New York University. He donated through the Foundation for Economic Education after its founding by Leonard E. Read in 1946. The Volker Fund also put up money for Mises and Hayek at the University of Chicago. The Volker Fund had put Rothbard on its payroll, mainly to review books, beginning in the mid-1950's. Rothbard was not on any university or academic payroll in 1962. Only after the demise of the Center for American Studies in 1964 did he get his first teaching position, which was at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. The school did not offer an economics major. He taught budding engineers. He was on the fringes.
Mises and Rothbard were outsiders. That was their great advantage. This was not clear to me in 1963, but after I read Kuhn’s book in 1968, I understood. The economics guild had no control over either of them. Neither of them published in professional journals. Rothbard had published a few essays, but after 1960 he never bothered again. He made a wise decision. He did not have to conform to what any editor believed.
CLARITY AS A STANDARD
I have always appreciated clarity of exposition. In 1963, as today, I was of the opinion that an author had two primary responsibilities: accuracy and clarity. Persuasion is in third place. Rothbard was tremendous at all three. In this sense, he became my literary model. To the extent that I am known for my writing, I gained this skill more from Rothbard than anybody else.
In 1966, I took a graduate seminar on the American Revolution from Douglass Adair. He had been the editor of The William and Mary Quarterly. He had personally transformed it from a journal that published regional memorabilia into the premier journal of colonial history. He told us that he always used this criterion for screening manuscripts. If an article did not stand on its own merits without the footnotes, he would not publish it. He said that the footnotes were important to validate the thesis, but if the article was heavily dependent on the footnotes to make its point, it was not worth publishing. That impressed me at the time. I see in retrospect that everything scholarly/academic that Rothbard ever wrote would have qualified for publication in terms of Adair’s rule.
Adair made another observation. He said that every scholar would benefit from a year of editing a scholarly journal in his field. Why? Because he would discover how few of his colleagues have the ability to write clearly.
Rothbard had a huge advantage over his peers. He was the master of clarity in the field of economics. He was even more clear than Hazlitt. As a friend of Hazlitt's, I guarantee you that Hazlitt would have been the first to admit this. He was a humble man. For a man who achieved so much, he was an astoundingly humble man. He had an enormous respect for Rothbard.
F. A. Hayek was a clear writer, but as he admitted, he was not a systematic thinker. He divided schools of thought into two groups: systematizers and puzzlers. Hayek called himself a puzzler. In economic thought, this is clearly seen in Austrian School economics from the beginning. Carl Menger and Eugen Böhm-Bawerk were systematizers. Friederich Wieser was a puzzler. Not many people have ever read Wieser. Puzzlers are harder to read than systematizers.
Hayek gained attention in the English-speaking academic world beginning in the early 1930's. Mises was not well-known in academia outside of Austria. Hayek is still the best known Austrian School economist. He won the Nobel Prize in 1974. But Hayek never wrote a treatise on economics.
Henry Hazlitt was a clear writer. He was rhetorically gifted. He had the ability to sustain long, complex arguments, as he demonstrated in his refutation of Keynes, The Failure of the “New Economics.” It was published in 1959. We never see it footnoted in any scholarly journal. There are few people who have ever read it. Hundreds of thousands of people have read his little masterpiece, Economics in One Lesson (1946), but he wrote it in just a few months, and it is not systematic in the way that treatises are supposed to be. It was not meant to be a treatise. It was meant to be a popular book that introduced people to free-market principles. It succeeded. Nothing that Hazlitt ever wrote was a comprehensive treatise.
In 1949, the world of economic theory was waiting for a clear, comprehensive, systematic treatise.
PIECES OF THE ECONOMIC PUZZLE
Most of the pieces of the economic puzzle had been lying around in an unorganized pile ever since Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations (1776). They had been refined and trimmed by Carl Menger in 1871 in his Principles of Economics. The British economist Alfred Marshall in 1890 attempted to put the pieces together in his Principles of Economics, but as is true of so many British thinkers, he was something of a puzzler, not a systematizer. The British intellectual tradition is inductivist, not deductivist. It does not begin with first principles. The pieces in his textbook did not fit together well because they were not systematically based on methodological individualism in the way that Human Action is.
I will now make an admission. It was not until just a few years ago that I recognized what should have been screamingly obvious to me and everybody else. Human Action was the first comprehensive treatise on economics. This may seem like a preposterous statement, but if you look back over the books on economics prior to Human Action, there is no book that starts at the beginning – the acting individual – and develops a comprehensive theory of all aspects of the market process in terms of just a few principles, which Mises called axioms and corollaries. No other economist called them axioms and corollaries. That was what made Mises unique.
Rothbard was an a priorist (deductivist) in epistemology, just as Mises was. In 1962, this made a grand total of two economists. In Man, Economy, and State, Rothbard laid out the chapters of the book in a systematic fashion. From Chapter 2 on, each chapter is a development of the previous chapter. This is what a prioristsare supposed to do. They start with axioms, and they develop the axioms, point by point. Mises had done the same thing in Human Action. Rothbard did it with greater precision. He also did it with greater clarity.
The first person to understand the uniqueness and comprehensive nature of Human Action was Rothbard. He saw this in 1949. This gave him an edge over all of his contemporaries. That is why Man, Economy, and State, which took him over a decade to write, was so important to my generation of budding economists. He systematized what was already a systematic introduction to economic theory. He made it easier for us to grasp the importance of what Mises had done.
Mises put together pieces of the puzzle. Rothbard took that completed puzzle and made it more palatable for younger economists who wanted to see graphs. Fortunately, he never used an equation. That would have sullied the product.
Rothbard never claimed uniqueness for his book. He fully understood that it was a derivative product. But as an introductory treatise that uses the paraphernalia of the modern economic textbook, Rothbard’s book is more serviceable than Mises’s book. In 1962, the enormous volume of his footnotes represented a survey of almost everything that had been published in the journals over the last 50 years. I have never seen anything like it. Admittedly, this dates the book. But that was inevitable, given Rothbard’s strategy. He wanted to introduce the basics of Austrian economic thought, and he wanted it within a framework of the sweep of economic opinion as of 1960 or thereabouts.
I don’t know if younger scholars read Man, Economy, and State before they read Human Action. In retrospect, I’m not sure whether I finished Man, Economy and State before I finished Human Action. I do know that I read quite a bit of Human Action in 1961. I wrote to Harper about the book in 1961. But I don’t remember if I read the whole book before the summer of 1963. I had finished both books by late August 1963. But there is no question in my mind that Rothbard opened the categories of economics more clearly to me than Mises had done. Rothbard’s literary style and his approach to economics was exactly what I needed in 1963. His book gave me an edge on my contemporaries. It shaped my work dramatically both in graduate school and subsequently. I even wrote a term paper for a course in apologetics – the philosophical defense of Christianity – on Rothbard’s epistemology. That was in 1964.
If someone has never read any economics, and he wants to start at the top, I recommend that he read Human Action first. But if he is in graduate school as an economics major, he probably would be wise to read Man, Economy and State first. If you like supply and demand graphs, read Rothbard’s book first. If you don’t like graphs, read Mises first.
Mark Pulliam of Misrule of Law has written a touching tribute to Sylvester Petro, one of the great labor law scholars of the 20th century.
Petro was also an a dear friend and early supporter of the Mises Institute, and we are proud to offer his book The Labor Policy of the Free Society for free in our online library. In fact, as Pulliam notes, Petro's dedication to the ideas of Austrian economics and a proper understanding of contracts and property came at a personal cost:
Why is Petro relatively unknown despite his prolific writing? Part of the explanation lies in academic politics; Petro was an unabashed libertarian, a proponent of Austrian School economics, and an unrelenting critic of the National Labor Relations Act (particularly as interpreted and enforced by the National Labor Relations Board). Petro believed that the ideal regulation of labor relations consisted of enforcing consensual contractual arrangements and prohibiting coercion and the use of force, in accordance with the common law. The NLRA squarely rejects this paradigm, substituting instead a regime of cartel-style “exclusive representation,” mandatory “collective bargaining,” significant impairment of employers’ contract and property rights, and legal privileges for certain union conduct.
Perhaps no area of law is so full of myths as labor law, and nobody was more committed to debunking those myths than Petro was. During Petro’s teaching career (1950-1978), such views–although popular in the business community–were decidedly out of the mainstream in legal academia. While Richard Epstein found greater acceptance for the libertarian point of view in the 1980s, along with the advent of the “law and economics” movement that validated application of free market principles to legal analysis, during the 1950s and 1960s Petro was unfashionably ahead of his time. Petro, out-of-style during the heyday of his career, was largely forgotten by an increasingly politicized professoriate after he retired. Later generations of labor law professors, at home with the premises of the NLRA, found it easier to ignore Petro than to respond to his withering critique. The current generation of progressive intellectuals ruling the academy scorns Petro as an “ideologically driven” scholar holding “radically anti-union views.”
Though Sylvestor Petro passed away in 2007, the influence of his work continues to this day. For example, his arguments against public sector collective bargaining were cited in the pending Janus v. AFSCME, a case that could have significant ramifications for government unions.
Breaking up the United States, a view thought dangerous and toxic way back in 2015, continues to trickle out in mainstream political conversation.
The latest example comes from Jesse Kelly at The Federalist:
This idea of breaking up the country may seem a bit outlandish now, but you won’t think so once real domestic unrest comes to your town. Our political disagreements have become a powder keg, one that already would have blown if conservatives had liberals’ emotional instability.
Nobody is expected to cheer for this split. Cheering is not a normal reaction when couples get a divorce. We cheer for old married people on their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
But life is imperfect. Life is hard. We both now agree that living under the other side’s value system is wholly unacceptable. The most peaceful solution we Americans can hope for now is to go our separate ways. So let us come together one last time and agree on one thing: Irreconcilable differences.
One of the best stories I've seen recently comes from Irving, New York, where a man has decided to build his own highway off ramp for his tobacco store. This story has it all, tax evasion, Indian tribal sovereignty, and an answer to the question "who will build the road?" The video is worth watching.
Eric White is a member of the Seneca Indian Tribe and owns the “Big Indian Smoke Shop” in Irving, New York.
He is reportedly building the ramp as part of a personal protest after losing a legal battle with the state over allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.
Through his attorney, Mr. White is defending his move by evoking the sovereignty of tribal land, a point that the Federal Highway Administration doesn't know how to respond to.
Just another reason why tribal sovereignty is so important
Prior to the 2016 election, Ryan McMaken noted that history shows the fastest way to increase government spending is to vote Republican:
[F]or decades, we've been told that a vote for the GOP is a vote for "smaller government." This is repeated both by Republicans, who say it like it's a good thing, and by Democrats who still seem to think that the GOP is committed to cutting grandma's safety net.
If we look at federal spending, though, it's easy to see that the myth of the budget-cutting Republican president is just that: a myth.
As such, it's no surprise that projections for the US deficit has now ballooned to over $1 Trillion two years sooner than previously estimated.
The U.S. budget deficit will surpass $1 trillion by 2020, two years sooner than previously estimated, as tax cuts and spending increases signed by President Donald Trump do little to boost long-term economic growth, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Spending will exceed revenue by $804 billion in the fiscal year through September, jumping from a projected $563 billion shortfall forecast in June, the non-partisan arm of Congress said in a report Monday. In fiscal 2019, the deficit will reach $981 billion, compared with an earlier projection of $689 billion.
The nation’s budget gap was only set to surpass the trillion-dollar level in fiscal 2022 under CBO’s report last June.
Of course many pundits and Democrats in Washington are going to direct the blame to Republican tax cuts passed year - the one really good policy we've seen from Congress.
Naturally anyone familiar with the CBO would be justified in questioning the accuracy of their work (these estimates, for example, include projecting interest rates of 4% by 2021 - higher than the Fed's own projections.) In this case, however, increased deficits were inevitable given that the Trump Administration has allowed Republicans in Congress the cover they've needed to finally act on bipartisan hostility to the sequestration caps on the Federal budget. The GOP has managed to get increases in military spending that are larger than Russia's entire defense budget, while Democrats have been able to receive funding for all sorts of projects that the GOP would have objected to if Obama was still in office.
Now the proper reaction to these new fiscal concerns should be for both sides of the isle to get serious about spending. What we will instead see are new calls to increase revenue - perhaps by increasing taxes that are easier to hide than the income tax - and renewed calls to abolish the debt ceilings.
At the end of the day though, this news really should simply be seen as another reminder that US default is just a matter of how, not if.
So I watched "Do you trust this computer?", a film that "explores the promises and perils" of artificial intelligence. While it notes both the good and the bad, it has an obvious focus on how AI might bring about "the end of the world as we know it" (TEOTWAWKI.) That is, if it is left unregulated.
It's strange, however, that the examples of TEOTWAWKI AI were "autonomous weapons" and "fake news," the latter because of how it can provide a path for a minority-supported dictator to "take over." While I understand (and fear) both, the examples have one thing in common - but it is not AI.
That one thing is the State. Only States' militaries and groups looking to take over a State have any interest in "killer robots." They're also developed by/for those groups. The fake news and "undue influence" issue is also about the power over the State. Neither weapons nor fake news require AI. Yet, in some strange twist, the film makers make it an AI problem. Worse: they end the film indicating that the main problem is that AI is "unregulated."
But this is completely illogical: with the State as the problem's common denominator *and* the solution?
Instead, we're led to believe that it is problematic that Google tracks our web searches and Facebook knows our friends and beliefs ("because autonomous weapons"?). While I agree that it is ugly, neither company is making a claim over life and death. In fact, they operate under the harshest regulation there is: the market. Because they are making investments to make money, and money can only be made in one of two ways: through offering something that people want and are willing to pay for (Oppenheimer's "economic" means), or through simply taking it from people against their will ("political" means). Companies operate according to the former, which means they are subject to the mercy of consumers. The State operate according to the latter.
No, I'm not saying the ability to play on people's emotions, deceive them through "fake" information, etc is unproblematic. I'm saying the film completely misses the elephant in the room - and suggests it is the solution.
The logic is based on wishful thinking, if not ideology; a refusal to see what's obviously there. The solution is simply not a solution: if the State would "regulate" how Google and FB use AI to sift through the data and feed people what they want to hear, what makes anyone think this applies also to the DOD or NSA and their data, which are *not* collected from consumers voluntarily but in secret. And the latter are much more likely to work on autonomous weapons. The film even states this is the case, yet seems to skip over that problem.
To illustrate the difference between Oppenheimer's economic and political means, consider two recent trust crises. The Cambridge Analytical debacle caused Facebook to immediately change their business as the owners lost billions when the company's value plummeted. That value is based on people's willingness to use the web site and its apps, to continue sharing content. The #DeleteFacebook hashtag harmed the owners. Then compare with what was revealed by Snowden: that the State spies on everyone. The data are collected in part from companies that are both forced to comply with requests and legally obligated not to say anything about it. Yes, the leak stirred up a lot of emotion, but what happened to the "deep state" surveillance? Probably nothing. Except maybe some new routines and, probably more money to control leaks.
Which is more problematic, the "economic" means that are subject to consumers' trust (and, really, whim), or the "political" means not subject to insight, oversight, or at all accountable because it is secret and because we pay for it whether or not we wish?
Add to this how the latter is interested in and aims for both autonomous weapons and to keep/claim the power of the State. It's pretty obvious that neither is a utopian perfect solution, but one clearly has a built-in control mechanism because it is based on value, the other does not - and is even based on being done in complete secrecy and at our expense (involuntarily). Yet the latter is somehow in the film treated as the ("only"?) solution. That perhaps makes for a good play on people's confirmation bias, because we've learned in school and want to believe that the State "is us." Fine, but that's not us spying on us and producing autonomous weapons. In fact, it would be hard to believe a political decision to "stop developing" such weapons. Who really believes they wouldn't continue despite saying the very opposite?
The fact is, there is no downside to simply lying and pretending. Whereas, if severe, companies can be wiped out overnight if people don't trust them - their value is gone. So the logic in the film simply doesn't work; it doesn't make sense. One cannot help thinking, if this is the state of human intelligence, our ability to logically draw conclusions from the data available to us, then making machines that think on "our level" can't be all that difficult. And it cannot be hard for machines to recognize real patterns and draw conclusions that follow.
But perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that the film makers misunderstand economics on a fundamental level: they point to automation as a huge problem - because it creates more value for us at lesser cost. We'll be relieved of jobs. Oh no. Think about that this Monday morning.
Here's the link for whoever is interested. It was free through yesterday, it seems. Today it's $3.99 to watch.
In every field, there are many unexplored or partially explored issues that may turn out to be important. But, in all likelihood, they are dead ends.
I compare this pursuit to an inventor who has an idea that a particular line of inquiry will lead to a major discovery. He may be correct, but he probably is incorrect. Most inventors are part-time inventors. They don't do it for a living. They may do it for the sheer joy of the pursuit. They may hope to make a lot of money. They may hope to change people's lives. There are many motivations. But the reality is this: most people who begin the pursuit of some great breakthrough fail. We read about the ones who did not fail, but there are plenty of stories of people who made the breakthrough, and who never made any money off of it. The man who got to the patent office two hours after Alexander Graham Bell did is long forgotten. He did not make any money.
I think it is generally futile to become a full-time historian. There are too few jobs. You have to spend your life teaching not very bright students. They take the course probably because you have a reputation of giving easy grades. I was recently told this about Ralph Raico, who was an extraordinary historian, but who, unfortunately (for me, anyway), wrote very little. He described his career as follows: "I would begin teaching a group of students who could not find Portugal on a map. At the end of my course, they had never heard of Portugal."
I encourage people to become part-time historians. There are tens of thousands of Americans who are part-time historians of the Civil War. They are remarkably well-informed. Unfortunately, they rarely write. But, with free website software, there is now no legitimate reason why they should not publish book reviews, reviews of articles, and specialize in some area of the Civil War. This is equally true of regional or local historical investigations. There is lots of work to be done.
In the field of historical studies, part-time explorers and translators of petroglyphs often find very useful items. These items point to the fact that conventional historiography of pre-Columbus America is incorrect. But these studies virtually never get accepted by academic historians. What they find is never reported in any textbook. One such organization is the Epigraphic Society. It publishes a regular journal. The journal is never quoted in academic circles. These people have been doing this for decades.
Are these amateur explorers wasting their lives? I don't think so. They are making legitimate discoveries. But as far as influencing the academic guild, their efforts really are wasted. They have to decide whether it is worth it to them personally to make a unique discovery, even though the discovery will never be incorporated into the narrative of pre-Columbus America.
Yes, there's always the possibility that there will be a breakthrough that somehow does get picked up by academic historians, but the odds against this are astronomical.
I would tell somebody who is interested in petroglyphs that it's a good hobby, but it is only a hobby. To have any hope beyond this is psychologically self-defeating. The person is going to be disappointed, and this may lead to the person abandoning his hobby. But his hobby is good for him, and it is good for a handful of people who want to make sense of pre-Columbus America.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about. It's a lesson I produced for the Ron Paul Curriculum.
Then there are the conspiracy historians. Here, there are real psychological pitfalls. Conspiracy historians really do think that there's a possibility that they will be able to penetrate the thinking of the masses of Americans. They think they're going to do an end-run around the academic guild. They also imagine that the masses of Americans are interested in history, which except for Civil War history and perhaps some other military histories, is a delusion. There is always room for another book on Lincoln, as long as the book is not critical of Lincoln. Of the thousands of books on Lincoln, only a handful are critical, and their arguments rarely make it into the textbooks. When an idea does make it into a textbook, such as Lincoln's obvious infringements on due process of law regarding the publication of antiwar opinions, the historians shrug it off or apologize for it.
The same is true for Woodrow Wilson in his efforts to get the nation into World War I, and Franklin Roosevelt's similar machinations to get the nation into World War II. Initially, all such arguments regarding Roosevelt were dismissed as being Republican crackpot theories. Then, in the 1970's, a handful of historians began to conclude that the original critics of Roosevelt were correct. But then the authors said that Roosevelt was justified. The obvious example here is Robert Stinnett, who has written the most effective book on Pearl Harbor, Day of Deceit (2000), who apologizes for Roosevelt's deliberate deceptions at the beginning of the book. On the first page of the Preface, he speaks sympathetically. "I understood the agonizing dilemma faced by President Roosevelt. He was forced to find circuitous means to persuade an isolationist America to join in the fight for freedom. He knew this would cost lives. How many, he could not have known." This apology did Stinnett no good in academia. The academic guild dismissed his book as one more apology for isolationism, circa 1941. The book gained no traction. Its thesis is presented in no college or high school textbook on American history.
Then there are the part-time conspiracy historians. These people will read one or two books on conspiratorial movements in American history. They may read a few books on conspiracies in Europe, beginning with the French Revolution. Such conspiracies existed. The great book on this is James Billington's magnificent Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith. You cannot understand European history of the 19th century if you are not familiar with the book, and more than familiar: you have read it two or three times, and you remember many of the details. The book is literally indispensable. It was published in 1981. That was the last we heard from Billington. He took Reagan's offer to appoint him the Librarian of Congress in 1987, and he kept the job for the next 28 years. He never wrote another book. He got sidetracked. We are worse off for it.