Sunday, September 26, 2010

Peter Lewin's thought for the day - remembering history

The reason why we (collectively) don't learn from history is that we don't live long enough to remember it.

Those alive today who are old enough to have actually experienced, as thinking adults, the Carter, Reagan,Thatcher administrations and the ascendancy of the ideas of Friederich Hayek and Milton Friedman - leading to the widespread discrediting of Keynesian economics - are in the ineffective minority. The knowledge that counts for economic policy is very much based on actual experience (you had to live through it); it is tacit in nature, very difficult to transmit to someone who did not share the experience. Written history is a pale substitute for the real thing, and it frequently distorts.

So, every generation seems doomed to find out for itself what it should not do by doing it again - just like every child in the process of growing up.

2 comments:

Andrew said...

Humans do collectively accumulate knowledge over the years and change in order to not repeat the mistakes of previous generations. Maybe the changes are not as quick and dramatic as some would like but compare now to a hundred years ago and you will see humanity has advanced quite a bit. There is no silver bullet for problems, just the insistence that we continue to accumulate knowledge in order for future generations to make less mistakes.

Have a bit more faith in humanity. We are getting there, slowly but surely.

Peter Lewin said...

OK, I will try and have more optimism.