by R. Nelson Nash
To put this story into context we will need to go back in time to the Spring of 1957. That was when I was introduced to the Austrian school of economic thought through The Foundation for Economic Education. Economics In One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt is where my journey began. A radiologist in my town had loaned me his copy.
I had never been exposed to such clarity of thought before. Please understand – I made a D+ in Economics 101 in college primarily because all those Keynesian ideas being taught made absolutely no sense to me. None of it corroborated the teaching of my Christian upbringing. I knew something was inherently wrong in their ideas.
What a “breath of fresh air” it was to find a source of knowledge where I could begin my study of clear economic thought! I subscribed to the monthly journal, The Freeman, published by FEE. And there were all those books and authors that were recommended from which to learn, too! It became a passion – and continues to do so to this day. How fortunate I have been!
After several years of this pilgrimage I began to think about the origin of the false ideas and teachings that abound in our world. They are in such contrast to the Austrian school of thought.. Who started them? Why did they do so? Why are they so appealing to people?
Because of my primary study in life — The Bible and the Christian Faith — I reasoned that it was the contrast of “group thinking” versus “individual thinking.” One does not become a Christian because of joining a certain church. One becomes a Christian through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That is an individual decision and commitment. No other person or group of persons can do it for you!
But, here is where the “rub” (a difficulty, especially one of central importance in a situation) appears. I have never known a stronger Christian believer than my mother — but she thought that Franklin D. Roosevelt was “the son of God!” What a dichotomy of beliefs! How could this be?
To understand this part of the story we have to go back further in time. It was 1936 and the venue was Athens, GA., a small college town at that time. If you have ever been there then you know that it is a very hilly town. Automobiles did not have automatic transmissions in those days. I was five years old at that time. My younger brother was two. Franklin D. Roosevelt was coming to Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia to speak. My mother had never driven a car in her life before this event. In fact, this was the only time I ever saw her drive one! Somehow or another she got us in that car and managed to take us to hear FDR speak at Sanford Stadium! To her, at that time, it was a very important thing to do. You see, it was in the midst of the great depression – and FDR was there to save us all!! That was the mindset of so many people at that time.
When I have told this story to folks they ask, “How do you remember all these details of something that happened seventy-nine years ago when you were only five years old?” My response, “If you had been in that car under the circumstances I just described (hilly terrain, stick shift transmission and a woman driver that was at the wheel for the first time) then you would remember it vividly!” It was a miracle that we made the trip there and back safely and with no damage to the car.
After many years of study of Austrian economic thought I wondered how all those other Socialist ideas that dominate our world began. I concluded that it probably began during my parent’s generation. It seemed to me that these folks swallowed the FDR nonsense “hook, line and sinker.” So, that was a generation that I would not have liked to belong to. Since I classify myself as a slow learner, I lived with that misunderstanding for, maybe, five years. Then I dawned on me that my parents were only in their mid-thirties at that time and people of that age really don’t have all that much influence on what is happening in the world.
This led me to conclude that it must have occurred earlier – perhaps my grand-father’s generation. I lived with that understanding for a couple of more years. Further study about human behavior led me to understand that ideas aren’t accepted immediately – they require a gestation period of about one generation. Therefore, the change must have begun somewhere in time around my great-grandfather’s generation — maybe the1890’s. I recalled that this was the era that Bismarck in Germany introduced the idea to Social Security to the world. All the pieces of the puzzle were beginning to fit in my mind concerning the march of Socialism that I was witnessing.
And then I read The Fateful Turn by Dr. Clarence B. Carson. What a delight to read his explanation of the pattern of events that met my own observations almost exactly! There was a significant change in the way men thought that occurred about that time in history.
But, was this really the starting point of all the chicanery that predominates today? Hardly! It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion – there is one more layer – and one more layer, etc. To keep peeling back the layers to find the source of fallacious thinking requires reading a lot of books. This is why the study of history is such an important endeavor.
By the way, I am not endorsing the history one learns in academia. To understand my meaning here I refer to Napoleon’s observation, “History is lies agreed upon.” So much of the history we are exposed to in academia was written shortly after an event and thus tends to contain a certain bias. Hence, the need for revisionist history that tends to give us a deeper insight as to what really happened. – and why it happened. As the radio personality of recent years used to sign off from his topic of the day, “And, now you know the rest of the story.”
One of the most revealing books that address my subject in this article is Dr. Clarence b. Carson’s The World In The Grip Of An Idea, written in the mid 1970’s.
It is all about how you think!