Sunday, February 12, 2012


Today's posting continues where I left off last time (the posting of February 11th). The last posting concerned Ludwig Erhard, as written about in the recently published book, "*Hannibal and Me*".

Despite having been a mediocre student in high school, and despite having struggled particularly in the left-brain subjects of accounting and mathematics, Erhard, after his traumatic experiences as a soldier in The Great War, managed in the post-war years to get a PhD in Economics - ostensibly a left-brain discipline.

However, Economics has a branch called macro-economics, that looks at the forest rather than the trees. Perhaps, then, Erhard, who may have struggled with left-brain micro-economics as much as he had struggled with left-brain accounting and mathematics, was so outstanding in the more right-brain macro-economic subjects, that it more than made up for any failings in the left-brain micro-economics subjects.

Assuming that Erhard was more comfortable with macro-economics than with micro-economics, it says much for his pertinacity that he could write articles as dessicated as, "The Finished-Goods Market" and "Economic Policy Newsletter of the German Finished-Goods Industry".

Erhard had little choice but to write them because, being an avowed opponent of the Nazi Party in the Hitler years, he was barred from official academia, and so could only eke out a living writing soporific left-brained micro-economic tracts for interested persons under the table.

Given that Erhard had struggled with mathematics and accounting when in high-school - subjects so important in the study of economics - why did he choose economics as his profession in the first place? Did it offer him the best way to make a reasonable living because economists were more in demand than, say, historians?

For what it's worth, I, too, always struggled with left-brain subjects like mathematics and accounting. This is because, arguably, I have the most atrophied left-brain than anyone in the history of mankind. Yet, after several years of lucubrations, I managed to get, of all things, a professional designation to do with numbers because I had reasoned there was a demand for it. It led to a reasonably pleasant job with reasonable security. I needed this for reasons too complicated to go into here.

I might otherwise have tried to make History my profession, for it was History that interested me most when in school. However, my not trying to make History my profession turned out a blessing because, later on, History interested me less and less. I felt it too confining for my eclectic tastes. I turned, in my spare time, more and more to Psychology because, being an emotional basket-case, I wanted to understand why I was one. I was also dabbling in the various other non-left-brained subjects.

I've digressed from "Hannibal and Me". I'll return to it next time..........


  1. That's the first time I hear somebody saying that, as he ages, history interests him less and less. ;) Usually, it is "more and more".
    But if you transferred your passion to psychology, then you're still in the ballpark (of Hannibal and Me, certainly). For aren't the two linked? History (ie, the stories of what has gone before) is accessible only through the psychology of the people who made it. Even psychology (of an individual) is to some extent the result of what has gone before, ie that person's history.
    I love both. So I made that my excuse to write a book in between (thus leading to genre confusion at Barnes & Noble. ;))

  2. When I said that History interests me less and less, I meant History in terms of great battles and great rulers and the rise and fall of empires and all of that.

    This sort of History is really just the History of the ruling classes - the 1% in contemporary parlance. It is a tool to inculcate patriotism into the tender minds of the young at school, a tool to give nations a collective narrative. So the History must calibrated accordingly.

    Also, I'm becoming more aware that the further back the History, the larger the pinches of salt that should be taken with it.

    Hence I find the story of Hannibal and of his exploits less compelling than the stories of the more contemporary people you talk of in your book.

    Regarding History, to know some History, particularly the sort of History our leaders would rather we didn't know, is of course important for all the obvious reasons.

  3. You said: "..... the further back the History, the larger the pinches of salt that should be taken with it......"

    As professor of History myself, I find this statement of yours intriguing. Does it imply that the further one goes back in History, the less one can believe it?

  4. That's exactly what this statement implies. My doubts about the veracity of the ancient History most of us were taught in school began when I learned that the origins of the English language and of the Romance languages may not be what were all told.

    I invite you, Professor Smith, to read what I recently wrote about this, *here*, and *here*.

    I don't expect you, after having read these modest and non-scholarly blogging entries, to now believe that the English were already speaking English when the Anglo-Saxons arrived, and to now believe that the ancestors of those who today live in the Romance-language areas of Europe were already speaking these languages when the Romans invaded.

    However, on the assumption that you believe what everyone else believes, I hope there is now at least a smidgeon of doubt in your professorial mind about English having come out of Anglo-Saxon, and the Romance languages having come out of Latin.

    I invite you also, Professor Smith, to read what Professor Stephen Oppenheimer wrote about the *origins of the British*.

    Oppenheimer postulates that the British are not, as is commonly supposed, descended mainly from the Anglo Saxons, but, rather, from the Basques.

    And he postulates that the English were already speaking a Germanic-type language - the forerunner of today's English - when the Romans arrived.

    I also learned of the *Paleolithic Continuity Theory*, which postulates that ".....The prehistoric distribution of proto-languages akin to Italic was an important factor underlying the current distribution of Romance languages throughout Europe......".

    What this means is that long before the Romans, the forebears of today's Romance-language speakers were already speaking Latin-like languages.

    It's not important in itself that we may have got everything wrong about the origins of the English and Romance languages. But if we are wrong about them, we may also be wrong about much other History we take for granted.