Sunday, July 16, 2017

R.L. Bruckberger on American School Economist Henry C. Carey


Last month I posted a large article on American School Economist Henry C. Carey, The only economists who ever created a national economy. The article was drawn almost entirely from the 1965 Pulitzer Prize winning history book, The Greenback Era: A Social and Political History of American Finance, 1865-1879, by Irwin Unger (Princeton University Press, 1964). One of the most intriguing references cited by Unger was R.L. Bruckberger.

Raymond LĂ©opold Bruckberger was a French priest of the Dominican order. At the beginning of World War Two he requested the order allow him to join a combat unit, and served in the French mountain light infantry and commandos. After the collapse of the French army, Bruckberger became chaplain general of the French Resistance. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the medal of the Legion of Honor for his role in the Resistance. After the war, he lived eight years in the United States, researching and writing his book Image of America, published by Viking Press in 1959. Prominent American historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote a front-page review of the book for the New York Times Book Review, comparing Bruckberger to Alexis de Tocqueville.

One chapter of his book focuses on American School economist Henry C. Carey, and is entitled, "The Only American Economist of Importance" The title is taken from a 5 March 1852 letter by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, in which they wrote that Carey is “the only American economist of importance.”

Bruckberger inlcuded some excerpts from Carey that directly assault the key tenets of conservative, libertarian, and neoliberal economic thought. And, of course, Bruckberger frames Carey’s economic thought as being distinct from, and hostile to, today’s economic thought dominated by the British school. Contrast Carey’s belief that man’s struggle to master nature necessitates the creation of a cooperative society, with neoliberals' belief  (as per Margaret Thatcher) that “there is no society.”, only a never ending struggle of personal interests mediated by the working of markets. Carey’s belief also foreshadows Veblen’s analysis of the need for organized cooperation in the industrial processes of production. And Carey's analysis of humanity's struggle to master nature reinforces the point I have made in the past that the most important economic activity a society undertakes in the creation and dissemination of new scientific and technological knowledge. In The Higgs boson and the purpose of a republic (July 2014), I wrote:
....what is wealth? Is it really hoards of cash, or stockpiles of precious metals? Consider: Why do we have computers now, when there were none 200 or 500 or more years ago? Certainly, 500 years ago, all the raw materials that go into making a computer were available. There was lots of silicon laying around, and there was a lot of petroleum, with which to make plastics, sitting in the ground. There was the same presence of germanium and silver, and copper, and whatever else is needed to make a computer, 500 years ago, as there is today. What is so different today that we can make computers now, but could not 500 years ago? The answer, of course, is knowledge - we first had to develop, acquire, and master, the various facets of science that allowed us to make use of those latent natural resources, then apply that science to actual physical processes of production, or what we call technology. So what wealth really is, is the human power of thinking: reason, investigation, hypothesizing, testing, figuring out why things are the way they are -- and then figuring out how that new knowledge can be used to change the way things are.
In other words, the knowledge required to master nature.

One more note: Bruckberger identifies Carey as a Jeffersonian (there is an article in Bruckberger's book devoted to Jefferson previous to the article on Carey). Since Carey was a foremost advocate for the neomercantalist policies of Hamilton—a protective tariff, a national banking system, and massive government investments in infrastructure—Carey thus brings together and melds the two contending factions of early American history: Jeffersonian, and Hamiltonian.

Following are excerpts from pages 156-165 of Bruckberger's Image of America. At the end of this post are more results of an index search in economics textbooks.

From Bruckberger, Image of America. 
And now, what is political economy? What is its aim? This is how Adam Smith, revered patriarch of capitalism, defined it: "The great object of the political economy of every country is to increase the riches and power of that country.” No definition could be more clearly expressed. To me it is strictly nationalist and imperialist…. It should be added that Smith was something of a humanitarian and that he actually did seek the welfare of the workers. This may be the very reason why Carey never attacked Smith, though he was pitiless in his criticisms of Ricardo, Malthus, and the other theoreticians of capitalism. But in Smith's mind, the logic of his system conflicted with his humanitarian ideas, and so in the end, once again, a rigid system was to triumph over good intentions. [1]
Let us now look for a moment at Carey's concept of political economy… He began by pointing out that man's whole life is "a contest with nature." …what concerned Carey was man's Contest with nature, and his dominion over it, the Imperium Naturae of Francis Bacon.[2] Carey believed that society owed its existence to this contest with nature, since the strength of any one man alone was so disproportionately small that unless he associated himself with his fellow men he was doomed from the start. Nothing could be more real, less abstract, than this association of human beings with one another; it is an association in which men unite their strength for power over nature, and an association encompassing literally not only all the regions of the earth but also all the centuries of man's existence on it. As I roll along in my car, I am inseparable from him who long ago discovered the principle of the wheel; and as I light my pipe, I am still bound to him who once discovered and mastered fire.
The concept of the struggle for power over nature as the goal of mankind can hardly be called original. But where Carey was so characteristically American was in his insistence that this association of men's strength and power had a more distant, loftier aim, a more imperative goal than that of mere power over nature. "The ultimate object of all human effort," wrote Carey, in a truly remarkable statement, "[is] the production of the being known as Man capable of the highest aspirations."
Here Carey took a decisive step of his own. Nowhere in the theoreticians of the capitalist school, nowhere in Marx and Lenin, can any such words as these be found. Basically, all that concerned Carey was man, and the process whereby man becomes more and more civilized. What Carey sought to create, beyond a theory of political economy, was a theory of civilization itself. For him, man was not only greater than the whole of nature, but even above the victory he won over it. With this victory civilization began, but it still had far, far indeed to go. It still faced the obligation to fulfill man's "highest aspirations."
….Carey very clearly saw that neither all the victories over nature nor all the wealth accumulated by toil can avail, unless those victories and that wealth are then put to man's service, for him to use for his own, his human aims. Just as the nature of man is above that of the beasts, so his highest aspirations and his ultimate ends transcend the realm of the material. Man is more important, he has more intrinsic value, than the whole of nature, more even than his dominion over nature, more than society. Carey was a true Jeffersonian.
What Carey could not forgive in the English school of political economy, which after all must historically be called the capitalist school, and what he particularly could not forgive in Ricardo and Malthus, whom Marx so profoundly respected, was that they assigned to civilization the role of pursuing not happiness but wealth and power; that they debased man by directing him toward an aim that was beneath him, since power and physical satisfaction are also the aim of the beast; that they forgot to take man and man's nature into consideration when they established their so-called laws which reduced him to the level of the beast.
…Carey asked, "What then, is wealth everything, and is man absolutely nothing?" And he went on to say, "In the eyes of modern political economy he is nothing, and can be nothing, because it takes no note of the qualities by which he is distinguished from the brute, and is therefore led to regard him as being a mere instrument to be used, by capital to enable its owner to obtain compensation for its use." With this bitter pronouncement Carey was merely recognizing the true significance of capitalism. Here Carey saw eye to eye with Marx. No one who has read Ricardo could fail to agree with them.
While it is a fact that Carey hated England, it would be exceedingly unjust to say that this hatred explains his anti-capitalism. It was his perspicacity that made him anti-capitalist. He saw that, like the physical body, the social body also has maladies that doctors must attend... a disease of the social body which falsifies the aim of economic production by subordinating man to that which he produces, found its theoretical justification in the English capitalist school and has now spread over more than half the face of the earth in that phase of its development known as Marxism. It is immensely to Henry Charles Carey's credit that, in his time, he was shrewd enough to attack this social disease at its focal point. So far as I know, he never mentioned Marx, yet he was undermining Marx's whole position by his constant attacks on the English capitalist school. It would be possible to go on quoting him indefinitely. His life work was actually one long, mercilessly documented and pitilessly honest indictment of the appalling system formulated by the English economists and swallowed hook, line, and sinker by Marx.
Such is the course of modern political economy [wrote Carey], which not only does not "feel the breath of the spirit" but even ignores the existence of the spirit itself, and is therefore found defining what it is pleased to call the natural rate of wages, as being "that price which is necessary to enable the laborers, one with another, to subsist and perpetuate their race without either increase or diminution" (Ricardo)—that is to say, such price as will enable some to grow rich and increase their race, while others perish of hunger, thirst, and exposure. Such are the teachings of a system that has fairly earned the title of the "dismal science."
This American was immeasurably more radical than Marx. He would never have conceded what Marx conceded so readily in his letter to Weydemeyer—"the greatness and the temporary necessity of the bourgeois regime." Carey saw nothing great, nothing even temporarily necessary, in bourgeois capitalism as defined by the English school; he saw it quite simply as a loathsome malady, a social disease to be fought and conquered. And today there is still no other way of refuting communism except by denouncing at the same time the form of capitalism that gave it birth. In Carey's indictment, moreover, there can be detected the first intimations of an original American philosophy of labor and production.
Such being the tendency of all its teachings, it is no matter of surprise that modern English political economy sees in man only an animal that will procreate, that must be fed, and that can be made to work [Carey's emphasis]—an instrument to be used by trade; that it repudiates all the distinctive qualities of man, and limits itself to the consideration of those he holds in common with the beast of burden or of prey; that it denies that the Creator meant that every man should find a place at His table, or that there exists any reason why a poor laborer, able and willing to work, should have any more right to be fed than the cotton-spinner has to find a market for his cloth; or that it assures its students that "labor is a commodity."
….According to classical capitalism, as defined by the English school, the supreme goal on earth is to increase wealth and power continually through the exploitation of natural resources and the subordination of labor and the workers to capital and money. This creates a society of master and slave. History has seen just such a society, which has been historically responsible for repeated and specific crimes at home and in its colonies….
According to Karl Marx, on the other hand, the supreme goal on earth is a harmonious and fraternal City of Man in which men will at last be reconciled to one another. This City of Man will come into being when the Revolution "violently overthrows the old system of production." The role of hero and builder of this Revolution will be played by the proletariat. The proletariat is composed of all the victims of capitalist exploitation. It is under capitalism that the proletariat becomes a class; it is only within the capitalist system that it can exist, and it exists within that system only as "the most suffering class." Marxist revolution is therefore inconceivable except under the capitalist system. Under no other system could it possibly take place. With the coming of the Revolution, the proletariat "destroys at the same time as the system of production, the conditions of class antagonism, it destroys classes in general, and, in so doing, its own domination as a class." At that moment, the harmonious and fraternal City of Man will be achieved.
Historically, however, everything goes to show that Marxism always falls far short of its goal; that it not only never attains its ultimate goal of man's reconciliation with man, but that it creates, by revolution, exactly what it claims to destroy, that is, a new class, which in turn takes possession of the means of production and pitilessly exploits both labor and the workers. Milovan Djilas has made this very plain….
But Carey rejected both the capitalist postulate and its Marxist corollary. He clearly understood the diversity of economic functions, a diversity which becomes greater and greater with the advance and extension of production, and he considered this diversity as necessary to social harmony as the various physiological functions are necessary to health, and in no way conducive to antagonism and class struggle. Refuting Ricardo and Malthus, he proved that it is not only possible but inevitable for the economic conditions of the workers to improve through the dynamic and fertile association of labor and accumulating capital. He thought of labor and capital as existing on the intellectual and spiritual planes as well as on the material plane; he saw them as much in terms of their continuity in time as of their extension in space. The ultimate objective of all human effort, according to Carey, was not just the accumulation of the things of this world, but the achievement of civilization itself, in other words, the creation of a more and more civilized mankind—"the production of the being known as Man capable of the highest aspirations." The one way by which to achieve a higher civilization seemed to him, not by revolution (as in Marx), not by the fierce systematic exploitation of the poor by the rich (as in the capitalist system), but by the association of all men for this common purpose. 
Below are the results of some time spent in the stacks of the library at the University of North Carolina looking through the indexes of introductory economics textbooks. These are the number of pages on which there citations (for exxample, a citation in the index of pp. 145-147, is counted as three pages, not one) of  Henry Carey, Alexander Hamilton, Friedrich List, Thorstein Veblen (American School); Milton Friedman, David Ricardo, Adam Smith (British school), and Karl Marx.

These results clearly show how establishment economics in USA has written Carey out of history. This mutilation of American economic history goes a long way in explaining why American institutions, including the Democratic Party, have repeatedly stumbled and failed to create economic policies that result in widespread general prosperity, the maintenance and improvement of crucial infrastructure, and a mature and determined view of creating a better future including solving the problems of peak oil, environmental destruction, and global climate change.

Joan Robinson and John Eatwell, An Introduction to Modern Economics (McGraw Hill, 1973)
Carey 0
Hamilton 0
Veblen 3
List 1
Friedman 1
Ricardo 18
Smith 20
Marx 28

Lloyd C. Atkinson, Economics: The Science of Choice (Richard D. Irwin, 1982)
Carey 0
Hamilton 0
Veblen 0
List 0
Friedman 4
Ricardo 0
Smith 3
Marx 0

Allen W. Smith, Understanding Economics (Random House, 1986)
Carey 0
Hamilton 0
Veblen 0
List 0
Friedman 1
Ricardo 0
Smith 4
Marx 3

Roger N. Waud, Economics, 3rd Edition (Harper and Row, 1986)
Carey 0
Hamilton 0
Veblen 0
List 0
Friedman 9
Ricardo 6
Smith 5
Marx 7

Bradley R. Schiller, The Economy Today, 4th Edition (Random House, 1989)
Carey 0
Hamilton 0
Veblen 0
List 0
Friedman 6
Ricardo 3
Smith 3
Marx 6

William J. Baumol and Alan S. Blinder, Economics: Principles and Policy, 5th Edition (Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch, 1991)
Carey 0
Hamilton 0
Veblen 0
List 0
Friedman 5
Ricardo 5
Smith 13
Marx 7

Paul A. Samuelson and William D. Nordhaus, Economics (McGraw Hill, 1995)
Carey 0
Hamilton 4
Veblen 0
List 0
Friedman 5
Ricardo 2
Smith 8
Marx 2 (plus 2 on "Marxism")

Robert J. Barro, Macroeconomics (MIT Press, 1997)
Carey 0
Hamilton 0
List 0
Veblen 0
Friedman 9
Ricardo 0
Smith 0
Marx 0

Julian L. Simon, Economics Against the Grain, Volume 2 (Edward Elgar, 1998)
Carey 0
Hamilton 1
Veblen 0
List 0
Friedman 5
Ricardo 3
Smith 11
Marx 1

Frank Stilwell, Political Economy: The Contest of Economic Ideas (Oxford University Press, 2006)
Carey 0
Hamilton 0
Veblen 11
List 1
Friedman 9
Ricardo 12
Smith 16
Marx 19

N. Gregory Mankiw, Principles of Economics, Instructor’s Edition, Sixth Edition (Southwestern, 2012)
Carey 0
Hamilton 0
Veblen 0
List 0
Friedman 9
Ricardo 1
Smith 9
Marx 0

It would be very useful if any of our readers in other countries such as India and China, would report on the results of a search through the indexes of the economics textbooks of their countries. Also, if there are any suggestions of economists that should be added to this list. I think it would be useful to add John Kenneth Galbraith for the American School, and Friedrich von Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises for the Austrian School. I must frankly confess to not knowing who are considered the leading economists in other countries outside the Anglo-American sphere.

[1] I have noted that the mercantilism of the new American republic was distinguished from the mercantilism of the monarchies and oligarchies of Europe by the Constitutional mandate to promote the General Welfare. See my Introduction to my abridged and annotated edition of The Power to Govern: Then and Now.

[2] Some readers may recoil from the idea of man's dominion over nature. But Bruckberger refers to Bacon's Imperium Naturae, which is a quite different understanding of man's relationship to nature: dominion is not domination. Eleonora Montuschi, in a relatively short pdf document available online, Order of man, order of nature: Francis Bacon’s idea of a ‘dominion’ over nature explains that for Bacon,
the learning of both practical and abstract matters must be conceived of as useful tools for human action and human redemption... Far from pursuing his aims for lucre or profession, ornament or personal ambition, a man of knowledge sees in science an opportunity both to improve human condition and to get mankind closer to God. The new science, which ought to combine knowledge and action, must be looked at, in Bacon’s own words, as ‘a rich storehouse for the glory of God and the good of humanity.’
Montuschi explains that Bacon's view was typical of his time, and while it was intricately bound up with Christian humanism, its root trace back to "Plato, and then Cicero and Plutarch."
....in order to restore what man sinfully lost [original sin] a pursuit of good and pure knowledge must once more come to the rescue. A philanthropic advancement of learning becomes the means of man’s redemption, the only chance of salvation for mankind. This view was common currency in the 16th and 17th centuries: the joint pursuit of goodness and usefulness were developed, especially by the humanists, within disciplines such as ethics, theology and the law the true and lawful goal of the sciences is none other than this: that human life be endowed with new discoveries and powers."
As Bernard Bailyn (The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Harvard University Press, 1967; awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize in 1968); Gordon S. Wood (The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, University of North Carolina Press, 1969; awarded the 1970 Bancroft Prize; and J.G.A.. Pocock (The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition, Princeton University Press, 1975); and other historians have shown, the framers of the Constitution were very familiar with these thinkers and concepts. Remember: this was an intellectual tradition which included church canon law that held usurers could be put to death. Obviously, something changed. Had this intellectual tradition not been debased and nullified by the rise of capitalism, such canon law would be a very serious hindrance to operations of Wall Street and the City of London, to put it mildly.

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