Monday, 20 January 2014

In praise of economic history

'I can’t think of a time when history has been as useful as a guide to current events (and current action, if only policymakers would listen) as it has since 2008', says Paul Krugman on his blog. 

He's right, of course. But why are policy makers not listening? That may be in part the fault of historians. For fear of oversimplifying or distorting the complexity of historical events they're often too cautious about making historical comparisons. To some extent they're right. But the problem is that if professional historians don't make historical comparisons, unprofessional historians will make them for them.

An other issue is that political decision depend only in part on knowledge and insight. Power and interests play a big part in the events that historians study and that has not changed in the present. Take the decades before the French Revolution when many people knew and said out loud that there was something wrong with the fiscal system of the Ancien Régime. But the set-up and the power relationships of the system did not allow for reform within the existing framework. 

No comments:

Post a Comment