Making wise those who need wisdom

Here are some words of wisdom from John Kenneth Galbraith from his book The Great Crash 1929  (A paperback, written in 1954 and reprinted in 1997) pages 24 and 25.

Galbraith was writing about 1929 and I believe our current situation is quite different and probably worse.  However, the following thoughts may also apply to us.

Purely in retrospect it is easy to see how 1919 was destined to be a year to remember. … No one, wise or unwise, knew or now knows when depressions are due or overdue.

… the position of the people who had at least nominal responsibility for what was going on was a complex one.  One of the oldest puzzles of politics is who is to regulate the regulators.  But an equally baffling problem, which has never received the attention it deserves, is who is to make wise those who are required to have wisdom.

Some of those in positions of authority wanted the boom to continue.  They were making money out of it, and they may have had an intimation of the personal disaster which awaited them when the boom came to an end.  But there were also some who saw, however dimly, that a wild speculation was in progress and that something should be done.  For these people, however, every proposal to act raised the same intractable problem.  The consequences of successful action seemed almost as terrible as the consequences of inaction , and they could be more horrible for those who took the action.

…. The eventual disaster also had the inestimable advantage of allowing a few more days, weeks, or months of life.

To this I would add the observation that most of us most of the time think and act in our own short -term interests as opposed to our own long-term interests or the interests of our community as a whole.

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