Georgism and the Limits of Reading

My actual post will not be about the economic theories of Henry George, just to get that out of the way. but I have been reading David Nasaw’s biography of Andrew Carnegie, and it is interesting to see limited parallels between his life and times and our own. One of the best aphorisms I ever heard was from my high school history teacher: “Times change, people don’t.” And through that very reductionist lens, a lot of human events of the past and present make exceptionally more sense than they would otherwise. There are several different ways to approach that saying, from the ideas of evolutionary psychology, the deterministic ideas of various religious world views, and the unreliable but cumulative perspectives of personal anecdote. Overall, though, I think that the concept holds true. It allows for cultural differences, politics, war, etc. without ever requiring a compromise of philosophical ideas. From the arguments against Socrates from the sophists to the semantic soaring of Wittgenstein, there is still a continuity of human thought and counter-thought. Even in Chinese philosophy and the vagaries of Mesoamerican societies, there is still the fact that genetically we are at heart running on the same general genetic templates for thought processes.

In writing this, I guess, I am somewhat emulating the opinions of Andrew Carnegie, who latched onto the idea of evolution as more than a biochemical process, but also something that occurs on a cultural level. For example, prions like “deconstruction” are able to infect healthy cultures with a corrosive effect on their reproductive fitness and societal well-being, just as productive, enlightening ideas like personal responsibility and self-awareness can arise from contexts far outside of any Western school of thought. There is a humanism that can be found in places as disparate as hunter-gatherer folklore and twenty-first century guides to business practice. I suppose that it would be a better blog post to go more into these larger ideas, but I will leave those aside for now.

The other, more ground-level meaning of the title is simply that I want to read more about Henry George and his ideas, but I am faced with a large shelf of books both physical and digital that I want to read through beforehand. I am currently reading the works of Bastiat and Gramsci, which contrast immensely, as well as science fiction from the socialist Charles Stross and the traditionalist John Ringo. At least intellectually I don’t feel bored, eh?