It's Never Too Late

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Three years
ago, when I hit fifty, I decided that it was time to ease off and
look for a comfortable bolt-hole — something less demanding which
would lead me nicely into retirement. As luck would have it, or
coincidence (if you believe in such a thing), a university in China
advertised a post for someone to develop a new course. The course
was called "Modern Accounting." The incumbent would teach
Financial Accounting in English to undergraduate students.

To cut a long
story short I applied for and obtained the post and travelled from
Britain to the other side of the world. When I started work I quickly
realized that this was not going to be the "cushy number"
I was looking for — far from it — the first year nearly killed me!
Two years on I'm still "developing" the course and working
even harder than I did pre-50! But that's another story.

The reason
I have put pen to paper here is to describe a journey.

Not long after
beginning my second year, whilst still recovering from the shock
of the first, a professor from the law department asked me to edit
his research proposal — he was applying for a scholarship with the
Fulbright Institute in the
USA. His research would be to examine the resolution of legal disputes
over securitization,
in particular, with reference to remoteness
of damage
.

His research
proposal ran to five pages. It was extremely well planned and laid
out. His written English was good but did need some editing. Before
I could do anything I had to first make sure I really understood
"securitization." I went to the internet.

Of course I
didn't realize it at the time but a journey of discovery had begun.
That one word, securitization, led me to the Austrian School of
Economics and the libertarian movement. A whole new world began
to open up. The more I read the more I realized that I had been
looking at many things the wrong way around. But it wasn't easy
and, much to my wife's dismay, consumed nearly all of my leisure
time.

What made it
so difficult was that I had to unlearn so much — and not just about
economics. And then there was a wealth of new knowledge to be acquired.

Getting to
grips with securitization led me a merry dance. It took me to many
places, not least the Great Depression, FDR and the FHA. Whatever
site I went to I was led to more and more. A paper chase had begun.
I quickly edited the research proposal and then dived headlong into
the chase.

As time passed
I found myself focusing on three main sources of information; The
Daily Reckoning
, LewRockwell.com,
and the Mises
Daily Article
. It was tough going to start with, especially
the Mises articles. At the beginning it was almost impossible to
read any article without looking things up, which led to other things
to look up and so on.

It took a long
time to get to the point where I could just read most articles without
having to research as well. The whole jigsaw started to come together.

One of the
questions I kept asking myself over the last two years was this:
how come I'd
never heard of people like Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard and
Henry Hazlitt to name just three?

The answer
is simple. When I studied Economics in the 1970's they were never
mentioned. Even though everything in our economy was going wrong
at the same time we were still being taught Keynesian economics.
The only maverick on the scene was Milton Friedman. So I left university
with ideas about economics which were deeply flawed — as did everyone
else of my generation.

After university
I spent a number of years in Accountancy before going into Education
to teach Economics. To my shame, I realize now, I was passing on
the same rubbish to my students as I had learned at university —
it was still all Keynesianism with a bit of Monetarism thrown in.
It was as if the Austrian School did not exist. After two years
I changed jobs and began teaching Accounting and Finance. In the
years that followed I had neither the time nor the inclination to
pay attention to Economics.

How much Austrian
Economics is being taught in universities today? I don't know —
but I suspect not much.

I am not an
economist and would never claim to know and understand the minutiae
of the teachings of the Austrian School. However I have come to
the view that they have the right of things. It makes sense. The
difficulty lies in how to spread the message? When Ron Paul outflanked
the MSM by using the internet he showed the way ahead. Indeed, if
my journey had introduced me to this man and only this man, then
it would have been worth it for this alone. The challenge now is
how to follow his lead and keep the momentum going.

I'll finish
here but want to briefly mention some people I've discovered along
the way.

Ayn Rand —
a free spirit if ever there was one. The following quote from her
book The
Fountainhead
, still haunts me:

“The soul
is that which can’t be ruled, it must be broken. Drive a wedge
in, get your fingers on it — and the man is yours. You won’t need
a whip — he’ll bring it to you and ask to be whipped. Set him
in reverse — and his own mechanism will do your work for you.”

Hans-Hermann
Hoppe — his article on LewRockwell.com Democracy:
The God That Failed
left me stunned by its clarity and reason.

Bill Bonner
— a real tonic to read every morning on the Daily
Reckoning
. I would hate to get on the wrong side of his acerbic
wit!

Thomas Friedman
— I bought his book The
World is Flat
. As kids, our father always brought us up
to love and respect books. I use this one as a doorstop. Sorry Dad.

Robert P. Murphy
— When he writes he sets out to teach, not show off (see here).
We could all do a lot worse than follow his example. Writing in
economic-speak gobbledygook impresses no-one and spreads nothing.

Pat Buchanan
and Ralph Raico — Their respective demolitions of the Churchill
myth gave me plenty to think about. See here
and here.

Robert Higgs
— I was moved by the obituary he wrote for Murray Rothbard — such
honesty and sincerity — especially his closing line. See Murray
N Rothbard — In Memoriam
.

Lew Rockwell
— I'll finish with this. When I read it I felt as if two hands had
reached out of my screen, grabbed me by my shirt and given me a
good shake. The only thing missing was an exclamation mark at the
end — so I've added one.

"The power
of government to do what we desire is strictly limited. Those who
do not understand this point do not understand economics!"
See The
War the Government Cannot Win
.

It’s been a
steep learning curve and there's still a long way to go — it's a
journey I will never finish, but I'm so glad to have started.

July
17, 2008

Chris
Clancy [send him mail]
is Associate Professor of Financial Accounting at Zhongnan University
of Economics and Law in Wuhan, Hubei Province, People’s Republic
of China.

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