It's Really Never Too Late

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To say that
I was surprised by the response I got to my article "It's
Never Too Late
," would be putting it mildly.

I write to
thank those who emailed me and mention the three main themes ran
through the emails.

The first was
that everyone was keen to describe their personal journeys. What
is remarkable is how similar all our stories were. They nearly all
began with a single event. With me it was a word, with others it
was a question, a line in a book, something on a billboard, an innocent
comment and so on. What is even more remarkable is that once started
everyone saw it through — regardless of the time and effort it would
take to unlearn and then relearn so much. I'm reminded of something
written by Butler
in a recent article; he recalled a George Carlin punch-line
about someone digging through a huge pile of manure who keeps thinking
to himself “there's got to be a pony in here someplace." I
think we all had similar thoughts when we started our journeys.

When people
enter the world of work they become embroiled in the rough and tumble
of it all. The demands of career, marriage, children, mortgage and
so on leave them little time to think about the status quo. Indeed,
nearly all the people who emailed me are around my age or older;
this is not surprising since they could clearly identify with my

If sound economics
is not taught before people start work an invaluable opportunity
is lost. Those few who do return to it, will only have the time
to do so much later in life. But this is back to front — like Keynesian
economics. It is the young who should be learning sound economics,
not people of my age — I'm not going to change anything! A young
Australian student, Lionel Chan, finished his email by adding the
following quote:

we like it or not, it is a fact that economics cannot remain an
esoteric branch of knowledge accessible only to small groups of
scholars and specialists. Economics deals with society’s fundamental
problems; it concerns everyone and belongs to all. It is the main
and proper study of every citizen."

von Mises

The message
is clear but not the method.

A second theme,
which snaked its way in and out of the emails, was suspicion over
the non-mention of Austrian economics. Witness the disgraceful treatment
of Ron Paul by the MSM, and one would have to agree that something
definitely stinks in the state of Denmark. Even at this early stage
of my re-learning it is obvious that if the Austrians ever got even
half their way, the big government gravy-train would grind to an
abrupt halt for a great many people. Enormous and disturbing questions
are raised here. I feel as if, almost inexorably, I am being led
into deeper waters. I balk at what I am going to discover.

The third and
final theme was China. What was it like to live and work in China?

When I wrote
the article I neglected to say that before going to Zhongnan University
I had spent my first year teaching English in a city called Danjiang
Kou. I left it out because it wasn't relevant to the story — I never
dreamt I'd get the response I did.

That year turned
out to be the pivotal year in my life. We all have one, and
that was mine. It was meant to be a career break — just one year
— then home.

I have been
here for four years now.

If someone
had told me at the outset, just how much I would have to learn,
just how much I would have to change, I doubt if I would have had
the courage to come here in the first place.

What is it
like to live and work here? The best way to answer this question
is to relate the story of my first year in China. There is much
to write about — not least the fact that there is no welfare system
here as such — from what I have seen, at first hand, the positives
of this situation by far outweigh the negatives.

26, 2008

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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