Oh Blissful Ignorance, Where Art Thou?
by C.J. Maloney
by C.J. Maloney
mind, once stretched, has a difficult time going back to its original
Joe Maddon, manager Tampa Bay Rays (2008)
how much fun it was to come of age in the roaring mania of the Great
Moderation, one had to be young, possessed of the right credentials,
and employed by a top-tier investment bank. To stroll into any restaurant
and know that the bill was completely doable, well within reach,
so much so that you never even bothered to glance at the price list,
was a little understood, happy fact of my life. At our favorite
haunt, outsized tips turned the staff into fast family; the stove
in our apartment heated little beside water for over a decade.
At this moment
in time, with the maniaís wave having crested on the shore, I am
shocked to find myself face down and hung over on an Austrian beach,
a place where I should never have come ashore, much less feel at
home. Despite a Top-10 MBA education and being groomed for speed,
I am back with the proverbial high school art wing crowd, never
to be invited to the cool parties.
are going through a back-slappiní confab, the "I Told You So"
tour, and they deserve to Ė but the arenas are mostly empty. In
2009 America being a libertarian or, if you prefer the term, a classic
liberal, is like being a vegetarian who wandered into a nation of
cannibals; none too many roam these parts and our future looks like
allusion, love is the dream,
Everybodyís happy nowadays.
first (though minor) compliant about the big downer thatís at the
heart of our Great Unmoderationing (2007 ), for me at least,
is that finding yourself on the Austrian fringe, while it may find
you on the winning team, vindicated, doesnít win you the girl but
quite the opposite. I woke up from a long high party not carried
atop shoulders off the football field to my waiting cheerleader
prize, but hanging out with the debate society champions, showing
off our first prize trophies to each other.
off my thirties before studying the life that was around makes me
late to the game, but some say that everyone is born either a socialist
or a libertarian so maybe I was fated to, in my mind, eventually
think things through to my own end, which happens to be on the fringe.
Iíve always drifted to what was left of the dial and believing in
a gold standard certainly puts you firmly in the realm of social
standing reserved for those "considered as foolish or as a
dangerous extremist" (in the words of Dr. Pascal Salin). There
go my boyhood dreams of working at the Fed.
youíve read the Austrian tomes, its Moby Dicks and Divine
Comedies and your brain decides to agree with it all, you come
to feel a mental tug of war about what you hear around you, about
all that modern America trumpets, everything starts to sound like
lunacy. I read things that seem to strike nobody but me as absurd,
and while I can soothe myself with Thoreauís all men lead lives
of quiet desperation, that itís not absurd to everyone else
because Iím just such an insightful, smart guy, maybe itís not quiet
desperation on everyoneís part, maybe itís all lunacy on mine.
once spent part of a Ron Paul event drinking and smoking with some
bearded kid who was dressed as a giant purple dinosaur. We leaned
against the bar, he was trying to sell me on the merits of "riding
out the coming storm" in Quito, Ecuador and the female bartender
delivered every shot with an accompanying warning about One World
Government. I couldnít help to feel a bit like a lunatic.
the biggest complaint about meeting the Austrians mentally is that
it spoils the high, it made what little pockets remained of the
paper party appear to me far more frantic, everyone merely putting
on airs, as if doing was believing. People in my world are still
vacationing overseas; I worry about not being able to find gold
coins. Thereís a disconnect here and I regret it, despite my thousand
dollar suit I no longer fit in.
are still legions who fervently believe the powerful do have all
the answers, that somewhere in that latest plan, based on the latest
guesses and assumptions, theyíve gotten all the variables correct
and things will soon smooth out, weíll see an upturn by late summer
if not sooner, but I no longer believe and am not happy about losing
that mind set, ignorance was bliss. Plus, I want to surf Costa Rica.
Rockwell, bless his heart, is trying to perk up the troops, telling
me I should feel "fortunate" to live in such times; that
living through economic calamity has its bright side if you know
your economics. Having knowledge of that sort, he says, "even
in the face of calamity, there is no mystery, and hence fear is
Itís no mystery that if I suffer a complete parachute malfunction
after I jumped from an airplane that Iím going to die. That would
do nothing to reduce my fear, quite the opposite, and everyday at
work Iím watching Bernanke and Geithner and Barney Frank on CNBC,
frantically yanking on every ripcord within reach Ė all to no avail.
Worry, Be Happy
are fortunate to be living in these times, for we are seeing the
unfolding of events long explained and predicted by the Austrian
Lew Rockwell (2009)
Pascal Salin recently stated he was "lucky not to have known
the Mises Institute at the dawn of my professional life" and
I also feel the same way about being late to the game, though for
different reasons. He would not have been tenured in a French University
with such views, and I wouldnít have spent the past twenty years
thoroughly enjoying the party.
little bit of knowledge can be dangerous, and also depressing. Knowledge
does not necessarily always bring happiness, and in this case it
certainly doesnít. The benefits are that it gave me wisdom to re-position,
to cut off the alcohol, and I did what I had to before the crash.
But with the knowledge and foresight of what was to come I gave
up on the happy ignorance I wore for the Austrian sackcloth.
large part of me wants to become normal again and nod along to the
soothing tones of the latest Fed minutes, secure that all will be
well because weíve got the best people Ė Ivy League to their eyeballs
Ė spot on the job, and I can go about my day with a lighter step
and lose myself in the crowd, happily debating what plan of all
the suggested plans Obama should choose for us.
having wandered into the fringe where the Austrians and purple dinosaurs
roam, I am weighted down like Marleyís ghost, my heavy chains forged
from ponderous copies of Human
Action and Money,
Bank Credit, and Economic Cycles, their thousands of pages
of weight all boiled down to my sad bank statements. They say Iíve
used up all my tomorrows. Whatís left for me?
donít hold it against any of them, the Rockwells, Norths, and Hayeks
who have ruined all the fun for me. Adam Smith once wrote of how
to judge a person by "to the intention or affection of the
heart, to the beneficence or hurtfulness of the design, all praise
or blame, all approbation or disapprobation, of any kind, which
can justly be bestowed upon any action, must ultimately belong."
So weíre cool. None of them meant to take my punchbowl away, they
just pointed out the turd floating in it.
so many others, though, Iím even cool with the politicians despite
their being the source of our sorrow. The political class will always
make things as difficult as they can Ė and they have Ė but itís
in their nature to do so. I feel them no more at fault over their
sleazy, violent behavior than I would that of a lion that chased
down and devoured the easy prey of a human toddler Ė they are merely
doing whatís in their nature. Every form of life on Godís playground
has its predator, something to cull the herd, why should humans
be exempted? God in His wisdom choose it to be so and who am I to
in His infinite wisdom He makes up for it with sunsets and flowers
and Van Gogh and beaches and Paris Hilton, all created to show His
love. I am happy with the world as it is and should be. The road
back to my inner peace, which made me feel fortunate to be living
in these times despite it all, was not through any knowledge found
in Mises or Hayek, but by my study of a classic of self-actualization,
Be Your Own Me, by Spinal Tap lead singer and philosopher
David St. Hubbins. I absorbed its main message on the true path
to inner peace and fortunate feelings. That message is, in the words
of the great man himself, "take your sadness and shove it up
your ass" Ė and there you will find your bliss.
I will always fondly recall my lost lamented ignorance, which lived
in the days before "the unfolding of events long explained
and predicted by the Austrian school." I recall Bill Clinton
and Monica brightening our day with laughter, with Hillary thrown
in for a foil, trendy dinners with trendy friends and blurry cab
rides and trips to the Pacific Ocean, retching and heaving alongside
the coast highway because of a bit too much.
I recall everyone from Foolís Paradise blissfully unaware, dancing
on seaside rooftops to Jon Porterís spinning. The sun would come
up off Fire Island and we would always cheer as she peeked above
the waves, and I too believed the promise of an endless summer.
[send him mail] lives and
works in New York City.
© 2009 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
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