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 Schaffer 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 story.
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:
"Whether 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."
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.
July 26, 2008