Thursday, June 12, 2014

Update on Cantor's defeat

David Brat, the econ professor who knocked off Eric Cantor, turns out to be a far more complex story than it first appeared.  So here's what we know about Brat.

He graduated from Park Center High School in the very humble Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Park.  His dad was a doctor who was fine with sending his son to a pretty blue collar public school.  Dad was right—his son was hardly hobbled by such an education.  David has a CV most of us would envy.

One of Brat's degrees is from Princeton Theological Seminary.  I am really curious about this story.  For much of the history of USA, the Protestants ran things.  They were called the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) establishment.  Many of the Ivy League schools were started as Protestant seminaries—a throwback to the days when the most thoughtful and scholarly young men in a family were routinely sent to seminaries.  Those days disappeared in the late 19th century as there were more opportunities for smart kids (in science and technology, most especially) to have outlets for their intellectual curiosities.  But the remains of that era still stand and the Princeton Theological Seminary is certainly one of them.

How a Catholic kid from Minnesota comes to graduate from Princeton is probably a very interesting story.  But considering he lists John Calvin as one of his economic heroes, (see Tony's post below) it is safe to assume he actually paid attention in class.  While I personally find Calvin's influences to be damn negative, I am certainly in agreement that they are extremely important.  And Keynes?—Ah yes, Church of England and Cambridge, wot.  So here's a guy in a Protestant corner of Virginia who is completely uninhibited in discussing economics using quotes from the Bible and the so-called left, who have been trained since the 80s—when lunatics like Jerry Falwell became regulars on TV—to believe that Protestants are drooling morons, cannot possibly comprehend why this guy is so popular with his students.

My guess is that this is a guy worth watching.  And whatever the man thinks of usury, he has demonstrated that he is quite comfortable discussing the problem.  Haven't seen THAT in about 40 years.  What's more, he is openly critical of the econ's profession's scientific pretensions—a real throwback to the days when economics was considered a branch of moral philosophy.  The more you know about theology, the more you understand why economics is STILL a branch of moral philosophy.

It would be fun to debate the man—maybe he could be convinced to replace Smith and Hayek with Franklin and Veblen in his list of economic heros.  I'd even like to discuss with him why Luther's followers built more successful societies than Calvin's.  Nah!  Let's not be greedy.

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