Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Folly and Wisdom of Slaves.

"Eles são brancos e se entendem". (Brazilian idiom)

Robert Vienneau informs us that slaves in the U.S. often identified themselves with -- and even took pride in -- their masters.

Vienneau quotes from "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas":
"When Colonel Lloyd's slaves met the slaves of Jacob Jepson, they seldom parted without a quarrel about their masters; Colonel Lloyd's slaves contending that he was the richest, and Mr. Jepson's slaves that he was the smartest, and most of a man."
Apparently, Brazilian slaves could be a bit more cynical than their North American counterparts. One of their pieces of folk wisdom (the opening quote) suggests that; surprisingly, it endured and entered contemporary popular speech.

There are different stories about the origin of the idiom. There is not even a canonical form (the one presented above is one among many, with slightly different wordings, meanings, and connotations); literally, this version means "they are white, and understand each other".

More broadly, the idea is that upon witnessing important people's petty spats, the little people should not get too involved: whatever the brouhaha between grandees, at the end of the day they understand each other.


Know what? That's not a half bad advice. Those Brazilian slaves -- if they indeed created the idiom -- were on to something.

Apply it to the endless squabbles among Keynesian economists.

02/02/2016. Bang on cue to demonstrate why we should not take Keynesian economists too seriously comes the "Very Serious People" controversy (h/t Ramanan): after years mercilessly whipping Austerians as self-appointed "Very Serious People" who unfairly marginalise Keynesian underdogs -- like himself -- Paul Krugman appoints himself "Very Serious Person" and proceeds to marginalise Sanders' supporters.

To maintain my own impartiality in the Keynesian holy war, after pointing to the heretical Krugman, I'll highlight that among the dinky di Keynesians the idea of "pluralism in economics teaching" seldom survives beyond the Real-World Economics Review.

Image Credits:
[A] "Whipping an Enslaved Male, Serro Frio, Brazil", by Carlos Julião. The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record. Public Domain. Source: Wikimedia.


  1. Your link is broken; looks like the whole post was somehow pasted into the tag along with the url.

    1. @Hedlund,

      By the by, it seems Lesser Keynes and yours truly may have just had our first debate in the comment section of heteconomist.com.

      Check here:

      (Including the last comment, to which I'll reply another day, as I have to go back to work).

      And here:

      You may find it amusing.

    2. You may find it amusing.

      Oof. I'd have been happier not knowing he'd done another one. I've responded to it, we'll see if he musters the grace to publish it, and then the spite to dismiss it in a predictable torrent of insults.

      I've read about half of your exchange with "Gus" so far, and I don't know if I'm sold on the idea that it's the same fellow. The writing style is different, for one thing, visible in the use of qualifiers and the like. Also, LK doesn't lean so hard on Keen; he has his own idiosyncratic take based mostly on a guy who's only remembered for being rebutted by Engels. Most importantly, the tone is different; this other character comes across like he's expressing honest reservations (you know, like a human being) rather than imperiously booming forth the Infallible Word of the Almighty.

      In fact, I think if LK so much as typed the word "dialectic," he'd probably have a stroke if he went ten words without adding "nonsense," "b.s.," or something approximating.

    3. @Hedlund,

      "I don't know if I'm sold on the idea that it's the same fellow."

      Good points.

      Rats. Lesser Keynes may be just a secret admirer, who doesn't mind stealing other people's ideas.

      Never mind, after my reply to "Gus" I'll reply to Lesser Keynes.

      "LK doesn't lean so hard on Keen; he has his own idiosyncratic take based mostly on a guy who's only remembered for being rebutted by Engels."

      Who is that guy?

    4. Who is that guy?

      Achille Loria, an Italian economist who claimed that an inconsistency existed between Capital volumes I and III, who has been cited regularly by you-know-who since April.

      These days he's best known for having come under heavy fire throughout Engels's Supplement to Capital vol 3. In fact, that's how our blogger pal encountered him; his first reference was to note "Frederick Engels quoted some of Achille Loria’s criticisms" before reproducing them. No reference was made to the fact that the document was criticizing them, nor was a link provided so people could see that context for themselves. Pretty much par for the course with this chap.

      The "inconsistency between volumes" angle isn't taken seriously by any scholar of Marx I'm aware of, regardless of theoretical camp or political persuasion. That's why you have to go all the way back to Loria or Böhm-Bawerk (or, e.g., Austrians citing the latter) to find an academic who'll cosign it. But, I'll be damned, he's really quite taken with the claim.

    5. Holy mother of God:

      "An original conception of Loria was his idea that glue spread on the wings of aircraft would be able to trap birds in such quantities that it would solve the world food problem."
      (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achille_Loria)

      Like they say: birds of a feather flock together.

  2. @Anonymous.

    I have your second, complete comment. I encourage you to post it in the comment thread to Peter Cooper's post, where it belongs.

    Post it here:

    I will not post it here.

    Out of courtesy, I'll repeat my warning to you and your kind: it won't be easy to fool me.

    You've gotta come up with more creative ways.