The world economy as a boa-constrictor
I’ve just finished reading Albert Jay Nock’s “The Theory of Education in the United States” (1932) and I found a fascinating off-the-cuff analogy of the United States economy as he viewed it then in the aftermath of the Wall Street Crash. One must certainly ask whether we have learnt anything at all from history…..
Many people are uneasy about our economic system as you know, experience is forcibly directing attention to it, with the result that its unsoundness of theory is becoming more and more clearly apparent. Many people think it should be changed, even radically; there is no trouble about seeing just how it should be changed; but nobody is quite prepared to face the enormous deflation that would ensue if it were changed.
One is reminded of the story of the boa-constrictor that swallowed a rabbit, then reached through a hole in a fence, and swallowed another. The bulk of the rabbits held the snake’s body immovable in the hole; he could go neither forwards nor backwards. He could have backed out into freedom by disgorging the second rabbit, but he was not prepared to face this deflation and so he died. Our economic system is in just that situation, and so, in all its essential respects, is our educational system. The general disposition would be to hold tight, like the snake, yielding nothing, and hoping vaguely that some saving intervention might come along to cut in between cause and effect. This disposition is no doubt profoundly unintelligent; the entertainment of this hope is quite unhistorical—no such hope was ever yet rewarded. But we all know that this disposition is what a sound and really effective reform of our system would chiefly have to reckon with.