Renaissance Men; I’m not talking about Danny DeVito

The casual observer will notice, when he or she reads through the annals of history, that this world used to be flooded with remarkable people. Remarkable people who were jacks of all trades and some that were masters in more than one thing (interdisciplinary scholarship). I’m talking about the problem of social sciences. Today, trade economists are trade economists (generally don’t know squat about sociology), sociologists are sociologists (know very little about economics, in terms of trade theory), historians are historians, and political scientists think they know a little about everything (this may be true, albeit a very small amount). Just to be clear, no one knows anything about philosophy or psychology but they all think that their respective field of interest is the most influential factor about everything else.

I think my problem is that I feel they should be. I know Wikipedia can’t really be classified as the “annals of history,” but I urge you to take a stroll through Wikipedia, with your learning cap on, through Adam Smith, Juan Bautista Alberdi, Karl Marx and other sociologists/economists through this period. They are all well versed in political science, political economy, philosophy, history and almost all forms of social science. This is why these men were so influential. There was a time when Renaissance Men were appreciated in the world. This mix-bag of knowledge was the right thing that was needed to make an informed decision about the state of the world or develop a new idea. Now granted, the ideas of these men, might have led to the demise of many things. Smith and David Ricardo, themselves, might have led to the breakdown of Renaissance learning and the proliferation of separation of duties. But, let’s address Marx. I can’t necessarily blame Marx for the like of Lenin, Stalin, Castro, or Chavez. The “revolutions” that these men led were not of the order that Marx described. The Communist Manifesto led more to socialism as a natural order in history, which is a more elevated level of social interaction than the capitalism prescribed by Adam Smith. Anyone studying the Communist Manifesto must understand however that Marx was not the original socialist, but he was the most prolific. He was wrong, I’m confident in saying this; but that’s not the point. He knew enough (as a historian) that there would be a growing chasm between rich and poor; the poor would revolt and install a new social order. He knew nothing about tax theory. If he did, he would suggest something for capitalism that would hybrid with a form of socialism, like the Nordic countries. All the Nordic countries have higher taxes (redistribution of wealth) with the highest standards of living IN THE WORLD. If you look on the list, take note of where the US is, just for fun. And if you are skeptical because it’s a UN database, I urge you to look for contradicting information elsewhere.

Who are the modern day jacks? I think the guy that comes closest would be Thomas Friedman. His works, including The World is Flat, The Lexus and The Olive Tree, and the new one Hot, Flat and Crowded (which I haven’t read yet), are great indications of what modern study can do. They represent study into multiple fields of social science including political systems, systems of trade, history, and environmental factors. Does he know everything about any of these? Probably not, but his holistic approach to the world is a good indication of the type of thinking that this world, err… country, needs. In my opinion, the crux of all his arguments with regards to environment, national security, and economic security is a rising middle class in all countries.

There are other jacks, but I gotta go. This paper on Cuba won’t write itself.

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