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How the West Poisoned the Mind of the East

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Tags EducationGlobal EconomyWorld History

In a short but interesting piece published for The Spectator, James Bartholomew writes about the trail of misery that the graduates of British universities have left in their countries of origin, after implementing the detrimental economic doctrines they learned in the West.

Bartholomew connects the dots between the socialist policies carried out by the presidents and prime ministers of India, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, and Pakistan, and their economic education at the most prestigious universities in Great Britain (and some in the United States). The panoply of economic disasters expands even further to incorporate Zimbabwe’s now famous Robert Mugabe (University of Edinburgh), Canada’s Pierre Trudeau (graduate of LSE), and Greece’s Yanis Varoufakis (PhD from the University of Essex).

The article concludes on a somber note, looking into Greece’s future under the rule of its new finance minister:

Euclid Tsakalotos… studied at Queen’s College, Oxford. He did his doctoral thesis under the supervision of a professorial fellow who had formerly been a Stalinist apparatchik in Poland. The British contribution to human misery may not be over yet.

While interesting in many respects, Bartholomew's analysis does not break any new ground. In an article written in 1952, but published posthumously in 1978, Ludwig von Mises already explained the fascination of developing countries for the standard of living, and thus also for the educational system, in Western economies:

In the second part of the nineteenth century the shrewdest among the patriots of the underdeveloped nations began to contrast the unsatisfactory conditions of their own countries with the prosperity of the West. To make their own peoples as prosperous as those of the West became their foremost aim. So they sent the elite of their youth to the universities of Europe and America to study economics and thus to learn the secret of raising the standard of living. …[They] thronged the lecture halls, eagerly listening to the words of the famous British, American, and German professors (Mises 1978, 171).

But Mises also warned about the long-term significance of the socialist economic ideas that all “fashionable” Western universities (British and American most notably) implanted in the minds of their young students. He (1978, 171-172) continued:

This is what these professors—Marxians, Fabians, Veblenians, socialists of the chair, champions of government omnipotence and all-round planning, peacemakers of inflation, deficit spending and confiscatory taxation—taught their students: rugged individualism, the policy of laissez faire and private enterprise are the worst evils that ever befell mankind. […] Never did these professors mention the—in their opinion manifestly absurd—truism that there is no means to improve the conditions of any nation or the whole of mankind other than to increase the per head quota of capital invested. On the contrary. They indulged in expounding the Keynesian dogma of the dangers of saving and accumulating capital.

Mises concluded with a similarly somber observation, that, unfortunately, still applies today:

Europe and America did not cause the plight of the underdeveloped nations, but they have prolonged its duration by implanting in their intellectuals the ideologies which are the most serious obstacle to any improvement of conditions. The socialists and interventionists of the West have poisoned the mind of the East. They are responsible for the anti-capitalistic bias of the East and for the sympathies with which those Eastern intellectuals look upon the Soviet system as the most intransigent realization of Marxian ideas (Mises 1978, 172).

Dr. Carmen Elena Dorobăț is a Fellow of the Mises Institute and assistant professor of business and economics at Leeds Trinity University in the United Kingdom. She has a PhD in economics from the University of Angers, and is the recipient of the 2015 O.P. Alford III Prize in Political Economy and the 2017 Gary G. Schlarbaum Prize for Excellence in Research and Teaching. Her research interests include international trade, monetary theory and policy, and the history of economic thought.

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