Friday, July 28, 2006

Ivan Illich - An Unusual Biography

I prefer to write my own posts - but sometimes others share wonderful stories that I may not be able to pass on easily.

Ivan Illich (1926-2002)

Illich a one-man melting pot, a Jewish-Catholic-Croatian-Mexican-American social philosopher and one-time priest, wrote a number of books, now all but defunct, that were classics of alternative thinking in the 1970s. Two of the most influential were "Medical Nemesis" (1971) and "De-schooling Society" (1975), which proposed that the experts who manned our schools and hospitals were actually getting in the way of education and health.

"Medical Nemesis" describes how medical institutions turn people into

consumers of health-care products, rather than healthier people. And

"De-schooling Society" shows us how educational institutions turn them into consumers of higher degrees, rather than smarter people.

Indeed, universities might actually make people stupider than they were before they entered, because they now know more of what isn't so. In economics, for example, much of what is taught at university is

wrong - and wrong-headed in the most profound way. The graduating economist is actually stupider than the man on the street. What he thinks he knows for sure...ain't necessarily so. And the institution in which he learned what isn't so, like the Soviet economy, has become a value-subtracting enterprise.

Illich might have been describing the financial industry. If ever there

were men whose expertise subtracted from the sum of human knowledge, it is the savants of finance, those whose keenest ambition seems to be to sell investors products, rather than make them money. Who really makes money, after all, in hedge- funds or mutual funds? We know the answer - the people who run them. For everyone else, funds - whether hedged or mutual - are generally a value-subtracting business; investors who make their acquaintance, even passingly, end up with less money.

What about stocks and bonds? There, too, the only people who make money are those who push the products or run the corporations.

But today we point the finger not merely at Wall Street. All institutions
are subject to corruption, not only those that grub for money. In time,
all institutions get hollowed out.

Some great stuff. There was more - get the newsletter and enjoy their insights.

I'm not qualified to comment on the medical issues - but they do sound worth considering.

For a bit on unschool and de-schooling you can check out a couple of articles at the BFU journal. The first compares Bastiat Free University with the Thunderbird, Garvin School Of International Management - a top MBA graduate school.

The second compares Bastiat Free University with the fictional South Harmon Institute Of Technology in the soon to be released movie Accepted.

On the financial stuff, you can read anything here or our main site and find a concurring opinion of mutual funds, hedge funds, and stock brokers.

That gives us something to think about.

I would be remiss if I did not tell you how to get the free Daily Reckoning newsletter.

Enjoy it.




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