I’m about 300 pages into Kurt Eichenwald’s Conspiracy of Fools, which details the rise and fall of every Californian’s favorite company, Enron. One of the main players is Michael Kopper, Andy Fastow’s right-hand man and all around immoral prick (originally from Long Island…figures). He’s also a fellow alum of the London School of Economics (MSc Accounting and Finance). While reading about his financial shenanigans and overall evilness I was reminded of an article that was originally published in The Ecologist (a UK-based hippie-ish rag of no particular distinction) a few years ago. I came across it while I was an RPSS student googling for a copy of “Soviet Communism – A New Civilization” and, after reading the article, was surprised to learn that my graduate school was apparently responsible for all the evils plaguing the world.
Webb Of Evil – Sidney and Beatrice Webb, London School of Economics
The hell that bedevils society, believes THE GROW, can be traced to a single source: the academic teaching of institutions like the London School of Economics.
Surely it is no accident that the LSE was founded very largely by Sidney and Beatrice Webb, the patron saints of the Fabian Society. The Fabians are of course renowned for their promotion of large-scale, socialist, centralised planning, a gospel reducing the status of the individual citizen to that of a shopping mall customer: everything clean, neat and tidy, and the freedom of the individual to decide how he or she will live, rendered non-existent.
The Webbs travelled all over Russia as privileged guests in the heyday of the Stalinist terror, when millions were being shot and frozen to death in Siberia, or being used as slave labour on giant construction projects, or starved as a result of Stalin’s forced farming collectives. On their return, they published a massive tome entitled, believe it or not, Soviet Communism — a New Civilisation. In hundreds of pages they endeavoured to show just how democratic centralised Soviet anarchy was supposed to be. A prominent historian at the time described it as the most monumentally useless book ever written.
Today, in quite fundamental ways, the LSE continues to run true to the form of its founding spirits. At heart the Webbs were fascists, just as are Fabians in general: indeed some may argue that the prevailing doctrines being taught at the LSE exude fascism.
Yet these founding principles are only the beginning: the school’s mischief goes much deeper. Almost the first sentence any student is likely to read in one of its texts on elementary economics will reveal the school’s overall philosophical stance. He or she will be informed — as though it were a natural law, rather than the product of slipshod, amoral reasoning — that the factors of production are land, labour and capital. We need to grasp precisely what is being stated here: the LSE is saying that in economics labour, human beings — creatures gifted with powers of imagination and creativity of seemingly limitless extent, people able to love, dream and inspire, able to evoke unparalleled acts of generosity, self-sacrifice and even their own deaths in the service of their fellows — are of no more account than a bag of money or a cabbage patch. Just that.
It is a statement which annihilates morality on the altars of Mammon, a statement which demeans human striving to the level of an economic calculation and opens the doors to all the social, political and environmental disasters which have been inflicted on successive generations all over the world during the last two centuries or more.
We do, of course, need a new approach to economics, we need one that realises that human beings are not factors of production and never can be, that far from being a factor of production they are the only morally intelligible object of it, an approach which recognises that any system of teaching which denies the validity of human uniqueness is guilty of the most monstrous degrees of evil. Such denial carries with it the assumption that economic activity that ignores or rejects morality is nonetheless valid and generally acceptable.
But economic activity divorced from or opposed to moral principle is simply brigandage. However much the brigands may manipulate global markets, receive knighthoods and other decorations, operate in giant, opulent city offices and generally dominate the political and social scene, brigands they are and brigands they remain.
Today we are surrounded by portents: global warming, finite resource rapacity and excessive squandering; the elimination of a vast range of entire species of fauna and flora, all vital to ensuring the planet’s otherwise self-sustaining equilibrium; the proliferation of thermonuclear, chemical and biological war weapons now able to eliminate life over large areas of the planet; these and more are portents of limitless disaster stemming from in-built economic assumptions. And these assumptions in turn emerge from the academic teaching of institutions such as the LSE.
Ultimately human societies are governed by the ideologies of those who control and manipulate their dominant institutions. It is the teaching of the London School of Economics, with its academic endorsement of the subjection of human uniqueness to economic processes, in addition to its endorsement of the ideology of greed as the motivating principle of today’s society, which has brought us to our present pass.
As an institution it is evil incarnate and the continuance of its current teaching inimical to any prospect of social advance or moral progress.
I do not dispute this article’s description of Sidney and Beatrice Webb, the founders of the LSE. With their praise of Stalin’s regime following their tour of the USSR, they were perfect examples of the useful idiots who turned a blind eye to the horrors of the Soviet Union. The Webbs were committed Fabian socialists who founded the LSE as an institution dedicated to the betterment of society (and for them, that ultimately meant a socialist society achieved by gradualist, rather than revolutionary, means). If they returned to LSE’s campus today, however, they would be surprised to see that their beloved academic institution is turning out a bunch of drones who line up for interviews with McKinsey & Company and Deutsche Bank (admittedly, I went from thinking I would pursue a PhD in Russian history to asking my friends “Hey, wouldn’t it be awesome to work for ExxonMobil or Shell?” Must be something in the air around Houghton Street).
LSE has certainly graduated its share of terrorists (and quite a few, if you believe the Russian government), white collar criminals, Presidential confidantes, and neo-cons, but I wouldn’t agree that the university is fascist and “evil incarnate.” If that were indeed the case, surely you’d expect the LSE Facebook groups “Future White Collar Criminals” and “Future Dictators of Third World Countries” to have more than 100 members each.
And I will neither confirm nor deny membership in either of the aforementioned groups.