Monday, April 30, 2012

Their Way Won't Do

(Today was the last day of classes here. The final slide for my macro course was an abridged version of this Brecht poem, which captures the discomfort any reasonable person ought to feel when they first study economics. The students could relate.)

Years Ago When I

Years ago when I was studying the ways of the Chicago Wheat Exchange
I suddenly grasped how they managed the whole world's wheat there
And yet I did not grasp it either and lowered the book
I knew at once: you've run
Into bad trouble.

There was no feeling of enmity in me and it was not the injustice
Frightened me, only the thought that
Their way of going about it won't do
Filled me completely.

These people, I saw, lived by the harm
Which they did, not by the good.
This was a situation, I saw, that could only be maintained
By crime because too bad for most people.
In this way every
Achievement of reason, invention or discovery
Must lead only to still greater wretchedness.

Such and suchlike I thought at the moment
Far from anger or lamenting, as I lowered the book
With its description of the Chicago wheat market and exchange.

Much trouble and tribulation
Awaited me.


  1. Scrolling up I came across 'How the ship "Oskawa" was broken up by her own crew' which seems to be adapted from Louis Adamic's book 'Dynamite! A Century of Class Violence In America 1830-1930'. More fun!

  2. Oh, I love that one: "From this, it should be clear that our pay was really too low."

    Have you ever read The Death Ship, by B. Traven?

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