Isaac Newton vs. Paul Ryan…

…who you gonna trust?

Paul Ryan on credit, debt and the wealth of nations:

You can’t spend, tax, regulate and borrow your way to prosperity.

[Tweet by @PaulRyanVP (little ahead of yourself there, wouldn’t you say? –ed.) at 11:40 on Wed. 10 Oct.]

Or — perhaps you can.

Isaac Newton:

If interest be not yet low enough for the advantage of trade and designs of setting the poor on work…as divers understanding men think it is not…the only proper way to lower it is more paper credit till by trading and business we can get more money.” (Italics added. Any invidious shadow that might fall upon the aspirant to the Vice Presidency is wholly intended.)

[Newton to John Pollexfen, MP and member of the Board of Trade, 1700.¹]*

In fact, of course, modern capitalism, the rise to power and great wealth of first Britain, and then ourselves and an increasing proportion of humanity, turns on the creation of credit, the ability of nations and individuals to borrow today against tomorrow’s increase in capacity, invention, and comfort.  It is precisely by paying Tuesday for the (means of making) hamburgers today that the whole system works.  If Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney have their way, we will slow our growth as a nation and as individuals, families, circles of friends will  suffer the consequences in diminished lives and opportunities.  (That such loss would fall  more on the mass of us than on those who recline at ease in Mr. Romney’s tax bracket is, of course, something that Adam Smith understood very well too — but that discussion is for another post.)

And if you don’t believe me? Take it up with my man Izzy:

But be careful — he really was a tad smarter than young Paul.

¹quoted in G. Findlay Shirras and J. H. Craig, “Sir Isaac Newton and the Currency” The Economic Journal, Vol. 55, No. 218/219 (Jun.-Sep., 1945) pp. 230-231.

*I’d be failing my Galtian duty as a profit maximizer if I didn’t mention that I discuss Newton’s role in coming up with new conceptions of money in my book Newton and the Counterfeiter, available at Amazon and wherever books are sold (also as an audiobook, where my sales are, alas languishing).

Images:  Marinus van Reymerswale, The Money Changer and his Wife, 1541.

Sir Godfrey Kneller, Portrait of Isaac Newton, 1689.

Cross posted at Inverse Square.






46 replies
  1. 1
    Elisabeth says:

    Ryan’s twitter handle annoys the shit out of me.

    Hell, he just annoys the shit out of me, period.

  2. 2
    Maude says:

    Oh, that’s what the tweet meant.
    It’s hard to sell books. Amazon is very crowded.

  3. 3
    jlow says:

    Loved Newton the Counterfeiter. A great companion to Stephenson’s Baroque Trilogy.

  4. 4

    @Elisabeth:

    Ryan’s twitter handle annoys the shit out of me.

    You don’t like that he’s announcing to the world that he’s a Vicious Person?

  5. 5
    Bruce S says:

    You don’t have to go back to Isaac Newton to know that Paul Ryan has his cap on backwards.

    Bain Capital was founded on a model of “borrowing your way to prosperity” – at least for it’s owners.

  6. 6
    Elisabeth says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Oh! Hadn’t thought of it that way.

  7. 7
    Bruce S says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Oh…okay…I thought VP stood for Vacuous Prick.

  8. 8
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Bruce S: True. But Newton was referring specifically to government borrowing, which is, to give young Paulie the benefit of the doubt, the issue at hand.

  9. 9
    PeakVT says:

    You can’t spend, tax, regulate and borrow your way to prosperity.

    That’s right, folks, the 1950s and 1960s never happened. Those decades are just a liberal hoax. In reality the country went right from winning WWII to stagflation and malaise.

  10. 10
    BGinCHI says:

    Tom, have you considered having Cole do the audiobook next time?

    Barking dogs, parts of his house collapsing, people asking for more onion dip and mojitos. That’s the kind of ambience that really sells in the creative non-fiction world.

  11. 11
    r€nato says:

    Off topic, but Dennis Miller (or, at least, his FB page handler) is a total PUSSY.

    I posted a couple of mildly scoffing comments at Miller’s “jokes” about Biden just yesterday.

    Today… I can’t comment there any longer.

  12. 12
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Tom Levenson: And why are we giving him the benefit of the doubt? You, sir, are too full of the milk of human kindness for your own good.

  13. 13
    sparrow says:

    …ahem… let’s go ahead and ignore that Newton became a blathering loon in his later years trying to prove the existence of God, among other things…

  14. 14
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @sparrow: Okay.

  15. 15
    MikeJ says:

    @jlow: No, I actually finished NatC. I slogged through the first Stephenson book, and got through two chapters of the second when I asked myself why I was continuing to read something that bored me so much.

    I thought his latest book was ok until the 100+ page gunfight. When a gunfight is the dullest part of your book you’re doing something wrong.

  16. 16
    BGinCHI says:

    @MikeJ: Just read Snow Crash over and over. He’s never been better than he was there, though I liked Anathem a lot.

  17. 17
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @BGinCHI: I liked the portrayal of Reagan in Cryptonomicon.

  18. 18
    mellowjohn says:

    since lyin’ ryan disagrees with sir isaac on government borrowing, how does he feel about gravity?

  19. 19
    👽 Martin says:

    You can’t spend, tax, regulate and borrow your way to prosperity.

    What does that leave? Bartering blowjobs for gold pieces?

  20. 20
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @mellowjohn: Gravity? This is how he feels about gravity.

  21. 21
    MikeJ says:

    @BGinCHI:

    though I liked Anathem a lot.

    I thought I was the only person who liked that book. I’ve seen many of his fans online say they hated it, but I thought it was one of his better efforts.

    Snow Crash came out at the perfect time for that book. I haven’t reread it in a while, but I wonder if it would have the same impact it did on the 25 year old working at AOL.

  22. 22
    jlow says:

    @MikeJ: To each is own. I enjoyed BT start to finish.

  23. 23
    Bruce S says:

    @Tom Levenson:

    Either way he’s willfully ignoring a fundamental aspect of investment – which is a public necessity as well as private – much less demonstrating a grasp of monetary policy.

  24. 24
    geg6 says:

    Heh.

    I heart you, Tom Levenson.

  25. 25
    Micheline says:

    I am so discouraged about this election right now. I can’t believe that one debate can change a presidential race. I mean I don’t understand.

  26. 26
    DFH no.6 says:

    Very good article by Matt Taibbi (yeah, I know) in the Rolling Stone two issues ago about Romney at Bain where the main point was that massive debt-leveraging of companies was the primary method Bain – and thus Romney – made all those hundreds of millions of $$.

    Without huge borrowing — to the tune of billions of $$ — Bain could not have operated, and Romney would be just a small-time millionaire (mostly by virtue of being born on 3rd base).

    Essentially, the way that Romney and Bain made sure it always worked out for them was to have only a small direct investment in any of the companies they saddled with debt (so those companies were on the hook for re-payment, not Bain) and then charged millions in “management fees” those companies had to pay Bain (getting the companies upper management to go along with the scheme by giving them tidy bonuses).

    In many cases not much different from a Mafia “bust out”.

    And yes, of course, borrowing on credit is the basis of our modern economy. Couldn’t possibly work without it.

    They don’t actually believe it (the rubes do) but wingnut leadership take a very different stance on government debt (only when Dems are in charge, though). As Atrios says, they don’t really give a shit about the federal deficit or debt.

    It makes no more real-world sense than “government doesn’t create jobs” or “our country is bankrupt” but those are all huge portions of current wingnut messaging.

  27. 27
    wrb says:

    @MikeJ:

    I was bored for most of the first book but eventually became engrossed and enjoyed the trilogy immensely.

  28. 28
    TenguPhule says:

    I say Biden needs to smack Ryan upside the head with the little fact that Ryan’s been on the public teet for all his life and he needs to stop the sucking.

  29. 29
    TenguPhule says:

    I am so discouraged about this election right now. I can’t believe that one debate can change a presidential race. I mean I don’t understand.

    It has always been an uphill battle, the media is corrupt and lazy, the enemy is corrupt,stupid and willing to crawl through broken glass to stick it to a black man and half of our allies are only here with us because the other side has no use for them. War makes strange bedfellows, as they say.

  30. 30
    Joel says:

    @Micheline: Ghandi never said this, but I think the quote is useful in the right context: “Be the change you want to see”. In other words, don’t despair, because the recent slide is caused by a loss of democratic enthusiasm. Let’s lift our goddamn spirits and game on, motherfuckers.

  31. 31

    @Elisabeth:
    Maybe it’s “Vacuous Parasite”.

  32. 32
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    You can’t spend, tax, regulate and borrow your way to prosperity

    No one this fucking stupid should be allowed anywhere near the levers of power.

    Because the maxim is, you have to spend money to make money. Right there.

    This twit needs to be hit upside the head, repeatedly, with a copy of The Wealth of Nations. Because it’s painfully obvious that doing such a thing will be the closest the book has ever gotten to this moron’s brain.

  33. 33
    Roy G. says:

    Yeah, but Isaac couldn’t curl 300 lbs or run a sub 3 hour marathon.

  34. 34
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @mellowjohn:

    Ryan apparently adheres to the theory of intelligent falling.

    I suggest we test that theory by taking him up in a helicopter to say 1000 feet, then tossing his ass out.

  35. 35

    @👽 Martin:

    What does that leave? Bartering blowjobs for gold pieces?

    Simple: austerity and deregulation, which have a long track record. It’s not a long track record of prosperity, but at least it’s a long track record.

  36. 36
    quannlace says:

    Hey, did you guys know there’s a debate tonight?
    Why didn’t the MSM let us know?

  37. 37

    @MikeJ:

    I thought I was the only person who liked that book. I’ve seen many of his fans online say they hated it, but I thought it was one of his better efforts.

    It’s an interesting book, but I can see how somebody could find the philosophical/theoretical physics parts to be more of a slog than they were willing to endure in a work of fiction. If nothing else, it shows that he’s learned something about writing endings.

  38. 38
    sparrow says:

    @Roger Moore: Agree about the ending. It wasn’t nearly as “WTF?” as some of the others. I liked Anathem a lot, but reading it in my 20s just doesn’t compare the experience of reading Snow Crash in one night as a 13 year old… it blew my mind.

  39. 39
    Chris says:

    @TenguPhule:

    It has always been an uphill battle, the media is corrupt and lazy, the enemy is corrupt,stupid and willing to crawl through broken glass to stick it to a black man and half of our allies are only here with us because the other side has no use for them. War makes strange bedfellows, as they say.

    Fairly depressing shit being a liberal.

    As you say, you’re fighting an uphill battle against the people opposing you AND the forces of inertia that just don’t give a shit. You lose dozens and dozens of battles before you start making headway. When victory finally comes, it mostly leaves you exhausted and somewhat aghast that “it shouldn’t have been THIS FUCKING HARD to get something THIS BASIC (child protection laws, equal rights, wev) done.” A non-trivial part of the people you were fighting for will go over to the other side soon after you’ve helped them win their battle, because IGMFY. And if history remembers you at all, within a generation or two your name will be hijacked by people you would have hated to support policies you would have fought with your dying breath (MLK, Harry Truman, Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, Davy Crockett, quite a few Founding Fathers, Jesus of Nazareth, etc)…

    But you are making things better. And that really is all that matters in the end.

    (The rage at all the shit they’ve done this week is making me philosophical. Oy).

  40. 40
    Chris says:

    @TenguPhule:

    It has always been an uphill battle, the media is corrupt and lazy, the enemy is corrupt,stupid and willing to crawl through broken glass to stick it to a black man and half of our allies are only here with us because the other side has no use for them. War makes strange bedfellows, as they say.

    Fairly depressing shit being a liberal.

    As you say, you’re fighting an uphill battle against the people opposing you AND the forces of inertia that just don’t give a shit. You lose dozens and dozens of battles before you start making headway. When victory finally comes, it mostly leaves you exhausted and somewhat aghast that “it shouldn’t have been THIS FUCKING HARD to get something THIS BASIC (child protection laws, equal rights, wev) done.” A non-trivial part of the people you were fighting for will go over to the other side soon after you’ve helped them win their battle, because IGMFY. And if history remembers you at all, within a generation or two your name will be hijacked by people you would have hated to support policies you would have fought with your dying breath (MLK, Harry Truman, Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, Davy Crockett, quite a few Founding Fathers, Jesus of Nazareth, etc)…

    But you are making things better. And that really is all that matters in the end.

    (The rage at all the shit they’ve done this week is making me philosophical. Oy).

  41. 41

    @sparrow:
    OTOH, The Big U actually has a good, well set up ending, and Zodiac had a decent one, too, so it’s not as if Stephenson hadn’t shown any ability to write endings.

  42. 42
    mellowjohn says:

    @quannlace: it’s a conspiracy.

  43. 43
    gogol's wife says:

    @Chris:

    Very nicely put.

  44. 44
    dylan says:

    I would buy the audiobook in an instant, but “This Audible Audio Edition is not available in your area. Check out other Audible audiobooks available to you.”

    So, no, sorry.

    (I understand from my previous dealings with Audible, that “not available in your area” means “not available outside the USA.”)

  45. 45
    seaboogie says:

    Wow, I had no idea that Isaac Newton was such a babe! In an alternative universe I could totally see him and Brian May starting a scientist/hair band together. Maybe Stephen Hawking doing vocals for an electronic vibe.

  46. 46
    prufrock says:

    @MikeJ: Wow, you too?

    I barely got through the part in the second book where Shaftoe is talking to the sheik’s foot, when I said, “Fuck this.”

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