Forgetting and Repeating the Past

Recited so often it has become a cliche — however much we actually ignore it — is Santayana’s observation that “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

We learned from the crash of 1929 that unregulated financial institutions are driven by greed and are eventually consumed by it. Reagan in the 1980s thought he knew better so he busily went about deregulating those institutions, creating a short term bubble and long term collapse. The in 1999, Congress gave it another try, completely gutting the Glass-Steagall bill which had created relative stability in banking since 1933. That repeal led directly to the serious collapse of 2008-09 by creating a temporary bubble which burst suddenly.

Only those truly ignorant of history could have been surprised. One who saw in advance  the mess which 1999 legislation would create was North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan. (Hooray, while living in North Dakota, I voted for him!)


Now Trump, clearly the most ignorant president in more than a century and a half, is creating a new wave of deregulation. The result, as we have had ample opportunity to learn, will be that there will be a brief bubble in which the rich make enormous profits. and then the bubble will burst, leaving the rich richer and the poor poorer.

What makes it so hard for conservatives to learn that capitalism is not a complete system of government polity? The economy does not fare well when left in the hands of those with financial power.

The reason is simple: The human heart is plagued with the ancient sin of greed. Certainly the life of Trump proves repeatedly that he considers greed to be a virtue. And he is surrounding himself with financial advisors who agree. One of the most fearsome predators on the American landscape is Goldman Sachs, an institution from which Trump has chosen key people in his administration.

Short term gain; long term loss. Santayana was right and Trump is a shining example of someone incapable of learning from history. He simply lacks the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom he so badly needs.

We think we’re too sophisticated to need ancient wisdom these days, especially that found in the Bible. We’re just making fools of ourselves. We very much need to hear again what Jesus taught in the famous Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 6:19-21  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;  20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”


About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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