Richard T. Ely, Founding Fascist
By Arnold Kling
One of the revelations of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism was the beliefs espoused by Richard T. Ely, the founder of the American Economic Association. In this essay, Ely wrote
The law of society is service. This is the supreme law of society from which no one can escape with impunity. Ethical teachers now approach unanimity in the assertion that the criterion of right conduct is social well-being. The welfare of society is the test of conduct in the individual. It would be interesting to take four great writers–a theologian, a jurist, a professor of natural science, and a student of society–and to discover their entire and complete harmony in the view that the purpose of the rules of right individual conduct is the welfare of society.
Goldberg writes (p. 117)
Richard Ely, a fervent believer in “industrial armies,” was a zealous believer in the draft. “The moral effect of taking boys off street corners and out of saloons and drilling them is excellent, and the economic effects are likewise beneficial.”
Later, (p. 219),
“God works through the State in carrying out His purposes more universally than through any other institution,” proclaimed the founder of the American Economic Association
Goldberg also says that Ely was tainted by the eugenic racism that was prevalent among early progressives.
At the annual meetings of the American Economic Association, a focal point is the Richard Ely memorial lecture. This year, the speaker was Nicholas Stern and the topic was global warming. No doubt, Ely would have been pleased.