Richard Ely, Racist and State Worshipper
By David Henderson
Who Was This Guy?
As many long-time members of the American Economics Association (I was one for about 25 years) know, one of the famous economists to whom the AEA pays respects is Richard Ely. An annual lecture at the AEA meetings is named after him and the AEA put out an Economists Calendar in which he is featured prominently. In a just-released article, “Richard T. Ely: The Confederate Flag of the AEA?”, economists Clifford F. Thies and Ryan Daza reproduce some startling quotes from his work, based on what appears to be a comprehensive reading of Ely’s extensive work. Of course, the quotes are one-sided: that’s the point. Thies’ and Daza’s goal appears to be to give us the side that the AEA conspicuously left out. Ely, among other things, was a man who worshipped the state, literally, who wanted to keep out certain kinds of immigrants, and who saw black people as inferior. A few choice quotes:
[T]he fullest unfolding of our national faculties requires the exclusion of discordant elements–like, for example, the Chinese.
God works through the State in carrying out his purposes more universally than through any other institution.
The sad fact, however, is not that of competition [that feeble persons compete for employment and, so, drive down wages], but the existence of these feeble persons.
The negro race, while endowed with a splendid physique and with great power for work, is neither progressive nor inclined to submit to regularity of toil, such as an industrial civilization demands.
May I dare assert that something could be said for military training as affording a disciple of life? Possibly there may be other objections to military training; but, as I have observed it, and particularly in Germany, it does afford this.
Now, it may rationally be maintained that, if there is anything divine on earth it is the State, the product of the same God-given instincts which led to the establishment of the Church and the Family.
Here’s what would be neat: for the AEA to abolish the Richard Ely lecture or keep the lecture but name it after someone without such views.