The Economic Theory of George Bernard Shaw

The Economic Theory of George Bernard Shaw

The Economic Theory of George Bernard Shaw

The Economic Theory of George Bernard Shaw

Excerpt

Shaw has been many things to many men: a mountebank, a traitor, a genius, and the best mind in England. There are few indeed, who have become acquainted with one of the various aspects of Shaw, who have not formed an opinion--and often a strong one--concerning him. Few, however, of his commentators have touched on his socialism, except to be cynical about the incompatability between his economic theory and his economic practices.

Shaw has made very few contributions to theoretic socialism. Indeed, some of his discussions are lamentably unreasoning; now and then his bourgeois sympathies or prejudices are aroused, as in his treatment of money and banking, with unfortunate results. He has refused, even when presented with an opportunity, (the war) to sacrifice himself for what, were he a different person, might be called his ideals. Yet to say these things is not to understand Shaw.

Professor Laski once wrote that he is like an east wind: if one can stand the disconcerting blasts, it is a most invigorating experience to read his plays and essays. It removes the cobwebs from the mind and forces one to take account of stock with a new sense of values. Perhaps this furnishes some clue to Shaw's importance. It is quite possible that his reputation as a satirist and social critic will long outlive the conditions which brought his satire and criticisms into being. We read about Voltaire's Candide and Pangloss now with the same amusement that our children's children may read about Sartorious, Tanner and Proteus. Swift has little reputation as an economist, but his Modest Proposal has not been entirely forgotten. So it may be with Shaw. Writers of economic treatises seldom allude to him at all, save to mention him as a member of the Fabian Society. And, from one point of view, they are quite right. But there are few economists who can claim to have exercised as much influence on their generation and fewer who will he present at his final passing. Shaw has given us a world. In that world, he has used economics as he has used biology. He has said that he is "a crow who has followed many plows;" that is, all the parts of his society had been discovered--he only put them together. There is, however, a genius of assembly just as there is one of creation.

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